Saturday, April 14, 2012

You say potato, I say toboggan; you say tomato, I say slumgullion... let’s eat!


Sometime in the early 90s, after I’d been living in the big city for a year or so, one of my coworkers invited me to lunch & I declined, saying I needed to go to Kaufmann’s and buy a toboggan.  I’ll never forget the reaction I got—“are you serious??”  I said yes, sure.  Winter was coming and I needed one.  He said “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  (Wow, really?)

Later that afternoon, he came over to my desk—“Okay, where is it?”  When I held it up, he said “You bought a ski cap?”  and that’s when I learned that some of the words I used back home weren’t necessarily common ones here.  Oh, people got a big kick out of it—they knew I was from a rural area south of the city & tortured me for it:  “You really call a ski cap a toboggan?  Give us some more hillbilly words!”    Okay, here’s one:

When I was a kid, my mom would say “Doug, chop up a big onion for me” & I’d say “What are you making, potato soup?”  (One of her specialties) and she’d say, “no, slumgullion.”   Ooh!   A mixture of ground beef, celery, onions, pepper, tomato juice and macaroni—she’d make an army-sized pot of it (for her ravenous army of six kids) and we’d wolf it down like there was no tomorrow.  

I’ve tried making it on my own, but it always seems to lack something special.  (Mom, I’m guessing.)  I’ve seen some recipes for it online, but I’m always surprised how much the ingredients can vary per cook.   Anyway, the thing is—I’ve been making my OWN version of slumgullion now for several years & I think it’s pretty good.  (I’m basically substituting the tomato juice for ketchup & cream of celery soup.  Trust me, it works!) 

 Not my Mom’s Slumgullion 

1. Brown 1 LB ground beef & one large chopped onion –OR- two smaller ones; drain. 

(Don’t be afraid there’s too much onion, everytime I make this my first thought is “Why don’t I make this more often?” and my second thought is always “Wish I’d added more chopped onion”)

2.  Stir in 1 can ‘Campbells Cream of Celery Soup’, 1/3 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce & 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Stir it up good, cover & set it on very low heat (Warm).

3.  Boil 1 cup (uncooked) macaroni to desired softness, drain, plop the pasta back in the pot—add in the soup mixture from the first pot.  Cover & put on low heat and let it heat together for a couple minutes.   You’re done!

(By the way, as much as I love this stuff it’s even better with some VERY crusty bread—that makes all the difference.  I usually heat up a can of green beans too, just to soften the guilt a little from all that carb-on-carb action.) .         .         .

Well, if you’re scratching your head right now & thinking “Did I really just read some hillbilly’s recipe for Hamburger Helper?”  I don’t blame you—but take it from a single guy (and former Hamburger Helper expert), this concoction tastes a whole lot better.  And on a cold, rainy Saturday like today where you want something hot to eat, but you can’t really cook & you don’t feel like going out…this works.  Smile      

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Four weddings and no funeral--I hope it stays that way (‘cuz I don’t have a thing to wear)


Two days ago while chatting with my sister Shawn via email, she threw this fun message at me:

On an unrelated note, Shannon called here last night very excited that she and Charlie are engaged.  She wants to be married in July and instead of waiting till next year, she thinks they want to do it July 14, seven days after her brother Michael’s wedding.  She says it will be small, 50 people.  And Jim's cousin who is getting married next month?  Sandy’s daughter? Sandy's other daughter just got engaged too and plans to marry this year as well.

(Michael & Shannon are my sister’s husbands kids from his first marriage.)  Anyway, when I read this email I shuddered and thought “There but for the grace of God go I…”  because the thought of having to attend 4 weddings in the space of a few weeks… oh the horror.

For the record, I don’t see myself being invited to any of these & that’s fine; I always assumed it was a ‘man thing’ though, abhorring weddings--but a couple weeks ago when Shawn first brought all this up, I exclaimed “Poor Jim!” and my sister said "What ‘poor Jim’, he lives for these things!”  Really?  Fine, I’m a social misfit then, because it’s been years since my last one & I aim to keep it that way!


My friend Carolyn & myself at our friend Elisa’s wedding some years back; don’t let my smile fool you, for six months the blushing bride sent me weekly reminders promising certain death if I didn’t show

Funerals on the other hand… there’s no getting out of ‘em.  And forgive me for sounding selfish or morbid, but the thought just hit me yesterday, that I hope no one I know dies anytime soon—mainly because I don’t own a single wearable suit!  And I have no desire to get fitted for one while I’m trapped in this tubby body my brain cells call home.

How did it get to be this way?   (No, not my overweight self—I know how THAT happened.)  How is it that I don’t own any formal attire?  Back when I landed my first ‘computer job’ in 1990, a business suit was a job requirement.  By the mid-90s, I owned several of them (and I still have a shoebox full of old dry cleaning receipts to prove it).  I even became a ‘suit-expert’; if another guy was walking down the street in my direction I could tell with a glance if he’d bought that navy wool at Men’s Warehouse (ah, just another mofo like me) or Brooks Brothers (ooh, he’s higher up on the food chain). 

County ID Badge, 1994-95


My ID badge when I worked as a computer consultant at the Allegheny Dept of Aging; I’d just gotten my first Joseph A. Banks suit & felt like I was playing with the big boys


I guess around the same time the dress code began relaxing at the start of the 21st century, I found less & less reasons to have my closet stuffed with these corporate get-ups (and more & more reasons to only shop for Dockers and short sleeve sportshirts).  Why replace that pinstripe with the shiny seat if you don’t have to?   And this light gray one has worn elbows, and that navy suit from Banks had a mind of it’s own—it somehow grew smaller and got way too tight around the stomach & shoulder blades.  I wound up giving them all away, save for one (an awkward-fitting steel blue that I wasn’t even that fond of in the first place, but had the distinction of being the last one purchased, and the least worn).   It lurks about here somewhere still, but I don’t see myself in it again for a long time; the last guy who wore it was 40 lbs thinner than me.  God, I miss him.

So, for the time being at least, I’m just going to keep my chubby fingers crossed and pray that my friends & loved ones are healthy and safe and remain living while I’m in this chubby state, and don’t put me through the embarrassment of having to purchase a fat man’s suit anytime soon.  

I mean, that’s the least they can do, right?  Smile 

nutsake man & his loincloth