Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chocolate -- The Real Deal





Most of the time, I stay away from junk food, soda and candy. My Italian heritage makes it difficult for me to keep my weight down, so it takes extra effort to stay under 125 lbs. I have to stay under 125 lbs. as I’m only five foot tall, maybe smaller in my stocking feet and I’m still shopping in the size 14 rack, which ticks me off. This morning, however, I was craving chocolate milk. Not the 1, 2, or 4 percent variety, but the real deal with all the fat from the cow mixed in with lots and lots of chocolate syrup. You know, milk with the real tasty cream that used to rise to the top of the milk bottle before dairies started to use homogenization.

There was a time, when kids could sneak out on the front porch with a spoon in the morning and skim the cream off the top of the milk. Most of those kids grew up to be stock brokers and investment managers. The kids, who ended up working for the government liked the homogenized milk better.

Anyway, I decided to reward myself for staying away from the junk food for over a month. I was wandering around the company café’, not located anywhere near Wall Street by-the-way, looking for a small carton of chocolate milk. The only thing I could find was 1 percent. I was pissed. I really didn’t want to settle for anything less than 100 percent. I deserved 100 percent. Besides, I can still squeeze my hand into the waistband of the size 14 skirt. So what if its elastic?

I craved the rapturous flavor of the fattening cacao content of chocolate milk.

There was none to be found with over 1 percent fat. We live in a sick world filled with cardboard health food bars, low-fat everything, manikin teenagers, Botox entertainers and Howard Stern, I concluded.

Then, I spotted it and began to drool. A pot of half-n-half was sitting next to the coffee pot in the café’. I grabbed a styrofoam cup and filled it half-way with cream, went over to the register and purchased a milk chocolate Hershey bar. I had another empty cup in my office cubicle, so I put the Hershey bar in it and microwaved it for 45 seconds. Then, I added the half-n-half - Yes!

The one percent crap reminds me of a Dave Barry quote: “Eating rice cakes is like chewing on a foam coffee cup, only less filling.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to Create a Turducken

by Rose A. Valenta

   Since small game season is fast approaching and the holidays are not far off, old timers and senior sports enthusiasts have been writing to me asking about the newfangled holiday bird dubbed “Turducken.”  One gentleman wanted to know if it involved a mid-air collision and what weapon was required to hunt the thing down. Five written letters and some emails later, I realized that not many people are familiar with the beast at all; so, I decided to document a process far less complicated than tracking down Sasquatch. 

   My beta test went well; I suffered only minor burns and splinters. During the next two attempts, there were no injuries and the turducken was delicious.
   I sent each person, who wrote to me, the following information and share it with you here:
   The word “turducken” itself is a recent addition to the American vocabulary and culture. It can mean one of two things:
1. A popular, but ghastly holiday feast where a duck is stuffed into a turkey and a chicken is stuffed into the duck; or
2. As a simile, a plan that is rather futile or unnecessary.
   I have experienced both scenarios and will address them simultaneously.
  
Required Tools and Ingredients:
1 slightly greased, fully equipped QF 25-pounder Howitzer cannon.
1 roll of duct tape.
1 steel tripod, set up at 100 yards in front of the Howitzer.
1 cleaned and plucked 25 lb. turkey, firmly mounted on the tripod in “tee-off” position (i.e., backside facing the Howitzer with knees slightly bent).
1 9 lb. lame duck seized and bound into the shape of a cannon ball - tail up.
2 live 3 lb. chickens (you really only need one, the backup is necessary in case the first little bugger misses its target).
1 blowtorch, used to sear any unlikely remaining feathers.
1 half cup of homemade gunpowder (15% Charcoal, 10% Sulphur and 75% Potassium Nitrate combined in that order, and milled for 24 hours).
1 first-aid kit.
1 greased 48” x 72” wooden ramp.
1 bottle of Cognac (to drink while following the process).

Process
   You will need the assistance of an unemployed Sumo Wrestler to load and unload the cannon.  Pay him minimum wage – no benefits. This is very expensive if you happen to live in Washington State or Oregon, where minimum wage is at an all-time high of $9.32, as opposed to the other U.S. States that are still allowing slave labor at $7.92. Whatever you do, don't seek him in the $15 picket lines.

   Using the wooden ramp, pile all of the tools and ingredients into a rented U-Haul truck, drive about 100 miles away from civilization, and park. 

   Throwback a shot of Cognac.

