Monday, December 18, 2006

Dewey, Dick, detectives, and delicacies

My little students often ask if the picture books I read in class are "stories or real?" What a complicated process it must be for children to sort out the fiction and non-fiction in all the mediums that bombard them from the moment they wake up until they finally manage to fall asleep at night. That's when dreams and nightmares add to their confusion.

As I read aloud, I sometimes ask, "Dzthat ever happen to you?," at the oddest parts of the story. "Does your daddy do that?," I ask with exaggerated skeptical eyebrows. I love the kids who know I'm playing when I ask, "Did you ever drive a bulldozer?" They play back by saying yes and telling me what color hardhat they wore at the excavation site. The twinkle in their eye lets me know they understand the making of a story. These kids are ready to study the Dewey decimal juvenile non-fiction books to fuel their own creative play and story-making. The more you know about real aircraft carriers, the more satisfying your imaginative play becomes.

As adults and registered voters we still watch, read, and listen to news and wonder if it's a "story or real?" Chew on that for a moment, please. Does Dick Cheney eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches in his undisclosed location? If we knew, he might seem closer to human. Sue Grafton's fictional alphabetized sleuth, Kinsey Milhone, eats PB and pickle sandwiches. Not my personal choice, but the detail makes Kinsey believable.

Janet Evanovitch's numerical New Jersey bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, never gets zits. The girl eats the most dreadful, greasy fast food in paperback after paperback, and can still zip her jeans. Would I confuse these mysteries with non-fiction? Of course not. This is clearly as fictional as Bush's "Mission Accomplished."

Are my posts "stories or real?" Let's say they are as real as Kraft Miracle Whip is to mayonnaise. The details come from the Dewey decimal section, but the words might spring from Once-upon-a-time-Time. The recipes come from the middle drawer next to the twist-ties for Baggies and the hamburger patty-maker.

Fritzi served an occasional lunch of creamy peanut butter and bacon on toast with Miracle Whip and iceberg lettuce, Weavers potato chips, and cold skim milk. When Steve Blow wrote about family food idiosyncrasies, I related. I wanted him to try putting lettuce in his PB and mayo sandwiches. It was fun to remember Mom fixing sandwiches in the kitchen on a cold Saturday.

So many people wrote Steve Blow about peanut butter sandwiches, that he offered a second column on the subject:

PB and pickles? I'll take your word for it
06:42 AM CDT on Wednesday, September 6, 2006
I feel a little bit like a culinary Indiana Jones. I have stumbled upon a lost civilization. It's the secret society of peanut butter and mayonnaise eaters. A month or so ago, I wrote about families and their peculiar food traditions. And for the most part, I talked about my family's longtime love for avocado toast. Although I never met a single person who knew about avocado toast, I felt I would surely hear from many others who know what rapture a ripe, mashed avocado is on warm buttered toast.

But I hardly heard from any other devotees of that dish. Instead, the outpouring of enthusiastic response came to my mention of a concoction that I thought surely my father had invented – peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwiches. They sound so vile that I was a little bit embarrassed to even mention them. But I got e-mails by the hundreds from people who thought they were alone in the world with their love for PB&M sandwiches... I do need to make a correction. I said mayonnaise in that earlier column. But when Southern boys say "mayonnaise," they really mean Miracle Whip. Strictly speaking, those were PB&MW sandwiches my dad taught me to eat. But I heard repeatedly from readers that my peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwiches are missing the crowning glory – cold, crisp lettuce. Apparently the crunch factor sends the sandwiches into taste heaven.

Now that my guys have returned for the holidays, I want to share this concoction with them. I get hungry for these peanut butter sandwiches at least once every winter, but the guys' dad didn't encourage my sharing this delicacy. His opinion was along the line of, "it'll be a cold day in Hell when I swallow that." That's the same opinion I have whenever Dick Cheney's lips move.

I'm going to serve a toaster oven open-face sandwich Steve Blow would like--mashed avocado seasoned with garlic, then slices of tomato,topped with a mound of grated monterey jack cheese and sprinkled with paprika. It's especially good if you have been outside shoveling snow, but the weather isn't cooperating there. It's so warm in Dallas we are tempted to turn on the air-conditioner! And that's the Dewey decimal truth.

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