I spent yesterday morning messing around with an Instagram post on my new page ashinycarinthenight – a shout out to Jack Kerouac, the ultimate road warrior.
It’s a story from a road trip we took back in 2014. A story about a fried chicken joint in Hardeeville, South Carolina and a young man we met who had finished basic training at Parrish Island and was being shipped off to Afghanistan.
When that was done I went down into Rich’s basement. It is not my basement and I won’t share any incriminating pictures of the chaos. For now anyway. I am trying to organize things for him. Yesterday’s mission was drywalling tools of the trade. He doesn’t think this is necessary. Trust me it is necessary, but that is a blog for another day. A blog where you may see some photos.
I started with a box of Drywall Supplies – rough sponges, tape, flexible joint knives. But here’s the problem: there were paint brushes, a nightlight bulb, and other things that have nothing to do with drywall in the box. I removed those other things and started new boxes, with labels like Electrical Supplies. I found old coffee cans that I put the paint brushes in and the wooden sticks they give you when you buy a can of paint. He has dozens of these, some used, some new. I dumped the rusty nails that were in the coffee cans into a large black garbage bag. (Shh! Don’t tell him that).
Then I found the Kitchen is Closed sign. It belonged to Mr. Compoletero or Compo to his friends and neighbors. When we moved into the house there was a Camp Compo sign at the front door. You can read about it here. He was a collector of many things, a man who threw nothing away, not even rusty nails. A man much like my husband.
I swore after we left the house on River Road in Stratham, New Hampshire we would never buy another old house filled with someone’s else’s belongings that were left behind. Swearing gets me nowhere. I need a new tactic.
I brought the kitchen sign to the kitchen where it belongs and started to cook. I know! I’m truly sick of cooking but we need to eat and I had bought some leeks and remembered a vichyssoise recipe I used to make back at our old house in Stratham. It’s served cold, perfect for a warm summer day, so I needed to get started.
I got out my old Silver Palate cookbook. An article on seafood recipes clipped from the Boston Globe Sunday magazine, from who knows how long ago, was right where I needed it on the page where the vichyssoise recipe was. I chopped leeks and onions. My eyes watered because I wasn’t wearing my contacts. I’m preserving lenses during the coronavirus.
Then I remembered a few old recipes I found when I was cleaning and organizing the kitchen in Roanoke, Virginia where we spent the first three months of the coronavirus quarantine.
This is a little card the Appalachian Power company sent its customers back in 1971. When you open it, it finishes the opening line about your wife (which sounds to me like Donald Trump saying “that woman”) with this: and Money. When she has to be, the American housewife is a marvel of ingenuity.
It went on to complain about the financial times with a sarcastic edge that I found amusing and highly insulting.
“She’ll shop sharp, doctor the meat loaf, hem the girls skirts,and somehow manage to get through on her husband’s paycheck. And, in front of the family, stay cheerful about prices that would make a strong man cry.
That reminded me of a recent trip to my local Shaw’s supermarket where two skinny steaks were priced at $62.04 and I decided it might be a good idea to become vegetarians during the pandemic so shopping sharp I bought a lot of veggies and we were almost vegetarians for a couple of weeks.
“Her husband’s no different. He’s back to being the original do-it-yourself guy. Fixing and tinkering, making do. Except where he has no choice. When the refrigerator finally goes kaput, he’ll borrow for the new one. Afford it or not. And pay the interest rate through the nose. If that sounds like your family, don’t be surprised . It’s a lot like ourselves. Oh, our company’s numbers might be bigger, but the struggle’s the same. We’ve pulled in the belt to the point of pain… About the only difference between us is that you borrow in an emergency. We borrow constantly. We have no choice.”
Is the Appalachian Power Company trying to make the housewife feel bad for them? Yes it is.
“We must have big chunks of money far in excess and far in advance of what you pay us., just to maintain efficiency and stay out ahead of your electric need. When you want it, we’ve got to deliver it. All of it. Electricity, not candles.
