Sunday, February 16, 2020

"This Cold Was Something to Sneeze At"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
When it comes to being sick, men are babies. I know this because there are six children in my family (five grandkids and yours truly) and I was sicker than any of them over a period of five months, which is how long it took me to recover from an illness that so baffled medical science that it was impervious to prescription medication and was finally eradicated with a self-prescribed dose of blackberry brandy.

It all started after my twin grandchildren, Zoe and Quinn, were born. Before my wife, Sue, and I took a trip to meet them, I had a flu shot. The pharmacist who gave it to me said I was very brave considering that many men are — you guessed it — babies when it comes to needles.

“Some of them have even fainted,” she said.

“Wimps,” I replied as I rolled up my sleeve. “I’m ready for my shot now.”

“I just gave it to you,” the pharmacist said as she put a Band-Aid on my arm. “Stay healthy!”

I wish I could say I did, but I came down with something I thought was either the flu or a sinus infection or black lung disease. So I walked in to a walk-in clinic to make sure I wasn’t contagious.

“You’re not,” said a physician, who took a throat culture with a swab that was attached to a stick approximately the length of a javelin.

“Do I have a pulse?” I inquired.

“Yes,” he reported. “You are, technically, still alive. And the culture shows that you don’t have strep throat.”

“I get most of my culture from yogurt,” I said.

The doctor looked like he was about to get sick. “I am not going to prescribe antibiotics,” he said. “Just take some over-the-counter cold medicine and you should be fine.”

The day after Sue and I met the twins, I developed a dry cough, probably because it wasn’t raining. (Now you know why I never went to med school.)

The symptoms persisted after we got home, where I also started to sneeze. Sue, who didn’t want to catch anything, told me not to come near her.

“Do you want me to go to a room with achoo?” I asked.

Sue rolled her eyes, which were heavy, indicating that she was getting sick, too.

She recovered quickly, which is more than I could say for myself, so I went back to the clinic, where another physician asked if I had allergies.

“I’m only allergic to myself,” I answered.

“As you get older,” she said, sizing me up as older, “you can develop allergies.”

She prescribed a nasal spray.

“With the size of my nose, will I need a hose?” I asked, noting that my question rhymed.

“No,” the doctor said. “You won’t have to call the fire department.”

On a return visit to see the twins, I found that Quinn was sick. So was big brother Xavier. Zoe was starting to come down with something, too.

When I got home, I learned that my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly also were sick.

All the kids got well, but my postnasal drip, or pre-nasal drip, or neo-nasal drip, or whatever the hell I had, was hanging on. I returned to the clinic, where I should have my own parking space, and was given a different spray.

“If this one doesn’t work,” said a third doctor, “take some antibiotics.”

My illness persisted. Finally, after I had run out of medicine, I opened a bottle of blackberry brandy and had a shot.

The following day, I was cured.

“The next time I get sick,” I told Sue, “I’m going to take this stuff first.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 2, 2020

"Baking Lesson Really Pans Out"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
I never thought baking was a piece of cake, mainly because I’m half-baked. But I recently learned that I could have my cake and eat it, too, after getting a baking lesson from my grandson.

Xavier, who will be 3 in March, is hot stuff when it comes to the culinary arts. I, on the other hand, which should have sported a pot-holder, have always believed that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Contrary to this brilliant advice, which has prevented me from burning the house down, I got into the kitchen to watch Xavier help his daddy, Dave, prepare a fish dinner. He also helped make pizza. But the piece de resistance, a French phrase meaning “resist a piece of anything I have made,” was the cake Xavier baked with my wife, Sue, without whom I would have starved to death long ago.

While Xavier never got close to a hot stove and didn’t have access to sharp implements, he did climb up on his step stool to help wash or mix ingredients for various dishes and pour them into pots, pans and bowls in the preparation of everything from entrees to desserts.

“If I’m in the kitchen, Xavier has to be there, too,” said Dave, adding that his father, Bob, is a great guy but not exactly a culinary artist.

My late father, the original Jerry Zezima, was also a great guy and made the world’s best salad, but he couldn’t match the cooking skills of my mother, Rosina, a kitchen magician who should have her own Food Network show, or my sisters, Susan (who recently showed me how to make chicken that could wow anyone except, of course, a chicken) and Elizabeth (who once had to show me how to make a grilled cheese sandwich).

My one culinary triumph came about 20 years ago, when I was first runner-up in the pasta sauce division of the Newman’s Own and Good Housekeeping Recipe Contest for a dish I called Zezima’s Zesty Ziti Zinger. Paul Newman himself polished off a bowl of the stuff and raved about it. That the legendary actor is, at the present time, deceased is purely coincidental.

Because my next-best creation is microwave popcorn, I was in awe of Xavier’s budding talent.

Among his toys is the Melissa & Doug Prepare & Serve Pasta Set, which I should borrow for another batch of ziti. But his favorite is the Melissa & Doug Baking Play Set, which includes a baking tin, measuring cups, a whisk, a spatula, a rolling pin and an oven mitt, which he wore when he and Sue baked a cake.

The ingredients were Betty Crocker Super Moist Rainbow Chip Cake Mix and Pillsbury Confetti Funfetti Vanilla Flavored Frosting.

As I watched, Xavier handed Sue two eggs, which he wouldn’t break.

“If you did,” I told him, “the yolk would be on you.”

“Can’t you find something else to do?” Sue asked.

“Not at the moment,” I answered as Xavier stood on his step stool next to a bowl on the counter and poured milk over the eggs and cake mix. Then he used a spatula to create a creamy batter.

“Batter up!” I exclaimed.

Xavier smiled. Sue didn’t.

They both poured the mixture into a pan, which Sue placed in the oven. When the cake was done, Xavier spread on the frosting, which he topped with rainbow sprinkles.

The cake was a masterpiece. And it tasted even better than it looked.

“This is delicious, Xavier!” I said, licking sprinkles out of my mustache.

The little boy beamed.

“I hope you learned something,” Sue said to me.

“I did,” I replied. “Getting a baking lesson from our grandson was the icing on the cake.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima