Category Archives: Food

A Car Named Susie

A few weeks ago, it was a Friday night and my fiancee and I were still wondering what we wanted to do the next day. We are, mostly, introverted and love days in but we both pretty much wanted to get out and do something that weekend.

It was one of those fortuitous nights as, near the end of the night with just a short while before she and the boy left to go home for the night, she saw Modern Marvels on Amazon Prime and said she liked the show. I flipped through the available episodes and picked one on Gas Stations.

The episode was OK but it ended with a story about a quirky little place on Route 66 not terribly far from where we live called Pops.

If you’ve read much of the recent posts about my youth you know that my grandmother was likely to say she wanted to go for a drive on the weekends. I haven’t been with someone who really loved just getting and the car and going as much as my current fiancee who, to my chagrin, turned to me and said, “We should go there tomorrow.” My heart fluttered and the excitement grew.

At night the soda bottle lights up. This pic from 

Pops was built in 2007 on Route 66 in Arcadia, Oklahoma and, despite being relatively new, they embraced the spirit of 66 and out front built a 66 foot tall steel structure in the shape of a soda bottle.

Inside, over 12,000 glass soda bottles line the floor to ceiling glass walls and, even better, they sell over 3000 different types of soda. This isn’t just Pepsi and Coke and some forms of Cherry and Vanilla, but also Bacon soda and Cookie Dough Ice Cream Soda. This is a fun place.

The first thing I was sure of, the night before, was that I wanted to take as much of 66 as possible.

Don't touch these bottles that line the windows so you might want to leave Mr. Bean at home.

Don’t touch these bottles that line the windows so you might want to leave Mr. Bean at home.


Soon I stated that I didn’t want to take a highway there at all. Halfway there I declared I was going to avoid highways entirely and we would take other ‘back roads’ home.

Nana was channeled through me and I loved hitting every speed limit in every small town. I started hitting garage sales in the small towns and hit jackpots finding a USB phone charger for 50 cents and a bread maker for 5 dollars.

A very very very small sample of the various sodas they offer at POPS

A very very very small sample of the various sodas they offer at POPS

We talked and laughed the entire way especially when we saw a sign for a business that was Carnegie Pre-Cast in ground Strom Shelters and Septic Tanks. “Forget that crap Mertle, I’ll take my chances with the twister!”

Pops itself was great and I have a set of glass bottles lining my computer desk but the real gem was in the trip, as usual. On the way home my fiancee was tired and cat-napped most of the way back while the boy played games in the back.

They have food, too. Burgers and cheese fries for us, please.

They have food, too. Burgers and cheese fries for us, please.

And while I was indeed getting tired I had also found a few windy roads that started getting my driving juices flowing. And while I don’t have the greatest car, the fastest car, or the most unique car (In fact, considering how many people have MY EXACT CAR I would say I have the least unique car.) it can still be a zippy little fun car to drive.

I leaned the seat back and tilted the steering wheel down. Gripping the wheel tighter I sank into the seat and zipped around the corners with a sly smile creeping across my face. I fell in love with my car and all the places it could take me all over again and more memories of Nana flooded back.

Have you ever had Japanese soda? Wasn't my first, won't be my last.

Have you ever had Japanese soda? Wasn’t my first, won’t be my last.

My grandmother had a habit of naming her cars Susie, at least all the ones I had ever been in. And I’m sure she told me why she named them Susie at one point but that is lost in the annuls of growing up and losing kid memories but she did and she would talk to her cars. If a car was having trouble getting over a mountain she would rub the dashboard and start a pep talk, “Come on girl, you can do it Susie. Just a little farther.”

She had a connection with her cars because they held her passion and that Saturday that passion came rushing back to me. Coming out of the curves and getting back on a ‘main’ highway (not an interstate, not even 4 lane) I instinctively reached my hand forward and rubbed the dashboard and, with a tear in my eye, dubbed my car Susie.


She’s not the best car, but Susie rocks.

My car won’t be around forever. Indeed if things worked out well I would hope to have a nicer car in the next year or two. But family trips, spending time with the love of my life, exploring America and (fingers crossed) beyond, and the memories of my nana will live on and, yes, SUSIE, Susie will live on.


Cheesy Joes Recipe with the Phatman

When I met Phatman, it was in a dark alley as he was crusading against crappy food because his parents died of embarrassment of cooking crappy hors d’oeurves at a ritzy fancy pants party. I don’t remember everything as I was too busy eating his craziest creation, Cheesy Joes.

I finally got Phatman to share his simple secret with me and the rest of you, so I hope you enjoy his vigilante nourishment craziness as I have.


Sloppy Joes get a modern makeover

Sloppy Joes get a modern makeover

What you need

  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1/2 Pckg taco seasonings
  • 8-10 oz of Velveeta Cheese
  • 1/3 cup of milk (Optional)

What you do

  • Brown the ground beef, adding the 1/2 pckg of Taco seasoning when almost done
  • Meanwhile – Cut the velveeta into cubes (PHATMAN TIP: Cut length wise twice, turn on side, cut lengthwise twice again. You now have long strips about the size of cheese sticks. Simply cut width wise a number of times to get small cubes great for melting.)
  • Optional – for a SLIGHTLY healthier version (or non grease lovers) drain the beef and put back in to pan
  • If you drained your beef, add in the milk.
  • Add the cheese you have cubed and start stirring. Then stir some more. When you’re done stirring, stir a few more times. After that, stir again.
  • Keep pushing the mixture around until the cheese is melted.
  • Remove from heat and let set for 5 minutes to thicken up.
  • Scoop mixture onto bread or buns or even hot dog buns, whatever you have, and then step out of the way as they will go fast.

Serves: 2 – 4.

NOTE: Once people taste cheesy joes, they come back for more quick, you may need more than what you think.

Phatman and The Pizza Rippers

My good friend the Phatman loves to cook so I asked him to share a recipe with us. What does this have to do with being geek? Helloooo, his name is PHATMAN. na na  na na  na na  na na PHAT MANNNN!!!

(This tune for Phatman is in now way similar to any song on any TV show or Movie you’ve ever seen. In fact, there was no music, you sang that in your head all on your own.)

So Phatman made some pizza rippers. You can enjoy this treat with a fork or pull it apart with your hands which is particularly fun for kids and men who marry wives that like to roll their eyes when their man eats with his hands. Try it out and share and let us know what you think!


Pizza Rippers – Delicious AND fun

What you’ll need

  • 2 cans of biscuits
  • 1 lb of ground beef or turkey
  • 1 pckg taco seasoning
  • 1 16oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • Fresh Diced Garlic or Minced Garlic or Garlic Powder if you have nothing else
  • Sliced Pepperoni
  • 1 cup of cheddar cheese (At least)
  • 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese (At least)

What you’ll need to do

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Brown your ground meat and add taco seasoning. (for less taco flavor use half a package) Set aside.
  3. In a sauce pan or microwave safe dish, melt your butter on a low heat and add garlic to your liking. I use 3 cloves of garlic diced small. Set aside.
  4. Open up your cans of biscuits and cut each one into 4 pieces. Save knife time by using scissors. For fun with the kids, pull apart with your hands. Throw the pieces into a large bowl.
  5. In the large bowl add in enough of your garlic butter to coat the biscuit pieces well without being overly runny. (A small amount of unmixed butter helps flavor the sauce.) (More family fun, have the kiddos mix with their hands.)
  6. Now add to the bowl your beef, half of your cheese, and tomato sauce. (I don’t always use the whole can of sauce, I let it get soaked like a thick biscuit soup.) Now mix with your hands or a spoon. Careful not to squish all the biscuit pieces.
  7. Pour into a well greased 9×13 pan (Or whatever kind of pan you may have around) and spread evenly.
  8. Bake at 400 for 15 to 20 minutes. The biscuits should start to brown and fluff up. The biscuits at the edge would be firm to the touch.
  9. Now spread your pepperonis evenly across the top and add the rest of your cheese. Bake another 10 – 15 minutes until cheese on top is fully melted. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  10. Cut into squares and plate. Eat with a fork or your fingers. Serves 4 – 6

Add as much or as little cheese as you like, I use more than 2 cups, some people like less cheese.
You may have some butter left over. If you have another can of biscuits you can coat them and make garlic bread.
It’s pizza, add whatever toppings you like or throw in some veggies for a supreme. (Throw them in with the dough mix for extra flavor)
You can buy pizza sauce if you prefer the flavor. Save money by buying your favorite spaghetti sauce.
Like sweet sauce pizzas? Add a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar to your biscuit mix when you add the sauce.










That’s Not a Veggie Burger

The other day I wrote about the weird things that I grew up around and we had some pretty good responses back as well. Milk and cornbread, fried spam, and pineapple chunks in cottage cheese before it was ‘cool’.

It goes to prove that you don’t have to go far to find a local version of Fear Factor brewing.

But, even though I was making them THAT NIGHT, I didn’t mention one of the real big oddities from my childhood. And really, it’s not an oddity because it’s weird and no one would try it, it’s an oddity because it’s IMPOSSIBLE to explain it.

I grew up with the wonder, that is the veggie burger.

The thing is, my family loved meat. My nana could southern fry some chicken and even filet and de-bone fish. She was a hard core grandma. So when I learned about ‘veggie burgers’, they had meat. In fact, they were FULL of meat.

Here’s the basic recipe. Get some vegetables, whatever you have around but most common are onion and carrots, maybe some green or red peppers. Side note, I also love chopping up spinach for some added flavor.

Anyway, chop everything up very small, then add a bunch of hamburger meat and get your hands dirty. You’re basically starting a meatloaf minus the breadcrumbs and ketchup. Create patties and grill.

These make some of the most delicious burgers you will ever have and they were the only kind of veggie burgers I knew about for a long time. So when I grew up and tried to tell people that I wanted to make some veggie burgers they’d look at me funny and go, “I’m no vegetarian.” I would then have to explain what I meant which would lead to the inevitable phrase, ‘that’s not a veggie burger.’

You see, it’s this wonderful food with a horribly unfortunate name. The vegetarians have ruined one of my favorite foods by making a veggie burger without meat. I support that, but couldn’t they call it something else? Like a tomburger, nonburger, or blandburger.

Just kidding vegetarians. I love vegetarian dishes but my version of the veggie burger takes the cake.. and that’s not a gluten free cake either, it takes a really fatty, glutenous, nutty, strawberry topped cake.

Those Things They Used to Eat

Growing up with your grandparents can be an interesting experience but also give you a total different look at life. My grandparents had dentures so they never thought to remind me to brush my teeth because theirs were just soaking.

And I learned a lot about Country music before it became country rock, rock country, pop country, or whatever types of country they have now.

But the most interesting things I can recall were the things they used to do with food and drink.

Coffee and tea were staples in our household. It was a time when people drank coffee all hours of the day and always had a pot going except from 12 to 1 PM when it was ‘midday’ and time for a ‘refreshing’ beverage.

Wait, come to think of it we now have coffee houses everywhere. Granted, it’s not the straight black or add milk and sugar coffee types I grew up around that are most popular but I see people are still doing this. Hmmm, I wonder if Starbucks was started by old people who just wanted easier access to coffee all day.

Anyway, one thing that people DIDN’T worry as much about was sugar. This could easily be reflected in the way my nana drank tea.

First I have to recall that she often had the best tea around. She would make sun tea and that always tasted better than any other type of tea. But most memorably was how much tea she put in the pitcher… which was none.

No, she sugared each glass individually. Here was the recipe, feel free to share.

Get an 8 oz glass. This was in a time when people only had 8 oz glasses. There were no big cups in every cupboard and glasses were actually MADE out of glass. Now fill your 8 oz glass to the top with ice. Now fill the glass with tea so that, with the ice, you have around 3 oz of tea.

Now add your sugar, you’re gonna want about 4 tablespoons. Yes, I said tablespoons.

Now mix as well as possible. You know you’ve done it right when your tea is sweet enough to kill honeybees yet still has enough sugar to create a 1/4 inch layer of sugar/tea mush at the bottom. If you don’t see this layer of sugar that can’t dissolve because the ratio of tea to sugar is so great that it simply can’t.

Ahhh, you now have a nice, refreshing, diabetics nightmare glass of tea. Ironically, somehow, my nana actually used MUCH less sugar in coffee. Seems backwards but that was her.

A great transition from drink to food in this story is what she would have ALMOST every night for a bedtime snack. For lack of a better name, it was always referred to as crackers and milk. Here’s another great recipe for you to share.

Get an 8 oz glass. You’ll want to wash out the layers of sugar leftover from your glasses of tea. Now, take a bunch of crackers and crumble them up until the glass is 1/2 to 2/3 full. Next, fill the glass with milk. Serve with a spoon and enjoy.

But now let’s transition to some meal ideas. While S.O.S. was a common item I know plenty of people have had this growing up. (And if you don’t know what it is check it out. It does make a great cheap dinner.) But some things we had were much less traditional. One of the oddities was a cheap dessert that we would have from time to time. Get your pencils and pads out of the closet, dust them off, and write down the next great recipe, though I have no name for this one. I’ll call it, Pineapple WTF?

We need slices of pineapple. While you could get fresh pineapple you will find soon that doing so would seem a little too fancy so let’s just get a can of pineapple slices.

Now, grab a saucer and put a slice of pineapple on it. Top the pineapple with a dollop of Miracle Whip. About a teaspoonful. Now sprinkle a bit of cheddar cheese on top of that. Serve with a fork and… well, I remember liking this when I was a kid but can’t bring myself to try it now. I’m wondering if this is why I don’t like Hawaiian pizza.

While we’re on miracle whip I remember how it would be combined with peanut butter as well. Miracle whip, peanut butter, and banana sandwiches? Or switch out the banana with potted meat. These two items were favorites of my papa.

Lastly, I will say thanks to my nana I like one of the least liked pies in the world, Mincemeat, not to mention Fruitcake. But it has to be real fruitcake. I still believe that people that don’t like fruitcake have only had the fake kind with weird colored cubes acting as fruit.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look down grandparent recipe memory lane and if you have any oddities that your family has eaten I’d love to hear about them.