Shame, Shame, Shame.

My wife has a Christmas Eve tradition of taking the kids to the mall for lunch and a movie. I am generally not invited. I abhor crowds and commerce and a trip to the mall usually sends me into a tailspin of unpleasent behavior. I must have been displaying an uncharacteristically sunny disposition this year as I was allowed to tag along.

We went to Crossgates around 11:00am and I remarked to the wife that it was a bit less crowded than usual for an Xmas Eve. However, after having suffered through 2 hours of singing pigs and elephants we walked out of the movie theater into the ugly/smelly throng of humanity that I had expected.

I had heard about a Hawaiian themed concession in the food court that I was vaguely interested in checking out. Both of my children revel in bad mall-Chinese food so we ganged up on the wife and she relented.

Upon arriving and finding a table I issued fourth my general routine about how there used to be trees and a Hot Dog Charlie’s in the food court, and about the one time I threw up Mountain Dew all over a table. I secured plates of noodles and bourbon chicken for the kids and some fries for the wife and made my way over to iGrill (the Hawaiian joint).

Now, I had tut-tutted the whole way to the food court about the general lack of self awareness of my fellow man as I was jostled a time or two. I had bemoaned to the wife the lack of “excuse me-s” taking place between individuals. This is all to say that I was already approaching my tolerance limit for lack of good manners.

Then it happened.

A gentleman in front of me in line yelled to his wife. Loud. Across the entire food court. There was no emergency or other extenuating circumstances. He yelled to get her attention. In public. In front of hundreds of people. With no shame. With no apology to those around him. I audibly gasped.

I want you to understand that had I done something similar in front of my extended family this act would have entered family lore and legend. Years later at Thanksgiving meals aunts and uncles would raise eyebrows and tut about, “that time David yelled in the mall.” Inside the complex box of customs and shame in which I live this sort of breach of public decorum is absolutely unacceptable.

I always lump this part of New York into inland New England in terms of general “customs.” This is changing somewhat as the influence of downstate creeps slowly up the Hudson Valley like a disease. But for folks with roots that go back a while around here it still holds true. Things like wearing bright colors and making facial expressions in public are seen as a bit suspect. In fact, any expression of individuality in a public setting is really sort of frowned upon.

My wife often remarks that in her opinion I am a bit “cold.” She often tells people that the strongest display of emotion of mine that she has observed is when during times of great grief I have stood up to look out a window for a minute. Forgive me my stereotyping, but my wife is your classic Mid-Hudder. She grew up in the same house as her Italian immigrant grandparents and is animated, loud, emotional, and generally full of life. Not at all like the dry husk of a man that I have grown into.

It seems by accident or design I have set my life up wherein I really only occasionally have to encounter people who don’t abide by the same code of behavior that I do. A trip to the mall being one of these occasions. Based on the reaction of those around me to our friend’s bellow, I don’t think I am alone in my experience.

I have been thinking much upon this incident, and more so upon my oddly strong reaction to it. It is my supposition that many people understate how mortified I can be by this sort of thing. Maybe the thinking goes “eh, I just budged in line. People will get over it” or “eh, I’m talking loudly on my phone in public. People will deal with it.” Nope. If I see you doing something like this, unless I have evidence that it was an extreme aberration from your normal routines, I will hate you forever. Visceral hatred.

It is alien to me that there are those were not raised to have the same concept of when they are supposed to feel ashamed of themselves.

I am laughing at myself over this a bit. Where does this come from? Why do I feel this way? It is so weird! I am a moon-man. I am a silly, bitter, petty man who spends his days tut-tutting about the behavior of others. Part of my charm? No. I think not…

Anyhow, the iGrill place is sort of fun.

I had SPAM musubi. It was a bit strange as I sort of expected SPAM nigiri as opposed to a SPAM maki roll.

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As I was releasing myself from the restraint of rigid diet I went classic fat kid. I also got a “Loco Moco” burger. This was the strangest burger I have had in a while. It had rice, gravy, and an egg on it.

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Sort of an unatrractive picture, but the burger was alright. A fork and knife burger though, and I don’t really approve of this. You should be able to convey the burger to your mouth without a loss  of structural burger integrity. This sandwich was a bit of a project to eat. I would give iGrill another whirl.

Well that was all a bit of a screed, wasn’t it?…

I’m Dope and I Do Dope Things… Such as Scouring Used Bookstores For Local Cookbooks… (“The Potato Chip Cookbook”Saratoga, by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. SIGNED!!!)

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So I was over at Tattered Pages Used Books in Glenmont looking for items to add to my ever expanding collection of Upstate NY local church/organizational cookbooks. Wasn’t having much luck to tell you the truth. Found a rather nice microwave cookbook that I ended up passing on, as well as a large book of Wyeth prints that I might go back for… Not much local cookbook flavor to be found this time.

During a final rifling of a cookbook shelf I found the thin blue beauty pictured above!!! It was a reprinted 2003 edition of 1977’s “The Potato Chip Cookbook” by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (Marylou Whitney). Published in honor of the 150th birthday of the potato chip.

As if this wasn’t already a particularly satisfying find, turns out it’s signed!

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If you grew up in these parts you likely grew up hearing about Marylou Whitney during Saratoga’s track season, so this is kind of neat. I have come across Mme. Whitney’s contributions in other local recipe collections (Poulet Marengo!) and the fact that there are “players” of sorts within the local cookbook scene makes me laugh.

I haven’t delved into the recipes much at the time of this writing, but I will tell you that I am currently annoying my wife by reading the introduction out loud in my best WASP-y rich lady voice.

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All of the recipes seem to involve potato chips. I am going to go out on a limb here and bet that there are some 24k gold recipes in this little book. I will surely advise.

Also, go to Tattered Pages. The place is the bee’s knees.

#UPDATE#

Marylou’s thoughts on potatoes. I can’t stop laughing.

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Barb Vlack

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I was discussing Netflix’s Stranger Things with the wife a few days ago and the subject of the “Barb” character came up. At the time I happened to be seated at the computer and I absentmindedly googled “Barb” thinking maybe I might find some spicy Barb facts to punch up the conversation.

One of the first results was for barbvlack.com. Even though “Barbara’s Web Site” was published in 2011, it transported me back in time to the glory days of the personal/vanity webpage. I often ache for the mid-90s internet of my teen years. Social media has trivialized putting personal information about one’s self on the internet. You used to have to try.

I know this may seem like I am making fun, but I am not. Barb’s page is a time capsule from the internet of 15-20 years ago. If ever the field of “internet archaeology” takes off, this will be what they are digging for.

Who is Barb Vlack? Well, she is an Author/Quiltmaking Teacher /Design Contact, that’s who. Within the world of quilt making, what is Barb known as? A knowledgeable and humorous lecturer and an EQ6 and EQ7 software expert, that’s what!

At first I thought Barb’s page was a put on. There was simply too much gold. But some further research revealed that Barb is/was a legitimate member of the quiltmaking community.

Everything about her page is wonderful. From the (call ahead if you wish to send a FAX) parenthetical under her FAX number on the about page, to the step by step driving directions to her home address (!) on the contact page.

Take the below from the About Barb section (written in the third person!). It’s like poetry.

She labels her style of quilt designing as “innovative traditional,” because she loves to take traditional patterns and make them look new and different. Working with the Electric Quilt software makes that focus easy for this expert user of the program. She credits her use of EQ and the computer with her quilting as a way to find a “middle ground” of common interest with her husband, who is a retired electrical engineer.

Check out Barb’s repertoire of lectures here. “Head for the Borders!” is “a multi-media lecture (with PowerPoint and a trunk show of real quilts).” “High Tech Meets High Touch” demonstrates the “magic” of designing a quilt with computer software.

It’s all good. From cover to cover barbvlack.com delivers. I will go to my grave wondering what happened on the “World of Quilts Travel – Caribbean Cruise” of 2011. Something tells me that the quiltmakers of the Upper Midwest with whom Barb Vlack associated knew how to blow the walls off of a cruise ship.

If any of you have followed my ravings over the years (I used to write easily the 300 or 400th most popular Upstate NY regional food blog in the greater Capital Region), then you will know that I can’t keep anything to myself.

So I immediately tweeted about Barb Vlack,

I shared it on various other social media platforms where it garnered some attention as well.

It appears that Barb may have passed recently, but if she were here I would send her a FAX. I would write —

Barb Vlack, I see you. I appreciate your passion for quiltmaking. During your life you mastered something. You were able to communicate your passion for a craft to others. You were respected and honored for the knowledge you shared. In my life I have mastered nothing. You are an example to me.

I see you Barb Vlack, you will not be forgotten.