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« Falling in Love with Deborah Kerr | Main | Genocide By Any Other Name »

October 23, 2007


My mom was also an excellent cook, but after my dad disappeared (we're pretty sure he killed himself), she was left to raise 4 kids by herself. We spent many nights at the dinner table watching "What's My Line" while eating Libbyland frozen dinners.

I read this first thing this morning and the image of Kraft Mac and Cheese sticking in one's colon until the Nixon resignation has remained with me all day! My mom was not a good cook and I remember nothing of her cooking during my early childhood beyond some OK but greasy tasting homemade Mac and Cheese and the occasional Sunday pot roast with overcooked limp and brownish potatoes and carrots resting in the slimy fat-filled juices beside the roast after it cooked all day in an electric skillet she got as a premium for being a "Tupperware lady."

By the time I was a teenager, my father had died and my mother was working about three minimum wage jobs six days a week. My brother who worked in an Italian restaurant used to make us a lot of spaghetti and my brother who worked in a bakery brought home a lot of day-old bread and baked goods, which we supplemented with Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks and Hungry Man frozen dinners. On holidays we used to eat in restaurants or my grandparents would bring over some food they had made for us.

I eventually taught myself how to cook about ten years ago after divorcing a man who was an excellent cook and kept me well-fed for 12 years. But I was depressed to read in your piece how many quick and easy brands I still have in my pantry. Maybe I'm not such a gourmand after all. No, Spaghettios, though. Do they still make that crap? Ugh.

Amazing that you found that image of your mom looking so much like Arlene Francis. I thought Arlene and Kitty Carlisle, who died earlier this year, were just the epitome of class during my rather dismal childhood. I even tried to speak like them, which subjected me to a lot of ridicule in the working class area in which I grew up but helped me tremendously in my journalistic career aspirations.

How in the world did you know that this week was the 100th Anniversary of Arlene Francis' birth? You have a great memory or a really unique calendar!

Thanks for another great post!

Danny - Great Post. I was laughing so hard I could hardly read. But a bookend to Arlene Francis' birthday is the obituary I read today for Peg Bracken. Her "I Hate to Cook Book" is hilarious, her recipes aren't half bad, but unfortunately there are no photos. Arlene's cookbook sounds like a keeper. Maybe you could frame some photos as an inspiration for what not to do? Although the Frankfurter Suey sounds mighty tasty! Really!

I miss Jello 1-2-3. It was always such a treat and so fun to watch it separate...
I wonder how many organic meals one has to eat these days, in order to tip the scales back in our favor, toward health? How long does it take to counteract all those loaves of white bread...all those hot dogs...all that Kool-Aid?

LOL, LOL...Oh Lordy, Danny...The recipes in this book sound absolutely ghastly! LOL!
But I always loved Arlene Francis, too...As you said...She was witty and charming and smart and not a bad actress, either....Her simple relaxed down-home party...LOL! Oh Yeah!
I must say there was not one combination of foods that appealed to me....My mother and my grandmother were both wonderful wonderful cooks...And everythihg was pretty much FRESH Made....mostly because that is what they knew and it was before all those "specialty foods" came into being...
Great Book! I hope you have a First Edition!

BTW: My first YouTube Video post is up---three great videos of the Fabulous Lena Horne!

I laughed and laughed.

Does anybody else remember "Whip and Chill". It was kind of like Jello 123. I used to think it was a crime that we did not have the glass sundae dishes to see the whole picture all at once.

I had almost forgotten about the sweet and sour meatballs with the pineapple. Sodium content in that was enough for a lifetime I am sure.

Spaghettios with franks were my favorite. I am betting that they were NOT Hebrew Nationals though.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Yes, Arlene was glamorous but your Mother was beautiful

I knew of Arline from my grandfather, when he wrote to her, he didn't realize she was related to us (Kazansjian) from Kaysei Gesarya (in Armenian), after grandpa died no one kept in contact.
remembered her from the shows

Oh how you make me laugh and brighten my reading. My, just reading the names of the recipes are enough to raise ones blood pressure! What was the obsession with processed meat products? I was very bummed when Tang came out. My parent's refused to buy it, along with that groovy mixed peanut butter and jelly with reusable cans that doubled as glasses. They insisted on real orange juice, and jam, not jelly. I felt so left out!

My mother was an excellent cook but her freezer could have been the model for the ones in Jewtopia.

She would take fresh bagels from the bakery, and freeze them immediately so they always tasted of freezer burn

I thought this was normal until one day when I asked her why she froze them before the rest of the family woke up for brunch

She couldn't understand the question "They might go to waste."

Consequently I'm the only Jew in America or American or person in the world probably who hates bagels

Love your blog. The Second Avenue Deli is reopening in the winter in the East 20's or 30's

I enjoyed this story tremendously as well as all the related comments. I have always been proud of the fact that it was my grandfather, Charles Bahruth, a jeweler for Tiffany, designed and made the lovely signature diamond heart necklace for Arlene (at the request of Mr. Gabel). I was so very sad to read of it's theft years ago.

My mom used to take 'shortcuts' on making Mac n' Cheese...she would eliminate mixing the cheese packet with the milk and butter and just throw it into the wet macaroni...yes it was lumpy. She'd serve it on Fridays during lent with fish sticks that were burnt on the outside and still frozen on the inside. In the 60's she leaned toward some of the easy things like the Good Seasons salad dressing packet that you shook in the 'creut' with water, vinegar and salad oil. I've collected old cookbooks over the years and love the ones with the pictures. There is a book that has a collection of circa 70's Weight Watchers recipes that are hideous and the writer has hilarious captions to go with each one.
By the mid to late 70's my mom swung the other way and bought most things in co-ops and health food stores. One day she brought home this luscious looking chocolate cake...we couldn't wait for dessert as we never had cake unless it was a birthday. ...Well one bite and we almost gagged. It was made with carob and it tasted horrible. She never bought that again.

Hey Danny: Thanks for sharing about Ms. Francis. So I am going through my Mom's cookbooks the other day and what do I find but "No Time for Cooking!" Unlike Ms. Francis, my mom was pure midwestern stock who took great pride in serving one home cooked meal, even if she didn't make it my grandma did! I too really liked Jello 1-2-3 and miss it. I understand that Vermont Catalog is bringing it back for those of us who are still well preserved and lived through the nuclear '60's/70's.

I remember pointing out this cookbook to mom who just snorted. Her small way of saying "ha, I don't know WHY I kept this one," which meant she had purchased it on the belief that the cover would actually promise something - but it didn't live up to 'Mom' standards. Throughout the later part of the '70's, Mom's favorite device of all time in the kitchen - the microwave of course!

Luxury loaf was a cold cut with olives and pimentos pressed into the meat. It was a staple in my school lunches and much more palatable than plain bologna.

As far as I know Ms Bahruth, the hear shaped diamond necklace was designed by Otto Grun who did all of Ms. Francis's jewellery. His obituary reads as follows: "Mr. Grun, a Viennese jeweler, opened his business, Otto Grun Inc., in Manhattan in 1930. He designed a watch for Eleanor Roosevelt and a diamond heart pendant for Arlene Francis, the actress. The pendant became her trademark."

I worked on the Arlene Francis Show in 1981 on WWOR Radio AM. One day Frank Sinatra came on the show as a guest. He and Arlene had taken some pictures together. He was wearing a cherry red satin baseball jacket. I remember them taking the pictures. I am trying to locate one of the pictures from that day. Can anyone help?


Great Post !! While reading this post I remembered my mother. She was expired 2 months before. I still remembered her each and every talk. I was very much attached with her...At last what I can say that..Missing you mom..:-(

It's great to hear from you and see what you've been up to. This blog makes me realize the energy of words and pictures. Keep coming up with ideas.

Heaven help me, but I do remember eating spaghetti-os and thinking it was real food. And the almighty caserole, at least twice a week, thank you. LOL!

MY sisters are about 15 years older than I am, so my Mom got all of her home cooking out of her system by the time I came along. Her mom had been a good southern cook and my mom did know how to cook, but my memories of home-cooked food as a child were pan-cooked hamburger patties, mashed potatoes, (sometimes real, sometimes Frenches' Instant) Oscar Meyer hot dogs, occasional cooked carrots, but usually canned peas, carrots or corn. Later, adventures in Hamburger-Helper Lasagna or Beef-Mac turned me off to most pan-style meals pretty much forever. Take-out pizza, KFC or Chinese came along later. I didn't learn about "real" bread and home-made food until I was a teen and I hooked-up with friends whose moms still cooked "real" food. I was a fat kid and although I eat healthier now, I still carry some of my very bad childhood eating habits and likes today. Thanks mom! (No, I can't blame her. She did the best she knew how then.)

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