The Play’s The Thing

When our granddaughter Elsa visited us a couple of weeks back, it was at the time that the few tomato plants we were managing were doing their utmost to bury us in goodness. So Elsa made a French tomato and mustard tart, a food that I didn’t know existed but which turned out to be delicious and beautiful to look at as well. A dish designed to give the tomato top billing, with the other ingredients as supporting cast. What you can’t see underneath those lovely red circles is a great gob of Swiss cheese and a generous helping of Dijon mustard.

At this point those same backyard plants are still providing too many tomatoes to eat fresh and too few to can. Robin stepped up to the plate and a couple of nights ago we had another new dish that was both a delight to look at and to eat – a tomato pie.

In this case there is also beaucoup cheese, but this time it’s on top and it’s the tomatoes that are hidden. The seasonings are different as well. Look at that thing – a Bon Appetit magazine cover if there ever was one!

And what, you may be thinking, is yours truly doing while females are going to all this trouble, taking all these culinary risks?

My answer is this. What would a play be without an audience?

And I think that I am filling that role in the larger picture quite well, thank you very much. I come into the kitchen as these delights are baking with my nose twitching like a rabbit’s, exclaiming “From whence cometh these amazing aromas?”

I then grab a fork and a plate and sit myself down at the table, quivering* in anticipation.

The part I play may seem passive and more than a little lazy, but I repeat – why make these wonderful dishes if there are no appreciative layabouts hanging around to gobble them up for you?

*I hasten to add that under normal circumstances I rarely quiver. It primarily happens when I am under the influence of my salivary glands.


Nurse Ratched has passed away. We are finally safe from further abuse at her hands. It has all come too late to help Randle McMurphy, but then, it is extremely difficult to win them all.

Louise Fletcher played the sort of villain that made one want to climb through the screen and throttle her bare-handed. Thinking about her portrayal of a sadistic nurse who had the power not only to make or break your day but your life still gives me the creeps 47 years after I first saw the film.

Nurse Ratched (full name Mildred Ratched in the movie, also known as “Big Nurse“) is a fictional character  and the main antagonist of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, first featured in Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel as well as the 1975 film adaptation. A cold, heartless tyrant, Nurse Ratched has become the stereotype of the nurse as a battleaxe. She has also become a popular metaphor for the corrupting influence of institutional power and authority in bureaucracies such as the psychiatric treatment center in which the novel is set.

Nurse Ratched is the head administrative nurse at the Salem State Hospital, a mental institution where she exercises near-absolute power over the patients’ access to medications,  privileges, and basic necessities such as food and toiletries. She capriciously revokes these privileges whenever a patient displeases her. Her superiors turn a blind eye because she maintains order, keeping the patients from acting out, either through antipsychotic and anticonvulsant  drugs or her own brand of psychotherapy , which consists mostly of humiliating patients into doing her bidding.

Nurse Ratched, Wikipedia

The nurse from Hell itself. For Hell itself. So why does it still creep me out? Because I know that there are versions of Nurse Ratched still out there, doing their thing.



Where Was This When I Needed It Department

When Robin and I went to Wally World to get our latest Covid booster, the product at left was being sold on an endcap in the pharmacy right next to the vaccination line.

My first thought was: Do we really need to introduce our kids to drugs so early that we need gummies to do it?

My second thought was: Where were these things when I needed them?


Times when giving Junior a chewable Mickey Finn might be useful would be:

  • Whenever you want to sleep, but the child doesn’t
  • When the child is totally sugared up and it took hours to coax them down from the streetlamp
  • When it’s been raining all day and the kids are careening through the house all the while screaming at a decibel level incompatible with sanity
  • When you and your spouse want a little alone time, and don’t want the bedroom door flying open at awkward moments that might require hours of explanation
  • Any day that is “the day from Hell”
  • Any day whose name ends in “y”
You Can’t Always Get What You Want, by The Rolling Stones


There was a time in history when there were only a handful of books available to read. An affluent dandy could conceivably read all of them in a lifetime. That is definitely not the case today, where an impecunious and ill-dressed fellow like myself will not have time to read even a fraction of the books I’d like to. For one thing, I keep falling asleep in my chair, book in hand.

An author who has completely escaped being read by me is Joan Didion, who wrote an extraordinary book call The Year of Magical Thinking following the sudden death of her husband. I know that it is extraordinary because critics have told me that it is, and not because I have read it. It’s on that imaginary bedside table of mine, I think at position number 107 in the pile.

What I have read of hers are quotes which suggest that if I can tear myself away from reading crap for a while I would benefit from making the effort to spend time with some of her stuff.

The first quote is from The Year of Magical Thinking.

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

I admit to going more than a little crazy a couple of times when a personal loss seemed overwhelming. When I couldn’t see past it to another side … any side.

The second quote of Didion’s is one that I absolutely love. As a person who believes in thinking pretty carefully about the options when making choices, over time I’ve adopted a philosophy similar to that expressed here so tidily by Didion.

Whatever you do, you’ll regret both

Joan Didion

There you have it. Short and sweet. Words to live by.


For those of you who play the game Wordle at the New York Times website, this graphic will have meaning. This is how it went for me on Friday morning.

Excuse me, but I’m going out to buy 100 lottery tickets and will not be back any time soon.

I Feel Lucky, by Mary Chapin Carpenter


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