poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

September 16, 2009


Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 1:41 PM
Tags: , , ,

What can I getchya, honey? Apple, or blueberry? Applebaum, or Ayn Rand?

I thought I was being a bit hyperbolic in my last post about leaves falling to the ground. Anything for a metaphor. It’s only mid-September, and summer just managed to arrive in Chicago last week. But, lo. On the way to work this morning I observed by the Museum of Science & Industry trees which had not only burst into reds and oranges, but had indeed already shed their leaves! What does this have to do with pie? I love autumn, and one of the very many things I love about it is a childhood memory of driving up the Great River Road to look at the leaves turning color along the bluffs, go apple picking and top off the day at some dank catfish shack accessible only by ferry. We would pick so many apples we’d run out of things to do with them. We’d try to give them away, but our neighbors were in a similar predicament. Everyone knew to turn off the lights and hide behind the curtains if a neighbor bearing gifts of apples was spotted walking toward your house. By November the very aroma of apples made me nauseous… Well, we ate lots of pies.

I’m also thinking of pie because I am thinking of blueberries. And blueberry pie is my favorite pie. My aunts used to pick wild blueberries and bring them to my grandmother’s house, where she and I would make such delicious pie that I actually pity your existence, having gone without tasting my grandmother’s blueberry pie. My job was to cut the dough for the lattice. Now she’s dead and my mother is dead and I was too engrossed in latticework to pay attention to anything else so who even knows how she made such wonderful pies? Those pies are nothing but mythology now.

Anyway, why am I thinking about blueberries? A little diner/cafe just opened below my apartment. And they serve blueberry pancakes. I haven’t tried them yet, so I might be obsessing about nothing. They could very well be the kinds of evil that are regular pancakes with a topping of gelatinous blueberry-flavored goo. As a friend of mine likes to say, Them’s not pancakes we can believe in. But what if they are genuine blueberry pancakes, with the berries baked inside of the batter? Then we have a problem … I’m going to again share faaaar too much information. But is this not a blog? When said new blueberry pancake joint opened, my first thought was “Oh no! Why wasn’t this open when I was dating S–?” Because you do not even know how many times I lay there, famished, so hungry and exhausted I could no longer think clearly, and S– would say something intelligent like, “We need to eat. What do you want?” I’d whimper, “blueberry pancakes…” But the nearest blueberry pancake place was far away, which required a lot of walking, and it was all I could manage to walk across the room to the phone to order in. He’d say, “Come on. Be serious. What else do you want?” “Blueberry pancakes…” And this would go on for an hour until I fainted from low blood sugar and he ordered Thai food. This relationship was always off and on, and has been off most recently. There is just no way it could possibly work in the long term. But as sure as a blueberry pancake joint opens on the corner below my building, he calls. He left a message. Something about Happy birthday. Something about life being short and let’s just have coffee or something. And just having coffee or something always ends up with me famished, demanding blueberry pancakes. So – an ethical dilemma. You see?

This post will be read by strangers and achieve immortality through the magical powers of Google. Therefore I’d like to qualify any remotely unethical implications of that confession with this: I think I am running a fever. It may be swine flu. Or not. At any rate, some microscopic nuisance is attacking my body and rendering me temporally mentally incompetent. As proof, I submit to you that I’ve been reading about Ayn Rand all day. Oh sweet Jesus – Ayn Rand! There’s no gun pointed to my head, so it must be brain fever. Those are the only two explanations for why I would be reading extensively about Ayn Rand. It was interesting to read the “left” commentary on her. They blame her reactionary ideology on the Bolsheviks. Well, if there is anything the American left and right can agree on, it’s that Commies are bad. When they aren’t redistributing wealth, they’re creating Ayn Rands. Oh, there was also some grief that the ideology of a Russian had come to represent American values. The horror.

