The Fifteenth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend
The Fifteenth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend: HMM WEEKLY PREMIUM for April 23, 2019
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LAST WEEK ON HMM DAILY
UPDATED: Game of F•R•I•E•N•D•S
TASTE IS SUBJECTIVE
Out of the blur of Easter morning—the sleepiness, the lenses still not in, the complete disconnection between any words from my mouth and the actions of the egg-hunting children—there was the mental if not visual clarity of the red egg. It had been released hastily on the smooth tabletop, not put in the carton nor even laid down gently or perpendicular to the table edge, but just left to gather energy, rolling and accelerating, as the child who'd put it down sped away for other eggs. I stuck out a hand and caught it in midair, a minor miracle in an indifferent world.
Before and after the eggs there was the candy. The jelly beans were Jelly Bellies, decanted into plastic eggshells for the children with the leftovers in their bags for the adults, until the children got into those too. The younger child sorted through his, making a pile of the dark ones and the whitish ones, the flavors he didn't trust, to give to the adults.
Jelly Bellies are complicated. I buy them over other jelly beans, given the opportunity, even though I'm not sure I like them more. Nor am I sure how I developed this preference. I first became aware of them because they were Ronald Reagan's jelly bean brand of choice, kept in a jar on his White House desk and offered to guests in lieu of his having an actual identifiable personality.
What was supposed to distinguish the Jelly Belly beans was that they were flavored all the way through, but I didn't see the attraction. I did not want to eat the Reagan Beans, and I was perfectly happy to eat regular cheapo jelly beans all through childhood, letting the various mild flavors of the outside melt down to the uniformly sweet and bland core. It was a moot point, though, really, because I did not even know where to find the fancier beans.
Somewhere along the way, after I'd grown up, I finally did see them, and I tried them, and they were—well, they were a wholly different thing from jelly beans. The flavoring wasn't just more thorough, the flavors were hyper-assertive performances: pear ones that tasted like pears, popcorn ones that tasted like popcorn, watermelon ones that not only tasted like watermelon but if you bit them in half revealed a dark green rind and a pink interior. There was some sort of fundamental contradiction between their individual character and their tininess and abundance. Eating them wasn't like Pac Manning through a pile of normal jelly beans; it was like going through a box of assorted chocolates.
But I kept buying them. My pet theory of snacks and treats is that the truly successful ones depend on being dissatisfying. A Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (or Reese's Peanut Butter Egg) starts off with cloyingly sweet chocolate, and ends up with a sting of too-salty peanut butter, so that you unwrap another one to try to get back to that balance point. A single Jelly Belly is so intense but so small that you want more of the same, but settle for picking through the assortment to try to just find something non-incompatible.
It seems impossible that these could have been Ronald Reagan's favorites. They take too much mental effort. Eating them is like taking a cognitive assessment: this one is coconut; this one is pina colada. Here's the taste of sweetened buttered popcorn; here's the taste of caramel corn. What could these specific associations have meant to the Gipper's empty, drifting mind?
Late in the evening, I found myself with a pile of essentially indistinguishable brown ones. The first one was flavored like Dr. Pepper. The next one was "chocolate pudding," and it did taste specifically like that, like a grocery-store pudding cup, not just like chocolate. Then came cappuccino, then root beer (officially "A&W Root Beer"). I was not trying to select different flavors; they just kept coming that way. Then I got a run of pudding ones, then another cappuccino. I'd finally noticed a little translucence in one of them, which turned out to be the root beer. Not the flavor I would have wanted to end on. Luckily there was a spare bag.
Nineteen Folktales: A Series
Illustration by Jim Cooke
14. The Worship of the Worms
The worms were debating what god they most fitly ought to worship. "We must worship the Earth, our home and mother, in whom we dwell and on which we feed," said many of the worms.
"No," said others, "it is the Rain that suffuses the Earth and drives us upward; surely the Rain is supreme."
"Neither Earth nor Rain affords the terrors of the Birds," said still others. "We most honor and propitiate the deadly tearing claws and beaks that fall on us from above. The Birds command our fear and worship."
Unable to resolve their dispute, the worms surfaced and put their question to a passing man. Should they devote themselves to the nourishing earth, the pervading rain, or the awful power of the birds?
The man listened to each faction's arguments and then, spying out the fattest and longest worm of the lot, he seized it and impaled it on a great fishhook, which he cast into a nearby stream. The remaining worms looked on, writhing in horror, as he hauled on his line and brought up a tremendous, vicious pike. Its jaws snapped, still with gobbets of worm meat in the teeth, as the man clubbed it to death on the ground and carried it away.
And from then on the worms spoke of the birds as sharp teeth and of the rain as piercing steel and of the earth itself as the repository of the accumulated dead. Of the man they would speak not at all.
The lawn ornament in the above image used to be a vibrant pink, but years of service have faded our front yard's silent sentinel. Further insulted by the seasonal elements corrupting the material comprising its body, it now roughly resembles one of those evil pale zombies on the Game of Thrones program on Home Box. Is there something here to say about how the flamingo is supposed to represent an eternal unchanging nostalgic past, but instead has become an avatar of decay? Sure! Know Ye This: All Plastic Flesh is Mortal!
This lawn flamingo is sole survivor of an art project, and as long as it can remain vertical, I'm sticking by my plastic pal until I can figure out a way to repurpose if for further artistic purposes. Completion-backwards will be achieved; I've been holding onto it to put it into another art project and it has become art on its own! Yeah, I know, kinda hoarder-y.
We present here for your continued delectation four recipes for sandwiches, hand-picked from The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, published in 1909 and now in the public domain. We're running out of sardine recipes, just saying.
Chop one small onion, eight olives, one green pepper (seeds removed), and one chow chow pickle fine. Add one cupful of grated Parmesan cheese; moisten with enough mustard dressing from the chow chow to form a paste. Spread on this slices of lightly buttered white bread. Cover with another slice and cut in triangles.
Cut thin squares of brown bread and lightly butter, adding a dash of pepper and salt. Stone eight olives, chop them with two stalks of celery, one tiny cucumber pickle, a teaspoonful of catsup, a dash of salt and pepper, and very little mustard. Mix well and spread on brown bread, covering with another square.
CAVIARE SANDWICH NO. 2
To a can of caviare add the juice of half a lemon, and one teaspoonful of olive oil. Mix well together until a paste is formed. Spread mixture on this slices of lightly buttered white bread or toast and cover with another slice of bread.
Two cans of boned and skinned sardines, two balls of cottage cheese, one small onion chopped fine, two tablespoonfuls of chopped parsley, two tablespoonfuls of chopped mint, two tablespoonfuls of vinegar, salt to taste, a dash of red pepper, the grated rind and juice of two lemons; also use the oil from the sardines. Mix and beat thoroughly; spread between thin slices of lightly buttered rye or brown bread.
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