The Truth About Apples

The Truth About Apples

By Patrick /F. Cannon

The descendants of Jebidiah Mott have been misleading the American public with the fiction that their forebearer was responsible for the current popularity of the Apple. Applesauce, I say! While Mott undoubtably had something to do with the ascent of the noble fruit, he was very far from the first to call attention to its many salubrious benefits. As I have done so often in the past, I will now set the record straight.

            I’m afraid that the legendary Johnny Appleseed has no place in its history, either, despite the visual appeal of a jolly man strolling the country casting apple seeds right and left. First of all, his real name was Horace Appleknocker, and he apparently never left his home in Dismal Seepage, West Virginia. The Appleseed myth was started by Horace Greeley, which explains a lot.

            No, the popularity of the ubiquitous fruit is owed to none other than Isaac Newton. While not widely known, Apple trees were long considered to be noxious weeds. In the Fall of the year, their fruit would fall upon the ground. In the England of those days, the forests were full of wild boars. The hairy porcines would gorge themselves upon the fruit. The poor serfs noticed this and soon began to feed the leftovers to their domesticated pigs. On market days, they would sell the butchered pork, including the bacon – thus began the rage for Applewood smoked bacon, which persists to our own day.

            Back to Newton. It seems that one day in 1672, he was travelling from Cambridge to London. He was riding his favorite horse, Gravitas. A kindly man, the learned scientist decided to stop near the village of Snipping Gambrel to rest his horse. He found a likely pasture with a bubbling brook, so that his trusty steed could both eat and drink. For himself, he had providentially packed a lunch consisting of a pickled kidney sandwich, a lump of salt beef and a flagon of beer. After eating and drinking hearty, he became drowsy and lay under a nearby tree to nap.

            Well, as we now know, it was an Apple tree. As Newton slept, suddenly a newly ripe and heavy Apple fell upon his noggin. Startled, the eminent scientist found the offending fruit. Hefting it in his hand, he brought it close to his nose and noticed that it had a pleasing smell, as well as an attractive rosy glow. Knowing that it had only ever been thought suitable as feed for pigs, nevertheless his thirst for scientific inquiry led him to take a tentative bite. “Forsooth,” he exclaimed, “the despised fruit is both juicy and sweet!”

            Before continuing his journey, he filled his saddle bags with as many Apples as they could contain. As luck would have it, he was due to give a talk to the Royal Society that very evening. Instead of his original subject – The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius – he regaled his fellow societors with his amazing discovery that the humble weed actually produced yummy fruit. Samples were passed around to universal acclaim. As an aside, Newton did mention that he was puzzled by the fact that the Apple had fallen directly on his head, instead of up or sideways.

            By 1705, the Apple craze was at its height. Not only were people eating raw fruit, but were mashing it into cider and cooking it into jellies, jams, sauce, butter fritters, pies and pasties. Is it any wonder then, that Queen Anne recognized Newton’s discovery by bestowing a knighthood upon him?  Thereafter Sir Isaac often ascribed his long life to eating at least one Apple a day. You would be wise to do the same. As for me, I prefer the Golden Delicious.

(Next week – Broccoli explained.)

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

Goodbye, Sweet Rosie

Goodbye, Sweet Rosie

By Patrick F. Cannon

On Tuesday, we brought our darling miniature Poodle to the vet’s to bring an end to her beautiful life. She was 15, and her heart and other organs were failing. People who know and love dogs will know how we felt.

            Jeanette and I have been married for nearly 35 years and have had to go through this three times. All of our dogs were Poodles, the greatest of breeds. Before we married, I had Mimi, a rescue my first wife Mary’s mother Lil got for us. When she was killed by a neighbor’s car after six years, we got a black miniature Poodle puppy, and  named her Emma.

I had Emma, a black miniature, when Jeanette and I got married in 1986. When Emma died at 17, we got Rumpole, a Standard Poodle. We still had him when we inherited Rosie upon the death of my first wife. She left behind two sliver miniatures; we got the younger. She was then five, and made losing Rumpole nine months later a little more tolerable.  When I add them all up, I find I have owned Poodles for 53 of my 82 years.

