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How many “Z’s” are in the word “inept?”

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For the third time, the Pizza Hut in Hyattsville, Maryland, has tripped over their own feet when it comes to delivering what their parent company spends millions of dollars, presumably, to promote: Pizza Hut: Make it great!

More like Pizza Hut: Make it WRONG!!!

For the third time, we have ordered online, as part of our family-dinner order, a large Super Supreme, hand-tossed, with extra cheese. The automatons at their Queens Chapel Road facility, for the third time, have delivered a large plain pizza instead of what we ordered and paid for.

Once, I called, and spoke for half an hour with a belligerent and defensive manager at that Pizza Hut facility, and he offered to send out another, properly prepared, pizza if I would hand the driver the earlier incorrect one. I finally agreed. After a two-hour wait, their delivery person delivered ANOTHER LARGE PLAIN PIZZA!

Astonishingly inept.

I think what trips these folks up is when you order an additional ingredient to their standard offerings. They see “extra cheese” and forget the primary choice, Super Supreme. Or they are so overworked they simply don’t give a damn.

I will never give another nickel to Pizza Hut. They aren’t ready for prime time. They are inept. Three strikes and you are OUT!

Never let your customer be your quality-control department. There are other vendors out there who can get it right.

 

Top Ten facts you didn’t know about Peeps!*

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10. Peeps were created by then-governor of Virginia Thomas Jefferson, a confirmed vegetarian, in 1781. Having had great success with his introduction of the French Fry to the colonies, Mr. Jefferson took some homemade marshmallow, formed it into sticks, dipped the sticks into a bath of sweetened lemon juice, and then into granulated sugar, thus forming something oddly similar to today’s Peeps. Forming the candy into a chick shape came much later, during the Truman presidency.

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9. It takes 18,489 Peeps to fill the inside of a new-model Volkswagen Beetle. The old models of the Beetle, discontinued in 1977, held only 14,570 Peeps. The Super Beetle model held 138 more Peeps than the original VW Beetle.

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8. Actress and comedian Sofia Vergara has never eaten a single Peep.**

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7. The Peep is the only candy represented by a marble statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Created by students of the Wilfred Brimloon Junior High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1967, this one-inch-high Peep is made of Vermont marble and can be seen behind the much larger statue of Kentucky’s Henry Clay.

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6. Noted pop singer Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich was peanut butter and bacon topped with Peeps between two slices of toasted Wonder Bread.

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5. A baseball bat made of compressed chocolate Peeps was used by Baltimore Orioles outfielder Ronald Basset in a 1987 game against the Boston Red Sox. In his at-bat in the crucial ninth inning of a 4-4 game, with two Birds on base, Basset connected with a slow-speed pitch thrown by Sox hurler Clint Alsop. The ball embedded into the head of the bat, and while Red Sox catcher Walt Brulander and umpire Dennis Wall frantically looked for it, Basset rounded the bases and scored. Look it up!

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4. Peeps hold the honor of having been the only candy ever eaten on the moon by both American and Chinese astronauts. The legend that Neil Armstrong accidentally dropped a Peep onto the lunar surface from the Eagle landing vehicle prior to returning to Earth cannot be proved, though it is entirely possible.

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3. In a 1992 experiment at MIT, engineering students held a contest to find out how thin a Peep could be flattened. Unbelievably, they were able to flatten a single Peep to a thickness of 14 microns, and the Peep, thus flattened, was large enough to cover their football field with a tiny bit left over.

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2. Little discussed by Peeps maker Just Born, Inc., is their ill-fated venture marketing a Peeps version of a Pez Dispenser. The Peeps Hatcher, as it was called when introduced in 1971, sold for $3.99 and came with eight Peeps. Its ungainly size and propensity to gum up combined to make it unsuccessful in the marketplace, though examples on eBay have been known to fetch hundreds of dollars.

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1. Actor Marlon Brando had a Peep in each of his cheeks for his iconic film role as the aging Don in the Godfather. It was said the multiple retakes of his scenes, combined with his love of the marshmallow-based candy, resulted in panicky runs to several Ralph’s supermarkets for supplemental Peeps and substantial production delays in filming. Brando tried to replicate this unusual technique in his Superman movie turn by using Twizzler candy sticks, but the results were unremarkable.

