Tag Archives: food

Celery and Mousetraps by Velya Jancz-Urban

Tcelery on a white backgroundhe only food my husband won’t eat is celery. I think it’s because his mother, in the 1960s, made a dish called American Chop Suey. I think she made it many, many times. With six kids in the family, she had to be resourceful in the kitchen. American Chop Suey had absolutely no resemblance to Chinese food – it was more like a kissing cousin to goulash. I remember it appearing on the hot lunch menu at our elementary school, and in other parts of the country it may have been called Slumgullion or Johnny Marzetti. But in New England, it was American Chop Suey. From what I can piece together, on the rare occasions my husband will discuss it, his mother went heavy on the celery in order to stretch the hamburger meat in the recipe. Today, if I have a chicken salad sandwich for lunch, my husband’s celery radar is so fine-tuned that when he comes home from work and gives me a kiss he accuses, “So, you were eating celery again!” in the same incriminating tone a district attorney might use in a high-profile murder trial. If I buy deli potato salad, I’ll find a neat little pile of celery cubes on the side of his plate when we’re done with dinner. Since he’s a cooperative eater in all other regards, we never have celery, ‘the devil’s vegetable,’ in the house.

Currently, my husband’s on a special assignment for work and has been “commuting” to Georgia from Connecticut for the past six months.  Like a sneaky teenager who dips into the vodka when her parents aren’t home, I went a little wild at Stop & Shop and bought celery. Celery with a ton of feathery leaves! I open the fridge to that uniquely-celery aroma (good luck trying to describe it!) and ignore my husband’s ranting in my head, “It’s ninety percent water and tastes like WOOD! It tastes just like it smells! In kindergarten, I had to hear all that ‘ants on a log’ peanut butter raisin bullshit!”

And so I come to the entire point of this essay which is not about the evils of celery. It’s about the fact that you never really know what goes on in other people’s houses. The other night, as we were preparing dinner, I said enthusiastically to my twenty-two year old daughter, “Hey, since Daddy’s not here, how ‘bout if we live it up a little and put celery in the salad!” She looked at me with revulsion, as if I had suggested chopping up our puppy and adding him to the salad!

“Celery in SALAD?  Are you crazy?  Nobody puts celery in salad. You have to eat celery hot,” she insisted.

“Well, when I was little we always put celery in salad,” I argued.

“Yeah, but your family’s weird. Nobody in the entire world puts celery in salad,” she persisted.

“Let’s just see about that,” I countered.  “We’ll put it to a vote. Let’s post the question on Facebook and see what people say.”

The response was overwhelming and comments started popping up within minutes. They varied:

I can go either way. A lot of times I think it’s too overpowering.

No!!! Not in my household! I hate celery!!!! Toxic!

Yes! We always have!!

NO ONE likes celery. It’s only in the grocery store for decoration.

Yup, but I peel the strings off.

I like the passive-aggressive crunch!

Lima beans, okra, and celery should be banned from the planet!

Clearly, our scientific survey proved that there are a couple of people out there who do indeed put celery in salad.

“You know,” I admitted to my daughter. “I just assumed everyone put celery in salad because we always did when I was growing up. This reminds me of the mousetrap story.”

“Oh no, not the mousetrap story again,” my daughter groaned.

We live in the country. We have mice – but I never liked the idea of killing them. I always catch them in Havahart traps, take them for a drive, and let them go. But, if I were a mouse, I’d rather die instantly in one of  those old-fashioned wooden mousetraps with the metal bar that comes down fast and breaks the mouse’s neck, than eat creepy d-Con poison and die from internal bleeding, or have my feet stuck to a glue trap and starve to death. One day, several years ago, the mousetrap topic somehow came up in the faculty room during lunch. When I mentioned how disgusting, yet sad, it was as a little kid to have to take the dead mouse out of the trap, the people at the lunch table looked at me in horror.

“Are you serious?” the fourth-grade teacher had asked in disbelief. “You took the mouse out of the trap?”

“Well, yeah. How else do you get it out?”

I got a quick tutorial from my colleagues. I had no idea you were supposed to throw the traps away after you used them, with the dead mouse still imprisoned under the metal bar! I guess having Depression-era parents had something to do with it. My father always re-baited the mousetraps with peanut butter, so I assumed everyone else did.

Celery in salad, and mousetraps…it’s kinda like finding out the lyrics to a song you always sang wrong.

How about you?  Is there anything you thought was ‘normal’ as a child, only to discover that’s not how the rest of the world does it?


Filed under writing

Have a Very Descriptive Thanksgiving by J J Dare

In honor of writers everywhere, this year’s Thanksgiving at my house is filled with adjectives. My holiday wish is for everyone to enjoy the sights and smells of Thanksgiving as much as I and my family do. So, here goes:

Tender roasted turkey

gobble, gobble

Sweet succulent ham

Toasted buttery rolls.


Baked cornbread dressing

Fluffy creamy potatoes

with lots of butter

Thick turkey gravy

Crisp sugared carrots

Wassup, doc?

Smoky green beans.

Delectable strawberry pie

sinfully rich

Spicy pumpkin custard

Chocolate chocolate chocolate

Pink Pepto, chalky Tums, and purple Prilosec

These are only a few items on the menu at my house. Now, you’ll have to excuse me as I hop off the internet and start cooking for tomorrow’s feast.

Here’s the full menu on Facebook. I’m crazy. Yeah, I know.


Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Eat, drink and take a nap.


Filed under writing


    Since we’re coming up on a holiday of thanks, sharing with friends and family and good food, I wanted to share some of my Good Food Memories.

    I have heard that scent is very important to memory, but I find that food also is helpful in recalling things of the past.  For instance, I cannot eat a corn dog without recalling a memory from a carnival years ago.  And those big black and white cookies?  Fuggidabout it!  I will always remember my first trip to a real New York Deli!

     The smell of popcorn takes me back to the Saturday morning movie matinees where I think every kid in town went.  I have great memories of seeing all the Edgar Allan Poe movies with my brother and cousins and a theatre full of screaming kids.  And there are some shocking food memories, too.  Such as the time my cousin was eating a Bid Daddy candy bar.  You remember those hard caramel candy bars on a stick that you’d bite into and it felt as though it was going to pull the fillings right out of your teeth?  Anyway, he bit into the candy bar and pulled it away from his mouth to find his front tooth sticking out of the top of the bar.

      At one point in my life I got very much into baking and very much into baking sourdough bread.  I had my sourdough starter which I mixed with water and flour, put in a Styrofoam cooler with a small light and a thermometer to keep it at the perfect temperature and I grew my sourdough starter.  The bread was great and it was really fun getting that starter up and running.  Then there was noodle making, and clay pot cooking and fun with filo and wonton wrappers.

     I remember all those endeavors with great fondness and there was great fun involved with my family, friends and loved ones.  What fun food memories do you have? 

      I wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving and hope you make some new fun food memories this holiday.

Nancy A. Niles is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Win and Lethal Echoes.

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Sissy Says, Blah, Blah, Blah by J J Dare

My life has become a bit more interesting with a twenty-two month old in it. I’m remembering how new and unencumbered the world looks through a toddler’s eyes.

She’s not worried about the high price of gasoline or news about ongoing terrorist threats or which politician is in trouble now. Her main concern is, well, no concerns. Her biggest problem is the problem of the moment. Hunger, dirty diaper, fatigue – the big three in a toddler’s life (and at the end of life, too, when you think about it).

My granddaughter is a parrot. She will repeat anything she hears. Her mother tries desperately to convince me that she’s saying, “Oh, sit,” or “Sit, sit, sit.” Uh-huh, I tell my daughter, and do you have a bridge to sell me, too?

She’s a sharp little talker and she connects the dots with the people in her life. What does Daddy say? Grrr, grrr, grrr. What does Mommy say? No, no, no. What does Sissy say? Blah, blah, blah.

We’re all like Sissy at times. Writers are the best at saying blah, blah, blah. It’s our calling, our lover, our curse, our life. Writers are the Masters of Blah, and, as a member of the club, I’m pretty darn proud of my ability to Blah.

As adults, we have the weight of a thousand cares laid on our shoulders. It’s easy to let the gravity of life keep our feet rooted to the ground. It’s much harder to let loose of the world’s pull and soar away through our imagination and through a toddler’s eyes.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch


Filed under life, musings, writing

A Day of Thanks

The turkey dinner at the restaurant was surprisingly good. The meat was tender and juicy. The dressing was moist and spiced just right. Peas and sweet potatoes had been cooked to perfection and the fresh cranberry sauce was delicious.


Sylvie took another bite of dressing and tried to force it down her throat. She had never eaten alone on Thanksgiving and her emotions were threatening to overwhelm her.


Her two children had each thought the other would be at her house for the holiday. They had been taking turns with her on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter since they had moved out on their own.


One of them had dropped the ball this year. They never let her know whose turn it was; one or the other just showed up with their spouses and children.


Sylvie always cooked a big meal during the holidays. She went all out: three different meats, vegetables galore, a buffet of deserts. Nothing was forgotten.


Noon came and went. The dining room table was groaning from the weight of the food. Sylvie sat there and waited.


One o’clock and Sylvie felt if she did not move, she would grow into the wooden chair. She got up and started putting the food away. She had no appetite to eat alone.


Taking her purse and coat, Sylvie walked to the restaurant down the road to eat her holiday meal. She wanted to dine with the sounds of others – her house was too quiet.


Here she was, alone in a restaurant, trying to eat a meal that threatened to turn to dust in her throat. She was still upset that neither of her children had been with her. She felt neglected and alone. She felt a pity party coming on.


As Sylvie sat staring at her food with a sad look on her face, a man spoke to her.


“Excuse me?” she replied.


“May I join you?” the man asked. “I hate to eat alone.”


Sylvie nodded her head, as she looked her dinner partner over.


He was about her age. In an old-fashioned tribute to the days when one would actually dress for dinner, he was attired in full suit, tie, and shiny shoes. All that was missing was the hat.


She spoke too soon. The coat he had draped over his arm was covering a black fedora.


“Please,” Sylvie said as she motioned to the chair opposite her.


“Mitchell Blackstone,” he said as he reached to shake her hand.


“Sylvie Garcia,” she relied.


The waitress brought Mitchell’s food from his table. In between bites, Sylvie learned that Mitchell’s only son traveled constantly with his job and had been unable to make it home for the holiday. Instead, he had paid a four-star restaurant to deliver his father a full-course Thanksgiving dinner.


“It was nice, what he did, but it is too sad eating alone, no matter how good the food,” Mitchell told Sylvie.


Sylvie completely understood. She explained to Mitchell why she was in the restaurant for Thanksgiving instead of at her house. She told him how her children took turns with her on holidays and how it felt like she was just an obligation to them.


Mitchell nodded in empathy. He knew all too well that his son felt that same sense of obligation. It made Mitchell feel as though he was a burden to the son he adored.


As they shared holiday stories, Sylvie found that her food tasted better and better with each bite. When they had finished their meal, Sylvie surprisingly had room for desert.


After slowly eating desert and drinking coffee, Sylvie looked at the time in shock. Three hours had pleasantly passed and she was reluctant to leave her delightful company.


Mitchell agreed and told her as much. However, they were the last diners in the restaurant and neither wanted to keep the staff from enjoying what was left of the holiday.


Sylvie allowed Mitchell to walk her home. It felt so nice to have a courteous man escort down the sidewalk. It had been a long time since she walked arm-in-arm with a gentleman.


As they drew closer to her house, Sylvie saw the lights were blazing and both of her children’s vehicles were parked akimbo in the yard. In the street, a police car sat.


“Oh, dear,” Sylvie said. “I forgot to leave a note,” she continued with a grimace.


“Would you like me to accompany you inside?” Mitchell asked.


“No. I think it would be better if I went in alone. Too many questions,” Sylvie said with a smile.


Mitchell kissed her hand and watched as she walked toward her house. He felt blessed that he had met such a wonderful woman. He felt thankful that she and he had spent Thanksgiving Day together.


Before she got to the gate in front of her house, Sylvie turned around and walked back toward Mitchell. As he took her outstretched hand, she thanked him for his company, and, with a touch of spirit, she asked, “Let’s meet at the restaurant for Christmas.”


With a smile, he nodded. With a smile, she walked into her house.




J J Dare is the author of “False Positive,”

the first novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy




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