Saturday, March 26, 2011

“More Cooking With Gusto”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Cooking freely is a liberty most Americans take completely for granted. Yet the encroachment of dietary correctness has begun to erase old traditions from the national routine. With each generation, our country is moving further away from meaty, cheesy, carbohydrate-intense, high-sodium dishes, in favor of healthier alternatives. The justification for such a change in our eating habits is the need to promote good health among citizens. Yet some still resist this move toward gastronomical discipline.

In kitchens from New York to California, as in Washington, D.C., there are different views of how the country should proceed into the 21st-Century.

What follows here is a short selection of recipes that express the creativity and rowdiness of those who will not go quietly into the culinary future:


4 (4 oz.) cans Vienna sausage
1 3/4 c. American cheese (grated)
1 c. onion (chopped)
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1 (8 oz.) pkg. elbow macaroni (cooked)
1 1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. dry mustard

Spit 14 sausages lengthwise, stuff with 3/4 cup cheese (like sandwiches). Cut remaining sausages in 1/2 inch pieces. Warm milk, add remaining cheese, onion, mustard and caraway seeds. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until thickened. In greased 2 quart casserole, place alternate layers of macaroni, Vienna sausage and cheese sauce. Top, in circular fashion with the stuffed sausages. Cover, bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) for 35 minutes. Serves 6.


2 packages Beef Flavor Top Ramen
3 cups water
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 jar spaghetti sauce (15-1/2oz.)
3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
1 pizza pan
aluminum foil

Cover pizza pan with aluminum foil. Build up foil edges to form about 1/2" tall rim around the pan. Lightly grease the aluminum surface. Cook both packages of Top Ramen noodles in water with pinch of salt. Do not use flavor packets. Drain noodles and set aside. Brown beef, onions and mushrooms together. Drain excess fat. Stir both flavor packets into meat mixture. Set aside. Beat together egg, milk and parmesan cheese. Stir this mixture into Top Ramen noodles. Evenly spread noodle/egg mixture onto pizza pan. Pour spaghetti sauce over noodles. Sprinkle meat mixture over sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden, bubbly brown. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.


1 can Spam
1 lb. sauerkraut, well drained
1 can prepared apple pie filling

Tear off 4 generous squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Cut the Spam into 4 equal slices and place in the center of foil squares. Top each with a fourth of the kraut, then the pie filling. Bring up sides of foil to form well-sealed packages. Place bombs on grill, Spam side down, over hot coals. Grill until Spam is browned and heated through. Can be eaten right from the foil. Adapts to oven cooking as well. Bake in oven about 30 minutes or heated through. Makes 4 servings. (Note - works well baked in an oven and can be placed in a casserole dish without the aluminum foil. Grease the casserole dish, make stacks of Spam, sauerkraut and apple pie filling into serving size.)


2 ounces shaved steak (Philly meat)
1/2 ounce red and green peppers
1/2 ounce yellow onions
1 slice American cheese
1 tablespoon mashed potatoes
1 large burrito wrapper (flour tortilla)

Cook the shaved steak then add the peppers and onions and sweat until soft. Put mashed potatoes in center of burrito wrapper then put shaved steak/pepper/onion mix on top of that. Add cheese. Fold in all four sides and secure with wooden picks. Deep fry until golden brown. Gravy is the best type of dip for this.


1 (28 ounce) can baked beans
6 -8 hot dogs
4 cups tater tots
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Set your oven to 450. Dump your can of baked beans into a casserole dish. Set the dish aside. Cut up your hotdogs into bite sized pieces and throw those into your casserole dish and mix until dogs are well coated with baked bean sauce. Cover the bean and dog mixture with tater tots. We usually use a couple handfuls. Use as many as you'd like. Just make sure to cover the mixture completely. Place the casserole dish in the oven for 1/2 an hour or until tater tots are golden brown. When Redneck Casserole is all cooked up, turn off the oven and sprinkle the top with cheese. Casserole is completely done when cheese is melted.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

“The New York Times, Revisited”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a busy morning at the Icehouse.

The telephone rang as I was pouring a cup of coffee. I had intended to begin work on a newspaper column. But fate, it seemed, had other ideas.

“Hello, Mr. Ice?” the caller said cheerfully. “I am Giles Mead. Do you remember me?”

“Who?” I stammered.

“Giles Mead,” he repeated. “You interviewed with me two years ago. We were working on the prospective Great Lakes Gazetteer project.”

I struggled to remember. “Gazetteer?”

“The New York Times is my employer,” he screeched. “Does that ring a bell?”

“Gazetteer from the Times,” I repeated. “Okay…”

“It didn’t work out as we planned,” he admitted. “But… no matter. One of our reporters is in the midst of a story about Tea Party activism. I remembered our conversation and wondered if you might offer some insight into this phenomena.”

“What?” I barked. “You must have me confused with someone else…”

“Come now Mr., Ice,” he laughed. “I’m sure you hold strong opinions about your movement…”

My face went red. “Listen, I’m a journalist, not a politician.”

Mead coughed into the telephone. “Please Mr. Ice. Let’s be honest, shall we? Your sympathies are quite obvious.”

“Obvious?” I huffed. “You must be kidding. I’ve worked very hard to report events in my county without interjecting personal opinions.”

“So,” he whined. “You don’t consider yourself a Tea Party member?”

My heart was pounding. “No, I don’t.”

“Indeed!” he hissed. “Well, I find that to be most amusing… haven’t you written favorably about Rep. Ron Paul of Texas?”

A silent pause elapsed. “I have tried to report about all participants in the national dialogue. Providing information is my mission, after all. Paul was active long before the current wave of protesters made their presence known. At the moment, he seems to be an important, if marginal, figure.”

“Aha! So, you now openly admit your Tea Party sympathies?” he crooned.

“I sympathize with democracy. Citizens should be engaged in the political process,” I said. “It is the same with labor activists who want to speak out in defense of collective bargaining. Our system only functions when we participate.”

Mead was flustered. “You are making no sense!”

“Look,” I cautioned. “I personally believe many Tea Party members are a bit tardy in coming to the table. Focusing on the growth of government at this late hour is politically convenient. But not convincing on the strength of real principles. When George W. Bush was drastically inflating our national debt, where were they? When bankers and insurance companies were being bailed out by taxpayers, where was their outrage?”

Mead gasped for air. “You surprise me, Mr. Ice!”

“Really?” I exclaimed. “Well then, you should’ve read more of my work. The labor movement has a long and important history in America. But union leaders have often wandered from the original purpose of truly representing their workers. The time for average people to speak out is long overdue. I think we have arrived at a moment when all sides are raising their voices. That is a healthy thing for our nation. We need to hear from regular folks instead of professional pundits and Washington insiders.”

“But… the political debate is at a fever pitch!” he complained.

My eyes narrowed. “I don’t fear a spirited debate. What I fear is a lack of dissent. If I disagree with my neighbor, and we reason together as equals, the result can be greater than both of us…”

The phone line crackled. “So, you won’t participate in our story?”

“You just want a good quote or two criticizing the current administration. Is that it?” I whispered.

“In a word, yes!” he pleaded.

“And what will the upshot of your report be?” I asked. “Sensational, one-sided headlines, or real analysis of the problems facing America?”

“Well… we have to sell newspapers, of course.” He confessed.

“So… you want me to sling some mud. But how does that promote a real political dialogue?” I wondered out loud.

Mead snorted like a bull. “Dialogue isn’t my responsibility.”

“Perhaps not,” I agreed. “But providing genuine news is your job. Speaking truth, without bias. Without an agenda.”

“Please Mr. Ice,” he said mockingly. “You sound like a Fox News promo.”

My voice went hoarse. “Actually, I’m a CNN junkie at the moment. But never mind. The New York Times is well known around the world. Shouldn’t you strive to protect your banner from bias and editorial drift?”

“Hah!” he exploded. “I see now that this call was a mistake.”

“Yes it was,” I replied. “If your goal was to gather evidence to support conclusions already made in the editorial offices.”

“Well then, good day, Mr. Ice!” he shouted.

“Thanks for you call,” I replied in a monotone voice. The phone line went silent.

Now, it was time to reheat my coffee!

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

“Capitol Call”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

My friend Ezekiel Byler-Gregg is Editor In Chief of the local Burton Daily Bugle newspaper.

Zeke has always possessed a very individualistic outlook, owing in part to his Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. But recently, his opinions have taken a more Libertarian turn. After encountering financial difficulties during the near collapse of our economy in 2008, he has become more vocal.

Last week, despite the objections of friends like myself, he attempted to contact our nation’s highest leader. What follows here is a transcript of his protest-by-phone:

OPERATOR – “Hello! This is the White House switchboard. How may I direct your call today?”

EZEKIEL – “Hello, miss. My name is Ezekiel Byler-Gregg. I am the editor of a small, country newspaper in Burton, Ohio.”

OPERATOR – “Yes Mr. Gregg. How may I direct your call?”

EZEKIEL – “That’s Byler-Gregg, if you please.”

OPERATOR – “Yes, Mr. Byler-Gregg. How may I direct…”

EZEKIEL – “I’d like to speak with President Obama.”

OPERATOR – “Who??”

EZEKIEL – “Your boss. The head honcho. Is he home at the moment?”

OPERATOR – “My boss?”

EZEKIEL – “The President of the United States!”

OPERATOR – “Is this a prank?”

EZEKIEL – “No, I’m a concerned citizen trying to plow up some answers!”