I will not rank them, except to say that most dogs will bond more with one member of the family, while loving all of them. I don’t know if science backs this up, but I do believe that male dogs bond more with men; and females, women. If Rumpole was a bit closer to me, then Rosie was Jeanette’s dog. She had lived with Mary for five years, and suddenly losing her must have been both confusing and terrible. It took a while, but she transferred her love to Jeanette.

An example: when we would come home, I would generally be the first one she would see. She would run and jump up on me briefly, then rush to find Jeanette. During the day, she would always be where Jeanette was. If she woke up from a nap – dogs sleep a lot! – and Jeanette wasn’t in sight, she would rush around the house until she found her.

She had known my children Patrick and Beth longer than us, and was always excited to see them. Patrick now lives in Florida and usually only visits once a year, but her excitement on seeing him never flagged. She was always shy with people she didn’t know; and frankly was not a fan of other dogs; but she was not aggressive with dogs or people.

As with most Poodles, she was a star athlete. If you threw a toy to her, she would invariably catch it in mid-air. Until just recently, she was also tireless; we would get tired of playing long before she did. And she was a Frisbee champ. When we had a large back yard, it was poetry in motion to see her catch the disk in full flight and in mid-air. She was just a little dog, but she was mighty. I wasn’t surprised to discover that miniature Poodles were consistent winners at dog agility trials.

Life has a certain rhythm when you have a dog. Rosie was an early riser, and Jeanette always did the first walk, I the second, and  so on. Treats started early, and were repeated at regular intervals through the day. Until the last few days, her appetite was excellent. It was really when she stopped eating that we knew her heart was finally giving out.

I know that some people simply don’t understand why some others love dogs. That’s fine. Truthfully, they require a lot of care and attention. Like human babies, they have to be fed. They also have to be walked regularly, and you have to pick up their poop. If you’re going on a trip, you have to find someone to take them (either a kennel of a friend).  But to a dog lover, it’s all worthwhile. As lousy as your day might have been, when you walk through the door, your dog is always glad to see you, and is happy to prove it.

Rosie is at  rest now. But Jeanette and I aren’t there yet.

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

Good Money After Bad?

Good Money After Bad?

By Patrick F. Cannon

I suspect that if all the money that’s being spent trying to convince Illinois citizens how to vote on the graduated income tax amendment was instead spent paying some of the state’s outstanding debts, we would all be better off.

            Before it’s over, I guess that much more than $100 million will be tossed into the fray.  Several billionaires have kicked into the “anti” fund; while our own billionaire Governor Pritzker has reportedly ponied up $50 million to get it passed. He and his supporters – the politicians who have spent the state into bankruptcy, and the public employee unions – are pleased to call it the “Fair Tax Amendment.” What is really should be called is the “Bail Us Out Amendment.”

            On the surface, the claim that a graduated income tax – with the poor paying next to nothing and the rich picking up more of the tab – seems to make some sense. And I would be tempted to vote “yes” if I didn’t know that the state’s finances have been mismanaged for decades; and that the Democratic Party is just looking for another bailout.

            Let me remind you that the state’s pension funds are still underfunded by $137 billion (an amount, by the way, that most experts believe is considerably higher); along with a shortfall of $56 billion in retiree medical benefits. Despite the increase in the flat tax to 4.95 percent, the State has been unable to make a dent in the $7 to 8 billion in unpaid bills that it has  consistently owed suppliers for years.

            Governor Pritzker has been praised for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. I agree that he has done better than most. But I remember one of his daily news conferences when he mentioned the financial hit that Illinois would take. He was asked this sensible question: should the state be cutting jobs and other expenses as other states had been doing?  “No,”  he said (and I paraphrase), “this is not the time to lay off the workers who provide such essential services.” While that may have been true of public health workers, what about the dozens of state departments, agencies, bureaus and boards that had nothing to do with the virus? Our diligent media failed to ask that follow-up question.

            Well, just the other day, our earnest governor gloomily predicted he might be forced to ask those same state departments, agencies, bureaus and boards to make five percent across-the-board cuts if Illinois didn’t get an expected Federal bailout. Five percent! As if this was a catastrophic amount that would leave the good people of Illinois homeless, heatless and hungry.

            Cutting government jobs is anathema to a Democratic Party that has developed this symbiotic relationship with its public employee unions: we’ll protect your jobs; in return, you will donate money and election workers to perpetuate our power. Illinois isn’t the only state that features this partnership, but it is the most successful in preventing budget or any other needed reforms. Need I remind the citizens and taxpayers of Illinois (and other states) that the union dues that supports Democratic candidates actually is paid by them – our taxes pay the worker, he or she pays union dues, part of which goes to support only one party?  Did you ever get a “thank you” note? Especially you Independents and Republicans?

            By the way, the graduated tax amendment had no trouble finding its way to the ballot. Two initiatives that the majority of Illinoisans favor —  pension reform and the so-called “Fair Maps” amendment that would take legislative redistricting out of the hands of the party in power – have never made it to the ballot. For some reason, the Democratic-controlled Illinois Supreme Court always finds some arcane technicality to keep them off.

            In Illinois, as always, you get what you pay for.

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

Live Free or (Maybe) Die

Live Free or (Maybe) Die                                  

By Patrick F. Cannon

I was watching the news the other day, and some old codger (he might actually have been younger than me) attending a rally for President Trump loudly proclaimed (sans mask) that it was nobody’s business but his if he died from Covid-19; his God-given freedom as an American to do as he pleased being paramount.

            He is obviously not alone. And if he were only putting his own life at risk, he’d have my support, if not understanding. People do all kinds of risky stuff. They say that there are still unrecovered bodies littering the slopes of Mt. Everest. Dozens of rock climbers die every year. Not everyone who jumps out of an airplane makes it to the ground alive. It’s true that they may leave a saddened friend of loved one behind, but few people actually die of grief.

            Before I go any further, let me say that I am a staunch believer and supporter of the Bill of Rights. Go ahead and shoot your mouth off! Tweet to your heart’s content. There is almost nothing you can say that would cause me to put a sock in it. Of course, if you shouted fire in a crowded theatre, I would draw the line, just as the Supreme Court has. Because, if you did so just for the hell of it, people might well be trampled and even killed in the resulting panic. And advocating the violent overthrow of the government is against the law, although actually trying to do it these days seems OK in some cities.

We also have freedom to assemble for redress of grievance. But notice that the now-vilified Founding Fathers qualified that right by using the word “peaceably” before “to assemble.” Throwing rocks and feces at policemen does not fit the qualification. Nor does destroying livelihoods and jobs by looting.

            If I’m of a mind, I can call any politician – even the president – a son-of-a-bitch and stay out of jail. I can even peddle some lies and half-truths, as long as the victim is a public figure and can’t prove “actual malice.”  Notice that President Trump, who sued right and left before he was elected (and rarely if ever prevailed) is now satisfied with yelling “fake news.”

            Americans don’t lack for rights; indeed, they have been greatly expanded over the years. Black citizens can now vote in the South; job discrimination based on race, gender or sexual orientation is no longer legal; abortion is legal, if restricted in some states; same sex marriage is permitted; you can even flout biology by deciding you would rather be another sex, or no sex at all. I don’t doubt that someday you’re be able to be your own grandpa.

            But here and there, there are some limitations. In most states (I think) you can’t marry your sister. Sexual relations with underage children is beyond the pale, with prison if you get caught. Although less of an issue now, you can’t knowingly infect another with AIDS. You can’t drive as fast as you want, or park your car wherever you please. In some jurisdictions, you even have to pick up your dog’s crap or face a fine.

            Asking people to wear a mask in public, and keep their distance, seems to me a reasonable public health precaution. As of yesterday, 196,500 Americans have died from Covid-19. That is about five times as many as die from the annual flu outbreak. I would only ask the “freedom at all cost” folks this question: if you’re willing to die in the cause of freedom, are you willing to take someone with you?  Like your granny, or your child?