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*Mainly because these facts are not true; I just made them up. Peeps are a registered trademark of Just Born, Inc., Bethlehem, PA, USA. No offense to Just Born or their fine products is intended.

**She eats them in multiples.

Dasheen Dreams . . .

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If you’ve never heard of dasheen, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger; I hadn’t either. My daughter, Colleen, is the historian of our family and is always finding, archiving and annotating old family photos. Here’s one she found from 1923, showing my grandfather, James P. Page, Sr., and his dad, James Graham Page, at a meeting of the Nassau County (Florida) Dasheen Growers Association in the little town of Callahan:

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My grandfather and his father were very active in that organization, or at least they had leadership roles. My grandfather was a heck of a businessman, and owned a lot of businesses that did well. I can’t say how well he and his dad did with dasheen; it put some of his land holdings to productive use, I suppose.

According to what I’ve been able to find out on the Net, dasheen is another term for a type of taro root, and, in the early 1920s, the Florida Secretary of Agriculture was promoting the cultivation of this plant for areas of Florida with boggy land not suited for growing much else except snakes (this part of Florida has 31 types, including six or seven “hot” ones, as the herpetologists call venomous snakes), alligators and pine trees. Here’s a Google satellite photo pinpointing the town of Callahan in Nassau County; my brother, Jeff, and I were born on Amelia Island, where the town of Fernandina Beach is located:

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The red arrow points to Callahan, Florida. The dark area to the left of Callahan is the Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in the U.S.; a shallow, 438,000 acre, peat-filled wetland straddling the Georgia–Florida border. Okefenokee is an Indian word meaning “trembling earth.”

Since the area our family is from borders the Okefenokee Swamp that hugs the Georgia line, it’s ideal for such an effort. Here’s a photo of a dasheen plant, and also a photo of the edible root.

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Looks like an elephant ear plant, doesn’t it?

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Can these make good French fries? America waits for the answer!

This enterprise probably didn’t amount to much, but it’s kind of a nifty idea. Another Net resource mentions that at the height of the dasheen-growing effort, ten boxcar loads of the roots were shipped from Callahan, where we still have a family farm. I don’t think any dasheen is grown on our farm now, though I did see that someone else has a dasheen farm in the area nowadays. Good luck to them!

UPDATE:

Thanks to my daughter, Colleen, for finding the letterhead below from the Dasheen Growers Association in a history of Nassau County. There’s also a little paragraph describing the operation. You can see from the annotations that the photo above, showing the intrepid dasheen growers in Callahan, was from this same book, which was published some years ago.

James_Graham_Page_info_on_Dasheen_Growers_Assn__from_WNCPH

When Is a Pie Not a Pie?

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When it’s a cake! Patty created this masterpiece from a Martha Stewart recipe she found online. It is a strawberry cake, believe it or not.

As you can see, it looks like a pie and has not yet been tasted. It smells great!

Strawberry Cake

Of course, this cake reminds me of something musical: Lisa Loeb’s wonderful 2002 Cake and Pie album, which included great work by her friend, Dweezil Zappa. My favorite track is We Could Still Belong Together, but the entire album is certainly worth your time.

Lisa Loeb- Cake And Pie Cover

For those who’ve chided me about not posting recently, I can only plead for your forgiveness because I’ve been out of town for two weekends and busy at my daily contract assignment. I have a few posts started, but gathering the images and getting the text worthy of someone’s time reading it isn’t something I can do at lightening speed.

Here’s the Martha Stewart recipe for those who may be interested:

http://www.marthastewart.com/336020/strawberry-cake

Enjoy!!!

UPDATE: Having demolished a slab of this strawberry cake– it never knew what hit it– I can assure you it is a keeper recipe. Trust me. As my old boss Norbert used to say, “You will very enjoy.”

‘NOTHER UPDATE: Originally, I had featured a YouTube video of the Lisa Loeb song referred to above with visuals from Pride and Prejudice; sorry, but that YouTube video is gone. Here’s the song with visuals from a movie series you may be familiar with:

Happy As An Angel Full of Pie!

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That’s how happy I’ll be when I taste Patty’s apple pie later tonight. Of course, I’m no angel, but who is?

I’d be happy to give you the recipe but Patty got it on the Net and didn’t divulge it to me; I saw her iPad propped on the toaster when she was chopping the apples. The apples were Maryland honeycrisps, if that helps. Patty thinks they’re probably too sweet for a pie, but I bet I’ll like ’em.

I had never heard of a honeycrisp apple, but a website tells me that they were developed in the 1960s by the University of Minnesota and went on the market in the 1990s. They wanted to develop an apple that could withstand harsh winters.

Developing new varieties of apples is a pretty interesting subject but I’ll restrict my research to tasting them in pies. I know I can do that well!

Now, get busy on the Net, find yourself a great pie recipe and then YOU can be as happy as an angel full of pie!!!

Tasty Stick Ain’t Thick

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As everyone knows, I admire all things Utz. So I’m not being critical here of their product, but I’m rather amused at the packaging of their Potato Stix.

Our little group of guitar players, who meet ‘most every Saturday night, have gotten into the habit of bringing salty snacks to our gatherings. Last night, being an Utz fan, I brought three bags of their stuff to share, including their Sweet BBQ-flavored Potato Stix, which I’ve never seen before:

Growing up in Florida, Utz products were never seen but sometimes mentioned as wonderful yet unobtainable; when I moved to Maryland, I was happy to be able to at last enjoy them. Many of you may remember before the 1980s when Coors beer was not sold east of the Mississippi River. Not being able to obtain the product made it all the more desirable.

Back to the Utz Potato Stix. Please look at the photo on the package and then at the actual product below; a guitar pick is provided for a sense of scale. We all laughed at the little slivers of potato, especially when compared to the representation on the package. They tasted great but seemed a tad scanty; more a sliver than a stick, we all agreed.

Perhaps Utz should print a disclaimer on the package; something like:

Product shown as photographed by the Hubble telescope,”

or

Actual product is nowhere near as robust as represented in glamour shot,”

or

Product shown is what they’d look like if consumer was quite tiny,”

or

Product photo enlarged to ensure prompt purchase.”

Nonetheless, the Utz Potato Stix were greatly enjoyed and everyone was happy to have encountered them. Even if they’re skinnier than expected.

This Sausage is the Best!

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I’ve never flat-out endorsed a product on this blog before, but, hey– it’s my blog and who’s to stop me? I encourage those of you who enjoy good old country-style sausage to try the Homestyle brand, if you can find it.

Here in Maryland, we’ve only found it at our local Giant store. It comes in mild and hot flavors, and the hot is indeed hot, but I love them both and so does Patty. Here’s the website for the company; there are some good recipes there:

http://www.homestyle-foods.com

Having grown up in North Florida, where folks take pride in the sausage they serve their families and friends, we hadn’t been able to find anything like a home-style sausage since we moved to Maryland. When we visited Callahan, where our family farm is, we’d bring back a stash of the good stuff made and sold locally in that little town, but that was not a convenient or permanent solution. Once we discovered the Homestyle-brand sausage, we were so pleased.

If you enjoy old-time country sausage, I bet you’ll enjoy the Homestyle brand sausage. Their website says that the company was started by a Georgia state senator and, since his death, its been a family-run enterprise. They offer a great product and deserve to succeed.

What they are offering for sale is the real deal.

It’s Just The Best Spaghetti In The Whole World; That’s All

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One place our family went to a lot when I was a kid was Madame Turci’s Italian Restaurant in New Orleans. The man and woman who ran the place were famed opera singers in Italy in the 1920s. I understand that the restaurant closed down in the early 1970s. Too bad; it was super!

A friend from the Shorpy.com nation (Hi, Colleen!!!) found for me a recipe for the spaghetti sauce they served at Turci’s; she found it here:

http://www.nomenu.com

The site has, among other interesting info about New Orleans food and restaurants, over 600 recipes you can try!

Here’s the Turci’s spaghetti recipe from that wonderful site. My daughter is reluctant to cook with chicken innards, but I’m encouraging her to try cooking it anyway. It’s a two-day process.

Spaghetti Ala Turci

  • Stock:
  • 1 small whole chicken (gizzards, liver and heart reserved)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 onion, cut into chunks
  • Leafy tops from 1 bunch celery
  • Stems from 1 bunch parsley
  • Sauce:
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Gizzards and heart from the chicken above, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb. ham steak with fat, finely diced
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz. can whole Italian tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • Meatballs:
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 12 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten into a froth
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 lbs. spaghetti

1. Put all the stock ingredients into a saucepan with 1/2 gallon of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 90 minutes, uncovered. Strain the stock and set aside. Put the chicken into a food storage bag and into the refrigerator.

2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove a fistful each of the ground veal and ground pork (put the rest into the refrigerator). Add the meats to the skillet, along with the chicken gizzards and heart. Let the meat brown well, then break it up with a kitchen fork. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3. In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, heat the remaining olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onions, celery, and garlic until they get soft.

4. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomato paste and the pureed tomatoes. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring constantly, until it gets thick and noticeably darker in color.

5. Add the chopped ham and the browned veal and pork. Continue to cook and stir for another three minutes.

6. Add 5 cups of of the chicken broth, and the thyme, basil, and oregano. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cover the pot and let it simmer for for two hours. Stir the pot, scraping the bottom well every twenty minutes or so.

7. After two hours, turn off the heat and let the pot cool for a half-hour. Spoon the contents into a large bowl or food storage container. Put it into the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors come together.

8. The next day–about two hours before you’re ready to serve–put the sauce back onto the stove on low heat. If it seems too thick after it warms up, stir in add a little more chicken stock.

9. Pull about two cups of chicken meat–a blend of white and dark–from the chicken you used to make the stock. Slice it if necessary into pieces the size of the tip of your little finger.

10. Make the meatballs next. Combine the salt, pepper, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and parsley with a fork. Wet your hands with cold water, and combine the remaining ground pork and veal with sprinklings of the bread crumb mixture and the beaten eggs. Handle all of this as gently as possible, rolling the meatballs into rough spheres about an inch and a half in diameter. Cracks should show around the outside. Gentle!

11. Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a skillet until it shimmers. Drop a few of the meatballs in. Every few seconds, roll them around (gently!) until they’re browned all over (not cooked all the way through). Remove and drain. Keep going until all the meatballs are cooked.

12. Add the meatballs and the chicken to the sauce. Simmer for an hour, stirring only very lightly (to avoid breaking the meatballs). Add the mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook another fifteen minutes.

13. Cook the spaghetti until still firm (six minutes or so). Drain and put it into a big bowl. Ladle about two cups of the liquid part of the sauce over the spaghetti and toss to coat. Serve in big bowls with the remaining sauce on top.

Serves eight to twelve.

The Peppers Were Hung By The Window With Care . . .

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My pepper saga continues as I look for ways to use up these darned things. Today’s experiment takes the form of me threading some peppers on thin cotton twine and hanging them above the kitchen window.

Will they dry nicely and become a tasty addition to my food over the coming months? What do I look like to you; the Answer Man? I have no idea. Patty will probably fling the entire string into the trash as soon as she gets home, but for now they look attractive and even festive. I sense some resentment on their part, but peppers are known for their cranky temperament and I refuse to let their attitudes get to me.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, my crop is composed of ampuis, cowhorn, cherry, and Anaheim peppers; they aren’t hot peppers but spicy.

Stay tuned!

Oh, Duncan, You Crazy Nut!

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I am usually happy to ignore those teaser news thingies that float above my mailbox on AOL, but today one led me to look into the history of Duncan Hines; the man, not the cake mix.

Hines was a printing salesman who had eaten in nearly every state in the Union, and in 1935 he and his wife wrote the first popular guide to restaurants in America, Adventures in Good Eating, which is still in print. He later sold his name and the rights to his book to a flour company, and their baking goods are what most folks think of when they hear his name.

I found a great blog that covers his restaurant reviews in detail and visits the places still existing that he reviewed: http://www.adventuresingoodeating.org/

He favorably reviewed Colonel Harland Sanders’ place in Corbin, Kentucky in 1939 and that led to the Kentucky Fried Chicken empire. Not all of his reviews were kind; here’s one from the above-mentioned blog that’s snarky in a charming way:

If the soup was as warm as the wine, if the wine was as old as the turkey, if the turkey had breasts like the maid, it would have been a fine dinner.”

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