Writer’s Workshop: Brunch at Grandma’s

This is another mashup, with the regular Writer’s Workshop combining with Wednesdays for my Wife, because Mary suggested this.


Grandma Holton and I, circa 1972 (Photo: Fabulous Auntie Jill)

I talk about Grandma Holton a lot here, mostly because she was such a great person and loved me, and, when Mary joined the family, her as well. She was just that kind of person. After Dad died, Mom considered moving us to California, but decided not to, because she didn’t want to leave Grandma. And I’m happy she felt that way.

Once, Grandma invited Mary and me over for brunch. When we got to her apartment, she and her sister Florence invited us back to the dining room, where she had laid out a spread, complete with ham steak, eggs, coffee cake, hash browns, toast, coffee, and, because she knew Mary liked tomatoes, sliced tomatoes. Now, Grandma and Florence were older women, and many years before Grandma had terrible ulcers and had three-quarters of her stomach removed, so neither of them ate too much. However, there must have been enough food for a battalion there. When I say there were sliced tomatoes, I think Grandma had bought the two biggest tomatoes at the store and sliced both of them. The ham steak was the size I used to buy for Mom and the three of us boys, and there was enough coffee cake to put a person into hypoglycemic shock.

Grandma said, “You two get started, I have to get the coffee. And remember, I don’t want any leftovers!”

Mary poked me after the two ladies had gone into the kitchen. “I’ll work on the tomatoes, you work on the ham.” She knew by then that, when Grandma was cooking and asked if you wanted more, you didn’t say, “No thank you, Grandma, I’m full,” you said “I surrender!”

About an hour later, we finished, and had done a good job of not leaving any leftovers. I was feeling a little bloated, and I’m sure Mary was as well. That’s when Grandma said, “Johnny, I have one egg left. Can I hard-boil it for you?”

I love hard-boiled eggs, and Grandma was the only person I knew who could (or would) make them, but I was stuffed. “Grandma, really, I’m stuffed…”

“Please, Johnny, I have one egg left, and we won’t eat it. Won’t you have it?”

How could I refuse? “Sure, I’d love it.”

She went to the kitchen and put the egg on to boil and came back, and we sat and talked and had a wonderful time. All of a sudden, out in the kitchen, we hear


It startled all of us, even Grandma, who was quite hard of hearing. She sprang from her chair and trotted out to the kitchen. A minute later, we hear her cackling, and she came back into the room with the pieces of the egg.

“I’m sorry, John, but we were having such a good time talking I completely forgot about your egg!”

It’s memories like this that make me realize how much I miss her. They don’t make ’em like Grandma anymore.

I Like To Eat #socs

Many years ago — I’m talking back when I was in single digits — my friend Willy and I had a band. It was just the two of us. He had a ukulele, I had a 3/4 size guitar, and we would get together and play them. By “play,” I mean we’d be really noisy, because neither of us could actually play them. He sort of strummed the uke, I’d slap the strings over the soundhole in the guitar, and we’d write songs. One was called “I like to eat”…

I like to eat,
I like to eat meat,
And another good dish
Is fruit and fish.
I like to eat…

This would go on for I forget how many verses. We’d talk about liking hamburgers and hot dogs, Eskimo pies, Popsicles, whatever we could think of.

We had a whole bunch of songs, and we’d record our practice sessions. After listening to the playback one day, he made the observation, “Maybe we should learn to play chords and stuff.” Then we decided, nah, we were having too much fun.

But I do like to eat. A lot, which is why I resemble a weather balloon with legs.

Weather balloon (a transosonde) getting ready to be released. (Public Domain, source: Wikipedia/US Navy)

I was into weather around the same time I was in the band with Willy. My aunt Jill asked me what I wanted for my birthday one year, and I told her “a weather balloon.” She aactually started asking around where she could get one. I didn’t get it, primarily because they’re really expensive, but it was cool she asked.

When you travel a lot, food isn’t just sustenance, it’s something to do. I was on a modified Atkins diet once, and I found myself thinking about food all the time, especially when I was on the road. I finally decided it wasn’t worth driving myself crazy.



This short entry was done for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, hosted by Linda Hill.

Writer’s Workshop: Friendly’s


I haven’t participated in this for a couple of weeks. The prompts haven’t appealed to me, and I’ve been inundating you, the readers, with plenty of posts anyway. But I told myself I would get back to doing these.

One of Mama Kat’s prompts for today is this one:

Write a blog post inspired by the word: Friendly


I saw this one and all I could think of was Friendly’s, the restaurant chain.



I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at Friendly’s. I might have eaten at Stuckey’s, though.



And I know I’ve eaten at Perkins



And Howard Johnson’s, and Bakers Square, and a lot of other chain restaurants like that.

I mention this because I used to like to go to restaurants like that when I was traveling on business. There are nights that you don’t want to eat at McDonald’s or Burger King or one of the other fast-food places, and you don’t feel like sitting in a big chain restaurant like TGI Friday’s or Chili’s or Carrabba’s or something like that. Places like the ones I mentioned are right in between the two. Not fancy, but you don’t have to unwrap your dinner, either. When you’re eating by yourself, you want to feel comfortable sitting in the restaurant and reading the paper or a book, or doing crossword puzzles or sudoku. Doing that at a real restaurant just doesn’t feel right, and fast-food places are usually full of kids and noisy and the furniture is uncomfortable. Plus, you can get a real breakfast for dinner if you want. Not just an Egg McMuffin or a Breakfast Burrito. You can get bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, toast, you name it. Sure, you could go to IHOP or Waffle House for those, but the real advantage of going to the casual-dining places I mentioned is they have pie.



Of course, what’s even better are the local casual restaurants. We used to have lots of them in Chicago. Open 24 hours, breakfast served anytime, a full range of desserts, and the coffee is always good.

I remember one trip I was on, to Burlington, Iowa. I don’t think I ate for three days. I was at the client site at 6 AM, work through lunch, and wouldn’t get back to the hotel until 10 at night, and I’d just crash. Finally, I decided I had to eat, so I went into one of those places at 10:30 at night, and I ordered half of what they had on the menu. Patty melt with fries, a bowl of chili, salad bar, and I told the waiter to bring coffee and just keep bringing it. I was STARVED.

You eat like that, and people start watching and pretty soon you become the entertainment. I didn’t care, I hadn’t eaten in three days. When the guy comes with the check, he said, “Will there be anything else?” And I said “What do you have for dessert?” I practically had to pick the guy up off the floor…

The Thanksgiving Ten: Songs About Food


What else would I write about on Thanksgiving? Just so you know upfront, my usual stringent requirements for choosing songs for these lists go out the window today. It’s a holiday! Anyway, here we go…

  1. R. C. Cola and a Moon Pie – NRBQ: The New Rhythm & Blues Quartet has been around for years, flying under the radar of most of the music press. The closest they came to a hit was “Get That Gasoline Blues,” which reached #70 on the Hot 100 in 1974. Still, they have plenty of fans, making them something of a cult favorite.
  2. Fried Pies – Wes Montgomery: I had to include this one from the legendary jazz guitarist.
  3. Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs – Kelsey Grammer: A short segment of this was used as the musc over the credits for Frasier, but here we stretch it out to almost four-and-a-half minutes, throw in some Manhattan Transfer-type harmonies, and let the guys in the band air it out.
  4. That’s Amore – Dean Martin: A love song that compares love to pizza, wine, and pasta e fagioli (pronounced like “pasta fazool” like they do in old Napoli).
  5. Road Food – The Guess Who: The title track from their 1974 album, which I thought was better than the critics did.
  6. Cheeseburger In Paradise – Jimmy Buffett: No collection of songs about food is complete without this one.
  7. Jambalaya (On The Bayou) – Hank Williams: I decided on this version instead of the one by the Blue Ridge Rangers (John Fogerty playing multiple instruments). A song about bringing his best girl Yvonne home to meet the family in Cajun country, and you just know there’s gonna be food.
  8. Eggs and Sausage – Tom Waits: I believe this is from Tom’s appearance on WTTW’s Soundstage, which as I recall was taped at The Quiet Knight, a nightclub in Chicago that he played at frequently. There was a diner next door to the club (the name escapes me; I ate there once, a less-than-memorable occasion) where I think this was filmed.
  9. Hi-De-Ho – Blood, Sweat & Tears: A song by Goffin and King that talks about “that old sweet roll.” It’s off their third album (called, oddly enough, Blood, Sweat & Tears 3), one of the only listenable tracks on it.
  10. Green Onions – Booker T. & the M. G.’s: A great rock instrumental by a band known for their instrumental ability.

Most of these selections came off the top of my head, but the rest can be found on this extensive list of songs about food.

That’s your Thursday Ten for November 26, 2015. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!