Get ready for the kicker:
Shop as sharp as we will, we usually wind up paying lenders at a cost-rate of 12 to 15% for short term loans. Afford it or not. This rising cost money is one of the reasons our rates must go up. And it when comes to serving up current, there’s no way we can doctor the meatloaf.
Boom! Take that little Mrs. Housewife. Your electric bill is going up but we can help with the extra expense by sharing a recipe for leftover holiday turkey.
I got back to peeling potatoes and added them to my vichyssoise. Then I read other recipes I found in Roanoke. This time from the Potato Board of Denver, Colorado.
The economy was suffering from inflation around 1971. I was 15 at the time and don’t recall much of the economic times back then but I do remember every other day gas station lines when I learned to drive at 16 and I also remember there was a recession eight years later, in 1979, when I graduated from college and had to return home for about eight months before I could save enough money to move to Boston with my cousin Kathy and a college roommate of mine.
Six recipes are shared in the pamphlet with names like When The Wolf Is At Your Door, When You’re Singing the Blues, and many other things that When they happen you might be craving a potato dish. There’s even a vichyssoise recipe called When What You Need is a Trip!!
I am desperately craving a road trip but I’m stuck at home cleaning my husband’s basement and making vichyssoise.
The Potato Board’s recipe uses yogurt and two cups of water. My Silver Palate recipe is richer. It uses heavy cream and milk. I’m sticking with this tried and true recipe but I am going to borrow the potato board’s tip: Garnish with cucumber sticks, if desired.
Although what I really desire is a night out having drinks and dinner at the bar, not outdoors socially distanced from my fellow diners. However, I did buy a lot of cucumbers at the Market Basket in Keene, New Hampshire last Sunday. Living in a small town in the Green Mountains I shop all over the place and I’m excited about the cucumber twist to my old recipe. These are wild and crazy times we’re living in.
This advertisement goes way back to 1954, three years before I was born. The leeks, onions, and potatoes were done cooking in the chicken broth and while I waited for the soup base to cool I read about the history of the Osterizer.
On the last pages of the comic book are recipes including yet another potato recipe called Potato Oster Pancakes. There’s also an Oster Cheese Torte, Oster Salmon Loaf, Oster Liver Spread, and even an Oster Strawberry ice cream recipe. It truly is the ORIGINAL And Finest Food Processor.
And guess what. I have an Osterizer! I don’t think I ever paid attention to the label. Our blender broke when we lived in Florida. Probably from too many frozen cocktails by the pool. We had several blenders at the Inn in Connecticut and when we moved to Vermont Compo had left a blender along with many other kitchen gadgets like an ice cream scooper and a George Forman grill. The blender was old but still worked so I kept it.
Does this mean I too have a hard time throwing things away? I did take many of Compo’s things to Twice Blessed, our Vermont version of Goodwill. But I’m frugal which makes it possible for us to do all the traveling we do. I had no idea I had rescued the finest of the food processors.
I don’t need a lot of things to make me happy. My old Osterizer that looks like it came along not long after the original version from 1954 is still working. What I am seriously concerned about is another four years of Trump. I am afraid that even if Biden wins we will still have a rough road ahead of us. We will all be left with a terrible mess to clean up.
Which reminds, I am really tired of cleaning the dishes. The dishwasher Mr. Compo left us is not working.
My sister just texted. It is 112 degrees in El Dorado, CA where her son is living. The fires are back. There are also fires in Colorado where my older daughter lives. A major climate scientist recently drowned while studying the Greenland ice sheet that he had been warning us about for years. He fell through the rapidly melting ice.
But potatoes are cheap and I have a lot of recipes and Compo’s hand-me down Osterizer and there’s even a recipe for an Oster Chocolate Chiffon Pie. History shows us our ancestors have been through hard times too. We live one day at a time and today’s another day.
Rich is getting ready for work. I need to come up with another three meals. Cereal with bananas for breakfast then I’m back to the basement. Today’s chore is Nails. You wouldn’t believe how many nails are in Rich’s Basement.
Are you tired of cooking ? What’s your favorite potato recipe?