Frank Facts and Reviews

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Volume XVIII, No. 36

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Mince Meat Pie!

     I was the ninth of nine children born to Rose and Sam Imbragulio. I never had the pleasure of meeting two of my siblings; as one was born a “Blue Baby”, and the other had pneumonia when he was born. Neither lasted even a week. But the rest of us were survivors (only Sammy did not live into his seventies). By the time I came along, the Imbragulio Thanksgiving feast had been pretty well Americanized (well, almost with a few minor adjustments). Our turkey (always bought live in those pre-frozen food days) had all manner of things tried on it (mostly at Rosie’s suggestions) from putting a rusty nail in the water in which it was boiled, to even sillier suggestions).  Our large family demanded such a huge bird, that Mama tended to boil it too long, causing the meat to have very little taste, and giving an almost rubbery feeling when gnawing on it.

Our dressing was neither cornbread nor any other kind of bread, except for a few de-crusted slices of what the other townspeople called “Light Bread”. Daddy always sent ground beef and pork (in the proper portions, back to the house for the stuffing, which was shoved into his body. The seasoning included exactly the same ingredients as Mama’s meatballs: eggs, finely chopped garlic, grated Parmesan cheese, a few slices of crusted bread that was soaked in water, parsley, basil. It was heavy. Everything about that meal was heavy! But we all loved it and enjoyed it so much that it became adopted as our Christmas dinner the following month.

Instead of spaghetti, with the meatball dressing, there was always Pastina      (miniscule pasta) cooked in the broth, and usually with uninteresting Lettuce Salad (it was sometimes dressed up with celery and a few cut-up tomatoes) and of course the only lettuce you could buy this side of New Orleans, was the old-fashioned and tasteless Ice-Berg lettuce.

That left the door wide open for dessert. And, as I said, by my time, it was always Mince Meat Pie! I’m almost certain that Mama was not the instigator of this now hard-to-find dessert. My guess is that Anna found out about it during her Jr. College days, in what was known as the “Practice Home” (a glorified sort of period when the girls spent a week in a Home Economics environment, and wrote in neat and dainty script, all the recipes they learned to prepare.) These ranged from Welch Rarebit (better known as Rabbit) through Butterfly Salads, to banana and pineapple pudding and several other luscious desserts. For decades after her time at this Practice Home, Anna’s old spiral bound notebook, with her cramped (but highly legible script) could be found in the drawer of the little white kitchen table. And we all used it sooner or later!

At the time when we began the Mince Meat Pie fad, Daddy sold little pasteboard boxes of Mince Meat in the market. It was a very small box, and I believe it cost a quarter (which was rather a stiff price for such a small package in the 1930s.) I distinctly remember reading the directions, which told you to cut the contents of the package into small bits, adding some sort of liquid when placing it in a small pot, and then cooking it for fifteen minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. I now have visions of watching Anna, adding all kinds of other ingredients (including a little red wine) more sugar, and so on. She then stood defiantly over the stove unit, usually stirring it with an old fashioned spatula (until I finally gave her a rotating mixer—not electric) with her jaw muscles looking as if they were going to snap in two, so hard was she coming down on them.

She then poured the hot mixture into a waiting pie shell, and after it was spread out, she weaved strips of pie dough giving the pie the looks of a sort of plaid material.

Occasionally, there would be requests for other types of pies, but there were secondary ones: only the Mince Meat was traditional. Quite often, particularly at Christmas, Daddy ordered a large number of Cannoli from Brocato’s Italian Delicaes shop in New Orleans. These were extremely difficult to make (as one after the other of our sisters learned the hard way) and back in the 30’s, they cost a dime each. How well I remember when the price soared to a quarter each! Daddy began talking about refusing to order any more. Last Sunday, I checked the price of a canola, at Brunos, where they turn out decent (but much smaller) canoli for $2.50 each. Like my Daddy, I passed them up. Mince meat is good enough for me.

Other Holiday cooking that was done at our house, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, were fruit cakes (Mama’s and Anna’s were hard to beat) using every sort of candied fruit that we sold in the Market: Pineapple and Cherries (red and green-both colors) citron, figs, orange and lemon peel, pecans.

Mama made several other Italian delicacies: my personal favorite were what she called Vomva-Reeki (or some such word). It was sort of like a Fig Newton, but with ground nuts added. Some of our relative’s version of this dessert, had a white glaze added to the exterior. But I always  preferred Mama’s plainer treat.


Draft Dodgers Anonymous

When we were finally got to our rightful training unit (Headquarters, First Infantry Division) it was late in the afternoon.

We were told to select a bed (army cots can be more wonderful than the most expensive mattress in the world!) and

to take a shower. And then we had our first meal there. This was all before we had the second most horrible

 experience of our young lives. We were told to stand at attention, in formation, where we saw this horrible

old Caprain who introduced himself as our as commanding officer, and the first thing he said, after that, was

“I need fifteen volunteers for K.P.”

I looked furtively as far as I could see without turning my head. There were, of course none, “OK, now,

everybody get into a good, comfortable lean rest position.” (Now there is an oxymoron, if ever I heard one!)

I had no idea what he was telling us to do, but decided to do as the others were doing: even Marcus! We basically

 reclined on the black top, face downward, balancing our body weight on the toes of our shoes. “The first fifteen men

who fall flat are on K. P. for the rest of today!”

I was hell bent on not being one  of this elite fifteen! As the entire platoon began to feel the strain on our poor,

unused bodies, the captain decided to ask questions about our education. Now, my ears perked up! Maybe he was

not as harsh as he had at first appeared!

“How many of you have some college education?” Along with most of the fellows, my hand went up. This,

of course, put more of a strain on the other arm that was not raised.

“How many of you have a college degree?” The number was not as large as the first question. But with,

“Have any of you had any graduate study?” I was one of about five who lifted my arm proudle.

. “Any graduate degrees?”  I was the only one.

     Meanwhile, he was walking among our bodies, which were spread out, but more and more of them had fallen already.

     “OK, you guys report to the kitchen for KP duty. And you will have to clean the grease trap, too. Now, the next

time I ask for volunteers, if I don’t get as many as I need, in the first five minutes, I’ll make your ass look just like a sody

cracker!” I shuddered involuntarily!

     I later found out that nobody had any idea what he had meant, but none of us had the slightest idea of finding out!

     Later, after he gave us an “At ease”, a far less pleasant looking HUGE fellow strode out and told us he was the

Quartermaster, and would be issuing, to each of us, our foot lockers, and our GI issued clothing. I thought, silently,

“Well. It’s about time!” I was getting tired of wearing only the clothes I had come here with, and they were far from


        However, when he shoved that locker on my back, giving me an extra push downward, I felt as if my poor

Old back would surely break! But, by one of God’s minor miracle, I managed to make it into our “Home” and up

the stairs to the second floor, where Marcus and I had selected our bunks. He had said something about the fact that

everything must be S. O. P’ed. and always ready to pass inspection by our Cadre, but I was too intent on merely

getting my “gifts” up those last few steps. Then, I would worry.

        As I sat on the bunk to rest my weary body, I heard fellows all around me fussing. “How in the HELL do they

want us to get all this crap into that one lil’ ole locker!” I did not even have time to get worried. Suddenly, out of nowhere,

as it were, Lavon Hudson was standing before me, and saying some such heaven-sent words as, “I just thought I’d

come by to see if you might be needing any help about now,”

        I didn’t even have time to get panicky in the least! And he sat there, as I adoringly looked on as he took each pair

Jockey shorts, clean white Tee shirts, khaki pants and shirts. When I said that I did not see how we were expected to get

alll that junk into that one small wooden box, Lavon reminded me that we still had an upright closet to hand clothes in. Oh,

what a relief that was!

        I did get him to teach me how to get some of the items folded properly before he returned to his own room in the

Band School (where I assumed I would also end up).

        After he left, I undressed and went to bed, I was utterly exhausted! I wondered vaguely, if I would be able to survive

this next eight weeks! And I offered a prayer of thanks to God, for letting us escape from that sixteen week Tent Company!

I thought, without giving too much thought to it, how I would ever be able to sleep with all of the racket of all of those

Recruits’ fussing as they had to get their’s done with no guardian angel to help them; but I had no problem whatso-

(To be Continued)



Ed went into the Navy. Shortly after concluding his Music Theory Degree, with the University of South Alabama, and the next news I had from him was that he was playing his flute with the Navy Band! I have not mentioned that he took lessons from Dr. Jones (Music Dept. head the four years I was there) and naturally, Ed played circles around Jones. After his Navy experience ended, Ed spent some time in New York. I hope I am getting the sequence correct, because he went to so many different places, and usually did something altogether new, different, and (to me, anyhow) startlingly professional, that my poor old brain just recoils at attempting to get everything he did in his all-too-brief lifetime.

In checking with Dale Hudson, I learned something I had not known: he taught mathematics in Pensacola (his hated home town) between his first degree and his going to New York!

In New York, he did some music manuscript copying for any number of professional musicians; and I assure you, each page that I saw was so beautifully done, that I could hardly believe that a mere human being had done it! Somewhere in his travels, he picked up degrees in Library Science; moved to Utah, where he did mental battle with the Mormans.


Kitty Mew-sings

Thanks to those of you who liked “What Makes My Cat Purr” enough to tell me they enjoyed it. I seldom find one with which I am so closely attuned!


Movie Trivia Quiz #60

1.      Who was Shane, in the movie?

2.      What child actor from Member of the Wedding, said the line, “Come back, Shane!”

3.      Name the actress who was a frequent co-star to James Stewart, who played the boy’s mother in Shane.

4.      Who was the leading female in The Member of the Wedding?

5.      Gary Cooper won an Oscar for what 1952 Western?

6.      Who was his blonde wife in the film?

7.      For which film did she win an Oscar?

8.      Dial M for Murder was directed by what famous director? It starred the Oscar Winner from question 7.

9.      Who was her Oscar winning husband (who tries to murder her)?

10.  There is a third major star in this Broadway play to a movie. What was his name? (Hint: he was also in King’s Row with Ann Sheridan.)


Answers to “Color” Trivia Quiz

1.      Roddy McDowell was the lad in How Green was my Valley.

2.      Mia Farrow was The Purple Rose of Cairo.

3.      William Holden’s first big hit was Golden Boy.

4.      Robert Alda (Alan’s father) played George Gershwin in Rhapsody in Blue.

      5, Bette David was Miss Moffat in The Corn is Green.

        6. Vivian Leigh played Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. And if you missed this, go and sit in the corner!

       7. The Lone Ranger’s horse was called “Silver”.

        8. Mollie Rindwald was Pretty in Pink.

       9. Hurd Hatfield was in The Picture of Dorian Gray?

       10. Anne Jeffreys was The Lady in Red in Dillinger.


Sunday, November 25, 2012