Tag Archives: West Virginia

A plate of spaghetti on a winter day

Our Sunday was all about running some errands, doing stuff around the house, a movie and making a big pot of spaghetti.

spaghetti 1

I make a decent spaghetti sauce, at least Mrs. P thinks so. When we were growing up in Wheeling, West Virginia, there was a neighborhood Italian restaurant, Figarettis. It was a classic Italian family restaurant. (I believe they are still in business but in a new location.) The family’s children went to school with us. Their sauce was so good, my mother was always trying to duplicate it. Her recipe is the basis for mine. The one unusual ingredient in the Figaretti sauce was anise. That’s the spice with a little liquorice taste you usually encounter in Italian sausage. I’m not a big liquorice fan, but just a hint of underlying flavor in the sauce makes a tremendous difference.

I start with Ragu, Prego or whatever other pre-made sauce is on sale and then go from there. I add a ton of garlic, and additional spices. The “secret ingredient” is sugar. It takes a little of the bite from the tomato sauce. Here is the basic recipe for a beginner.

BASIC SPAGHETTI

Brown a pound of ground beef and a pound of some Italian sausage together.  (Slice open the sausages and brown it along with the ground beef.)

Drain the fat

Add one jar of Ragu or Prego meatless spaghetti sauce, and a good handful of chopped onions and sliced mushrooms, as you will.

The key is in the spices.  Add…

  • At least two garlic cloves, either sliced thin or minced. Feel free to add more.
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Crushed hot pepper, as you wish.
  • A small amount of Anise, if you have it.
  • Salt to taste.

Simmer for about an hour (Or longer. The longer the better.).  When it is almost done, taste. If it is bitter, add a little sugar.  It will take the tang off the tomatoes and bring out the other flavors.

Enjoy!

On the road again…

Mrs. Poolman and I are off for our annual (more or less) driving trip to Pittsburgh and other northern locations. We will have visited my father and youngest sister (and family) in Pittsburgh and then head over to Mechanicsburg (near Harrisburg) to meet up with my brother and his gang. We’ll be spending the Memorial Day weekend at their new beach house in Stone Harbor, NJ.

Fortunately, we’ll have a lot of activity at our Savannah house. Poolboy and GF have moved in for the week to care for house, pool and pets, and Writer Princess (daughter) will be in and out frequently.

So far the trip has gone very well. We left Sunday morning and broke the 11 hour drive into two days. We can and have done it in one day, but Mrs. P tends to get cranky on long trips.

“After eight hours in the car, just cut my throat and put me out of my misery.”

Not a lot of subtlety there.

Our overnight at a Holiday Inn in Beckley, WV was very nice. It was a new or, at least, remodeled hotel, and we were upgraded to a suite. Don’t you know that only happens when all you are looking for is just a bed for the night? Oh well.

We have spent the last couple of days visiting with family. I did take Mrs. P to lunch at two Pittsburgh traditions. Yesterday, we took Dad and my brother in law to Primanti Brothers. This is a famous sandwich shop that started in Pittsburgh’s “strip district” and has expanded to a number of suburban locations. You can always spot a Primanti Brothers sandwich. The French fries are on the sandwich, not on the side.

Today, Dad had some doctor’s appointments so Mrs. P and I were on our own. We headed out to one my favorite spots from my high school and college years,  Danny’s Parkway Pizza. This sandwich shop and pizzeria on Route 88 near South Park, invented and perfected the “hot hoagie” (sub sandwich) long before Quiznos and Subway discovered the concept. It’s a “hole in the wall” place on a busy highway, but as expected, the hoagies were great. I wonder what happened to the drive in theater that used to be next door. 🙂

We had a very nice birthday dinner for my Dad (87) at my sister’s house. Mrs. P and I provided and cooked the steaks. Everyone had a good time and Dad seemed to enjoy it. But after the all-afternoon doctor’s visit and then a family dinner, he was pretty pooped.

Tomorrow, we head to Mechanicsburg and then on to Stone Harbor.

 

 

 

A Friday evening flashback

Life has been both busy and slow at the same time. How can that happen?

This past weekend started out busy but then coasted to through to a quiet couple of days. On Friday evening, I helped out serving at the Knights of Columbus fish fry. Our daughter’s best friend, Norma, invited us to go over to her house afterwards for a small get-together and to eat some of those fish dinners. We’ve known Norma and her family since the girls were all middle-school age. Early on, our families had discovered an amazing coincidence. Both of our families had five children; we all grew up in the same town (Wheeling, West Virginia) at the same time; and we all attended the same parochial school, St. Vincent de Paul, in Elm Grove.

On Friday evening, I sat down with Norma’s mother and aunt and played “Do you remember…?” It was incredible what we both recalled. In addition to sharing the same school, we played in the same parks, went to the same movie theaters and swimming pools, attended the same church and shopped at the same stores. We even shared the same family physicians. It’s amazing that none of us can remember knowing one another back in the mid-60s when we were all at the same school together. The best we can figure out is that we must have alternated grades. Despite each family having five children, spread across roughly the same time frame, none of us were in the same class. As the evening wore down, I remembered one last detail of those years.

“Did your mom ever cook city chicken?”

“Oh my God! I haven’t thought about that in years! We had it all the time.”

City Chicken

City chicken is a dish apparently indigenous to western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio. It is simply cubed pork and veal, arranged on a wooden skewer and cooked like chicken. My recollection is my mom browned it in butter, made gravy and then finished the cooking by simmering the pieces in gravy. It was served with noodles. What a flashback! Now Mrs. Poolman is hot to trot to cook some city chicken and have the other families over for a 1960s dinner. Should be fun.

An interesting flashback

I had an interesting telephone conversation with my brother earlier this week. He had driven from his home to Mechanicsburg, Pa., to spend a couple of days visiting my father in Pittsburgh. Somehow, they got the idea to drive another hour west to visit the town were we grew up — Wheeling, W. Va.

Some background here. While I usually claim the ‘burgh as my hometown, the truth of the matter is that my brother and I  grew up mostly in the Wheeling suburbs of Bethlehem and Elm Grove.  My earliest memories, at maybe four or five years old, are of Wheeling. My parents moved the family back to their hometown of Pittsburgh between my freshman and sophomore years of high school.

My brother described how they drove around our old neighborhood in Bethlehem — Mt. Lebanon Drive. I was able to follow him perfectly as he described what he saw and how it had changed, at least from his childhood memories.

“Do remember at the bottom of the “steep hill” there was a house on the left.”

“Yes. David Morris lived there.”

“Right!”

It was really quite a flashback.  We moved away from that neighborhood in 1967, when my brother and I were 12 and 13 respectively. Yet, we were both able to visualize and share a tour, as if we had lived there yesterday.

Part of that probably has to do with the nature of the neighborhood and the way we grew up.

This neighborhood was actually fairly isolated. It was located top of one of the many “mountains” southeast of central Wheeling. A single road originated off of a highway and wound its way up the “mountain” and along the hill-top ridge. It eventually split in two near the end. It was one long cul d’ sac.  There were maybe 45 homes in the entire neighborhood and most of them had school-aged kids.

Every direction out of the neighborhood was downhill. We and our friends used to roam all through the surrounding woods and old farm fields for hours at a time. As far as we were concerned, we “owned” the area and walked or rode our bikes everywhere. We would leave the house in the morning and not return until dinner time. We didn’t have swimming pools, carefully groomed ball fields or parks. We didn’t need them.

We also had no need of maps or street signs. We gave the various features our own names. Death Valley, Echo Valley, The Old Tank Road, The Moon, Mount Help, The Steep Hill, The Empty Lot, Old Softy, and so on.

On one side of the neighborhood, there was what appeared by be an aborted effort to start a new development. For whatever reason, after the developers had bulldozed and cleared lanes for streets, they abandoned the project. This left interconnecting strips of raw dirt, rocks, weeds and gullies where we used to hike, play “Army,” build forts and anything else that sounded like a good idea. Eventually, those areas were developed. What we called Death Valley, the Old Tank Road and Echo Valley is now “Baytree Drive.” Maybe I’m a little prejudiced, but I like the original names better.

My brother and I are both in our late 50s now, but when he described “Do you remember when we used to go down the Old Cement Road and passed by Mount Help…?” it made perfect sense.

At the time, we probably didn’t think our childhoods were as idyllic as they seem through the prism of 40-50 years. However, my brother and I both agreed that as adults, our memories of growing up there are pretty good.

We’re on a roll this week

One of my brother’s and my fun summer activities when we were growing up was picking black rasberries or blackberries.  Actually, what we really liked was eating the pies and sundaes that were the result of our harvest.

During most of our childhood, our family lived in a hill-top neighborhood, in suburban Wheeling, West Virginia.  The area was called Bethlehem.  Our neighborhood consisted of a single road that winded up a wooded hillside from the main highway and then threaded itself along the ridge of a series of tall hills. We called them “mountains” but I’m not sure that was totally accurate. While some of the surrounding countryside was steep and heavily wooded, there were large areas of grassy fields, probably land cleared for old farms. Many of those fields were full of raspberry and blackberry bushes.

We would set out with our bowls and pitchers in search of the ripe berries. The black rasberries ripened in June. The larger-kernel blackberries didn’t sweeten until mid-July.

On a good day we would return home with a gallon or more of berries, more than my mother could ever hope to use.

All of that is just background to explain my impulse-purchase of a quart of blackberries at the produce stand last week. On Sunday, we had some friends over to swim, so I tried my hand a pie. It didn’t turn out too bad although I seriously under estimated the amount of corn starch needed. Even cool, it was still fairly “runny.” So I served it in bowls with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I didn’t hear any complaints.

I’ll hold off posting a recipe until I try it again and get a better handle on the amount of thickener needed. Stay tuned.

Our Sunday guests included our friends Sam and Lynn and their now 11-month old twin daughters, Helen and Brittany. The girls are very even tempered, playful and, as you can see from the pictures, extremely cute.

Brittany

Helen

We had a great time.

The ‘burgh!

With the “Stillers” in the Super Bowl, I am being deluged with emails full of Pittsburgh nostalgia and trivia.

While I claim Pittsburgh as my home town, and cheer for the Steelers, I actually only lived there full-time for four years, and that ended 40 years ago. My parents were deep-rooted Pittsburghers. (I’d call them “yinzers”, except my father would never forgive me and my mother would come back from the grave and haunt me.) However, my life from earliest memory until high school was spent in Wheeling, W.Va.  — about an hour’s drive down the road. We moved to the South Hills the summer before my 10th grade. I left Pittsburgh for the University of Florida after my freshman year in college and never moved back except for two college-summers and visits.

A beautiful photo of "The Point" by Jennifer Yang.

All the same, I can still relate to many of these “You know you are from Pittsburgh if…” statements that my sister sent me.

Yunz is from the Picksburgh area or maybe you grew up there if:

1. You didn’t have a spring break in high school.

2. You walk carefully when it is “slippy” outside.

3. You often go down to the “crick.” (Lots of “cricks” in West Virginia too.)

4. You’ve told your children to “red up” their rooms. (I actually caught myself using this term the other day.)

5. You can remember telling your little brother/sister to stop being so “nebby.”

6. You’ve gotten hurt by falling into a “jaggerbush.”

7. Your mother or grandmother has been seen wearing a “babushka” on her head. (I don’t think so. Wrong ethnic group.)

8. You’ve “worshed” the clothes. (Never. My mother would have killed me.)

9. I ask you to hand me one of those “Gum-Bands” an’ you actually know what I’m talking about.

10. You know you can’t drive too fast on the back roads, because of the deer.

11. You know Beaver Valley, Turtle Crick, Mars, Slippery Rock, Greentree and New Castle are names of towns. And you’ve been to most, if not all, of them.

12. A girl walks up to three of her girl friends and says, “HEY,YENZ GUYS!”

13. You hear “you guyses” and don’t think twice. Example: “you guyses hause is nice.”

14. You know the three rivers by name and under stand that “The Point” isn’t just on a writing instrument.

15. Someone refers to “The Mon” or “The Yough” and you know exactly what they’re talking about.

16. You remember the blizzard of 1993 (or 1976, or 1950, or 1939, or…) and remember not being able to go outside because the snow was over your head and you would have suffocated.

17. Someone starts the chant, “Here we go Still-ers!” and you join in — in the proper cadence, waving the appropriately colored towel.

18. Bob Prince and “There’s a bug loose on the rug.” hold special meaning for you. (And you remember exactly where you were when Bill Mazeroski hit the walk-off homer to win the 1960 World Series.)

19. You’ve either eaten a Farkleberry Tart or know someone who has. (???)

20. You drink pop, eat hoagies, love perogies and one of your favorite sandwiches actually has coleslaw and French fries ON it. (I remember using the term “pop” when I went to Florida and no one knew what I was talking about. They called it “Coke or something.”)

21. You know what a “still mill” is.

22. You expect temps in the winter to be record-breaking cold and temps in the summer to be record-breaking hot.

23. You know what Eat ‘N Park is and frequently ate breakfast there at 2:00 AM after the bar closed and made fun of people.

24. You order “dippy eggs” in a restaurant and get exactly what you wanted.

25. You spent your summers, or a school picnic at Luna Park, Kennywood, Westview, Sand Castle or Idlewild.

26. You’ve been to the Braun’s Bread Plant or Story Book Forest for a school field trip. We went to the Heinz plant and the Isaly’s plant for Cub Scouts.

27. “Chipped ham” was always in your refrigerator when you was growin’ up. (Didn’t everyone have it?)

28. You refuse to buy any condiments besides Heinz unless a Pittsburgh athlete’s picture is on the side of the container.

29. When you call the dog or the kids you shout, “Kum-mere” and they come. (I’m afraid I’m guilty of this one.)

30. Franco, Roberto, and Mario don’t need last names and you can recite their exploits by heart.

31. Food at a wedding reception consists of rigatoni, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut and polska kielbasa.

A trip home to the ‘burgh

I have been out of the loop for about the last week. I’m just now getting back to the normal routine.

Mrs. Poolman and I drove to Pittsburgh late last week to visit with my Dad, youngest sister and a multitude of nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. Even my brother drove in from the other end of the state for a few days.

We had a very nice time, but it was very busy. Mrs. P absolutely hates spending more than eight hours in a car. (“After eight hours, I’m just ready to cut my throat just to get it over with.” That makes a terrible mess, and you never get the smell out of the upholstery.) So we split up the drive both going and returning.

Our first stop was the Holiday Inn in Oak Hill, West Virginia. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were very pleasantly surprised. We ended up being upgraded to a suite-style room that was gigantic. We were tired, so we just ate in the hotel restaurant, and it was also good, and not just by Holiday Inn standards.

We got into the ‘burgh early Friday afternoon. I went to a Pirates game that evening with Dad, my brother in law and nephew while Mrs. P hung out with youngest sister and visited. I haven’t followed the Pirates since I was a child, but I know they aren’t the most successful team in baseball. They didn’t surprise anyone Friday night, loosing to the Rockies. But it was still a great experience to watch the game in the very nice PNC Park.

A good time was had by all.

