Right here in the toy shop.*

I feel like I spent half the weekend in the kitchen, but lately the weekend is when I get the chance to do it. There was a birthday party Sunday afternoon, and the host wondered if I’d bring something for dessert. (I’m getting a pie rep with this bunch.) The traditional birthday dessert is cake, however, so, the challenge: Make a birthday cake in high summer-fruit season. This is what I came up with. Behold, Suzanne’s Summer Birthday Cake:

Nothing special: White layers, whipped-cream frosting, fruit atop, fruit between. As I told Alan last week, you really don’t have to be much of a cook at this time of year. You just have to be a good shopper and assembler.

When I finished I boxed up the cake and arrived at the party an hour early. No one was there yet, including the host, although he had thoughtfully left a cooler of beer on ice in the back yard. So I opened one and got in the pool. Weekends are brief enough around here.

When I bought the whipping cream, the bagger at the grocery held up the carton and said, “Is this whipped cream?” I said, “Not yet. But when you pour it into a bowl and get your mixer involved, it will be.” He looked astounded. Poor kid; no doubt the product of a Cool-Whip household. I’m not one of those foodies who sneers at Cool-Whip. It has its place in many delicious things, including my Thanksgiving Waldorf salad. But I’ve had many such encounters in grocery lines, and I always feel sad for kids who can’t tell onions from garlic, let alone the tricky stuff like shallots or fennel. (I once wrote about this in my column, and got a hell-yeah phone call from a man who raved that he’d asked a grocery clerk for a No. 5 can of something, and the clerk didn’t know what he was talking about! Can you believe?! I confessed that actually, I didn’t know the can numbering system, either, and he hung up in disgust, his what-is-the-world-coming-to quota filled for the day. It’s always something, but nowadays we have Google, which explains all.)

It occurred to me on the way to the car — esprit d’escalier, grocery store-style — that I’d missed the opportunity to really blow the kid’s mind by telling him that if you left the mixer running for a while and skipped the sugar, you’d end up with butter. Oh, amazing heavy cream. A sauce base, a cake frosting, a corn-on-the-cob dressing, ass fat — is there anything you cannot be?

Since my weekend’s experiences amounted to so little, let’s skip right to the bloggage, eh?

Reason to be glad you’re not Muslim: Ramadan starts amid yet another week of brutal heat and humidity.

The president shoots hoops with NBA stars, prompting the usual right-wing skrees. I can’t believe he’d step on a court with LeBron James. I wonder if the pros let him win.

Speaking of which, Glenn Beck is now comparing the Obama administration with “Planet of the Apes.” How…innnnteresting.

And one bit of seriousness — how the recession is filtering down to the local-government level. We’ve been very lucky so far in Suburb-land, although I know the last few budget years have been hair-pullers for city managers and councils. At this point the discussions of consolidation of services among the Pointes is just getting started, baby stuff compared to the drastic measures in the article, about shut-off streetlights and shut-down budgets. Anything happening in your town?

As for me, I have 10 million things to do before 3 p.m. See ya.

* Another inside Columbus joke.

Posted at 8:36 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

37 responses to “Right here in the toy shop.*”

  1. Dorothy said on August 9, 2010 at 8:58 am

    When I lived in Eighty Four PA I’d buy heavy cream at The Spring House (http://www.springhousemarket.com/) and pour it into my Tupperware shaker thingy, add a wee bit of salt and then shake like mad until it was so thick it wouldn’t move in the container anymore. Then I’d pour/scrape it into a sealable bowl and we’d have the most scrumptious butter in the world! No wonder I’m about 40 lbs. overweight now. I still stop and buy some if I’m driving within 10 miles of that place.

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  2. ROgirl said on August 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Beautiful cake! I’m loving the summer fruit this year. The honey rock melons are just delicious. I like them better than cantaloupes.

    I remember when I was in kindergarten making butter by shaking a glass jar that had some cream in it. The nutrition and safety police have no doubt put an end to such a dangerous activity.

