Archive for May, 2011

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 12

May 26, 2011

        Meet the Amazing and Potentially Lethal Kilrooney Kids

I’ve introduced you to other unique characters from my past, but not my two favorites: Timmy and Jackie Kilrooney, two literally larger than life kids we grew up with in Hamden, Connecticut in the 50’s. My sister, Carol valued her life and  appendages, so she limited her Kilrooney kid interactions. Dave and I didn’t. We were too young to recognize imminent danger and frequently marched into hell with our best pals for any number of heavenly causes.

 We saved our planet from Invaders from Mars and kept our neighborhood free of Nazis.  In the winter, we survived sledding down “Dead Man’s Curve.”  And in summer, we used our magnifying glasses to burn holes in the butts of big fat June bugs, which I shrink to think about now. 

 We teamed up with Timmy and Jackie almost from the first day we moved into our house on hilly, Millis Street. They lived right across the street and the fit for the four of us was perfect. I was seven and so was Timmy. His brother Jackie was five and so was my brother, Dave. This meant we could totally hang around together as a fearsome foursome.  It was great fun for us, but living hell through my mother’s eyes. She was convinced every play session would end with a trip to the emergency room at St. Raphael’s hospital in New Haven. This was nonsense. It was three or four times a year at most.

One Christmas, my brother and I got an awesome telescope as a present. It wasn’t for us. It was for my mom so she could spy on us from our living room and hopefully stop the horror before it happened. She was rarely in time.

 It’s not that Timmy and Jackie were evil. It’s just that they were huge, reckless, kids who never thought about the consequences of their actions. As a result, Dave and I were frequently maimed. In their defense, I will also note their talents. Jackie, for example, could rattle off five music scales in one enormous burp. He’d begin by swallowing great gulps of air for about 40 seconds, then let ‘er rip: “Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do – do , re, me, fa, sol, la, ti, do…five times in a single belch!” It was amazing, but this story isn’t about miracles, it’s about the madness, mayhem and mischief these kids caused.

The Kilrooneys would fill water pistols with ink and blacken our clothes. They’d shoot us at point blank range with their BB guns. When we were swimming, they’d push our heads under water and count to 30—then try to break the record next time. Or they’d noogie our heads until hair fell out. It was all SKB – Standard Kilrooney Behavior.

And then there’s this horror story, though here my brother has to share the blame with Jackie. What they both did to my mom that day was truly unforgivable. They were out in our  yard playing with our bow and arrow set—real bows with real arrows with sharp, metal tips. What possessed my parents to buy us a real set like this I have no idea, but they did. We were told to shoot only at the cloth target that came with the set, but that got boring fast and we soon shooting arrows into trees and then it was only a short hop to aiming at squirrels and maybe a bird if one sat still long enough. 

Anyway, Dave and Jackie were shooting arrows in our back yard while my mom was ironing in the kitchen. Somehow, they had gotten hold of a trick arrow that goes around your head, but makes it look like you’ve been shot through your head instead. My brother put it on and Jackie smeared ketchup on Dave’s forehead. Then—in an inspired moment of sheer madness, Jackie went running into the house screaming “Mrs. Ardito, something horrible has happened!” That’s when Dave stumbled into the kitchen with the arrow sticking out of his head and the ketchup dripping down. My mother screamed, not stopping to wonder how he could still be on walking with an arrow through his brain. So she screamed the scream of mothers who have lost their children and will never be the same.

 It only took Dave a second to realize they had maybe taken things too far. He quickly said, “Mom, mom, it’s okay. It’s a joke, see?” And he took the arrow off. But the damage was done. Poor Flora Ardito. Poor Dave and Jackie when the punishments kicked in. 

                      Is There “Doctored” Sauce in the House?

                             (Making Ragu More than Do)


Thinking of Timmy and Jackie and our frequent trips to St. Raphael’s Hospital, made me think of “doctored” sauce. This is the Rx I turn to whenever I don’t have hours to make Sunday gravy and want something yummy in 15 minutes or less. My official estimate is that it’s 80% as good, which, when you’re hungry and in a hurry, is good enough. Here’s the specialist treatment I use:  

What Youza Need
1 26 oz jar of Ragu Old World Pasta Sauce Traditional
(or Marinara if you want to go vegetarian)

4 Tbsp spoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves diced garlic

2 ½ Tbsp oregano

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, to taste

1 Tbsp garlic powder

7-8 leaves fresh basil or 2 Tbsp flakes

2 bay leaves

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1 cup red wine

1 lb youza favorite pasta (mine is ziti, yum!)  

Den Do Dis  
Get a full pot of salted water boiling. In a medium saucepan, fry out the onion in olive oil until it’s translucent, then add garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Pour in Ragu, add all spices, including wine. Cook pasta until Al Denti says it’s done, pour on the sauce and dine sublimely. Pour yourself a big glass of wine too, for medicinal purposes only.


My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 11

May 26, 2011

                       She Washed that Man Right Out of Her Life

 The Bimontis lived right next door to us when I was growing up out east. Their family included Frankie, a boy who was a couple of years younger than me, his father, Dominick, whom I saw, but never exchanged words with and the “Human Cleaning Machine” herself, Franny Bimonti.

Franny was a short, block of a woman: a kind of combination armadillo and tank. She might have been pretty at some point of her life, but if so, it was eons ago.  Talk about letting yourself go—Franny was gone. She never wore makeup and had turned completely gray—and that was the color of her skin! (Just joshing)\She wore an apron at all times, not because she was cooking, but because she was constantly cleaning and wanted to protect herself from dirt, grime and any number of 409-type cleaning fluids. I’m not talking about a person who appreciates a tidy house. I’m talking about someone who’s looney toons with broom, mop and detergent. At some point in her life, she had taken the pledge to get rid of every speck of dirt and dust in the universe, including the mote in God’s eye. Can you imagine that confrontation?

 “Mr. God, come here for a minute, you got something in your eye. There, that’s better.”

 Franny vacuumed the entire house and washed the floors every day. But where she really shined, was doing the laundry. Every morning, unless it was raining, we’d see her clothes out on the line waving in the breeze. Winter didn’t stop her, either.  In January and February, the white sheets often became frozen sails in the wind and the frigid socks clacked against each other like they were about to shatter.

Inside, Franny pushed her vacuum cleaner around and under things so much, everything was banged and bruised along the bottom: chairs, bedposts, her family. And the living room? Who could “live” in there with the plastic coverings over all the furniture? If Dominic ever had to spend the night on the couch, he probably slid right off.

Our family didn’t socialize much with theirs even though we lived 30 feet apart.  Still, we exchanged next-door neighbor pleasantries; cookies at Christmas, or a loaf of spinach bread. Then one summer day, out of a clear blue sky good enough to “Hang ‘em, hang that laundry high,”  Dominic died of a heart attack. He was only 50!  Poor guy. Poor Frankie. And poor Franny. She’d be left all alone now to fend for herself and she’d have to rinse, I mean, raise Frankie without any help.

On the day we heard about Franny’s loss, my mom went next door pay her respects.  Many relatives were over so my mom didn’t plan on staying. She brought along a bunt cake as an offering. Bunt cakes blunt death somehow. She rang the bell and Franny appeared wearing an apron, only this one was black. (Just kidding).

            “I am so sorry to hear about Dominic,” my mother said sincerely.

            “Flora,” she said, “That’s all right. God has his reasons.”

             “I know,” my mother sympathized, “but it’s sometimes hard to understand or find the good when things like this happen.”

            “There is good, Flora,” Franny countered, “now that Dom is dead, I can get my cleaning done! He was always in my way, that Dominic.”

            Franny’s reasoning took my mother aback a little. “Well, I know you have guests so I’ll be going. It’s nice that you have family around.”

            “Nice? What a mess they’re making! Like I don’t have enough to do without cleaning up after them! I may not even get a chance to scrub the floors today, or put the wash out. Wouldn’t that be something, Flora? What would a day without washing be?

            “A day for celebration?” my mother mused.     

(Attention!  Thanks to several readers and eaters who pointed out that my Eggplant Parmigiana Lasagna recipe left a little to be desired, like the number of eggplants needed (2 large, peeled eggplants); it doubled the amount of garlic required (2 tablespoons of minced garlic is enough) and baking instructions were absent (yikes!): 25 minutes max at 325°. Find how to do it up right at www.what’ under the Lifestyles tab.)

                                  Pasta Bianco Delizia
                                   White Delight Ziti

One of Fanny’s sheets waving in the breeze was a white wonder to behold. So is this lovely, white and delightful béchamel sauce that is almost a breeze to make. This is not your mother’s béchamel; its way sweller thanks to the addition of spinach, mushrooms, white wine and vegetarian sausage crumbles. Trust me on the veggie crumbles, they add a fantastic touch. When poured over ziti or even tortellini, this dish is magnificent enough to be served at the greatest restaurant in the country: California’s The French Laundry. How wonderfully fitting.   

What Youza Need:
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup diced white onions

1 Tbsp minced garlic

¾ cup sliced mushrooms

1 ½ vegetarian sausage crumbles
(Boca or Morningstar)

2 ½ to 3 cups half and half

3 Tbsp flour

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

1 bay leaf

(Seasonings: salt, pepper, few shakes red pepper flakes,

plus 1 tsp nutmeg)

½ cup parmesan cheese

¾ cup white wine

1 lb Ziti (Tortellini, Mezzani, Rigatoni)

What Youza Do
Put on water to boil for pasta. In a large skillet, sauté onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil until translucent, then add garlic and saute’ for 20 seconds more. Remove from pan. Add 1Tbsp olive oil and cook mushrooms until golden. Toss in vegetarian sausage crumbles and stir on medium heat until cooked (a few minutes). Add in flour and stir so flour cooks slightly. Put onions and garlic back, then pour in half and half, add bay leaves, spinach leaves (give them time to wilt), wine and all seasonings to taste. Bring up temp to thicken, until it’s as rich and thick as gravy.  Add parmesan cheese, which will thicken it more, so add pasta water if and as needed. Cook pasta al dente. Pour into a warm bowl and ladle on sauce. Top with more parmesan and serve proudly.