   After about three hours of tugging and pushing, the cannon will eventually slide down the wooden ramp and be removed from the truck. Set the cannon up at a 25-degree angle.

     Throwback a shot of Cognac.

   Get the tripod and turkey, walk 100 paces in front of the Howitzer, and secure the tripod to the nearest tree. Next, mount the turkey to the tripod in “tee-off” position. Secure the turkey with duct tape. Walk back and sight the Howitzer, aiming directly at the part of the turkey that goes over the fence last, or as it is known in some circles “the Pope’s nose.”

   Put three tablespoons of gunpowder into the cannon and insert the duck - tail first.

   Fire when ready.

   Throwback a shot of Cognac.

   Assuming that the duck is on target, reload by putting two tablespoons of gunpowder into the cannon and toss in one of the panic-stricken chickens.

   Fire when ready.

  Throwback a shot of Cognac.

   If the first little bugger has missed, put two more tablespoons of gunpowder into the cannon and toss in the other chicken, if it hasn’t already scared itself to death.

   Fire when ready.

   Throwback a shot of Cognac.

   At this point, if there are any ruffled feathers sticking out of the turducken, you may sear them with the blow torch. However, the entire process usually eliminates bones and feathers.

   Gather up all the remaining tools and ingredients; put them back into the truck and drive back home.

   If there are any gaps or holes in the bird, you may fill them with the Swedish Chef’s recipe for smashed potato and onion stuffing.

   Roast the anomaly for eight hours in a 350-degree oven.

   Finish the remaining Cognac in front of a nice warm fire.

   The good news about this exercise in futility is that if it was not quite successful and there is a bloody mess on your hands, you are now drunk and do not care; plus, you still end up with a turducken of sorts (see definition 2 above).

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mothers Against V-Chip News (MAVINS)

By Rose A. Valenta

While the FCC has adopted rules for the use of V-chip technology in television sets with screens that are 13 inches or larger; no one has restricted the behaviors of politicians and public figures with shorter penises and a deficient supply of grey matter.

Mothers can’t V-chip prime time news, people, and we need a strong activist to help launch MAVINS - Mothers Against V-ChIp NewS. The evening news is always on in the living room while the kids are supposed to be doing homework, and it will only get worse over time.

I first noticed something was wrong during the Clinton administration, when little Johnny came into the kitchen asking about protractors, sexual harassment, and oral sex.

“I can help you out with the math manipulatives,” I said “but the other questions you’ll have to run past your father. Where did you hear that anyway?”

“It was just on the news,” he said. “They want to fire the President for sexual harassment and oral sex.”

“That’s ‘impeach’ the President,” I said, “Not ‘fire’ him.”

That scenario continued non-stop from about January of 1998 to February 1999. Obviously, our President was deprived in his youth from what the Amish call "Rumspringa." As a result, little Johnny had enough sex education to CLEP credits on the topic.

He wrote an entire Dissertation on “Cheating and Sexual Mating Behaviors of Public Figures Based on Income and Risk” for his friends, while still in middle school.

Years later, it gets worse. Recent sex scandals brought to us family-oriented viewers, during prime time news, involve Herman Cain, Barney Frank, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Governor Mark Sanford, Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, Tiger Woods and 'The Energizer' bunny.

It was reported on the national news last year, that the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter sex video previously leaked by former aide, Andrew Young, was going viral online.

News of the video made me cringe, as Professor Johnny is now a college student and also a YouTube junkie. He thinks it is “sick,” not a bad term in this generation, and posted it on Facebook and Twitter to his 3,000+ sick followers.

When he is home from college, he uses the computer in my kitchen.

Just what I need while I’m cooking:
“Hey, Mom, what do you think of 'The Evolution of Cheating Self-Sabotage and the Sexual Mating Behaviors of Public Figures From a Darwin Perspective”?

“Go ask your father!”

Now I know why Elvis Presley sat around shooting out television sets.

To order my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” for $2.99 (less than a gallon of gas) click here SMASHWORDS, it is in all digital formats: Kindle, Nook, eBook, Sony, PDF, etc.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Sentimental Journey

by Rose A. Valenta

It was a yellow shingled, four bedroom Cape Cod with both a front and back porch purchased by my grandparents circa 1905, in Olean, NY - the home that I loved to live in every summer while growing up. It never mattered to me as a child that it didn’t have central or room air conditioning; but did have a leaky basement, a coal stove, and wood trim that needed painting every other spring. It was a comforting and wonderful summer refuge.

That home saw the birth of seven babies, four boys and three girls most of whom survived the great depression and learned how to become entrepreneurs. It hosted several weddings and two funerals in the huge floral papered living room equipped with sliding wooden doors located in the hallway across from the stairs leading to the second floor bedrooms. Later, photos of the nuptial events hung in the hallway leading into the large kitchen. Divorces happened infrequently, kids moved back home, and pictures of Mom and Dad would come down off the wall and be replaced by photos of grandchildren.

In the foyer, stood a telephone table that supported an old black Western Electric telephone and the only Heathkit hand-soldered, hard-wired, working answering machine in existence. My father built it himself after he returned home from WWII and it was the talk of the town. People would come for miles just to see it and pay him to build one for them. He dabbled in electronics after the U.S. Navy sent him to school to get certified in ship communications equipment. He built most of the CB radios used by the Olean Volunteer Fire Department and fixed television sets. He opened Bill’s Radio and TV Service out of the house, and had tubes spread out all over the dining room table most of the time, much to the chagrin of my Grandmother, who would rather serve food there, than clean up an electronics laboratory. She found resin, solder, irons, wicks, and PC boards everywhere on her good table cover. Occasionally, she would get fed up and cart boxes of the stuff upstairs and put them on my Dad’s bed. She finally convinced him to set up shop in a spare bedroom, so she could have her house back.

The attic was where I used to hang out most of the time; I would have slept up there if she let me. I spent hours rummaging through the maze of beckoning old chests and storage boxes. Me and my friends would play dress-up there, then go next door to my friend Susan’s house, play the organ, and pretend to be show girls like Shirley Temple. I recall making my Dad bring down my old baby coach once, so I could take my dolls for a walk. One of my dolls was a boy named Oscar, he had a baby bottle, a pilfered vacuum tube, several diodes, and capacitors in his possession, when he got caught red-handed commanding the coach down the 100 block of North 14th St. by my Dad, who was missing some parts for a job. Of course, Oscar got put in the bad chair after I denied all knowledge of the pilfering and swashbuckling; plus, he got a stern lecture and no tea and sugar cookies that night.

The front porch was where my uncles would gather to smoke cigars after dinner and my Uncle Joe would serenade all of us by singing and playing the accordion. The entertainment kept my Grandmother from going over the edge about all the cigar smoke and ashes on the deck. She sat there with a dust pan and broom waiting for intermission.

Remembering the events in the yellow house always makes me smile. Grandma was a rock and lived to be 90 years old. She sold the house in the 1970s, and moved in with one of my aunts a few years before she died. I was already married at the time, and unfortunately my husband and I both lived and worked in Philadelphia, PA. However, I would have gladly purchased that house in Olean, if I could.

In 1998, my husband and I found a wonderful little yellow cottage on Chincoteague Island, VA. We fixed it up and also installed a closed-in front porch. It has an attic, where I store old clothes, Christmas decorations, and household items. Near the attic window sits a child’s rocking chair waiting for a small boy or girl to come to Grandma and Grandpa's house and rummage through the place to find small treasures. Often, my laptop and a printer sit on the good table cover in the large dining room. You can spend hours on that porch listening to crickets, ducks, and other wild life; with Big Band music or Beethoven playing softly in the background from the stereo in the corner. Occasionally, I drift off to sleep there. Sometimes, I can distinctly hear accordion music and smell cigar smoke. I have friends in high places. It is my weekend/vacation refuge from the stresses and storms of life and I love spending time there.

Then tourist season and Pony Penning set in, the area becomes noisy. Things are never really perfect are they?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Will Rogers and the 2014 Federal Budget

Wasteful government spending that makes no sense is often referred to as “pork barrel” spending or just “pork” spending. It has been referred to that way since before the Civil War.

Yes, even Honest Abe had some pork in his budget.

Pork spending often includes ridiculous things like “$2 million to construct an ancient Hawaiian canoe,” or “$1 million to preserve a sewer in Trenton, NJ, as an historic monument.”

Many of these bizarre and absurd pork items have been suitably noted in THE GOVERNMENT RACKET: Washington Waste from A to Z, by Martin L. Gross. In his book, Marti provides us with an extensive itemized list.

I have to ask myself, in these modern times, why didn’t Congress listen to Will Rogers in the first place?

