That’s Amore #Monday Musical Memories

When I was little, I didn’t like pizza or any other finger food. But by the time I was ten, my taste had changed. Mother often heated frozen pizzas for my younger brother and me. I liked the large pies she cut into triangular slices. Until I was an adult, I didn’t eat the crust unless it was soft, which it often wasn’t.

Those frozen pizzas weren’t nearly as good as those we ate at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor. In 1974, after my family moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Sheridan, Wyoming, a restaurant in that chain opened here. This establishment had a stage with a piano and a microphone. But unlike in the one in Tucson, nobody played it or sang until one night when my family ate there.

By that time, I was twelve, and I’d started playing the piano and singing at home. I don’t know whose idea it was, but I found myself at that piano. After Dad walked me up there and made sure the microphone was working, I began. At first, I was nervous, but after a bit, it was as if I was in our living room with only my family listening. Apparently, others in the restaurant were also listening because I received plenty of applause. I played several songs before returning to our table.

When the manager came over, I thought he was going to kick us out. But instead, he presented me with a pitcher of Coke. Thus, my singing career began, such as it was.

My late husband Bill also liked pizza. But unlike me, he was finicky about what went on it. He only wanted meat, cheese, and maybe a few mushrooms. I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed pies with everything on them except for anchovies and jalapeno peppers.

When Bill and I often ordered pizzas delivered from Domino’s, we got a medium-sized half and half pie with one half meat, cheese, and mushrooms, and the other half with everything. Because of my limited vision, I sometimes got the two halves confused. Bill would take a bite of a slice I gave him and say, “Ooh, this is your half.” You can read more about how I became Bill’s caregiver after he suffered two strokes in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

Now that Bill is gone, I rarely order pizza from Domino’s. Another establishment here in town called Powder River Pizza delivers personal pies, so I occasionally order one of them.

I also like frozen individual pizzas from Schwan. I realized that the pizzas Mother prepared were cooked in the oven too long. So, I heat one Schwan single-serve supreme pizza for only two minutes in the microwave. Some might find the crust too soggy, heated this way, but for me, it’s just right.

The song I’ll sing for you today compares love to pizza and other things. I didn’t know it when I entertained at Shakey’s, but it’s one I’d sing if I ever had another chance to perform in a pizza joint.

That’s Amore

 

How about you? What do you remember about pizza growing up? What do you like on your pie now? October is National Pizza Month, so I hope you’ll have an opportunity to enjoy some this month.

 

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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Thursday Book Feature: Fishing for Maui

Image contains: me, smiling.Fishing for Maui

by Isa Pearl Ritchie

Copyright 2018.

 

This novel about food, family, and mental illness is set in a Maui village off the coast of New Zealand. Main characters include Valerie, a doctor and mother of four children; Elena, her oldest daughter who is pregnant and writes a food blog; Michael, her oldest son, a university student obsessed with surfing and his heritage; her younger son John, sixteen, and her daughter Rosa, eight. Over the course of a year, Elena discovers her partner is having an affair; Michael is diagnosed with psychosis; John leaves school, and Rosa is struggling to make sense of everything. The book includes recipes.

I like the way the author takes us into the minds of each character by alternating the storytelling from each character’s point of view. I found the snippets of information about Maui culture interesting. A review I recently read said this book should be read in November, but I think it could be read any time of year. Since it takes place in a coastal village, it could even be a summer beach read.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Let’s Talk about Food


Thanks to Aman Khan for this tag. I couldn’t have seen this at a better time, since I was running out of ideas for my regular Tuesday posts. Here are my answers to twenty-five questions about food.

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Q1. What’s your favorite breakfast?

A. I don’t have a favorite breakfast. From day to day, I alternate between oatmeal, bagels and cream cheese, breakfast sandwiches, and pancakes with either sausage or a ham and cheese omelet. Most of the food I eat comes from Schwan.

Q2. How do you drink your coffee?

A. I don’t. I’ve never liked the taste. It’s funny, though, because I like coffee-flavored ice cream once in a while.

Q3. What’s in your favorite sandwich?