On Saturday, my Dad hosted a party at my sister’s house. This is most uncharacteristic of him. I’m not sure about the motivation. In any case, he invited a bunch of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc; ordered ribs, wings, etc from some local restaurants; and put on a very nice party. Several of my cousins in the Pittsburgh area came with their families. There were a ton of kids. Everyone had a great time.

One of my cousins and his wife adopted a child from Guatemala about a year and a half ago. They live in the DC area, but came into town for the weekend. We had not seen little Anna before this weekend. She is a gas. She is three years old and very full of herself. She pretty much has all her cousins (all older, 6-18 years old) wrapped around her finger. The kid has it licked. Apparently, she has been totally absorbed into that large Irish-Polish family. Very cute.

We drove back to Savannah Sunday afternoon and Monday, again spending the night on the road. I turned it right around and hit the road for two days in Atlanta Tuesday and Wednesday. This morning I felt a little like I had “been rode hard and put up wet.” I had spent four to seven hours behind the wheel during six of the past seven days. I guess I piled it on by mowing the lawn and cleaning the pool and back yard when I got back to Savannah yesterday evening.  I’m turning into a wimp in my old age.

We have nothing big planned for this weekend, and I think we’ll keep it that way. I need to catch up on bills, laundry, and a little chillin’. The pool and a lounge chair are screaming my name.

Humbug to winter!

If I ever had any thoughts that maybe I am missing out on that “winter wonderland” thing by living in Savannah, I was thoroughly dissuaded this past weekend.

I took a quick driving trip to visit my father and Youngest Sister (and family) in Pennsylvania. I picked up Middle Sister in South Carolina along the way. Mrs. Poolman couldn’t rearrange her schedule, so she stayed home and took care of the critters.

I drove to SC on Wednesday afternoon and Middle Sis and I took off Thursday morning for Pittsburgh. The weather was great, bright and sunny the entire way. MS and I talked the entire way, so the eight hour drive went quickly.

We had a good time visiting. While we were busy enjoying family, a major winter storm was wreaking havoc, mostly to the south and east of us. After dinner Friday evening, I took off for a Christmas party given by an old friend (same friend that we visited in NYC in September.) Randi put on a great party and I had a chance to reconnect with a number of old friends. I stayed to help clean up, along with several neighbors and some of the hostess’ friends who were staying at her house. When I walked out to leave, there was about two inches of snow on the ground. I knew I was in trouble when I found myself sliding down the road on the ice. When I was brushing the snow and scraping the ice off my car, I had to hang on to keep from sliding down the hill. I was parked facing uphill. I got about 50 feet and no more. So I hiked back up to Randi’s house and asked if she had a spare couch for a stranded traveler.

The next morning certainly was “winter wonderland.”

My car Saturday morning.

Actually, this is pretty.

Ooo, it's cold outside!

I’ve always told Mrs. Poolman, that heavy snowfalls may be beautiful, and can be enjoyable, as long as you don’t have to go anywhere.

Eventually the road crews came along with plows and salt and I was able to make it back to family, first to my sister’s and later to my Dad’s. What a pain in the rear!

Clear roads?

The plan was to drive back on Sunday. We were trying to get weather information from The Weather Channel, but surprisingly, they weren’t much help. They were so focused on the progress of the storm through the Northeast, especially DC, NYC and Boston, they barely mentioned anything in the rest of the country.

Bad berries to you, Weather Channel! You’ll get nothing but coal and switches in your stocking later this week.

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny.

The view off Dad's driveway.

Absolutely beautiful! After giving just enough time for the sun to work a little magic, we decided to chance fate and take off. The first half of the trip, especially through West Virginia was very picturesque, and fortunately the roads were mostly clear.

Somewhere in West Virginia.

The trip was uneventful. Again, MS and I talked the entire way and the time flew by.

All told, it was a good trip, with a short, but enjoyable family visit. For the future, I think I’ll keep myself in the south between December and March. For those of you who live through that all winter, I hope you enjoy it, because if you don’t the South doesn’t have room for all of you!