Friday, June 19, 2009

Dad's expressions and more food stories

Part of being a part of my family was hearing certain expressions that my Dad used.
When he wanted to reprimand a child he would say "Pasta fazool!!" which is, simply, pasta with beans, but the child didn't know that. We acted as if it were a magical incantation to make us behave. We'd be bickering with each other, Dad would say "Pasta fazool!!" and we'd stop. We would be dallying and Dad would say "Pasta fazool!!" and we'd hustle. My sister says it was Dad's version of "You better straighten out and fly right!" It worked so well on my own son, that he refuses to say it with his own son because he thinks it is abusive.

We ate dinner as a family at a round dining room table. Usually some child would be balking about eating something. Dad would threaten,"no pie for you!". As we got older, we learned to ask "IS there any pie?" and Dad would say "No, but there's no pie for you!"

Whenever we got into the car ready for an excursion, Dad would say, as he turned the key in the ignition, "We're off! Like a dirty shirt!" For some reason, that still cracks me up.

Dad's favorite nicknames for my sister and I were "Sad Sack" and
"Sunshine". He called us both by both names and usually Sunshine for the one who was being grumpy at the time.

When my brother was born we lived in the upstairs of a two family house. Many many times we were told not to bother the family downstairs:"Don't disturb the Rostheizers." Even after we moved away, the phrase echoed in our ears whenever we started to get noisy.

We were proud that we had a family whistle which was handed down from my father's family. If our parents wanted us to come running they would whistle: sol mi, sol mi, do re mi, sol mi
Up until I heard another family use it, I thought my family had invented it.

When I was about ten, the volkswagon microbus came on the market. Our family was one of the first in town to get one. It was basically a box. In the days of tail fins and chrome, our basic box car was an embarrassment to a pre-adolescent. Once we were driving on an Adirondack two lane highway when we were passed by a few motorcycles. A few more stayed behind our van. As we passed through Warrensburg with two motorcyles before and two behind, Dad gave big waves to everyone that could see us.

Years later I suggested to Dad that he stick his left arm out of the car while the passenger on the right did the same with her right. Then as they went around curves, they moved their arms to simulate glider wings. His car and my car did this on the ramps to the Baltimore beltway. Good times.

Dad instilled a few food traditions.

Corn on the cob was a treat and was available only for a short season. It was considered the main course and eaten at an outdoor picnic table. The hamburgers were only a side dish. It was best served freshly shucked from the garden and boiled in a big pot. The little corn shaped holders that stuck in either end were essential. We would roll the ear in the margarine on our plate and sprinkle on salt. And then, before we bit in, there was an almost ceremonial shake of the cob. Dad ate his corn with this little shake, so we all did.

Once Dad was at a YMCA conference and he and his friends went to a restaurant. The restaurant had many conference participants as customers. There was a sign on the wall that said "Baked macaroni with rich cheddar cheese". So when it came to order Dad said "I'll have the baked macaroni with the rich cheddar cheese!" Then the next person ordering said "I'll have the BAKED macarOni with the RICH CHEDdar CHEESE!" and the next person said, while slapping the table in rhythm, "I'll have the BAKED macarOni with the RICH CHEDdar CHEESE!" Pretty soon everyone in the restaurant was chanting,""I'll have the BAKED macarOni with the RICH CHEDdar CHEESE!" Back at home, Mom made excellent macaroni and cheese and it was a frequent main course for supper. Whenever we ate it, we would do the macaroni and cheese chant.

Other food traditions were having spaghetti at Christmas because it was easy and well-liked.

At Thanksgiving we upstate New Yorkers practiced the Baltimore Maryland tradition of having sauerkraut because our family friend from Maryland, Eileen, liked it. While my grandmother was alive we always ate turnips, as well. After she died, because nobody else liked them, we missed the smell of turnips on Thanksgiving.

Mom’s cooking

Mom’s best dishes were split pea soup, minestrone, chili con carne, and tomato aspic. Grandma made a good roast with cloves, and a “shepherd’s pie” which was baking powder dumplings floating on a beef stew. Grandma was also fond of stewed tomatoes with bread. She presented it to us grandchildren like it was a treat. I never told her that I didn’t like it.

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