Deceitful Decadence Care of Cumby’s

As my mind wanders, I tend to do peculiar things with my tongue. This particular day, somewhere amid my 8-bit boxing career (007-373-5963) this subconscious habit had caused a significant shift in my mouth – which in turn, merited an announcement. For my achievement I was to reap some pretty fantastic rewards.

Frances loved these things and always seemed to have at least three boxes of them on hand, across her two available freezers. It was as if every time Salvatore went to Cumberland Farms to fill up the tank of his AMC Concord (Rhode Island registration SR-265), he would cop a few bushels-full, per her request.

There is something irresistible about the way the surface area of the cookie-cake adheres to everything it comes in contact with – wax-paper-like wrapper, chubby seven year old fingertips, roof of one’s mouth – glorious.

Returning to the upper-floor, I informed my parents of the bargaining agreement I had entered into with my grandmother and great uncle (whose impromptu pop-ins had become commonplace since my grandparents moved from the 3rd floor of Sears Ave to the basement-level of Doyle Drive) and immediately got to work. It may have been all of twenty minutes before I gave up and returned to my video game.

“Doc can’t help you now…”, Bald Bull taunted. I was clearly distracted. A quick bathroom break lead to an ingenious new approach. “What if I just tell them it fell out?”, I thought to myself.

Over to the telephone I rushed, dialing the landline that would connect me to the floor just below where I stood (353-6893 – that’s nothing, I still have Gian Benedetti – 353-3893, Eric Carnevale – 353-5459 and about 15 other numbers that I haven’t called in over twenty years, lodged in here). I could literally hear the phone ringing underfoot. “Yell-ow” a voice called out. “Hi papa, I pulled it out”, I was lying. “Alright, come down before Uncle Mike leaves”. Click. This was too easy.

What my naive act of deception had failed to consider was the possibility of having to provide physical proof in support of my claim.

Back downstairs, I coyly hid my make-believe evidence in a clenched fist behind me. “How ’bout it kid?”, my grandfather’s next youngest and unquestionably closest sibling snarled, as I continued my stare-down of the tattered Abe Lincoln note in his outstretched, spinach-pie-like hand. Silence.

In a panic, I rushed to their toilet, turning on the light switch (which for some reason was located on the outside of the room) and locked the door. Without hesitation this time I reached in with my thumb and forefinger and gave the problematic premolar quite the pull. I will spare the two paragraphs worth of bloody details that I had intended on describing right about here and will just say it came out – I could finally claim my prize, legitimately.

To this day I can still recall the sensation – the throbbing, the sting, the void – securely sealed shut by a sticky coat of chocolate. I too enjoy ice cream sandwich (sic).



Scarole and Beans

There’s nothing quite like scarole and beans – this is especially true if you wish to take part in a little day-after clearing-of-the-room. Scusi.

Although many recipes suggest that this particular pairing be served hot, as a soup, for the life of me I can only recall ever having it cold – more in line with that of an antipast.

While unquestionably satisfying regardless of it’s temperature, this easy to prepare side is also teeming with an array of vitamins – from A to K – as well as antioxidants, iron, potassium and dietary fiber (hence the room clearing)… The most rewarding benny however, is how truly refreshing it can be.

Biters beware – no scarole-scarfing experience could truly be replete if it were not for a bit of grit to befall, at the very least, one mouthful.

No matter how long Frances rinsed her escarole, a few sand particles always found their way in. This was not only expected, it was welcomed.

Scarole and beans alongside seitan chicken marsala (seitan chicken cutlet recipe here).

Scarole and beans recipe after this

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Uncle Arthur’s Sauce… A Legendary, Albeit Simple Recipe

First of all, in regard to my use of the term “sauce” in the above title of this post, please note, that it is NOT a misnomer. It is imperative that my dear readers are made aware of the fact that Frances, Salvatore and most Rinaldi’s call the red stuff put on macaroni, “gravy”. Although the mangiare to herein be discussed is also ladled over pasta, it is not done so in condiment form – it is the dish.

In a family of eight children, Arthur was Papa’s eldest brother. Like all Rinaldi men he was brutally handsome, very opinionated and as necessity would have it, ultra-pragmatic. Through his resourcefulness he was not only able to concoct this hearty, fresh-tasting (and budget-friendly) meal, but was also able to refine it – so as the mere mention of his namesake has now become synonymous with summertime.

Recipe to follow the leap

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Thanks a Lot, Psycho

It was a sticky mid-summer’s night in 1991 – July the 21st to be exact. How do I remember? No, how could I forget? I would usually spend nights such as this watching the game in my grandparents’ in-law apartment, right downstairs. Salvatore would rant on about how much these guys were bums, while cracking open shell after shell of dry-roasted resplendence. As should be expected, Frances would go through with her, “banana? pie? cake? cookie? apple? ice cream?” routine. Unfortunately, the first-listed and most fancied of these snacks was not, at least on this particular night, readily available.

I was spending the week away with my family. That is to say, most of my family – my grand parents would stay home for these types of excursions. We were on an outdoor getaway in West Kingston, RI at a reservation, if you will, known as Wawaloam Campground.

With it’s on-sight Speedstick-peddling convenience store and copiously-chlorinated “L-shaped” pool – whose winding slide gave serious shocks every time someone dared to take a ride down – it’s quite safe to say that we were far from roughing it.

Despite the ground’s impressive amenities, my only real connection to the outside world was made possible by a tiny, red transistor radio Salvatore had given me. I had packed it up with other homey essentials: Tiger Force Duke & Bazooka (and naturally, Tiger Paw, the GI Joe all-terrain-vehicle) as well as these nifty, neon green swim trunks, whose inner-lining I had carefully cut out (even as a youngster I paid special attention to the sensitivity of my private region).

This was a most memorable evening, made possible by a series of events that I was only able to hear through the minuscule, black speaker (yes, speaker, singular, as in monaural). The sox were on and my 10-year old anxiety was running high – how could this be? It just wasn’t fair.. I couldn’t stop myself from frantically pacing about. There I was neurotically climbing in and then back out of my dad’s musty, mold-ridden 1973 pop-up camper – as if performing some form of Woody Allen-esque ritual of futility. And it wasn’t even due to the fact that the general store was completely out of those gosh-darn gratifying goobers.

Jack Clark couldn’t even get them out of this jam. The Twins had gotten a hold of Bolton early on. The bullpen lacked anything in way of relief. Morton, Lamp, Fossas. Even more runs. Kiecker? Spent. Joe Morgan – at wits end. And then something quite magical happened.

I couldn’t see it beyond my mind’s eye, but what was announced next, filled me with an indescribable surge like I had never felt before (only to be eclipsed some three years later when I finally “discovered myself” for the first time).

As per his unrivaled knack, Bob Star described things in such acute detail: our fair skipper had come out to the mound once again, yet no one was up in the pen. He took up the ball, did an about-face and haphazardly gestured towards the outfield.
As if struck by the spirit of Freddie Lynn, this absolute enigma of a being emerged from the mist of his center field post and dutifully trotted to his manager’s side, where he proceeded to take warm-ups.

Psycho was a player’s-player who had impressively defended in all of the other 8 positions was about to run things in the #1 slot!!

“Alright bud, its about time you hit the sack”, I was then told by my Ma – just my luck. “What would He do?”, I thought. Not to be outdone by my new-found, heroic do-gooder, I took one for the team and respectfully obliged – “phhheeearrsh-click” and I too tuned out for the day.

Sox lost 14-1. He didn’t stay with the club much longer, but he DID show me what it really meant to be part of the greatest professional sports fan-base in the civilized world – Red Sox Nation.

So, for taking my mind off how much better the game would have been had I been able to enjoy it with my grandparents over Sprice and peanuts, I thank you Steve Lyons.


A Cure-All (of Sorts)

Agita. An ailment that lies somewhere between proper indigestion and neurosis.

Most commonly rearing it’s discomfort-inducing head via unnecessarily stressful situations. These may be as diverse as the bakery being out of rih-goth (ricotta) pie or the back-and-forth drama created by a tandem of equally thick-headed, controlling cooks, in an over-crowded pantry, on any given Sunday (dinner).

Perhaps more frequently however, the source of many-an-agita-suffer’s gripe can be directly attributed to the use (or overuse) of garlic. Fret not. A few leaves of this stuff will surely take care of your symptoms.

Just this a.m. a stroll through the more-fragrant area of the garden whisked me away down recollection road. I am still awestruck by how diligent (bordering on diabolically so) Salvatore truly was in his treatment of this herbaceous, tri-leafed plant. He even went as far as to construct a rudimentary greenhouse, exclusively for his wonder weed.

Picture this: a planter’s box (more accurately, an enclosure, without a base floor) whose side walls were made of three-foot-by-one-and-a-half-foot-long wooden scalene triangles, topped by a hinged piece of glass, for access. After the season’s final harvest, in the soil underneath, he would bury altoid tins filled with every variety of seed, in preparation for next year’s crop.

A small handful also freshens breath – parsley, not altoids.


Gardens and Girls… They Stink! or “Your Sister’s Aunt!”

Once again, it had been decided – I was far too pale and thus needed to lay out on the splinter-riddled side deck, in order to catch some color for my impending photo-opps – my sister had spoken.

Salvatore had recently spread a few bushels of chicken manure over the garden and by this juncture in late afternoon, the May sun had made the entire neighborhood fully aware of his doing so.

Following a brief, mid-day siesta, he returned to what remained of his tilling duties, when we could not help but overhear an exchange between he and Frances. Apparently (and understandably) she was upset and a bit embarrassed by the obscenely pungent odor radiating from our backyard. “Oh Salvatore, it stinks!”, she hollered, just as he was stepping outside. And then something happened that to this day makes my cheeks run flush with an instantaneous rosiness.

Mind you, we were tucked away – not by design, we just so happened to be soaking in the sun somewhere above and beyond his sight – when our beloved Papa, having heard just about enough, slammed the door closed with such mighty, foundation-rocking force that he surely woke Bobby Pastrami (read: our cured-meat-craving father) from his own post-work slumber. “Your sister’s aunt!”, he proclaimed (only, he didn’t say aunt).. Clearly unsettled by the proceedings, we discretely crawled inside. In our haste, I was to remain full of paste.

Life lessons learned:

-Never get in the way of a man’s meal – especially if he is the one growing it.

-When it comes to your family, always make your presence known.

-Never ask a girl to prom unless you have instituted a plan, whereby providing some sort of incentive, beyond the school-sponsored activities, for the after-party. She will surely leave with someone else (perhaps someone with a year-round, perma-tan) and when they return hours later, you will start a fight because your pride was attacked, but then settle because you get hungry and instead, end up taking her out to a breakfast of homefries and eggs with a side of italian toast.