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

I Know it’s Corny

I Know it’s Corny!

By Patrick F. Cannon

During these bleak days, when America seems to be tottering a bit, it would be well not to lose sight of the things that made us great – and still reverberate around the world.

Mass production – starting with the assembly line deconstruction of livestock in the stockyards of Chicago and perfected by Henry Ford in the assembly lines of Detroit – transformed Capitalism and led eventually to a dramatic reduction in abject poverty around the world. And who would deny that the personal computer and cell phone – both American innovations – have profoundly changed the way the world thinks and works.

Our Republic – though it has struggled from time to time – is the longest surviving in the world. From 1941 to 1945, we fought a war that saved the world from tyrannies that had killed tens of millions of innocents and would have killed tens of millions more. We have produced scientists whose genius has earned them more Nobel Prizes than any other nation.

Yet, with all of these accomplishments, it may be in these culinary staples that our greatest contributions lie – the tomato and sweet corn. While neither plant is native to the United States —  corn having originated in Mexico, and the tomato in South and Central America – it is here that our agricultural genius has permitted them to reach their edible peak. While the arrogant Europeans refuse to embrace sweet corn, Italians concede that the unification of their country only became possible when all parts of the peninsula embraced the tomato. The explorer who introduced the scarlet marvel to Italy, Salvatore Pomodoro, has been honored with statues throughout the country.

Mexico was an early adopter of both. Its now internationally-famous cuisine depends almost entirely on corn-based tortillas and tamales; and the tomato-based salsa that graces most of its hot and spicy dishes. Is it any wonder that they executed the French-backed Emperor Maximilian I in 1867, after he tried to introduce asparagus, green beans and pate de foie gras into their diets?

For reasons that only make sense to themselves, the word “corn” in England refers not to the golden ears that make the mouth water, but to any pedestrian grain, even oats. Although one finds a grilled half tomato on many English breakfast plates, they are sad mealy things best left uneaten. Here, your local farmer’s market will offer the noble fruit – for such it is – in all shapes, sizes and colors. Once available only in red, one can now find not only red in all its many shades, but yellow, orange and purple (and even green, if your taste runs to fried green tomatoes).

Sweet corn must not be confused with the varieties that feed our livestock; produce fine cooking oil; sweeten our soft drinks and syrups; produce corn bread or mush; or even fuel our cars, trucks and tractors. Unlike them, sweet corn is tender, sweet and mostly golden (white kernels are not unknown).

There can be no better meal – not even in Paris or Rome – to equal a grilled prime steak, a sliced tomato, and an ear of corn. The tomato might be enhanced with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt. As to the corn, three minutes only in boiling water produces perfection. While some are happy to eat it unadorned, I prefer to slather the steaming ear with butter, adding salt and pepper to taste. Ambrosia isn’t adequate to describe the result!

But you must make haste. I confess I should have written this a month ago. Now, in early September, the sweet corn season has only a couple of weeks to run. Vine-ripened tomatoes will be available for several more weeks, unless we have an early frost. We get our corn and tomatoes at the Oak Park (IL) Farmer’s Market. But such markets exist almost everywhere these days; and farm stands still survive in  the hinterlands. But need I tell you that there’s not a moment to lose?

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

 

 

 

A Saint, He Ain’t

A Saint, He Ain’t

By Patrick F. Cannon

People who support Donald Trump often concede he’s something of a buffoon, but say the good he has done for the country far outweighs his personal failings. I confess to being skeptical about these claims. Like most presidents, he has taken credit for an economy he really did nothing to create. But even if he had managed to do some good, I would still oppose him simply because he’s a bad man.