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  3. Snarkworth said on August 9, 2010 at 10:12 am

    On the subject of municipal cutbacks, the city of Camden, N.J., is closing its public libraries. All of them. So no books, no computers for filing job applications, no children’s books or activities (and the public schools can’t afford libraries, either). Camden is desperately poor, so people needed this resource. Isn’t the Invisible Hand wonderful?

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  4. adrianne said on August 9, 2010 at 10:30 am

    My favorite summer combo – peaches and blueberries – nirvana!

    I picked up 5 pounds of heirloom tomatoes at the CSA farm this Saturday, along with oodles of basil. Makes menu planning this week so easy.

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  5. Dorothy said on August 9, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Nance I submitted a comment about an hour ago, twice actually, but it hasn’t appeared here. Is it awaiting review for some reason? All I talked about was making butter from heavy cream, I swear!!

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  6. LAMary said on August 9, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Older son’s girlfriend came over for supper last night and we discussed building a cake that would have looked a lot like that one. However we decided to skip the cake and just eat the fruit. Not out of any health or fitness concerns. Laziness and the great quality of the fruit this year. It’s definitely the year of the peach here. And melons. We’re very spoiled. I’ve been eating plain yogurt with a cut up peach and low fat almond granola for breakfast for the past month. That with a cup of chicory coffee and the cool mornings we’ve had it’s just about perfect.

    Has news of the fabulous City of Bell reached the rest of the country? When teachers are being laid off and libraries are closing, we have this:


    The only thing other than this bullshit I know about Bell is they have card clubs, which are like the 3.2 beer of casinos without the slot machines. Mild legal gambling.

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  7. MichaelG said on August 9, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I was down the valley a couple of weeks ago and got some peaches from a road side stand. They were warm from the sun and so juicy and sweet and tasty. The best I’ve ever had.

    It’s been cool here this summer. Will be mid eighties here today against a mid nineties avg. We’ve had only one or two triple digit days. No complaints.

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  8. Deborah said on August 9, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Great looking cake. Hot and rainy in Chicago today. Miserable combination.

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  9. Jeff Borden said on August 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I cannot see how conservatives can carp about Obama taking time off when the Wee Man from Crawford set a new world’s record for vacationing, but then I remember there are different rules for Republicans so it all fits.

    Maybe it is the heat, but the cackling magpies of conservatism are getting uglier by the day. If it’s not Rush Limbaugh bellowing that Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain can be traced to her sense of entitlement as a black woman, it’s Glenn Beck blathering on about how America under Obama is comparable to a science-fiction movie where apes rule over man. No loaded imagery there, Glenn, you fucking racist git.

    If only Rush and Glenn could choke on their own bullshit. . .but they have an endless capacity to create and swallow their own fecal matter. It’s quite a talent.

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  10. beb said on August 9, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    LAMary, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has blogged a couple times about Bell. He lives in Orange County so I assume it’s loval news for him. The horrible thought is that likely there was no law saying that these people couldn’t self-deal themselves saleries of $800,000 year for the City Manager and trickling down to lower amounts for other city employees. These people need to be horsewhipped. But they’ll probably skate for lack for specific controlling law.

    My daughter has decided that pears are just the thing. [Homer like drown – “p-e-a-r-s-s-s!] I need to drop into the store and get some.

    A week or so back we were talking about the PT Cruiser which Chrysler is planning to cancel. I was surprised how many people spoke favorable of it. It wasn’t a hpt seller but it’s nice to see that those who drove it, liked it. I had an idea of how to continue the line. Currently the car is kind of a ballon on wheels. It’s really roomy inside. My thought was to square off the balloon into one of those cube-cars, like the Kia Soul. If done right there would be little change to the mamchinery, just to the outer mold line. Instead of appealing to hot-rodders and failing at that, the cube-car would appeal to the hipsters who seem to be buying up a lot of those Souls.

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  11. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Cousin Jeff, forgive me, but I tuned in to WCVN today after noon out of curiosity; Karl Rove is filling in while El Rushbo is chairing a global conclave of the Int’l Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. That must have been some comprehensive deal The Architect made with Satan — not only did he get W. elected twice, but he’s got some impressive radio chops. Even filling five minutes of dead air can be challenging (the limits of my experience), but the first hour sounded pretty lively and engaging, albeit mostly oriented to getting GOPs elected.

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  12. Pam said on August 9, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Glenn Beck’s brain is made of ASS FAT!

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  13. Rana said on August 9, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    We’ve been having good luck with peaches and berries, and my tomatoes are quite tasty (when I can beat the squirrels to them). We’ve yet to have a good melon this summer, though. Every one has smelled wonderful and yet a bland, watery disappointment when tested.

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  14. Dexter said on August 9, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Very nice. My wife Carol is famous for two things: potato salad and this basket she carves out of a watermelon and loads up with layered fruits like fresh blueberries ,cantaloupe, strawberries, pineapple, watermelon balls, lots of green and purple grapes, and fresh peaches dipped in pineapple juice ,and apple slices.

    Yesterday I went to a deli and pointed to a tub that had drumettes and chicken wings mixed up, and I ordered a few of the wings. The middle aged woman picked one at a time up with her tongs and asked me what it was. That’s right, she had no idea if each piece was a little chicken leg or a chicken wing.

    Really, that is a beautiful cake. I settled for a store-bought cherry pie today. It is really good, and I get a “reward piece” now because I mowed the yard and patched the carpet as best I could; remember the Jack Russel terrier we have that I mentioned last week? She got trapped in the bedroom somehow and tried to tunnel out, destroying a good-size hunk of carpet, right through the padding, down to the bare floor. She must have gotten in there when I was folding clothes and hid under the bed, and I shut the door. In just 20 minutes she did her handiwork. And man ,was my wife pissed off!

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  15. Julie Robinson said on August 9, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    We’re having the same problem as Rana, only it’s chipmunks plucking off cherry tomatoes and sitting on the garden wall to eat them. In full sight of our kitchen.

    The sweet corn around here has been ambrosial, and all the other produce has been darn good.

    My knowledge of whipped cream as a child was a squirt can in the fridge, but when I married into the Robinsons I learned about the real thing, starting with the bowl and beaters in the freezer. Every dessert was topped with ice cream, whipped cream, or both. As Dorothy said, no wonder we all fight with our weight.

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  16. LAMary said on August 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Never any cool whip or canned whipped cream in my house when I was a kid. Ever. I have a can of whipped cream in the fridge now to accommodate the offsprings’ fondness for ice cream with fruit and whipped cream. The boys are both very tall and skinny, so if anyone can afford ice cream with whipped cream, it’s them.

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  17. Jolene said on August 9, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Paul Krugman wrote about America going dark–with regard to infrastructure and education–in his op-ed yesterday. This sort of stuff really worries me. Everybody is so mad at each other and so unwilling to pay for anything that might benefit someone else. One of the things I admire about Obama is that he takes the long view by focusing on education, energy, healthcare and such–or, at least trying to–and all he gets for his trouble is grief.

    Tom Friedman said the same sort of thing a couple of weeks ago w/ regard to climate change. One paragraph

    The last word goes to the contrarian hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham, who in his July letter to investors, noted: “Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for … what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? I have a much simpler but plausible ‘conspiracy theory’: the fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”

    So depressing. More cake photos and summer recipes, please.

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  18. Dorothy said on August 9, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Dexter we had a border collie who did that to carpeting in our bedroom (the house in Eighty Four that I referenced earlier). She was into destroying anything and everything if she felt slighted. Is it any wonder one of our nicknames for her was “The Lawsuit Waiting to Happen”?

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  19. Julie Robinson said on August 9, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Here in Indiana, unemployment filing has to be done online, and some libraries have been swamped. I hope that’s not the case in NJ. But I just can’t imagine life without a library and I feel very badly for Camdenites.

    The library where my Mom worked is landlocked and has been bursting its seams for 30 years. They bought some land to build on but the local naysayers are crucifying them for “wasting” taxpayer money. Like Jolene, I find contemplating this too depressing and would rather think about food.

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  20. prospero said on August 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    W made 77 trips to Crawford, totalling 490 days, 18% of his two terms. (He has not been back since.) Seriously, though, was that really bad for America?

    Dorothy, I didn’t say Bonds never took PEDs, I said he’s been tested more than any athlete not named Lance Armstrong, without a positive result. He told Feds he’d never tested positive nor used steroids and investigators have held a perjury charge over his head for years that they obviously can’t prove. As far as obvious physical changes, take a look at age-similar photos of Magic Johnson. The morphological similarity over time to Barry is like an original movie on SyFy. Earvin’s head is the size of a regulation NBA ball these days. Minly, I don’t think anybody’s even tried to prove by medical studies that steroids make hitters better, and there are studies indicating otherwise. I’d prefer science over hysteria.

    I’m pretty blase about videos, viral or otherwise, but this one’s brilliant.

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  21. Sue said on August 9, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    You know why I will never be a truly good gardener? Because when the squirrels are having a party in my peach tree, sitting on the fence with my peaches clutched in their tiny little paws, zipping over to the neighboring tree with peaches in their mouths that are bigger than their heads, all I can think of is how cute those little rascals are.
    Oh, and I think rabbits are cute too. My method for keeping them out of my lettuce is not to plant lettuce.
    This gives you an idea of how I will fare when the Great Glenn Beck Survival Garden Wars begin.

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  22. Rana said on August 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    On whipped cream – I like it, but I like Cool Whip too. The problem comes when one thinks that they are the same – it’s like confusing NutraSweet and sugar. But one of my favorite childhood desserts had Cool Whip as a key ingredient: Jello (can’t remember if it was made into gel first or just poured in as powder) plus Cool Whip plus cottage cheese. Depending on the flavor of Jello used, we called it either “pink stuff” or “green stuff.” You’ll still see it sometimes in old-fashioned buffets.

    ETA: Here’s a typical example: http://www.grouprecipes.com/41550/cottage-cheese-jello-salad.html

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  23. Dave said on August 9, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    We went into Camden two years ago and toured the USS New Jersey, which my father-in-law served aboard during WWII. Camden had the highest murder rate in New Jersey at that time, big chickens that we are, we drove straight to the parking lot and when we left, we drove straight back to Philadelphia, Philadelphia being much safer. NOT.

    When I saw that article about the Camden libraries, I thought that I was glad that I was fortunate to live in a place where the libraries expanded and updated, despite those that fought it.

    Lucy’s Toy Shop, which was surely next door to Flippo’s house. And a few miles away from Casper’s fence, don’t you think, Nancy?

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  24. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Or at church lady served funeral luncheons. (I know, that’s what she said the first time.)

    Dang it, none of my radishes are edible this year, and the squash blossoms did not set. Got plenty of basil, though, and the plum tomatoes are ripening up nicely.

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  25. Jolene said on August 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Here’s something kind of fun for a Monday afternoon. Bound to give you a smile or two.

    Almost forgot to say, Nance, that that is a gorgeous cake. It’s not really the same at all, but, for some reason, it reminds me of something one of my grad school roommates and I had for breakfast regularly during the long ago summer of 1976–cut-up strawberries, banana slices, and blueberries w/ sugar and cream. AKA Bicentennial Breakfast.

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  26. Dorothy said on August 9, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Okay Prospero I understand. It’s my feeling that those guys are wealthy enough to find someone who knows how to avoid being caught using steroids. It’s just a theory – I have no scientific evidence that you can actually do that (trick the test somehow) but it’s just a gut feeling.

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  27. Deborah said on August 9, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Jolene, those young me/now me photos are a stitch. Had me laughing out loud.

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  28. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 9, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    By the way, for the non-central-Ohioans:

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  29. brian stouder said on August 9, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Thanks, Jeff. I figgered if I waited long enough, someone would ‘splain the asterisk.

    This evening, I attended an FWCS school board meeting….which ran three hours, with one 3 minute break which friend-of-nn.c GiaQuinta called, about 20 minutes before the end!

    But oddly enough, the meeting was compelling and enthralling, and I learned the meaning of a multitude of acronyms I see in the papers.

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  30. MichaelG said on August 9, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Actually, Dorothy, you’re right on it. Much time and effort and money have been expended to develop steroids, hormones, suppliments, whatevers that are not detectable by ordinary testing methods. There’s a constant arms race between developers and testers.

    I wonder, MMJeff, just how many locally produced kids’ programs were aired during the fifties and sixties over the breadth and depth of this great land of ours.

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  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 10, 2010 at 9:36 am

    The answer, MichaelG, is “how many markets were there in the fifties and sixties?” I heard from an Alaskan friend that there was a Yukon Bob or something like that when he was growing up in Fairbanks. Everybody must have had ’em. I grew up in Chicago, so we had half a dozen even before Captain Kangaroo came on. Ray Rayner, Garfield Goose, the immortal Romper Room (syndicated format but locally produced) and Bozo’s Circus at noon (ditto).

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  32. brian stouder said on August 10, 2010 at 9:46 am

    In Fort Wayne it was Engineer John, baby!

    Although, the “Dialing for Dollars” afternoon movie was pretty entertaining – being live tv, and random calling around the city.

    Come to think of it, MTV could have fun with that format, nowadays

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  33. Dexter said on August 10, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Engineer John Siemer indeed, with the one camera rolling to simulate a moving engine cab. Loved it. But anyone in Detroit about 35 years ago remembers The Ghoul.
    The Ghoul was the shit.

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  34. Deborah said on August 10, 2010 at 10:14 am

    In Davenport, Iowa where I lived when I was very, very young in the early fifties before we moved to Miami, FL, they had a local kids show called “Grandpa Happy”. He sat in a rocking chair, that’s about all I remember.

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  35. paddyo' said on August 10, 2010 at 11:38 am

    In L.A. we had an array of local shows, from “Engineer Bill” (two lucky kids and our host, in pinstripe Casey-Jones-style engineer hats, seated behind an operating toy railroad layout, cartoons, and “Green Light/Red Light,” a milk drinking game patterned after “Mother May I?” with some spillage guaranteed among overeager contestants, which included us at home with glasses raised) to “Commander Riptide” (“Good morning, mates!” the Navy-uniformed host barked as he descended the ladder into his “submarine” set) and the most famous of all, “Sheriff John,” surely a contender with Mr. Rogers for calmest, friendliest, softest-spoken kiddie show host ever. We all lived for the who’s-got-a-birthday portion of the show, to sing along to the Sheriff John birthday jingle, “Put Another Candle on the Birthday Cake.” Oh, and he heavily promoted a local brand of carrots, Maggio Carrots. Can you IMAGINE it today? A kids’ TV show that promotes healthy raw vegetables?

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  36. Dave said on August 10, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    A little late but I’ll bet you all had local teen dance shows with a local band or two and a host. In Columbus in the sixties, it was Dance Party (I think) on channel 4 with your host, Jerry Rasor (sp?), every Saturday.

    And, there were local talk shows or a regional show like Ruth Lyons 50-50 Club, out of Cincinnati. Does anyone remember Sally Flowers on channel 6? She used to drive by our house every afternoon on her way home to somewhere around Buckeye Lake.

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  37. LAMary said on August 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    paddy-o, we had Sandy Becker, a nice type guy who showed Warner Brothers cartoons late in the afternoon and his sponsor was Maggio carrots. This was in NYC in the early sixties. I bet Mr. Maggio was an advocate of getting kids to eat carrots. The other sponsor was Cocoa-Marsh which was a chocolate and marshmallow syrup for milk.

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