Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Father's Day, Then and Now, by Margaret Ullrich

I want to wish a Happy Father's Day to all dads, nannus and uncles. I also want to wish a happy day to everyone who is working to keep us healthy and supplied with food and necessities. 
Thank you for everything you are doing during these times.

This is not like any Father's Day we've ever had, but I'm hoping it will give you nice memories!

This is a story I wrote in 2006 for my CKUW show. Hope that the weather will co-operate and that it gives you a chuckle.
Stay safe and well, everyone!

     I hope all you Dads will have a great Father's Day. 

     People talk about how Christmas has changed over the years.  Well, I think Father's Day has changed even more than Christmas has.

     In the fifties, Father's Day was pretty simple.  It was a snap to shop for Dads.  Moms were hard.  There were so many different toilet waters.  Lipstick colors changed every year.  One year Lucille Ball Red was popular.  The next year every lady was wearing Flaming Fuschia.  I mean, how was an elementary school kid supposed to know what to get?  
     Dads were easy.  They always needed a pair of socks or another tie.  There WAS something about an Aqua Velva man.  The bottles of blue water came in a variety of sizes and they were all cheap.  If you had to soften Dad up for the report card that was coming, you could splurge on Old Spice or English Leather for a few pennies more.

     If you'd blown all your money for Mother's Day - an easy thing to do - you could get another tube of Brylcreme.  Those little dabs went fast and Dad always needed another tube so he could look debonaire and Mom could run her fingers through his hair.  

     Keeping the family car spiffy has always been a Dad's job.  Remember when they were unwrapping their presents in the movie A Christmas Story?  Dad Darren McGavin was thrilled to get a tin of Simonize for his car.  It was big.  It was heavy.  It was cheap. 

     That was the Golden Age for Dads gifts.  But now?  Let's just say that Dads are getting to be as big a problem as Moms are, gift-wise.

     I always thought of men as being rough and ready in their grooming needs.  I raised a son.  He once took a bath, answered nature's call, then went straight to drying everything - and I mean everything - with the bath towel.  He thought cutting out a small step would save some time.  At least that was his explanation when I asked him about the skid marks on the yellow towel. 

     Now men have discovered their inner Alan Alda.  They know about brands like Nivea.  Soap on a rope has lost its oomph.  Blades and a can of Barbasol just won't cut it anymore.  Guys have discovered grooming sets: shower gels, body washes, face scrubs, after shave balms and a post shave soother that the nice sales clerk swore will control his beard's growth.  You know, the same crap and sales pitches they've been throwing at women for years.  

     And for the guy who's really into his feminine side, there are events like the Papa-razzi Package at the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver.  The 36 hour getaway includes an hour-long massage, a facial, foot care, a souvenir shaving kit and a round of golf.  The package costs $2,165 plus taxes and airfare if you don't happen to live in Vancouver.  Hey, femininity never came cheap. 

     Tools have always been popular gifts.  Something is always getting lost or broken, right?  Time was when, after being showered with a 32 piece wrench set, a 14 piece clamp set and a 65 piece screwdriver set, every Dad was ready, willing and eager to wrench, clamp and screw any and everything in the house. 

     Fellows, I was wondering… if a man receives a 205 piece drill and screwdriving set (consisting of screw driving bits, nut driving bits, spade bits, high speed drill bits, hole saws, masonry drill bits, sanding drums and a countersink which, I've been told, are ideal to use on wood, metal, plastic, brick, mortar and concrete) would he really use them all or just stick to a half dozen favorite pieces?  You know, the way we women use the same favorite spoons and pans in the kitchen.  Sometimes wretched excess is just, well, excessive.

     Speaking of the kitchen, a Dad's cooking used to be basic.  Raw meat plus fire equaled hard small hockey pucks served with ketchup and relish in a bun.  Raw onion slices were added for the July first weekend.  Up to now the most exciting thing I'd ever seen a man do at the barbecue was to stick a can of beer up a chicken's butt so it could stand and roast.  It looked almost patriotic.  

     Dads made simple basic food.  And healthy.  No E coli bacteria could ever survive a Dad's barbecue.  

     Now folks are dropping like flies because Dads have discovered cuisine.  Ketchup and mustard have disappeared.  Guys who flunked Geography and can't find their way to their in-laws across town without a CAA trip tik are now into Japanese, Mexican and Thai recipes. 

     While at the Liquor Commission, I picked up the freebie Flavours magazine.  On the cover it said, Sassy sauces for your grilled goodies.  Uh, huh.  I don't know what my Dad would've thought of things like sorrel-spinach sauce.  On salmon, yet. 

     There was also an article about the joys of salt water.  According to the folks at Flavours, soaking food in brine is the key to a killer barbecue.  I don't know.  I remember one picnic forty years ago when the boat tipped over, everyone and everything fell out and everything got doused with good old salty Atlantic Ocean water.  No one thought that was anything worth repeating ever again. 

     Shish kebabs used to be simple.  Meat, onion, green pepper… meat, onion, green pepper… meat, onion, green pepper… until you ran out of everything.  Well, now bamboo skewers aren't good enough anymore.  Oh, no.  One recipe in Flavours should earn a cook a Boy Scout badge.  Get this: Peel fresh ginger and cut into several four inch long skewers.  Then carve the ginger on one end into a sharp point.  If your local grocer is out of long chunks of ginger, don't panic.  You can also do the same thing to lemongrass stalks.  

     Oh, pull-lease!!  If God meant us to spend our short summers carving little sticks He never would've made those nice clean bags of bamboo skewers.  Life - and a Manitoba summer - is way too short for that kind of nonsense.     
     There was a time when a bag of coal big enough to burn down a house could warm the cockles of a Dad's heart.  It could keep a fellow busy for a whole summer's worth of Sundays.  Now charcoal has some competition.  Have you been exposed to Mesquite Flavoured wood chips?  Our neighbor, Lou, really loves mesquite.  He chopped some chips up and sprinkled them on the salad.  Okay.  Lou isn't quite right in the head.  Last week he served up what he called grilled pizza.  Uh, huh.  Like we didn't notice the take out boxes stacked next to his recycling.  

     We have an old gas barbecue that chugs along with 11,000 BTUs.  It has been doing a dandy job of turning meat into blackened briquets for quite a few happy family gatherings.  Have you seen the new barbecues?  When did guys start pimping their grills?  The big selling feature for these monsters is how many BTUs are under the hood.  

     I checked the dictionary.  BTU means British Thermal Units.  Well, that was a big help.  I needed to get BTU into terms I could understand.  I looked around my house and found that my gas water heater has 30,000 BTUs.  The heater is plastered with little notes from Furnaceman.  Cheery messages like: "Third degree burns can occur in six seconds when the water is 60º C.  Death is also possible."  

     Hmmm…  My water heater has 30,000 BTUs and it can get water hot enough to kill somebody.

     A Kalamazoo Bread Breaker Two Dual-Fuel grill with an infrared rotisserie cradle system and a side burner has a 154,000 BTU capacity.  It has a temperature gauge that reaches 1000º F.  It also has nighttime grilling lights.  Why?  Would a middle-aged hubby, after his 3 a.m. pee, get an uncontrollable urge to wander out to the Kalamazoo and grill a couple of turkeys? 

     According to the manufacturer, it's geared to the "Man cook with fire" market segment.    

     Middle-aged men, who normally think it's a hassle to reheat leftovers in a microwave, are gathering around these monster barbecues and acting like a bunch of teenage boys.  They're checking under the hood, twisting dials and rattling off phrases like "Mounted smoker box… warming rack… hi-dome cooking lid… porcelain coated cooking grid… heat plates" with the same slobbering enthusiasm most had for their first car.

     There are also barbecue accessories.  I'm not talking long handled forks and aprons that tell folks to kiss the cook.  

     The Centro food prep station is a buffet, cooler and more.  It can be connected to the barbecue to create a complete outdoor kitchen.  Hey, fellas!  There's a room that has all this stuff.  You're welcome to come and flex your cooking muscles all year round.  Sorry the oven only goes to 500º F, but, we girls have been able to crank out complete holiday dinners in it.  it's called the kitchen.

     Maybe the Discovery Channel was trying to do a public service.  They had a special on the 1883 Krakatoa catastrophe.  When Krakatoa went Kabooie, it produced an ash cloud.  The ashes and gases reached 1000º.  Most of the people in a 30 mile radius were killed by the extremely hot air which liquified their lungs. 
     Dads, if some fool gave you the Bread Breaker, think of Al Gore and take it back.
     The ozone layer will thank you.
     The environment will thank you!
     The lungs of everyone within 30 miles will thank you!!

     And, most important, the family's burgers and wieners will thank you!!!   

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Flowers for Mother's Day by Margaret Ullrich

I want to wish a Happy Mother's Day to mums, nannas, aunties, but most especially, a happy day to everyone who is a caregiver or working to help keep us supplied with food and necessities. 
Thank you for everything you are doing during these times.
This is not like any Mother's Day we've ever had, but I'm wishing it will give you its own, hopefully nice, memories!

This is a story I wrote years ago for my CKUW show. Hope it gives you a chuckle now.
Stay safe and well, everyone!

     Isn't it great.  Mother Nature has finally realized it's Spring!

     Parents in the wild weren't confused by the crazy weather we've been having.  We live in a cul de sac near farmers' fields in the north end of Winnipeg.  Geese and ducks have been making nests and babies in our local ponds.  We've been watching bush bunnies chase each other like race horses at the track.  Our kitchen has a picture window facing our garage, where we have a grapevine growing up a trellis, then continuing over wires to the window to give us some shade.  
     On top of the trellis, under the garage's eaves, two robins recently set up housekeeping.  Rain or shine, they knew it was time to have babies.  And, they did.  While we ate, we watched them take turns keeping the eggs warm.  A few weeks ago we saw the babies' wide open mouths over the edge of the nest.  When I went out to hang laundry, I heard the birds chirping overhead.  
     When you live in the 'burbs, it's almost the law to have a garden.  You know it.  Your neighbours know it.  And every store in town knows it.  So, marketing folks, ever eager to make a buck on anything - especially guilt - have hooked Mother's Day to Gardening.  In a way, it's a natural.  

     Everyone can remember proudly giving Mom a bouquet of freshly picked weeds.  Okay.  It's the thought that counts.  And, as a gift, the weeds weren't bad.  Mom could smile, plunk them into anything from a vase to an empty coffee tin, set them anywhere and everybody was happy.  Mom could ignore them until they flopped over.  Nobody cared when Mom tossed them out.  Hey, they were free weeds. 
     The problem is, kids grow up.  They learn how to read.  They read the flyers.  They get some cash.  They get suckered.

     One large chain, whose buyers have some serious size issues, recently came out with a lawn and garden flyer.  They proudly announced, We make gardening REALLY EASY!  Uh, huh.  By this they meant they'd packed to overflowing huge planters with annuals, about which they said, and I quote, It's like adding another room to your house.

     Yippee!  Picture it.  Lugging around a kitchen chair, then climbing it to hang 'another room' from a hook you can barely see because the darn heavy thing has to be hung high enough so no one will walk into it and knock himself out cold.  Having to unhook 'the room' which is hanging a few feet above your head so you can water it.  Regularly.  Every couple of days.  Hey, what did you expect?  They're honking big flowers.  They're thirstier than sailors on shore leave.  It was your lousy gift, so there you are, hoisting something that weighs as much as a toddler over your head.  Oh, and you had just watered it.  Dirty water is running down your arm.  Happy Mother's Day.   

     Okay.  The kids meant well.  You can't return them - the kids or the flowers.  Let's grab a cold one, sit down and think this through.  

     They're just flowers in a pot.  You buy annuals in a box.  What do you do with the annuals?  Just separate them and plant them where you please.  Hose them down every so often.  No climbing or weight lifting required. 

     Alrighty then.  Upend that oversized pot and do likewise to those overpacked petunias.  They'll be grateful for the breathing room.  Hey, would you like to spend a scorching Manitoba summer crammed six to a bed?  Neither do flowers.  

     But, that leaves you with an empty pot.  And even though the kids barely look you in the eye, there's still a chance they'd notice that the pot - their gift - is now empty.  No problem.  Can you say Dollar Store?  Just waltz in and buy any flowers you like.  Think you have to get the same flowers?  Get real.  How much do you notice the uniqueness of each potato in a twenty pound sack?  The kids bought those flowers by the basket, 25 bucks each, two for 40.  They shopped with friends and had a few bucks left for snacks.  All they noticed was that the baskets were heavy.  

     Get whatever you like.  Um... on second thought, try to stay with the season.  I have a friend who loves Christmas.  She packed her pot with flaming red poinsettias.  Even her kids thought there was something odd about their Mom's pot.  She just smiled, hugged them and gave them a cookie.  A store bought cookie.  It worked.  

     While you're at it, get some fake flowers for the yard, especially for those dark, hard to grow areas and window boxes.  I got a lovely assortment of blue, white and orange flowers for our yard.  Mama Robin ignored me as I placed some flowers in a large pot under our chokecherry.  She chirped as I inserted some into my kitchen window's flower box.  

     Then I tried to hook a few onto the trellis under her nest.  Mama Robin flew onto our neighbour's roof, to watch me beautifying her neighbourhood.  Then she started screeching like a banshee.  I glanced up just in time to see her act like a kamikazi pilot, talons aimed straight at me.  I ducked and ran.  The grapevine can stay flowerless until her kids have flown the nest.             

     Ah, the circle of life!  Ah, Nature!  Ah, crap!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Bread Recipes made with Yeast, Baking Soda, Baking Powder or Sourdough Starter

Thanks to the COVID-19 virus we’ve been staying home more than we ever thought we could.
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
Staying at home is always better than having to stay in a hospital.
For one thing, the food is always better.

Speaking of food, I’ve heard that bread making has become popular.
According to the old Ukrainian folk saying 
Bread is the head of everything.
If you have all of the ingredients, and have no problem with carbs, go for it.
Bread is a safer sedative than booze or drugs.

But, thanks to panic buyers, some items - including staples - have suddenly become hard to find in our grocery stores.
Some substitutions, such as serving frozen mixed vegetables instead of corn with dinner, are easy to do.

Baking ingredients can be a little trickier.
If the recipe calls for yeast, well, you need yeast.
But not all bread recipes call for yeast.
I’m not talking about sourdough, which is a project all by itself.
Some bread recipes just need baking soda or baking powder.

Bread is a funny thing.
Buy a loaf and it’s just bread.
Bake it and you’re suddenly Mother Walton.
Somehow making a loaf makes a person feel like she or he is able to survive through any crisis, like a Depression or a pandemic.

Homemade bread does add a certain oomph to a meal.
Don’t be put off by the idea of making four loaves at one time.
Homemade bread is a treat.
With butter or jam, it’s as good as any cake.
Believe me, it won’t last long enough to go stale.
And most of these breads can easily be frozen.

Stay safe and well!

                      ~ ~ ~

                      ~ ~ ~

                      ~ ~ ~

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Anna Sultana’s Milkless, Eggless, Butterless Cakes (Chocolate or Raisin) and Two-Egg Sponge Cake

Well, we’ve just gotten through about a month of living in quarantine.
To be honest, for many seniors in Manitoba staying home during early Spring is  just a regular part of our usual way of living.
During this time we have icy sidewalks, what with our usual freeze and thaw weather pattern.

But the shortages at the grocery store is becoming a bit unnerving.
Sometimes it calls for a bit of ingenuity in the kitchen before we can make dinner, or desserts.

Flour is a staple, but it can cause a problem if you run out.
Check the back of your cabinets.
If you have cake & pastry flour and the recipe calls for all-purpose flour, just add two tablespoons to each cup of cake and pastry flour.
If you have all-purpose flour and the recipe calls for cake & pastry flour, just remove two tablespoons from each cup of all-purpose flour.

I’m hoping that you've also got a bag of raisins just sitting on the shelves.
Depression Cake, also called Boiled Raisin Cake or War Cake, is a recipe that doesn’t call for milk, eggs or butter.
Neither does Ma’s Easy Raisin/Sultana Cake.
Got raisins? Got cake.

About the Chocolate Cake, when we're over the virus crisis:
Instead of the water you can use 1 Cup lukewarm sour milk or buttermilk.
Instead of the oil, you can use 1/2 Cup margarine, melted.

If you’ve got a tin of frosting, or feel like making some, it would be appreciated.
Chocolate Mocha Frosting

1 Tablespoon instant coffee
1/2 Cup hot water
Set aside.

In a medium mixer bowl cream
3/4 Cup Crisco
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup unsweetened cocoa
Making 3 dry and 2 liquid additions, add
4 1/2 Cups sifted icing sugar
Alternately with the prepared coffee.
Beat well until smooth.

You could split the cake to make it more like a layer cake.

                        Chocolate Cake

Grease an 8 inch square pan
Preheat oven to 350º F

Sift into a medium bowl
1 1/2 Cup flour
1 Cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 ounces oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 Cup water
Mix well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake 40 minutes.
Insert a toothpick to test the cake to be sure it's done.
Place the cake in the pan on a rack.
Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a platter.

                        Two-Egg Sponge Cake

Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan
Preheat oven to 325º F
Note: This cake batter is thin.

Place in medium bowl
1 Cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Blend together and set aside.

Heat but do not boil
1/2 Cup milk

In a mixing bowl beat thoroughly at medium speed
2 large eggs
Slowly add
3/4 cup sugar
Continue beating for another five minutes.
Gradually add
3 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Make 3 dry (the flour) and 2 liquid (the milk) additions to the egg mixture.
Mix lightly, only enough to blend well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake 30 minutes.
Insert a toothpick to test the cake to be sure it's done.
Place the cake in the pan on a rack.
Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a platter.

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Traditional Family Easter by Margaret Ullrich

I had originally written the following story for my radio show ‘2000 & Counting’. 

In 2007 it was published in 'A/cross sections : new Manitoba writing', which was edited by Katharine Bitney and Andris Taskans, and published by the Manitoba Writers Guild.  

The book is still in the Winnipeg library system, adult nonfiction section.  Check it out.  You'll find lots of stories and poems by other Manitoba writers in it.

Why am I always writing about food?

A Traditional Family Easter by Margaret Ullrich 

    I made a loaf of soda bread to serve with the corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.  I don’t know why I did it.  I’m Maltese.  My husband is German/Swedish.  Not a single Irish person among our ancestors.  Then, on March nineteenth, I made a lasagna and cream puffs for St. Joseph.  I’d be twenty pounds lighter if I just ignored holidays.

    Yeah, right, like that’ll ever happen.     

    I’m a sucker for holiday traditions.  And, just like Christmas, Lent and Easter are loaded with holiday traditions.  Lent is the time to really clean the house.  Ah, spring cleaning.  Scrub and wax the floors, wash the windows and launder the curtains.  Everything from cellar to attic is glowing.  After being sealed in tighter than a drum all winter who could argue with giving the house a good cleaning?

    Lent is also a time to cut back on the calories.  Let’s be honest.  Who doesn’t want to drop the pounds gained during December?  Between the fasting and the exercise we get from cleaning house, we’re almost able to fit into the clothes we wore before Christmas.  Alleluia!!  Religion can be good for the body as well as the soul.  

    And then there’s Easter, when Christians celebrate Christ’s Resurrection.  We attend church in new outfits.  Little boys in little suits and little girls in fluffy dresses and shiny white patent leather shoes make families look like Hallmark cards.  

    Easter has more customs than the Bunny has eggs.  A popular tradition is to gather together and share a feast.  Over the centuries women have made this a glorious occasion with beautifully decorated eggs, colourful coffee cakes and traditional breads.

    According to tradition, an angel appeared to Mary to tell her that Jesus would arise on Easter.  To show her joy, Mary baked bread to share with her friends.  And to make the loaf more special, she put an egg, a symbol of life, on the top.  Now, I have to admit I don’t know what I’d do if someone told me that a recently deceased relative was rising from the dead.  I guess baking bread is as good a thing to do as any.  The only problem is that over the past two millennia something got lost in translation as that bread recipe went from country to country.

    And that’s when Easter went to hell in a bread basket.

    During my earliest years in Corona, a small town in Queens, New York, Easter was Italian.  Palm Sunday was the Day of the Olive.  Small blessed olive branches were offered as tokens of peacemaking.  For Easter breakfast we had Colomba di Pasqua.  Colomba is bread shaped to look like a dove, the symbol of peace, and covered with almond paste and almonds.  An Italian Easter dinner also had traditions.  First we had manicotti.  That was followed by a roasted whole baby lamb with a mixed salad, sauteed spinach and roasted artichokes.  For dessert there were cream tarts, cookies, spumoni, nuts and roasted chestnuts.  The adults had coffee.

    Then my parents moved to College Point, another small town in Queens, which had been settled by Irish and German families.  They had their own Easter customs.  Since Easter was not as commercial as Christmas, no one noticed when we followed our own customs. 

    When I was seven I had to follow what Ma told me were the Church’s rules during Lent.  I ate kwarezimal, an almond cookie that was topped with honey and chopped pistachio nuts.  Ma said we could eat it during Lent because it didn’t have any fat or eggs.  For Maundy Thursday Ma baked bread in the form of a ring.  Its top was crusted with sesame seeds and pierced with roasted almonds.  Our Easter dinner menu was the same as it had been in Corona.  But, instead of making a Colomba di Pasqua, Ma baked a figolli, a Maltese sweet bread with a marzipan filling.  

    A figolli was harder to make than a colomba.  The dough was rolled about one centimeter thick.  Then Ma cut the dough into pairs of figolla with a figolla cutter.  They looked like a large letter J, but the stick part ended in a fish’s tail.  On one side of a figolla Ma spread jam and marzipan.  Then she covered it with the identical shape, as if she was making a sandwich.  After the figolli had been baked and cooled, they were covered with colored icing and piped royal icing.  Then a decorated Easter egg was placed on top of each figolli.  For the final touch a cardboard woman’s face was inserted into the mound of the J.  

    The odd thing about Ma’s traditional figolli was that it was a mermaid.  I asked Ma why a mermaid and not a dove.  She said, “I don’t know.  It’s our tradition.”  

    Well, you can’t argue with tradition.

    In College Point, as Easter approached, the bakeries filled with cross buns, pretzels, braided almond loaves, Easter cookies and marzipan treats.  There were also large decorated sugar Easter eggs which had a hole in one end.  When we looked into the hole we could see tiny bunny villages.  There were also hot cross buns.  Ma knew about the cross buns.  Since Malta was part of the British Empire, Ma had eaten them in Malta, too.      

    We brought samples of our mothers’ holiday baking to school.  There were lots of pretzels.  Since they didn’t have fat or eggs, we could eat them during Lent without risking eternal damnation.  I liked the braided loaves which had been covered with almond paste.  They reminded me of colomba di Pasqua.  I brought some kwarezimal to school.  After I explained that the almond cookies didn’t have fat or eggs either, my friends agreed to try them.  

    Easter for my family was a simple celebration.  We went to church, wished everyone a “Happy Easter”, went home and ate our traditional foods.  There weren’t any problems until the year Ma’s brother Charlie married an American girl.  Aunt Liz wanted to learn more about Maltese customs.  Ma invited Charlie and Liz for Easter.  

    Pop told his oldest sister, Aunt Demi, that we had invited Charlie and Liz.  Aunt Demi was worried that our branch of the family was becoming too American.  So, Aunt Demi decided that she would come to dinner to make sure that Ma kept everything kosher.  

    Then Aunt Rita, one of my Sicilian Aunts, heard that we were inviting company for Easter.  Aunt Rita always took things personally.  She was insulted.  Why hadn’t she been invited, too?  Ma invited Aunt Rita, Uncle Tony and their children.  We had enough folding tables and chairs to seat everyone in the yard.  As long as it didn’t rain, Ma thought it would be a nice family dinner.

    Easter Sunday morning the sun was shining and the lamb was roasting on a spit in our yard.  The tables had been set.  Aunt Liz was taking notes and learning recipes.  She had brought a dozen cross buns and a jello mold.  The only thing missing was the centrepiece.  Aunt Demi had told Ma that she would bring a proper figolli.  

    It was the biggest figolli I’d ever seen.  The icing was as thick as my thumb.  While Aunt Demi was placing the Easter egg on her mermaid, Aunt Rita marched in and pulled a Colomba di Pasqua out of her tote bag.  The colomba had a three-foot wingspan.  There was barely room enough for one centrepiece.  

    Fish or fowl, which would Ma use? 

After forty days of fasting and scrubbing, Demi and Rita were lean, clean, Easter tradition machines.  Filled with the holiday spirit, they glared at each other.

    “What the hell is that?”  Aunt Demi spat.
    “It’s a dove, a symbol of peace, you idiot,” Aunt Rita shot back.  
    “It’s Easter.  We don’t need a damn dove.”
    “Throw that fish back in the sea.”  
    “The figolli is part of our tradition.”
    “Since when did Jesus swim with the fishes?”
    Waving a knife, Aunt Demi lunged.  “Give me that bread.  I’ll cut it up for sandwiches.”
    “Over my dead body.”
    “No problem.”

    My Aunt Liz was fascinated by her new in-laws.  She wrote down everything they said.  Maybe she thought the fight was part of our jolly ethnic holiday tradition.  I stayed close to Liz in case she didn’t have sense enough to duck.  

    Ma went back to the kitchen.  She knew she couldn’t reason with her sisters-in-law.  Her plan was to hide in the kitchen until the smoke cleared.  If they killed each other it would leave more food for the others.

    “Maria, get out here,” Aunt Demi yelled.  Ma came out.  The men and the younger children were nowhere in sight.  They were taking a walk to work up an appetite.  Demi and Rita were rolling up their sleeves.  Liz was taking notes.  
    “I went to all this trouble,” Aunt Rita whined.
    Aunt Demi barked, “Tell this idiot we are using the figolli.”
    “It took me forever to make this,” Aunt Rita whined again.
    Ma tried to be a good hostess.  “They’re so big.  We could put them on chairs near the table.”

    No luck.  The Aunts wanted her to choose one.
   Aunt Demi announced, “We are having a traditional Maltese Easter dinner.  With a traditional figolli.”
    “Do you think our Blessed Mother baked a mermaid?” Aunt Rita sneered.  
    Demi lunged.  Liz wrote.  

    The lamb was ready.  If this dragged on much longer it would be a lump of coal.  

    Ma sighed, glared at her sisters-in-law and said, “I don’t care if our Blessed Mother made hot dogs and beans.  I’m tired of cleaning.  I’m tired of baking.  I’m tired of the whole damn holiday.  
    And I’m tired of bread.  A few days ago I gave a figolli to a friend who lives down the street.  Yesterday she came over and gave me a loaf of challah.  So I have another traditional bread from Mrs. Cohen… Mrs. Cohen.  That’s it!!” 

    Without saying another word Ma turned and went back to the kitchen.  In a few minutes she returned with the glossy braided challah on the platter.  

    “Our Blessed Mother was a Jew.  She would’ve made a challah.  And that’s what we’re having for Easter.  It’s traditional.  Shut up, sit down and eat.”

    And, so saying, Ma started our traditional Easter Dinner.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Anna Sultana's Pull-Apart Pizza / Cheese, Egg, Vegetable, Meatless and Fish Recipes for 2

Holy Thursday!
No, I’m not cursing.
It’s crunch time and we have to plan menus for the holiday weekend and Easter.

Pork Chops in Lemon Caper Sauce and more uses for capers √
Cornish Hens recipe, with links for Chicken and Meat recipes for 2 √
Coconut Cake and Quick Fudge for a family-sized dessert √
Lemon Cranberry Muffins with links for Brunch, Dessert and Drink Recipes for 2 √

Now we need some vegetable and vegetarian recipes.
A few links for cheese, egg and fish recipes for 2 would also be helpful.

Okay… here’s a vegetarian dish that’s really easy and uses that loaf of Italian bread at the bottom of your freezer.
The goal here is to stay out of the grocery stores.
Their shelves are half empty, there are a ton of rules you have to follow once you're there - 6 feet away from anyone else - and the staff is terrified of meeting someone who doesn’t know he or she has the virus.
Please, do everyone a favour - stay home and use what you have.
You might even start a new family tradition.

Stay home and stay well!


If you have shredded cheese instead of a block of cheese, use that.
If you want it a bit cheesier you can add a bit more cheese on top before baking.

Want a bit of meat?
Cut in half 3 slices bacon
After the pizza is assembled and the remaining margarine mixture is spread on top, arrange the bacon pieces on top.

Use olive oil or tomato sauce instead of the margarine
Insert slices of pepperoni, or any other cold cut, with the mozzarella

                        Pull-Apart Pizza

Grease a baking sheet

In a small bowl combine
1/2 Cup margarine, softened
1/4 Cup onion, minced
1/4 Cup prepared mustard (optional)

Cut into 1 1/2-inch slices without cutting through to the bottom
1 1-pound loaf Italian bread
Place the loaf on the prepared sheet.

Slice enough to have a slice for each incision
8 ounces mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400º F

Reserving 2 Tablespoons of the margarine mixture, use the remainder to spread between the bread slices.
Insert a slice of cheese in each cut.
Press the loaf together.
Spread the remaining margarine mixture on top of the bread.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Cut through the bottom crust with a sharp knife and serve.

Cheese Recipes for 2

Egg Recipes for 2

Vegetable and Meatless Recipes for 2

Fish Recipes for 2

Carmela Soprano's Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Garlic Bread
                     - Zuppa di Cozze