Auctioning Off Old Memories…

It’s the rare day when you find yourself up for sale on eBay. Not a Buy-it-Now, either. Selling off a bit of me, Auction-style.

Back in the day, between the job and the raisin’ up o’ the children, I would hunch myself over a typewriter of an evening, tapping out words. (That’s the sound typewriters made: clack-clack-clackity-clack, ding! Bzzzzzssssttt. Some of you will recognize the Carriage Return there.)

I don’t think I ever truly harbored thoughts of becoming a famous writer. One whose novel was turned into a blockbuster movie. Lounging on the veranda in sunglasses even on a dreary, overcast day. Maybe holding a Meerschaum pipe near my lips as though I was smoking the thing.

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There wasn’t enough time to finish a novel, so I cranked out short stories. Bad ones, mostly. It was like a compulsion though: get a little free time and plop down at the writing table. Finish one up and deposit it in the closet with the others, maybe expecting a publisher to break in the house one night to pilfer and publish one of them. Didn’t ever happen.

So, instead of continuing to wait for the Thieving Publisher, I sent one of them off, safely tucked into a manila envelope along with my great hopes.

The thrill when a reply arrived! The nervousness. My name beautifully hand-penned on the envelope, bearing a publisher’s return address, me fearful, but opening it anyway. He liked the story, he said. Thought it was a little Bradbury-esque (goosebumps for me by that point) and wondered if I would object to it being included in the next issue.

What??? Are you kidding me?

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He later mailed me a little check (even smaller by today’s standards…) and I waited anxiously for the arrival of the copy he promised me.

Publishing has changed greatly in the past decade, and the idea of desktop publishing was a new thing way back when my story was accepted. Not that it made any difference to me. My fiction was in the magazine along with stories by other folks, several of whom were pretty well known (in some circles).

I was published, thought I.

The capper to the thing was this: shortly after the magazine came out, my buddy and I attended a convention on the east coast. Some well-known authors were there (Stephen King was a no-show). And a lot of fans/readers. Heading out to dinner, we were joined by a fellow we met, who casually asked if we were published writers.

Hah! I was a little embarrassed – but a little bit proud, too – to reply that, amazingly, I had a story in the latest issue of a little magazine. He wanted to know what magazine, and I told him. He knew the publication. What story, he wanted to know, and I told him.

He had read it!

As good as it gets for me, at that moment in time.

We had an enjoyable evening, the three of us heading out for an exotic meal. (He had heard of Arby’s but there were none in his home-state. Oh, well… it would have to do for exotic.)

There aren’t many copies of that little magazine around any longer. At some point I had entered an eBay search to alert me in case one ever came up for auction.

Today was the day. I’m tempted to put in a bid just to own it.

But I already know how the story ends.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!

Just like Grandma used to make it…

Believe me. The art of cooking has changed, and not just the microwaves, blenders, and Ginsu knives. Today’s recipes are tested in laboratory-type test kitchens, ingredients change, and there is a focus on food safety that wasn’t so up-front in the old days.

Then, there are some prep stages that we skip, these days.

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From the Harper’s Cook Book Encyclopaedia (1902) and the section on Poultry:

Fowls to be tender should be killed two days before they are cooked. When plucked, singed, and drawn, rub clean outside, and wipe inside with a wet cloth.

I’m betting my grandmother would know the steps to pluck, singe, and draw a chicken. Don’t know if those skills were passed on. To be honest, I would have no clue as to whether a plucked chicken had been singed or drawn.

Porridge? Not just in nursery rhymes – but might as well be. The recipe has enough mystery that I wouldn’t want to tackle it, things like “a half a pint of whole groats.” Even the spell-checker got nervous at that word, displaying its wavy red line. Don’t know groats, but they are boiled for two or three hours with water added “if too thick.”

Our infatuation with bacon isn’t a new thing, but a hundred years ago there was a third cooking method besides frying or baking. After covering the slices with cold water, the bacon was brought to a boil, “removing all scum as it arises,” and simmering until thoroughly done. (An hour and a half for two pounds.)

I imagine some of these recipes were traditional family favorites handed down from the 1800’s or earlier, with basic spices found in most kitchens. The dishes themselves are almost exotic in themselves. Entries for Beef Tongue (4 versions, including “smoked, a la Marigold). Sheep’s Liver, Fried. Scotch Haggis. (I’ve seen this one at the Scottish Festival, but admit to not having tasted it. Seeing the recipe just now reaffirms my decision to pass on that vendor’s offerings.)