Back in the pre-Obama era (1920s and 30s), Will Rogers had the right idea when he said "The budget is like a mythical bean bag. Congress votes mythical beans into it, then reaches in and tries to pull real ones out."

He also pointed out that during elections "The average citizen knows only too well that it makes no difference to him which side wins. He realizes that the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey have come to resemble each other so closely that it is practically impossible to tell them apart; both of them make the same braying noise, and neither of them ever says anything. The only perceptible difference is that the elephant is somewhat the larger of the two.”

If Will were alive today, I can just hear him advising Congress to consolidate. You know, States like Rhode Island with only four electoral votes can be easily merged into States like Massachusetts, which has 13; Vermont can go to New York; New Hampshire to Maine; and so forth, until we evolve into an economic Godzilla. Then, we can go overseas and stomp on China for pirating, bootlegging, and violating US copyright and trademark laws. We should then be able to sue and raise about $100 trillion just on what we find in Shanghai, alone. That should wipe out our national debt, right?

Americans don’t have any use for a Gōng Yáng White House knock-off.

"If stupidity got us in this mess, why can't it get us out?" ~ Will Rogers▪

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Who Moved My Mascarpone?





Yesterday, I took old Mrs. Russo shopping at the Italian Market in South Philadelphia. She was buying seafood. I had my goal list all ready:

• Olive oil, prosciutto, capicola and imported pasta from Claudio’s
• Olive salad and cheese from DiBruno’s
• Lamb, pork roasts and ground beef from Esposito’s
• Locatelli and fresh produce from Giordano’s
• Spices and coffee from the Spice Corner
• Some pastry from Isgro’s

I was looking forward to a refreshing walk, while enjoying the sights and smells of the South Philly marketplace and do some shopping.

I was asked to pick Teresa up at her sister’s house.

Teresa Russo has been a friend of our family for years. She went to school with one of my aunts. She was born and raised in South Philadelphia. Her temperament is a bit surly, but expected, as she grew up in a tough neighborhood. She doesn’t get around much by herself anymore, so taking her shopping was my idea and good deed for the day.

I decided to take her to Pat’s Steaks for lunch.

When I picked her up, I noticed that the jacket she was wearing was wrinkled and out of shape.

“What’s up with the jacket?” I asked, as she got into the car.

“Flak jacket underneath.” She answered. “I got it from Louie ‘The Nose.”

“Come on, Teresa, you’re 80 years old. Who’s going to mess with you?”

“Hey, they let that Gambino guy off. You know, John ‘junior’ Gatti. Now, they call him ‘Teflon John.’ He don’t have friends in South Philadelphia. Two guys came down from New York last week and started something near the Sports Complex. I smell trouble, like we got the malocchio or something. Maybe we shouldn’t go today.”

“Teresa, people don’t believe in the ‘evil eye’ anymore. You shouldn’t be so superstitious. Of course we should go shopping. Those guys all hang out in a different neighborhood.”

“Yeah? What are we gonna do if they decide they want to eat something at Mama Mia’s and start a fight?”

“Teresa, they don’t mess with old ladies. Besides, we're going to eat at Pat's.”

“Speak for yourself, I’m not old.” She said.

When we got to the Italian Market and parked the car at the three dollar lot on Washington Avenue, we were approached by some guy, who said he was from HealthCare.gov and was taking a poll. Teresa broke his pencil and told him to get lost.

“OK,” I said. “I take back what I said. They don’t mess with NICE old ladies.”

“Statazete! (Shutup)” she snapped. “We should have stayed home. That guy was a pickpocket. Check your wallet.”

“I have it” I said. “Nothing is missing. Will you just relax and enjoy yourself? Put on your happy face, that should confuse everybody.”

Everything went smoothly until Teresa spotted a black limousine driving up 9th Street. She dove under a vendor table and about 50 live blue crabs and two dozen oranges went scurrying and rolling in all directions. Crustaceans were everywhere. I saw one of them booking down Montrose Street. You could hear the screams for blocks.

“What, are you on somebody’s hit list, or just crazy - are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.” She said.

“Yes, what? Yes, you’re crazy or yes, you’re OK?”

“Alright already - both!”

The guy, who rented the vendor table, was furious, cussing in Italian, and running around with tongs trying to gather up the runaway crustaceans before they pinched someone.

“Che cazzo...?” he shouted, “C'è un casino della Madonna qui.” (Meaning “What the hell…?” and his vocabulary went down-hill after that.)

After we paid him for the crabs that were still missing in action, I swore to myself that I would never do another good deed like this again. What started out as a fun shopping trip had turned into a total nightmare.

We never got to Isgro’s.

On the way home, Teresa apologized for her behavior all day. She told me she is into Ronny ‘The Rat’ for $100 to pay for the exterminator.

Apparently, while she was Spring cleaning two weeks ago, she found mice running around in her basement. Ronny had threatened her. She was supposed to pay him $125 by yesterday, or he would import a hundred mice and set them loose in her house. So, for the rest of the week, until she pays him on Friday, Teresa is spending nights with her sister.

“Ronny is a spostata (jerk).” She said.

“Teresa, the next time you need money, call me. I will lend it to you, no mice and no interest, capiche?”

I went home, poured myself a Chianti, and listened to a little Lou Monte.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Felice Giorno del Padre: An Italian Father's Day Tribute

by Rose A. Valenta

I'd like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to one of the great men in my life, my Italian grandfather, Alfonso. This was the guy, who let me watch him make homemade wine in the basement and put me wise to the double-standard.

I'd like to make this a heart warming and sensitive human interest story. One that would bring a nostalgic tear to anyone's eye, but let's get real here. Hearts and flowers are for incurable romantics; me, Norman Rockwell, and Virginia Hill all have a lot in common - realism.

I only had one grandfather, as the other one died before I was born, so Grandpop Alfonso and me had a private joke: As he was sternly meting out discipline to his kids, he was also enjoying the power of being in a position of authority. I caught on to this, as I was the second oldest grandchild, a girl; and for some reason he never yelled at me, but would wink in my direction when he reamed someone else.

As an Italian, he was more than a little strict with his daughters about such things as cussing and smoking in public. He forbade them to smoke at all, saying that it didn't reflect well on their individual character. One of my aunts, who could have given Al Capone a run for his money, was once evicted from the house for an entire summer for saying "wop" (his English wasn't good enough to translate some of her other words), while smoking a cigarette. I think she was also hooked on old Bette Davis movies at the time, because she tended to pace around in her apartment surrounded by smoke rings.

She is 89 years old now. She quit smoking when she was 78 for health reasons.






It was a normal annual routine for my family to chip-in and rent a house to take my grandparents to Seaside Heights, NJ, for an entire month. Then, aunts and uncles would alternate vacation days, so the house could accommodate everyone else for a few days at a time. I was permitted to stay the entire month.

One night I was up on the boardwalk and there was this game being played for packs of cigarettes. I didn't smoke at the time, but the game looked like fun, so I played and won about 10 packs of my grandfather's brand of tobacco.

Needless to say, I became his best friend for the rest of his life. He even shared an ounce of his homemade wine with me to celebrate this friendship. I was only 12.

Every time I went up on the boards, he'd slip me a few dimes and say "Don'ta tella you mom." I always came back with lots of cigarettes. The game hawker even knew me by my first name.

You have to understand that all the women in the family locked themselves in the bathroom to smoke, so he wouldn't catch them. As a kid, I couldn't quite figure out what the consequences would be if they ever got caught.

So, there I was, all my friends were still playing with Betsy-Wetsy dolls, and I was the delivery girl, you know, just like Virginia Hill, delivering Lucky Strikes to my grandfather in the kitchen and Chesterfields and Camels up in the bathroom (solitary confinement) to my mom and aunts. My grandmother was probably watching The Untouchables in the living room because she didn't smoke. Plus, she had this secret crush on Frank Nitti. If it was an episode of The Jersey Shore, she would have been drooling over Paulie D. Little House on the Prairie it wasn't, ya know?

Sometimes when you walked into the bathroom, it looked and smelled much like the back room of an illegal gambling establishment in the Bronx. The language wasn't much better either. They all thought they were bad and were laughing and entertaining themselves, thinking they were pulling something over on their old man. However, he did have to "go" once in a while and use the room. So, I think he knew.

Once my cousin Vinnie came down for a few days. He had to "go" and was forced to switch to plan B, the old outhouse. So, he located and loaded up all their cigarettes with those little wooden cigarette loads that blow up when burning tobacco touches them. I think four of my aunts were in the bathroom at the time, and all of a sudden it sounded like the 4th of July in there, with screaming and running mixed into the fireworks.

Downstairs, I heard Grandpop mutter under his breath "Dumba asino ragazze."

Grandpop Alfonso, wherever you are, Happy Father's Day!


© Lou Monte via Youtube

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