A. I like a sandwich with lettuce, onions, mayonnaise, cheese, and either lunchmeat or tuna or chicken salad. Once in a while, I’ll eat a hamburger.

Q4. Soup or salad?

A. I like them both. In a restaurant, I often order soup with a sandwich unless they have macaroni, potato, or pasta salad. When I order an entree, I usually ask for a salad. Most restaurants serve huge portions, and soup, I think, is too much, in that case.

Q5. No more sweets or no more savories?

A. I like both sweet and savory foods, although they may not be as healthful.

Q6. What’s your favorite cuisine?

A. Again, I don’t have a favorite. I like American, Mexican, Italian, and even Chinese.

Q7. What’s your favorite food movie?

A. I don’t have a favorite movie with food in it.

Q8. What’s your most guilty pleasure?

A. Chocolate.

Q9. The tastiest food I’ve ever eaten was?

A. I’ve eaten a lot of good food in my life, but I don’t remember the tastiest.

Q10. What’s your favorite cookbook?

A. I don’t have one because I don’t cook much anymore. Even when my late husband was alive, the recipes I used came either from him or from friends. You can read more about that in My Ideal Partner.

Q11. What’s your greatest inspiration source?

A. Now that my late husband is gone, I’m not inspired to cook as often. Most of my meals come ready-made from Schwan.

Q12. Cooking at home or going out?

A. I eat most of my meals at home, but once in a while, I’ll go out to eat with friends.

Q13. High end or low profile?

A. I like major restaurant chains and local establishments.

Q14. What’s your favorite restaurant?

A. I don’t have a favorite, but there are some I don’t like. I’m not very particular, though.

Q15. I do my grocery shopping at?

A. I rarely go to the store myself. With my limited vision, this can be tricky, even with someone to help me find what I need. Instead, groceries are delivered to my home once a week from Albertson’s and once every other week from Schwan.

Q16. Coffee with Leonardo Dicaprio or Gordon Ramsey?

A. I don’t know any of these people, and I don’t drink coffee, but I wouldn’t mind having a Dr. Pepper with Alan Alda.

Q17. What should not be missing in your kitchen?

A. The refrigerator, the microwave, and the stove.

Q18. What is your favorite snack?

A. I don’t usually snack between meals, but occasionally, I’ll eat a slice or two of just plain cheese.

Q19. What’s on your pizza?

A. Everything except jalapenos, anchovies, and guacamole.

Q20. What foods do you really dislike?

A. Peanut butter and liver and onions.

Q21. What’s the one food you refuse to share?

A. Although I won’t eat anything if someone else’s mouth has been on it, I don’t refuse to share any food.

Q22. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

A. Kale.

Q23. What’s on your food bucket list?

A. I don’t have a food bucket list.

Q24. I couldn’t live without eating?

A. Anything.

Q25. If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would you eat?

A. Chocolate ice cream.

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Now it’s your turn. On your own blog or in the comments field below, answer any or all the above questions. Also, if you have additional questions about my eating habits, please feel free to leave them

below, and I’ll answer them. I look forward to hearing from you about food.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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February 2016 Reviews

News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories by Jennifer Haigh. Copyright 2013.

 

From the author of Baker Towers, a book I read a few years ago, comes a collection of short stories, most of which take place in the coal mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, the same location as Baker Towers. In one story, a girl from Bakerton works for a Jewish family in New York before World War II. In another, an English teacher in Bakerton reminisces about one of her students during World War II.

I liked Baker Towers, and I enjoyed these stories. Many of them have some of the same characters including those from Baker Towers. Most are about families dealing with tragedies and/or secrets. For the most part, they are in chronological order from before World War II to the present day. In the last story, Joyce, from Baker Towers, mourns her husband’s passing and reminisces about her life with him and their children. Being a widow, I was touched by this one the most. To learn more about Jennifer Haigh and her books, click here.

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My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family with Recipes by Dawn Lerman. Copyright 2015.

 

When I heard about this book a couple of months ago on National Public Radio, the title intrigued me. My own dad was fat, but unlike this author’s father, my dad didn’t obsess about dieting but eventually managed to get his weight under control.

Dawn Lerman is a certified nutritionist and contributor to the New York Times Well blog and the founder of Magnificent Mommies, specializing in personal, corporate, and school-based education. Her father was a well-known ad executive responsible for such slogans as “Leggo My Eggo” and “Coke is It.”

In My Fat Dad, she tells the story of how her father’s obesity and obsession with weight loss affected her life. She grew up in a Jewish family who lived in Chicago for about the first eight years of her life before moving to New York in 1972. Because her mother, a so-called aspiring actress, was too lazy to prepare meals, and her father was always on one diet or another, the family rarely ate a home-cooked meal together. At one time, her father lost a lot of weight after attending a Duke University fat camp in Durham, South Carolina, but eventually gained it back. Her mother berated her for this and that and said she was too sensitive when she expressed her feelings. She describes how her grandmother fueled her passion for good food and in later years supported her interest in cooking healthful meals.

Several years after the family moved to New York, Dawn’s younger sister April was cast in a traveling production of Annie and later the movie as well as other shows. Their mother traveled with her and was away from home a great deal during Dawn’s adolescent years. Dawn encouraged her sister to act because of her own inadequacies as a singer or dancer. She talks about how she prepared meals for her father when her mother and sister were away and describes the loneliness she felt when not in school or with friends since her father also traveled a lot as part of his advertising career. She also touches on her coming of age and involvement in New York City’s night club scene as well as her parents’ divorce and feeling stuck in the middle because both her father and mother demanded her loyalty.

In the epilog, she describes her father’s lung cancer diagnosis after she had her first child. She explains how she researched a correlation between food and healing and how her entire family, including her grandmother and uncles, came together to rally successfully for his survival. Twelve years later, the book ends with a phone conversation between Dawn and her father in which he announces he’s starting yet another diet. The book includes recipes for all the food mentioned, and there’s a lot of food here so you don’t want to read this on an empty stomach.

I would like to have learned more. What were Dawn’s college years like? Since her parents were divorced, did she spend her vacations with her mother or father? To order the book from Amazon, click here. You can read an interview of Dawn about the book on the Huffington Post site.

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Hotel Vendome by Danielle Steel. Copyright 2011.

 

The Hotel Vendome is a posh establishment in New York City. The fictional story surrounding it spans over twenty years. When Hugh Martin first bought the place, he was married with a two-year-old daughter, Elouise. When Elouise was four, her mother ran off with a rock star, filed for divorce, and didn’t return until over twenty years later when Elouise was married.

As we read this book, we watch Elouise grow up in the hotel, surrounded by mostly female employees who develop a bond with her but don’t quite take her mother’s place. She spends many happy hours sneaking into the ballroom during weddings and helping the maids. In high school, she takes a serious interest in managing the facility. After graduation, she decides to go to the same school in Switzerland where her father earned his credentials, much to his chagrin, but he gives his blessing.

After she leaves, Hugh, who has sworn never to become seriously involved with women again, develops a relationship with Natalie, a professional decorator he hires to do the hotel’s suites. As they become closer, Hugh hesitates to tell Elouise about Natalie until a year later when she returns home for her internship at the hotel. She is stunned by the news, thinking it would just be her and her father for the rest of their lives. For six months, she’s barely civil to her father and Natalie but comes around just in time for their wedding. Several months later, Natalie is pregnant with triplets, and again, Elouise is in shock but comes around more quickly. Despite other complications, the book has a happy ending.

This book reminds me of how glamorous it would be to live in a place like the Hotel Vendome and not worry about cooking, cleaning, or even making your own bed. Of course it would be too expensive so I wouldn’t pursue this lifestyle. However, for the time it took to read the book, I was transported to a wonderful place where I could relax in a luxurious suite, enjoy a box of decadent hotel chocolates, and order meals from room service. To sign up for a free monthly email newsletter and learn more about Danielle Steel, click here.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon