Since this is a week that my mind seems to wish to pay tribute to the characters in my life, I believe I will continue forward in the same vein. My last post was directed towards filling out the character of Miss P., our next door neighbor during my high school years and, at the time, my mother’s best friend.
To understand the doings in our house around that time of my life would require far more background filler than 1200 words or so will allow. Definitely, this would involve several hours of your time, at least one batch of brownies, and an excellent glass of wine or two just to hit the high points of my freshman year.
Mother is a social being. To this day, she lays an excellent table and her house is a popular gathering place. Cocktail hour begins at precisely five thirty, and dinner, if you’re lucky should arrive at the table fashionably in the vicinity of 8:00. This has changed little over the years.
Married to my second stepdad when we lived on Vecino Drive, my parents worked full-time to ensure our standard of living. Weekends were the obvious choice for dinner parties and social affairs, and were usually slotted for such. The large pool and beautifully landscaped patio area provided a perfect venue for entertaining, and my mother took full advantage of them. During the summer months delicious smells emanated from the Weber on most evenings, and the cement was rarely without a crisscross of wet footprints. To my constant dismay, Herb Alpert’s trumpet provided a good deal of the background music in those days. Lonely Bull still returns to haunt me sometimes late at night. Herb had for accompaniment, a chorus of tippley laughter and the clinking of ice against glass, both little known and often underrated musical genres.
When I think back, I picture ladies in short shorts feet tucked in wedgies (this is a shoe not a lingerie mishap for those of you under forty), with hair overly styled in flips, page boys or French twists and sprayed to resist hurricane force winds. Men were attired in bermuda shorts, patterned short-sleeved sleeved shirts, leather harachis and socks. An eclectic bunch.
Mother would be found in the kitchen with the ladies. My stepdad, Mr. D., in the bar with the gentlemen. An elementary school teacher by trade, Mr. D. was a man who had little use for children. This often left me pondering his choosing a profession putting him in direct contact with them every day of his working life. A well put together man, if devoid of a funny bone, once buoyed by his second drink he would find his stride and became an excellent host until his limit was reached and surpassed at which time he could be found face down on one bed or another in the house drooling on the bedspread.
A drama queen of the first order and a center stage sort of gal, Miss P. was a standard fixture at mother’s parties, one gentlemen or another providing arm decoration. A big band singer in her heyday, she could be easily “convinced” to belt out a tune or two as the evening got it’s groove on. Despite years of good scotch and Pall Malls, she could still sell a song convincingly, and I would have voted her through to the next round over old Herb in a heartbeat.
As I said in the last paragraph of my previous writing, Miss P. borrowed a friend’s husband on one of those weekend get togethers, and neglected to return him. Eventually, a divorce ensued on his part, and a marriage on Miss P.’s with his name written where the license read groom. The couple, after an extended honeymoon at the Grand Canyon, settled in to enjoy their new domestic status in Miss P.’s home, now theirs, on their return.
Rex, the groom, was a nice enough man with little to say about the decisions in his life, or so it appeared to me. Always wearing a look of confusion, as if he was trying to figure out how he ended up with four step-children, a mortgage, alimony payments, and an ex-socialite to maintain when several months before he was minding his own business managing the produce section at the local Market Basket.
Rex’s old Plymouth backed out of the driveway every morning before the rooster crowed, and back in at dinner time every night. Miss P. insisted on a Cadillac in her name at her disposal,and while Rex was out bringing home the bacon, or opening a carton of it, Miss P. was reaping the benefits at the local May Company or Robinson’s insuring their credit card companies maintained their standings on the stock exchange.
It wasn’t long before the bills began arriving. With the wedding pictures barely developed chinks began to appear in the veneer of their wedded bliss. Arguments could be heard over the fence while we ate our dinner on the patio of an evening, and Miss P. would arrive at our door, martini pitcher in hand, to commiserate with my mother about what an unpleasant son of a female dog her new husband was. Rex, it seemed, had been aptly named to fit the description.
One evening the friend that Miss P. had “borrowed” Rex from showed up at their front door wielding a large chain. It became quickly apparent she had taken umbrage with her friends not returning things they borrowed and wanted poor Rex to come home. Truthfully, I think if he wasn’t afraid Miss P. would poison his oatmeal if he tried to escape, he might have gone.
That weekend Mother was redecorating. In truth, she was always redecorating. Fortunately, she had a flair for it, so our house was always up-to-date and quite lovely. My stepbrother ran off and joined the Children of God that year. The cult members came in through his window one night and relieved us of the burden of getting rid of his possessions, so his room lay fallow for a while. On the weekend when the chain wielding Mrs. showed up next door my mother was putting the finishing touches on the new den/guest room where once my stepbrother had slept.
After the chain wielder was escorted off the premises a huge fight occurred. This time, Rex showed up at our house needing a place to sleep. The new hide-a-bed having been delivered that very day, the invitation for him to try it out was extended.
To preface, Rex was a chain smoker. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see him sleeping with a lit cigarette stuck to his lips. On this night, I believe that would have been an accurate picture. Somewhere in the wee hours I heard a door open followed by cursing and mumbling. Opening my door and peeking in the hall, I saw Rex, skinny legs peeking out of his oversized boxer shorts, dragging a smoldering mattress towards the back door. Seeing me, he gestured wildly for me to open the door, a lit cigarette bobbing up and down in his mouth.
Not wanting to see our house burn down to the ground, I did as I was told. Before I knew what was about, the burning mattress was hissing and sputtering as it sank slowly into the depths of our pristine azure pool like a huge sponge in a puddle of water, leaving burnt debris floating on top as it descended. Oh-oh.
To say my mother was not pleased when she joined the party, would be an understatement. Rex, in the end, had our pool cleaned, purchased a new hide-a-bed, and arranged for the old one to the dump. He was not invited to sleep over again in my memory.
These MINI-MEatloaves were sooooo good. Even my meat-loaf reluctant other half gobbled them up.
Mexican Style Meatloaf Muffins
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups prepared mashed potatoes
Salsa (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat olive oil over med-low heat in medium skillet. Add onions and green peppers and saute until onions are translucent about 7 mins. Add garlic, cook an additional 1 min. Set aside.
In large bowl add the cooled cooked vegetables, meat and Serrano chile. Mix together with fingertips.
In medium bowl combine salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, cumin, and eggs. Add ketchup and sour cream. Mix well with fork. Pour on top of meat mixture. Top with bread crumb and mix well with fingertips.
Spray bottoms of large holed muffin tin (6 holes). Use a spoon to divide mixture evenly between the two holes. Use a fork to even out tops.
Place in preheated over for 35-40 mins. or until internal temp. reaches 160 degrees. Drain juices.
Place heated mashed potatoes in pastry bag or cut a small diagonal hole in one corner of resealable plastic bag. Squeeze to corner with hole in it. Twist top of bag to force potatoes out. “Frost” the tops of the meatloaf muffins. Swirl salsa on plate and place muffins on top. Serve with extra salsa. Serves 6
2 14 1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1 large red onion, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1-2 jalapeno peppers seeded if you like it hot!
Put all ingredients into blender and mix or pulse until blended, but not liquified. Refrigerate for at least 4 hrs. and preferably overnight.