… As if reading about Ayn Rand were not enough for my blood pressure, someone sent me an Anne Applebaum article this morning. Anne !*&#&%#&* Applebaum. A hint to my future torturers: hours on end of this and I might confess to anything. A hint to my thoughtful friends: Anne Applebaum is no good for you and you should stop reading that drivel! Actually, read whatever you like. It’s a free country, as Anne will be quick to assure you. But if you absolutely must read it, I don’t want to know about it.

Speaking of objectivists and neocons and other lowlife dealers of capitalism (It will put you in control! It will make you look great!) … I was recently trying to explain to someone how the American political system worked. I thought, well, it’s pretty straightforward, actually. Just about anyone may run for office. To do so they will need some money, an up-front investment, to pay for their venture, I mean campaign. Then they need to get the public to buy what they’re selling, I mean vote for them. Then, if they are successful, they need to give their shareholders a return on their investment. I mean their contributors. And the consumers, rather, their constituency have to want to keep buying, I mean voting for them. The invisible hand of Democracy will magically ensure that only the most quality candidates succeed.

Then a chill ran down my spine. Or maybe that was just the flu… Back in Moscow in the years of shock, Volodya (not that one – the one I lived with) asked me, “Tashetchka, milaya, how are democracy and capitalism reconciled in America? It seems to me that one would undermine the other. But you Americans do it? How?” I regretted that I had to confirm his suspicions. While he was relieved to be correct in his assessment, a darkness descended across his face. Oh yes, Volodya: you’ve been played, suckahs. You can have democracy. Or you can have capitalism. Pick one. … But now, having had my fever-induced revelation, it seems there is nothing contradictory between democracy and capitalism. In fact, it’s really the same system, with votes and ideologies as commodities. The real conflict is not between democracy and capitalism, but between the beautiful idea and the ugly reality. Too bad there’s no controlling for the human variable. I’d like to see one of these beautiful ideas actually work one day.

And it’s too bad I don’t have my grandmother’s blueberry pie recipe. I could really go for a piece right now.


  1. “Poemless” – your name is a lie. You are full of poetry. Thank you for this and for your previous post. I also love blueberry pancakes and have a time of year when I lament a lost parent. I find that pancakes with cheese (on Portobello Road, where they call them crepes) and other savory fillings (from Teremok, which I’ve been jocking for years), can sometimes ease the pain momentarily.

    Comment by Lyndon — September 16, 2009 @ 4:26 PM | Reply

    • Oh, you are too kind.

      Sooo, you have some Chicago connection? I do like La Creperie. I’m not aware of any Russian blini joints in town, and I find the process of making them very intimidating. But yes, the healing power of pancakes must not be underestimated. Too bad we don’t have a holiday devoted to them in the States. I have to eat terrible Polish donuts before lent instead. 😦

      Comment by poemless — September 16, 2009 @ 4:45 PM | Reply

  2. PS – if I was just a tad more on top of my in-touch-ness with U.S. political memes, I would of course have written the first phrase of my prior comment to somehow use the phrase “You lie!” But anyway…

    Comment by Lyndon — September 16, 2009 @ 4:28 PM | Reply

    • LOL.

      Comment by poemless — September 16, 2009 @ 4:45 PM | Reply

  3. I do have multiple Chicago connections, although none of them are directly related to pancakes. My mother is from Peoria, my father was from Madison but was a Cubs fan from childhood (they met in a Russian class at U. Wisc. – the extent of my Russian roots), and according to family lore their honeymoon consisted of seven games in six days at Wrigley Field. When we were in Leningrad, we watched the ’84 NLCS playoff games on videotape and hosted parties where somehow beer was served in the same paper cups they had at Wrigley; and in ’89, when we were back in DC, we watched the series closely as well, and I have no doubt that Cub-fandom contributed to various depressive tendencies in my adolescence and beyond (but IIRC you are a southsider, so you may not be able to relate to this). I’ve had a Chicago Uncle (and Aunt, and branch of the family) for decades, and my sister and her family moved there about 15 years ago and love it. If you look hard, you’ll even find a picture on my FB account with my wife and I visiting Chicago before we were even married (i.e., almost 10 years ago now!!). Anyway, I hope you’re feeling better, or at least enjoying the rush of the fever.

    By the way, making the bliny themselves has never seemed that hard to me – my wife does it all the time, and (I don’t think she’ll ever read this, but she wouldn’t deny it) while she is a wonderful person, she is not a master chef. Should I try to get you a recipe? She will just make a stack of them and then you can roll up whatever you want inside them – tvorog / brynza, meat, fruit, etc. And of course it’s obiazatel’no to have sour cream on hand for when you eat them.

    Comment by Lyndon — September 16, 2009 @ 5:33 PM | Reply

    • I think it was the facebook photo that led me to think there was a connection…

      I have a dozen blini recipes already. I really don’t cook very much, which is probably why they’re intimidating. Also, if I could make them, I would, and then I would eat them, all the time, and then I’d gain a million pounds. I’m still trying to figure out how to repent for the plate of vareniki (swimming in butter and served with sour cream) I devoured last week. So it’s probably a good thing if I have to go out of my way to access pancakes with sour cream.

      Comment by poemless — September 17, 2009 @ 10:26 AM | Reply

  4. I hesitate to comment on any post that involves pancakes but I wanted to say that I hope you are feeling better and if it is swine flu I hope you are one of the people who have a “light” case.

    I actually love blueberry pancakes made with fresh picked blueberries. But have you ever picked blueberries. Those little bushes are close to the ground and it’s hard to come up with a bucketfull – although the problem may be that my system is to pick a blueberry for the bucket then pick a blueberry to eat right then …

    Comment by maryb — September 16, 2009 @ 10:17 PM | Reply

    • I think it’s just a bug. Everyone has it: aches, lethargy, coughing up a lung. I took a bunch of vitamins, drank a c-monster and got a lot of sleep and felt much better yesterday. But last night I was drinking cocktails and smoking cigarettes, so today I’m back to square one. 😦

      Comment by poemless — September 17, 2009 @ 10:32 AM | Reply

  5. Blueberries are wonderfully easy to pick. I wouldn’t recommend chasing after low-bush varieties – simply go to a pick-your-own blueberry farm and indulge in large, ripe, delicious high-bush blueberries. They grow up to 6 to 8 feet high, covered in luscious fat berries. We picked about 10 pounds in 90 minutes. http://www.pickyourown.org/ILchicago.htm this might help get you started.

    Real blueberry pancakes are so easy to make. S_ sounds like a lazy so-and-so if he never figured that out for you. Flour, little sugar, very little salt, teaspoon or so of baking powder/soda, an egg, some milk. Add fresh berries at the end, folding them in lightly. Hot griddle and boom-splat. Real butter and real maple syrup (although K prefers a bit of sour cream on the side of her pancakes).

    Blueberry pie is a bit more tricky as blueberries don’t have much pectin (most people use a little bit of apple or some other tactic to help it thicken). A good pie crust is as easy as … well … pie. Flour and shortening and a little technique.

    If you’re feeling lazy, you can always opt for blueberry cobbler or blueberry crisp though, which gives some of the same effect, “mouthfeel” and taste of a true blueberry pie.

    Comment by W. Shedd — September 17, 2009 @ 6:46 AM | Reply

    • “S_ sounds like a lazy so-and-so if he never figured that out for you.”

      This assumes I have food in my apartment from which pancakes could be made. I don’t. And the corner shops don’t sell fresh blueberries. You might say, “Well, he should know to buy the ingredients for pancakes & plan ahead.” But he did the shopping for and cooked dinner a lot. He was actually a very good cook and did very un-lazy things like come over and cook homemade chicken soup when I was sick. He’s not my personal chef. It all boils down to my own laziness and lack of planning.

      Comment by poemless — September 17, 2009 @ 10:38 AM | Reply

      • Aww, that’s cute. You’re making excuses for him! 😉

        As a testament to how domestic I am … I don’t think I’ve ever had a home or apartment without the necessary ingredients for pancakes.

        Comment by W. Shedd — September 17, 2009 @ 8:57 PM | Reply

        • Wally, you can come over and make me blueberry pancakes whenever you like. ;p

          Comment by poemless — September 18, 2009 @ 9:57 AM | Reply

  6. “Ding, dong, the Missile Shield is Dead. Bush’s Missile Shield Dead, Euro Missile Shield Dead. Ding, dong Stupid, Wicked thing is Dead…”

    NPR brought me this one piece of good news this morning, which sent me to your new blog as I looked for someone else to share my feelings of relief and jubilation.

    And I like your site too! Another reason to be cheerful. Some old friends are here. Also I have a harvest-season, fruit-related issue and writing about it may just reduce any related karmic negativity and get it off my conscience.

    Our little Silicon Valley shack sits on a former fruit orchard and I have a number of exotic fruit-baring trees on the small property. What to do with green figs? How about persimmons? You just cannot cook either in pancakes. I try to pick and give them away to make new friends and because fruit attracts…rodents. My midwest relatives would get their chuckles at my expense should I share my Rat Tales. Yes, you can pay $1.5M and up (not that we did, we rent) for a 3bed/2bath 50s ranch in Palo Alto and expect to cope with rats of all varieties. Palo Alto is swamp land and construction has never been designed to keep out the North Wind. With children leaving doors wide open, it goes without saying that our furry friends don’t seem to have much trouble getting in either.

    Fall is when the little critters that have been scurrying through the trees and over roofs all summer try to move inside to nest. What a surprise I had the first September that I left peaches from the farmers’ market in the fruit bowl, only to find small bites taken out of each. Now all produce needs to go directly into the refrigerator, which is really a pity because it detracts from the full flavor of peaches and tomatoes. Last year, I hired a professional trapper who helped me rid the house of unwanted guests and taught me the trade.

    So this year when I noted some droppings I reached for the phone again….but put it down. No. I was going to have to ‘man up’ and just do it myself. (At this point, you’re going to ask me “What about that Putin-esque man you married with the Siberian blood and sexy accent? Well, he manages to be overseas right now…as he was last September. Hmmm notice a pattern? This could be fodder for another post someday, though I’ve vowed to keep him out of my writing.)

    So the first thing I had to get over was setting the traps. As a sometimes student of both yoga and Pilates, I have developed a pretty good mind/body connection. And I can tell you that I was sick-through-to-every nerve ending as I bought, baited and positioned those traps. But, I did it. Then I waited…one whole week. Yesterday, I was just lifting into a plank on the yoga mat when I glanced over at the trap to see the dead grey body. Oh Yuck…It was horrible. So then I had to do the clean-up, which was worse–even with rubber gloves, etc. I just shiver to think about it…and I do feel sort of remorseful about killing this size animal. Like I said, I feel sort of bad karma. Do I switch to live traps? I don’t think so, the varmits will just get back in. Last year, it was just one…and then it was over for the season. Maybe we’re good now, for a while. We should get a cat or dog, but life is complicated enough with blogging and children and work…which I should get back to.

    So, enjoy your blueberries, and forgive me my dead rat.

    Comment by Tess of the Uber Vie — September 17, 2009 @ 12:56 PM | Reply

    • Hi, Tess! Thanks for stopping by.

      Oh I know – I am psyched about the missile defense thing! Though I do fear we’re being a bit precipitous. If your listen to Obama’s speech, it’s open to interpretation. I think they left themselves some wiggle room. Still, if they want everyone on the world to think they just handed Russia a victory, who am I to complain. At least it is a step in the right PR direction.

      Figs: the green ones you can eat fresh. Maybe on a plate with some prosciutto and fresh mozzarella.
      Persimmons: Perssimon pie.
      Rats: Have you thought of getting some cats?

      Can’t wait to read about your sexy Siberian’s September adventures. 🙂

      Comment by poemless — September 17, 2009 @ 1:26 PM | Reply

  7. Update:
    The blueberry pancakes at the new restaurant are the real deal – and totally hit the spot. 🙂

    Comment by poemless — September 20, 2009 @ 2:29 PM | Reply

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