Sorry, Cucumbers, But Unless You’re A Dill Pickle Or A Grape…

The Alternative Turkey Hotline

turkey-dinnerBack before the Google, when people needed a phone number that they didn’t have, they picked up their landline and dialed 4-1-1.

The formal name for this service was “Directory Assistance”, but everyone called it simply “Information”. Need to call the movie theater to find out what movies are playing, but don’t have the number? Just call Information!

Well, one day, when I was in college, sometime in November 1984, I was hanging out day-drinking with my buddies, we had purchased a frozen turkey the day before, but we were grappling with the fact that not one among us had any idea how to prepare and roast the thing.

In my drunkenness, I joked that we should call Information and ask. After all, it’s called “Information”, not, more narrowly, “Phone Information”. (These things are always funnier when you are intoxicated.)

Anyway, my joke was immediately met with an uproar of approval and insistence, and, before I could protest, the phone was passed to me, 4-1-1 dialed, and I was on the phone with some gal from who knows where.

Much to my surprise, rather than being met with massive annoyance and summarily hung up on, the operator was delighted and humored me, providing me with her family’s recipe from memory, along with cautions about thawing and a warning not to cook the stuffing inside the turkey.

Anyway, I was reminded of this memory when I saw this tweet today:

I didn’t know about the Butterball hotline back in college, but I’m actually glad that I didn’t. I’ll always fondly remember that directory assistance operator’s act of arguably undeserved kindness.

Just as I’ll always fondly remember this scene from The West Wing:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

BurgerEmojiGate

Santa As A Role Model: The Dark Side

santa-clauseSo, there’s this Christmas movie starring Tim Allen called The Santa Clause, wherein Santa falls off of Tim Allen’s roof on Christmas Eve, he dies, his body vanishes, leaving behind the empty Santa suit, Allen’s son convinces him to put the suit on and fill in for Santa that night, only, by doing so, he unknowingly enters into a contract to permanently become the next Santa.

The next morning, Allen believes it had all been a dream, but very quickly his body starts transforming, he gains weight at an alarming rate, his hair turns white, and however often he tries to shave, the beard grows back, voluminously, overnight.

The movie is described as a comedy, but let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing funny when you, yourself, start transforming into Santa.

See, since Thanksgiving, I have been off the wagon of my low-carb diet, a grain-free and sugar-free regimen that has worked really well for me, effectively controlling my weight and reducing inflammation, keeping me energetic, healthy, and happy.

As a result of this lapse, and with ubiquitous, seductive, and decadent holiday foods everywhere I turn lately, um, let’s just say that I have put on some pounds.

Then, because I completely spaced out and didn’t participate in No-Shave November — the goal of which is to grow cancer awareness by not shaving or cutting hair, because cancer patients often lose their hair during treatment — I stopped shaving right before December 1st, figuring better late than never, and within days I remembered one of the reasons why I do shave: my facial hair is mostly grey/white now, and I look MUCH older with facial hair.

So…

Getting Pudgy + Grey/White Beard = Yikes!!!

Now, why can’t I just think of what a wonderful, generous, happy guy Santa is and enjoy the emerging resemblance? Why can’t I just emulate his Ho, Ho, Ho!!! attitude?

Well, at 52 years of age, I am face-to-face with the challenges of aging, aware that my physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing depend, more than ever before, on taking good care of the only body I will ever have, and sustaining a youthful attitude.

Yet, when I look in a full length mirror right now, particularly if I’m naked (my apologies for the visual), I’m clearly failing on both of those fronts.

Truth is, I honestly don’t know how I didn’t see this coming!

I grew up watching Santa Claus Is Coming to Town every year on television, wherein, in less than an hour, this strapping, fit young man…

santa-claus-is-comin-to-town-skinny

…balloons into this quadruple bypass waiting to happen:

santa-fat

That’s the subliminal setup for where I’m at right now!

Fictional Santa will of course continue enjoying the gift of immortality on a diet of milk, cookies, and egg nog, but it’s not really gonna work out so well for us mere mortals.

So please, for your own sake, don’t take after Santa.

#ChocolateChipCookieDay

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Notes From Italy, Vol. 5: Miscellaneous One Liners

castle-bolsena
Me and the lovely Mrs. preparing to storm the castle.

Vol. 5 in my Notes From Italy series.

In this installment, something a little different.

As I mentioned in my introductory post for Notes From Italy, my journaling method on this trip consisted of writing down bits and pieces of observations in a running list, rather than in an organized narrative or free writing.

While some of the list items proved ripe for expanding upon, as in the first four volumes of Notes From Italy, others are fun to just read as they are, one (or so) liners, in simple list format.

So, here we go!

1. Not all ragus are created equal. Namely, this:

ragu-commercial

… does NOT, in any way, shape, or form, equal this:

real-ragu

2. The combination of the beating sun and ubiquitous flowers means nearly ubiquitous fragrance wafting through the air, as if there was some machine somewhere pumping out the smell as a kind of tourist attraction.

3. The biggest exception to #2: Italians smoke like chimneys. I’m worried I might need a lung transplant at some point after this trip.

4. Gelato = ice cream, typically VERY good ice cream, but really just ice cream. Everyone loves gelato.

5. The back and side streets of Florence and the Tuscan and Umbrian hilltowns are quintessential old-world Europe in every thoroughly charming way one can imagine.

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The Mrs., wandering around Bolsena, Italy.

6. You don’t have to be religious to be grateful in the summertime for the old, stone churches, conveniently located nearly every other block or so, with their reliably cool interiors and benches to rest on.

7. Even very cheap wine tastes fantastic in Italy … because Italy.

Leisure Italia
Bottle of red, bottle of white, both about ‚ā¨5 and yummy!

There’s more one liners to come, so stay tuned.

Ciao!

Up Next: Notes From Italy, Vol. 6: Botticelli’s Niece

Notes From Italy, Vol. 3: Food Highlight #1

Via Dei Neri
Via Dei Neri, with tower of Palazzo Vecchio in distance

Vol. 3 in my Notes From Italy series.

My favorite street in Florence, by far, was Via Dei Neri, a narrow, 4-block stretch, one block in from the north bank of the Arno River, lined with shops, trattorias, osterias, pizzerias, caf√©s, bars, gelaterias, bakeries…

…so yeah, mostly food, and only a block from the apartment we were staying in.

There are no major landmarks directly on Via Dei Neri — though you can look up and westward to see the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio — and this adds enormously to its off-the-beaten-tourist-path charm.

As mentioned in my Notes From Italy, Vol. 1:

As you stroll through the narrow, cobblestone streets, it seems that every other doorway is a café, bar, or restaurant with outdoor seating, even the tiniest hole-in-the-wall establishments have a handful of stools in the doorway or out on the narrow sidewalk, and Italians sit there with their espresso or glasses of wine in their hands, seemingly not a care in the world, fully relaxed, entertained by just being there.

The epitome of the tiniest hole-in-the-wall establishment is All’antico Vinaio:

All'Antico-Vinaio
Source: Halldis Discover

Though not shown in this photo, there is almost always a line out the door and into the street at this wonderful little osteria, and for a very good reason: for just ‚ā¨7, one can get the most delicious sandwich I ever had — prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato and arugula on rustic schiacciata bread with fantastically chewy crust — all washed down with an equally chewy glass of chianti.

Yes, wine with a sandwich, this is Italy, and this sandwich more than deserves the pairing:

All'Antico-Vinaio-sandwich

Molto delizioso, and WELL worth the wait in line!

Up Next: Notes From Italy, Vol. 4: Naked In Church