Monthly Archives: September 2012

Christmas, Halloween and your birthday all at once!

That’s right, folks, Big Ang is coming to my neighborhood!

From 1 pm until….whenever!

Now, I have already come clean about my shameful addiction to the Mob Wives of Chicago. Unlike my pal Tom Wisk, however, I never got too interested in the original Mob Wives program, even though it takes place right here in New Yawk — well, Staten Island actually, but that counts. After all, it is one of the five boroughs, though not one you’d necessarily want to spend any time in, for reasons that become glaringly apparent the minute you step off the ferry or cross the mighty Verrazano. But I digress.

So today I was walking to the gym, musing about one thing and another, when the sight of this stopped me dead in my tracks. Now sadly I am going to be out of town the weekend of the big book tour, but I will certainly be sending someone to snap a photo and maybe even get a signed copy of Big Ang’s opus, “Bigger is Better.” The old town will never be the same. Sigh.

Now, for anyone who wants to attend (Tom?), it’s at 268 Court St in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn on October 13th, starting at 1 pm. I guarantee it will be a scene like nothing you have ever witnessed. Think Fellini. On acid.

Who’s game?

Poison for breakfast, lunch and dinner anyone?

And every snack in between if you’re peckish

Heart attack on a bun courtesy Two Chums

Though as a rule I prefer to take the path of least resistance when it comes to cooking, I am in no way an advocate of processed foods, TV dinners, boxed meals and the like. With the possible exception of pie crust from a box, I avoid prepared foods like the plague. And anyway, since I’ve handed over my eating plan to the fat police, there’s very little chance of dessert reappearing on my table. Ever.

Of course, it was not always so. Otherwise how would I have ended up in the offices of Dr. Feelbad, MD, nutritionist to the stars and scourge of the chubby? I’ll tell you how. A lifetime of very poor eating fueled by a serious sugar addiction and a bad case of denial. As a child of the Sixties, I started life on formula, which the pediatrician told my mother was better for babies than breast milk. More scientific, you know. I was not the only one. From there is was a short trip to a diet built on the miracle foods of the era — canned vegetables, processed meats, fruits in heavy syrup, “fortified” breakfast cereal and bread that never went stale to name but a few.

Stays crunchy! Tough to eat when you have to gum it though.

Now, my mother is a pretty fair cook and was even then, but convenience foods were supposed to be healthier. No bacteria, no spoilage, no risk. Of course, the news that smoking was actually harmful to your health had only just broken — after years of government statements that there was no evidence it was in any way bad for you. Inhaling lung bucketfuls of smoke all day instead of air? How could that be a problem?

So anyhow, I was well into my thirties and still eating Pillsbury crescent rolls, rice and salt mixes from a box and Hostess Zingers (a bedazzled Twinkie for those of you with more evolved palates). I was also taken in by the no fat diet craze of the 90s, wherein you could eat as many carbs as you wanted as long as there was no fat. Remember Snackwell cookies (are they still available)?  Oh no, those are no problem, I told myself as I stuffed the entire box into my gob and chased them with a big glass of skim milk. It’s like a health food!

I operated under these delusions for some time, like until a couple of years ago when Mr. Slattern discovered that it was sodium rather than heredity behind his high blood pressure and cholesterol. Since then we have eliminated salt and processed foods almost entirely from the family diet, and as as a result, Mr. S has safely eliminated all prescription medications from his diet. This was not so hard, but let me tell you getting the sugar monkey off my back has been.

Here’s what did it for me.

From the NY Times, 9-25-12. click the image to read the full article.

OK, not this exact article, but others on the same subject and in the same vein. In any case, may I strongly recommend you read it over? And if you’re looking for suggestions on how to cook without processed foods, here are a few posts from the archives. It’s not that hard, you know. I mean, I do it, for pity’s sake.

Salad: A bottom up approach
Easy fish stew
Beets: The uber tuber
Roast chicken
Easy poached salmon
Yogurt and almond breakfast parfait
One bowl meals

The Guiltiest Pleasure

Reality TV scratches my id.

Who needs natural raspberry flavors?

As even the occasional visitor to my well-appointed little lockdown ward knows by now, I indulge a fair few guilty pleasures. Some might even say I have more vices than virtues, though I think it just seems that way because I so often air my dirty laundry for your amusement, which is a compulsion of a different sort, but perhaps that’s a subject for another day.  Among my filthy little secrets are insatiable appetites for swearing and the now-verboten Hostess Zinger (the sticky red coating over the Twinkie is pure bliss); my collection of Fleetwood Mac records; the admission that I like Grace Jones’s cover of La Vie en Rose better than the Little Sparrow’s original; and of course the fact that I have watched that dreadful 90s turkey Practical Magic about a hundred times. (I just love that scene where they all get trashed on midnight Margaritas and sing The Lime in the Coconut.)

Up until recently however, none of my little treats or crutches could really be classified as shameful (well maybe the Grace Jones business, but I’ll bet there’s at least one person on the planet who agrees with me on that score). I viewed them as the standard foibles of a reasonably functional member of the modern world. As guilty pleasures go, I reasoned, mine were all fairly tame. Now, however, I find I have finally given myself cause for concern, and that’s going some from a woman who whole heartedly exhorts others to serve ham salad finger rolls at parties.

Since I know the suspense is killing you, I’ll fess up. It’s reality TV. Though not a huge fan of the genre generally, I do follow Project Runway and Top Chef, and even occasionally look in on the Real Housewives. (New Jersey and Atlanta only — I can’t tell one California bleach job from the next, and the New Yorkers are all too familiar.) As a rule, I prefer the competitive formats to the biographical ones. I mean really, Kim Kardashian has marital problems and mother issues. Well who doesn’t? Eating bugs for money, modeling for morons or camping for cash? Who cares? No, my newest guilty pleasure takes reality TV well beyond the usual limits of both decorum and decency, into the territory I think of as Surreality TV, which is why, I suppose, it appeals to me. That’s right, you guessed it, I have developed a (borderline) obsession with Mob Wives of Chicago. Really, I just cannot get enough of this show. Look!

First of all, is it me, or do they all look like a bunch of cranked up trannies who just knocked over the make-up counter at Macy’s? Allegedly. The extensions, the Vegas makeup, the boob jobs and the sparkles all telegraph drag show to me. And who doesn’t love a man in a tiara? Whenever I’m watching the show, I’m also half expecting one of them to burst into “Son of a Preacher Man.”

I know it’s horrifying, and yet I cannot stop watching, so intense is the fascination. And before you go all violence-desensitizes-us-and-destroys-society on me, let me just say that it’s not like I’m watching Showtime for lord’s sake. This is on VH1, the regular cable channel that brings you a thousand hours of 80s music videos every week. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good indication that this show is in the right place in terms of its overall intellectual level.

Nora: “I’m gonna resume my father.”
Renée: “I think it’s exhume.”

Almost as tricky as spelling HUMILIATION.

I especially love the hapless therapist who clearly wants to run from the room and looks like she’d probably rather be counseling a rabid civet than a woman who routinely gets into extension-yanking, bitch-slapping, knock-down, drag-out fights with her “friends.” I may be wrong, but I’d be willing to wager Dr. Thing pops a little vitamin V before Christina’s sessions. I know I would.

Dr. Thing: “How are you planning to work that out?”
Christina: “With a BLEEP shovel.”

Sometimes, the wives are very funny — on purpose — as when Pia the stripper comments on Nora’s obsession with digging up her father’s body to prove that it is actually he (“The German,” who died in stir) and not some hapless hobo that the feds sent to the cemetery. Pia, who is clearly practical-minded, says, “It’s not like the man dug himself up and went to 7-11 and got a sandwich and a Coke.” No argument there.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What is the possible appeal of something this grotesque? I’d say that there’s such a sideshow feeling to it that it is entirely irresistible, especially to those of us who grew up in more emotionally-restrained environments. Take me, for example. As the product of a New England culture that looks upon anything more than a handshake as an intimate act, I find these women mesmerizing. Among my people, the only time anyone gets whacked is when Bitsy agrees to Binky’s request that she wear a saddle over her flannel nightgown on a Saturday night, but these ladies threaten to kill one another on a daily basis. With shovels.

What can I say, it gives my id a workout. And everybody knows how important a limber id is. If you don’t believe me, just ask Big Ang.

Big Ang via Reality Nation.

Is that a monkey on your back, or are you just Quasimodo?

Two scoops or one? Salty caramel you say? Make mine a triple!

As I have often chronicled in this strange little experiment in self expression, I have what we might call a fondness for sugary treats. I like to bake ’em, I like to buy ’em, but mostly I like to eat ’em. Ever a fan of the eggy/creamy dessert, I have lately become laser focused on the vanilla/salty caramel flavor combination. It haunts my dreams and consumes my waking hours, and as the taste sensation of the minute, it’s everywhere. Mostly I find it in horrifically overpriced, “artisanal” ice cream, but it also pops up on nearly every restaurant menu in New York City. One day soon I fully expect to happen upon a box of Salti-Mellow Mini Wheats or a Seaside Toffee Streusel Swirl cake mix in the low-budget “traditional groceries” aisle at Fairway.

$12 a pint? Half a dozen, please!

In any case, I cannot get enough of the salty sweet combination, and my copious consumption has finally caught up with me. According to Dr. Feelbad (the rather unpleasant “rehabilitative nutritionist” I have consulted to find a solution to this craving madness and get me safely back to single digit sizes), it will take a truckload of expensive dietary supplements, a concerted campaign of all-around abstemiousness and frequent lengthy gym visits to undo what Jeni and her Splendid Ice Cream hath wrought. As a result, I am bidding a wistful sayonara to all things sweet, in a last ditch effort to shake the sugar monkey off my rapidly expanding back.

Now, I’ll bet you’re wondering how I came to this crisis point, and even if you’re not, I’ll tell you.  About a week ago, I woke up feeling a bit off, with a nasty burning pain in my chest and shooting pains down my left arm and shoulder blade. This, I felt, was not good, so I consulted several authoritative health websites —,, and the always helpful — and all suggested a trip to the Emergency Room was in order. So Mr. Slattern flagged a cab and checked me in, only to endure 36 hours of excruciating boredom broken only by occasional requests for blood and rounds of tests requiring sticky electrodes, the adhesive for which I am still trying to get off my torso.

“If you don’t want to wear your gown, I’m sure we can arrange to wrap you up in a filthy, staff-riddled bed sheet.”

To make matters worse, Nurse Ratched insisted I change into a hospital gown upon arrival and frequently made me walk around in it outside the relative privacy of my little ER home-away-from-home. My visit culminated with a trip down to the radiation bunker where I was injected with some kind of nuclear byproduct and told to walk on a treadmill until I was “tired.” This workout was to be conducted in said hospital johnny and hospital socks, since the stylish platform wedges I had worn to the hospital that morning were deemed unsuitable.

Preparatory to shooting me up and harnessing me to the wheel of pain, the duo of crazy Russians running the joint asked about a million questions, all of which I had already answered a hundred times, except possibly what size brassiere I wore, which in retrospect I believe had more to do with an office pool than my health. The icing on the cake, however, was the moment Igor told me that I could put said brassiere back on if I wanted to as it would not interfere with the tests. Of course I was wearing one, which really took the wind out of the sails of the good ship Self Esteem.

Long story short, by about 6 pm it was apparent to even the meanest intelligence, namely mine, that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me, and that I should be released immediately. Nurse Ratched, however, had other ideas and suggested that I stay over, helpfully pointing out that I was free to leave at any time “against medical advice,” which would clearly get my insurance company off the hook for the charges and me on it. So I stayed.

“Call us if you get an infection or if the incision opens up and your guts start spilling out all over the floor of your house. Bye bye!”

I was eventually escorted to some lovely semiprivate accommodations with a magnificent view of the air shaft and a 95 year old roommate who was most certainly not there for a spa day. There was no drink service; at no point did anyone offer me a meal; and the shower backed up as soon as I turned it on, forcing me to take a whore’s bath in the middle of the bathroom to avoid standing in the ebola puddle that was collecting in the shower stall. All through the night and into the next morning, the staff attempted to give me a variety of needless shots and pills, but no food, which was probably for the best. If the radiation and bacteria didn’t kill me, the cuisine probably would.

Eventually I got out, but here’s the thing. If I had been in there with a real problem that required them to cut me open, mess around with my organs, transfuse blood and sew me back up, they would not have been able to get me out of there fast enough. But having shown up with a fleeting case of indigestion, I was their bitch for a day and a half, despite frequent requests to leave. And so, it is a sincere desire to stay out of the hospital that has led me to embark upon the path of healthful righteousness, via the offices of Dr. Feelbad, MD.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Quasimodo by Antoine Wiertz via wikimedia commons.
Ice cream courtesy Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
Nurse Ratched courtesy
Smiling fool courtesy


This morning I logged on to my computer intending to file yet another pithy entry about the trials and travails of life on the domestic front lines, but my plans changed when I read Bharat’s lovely post marking the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist bombings. I was living in New York at that time – I still am – and for me, like so many of my friends and neighbors, it is a rare week when it doesn’t occupy my thoughts, or at the very least cross my mind.

Bharat writes that on that day we were all victims, and he has a point, but that’s not the whole story. So if you’ll forgive a temporary darkening in tone, I’d like to add my own thoughts.

When the first plane hit the Trade Center Tower, I had just dropped my daughter off at school; it was the beginning of second grade for her. It was a glorious day, warm and clear with a bright blue sky, and as I walked back home I looked up at what I thought were a flock of homing pigeons. We live in an Italian neighborhood, and there are still a few people who keep pigeon coops on their roofs and fly their birds in big swooping flocks that sort of glimmer when the sun hits their wings just so. It’s an Old World hobby, like playing bocce or making wine in the cellar. After a moment I realized it wasn’t birds – the movements were too chaotic and random – so I stopped. I was passing the pharmacy, and a man standing outside told me a plane had hit one of the Trade Center buildings. At that moment I realized it wasn’t birds in the sky, but papers, thousands of pieces of paper that had floated across the East River and were fluttering above my Brooklyn neighborhood. And so I ran.

Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: