Friday, January 15, 2010

Going to the Picture Show


Growing up, the best way to escape the cold, grey dreariness that is January here (or the balmy stickiness that pervades every other month of the year) was to retreat to the make believe world of the movies. Or as my Aunt Marie called them "the picture shows."

Almost every neighborhood had its own theater. On the Point, it was The Roxy on Howard Avenue. It burned sometime in the 50s.

But the undisputed grande dame of Biloxi's movie theaters was the Saenger on Reynoir Street. It was a gilded movie palace with billowing red velvet drapes and an enormous chandelier that everyone was scared to sit under. It was worth catching the bus downtown just to bask in its grandeur.

My mother enjoyed a life-long affinity with the Saenger; it opened on the night of her birth. Her Aunt Frances, a sassy 1920s "It" girl , was so upset at missing the grand opening, she insisted that the doctor let her have the first whack at the newborn's bottom. I don't know if that's true, but it sounds like Aunt Frances. She was a spitfire.

During my childhood in the 1960s, the Saenger was still a movie theater (it later became a theater for the performing arts). My cousins and I whiled away long, hot summer afternoons at the Popeye shows there. Does anyone remember those? They were sponsored by Pepsi Cola. You paid for your ticket with Pepsi bottle caps instead of money. The main feature was usually an old black and white Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy sandwiched between some Popeye cartoons, a prize raffle and a contest. My cousin Stevie won one of their costume contests. I can't recall what he wore, but I remember he got a box of chocolate covered cherries that he shared with all of us.

The wonderful thing about theaters back then was they let you bring in your own snacks. Well, maybe they didn't, but no one enforced this rule. My mom 's favorite movie snack was the now discontinued Seven Up bar. It was actually seven candies in one bar -- and absolutely delicious. In the late 1970s, you could still occasionally find them at the Walgreens drug store at Edgewater mall. I used to snack on them during breaks in my job as a concessionaire at Edgewater Cinema (another now-gone Biloxi theater). The dark chocolate bar (and the jellied orange section) was my favorite.

Today is my mother's -- and the Saenger's -- birthday.

I think I'll celebrate by going to a movie in their honor. If I were going to sneak in food - not that I would ever do such a thing - I would bring these wonderful little meat turnovers that Mama used to make for our lunch boxes and family picnics They're portable and good cold as well as hot.

Now if only I could find a Seven Up bar for dessert.

Happy Birthday, Tone. I love and miss you always.

Tone's Meat Pies

Combine 2 teaspoons of shortening (or oil) and 2 teaspoons of flour in a large dutch oven or pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the roux is copper-colored. Add:

2 lbs. ground beef (chuck or round)

2 large yellow onions, chopped fine

6 green onions, chopped fine

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/8 teaspoon garlic salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

dash of red pepper

Cook over medium heat until meat is browned and onions are tender. Stir occasionally. Drain well and cool.

Make pastry dough.

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup (2 sticks) real butter

5 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water.

Scald milk. Add butter and let melt over very low heat. Cool.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add egg yolks. Stir in cooled milk and blend well. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover with a towel and let rest in draft-free area about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter baking sheet (VERY lightly -- the pastries get too brown on the bottom otherwise). Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll each into 10x 15 inch rectangle. Using a pastry wheel, cut each rectangle into six 5-inch squares.

Place 2 heaping tablespoons of meat filling into each square. Moisten edges with a little water and press lightly to make them stick together. Fold over and seal each the same way. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Brush with beaten egg and bake until golden, 35-40 minutes.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Remembering New Year's Day 1964


Happy New Year! Just got back from spending Christmas in Paris. It was magnifique! If you're interested, my photos and impressions are on my vacation blog, http://joyeuxnoelyall.blogspot.com/.

Now, I'd like to invite you to come along with me on another snowy trip, this one back in time, to the great snowfall of New Year's Eve 1963/New Year's Day 1964. This photo was taken on New Year's Day in my nona and grandpa's yard on Point Cadet.

Snowfall is extremely rare in these parts, occurring for the most part every decade or so, mostly in late winter/early spring. This was a very special New Year for all of us. It seemed like a huge snow storm to us, but as you can see, the snow wasn't very deep. That snowman included a lot of grass, leaves and dirt.

I dressed myself in keeping with the festive occasion. The black patent leather shoes were a controversial choice. My mom maintained these were not appropriate for playing in the snow, but my daddy reminded her I was about to grow out of those shoes anyway. And so it was. I have a history of choosing cute shoes over practicality.
My other overwhelming memory of the day is of drinking lots of hot chocolate. It probably wasn't nearly as good as what I've been drinking in Paris for the past few weeks.

Since it looks like we may have snow here in the 'burg (but probably not on the Coast) later in the week, here's a recipe for Parisian style chocolat chaud. Enjoy

Parisian Style Hot Chocolate
Whole milk
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder per serving
Sugar, 2 teaspoons per serving
Measure milk into a saucepan (use your favorite mug as your guide). Bring milk to a boil over medium heat. Do not let it scorch or boil over.
Into the mug, dissolve the cocoa powder and sugar in a little of the milk. Mix until it makes a smooth paste. Add the rest of the hot milk slowly, and stir away all the lumps.
You may substitute 1 oz. of baking chocolate, roughly chopped, for the cocoa powder. Melt the chocolate in the milk on the stove