And here is “Beef Stew, Irish.” Not accomplished in quite the same fashion as our own recipe, but I’m sure the result was quite tasty when our cars were basically carriages without the horses with the addition of a loud, pockity-pock engine. (That’s a 1902 Oldsmobile in the picture, the same year the cookbook was published. That year, most folks would walk or travel on horseback, a fact of life that remained until well into the next decade.)

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Here’s some advice from back when that car was just introduced: “When the blue smoke arises from the fat, a small piece of stale bread should be dropped into the kettle. If the bread is browned in one minute, the fat is ready for frying breaded chops, croquettes, fritters…” Not sure those instructions are as sound today as back then. I was taught that when smoke “arises from the fat,” the next stage is flames, as in – grease fire!”

Stuck into the pages of this old cookbook is a newspaper clipping with three recipes. Turning over the old, yellowed paper revealed a column of classified ads, and after completing a little investigation, I’d wager this paper came from Spokane, Washington at about the same time the book was published. (By 1909, Ed McCaffrey was teaching plumbing, but was still listed in his advertisement as being on Riverside avenue, with the same telephone exchange.)

The last ad on the page? The BOOK NOOK HAS A BIG LIVE live line of popular fiction, etc. We buy, sell, exchange.

Some things don’t change.

Come in for books or lunch, or books about preparing lunch!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!

Faith ‘n Begorrah! Another in the Books!

A Happy St. Paddy’s Day to one and all! (and a bit of a sighing on our part that we have gotten through it…) Corned Beef, Shepherd’s Pie, the occasional beer – green or otherwise.

We’ve had the experience of a few years to build on, but there is that old saw about the “best laid plans.” Today there were more crocks of food in the kitchen than last year when we ran out early. Better prepared this go ’round – but then, this year more people arrived at our door at lunchtime and once again we sold out.

Better to sell out than throw out, is my way o’ thinking.

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A special thanks for the kind restaurant review by Mr Scott Cherry of the Tulsa World – published on Wednesday – which was responsible for a number of our St. Paddy’s Day patrons. (Thanks also to our regulars, including a few who only visit for the annual wearin’ o’ the green.)

I’ve described St. Patrick’s Day as an event similar to surfing a big Oahu wave, leaning in to the point of wiping out, but managing to ride it to completion. We were at that point today for a few moments, when it seemed like we might be thrown head-first from the board – but then wound up gliding in safely onto the sandy beach.

Afterward, we decided that it could not have been possible if Kathy Hoefling Williams had not been managing the cash register, refilling drinks, and clearing the vacated tables. She had already left us by the time we acknowledged the fact, so this will have to serve as a heartfelt Thank-You Kathy! until next time we see each other.

I have no false pride in thinking I could have run the floor by myself today… if Alicia Davis had not put on the shamrock shirt and the apron and came to our aid, our lunchtime party could have been a wipeout of highlight reel proportions. Hugs of appreciation to both ladies for the ready smiles amidst the hard work.

Since the plan was to prepare enough food to serve an estimated number of diners at lunchtime, and since we met the estimate (even if our guess turned out to be a bit of an under-estimate) – the day must be considered a success. That achievement is due to the hard work, long hours, and sleepless nights of Dustin Hoefling, whose St. Paddy’s Day fare was on a par with any green-beer-presenting establishment in the entire US.

Sometimes we forget that those plates of food start out as planning and purchasing, followed by a heap o’ cutting and cooking. Dustin was in the kitchen well into the evening several times this week, and dragged himself out of bed before 5 am Friday to make sure everything was in order.

All I had to do is trot from table to table and claim complete credit (just kidding there, Dustin…).

As I type this, the other Irish-themed spots are gearing up for the second wave, that hectic white-water ride that is St. Paddy’s Day partying on a Friday night. Someone asked if I planned to have an Irish evening, and I thought of Kilkenny’s, McNellie’s, and Arnie’s and their annual Tulsa traditions. Thought about my old roommate Kenny Wagoner from Paddy’s Irish days, who has revived the brand and reopened under that name at 101st and South Mingo, and who will be having a particularly long night of it.

Then, I thought about my own long day, my tired feet, and the bed. St. Paddy’s Day will be back again soon enough.

Tonight, the bed gets my vote.

Thanks to all who came by for our modest party, (particularly those of you who had to wait for an available table), and may the Luck o’ the Irish be with all of you until next year!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow, OK!