Friday, September 26, 2008

17.0 Nostalgia is an Inside Joke

Starring Erin & Mike and Donna & Paul
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Jesus of Cool by Nick Lowe

“They’re nice friends and good for a party!”

“Describe Sellwood in two words.” Coffee and nostalgia. “That’s three words.” How about coffee, nostalgia? (“No thanks,” says Nostalgia, “I’m more of a tea drinker.”) By coffee, I mean coffee, as purveyed by Lovecup, Twin Paradox, Ugly Mug, and etc. The nostalgia’s found on Antique Row. Antiques are one of the physical manifestations of nostalgia, that yearning for yesterdays.

“Why all the talk about nostalgia? How about getting to the main dish?”

How about you settle down and have a decaf once in a while? I speak of nostalgia because our guests tonight are my best friend Paul and his wife Donna (typically, we visit them in Beaverton for one of Donna’s outrageously good 14-course meals, only 3 of which my pea-sized gullet can digest).

Paul (who once claimed he had the soul of an 80 year old, and the body of his father) and I have known each other almost 30 years. That’s thirty years of the same jokes. Hang around us for a week and you’ll have Brooks & Reiner’s “2,000 Year Old Man” bit committed to memory. Not to mention more obscure references to The Uncle Floyd Show, the Jackie Puppet, High Feather, the New Zoo Revue, and Myron Cohen.

Paul knows everything about every show he ever watched in his life. And all the advertisements in between. The nostalgia aspect emerges when you find out he’s got hours and hours of commercials from the70s and early 80s on VHS. Commercials are the Rosetta stones of past generations – so telling in fashion and vocabulary. Our resident “snark”-aeologist burrows through boxes at garage sales for these elusive “golden tickets” of culture. I was there when he bought Gnip Gnop at an estate sale (I believe I purchased my Odyssey 2 at the same time). He’s still got his membership card from the original Star Wars fan club (circa’77)!

Fantastic, right? Well, maybe not. I think so, but I too suffer a touch from the sensation once diagnosed as a medical condition. Mal du pays, I believe, Hofer called it.

What does Donna think about this? Same thing Erin does – nothing. All they hear is Paul and me yapping like two old men about the size of Gene Rayburn’s choppers or Monster Week on the “4:30 Movie” (especially delightful as Tostitos crumbs festoon the refried beans).

“Refried beans? So you’re eating already? What about the prep?”

Please don’t interrupt. You know I’ll get to the point eventually. Anyway, we don’t just yammer about the “good ol’ days”; we refer to minutiae in every annex of entertainment from the time of the bicentennial to the cancelation of Mystery Science Theater 3000. We’re Neil Simon’s Sunshine Boys, 40 years too early. In other words, capital boring. Still, it’s our joy, the joy of habit.

I anticipate that moment our wives see us trip into the time machine. I think they might feel themselves the hostages of nostalgia. It begins with a simple spell: “Remember that time…?”

“Remember that time you were going to fix a meal?”

Yes, I do. We’re having enchiladas, okay? And they’re going to be delicious! Years from now, you’ll be sitting around the spaceship saying, “Gosh, I wish I cold get me one of them enchiladas from the early 21st century.”

That’s nostalgia! To continue: Just when you think it couldn’t get anymore uninteresting to everyone else in the room, my brother Jim shows up. Jim loathes nostalgia. And just the past in general. But his arrival triggers more memories from our illustrious youth. Mostly throw-up stories. Yet another topic inappropriate for food columns (remember that, aspiring writers!).

After growing up together in New York, sowing our wild oats (that means drinking boxed zinfandel) in North Carolina, and finally settling down (is it “settling down” when you’re already notoriously lazy) to marry in Oregon, we must bid each other adieu – Paul and Donna are moving to Ohio in October. This was a Last Supper, of sorts; or the “Last Supper Until We Visit Them in the Buckeye State.” Ah, from Beaver to Buckeye! There’s a joke in there, if only I knew what buckeye was!

Erin, a thrill ride enthusiast, was delighted to hear that the famed Cedar Point Amusement Park is a just an hour from their new home. We will be seeing them soon! Terrific – Paul and I can catch up on his latest mid-70s Sears Roebuck Wish Book acquisitions!

Is nostalgia a thing of the past? Lately, styles and tastes change at such an accelerated rate, the joke is one may experience a nostalgia for last week. Irony ruined the 21st century. I’m not sure what I mean by that, but it sounds important. When the past catches up with the present, and the two become almost indistinguishable, nostalgia is lost. Will it go the way of the dinosaurs, vanished these last 5,000 years?

Let us then at least leave the enchilada as it is – perfect. Let’s do the same with love and friendship. Oh, yeah – the recipe! I told you I’d get to it! And best of luck to Paul and Donna on their move!


