Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Alison Hein.
Is it breakfast? Lunch? A new meal category yet to be invented like the Hobbit’s Second Breakfast? Your guess is as good as mine, but I do know the Most Ridiculous Grilled Cheese Sandwich is an experience you’ll have to try for yourself.
Many years ago, when I was still a novice cook, my friend Sally introduced me to this addictive compilation. Sally’s family had been making this uber-rich, cheesy, gooey indulgence since she could remember. The philosophy of the sandwich is simple – the richer the better. Thus, tangy cheddar cheese is not enough until mixed with thick, creamy mayonnaise. And a grilled cheese sandwich is not enough until dipped in egg batter and fried in butter until golden brown like French Toast!
I liked the recipe immediately because it combines two of the simplest meals I had already learned to cook – French Toast and Grilled Cheese. The olives provide a necessary foil to offset the cheesy richness of the sandwich. And, it was fun to cook because no one had ever heard of such a thing.
Many years have passed. My culinary skills have greatly increased, and I’ve long since lost touch with Sally. But I still pull out my old frying pan once a year or so, and cook myself up a ridiculous (gooey, indulgent and delicious) breakfast in bed.
2 slices soft, eggy bread
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup black olives, sliced into thin rounds
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup milk
2 to 4 tablespoons butter
Place bread slices on working surface. Add the cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and black olives to a small bowl and mix together. Season with salt and pepper. Spread cheese mixture on one slice of bread, then top with the second slice to form a sandwich.
In a large, shallow bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Dip the sandwich into the egg mixture, turning once to completely saturate. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in heavy skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add sandwich to pan and cover. Cook, turning once, until golden on the outsides and cheese mixture is thoroughly melted, about 6 to 8 minutes, adding more butter as needed. Serve immediately with plenty of napkins.
Makes 1 ridiculous sandwich – enough for 2 servings.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Magician King by Lev Grossman.
A few weeks ago I shared with you a magical novel called The Magicians, a Harry Potter-meets-Narnia-meets-something wayyy more grown-up. So intrigued was I by the ending, I had to run out and pick up the sequel, The Magician King. As far as middle books in a trilogy go, this one is pretty good. It is a fair bit darker in some ways and a bit more playful in others. SPOILER ALERT: The story picks up with Quentin and his friends Julia, Janet, and Eliot assuming the four thrones of the land of Fillory. But on an adventure to discover a magical golden key, Quentin and Julia find themselves suddenly back on Earth with no way of returning. The novel goes between the main narrative and the backstory of Julia who, unlike Quentin and his friends, was not accepted into magic school and had to find other means of developing her magical education. That is where most of the darkness of this story comes from.
I enjoyed this follow-up. Quentin has, thankfully, grown up and doesn’t make these stupid childish decisions like he did in the last book. He’s more of a protagonist I can get behind. If you read the first novel and enjoy it, I definitely recommend you pick up this one as well.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Journey 2: Mysterious Island
This is definitely a movie for the family. Featuring the impeccable acting skills of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, this was a follow-up to the Jules Vernes-inspired blockbuster Journey to the Center of the Earth. Like Journey to the Center of the Earth, the sequel is inspired by one of Jules Verne’s fantastical 19th-century adventure novels, fluffed up with a contemporary interpersonal relationship issue (this time it’s a clever teen and his step-dad) and some humor elements (brought to us courtesy of Luis Guzmán).
The premise is somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean is a perpetually hidden island. The grandfather of the teen supposedly went in search of it. When the kid picks up a signal with mysterious coordinates, he is sure it’ from Grandpa. The Rock graciously agrees to go to Palau to help him find this island. I think he’s a former Navy Seal or something. And what an island it is! Gold flowing from a volcano, gigantic bees and tiny elephants! What a trip!
This movie is less terrible than I thought it would be. Whoever wrote the script has a decent sense of humor, if a lowbrow one. I found myself chuckling a couple times, in spite of myself. So if you are looking for something silly, exciting, and not too scary, this is a perfectly passable Friday evening movie.
Post by Alison Hein.
All you Downton Abbey fans are familiar with the habit of married ladies languishing in their boudoirs while gentlemen fetch their own breakfasts in the drawing room (wow, what a great idea!). The fact that one has the time and means (and someone to serve them) to partake of an indulgent breakfast in bed has come to symbolize the epitome of luxury.
Today, I thought I’d share with you some other Breakfasts in Bed of which you may not be aware. First up, Mary Cassatt’s endearing painting of a quiet morning shared between mother and daughter. Women and children were prominent figures in the work of Cassatt, an American Impressionist who studied in Pennsylvania before settling in Paris. This lovely painting was created in 1897 and currently hangs in the Huntington Library in California. Curators there have this to say about the painting: “With the child centrally located in an upright pose, Cassatt depicts a quiet but charged moment in which a mother embraces her daughter, whose attention is elsewhere. Contrasting the mother’s protective action and gaze with her offspring’s curiosity and the world beyond her reach, Cassatt evokes the subtle tensions implicit in the relationship of parent to child”.
You can read more about Cassatt’s Breakfast in Bed on the Huntington Library site.
Now then, have you heard Dusty Springfield’s sultry and bluesy Breakfast in Bed? It was released on her 1969 album Dusty in Memphis, and was later recorded and popularized by Baby Washington on Cotillion. The R&B song was written by Muscle Shoals songwriters Eddie Hinton and Donnie Fritts. They knowingly paid “homage” to the line “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” the title of a song which had previously been a number one hit for Dusty in the UK. Watch her performance on YouTube:
Many other performers reproduced Breakfast in Bed, including three reggae versions performed by Lorna Bennett, Scotty, and Bongo Herman.
Then there’s the German comedy movie Breakfast in Bed (Frühstück im Doppelbett) that came out in 1963. It’s about the wife of a newspaper editor who grows sick of his frequent absences. Don’t worry – they reconcile in the end. I’m not sure what to make of this but you can see a snippet of it here:
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a few words of etiquette wisdom penned by Emily Post in 1922 (see the full text here: http://www.bartleby.com/95/25.html ):
BREAKFAST DOWNSTAIRS OR UP: Breakfast customs are as varied in this country as the topography of the land! Communities of people who have lived or traveled much abroad, have nearly all adopted the Continental breakfast habit of a tray in their room, especially on Sunday mornings. In other communities it is the custom to go down to the dining-room for a heavy American (or English) meal.
PREPARING BREAKFAST TRAY: The advantage of having one’s guests choose breakfast upstairs is that unless there is a separate breakfast room, a long delayed breakfast prevents the dining-room from being put in order or the lunch table set. Trays, on the other hand, stand “all set” in the pantry and interfere much less with the dining-room work. The trays are either of the plain white pantry variety or regular breakfast ones with folding legs. On each is put a tray cloth. It may be plain linen hemstitched or scalloped, or it may be much embroidered and have mosaic or filet lace.
Every bedroom has a set of breakfast china to match it. But it is far better to send a complete set of blue china to a rose-colored room than a rose set that has pieces missing. Nothing looks worse than odd crockery. It is like unmatched paper and envelopes, or odd shoes, or a woman’s skirt and waist that do not meet in the back. There is nothing unusual in a tray set, every china and department store carries them, but only in “open” stock patterns can one buy extra dishes or replace broken ones; a fact it is well to remember. There is a tall coffee pot, hot milk pitcher, a cream pitcher and sugar bowl, a cup and saucer, two plates, an egg cup and a covered dish. A cereal is usually put in the covered dish, toast in a napkin on a plate, or eggs and bacon in place of cereal. This with fruit is the most elaborate “tray” breakfast ever provided. Most people who breakfast “in bed” take only coffee or tea, an egg, toast and possibly fruit.
Well, I’ll be sure to check that the Downton Abbey staff keeps their crockery in order. And you should be sure to luxuriate in your own form of breakfast in bed, whether culinary, musical, or lyrical, whenever possible.
The Bermuda Triangle by Aaron M. Rudolph.
My son has become an early embracer of conspiracy theories and other mysteries of the unknown. Channel surfing a few weeks back, we came across a documentary about the Bermuda Triangle. It is indeed an enticing sort of mystery: ships and planes and people seeming to vanish into thin air. Reports of crazy wormhole-like activity! So I headed to the 001 section of the children’s nonfiction at the local library. For those unfamiliar with the Dewey Decimal Classification, 001 is where you will find all the books about aliens, cryptids, and mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle. For the record, I grabbed a UFO Files book and a Loch Ness Monster book as well.
Filled with color pictures, simple text, and a nice mix of fact and speculation, this book is a big hit. I for one never realized how difficult it would be for my son to say “BERMUDA”. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue! But this book has opened him up to the concept of ghost ships, and Atlantic geography, and all the wonderful Mysteries of the Unknown. I must admit I’ve always been a sucker for this kind of stuff and I’m more than delighted that he takes such an interest in it too! Next up: government cover-ups of alien encounters? Sasquatches? The world of pseudoscience is all at our fingertips!