Archive for November, 2009

Homemade scalloped potatoes are an ideal, inexpensive dish to carry from one’s oven to the home of another when invited to Thanksgiving dinner. These are times when many do not have enough cash to afford a good bottle of wine.

Although food markets offer instant varieties of dehydrated potato products that promise an artificial golden glob of cylinder spuds in less than ten minutes, it is more appetizing and fashionable to cook using only fresh ingredients.

Potatoes should be pared with a knife, using one hand to hold the vegetable and the other, the blade. Scraping them obsessively with a razor-like device sends bad vibes through the soul of the food, just as pork, beef and poultry raised inorganically causes mental illness in those who eat such cruelly cared for cattle.

In poorer Irish families in generations past, women with just their knives were judged by their efficiency at performing near-perfect circumcision upon the tissue-thin outer-layer of the tuber’s flesh. A wasteful woman who couldn’t peel potatoes without wasting any of the sweet meat was viewed upon as untrained and as nearly as despicable a common whore.

In 2009, a five- pound bag of potatoes can be purchased in America’s largest cities for under $1– there is no need to exhibit such house-wife efficiency; besides, a dish that serves a dozen takes just seven peeled potatoes sliced at the thinnest width that one’s talent with a knife permits. Even if slices are thick, there is no way to make bad-tasting scalloped potatoes.

To make the bubbly sauce which causes the scalloping of the potatoes to occur requires a half stick of butter melted in a saucepan, followed by a handful of chopped onion which should be cooked until tender but not brown. Stir in a handful of flour, a teaspoon of salt and a dash of pepper and then pour in almost three cups of milk. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly.

Place half the sliced potatoes in a greased casserole dish, cover with half the sauce and repeat with another layer, ending with the sauce. Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for an hour, stirring once. Uncover, bake 30 minutes more.

For orange tinted scalloped potatoes as advertised on packages of instant varieties, add a cup of American cheese to the sauce until melted. White scalloped potatoes without the cheese go better with turkey at Thanksgiving dinners and they are less expensive to make.

Total cost:

Onion: $. 50

Butter: $. 50

Flour: $. 20

Milk: $. 80

Potatoes: Practically free

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Charles Price died in his sleep on Halloween. His son Robbie discovered the peaceful corpse still watching television. The head, with spiraling long hair was resting peacefully upon soft pillows. Charles’s reading glasses were snug in place upon his humble nose, secured firmly behind enormous Price ears. His hands were crossed over his heart, as if in prayer.
Robbie Price drove to the Price homestead on Penn Street in Huntingdon the morning of November 1st to check on his father. The elder had recently undergone a stinting of his circulatory system and having not called his son early in the morning as was the routine, his son Robbie became worried. After placing an unanswered phone call to his father, Robbie rushed over to Penn Street and ran up the steep sidewalk leading to the rear entrance of the Price mansion, nearly losing his hat as he made his way under a trellis of grape vines that have been growing alongside and over the back porch for as long as anyone in the family can remember.

The door was locked and a spare key was missing from the milk box that generations ago was actually used by a delivery man from nearby Strickler’s Dairy. Robbie grabbed an aluminum ladder and crawled to the top of the porch and waded through a mesh of vines to his father’s bedroom window. Glancing inside breathless, he discovered his father resting in peace.

Charles Price was the man I was named after. The account of Charles Price’s death was told to me by his sister, my grandmother, one week later. She said she “screamed her head off” after hanging up the phone on Robbie who called to tell her the tragic news.

“He was just up here yesterday. I don’t know how I’ll get by with him gone. He took me everywhere and just the other day, we drove to the Amish farms in Belleville. The doctor said Charlie wasn’t supposed to drive, but you know, he could never sit still. He stayed for dinner. I made roast beef with potatoes, carrots and turnips. He said it was good. He took a plate home but I don’t know if he ever had the chance to eat it or not.”

“He was my name-sake,” I reminded grandma.

“Oh, I know. There must have been at least three boys in the family named after my brother Charlie. Oh, you should have seen how many peopled showed up at his funeral service. There was no viewing. He was cremated. Robbie and his sister scattered his ashes around Charlie’s favorite hunting spot. Your Dad had the nerve to show up at the church service,” grandma snickered.

My mother, despite a new husband and twenty years that have passed since divorcing my father, refuses to acknowledge that the man who impregnated her with me is still alive. Provoked by the site of her first husband, my mother could have easily taken a church hymnal and hit my father over the head during the singing of ‘Old Rugged Cross”. She would not even consider it a sin, nor disrespectful to our dead uncle Charlie. Grandma, at least, still says hello to him when she crosses his path.

Although Uncle Charlie is my mother’s uncle, my father, who lives just a few doors away from the Price homestead with his new wife Jan Price (no relation to the Penn Street Prices) has remained cordial with Uncle Charlie over the years. It was, after all, Uncle Charlie who introduced my dad to my mother when my mother was only fifteen and my father, just under twenty-one.

Dad was working at the sneaker factory in Smithfield when he met Uncle Charlie. According to Dad, he was trapped by the Price/ Miller family and its lead hit man Uncle Charlie, into marrying my mother. Uncle Charlie always seemed fishy to my father– as if he had set Dad up for the catastrophe that was my parent’s union. Dad claims that when he wanted to spend time with my most precious, fresh mother on Sunday afternoons, he simply took a ham to my grandfather—advice whispered to dad by my uncle Charlie over the boiling hot rubber machines at the shoe factory. My father insists that using a ham as an indiscrete payoff for pussy was common in little towns back then, considering there were many large Christian families whose eldest offspring were old enough to get out from under the cross of being a dependent. What was poor old dad’s role to church and community? He came from a family with lots of land and hams could be bought for just a few bucks back then.

Pap Pap would roast the ham while little dad and mom went skinny dipping in Shaver’s Creek, which was where, according to dad, my brother Bill was conceived.

“That’s how I want to go, grandma. I want to die in my sleep,” I said. “He seemed like a nice man to be named after. I’m sorry for our loss. He was the one who introduced dad and mom.”

“Oh? Was he now?” grandma asked, trying to sound surprised.

“Yep! Dad told me all about it. I guess naming me after him was some sort of offering.”

“I guess so,” grandma laughed.

“What’s that sound?” I asked. “Are you in the bath tub again?”

“Yep, I just pulled the plug. You always call me at this time on Sunday morning, Charlie. By now, you’d think you’d have learned my routine. Well I gotta go now. Water’s gettin’ cold. I love you.”

“I love you too, grandma. I wish you would get a shower,” I said before hanging up from my weekly call. “I worry about you slipping while crawling out of that old bathtub. You live alone. Who comes by to check on you every morning?”

“Ain’t that the truth! Well listen, if it ain’t that, it will be something else,” she said, giggling, as if she no longer feared death.

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The Rodney King Theory

Shawn L. Smith stole a television during the 1992 Rodney King riots. Smith, who had recently been released from prison, joined the angry masses in South Central LA and helped himself to a Samsung twenty-four inch on day two of the week long civil unrest.

During my interview with the ex-convict, Smith explained that he stole the television because he was caught up in an “invisible adrenaline that seemed to flow through the smoggy atmosphere, connecting everyone, causing us all to run like packs of wild dogs”.

Smith described how civilization seemed to crumble all around him and in a sense he felt that he was the only one left in Los Angeles with compassion and care for his fellow human. However, after realizing that the police had lost control, he simply had to take a television because in reality, in an impoverished neighborhood, almost anyone would do the same.”

“It could have gone on forever,” he explained, but the excitement seemed to fade after all the televisions were gone.”

“Do you still regret what you did?” I asked as I returned a blunt to the thug who rolled it.

“Yes. Believe it or not, I do regret taking that television considering that I was still dealing in drugs and could easily have paid cash for the Samsung,” he said.

“Why do you suppose there was not looting in New York City following the terrorist attacks of September 11th?”

“There was no anger. The adrenaline that I experienced in Los Angeles was not the same here. We were at peace in New York City, but now I fear that if such an event took place again, the citizens of this town would react differently.”

“Why do you always show up in my dreams, even though you are dead?” I asked my former lover.

“I wanted to let you know that when the next event takes place, one should wear a du-rag over their face and loot the drug stores– for those pills are far more entertaining than a Samsung.”

“How long until I die,” I asked my lover in my dream.

“You never die sexy. You never die. Get what’s yours.”

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Dear Con Edison Employee,

Please stop banging on my door while I’m not home and cut off my electricity! My cats are terrified by the constant hounding. We prefer the solitude of darkness to the convenience of the modern world.

Leave no more postcards with my name written for all to see– just hanging on the door like a supermarket flyer. Surely my neighbors already know that I haven’t paid my bill. Stop littering.

Please know that the Human Resources Administration agreed on September 3rd to offer assistance paying my utility bill. I have no explanation as to why your office has not yet received payment. All I can offer is head. Do not come here again seeking cash.

I have worked as an unpaid employee with the city’s Housing Preservation and Development for the last four weeks. That is why I was not home when you left the postcard yesterday. It was my understanding that my service to the city as an indentured servant would assure a continual flow of stimulus currents to this address, but obviously, I’ve been had.

I’ve done all that I can, but much is going on in New York City:- Michael Bloomberg was running for re-election, the Yankees were in the world series, and of course, there was a full moon just the other day. I don’t need electricity.

I’ll be in the basement waiting. Please don’t knock no more on my door.


Charles George Taylor

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