In thinking about what might constitute a “bad” man, I thought it might be more helpful to list the qualities that a good man should have; then you can judge him or any politician by these qualities. Thus, a good man:

  • Has good friends, instead of sycophants.
  • Is loyal to his friends, thus engendering loyalty from them.
  • Is generous, not only to his relatives and friends, but to the needy he will never meet.
  • Never takes credit for the work of others; generously shares credit with his associates.
  • Tells the truth as a matter of course. Only lies to confound his country’s enemies, or to spare a friend’s feelings.
  • Actually believes that all men and women are created equal, and treats them accordingly.
  • Has strong opinions based upon deep knowledge, but is willing to compromise with others to achieve a common good.
  • Never insults the defenseless, whether alive or dead.
  • Is not boastful.
  • Is so proud of his financial acumen, that he would gladly share his tax returns.
  • Has more friends and associates at large than in jail.
  • Does not have plastic hair.
  • Would never cheat at golf.

Now, it’s true that almost nobody, except maybe Jesus Christ or St. Francis, could tick all these boxes (I certainly couldn’t and I know of no politician who could either). On the other hand, I don’t know how you would describe a man like President Trump who ticks none of them.

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

 

Lay On, Macduff!

Lay On, Macduff!

By Patrick F. Cannon

Several days ago, I resumed my theatrical career by playing both Duncan and Macduff in a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, or the “Scottish Play” as superstitious actors call it to avoid the curse associated with actually naming it. The cast also included my wife Jeanette; daughter Beth and son-in-law Boyd; his sister Cathy, and brother Bart and wife Lisa; their children, Riley and Rachel and niece Hannah. Everyone played multiple parts; in addition to Duncan and Macduff, I was also the first murderer (of three, there being copious amounts of blood in the play).

The venue was not the Old Globe or Stratford-Upon-Avon, but on various laptops and tablets, courtesy of Zoom. Actors joined from Seattle, the Chicago area, Minneapolis, and Madison, Wisconsin. I have to confess we didn’t do the play as the Bard had written it, but a somewhat abridged 45-minute version. Nevertheless, everyone involved played their roles with great spirit; my own performance received high praise from my dear wife. Alas, when the doomed Macbeth yells “lay on Macduff” during the climactic battle, I was unable to do so, being in another room.

My theatrical career actually goes back many years. I believe I was in the fourth grade when I appeared in a production of The Wizard of Oz. It was a joint effort of Chicago’s Aquinas High School for Girls and the adjoining St. Philip Neri grammar school, both run by Dominican nuns. The main protagonists came from the high school, but I was given an important supporting role – heroine Dorothy’s faithful mutt, Toto. I was very serious about learning my lines, and declaiming them when cued. They varied based on the situation – either “woof woof” or “arf arf.” According to my parents, I handled both with aplomb.

It would be 30 more years before I almost trod the boards again. The company I was then working for had transferred the management staff from Chicago to its plant in Lake Mills, Iowa, a town of about 2,000 souls with limited housing choices. All of us chose to settle 20 miles to the north in Albert Lea, Minnesota, a comparative metropolis of 20,000. Built around a lake, Albert Leas was not without its charms, but had limited cultural attractions; one had to drive about 100 miles north to what they called the “Cities,” namely Minneapolis and St. Paul, for professional entertainment.

The one exception was the Albert Lea Community Theatre, which typically did three productions a year, including one musical. My first wife, Mary, partly to stave off boredom, had auditioned for a production of Guys and Dolls. She got a part in the chorus, which required both singing and dancing. I was eventually dragooned into doing some publicity work for them, then began doing the programs. The leader, and lead actor, was a Scottish doctor who had a long history of amateur theatricals, including in nearby Rochester, where he had been associated with the Mayo Clinic.

The cast parties were legendary, and during one, after having had a few drinks, I agreed to audition for a part in a coming production of Wait Until Dark. Originally a Broadway play starring Lee Remick and Robert Duvall as blind heroine and villain, it was later adapted as a movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin. It also included a husband, who appears at the beginning and end. In the movie, it was played by Richard Crenna. I was given this role.

In the opening act, I left on a business trip. I won’t go into the plot, except to say it involved a doll filled with heroin, which the husband had brought home not knowing what it contained; and the efforts of the bad guys to retrieve it. In the end, the wife prevails. The husband – me – returns home and finds that things had gotten messy in his absence, but that his plucky wife had won the day, despite being blind.

I had been learning my lines when another drama unfolded. My boss, the CEO, had hatched a plot to take over the company. I won’t go into the details, except to say that the palace coup failed and we were all fired. Finding a job back in Chicago seemed more important than my theatrical career, so I dropped out. Rehearsals hadn’t actually started, so it was no problem to replace me.

In the intervening years, I have done a good deal of public speaking, which requires a kind of acting, but it was another 40 years until my acting career resumed. At this rate, my next role might have to be the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing

By Patrick F. Cannon

Smithers was excited when he learned that limited crowds would now be permitted to attend football games at his beloved alma mater, Huxley University. As a long time season ticket holder, he would be given priority for the limited number of seats that could be occupied under the protocols demanded by the pandemic.

A football power in the Northwest, Huxley’s legendary stadium normally sold out its 100,000 seats. Only 25,000 could now be accommodated. Even at his advanced age, Smithers was famous for his penetrating basso profundo, and was ready to lead the cheers for the Huxley Hedgehogs. To add to his joy, it was a clear cool day – perfect football weather.

Alas, tailgating would not be permitted, with its smokey smells and hearty bonhomie. But his status as a major donor meant he was entitled to valet parking, a blessing for his aging legs. The modernized stadium even had escalators, which made his ascent to his lofty seats on the fifty yard line much easier. Normally, his dear wife attended with him, but she was committed to a Zoom board meeting of her favorite cause, the Society for the Protection of the Spotted Polecat.

Yet, as he took his seat and waved at his social-distanced fellow fans, he was conscious of an increasing sense of dread. He noticed that the two teams were leaving the field after their pre-game warmup, and the famous Hedgehog marching band was gathering for their usual medley of peppy band music, followed by the university’s Alma Mater – “Noble Huxley, Gem of the Great Northwest.” The opposing teams would then return to the field of legendary combats – his  beloved Hedgehogs to deafening cheers!

As he sat in his seat, small beads of sweat began to appear on his forehead. He was barely conscious of the music rising to him. Instead, he looked at the space between his seat and the back of the seat in the next row below. Was there enough room? Could he perhaps leave his seat and find sufficient space on an aisle? While he was agonizing over this decision, he was suddenly aware that the Alma Mater was being played. Normally, he would heartily sing along with its stirring words; and be among the loudest to cheer as his team was announced. Today, he was distracted and sat in silence.

In years past, when all the preliminaries were over, the field announcer would say the expected words: “Please rise while the Hedgehogs marching band plays our National Anthem!”

But earlier in the year, the Washington legislature had bowed to public pressure and  passed a new law mandating that public performances of the National Anthem be preceded by these words only: “We will now hear the National Anthem.”

And now, Smithers heard the words he had been dreading. All around the stadium – on the field of battle and in the seats – people went to their knees, and raised their fists. Only Smithers stood. As the Anthem was performed by the kneeling band, all eyes gravitated to him, still standing. There was an audible gasp when Smithers actually placed his hand on his heart. Only those near him noticed that he was in fact clutching his heart, a grimace on his face. He fell to his knees, then pitched forward, dead of a heart attack.

Even so, he would forever be known as the last man to stand for the National Anthem.

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

 

 

 

 

Toothsome Delights!

Toothsome Delights!

By Patrick F. Cannon

I have previously written about my mother’s culinary prowess, but I’m afraid I failed to do little more than mention some of her triumphs, without giving full instructions as to their preparation. With apologies to my dear friend and mentor, Jacques Piepan, I will here attempt to atone.

Perhaps my favorite dish was her noodle/ketchup/sausage casserole. The joy of this dish is that you probably have the ingredients at hand – egg noodles, ketchup and breakfast sausage. I would choose ½-inch wide noodles. Don’t be tempted to substitute egg-free noodles. They get their color from “yellow dye 978,” which is a known Carthaginian. My many followers will be shocked that I recommend Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup instead of Heinz’s. I do so because Hunt’s flows more easily and thus can be more readily mixed with the noodles (and also because I have a nephew-in-law who works for the company that makes the stuff).

My mother always used Oscar Mayer breakfast sausage, which was just the right size and had no particular taste. I’m afraid it’s no longer available, so you might want to substitute something from Mr. Bob Evans or the Johnsonville group (despite the commercials, Jimmie Dean is actually dead, so I’d steer clear of that brand). If they are pre-cooked, so much the better – it saves a step. This is a one-dish meal; in this case, a 9x4x3-inch glass loaf casserole. If you don’t have a glass one, you could substitute a metal loaf pan, but the presentation would be less visually impressive.

Fill a pan with water and a bit of salt. Turn on the burner. When the water comes to a boil, toss the noodles in, stirring occasionally. When they’re suitably soft, drain and pour into the casserole. Pour the Hunt’s over the noodles, mixing until all the noodles have a lovely reddish cast. Arrange the sausages – perhaps a dozen? – on top, then put the whole shebang in a 325-degree oven. Twenty minutes later, perfection. As a side dish, you could quarter a head of Iceberg Lettuce. Place each quarter on a salad plate, and pour on a liberal amount of Kraft French Dressing. Its lovely orange color adds a festive note to a notable meal. Some people prefer Thousand Island dressing, but I’m not sure why.

You ham lovers will embrace this other Cannon delight, Jambon a la Cerise (ham with cherry sauce). This is another one-pan delight, in this case, a cast-iron frying pan. For this dish, you must purchase a ham steak, typically a large slice of ham about ½-inch thick. My wife Jeanette cubes just such a steak to make a delicious quiche-like creation. Jambon a la Cerise is a simpler, but no less satisfying, dish.

In addition to the cast-iron frying pan, you will require a jar of Maraschino Cherries. Heat the pan until really hot, then place the ham in it. Do not use any oil or butter, as this will tend to inhibit the desired crustiness. Fry on one side until a crust forms, as near to black as you can get it. Turn over and do the same to the other side. When both sides are crusty and the ham dried out, pour in the jar of cherries. When they are heated through, transfer the ham onto a serving platter, and pour on the colorful sauce. This should serve four lucky people.

To my amazement, I find that many people don’t seem to like organ meat. Some will tolerate liver, but draw the line at brains, hearts, gizzards, intestines and kidneys. As a child, I always asked for the turkey gizzard, but the modern birds don’t seem to have one. But my very favorite is kidneys. A stew of lamb kidneys was a staple of the Cannon menu. Preparation could not be simpler.

Ask your butcher for a pair of lamb kidneys. Chop them into bite-sized pieces, removing any gristly stuff as you go. Fill a cauldron with water, adding chopped onion, carrots and celery. Add the kidneys and bring the water to a simmer. Open the windows, and turn on an exhaust fan if you have one. This will permit your neighbors to share in the heady aromas. As the mixture simmers, you will notice a whitish crud forming on the top. Skim this off until it ceases to appear. Add cut-up potatoes and continue cooking until the spuds are tender. Ladle into bowls and serve your anxious family.

Speaking of spuds, my mother served mashed potatoes almost every day. Occasionally, there were leftovers, which, properly transformed, could be served the next day. Many of you, I’m sure, have eaten potato pancakes. Some recipes I’ve seen mix the spud mash with an egg, onions, salt, pepper, flour and assorted spices. All of this conspires to destroy the pure essence of the noble potato. All you really need do is form the mashed potatoes into patties and throw them into your faithful cast-iron frying pan. Again, you’re looking for that crusty surface that always satisfies.

In closing, I should mention that my father was born in Ireland, as were my mother’s grandparents. As you may know, the Irish favor simple, hearty food. I fully subscribe to  their general policy of never eating food from a country one has never heard of, or whose name one can’t pronounce.

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

 

Tap, Tap, Tap

Tap, Tap, Tap

By Patrick F. Cannon

I mentioned to my daughter Beth that my laptop was in the shop getting its Wi-Fi connection fixed (it’s back, I’m typing on it now), and we got to chatting about the various ways one has had to type in my lifetime, and she suggested a piece on this subject might be of interest.

I guess I’ve probably written millions of words over the years. As late as the 1950s and 60s at Northwestern University I was still doing my papers in long hand. Not long after that, professors began to refuse to accept anything not typed. I remember in particular a paper I did on Existentialism. It must have run to a couple of thousand words. I got an A, most likely because the prof didn’t want to bother deciphering the scrawl. In that regard, I often wonder if Count Leo Tolstoy had good handwriting? Imagine typesetting the manuscript of War and Peace!

I really didn’t learn how to type until I was in the Army. Because I went to Signal School, I was taught on a Teletype machine. When I got out in 1963, I bought a manual portable typewriter; a Royal as I recall. In my first real job after the service, I didn’t need a typewriter, as I dictated most of my correspondence. I did see my first Xerox machine there, and it seemed the marvel of the age. It was roughly the size of a refrigerator and could make only one copy at a time. You fed an original into a slot and – voila! – a copy come out below.

Of course, there was nothing like e-mail then. If there was a need for urgency, you would send a Telex! We also had a direct phone line to corporate headquarters in New York, and a WATS line for other long distance calls.

In my next job, I did a good deal more writing – newsletters, brochures, and news releases. I used a manual, office-size machine for the drafts, which were then finish-typed by a secretary. It was only in a subsequent job that I got my own typewriter. My then boss told me to buy any electric portable I was comfortable with. I chose a Remington, which churned out reams of deathless prose. By the way, in those days, if your copy was going to appear in print, it had to be sent to the typesetter. When I started, it would have been composed on a linotype machine, which produced what we called “hot type.”  Very soon, however, this was replaced by photo-type, then by computer-generated type. The type house would send galleys. If you made any changes, you were charged.

To this day, I still remember the glee I felt in being given my IBM Selectric typewriter in a later job. It had the magic type-ball, and a correcting feature! No more need to use the dreaded white out! There was a time when every desk in the civilized world had a little bottle of the stuff at the ready. The next advance – was it sometime in the early 1980s? – was having a word processing terminal at my desk. This was something of an advance, since you could print documents and letters yourself after making corrections. Alas, you still needed a typewriter to make envelopes. But the magical thing in both cases was the automatic carriage return!

People will perhaps be amazed to discover that most typewriters had a dandy feature called the carriage return. As you typed away and got close to the right margin, a warning bell would ring. If you didn’t heed its call, and kept on typing, the little letters would keep appearing until they ran off the end of the page. Not good. Heeding the bell, you were faced with a decision. If you had typed a complete word, your right hand would rise up and manually use the supplied lever to return the carriage to the left margin. Most electric machines had a key to accomplish the same.

But if you were in the middle of a long word – let’s say exaggeration —  you had to hyphenate it, i.e., decide where to separate the word into two parts, with one part on the line you’re currently typing upon, and the rest on the next. This could not be done willy-nilly, but according to established rules. If you were unsure about just where you could properly separate a particular word, you looked to a dictionary for guidance. Many of you will be amazed to discover that dictionaries were once actually contained in large books. A knowledge of the alphabet was required to navigate them.

Nowadays, all the fun has been taken out of writing. The laptop I’m writing this on would let me type away until the end of days without worrying me about hyphenating a word, or using a return bar or button. It even alerts me when it thinks I have misspelled a word, or even composed a run-on sentence. By the way, I just misspelled “sentence” and it corrected me automatically.

The job of typesetter is no more. For all of my five published books, I simply sent the publisher the Word texts as e-mail attachments (it took several). They then ran the files through a program that gave them the text in a style and size they wanted. Of course, some writers still prefer to compose in long hand. I once worked with one who would write all his articles by hand, then type them on his computer. He had to work longer hours to do all this, but he didn’t mind.

By the way, typewriters have now become collector items. If you happen to have an old Smith-Carona gathering dust in the attic, you might want to give Tom Hanks a call. He might be missing that model.

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon