Goin’ to Carl and Dave’s for Some Tofurkey Breast

Sears Ave.
Crossing Atwells at the church.
Aisles too narrow for stroller.
Tiny hands smudging the deli display case.
1/2 pound.
Never “turkey” – always “turkey breast”.
Three flights back up.
Toasted Crugnales.
A slathering from a butter knife, dripping with that savory spread, so intoxicatingly yellow.
Glass jar, no squeeze.
Skim milk.

Today’s lunch consisted of Tofurkey on the last two slices from my sister (brought loaf over earlier in the week, see earlier post).

While at work, my mid-day meal certainly wasn’t from Carl and Dave’s Deli (RIP), but with the French’s mustard squirts (sadly, glass has since been retired) I could barely tell the difference.



Panzanella Salet & Yet Another Family Exploited by the Travel/Tourism Industry

A gentle breeze rolled down the hillside, sending silken ripples through the canopies, which were pointedly struck “just for their celebration”. Underneath, the guests meagerly tapped and trotted their lame tarantellas, mere moments prior to the massive deluge of vino that was about to besiege them.

Unmotivated by anything other than the promise of getting slopped-up, he sat there, arms folded, legs effeminately crossed – eager to show off the fashion statement he had osmosized somewhere in the eternal city – denim, black loafers, no socks. The exposed ankle flesh, unbesmirched by the sun’s gaze, radiated vibrantly in the open air of the Tuscan evening.

He silently held faith that no one would notice the gleaming, still-fresh wound on his lower cheek – “one of the joys of manhood”, their freckled, blonde-and-blue tour director, Chris Daley, joshed.

The inconvenience caused by what has gone on to simply be referred to as “the shaving incident” of the night prior, forced him to retire earlier than the rest of the group. In truth, he simply needed some time away from their nearly-geriatric ways.

The bleeding finally came to a halt, thanks to a remedy from the local faramcia. “Puttans use these to keep their you-know-whats tight”, his father beamed, forever reveling in an opportunity to create these inappropriately awkward father/son moments. He then revealed the trinket from a tiny shopping bag, scattered with faux-Italian headlines. The paper vessel was the type of novelty carryout one might expect from an old country store, if only “old-country stores” were a thing in Italy.

A quick lesson in the proper application of a styptic stick and back to his fresh, taut and clot-free self.

“Don’t look at my vagina face”, he silently wished, as he got up for yet another refill. As he approached the denizen in charge of dispensing, he couldn’t help but consider what must have been going through her head. The falsehood of it all.

“You midegans really think this is our everyday? Our existence revolves around our unending desire to eat, drink and be merry? Prancing around barefoot, listening to Pavarotti? Holding hands, savoring gelato off of the same tongue-depressor-like spoon, while posing nude for portraits? Look, there are no Medici here. La dolce vita doesn’t exist and the one you fancy knowing was made by a creepy-ass pervert. Did your parents and grandparents immigrate to your country just so you could borrow a nostalgia that never existed? That magnet with those colors of our flag you so proudly display on the ass end of your Accord, Maxima or if you’ve really made it, Lexus, yeah that one with the reflective material, its upside-down for fuck sake! It’s GREEN-white-and-RED! And that wasn’t even made official until we had staked our independence some 50-60 years after your ancestor’s sorry asses left their blighted village ‘just south of Napoli’. Fuck that story about the first pizza. Basil, cheese and tomatoes are fucking delicious – it was bound to happen. Look, you had your time to shine. Don’t believe us when we refer to you as ‘peasan’. We’re going to go through with these motions tomorrow and then the day after. Oh that? That my friend is a how you say piccolo fee for the use of our special knife and fork from my mom…err mama mia’s own-ah collectioné. God dammit you morons, thats not dancing. And would you stop with the hand gestures already? Enough! All we want is your fucking mon – – Ciao, rosso o bianco?”…

“Si”, he replied.

“Red or white, signore?”.

“Oh, scusi . Umm, let’s go for red. Grazie” (fuck, she looked right at it).

As he sauntered back to his post he could not help but admire the care with which the family-style platters and hand-crafted bowls were arranged on the seemingly endless banquet tables. He grabbed a plate and a fresh set-up, then got to work.

As a newly-outed ovo-lacto vegetarian (or when his naive insistence on “necessity” would sometimes have it, pescatarian) the offerings were quite accommodating. Capers, olives and fresh, hard cheeses over here and the omni-present Caprese salad over there (which strangely was never made available during their stay on the island of Capri). Green beans and roasted zuccha, onions, red peppers and artichoke and what is that, asparagus? Alright. Orzo and orchetti. Faro and farfalle. Just then something had caught his eye. It was wrapped in Saran, hitherto undisturbed. A dormant Vesuvian mound of what appeared to be some sort of “they won’t know any better”, native mischief.

Bread salad is supposed to consist of bulky, rigidly irregular hunks of stale Italian loaf for it’s base, not perfectly symmetrical cubes of wonder bread.

They knew. It was probably a dare. The chef had done his part, but the servers, perhaps for fear of getting reamed out by the pale, native-Italian speaking tongue of the tour guide, tucked it far out of sight – out of sight for most. “I’ll show you midegan”, he mused, piling on a spiteful “thank you portion”.

He sat down just as his mother once again beckoned him to come join her on the dance floor. As she returned to the festivities, the image of her momentary dejection was eclipsed by a mouthful of the petty prank posing as panzanella. A deep pull from the stemware allowed the dry chianti to temporarily wash things away. As expected, he was slowly becoming Jesus Christ.

Frances and Salvatore would hate all this shit.

My sister brought over a loaf of Pastryland bread (awful name, pretty good bakery) that was leftover from Sunday’s post-harvest feast. Because I don’t usually partake in non-whole wheat stuff, I decided to cut it up and swathe it in tomato and vinegar.

Recipe after the jump

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Verde Vineyards’ Annual Grape Harvest Inspires a Recipe*

My mother’s cousin Giacomo (“James”) is the last living connection I have to my maternal grandmother. For a time in the early 40’s he and Frances lived in the same house on Julian Street and shared many familial moments.

His father went on to acquire massive allotments of land in the Johnson area – one of which Cousin James still calls home. In addition to providing him shelter, the property serves as both his personal vineyard (now open to the public) and commercial wine-making operation, where he produces some of New England’s most full-bodied, award-winning vino.

Each year it is my pleasure to make like an itinerant worker for the day and help harvest the season’s grapes, for pressing at his estate. All those present from approximately 12:00-5:00, regardless of the amount of work they may have contributed, are then treated to an impressive luncheon spread, served al-fresco under the elms.

There are tomato salads with fresh mozzarella, stuffed peppers, pasta dishes hot and cold, frittata (thick potato omelette) and an array of gravy-drenched flesh. As might be expected at a gathering such as this, as soon as the first bottled is uncorked, the wine doesn’t stop flowing (until that is the jolliest of the mix finally decides to walk away). Despite the fact that aside from bakery pizza and crusty rolls there is not much for a weirdo like myself to eat, it is a joyous day.

Yesterday was that day – I still have the cramped hands and stained cuticles of a Phoenician to serve reminder. Fortunately for the clarity of my mind, like all Verde Vineyard’s offerings, the case of 2011 vintage St. Croix that was busted out for the post-harvest festa, was not treated with sulfites. Salut(e), cent’ anni.



*My mother made her sausage and grapes, but wasn’t feeling quite herself and therefore did not bring a veganized portion. I decided to make it today. Recipe tomorrow.

Sweet/Heat: Peach and Jalapeño Salsa and a Bit of Prose Known as The Lonesome Peach Tree

The Lonesome Peach Tree

With their parched, woolen outer-skin it was no wonder Salvatore disliked handling them. I too have an aversion for the nails-on-chalkboard-inducing texture of freshly-plucked peaches, whereas my son does not – I suppose this particular idiosyncrasy skips a generation.

Fingertips are one thing, the tongue’s papillae are yet another (gags uncontrollably). Peel it for me, then we’ll talk.

In the days of my youth my relentless inquiries lead to an earlier-than-most-my-age education on reproduction. A sole peach tree had better chances of baring fruit if partnered with a tree with which it could cross-pollinate, my papa would lecture. We had two, so that usually did the trick – I was also given a book whose pages were full of hand-drawn privates and so that took care of that.

After many seasons of avoidance, he finally took good care to ensure this sensory dilemma would never have to be faced again. He uprooted the mate that had cropped up on the other side of the garden. This permanent pruning was good news for Papa and I, but was countered by Frances’ chagrin (spawned by her proclivity for all things dolce).

For years, the arbor would slouch in the far right corner of the garden, gloriously chloroplasting, blossoming, then withering away only to remain cyclically dormant through winter – anxiously awaiting, but perpetually barren.

Tuesday my mother announced that the peach tree had successfully yielded three firm, yet succulent orbs of white flesh.

A recipe to commemorate her enduring sweetness to follow.


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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).