Some light bulbs should remain unlit.
Ideas come and go. Some, like the retractable ball point ink pen or the internal combustion engine, are brilliant and life-changing. Others, such as sour cream & onion-flavored Jell-O or hydrogen-filled blimps, are better left alone.
Organ stores in the malls
Seems like a good idea. Hire an organist and pay him a commission on sales. But it never quite happened that way.
As you’re strolling past Orange Julius, you’re serenaded by the sounds of ‘Alley Cat’ and ‘Green Onions.’ Suddenly you start thinking that you too can become the next Count Basie.
You make your way beyond the GNC toward the carpeted dimly lit corner space from which the tuxedo-clad player is drawing a crowd of mostly Lawrence Welk fans. He’s using all of the organ’s automatic bells and whistles and is showing his musical prowess through pure vibrato-infused notes and harmonic percussion.
The impromptu concert brings about visions of you surprising everyone at the office party with your own rendition of ‘Light My Fire.’ So you ease toward a powered-up organ in the rear of the store, take a seat and stretch your arms à la Van Cliburn.
Then it dawns on you.
You couldn’t find the middle C if your life depended on it, and even a $10,000 Hammond organ won’t make your playing sound like Ray Manzarek’s. Like so many others before you, you sneak from the musical confines to avoid eye contact with the maestro. His look of melancholy for losing another sale is more than you care to bear.
For about $5,000 a month in retail rental fees, organ retailers once generated hundreds of experiences — just like mine. For their investment, they basically received some foot traffic from people who were en route to Spencer’s to check out the fake doggie poo.
Cheetos lip balm, Reddi-Bacon and the Scotch Bonnet incident
At first thought, Cheetos-flavored lip balm sounds almost as ingenious as General Tso’s chewing gum or chicken & dumplings on a stick. But, just like the real thing, the dry lip remedy also left behind its bright orange mark and funky smell.
As for Reddi-Bacon — made by the same folks who bring us Reddi-Whip — the idea of placing paper-wrapped pre-cooked bacon in the toaster looked good on paper. But, can you say fire hazard?
I created a similar hazard myself in the mid-1990s in our Manahawkin, NJ home when I had managed to get my hands on some Scotch Bonnet peppers. At that time, they were considered among the hottest chiles in the world and I was going to prepare and preserve their searing heat in the form of a bottled sauce.
After cleaning and seeding, I tossed them in a large skillet for a little pan roasting. This was going to be the hottest and most flavorful hot sauce on the planet.
‘Are y’all feeling … kind of funky? Like you can’t breathe?’ I asked my wife and mother in-law between coughs.
They initially responded in the negative. Within seconds, however, the stinging air had made its way from the kitchen to the den.
‘I feel it,’ Catherine said as she began to cough. ‘Oh my gosh, Adam! What have you done?’
By then, my throat-clearing hacks had graduated to guttural whoops. I noticed through watery eyes that my 70-something mother in-law was beginning to gasp for air as she held her chest.
‘Quick,’ Catherine weakly shouted, ‘outside!’
The scene was one from SWAT training or a hostage standoff. The three of us stood on the backyard deck moaning and barking, as if the house had been shelled with tear gas bombs.
I’d previously felt the tickle in the air when cooking with much milder peppers such as Poblanos and Jalapenos. But Scotch Bonnets are more than 100 times hotter. I’d created homemade pepper spray.
What was I thinking?
If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. — Special thanks to Megan E. ‘Interpretive Dancer’ Hawkins at The Underground Writer for editing this piece.
I first became familiar with Chicken Vesuvio during an episode of Lidia’s Italy on PBS. (Yes, I watch public television on occasion. So, shoot me.) It’s an Italian-style dish that has its roots in Chicago. Like most Italian dishes though, no two versions are exactly alike. Some cooks prefer crispy potatoes, while others prefer to add butter to the pan liquid. My rendition (like Lidia’s) includes sweet Italian sausage. And though I like to brown the potatoes to a crisp before roasting, they come out only partially crispy (on one side). Also, I like Basil and artichoke hearts and they work very well with this dish.
1 – Whole chicken, cut up (8-9 pieces)
1 lb – Sweet Italian sausage
4 – Garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs – Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups – Artichoke hearts
2 cups – Chicken stock
1 cup – Frozen green peas
1 cup – sweet peppers, sliced
1 cup – Dry White Wine
1 – Medium onion, quartered
1 TB – Dried Oregano
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground fresh Black Pepper
Preheat oven to 400F
In a large roasting pan, pour enough olive oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. Heat to medium-high. Season chicken pieces liberally with Kosher salt and pepper; add to heated roasting pan and brown on all sides (be careful not to overcrowd the pan). Set browned chicken pieces aside. Add potatoes and sausage to pan (using more oil to coat the pan, if necessary) and brown on all sides. Set browned potatoes and sausage aside with chicken.
Remove olive oil from roasting pan, leaving only about 1 TB. Add garlic and cook until it begins to become fragrant, about 1 minute. Add onions, Basil and Oregano. Stir and cook for another minute, or so. Add white wine and cook until wine has reduced by half. Pour in chicken stock and return liquid to a boil. — Add potatoes, sausage and chicken back to roasting pan. Then add peppers and artichoke hearts. Sprinkle with a large pinch of Kosher salt.
Place in oven and roast, uncovered for about 20 minutes. Add the peas. Roast for another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally — chicken should be quite tender at this point.
Garnish with chopped fresh Parsley, if desired. Serves 6.