OPERATOR – “Is this a radio stunt? Are you Rush Limbaugh?”

EZEKIEL – “Limbaugh? Now that’s funny. But I would be less offended if you accused me of being Phil Hendrie…”


EZEKIEL – “Phil Hendrie. The guy that does all the different voices.”


EZEKIEL – “Never mind. My name is Ezekiel Byler-Gregg. I am a journalist.”

OPERATOR – “A journalist? Like Andrew Breitbart?”

EZEKIEL – “No, no, no! I am a humble citizen trying to reach his president.”

OPERATOR – “Mr. Gregg, please! You can’t speak to him without an appointment.”

EZEKIEL – “That’s Byler-Gregg!”

OPERATOR – “Sorry. I am unable to direct your call…”

EZEKIEL – “Miss, have you ever heard the phrase ‘We The People?’ Do you know what that means?”

OPERATOR – “Mr. Byler-Gregg, you are speaking in riddles.”

EZEKIEL – “The phrase means our government works for us. President Obama serves the voters. Do you understand that? I want him to speak with me. Maybe a maple syrup version of his famous beer summit.”

OPERATOR – “You are making no sense.”

EZEKIEL – “Have you ever read the U. S. Constitution?”

OPERATOR – “Mr. Byler, my reading habits aren’t relevant here…”

EZEKIEL – “Byler-Gregg! Byler-Gregg!”

OPERATOR – “Sir, you are hurting my ear.”

EZEKIEL – “I want to ask President Obama how it is that he promised tax relief for working Americans in 2008, and now has created a climate where someone like myself just got tagged with the biggest IRS bill I’ve ever faced.”

OPERATOR – “You need to speak with H & R Block, not President Obama.”

EZEKIEL – “Shouldn’t that be my decision?”

OPERATOR – “Is this Glenn Beck? Are you on the air right now?”

EZEKIEL – “For the last time, I am a down-home newspaper editor from Ohio!”

OPERATOR – “You do not need to shout, sir.”

EZEKIEL – “I want to ask President Obama how it is that he managed to take care of struggling companies like GM and Chrysler, while abandoning working-class citizens like myself.”

OPERATOR – “Mr. Beck, that does not bear any resemblance to the truth.”

EZEKIEL – “Byler-Gregg! Byler-Gregg! Byler-Gregg!”

OPERATOR – “Sir, you are shouting again.”

EZEKIEL – “I had financial problems last year. With a bit of creative wrangling, I settled my debts for a lump-sum payoff. But now, I face a huge tax bill on the ‘forgiven’ amount of money. Isn’t that just a bit crazy? Taxing money that didn’t exist?”

OPERATOR – “Mr. Byler-Gregg, you need to calm down.”

EZEKIEL – “Actually, I reckon it is sort of appropriate. The government prints money that doesn’t exist, so… why not tax money that doesn’t exist? Eureka!”

OPERATOR – “You need to take a deep breath, sir.”

EZEKIEL – “What I need is to speak with your boss.”

OPERATOR – “If you have a dispute, it would fall under IRS jurisdiction.”

EZEKIEL – “Let me ask you… when GM and Chrysler were ‘forgiven’ in regard to billions of dollars of unpaid debts… do you think they had to pay taxes on that amount?”

OPERATOR – “Okay, this must be Bill O’Reilly. My grandmother actually watches your show… I am embarrassed to say.”

EZEKIEL – “Miss, you don’t seem to be listening to me!”

OPERATOR – “As I said before, I am unable to direct your call. Have a good day.”

EZEKIEL – “Wait! Wait! Don’t hang up the phone, lady!”

OPERATOR – “Sir, you are obviously an employee of FOX News. This is going nowhere…”

EZEKIEL – “Hold your horses! I have been a registered Democrat for over forty years.”

OPERATOR – “I find that very hard to believe.”

EZEKIEL – “Ronald Reagan once said ‘I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, they left me.’ That’s how I feel, miss.”

OPERATOR – “Mr. Byler-Gregg, my job is not to assess how you feel. I direct telephone calls for the White House.”

EZEKIEL – “Then please direct my call to President Obama.”

OPERATOR – “I can’t do that…”

EZEKIEL – “Can’t do, or won’t?”

OPERATOR – “Arguing over words has no purpose here. Is there anything else you wanted today?”

EZEKIEL – “Just answers. That’s all.”

OPERATOR – “Answers are not my area of expertise… just telephone directories.”

EZEKIEL – “That has become mighty obvious. Like a cowpie in the barnyard.”

OPERATOR – “I do have a toll-free number for the IRS. Are you ready with a pencil and paper?”

EZEKIEL – “Never mind, blast it. Never mind!”

OPERATOR – “Thanks for calling the White House. Have a good day, Mr. Gregg.”

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