TV Club

Week 7: A Handy, Portable Heart Attack on a Bun

Dear Jeff and Tim:

This is me taking the high road.

I’m posting this from South Carolina, where I flew after Nightly News on Tuesday. I’m on the board of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation—we raise funds to support the 110 living recipients of the medal—and tomorrow we open the national museum here in Charleston. That’s Charleston, South Carolina. Help me out here. Were I to “engage” Mr. McEnroe’s sprightly theme, I’m willing to bet … that certain individuals in law enforcement … having monitored my wireless Internet … would enter my hotel room … and charges would be pressed.

Back to that high road: Would that my mother were here to defend herself. She went to her reward years ago, and with her went the Lincoln Log recipe. During what has been a painful day of culinary reminiscence on my part, all I can recall were Oscar Mayer “frankfurters” (as my dad still calls them, I believe in deference to the Supreme Court justice) split suggestively down the middle (I never watched that part, because as with lobsters, I was never really sure they were dead) and then slathered—in our version—lengthwise in mayonnaise. I know. How do you think I feel? That was my life in north Jersey. They made for a handy, portable heart attack on a bun. Enough aggressively bad food in a fist-size package to give the eater/victim instant angina (and this was years before he got voted off American Idol) if not worse. I remember we had to get a certain kind of bun—the Pepperidge Farm “New England cut”—so that when splayed open it presented more like a double-thickness slab of Wonder Bread. On the dog would go copious amounts of mayo—and in some houses, cream cheese. Always Breakstone’s. My mom later developed some tsoris over the quality of the Oscar Mayers, so we switched to Hebrew Nationals.

Message: We didn’t eat well. We enjoyed aerosol cheese, and served it to guests with Triscuits. My mother once took a vacuum pouch of Carl Buddig thin-sliced turkeylike lunch meat; flattened the watery, gooey, scattershot sheets as a “steak”; and warmed the mass in a frying pan. It was served, this flattened collection of 15-or-so slices in pretend solid form, as “we’re having turkey!” Yes, it was bad in the kitchen where I grew up … and not exactly flush with cash … or cooking skills. So does anyone blame me somehow for not remembering each pinch in the recipe for Lincoln Logs? I merely remember they never seemed time-sensitive. They were better than the sandwiches my mother sometimes packed for my school lunch: butter, sprinkled with sugar, on white bread. Oh … and she always used to gently take the dull point of a pencil and draw a heart in my banana, just to optimize the chance that the guys on the football team would go all Cocoon me during recess.

Memo to Peter Bogdanovich: Alan Greenspan called; he wants his eyeglass frames back.