4 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 clove of garlic (chopped)
1 chopped onion
1/2 large can enchilada sauce
1 can black beans
1 small can green chilies
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese mixture
1/4 cup sour cream
Shredded cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in pan. Add chicken to pan and season with about 1 to 2 tbsp Cumin. Add chopped onion and garlic. Cook chicken until finished. Decrease heat to low. Remove chicken, shred with two forks, and return shredded chicken to pan. Add remaining ingredients to shredded chicken and mix well. Coat 2 casserole dishes with non-stick spray or oil. Spoon enchilada filling into tortillas and roll closed. Place them seam side down into casserole dish. Spoon leftover enchilada sauce evenly over enchiladas. Top with a thin layer of shredded cheese mixture. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Makes about 10 enchiladas.

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brooke!

Aunt Erin cooks a couple of hot dogs for Uncle Mike and wishes our Jersey neice a happy birthday! And a shout out to sister Noelle as well! You know, a box of Knotz pretzels with horseradish mustard would go great with those dogs!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

16.0 Tom Patty & the Heartburners

Starring Erin & Mike and Kathy & Rick
Filmed on Location in George, Washington
Soundtrack: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Live

“When we laid our blankets on the groundYeah and I woke up feelin' hungry”

Know what I’m eating write now? Erin’s Blueberry Lemon Curd Pie. Curd doesn’t sound like something you eat (too close to “curdle”), but Miss Muffet was a big fan. And the blueberries – fresh from her parents’ yard. I helped pick them. Right off the bush! Amazing! Just plain amazing.

My in-laws are great (or is that In-Laws?) Last weekend, we all drove (well, Rick drove; Kathy, Erin & I were chauffeured) to the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington (birthplace of our first president!) to camp and see Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the Sellwood Kitchen on the road (yeah, I know, this is like the THIRD time we’ve done this – but hey, as home is where the heart is, so the kitchen is where the digestive system is). A barbecue before the highly-anticipated double-fist pumping, over-drinking, and off-key sing-a-longs of stadium rock!

It was the weekend of the 16th. Remember? The mercury hit a hundred. The thermometer looked like blown glass. We drove five hours in a heat that ultimately conquered the air conditioner. We arrived at the Gorge moist, warm pools spilling from the crooks of our legs. In a scene from Beau Geste (or more appropriately Laurel & Hardy’s Beau Hunks), we pitched our tents in earth so warm my spike sank in like a needle through a Jell-o shot. Luckily, by the time we raised our shelters, the sun (by my admittedly amateurish calculation) dangled (and I might be exaggerating) 14 feet above our heads. I paused, looked up, then out, surveying the 20,000 Petty fans blasting “American Girl” from their SUVs’ woofers, and decided “I want a hamburger sandwich.” But, turning back towards our camp, I realized that Erin and her mother had gone for ice. Rick and I sat in the semi-shade, like desperadoes under the eaves.

After an indeterminate amount of time, during which a bramble of soon-to-be-besotted concertgoers carpeted the once-empty campground, Erin & Kathy returned.

Poof! Erin got the Coleman started. I took a pull from my Coronita, and retrieved our camera. Erin had wisely prepared the burgers at home, in the Sellwood Kitchen (at the time, I was leafing through an old issue of Marvel Two-in-One featuring The Thing and the Inhumans). Here at Camp Petty (where I suspect Tom & the HB avoided the pre-concert sweating by chilling in the Cavern Rooms at the Cave B Inn), Erin grilled the turkey burgers to perfection.

One is not often guaranteed a perfect burger cooked on a camp grill in the sweltering and dusty heat; lesser burgers can be a little rough around the edges, or inside, a little hollow. But not this one. It was fatter than Ron Blair’s bass.

Burgers and beers in belly, the four us joined the mile-long exodus from camp site to stage. It was quite a hike, but thank god we passed a pod of honey buckets being emptied, the stench accomplishing the dual task of wiping out blocks of memory while inducing a dry, unfathomable nausea that only made our arrival at the front gates almost transcendental. But we made it!

As Steve Winwood took the stage to open the show (he sang “Can’t Find My Way Home”!), Erin & I weaved through the crowds, past the sprinkling hippies, and the above-the-belt cellulite ladies, and found our seats (Row 20 – I could practically read Winwood’s watch!).

Soon that benevolent tyrant of life, the sun, sank into the desert beyond the Columbia. And behind us Earth’s natural satellite appeared, white and whole. Tom Petty took the stage and full-blown full moon fever kicked in! The first three chords of “You Wreck Me" serving as a clarion call to erupt the sold-out crowd! Erin let loose with a wild whoo-hoo, rebelling against Earth’s gravitational pull, to take orbit around Gone Gator Country!

I lost myself in the experience, thrusting my warm $9.50 Coors Light into the electric night, fueled by Erin’s love of rock and roll and the best turkey burger I’ve ever eaten. I felt so god. Like anything was possible.


Turkey Burger:
1 1/4 lb of ground turkey
1/2 cup of Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon Montreal Steak seasoning
Clove of garlic (crushed)
Salt & pepper

Mix ground turkey with other ingredients, and form into four patties. Grill to preference.

Chive Mayo Spread:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon horse radish
1 tablespoon fresh minced chives

Mix. Spread on toasted buns. Insert patty. Open mouth. Insert sandwich. Oh yeah! All right!

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: