A Culture of Food: Are Deviled Eggs the Sinner’s Snack?

I love food. I love experiencing new restaurants and even going to places that are known for quality items. I am also extremely intrigued by the names of foods. For instance: did they name the Green Goop dessert Watergate Salad after the United States political scandal from the early 1970s or was it made by somebody who lived near a gate by the water? I don’t know right now but I might want to look into that. 🙂 Many years ago I started one of my first investigatory blogs on who in the world General Tso was…and why the delicious Chinese food dish was named after him. There was a whirlwind of history that laid dormant in a dish whose history we overlooked so many times. This time I got to thinking about something after joking around with my wife as we prepared Thanksgiving dinner. I asked what was so evil about our deviled eggs and it truly made me wonder what was so evil about a simple boiled egg that had been shelled, cut it half, the egg yolk inside mixed with filled with some other ingredients, and then put back inside before bringing sprinkled with a little paprika.

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Before deviled eggs (not to be confused with ‘Devil’s Eggs’ that the housed butterfly bombs that were dropped during World War II) became the de rigueur side dish of every Thanksgiving party, Christmas party or backyard barbecue; eggs have been a hors d’oeuvre of choice since ancient Rome. The Romans even had a saying when it came to their formal meals: “ab ova usque ad mala;” which is literally translated as ‘from eggs to apples’. The deviled egg had not quite taken its current culinary form; because at this point the wealthy had them boiled, spicily seasoned and had them served in a first course dish known as the gustatio. The gustatio was an egg dish whose main component was a pine nut sauce. The dish was created by soaking the pine nuts in vinegar over night and they were seasoned with salt, honey, and spiced up with pepper. The pine nuts would cook down with the seasoning until it came to a thickened sauce.

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In 1st century AD, a collection of Roman recipes were compiled together and was called the Apicius. The title had been used to reference an excessive love of gastronomy for many years because of 1st century AD Roman lover of food, Marcus Gavious Apicius. The Apicius was meant to be the complete text to aid in the kitchen but the recipes were geared towards the wealthiest classes of people (and to be honest contain many exotic ingredients that many of us would not even dare think of eating; ie flamingo). The early printed versions of the book were called De re Coquinaria (which is translated as “On the subject of Cooking“). In the chapter entitled Aeropetes (Birds, Poultry), we find a recipe for boiled eggs where they were seasoned with olive oil, wine and/or broth, and served with pepper. It also instruction the addition of a now extinct herb called laser. (Laser which was derived from the Silphium plant and was driven to extinction from its overuse; The plant was so popular that it even appeared on Greek coins.)

Though we find this 1st century egg recipe to be very different from our modern deviled eggs; by the 13th we see stuffed eggs emerging in Andalusia (the land that is now known as Spain). In an anonymous cookbook from the 13th century, we see a recipe where the cook is instructed to pound boiled egg yolks with cilantro, onion juice, pepper and coriander. They then are instructed to take that mixture and combine it with murri (a sauce made of fermented barley or fish), oil and salt. After the mixture is completed, it is then stuffed into the hollowed egg whites. The two halves were then to be fastened together with a small stick and doused with pepper. Stuffed egg recipes continued to change over the years and recipes called for everything from mint, cinnamon, raisins to cheese.

320px-Perfectly_Boiled_eggs_pictureNow you’re probably still wondering when these seemingly docile recipes got the evil touch, so I’ll let you know. The first time that we find ‘devil’ as a culinary term, it was in Great Britain in 1786. It was in reference to dishes that included extremely hot ingredients or those that were highly seasoned and then broiled or fried. A couple of years later in 1800, ‘deviling’ was the verb used in the process of making food spicy. But we still haven’t gotten to a concrete ‘deviled egg’ recipe. Stuffed egg recipes made their way to the US and started popping up in cookbooks as early as the mid-19th century. Despite a deviled egg recipe popping up Fannie Farmer’s 1896 “Boston Cooking-School Cookbook” that used mayo as the main binding agent for the filling; the deviled egg’ recipe we know was not commonly featured until the 1940s. This is partially due to mayonnaise not being distributed commercially in the United States until 1907.

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While the recipe is primarily a mixture of the boiled yolk, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, and paprika (also sprinkled on top); many versions are popping up with the addition of everything from pickled relish to caviar. So I guess the egg recipe really isn’t evil after all; but if you feel uncomfortable about the devil part…call them what you want, just make sure that you bring some to your next get together.



Boiled Eggs by Nithyasrm – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40916138

The Apicius manuscript (ca. 900 AD) of the monastery of Fulda in Germany, which was acquired in 1929 by the New York Academy of Medicine by Bonho1962 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5626800

Featured Image – Deviled Eggs by Marshall Astor from San Pedro, United States – Deviled Eggs – Inaugural Portable Potluck Project – 3-23-08, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8008946

Deviled Eggs and Black Truffles by Arnold Gatilao from Oakland, CA, USA – Deviled Eggs and Black Truffles, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40530158

 

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A Culture of Food: General Tso’s Chicken

Every day around the world, from lunch to suppertime, I would infer that millions of gastro-guzzling citizens drift into Chinese Restaurants around the world. Many Americans experience what we interpret as ‘Chinese food’ at a Chinese Buffet where you, I, or they stare through the plexiglass of the water heated display and fight the billowing clouds of steam that blisters our fore arms as we reach to get a deep fried crab rangoon. While making your oversized portioned plate, do you make room on your plate beside of your egg roll and ham fried rice for the General Tso’s chicken? I wonder if you find yourself wondering to whom do we owe tribute for this delicious spicy chicken dish that we plop on our plate? Did you ever think about who the real General Tso actually was and why did he love spicy Chinese chicken? Was he real or was he just a name that popped into the head of a Chinese-American line cook? After leaving my favorite Chinese Food buffet one night a couple of years ago, I just had to find out.

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The real General Tso was actually a Chinese military leader from the Qing Dynasty named Zuo Zongtang. He was born in 1812 to a poor family in the Hunan province of China. In his youth he failed his court exams multiple times (which was a terrible disgrace to him and his family) and returned home to his wife and devoted himself to his studies. He took up silkworm and tea farming; but all things changed in 1850 when he was 38 years old. During the Taiping Rebellion (a civil war started by a Chinese guy who quite literally thought that he was the son of God and the younger brother of Jesus 671px-Governor-General_of_Shan_gan,_Zuo_Zongtang,_in_Military_Garments_with_Long_Court_Beads._Lanzhou,_Gansu_Province,_China,_1875_WDL1904Christ), the gentle farmer decided that he would lay down his garden spade for a sword. Silkworm farmer Zuo Zongtang became General Tso. Well not literally. His name was still Zuo Zongtang and he started out as the secretary for the governor; but never-the-less he was on his way. There is an old saying that says that ‘war makes a man’…well war didn’t make Tso, Tso made war. He got 5,000 soldiers to come forth to fight. SO in all actuality I guess you really could say that Tso made war and war made Tso. For the rest of his life, he would wield a sword; becoming one of the most important military commanders in Chinese history and one of the most respected Generals in all of combat history.

So knowing that, you are probably still wondering, how did a great war veteran who became the Viceroy of Liangjang (one of China’s highest titles) before deciding to take one more commission as General become synonymous with a Chinese restaurant dish. Well if any of you grew up in America during the 50s, 60s, and 70s; you can acclimate that Chinese restaurants were popping up all over the United States and were bearing influence on popular culture. But the Chinese restaurant had been a staple in the American landscape for many years before the townspeople from Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show started taking trips to one of the two Mount Pilot’s Chinese restaurants. Chinese restaurants started popping up in the United States during the California Gold Rush and the first documented Chinese restaurant, called The Canton Restaurant, was opened in San Francisco in 1849. Many of these restaurants looked very western on the exterior but beamed with beautiful Chinese furnishings within.

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Many many years after the Mei Lai Wah restaurant was opened near Columbus Park in New York City’s Chinatown in the 1880s; a Taiwanese chef named Peng Chang-kuei created what would become ‘the most famous Hunanese dish in the world’. The lightly battered, dark meat chicken tossed in its chilli-hinted sweet-and-sour sauce was like many other dishes that we Americans consider to be ‘staple Chinese dishes’. Though the Hunanese dishes are normally salty, hot and sour in their origins, the dish is not a classic Chinese dish. Chef Peng, who was the official chef for the Nationalist government (which had reluctantly fled to Taiwan after the 1949 Chinese revolution) said that he created the dish when United States Navy Admiral Arthur W. Radford (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) visited during the 1955 Taiwan Straight Crisis. In a spur of the moment due to the political climate decided to name the dish after the Hunanese general Zuo Zongtang, who had helped stop a series of rebellions in the 19th century.

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The dish made its way to America when two men from the Hunan province opened up a Chinese restaurant in 1972 in the same city. They had visited one of Mr. Peng’s restaurants in Taipei and once in America, they adapted the dish which Mr. Peng described as “(t)ypically Hunanese — heavy, sour, hot and salty.” The original recipe was made without sugar but one of the 4 ‘main attractions’ that they had on their menu was their version of ’General Tso’s Chicken’. Their Americanized version was deliciously sweet, yet had the slightly spicy roots of the Hunanese deep fried chicken recipe in mine. And even though the dish may bear his name, the General never got to taste the dish. That great warrior of the Qing dynasty, who killed thousands upon thousands while subduing thousands of rebels and up-risers carved his name into Chinese history by the point of a sword; never sunk his teeth into the recipe that would bring the dish using his misspelled name into thousands of Americanized Chinese buffets and take out joints all across North America. I am forever thankful for the inventive expatriate Chinese chef who awarded him with his culinary name to fame. I will salute you next time I pick up my chop sticks General Tso.

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Images: 

Chinese Buffet by Lyndi & Jason from Dallastown Pa, United States – china buffet.JPG, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3300823

General Tso’s Chicken by 1700-talet – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33113297

Zuo Zongtang by Boiarskii, Adolf-Nikolay Erazmovich – http://dl.wdl.org/1904.png, Public Domain, http://www.wdl.org/en/item/1904

Postcard view of the interior of a San Francisco Chinese restaurant by Unknown – https://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/nby_teich/id/422789, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67077894

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Classic Muscle Cars

People will always have their own opinion over what the ‘best’ of whatever topic we are discussing. It is that way from everything from best way to cook a steak to the best Disney movie; so when I ask what is the greatest American Muscle Car, there will always be varying opinions. Some people will have brand loyalty while others will have their favorites based purely on aesthetics. Even if you have a Mustang tattoo on your arm; you can’t deny that the 60s and early 70s produced some of the greatest cars in history. The quality of cars coming from the different companies drove (no pun intended) the automotive rivals to create bigger and better cars; and we the consumer reaped the benefits.

640px-WIRHotRodEliminatorThough the 1979 oil crisis, government regulations, and many emissions issues in the late 70s/early 1980s caused a taming of the cars that followed; this only fueled (sorry maybe I am meaning to put all of these puns after all) our love for those classic muscle cars. While cars aren’t always and don’t have to be a torque-rich, pavement pounding V-8 to be a great car; during that time looks and power were king. With influential breath coming in from NASCAR and the ever increasing popularity of drag racing; the muscle cars of yesteryear are still revered as they were back then. So since I visited car shows and drag strips before I could even walk with car crazy parents, I figured that I (just as good as anyone else) should be qualified to throw my hat into the proverbial ring and present my list of the Top 10 Classic Muscle Cars. In my creation of this top ten, I have tried to keep my personal opinion to a minimum and present a top ten that will be numbered according to popularity, hype throughout the years, and statistics from credible sources. The information (sourced from Popular Mechanics along with sales statistics and information listed on their webpages). So as to not take up anymore of your time (because I know you’re here for the cars and not my rambling); I present to you Top Cat’s Top 10: Classic Muscle Cars



10. 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88

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I know a lot of you are probably thinking that it is quite audacious to put the ‘Corvette’ at number 10; but it literally only made the list by the skin of its teeth. There are some redeeming factors. One of which is that the extremely rare (only 20 were produced) 1967 L88 Corvette (which sold for $3.85 million at the 2014 Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson auto auction) boasted 580 hp. Though I (along with many others) don’t consider the Corvette to be a ‘Muscle Car’ those two factors warrant it enough to make my list.


9. 1970 Oldsmobile 442

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What is arguably one of the most beautiful muscle cars (and one of my absolute favorites), the 442 gets its name from the original car’s four-barrel carburetor, four-speed transmission, and its ‘dual’ exhaust. The 442 (or originally 4-4-2) was an upgrade package for the Cutlass until 1968 when it became its own model. The car sat around the mid point until 1970 when Oldsmobile reached the pinnacle of performance and dropped in the Olds 455 V8. The 365 hp engine put out a whooping 500 lb ft of torque. The new engine and innovative new-body style got the attention of everyone. The car was even award pace car duties at the Indianapolis 500 race in 1970.


8. 1969 Plymouth Road Runner

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It took $10,000 for Plymouth to develop a car-horn that sounded like Road Runner’s patented “beep, beep.” After an additional $50,000 paid to Warner Bros for rights to use the likeness of the Looney Tunes character on their car, one of the most memorable cars was born. In an effort to concentrate on performance in the 1960s, Plymouth didn’t just make their Road Runner look good; but the Road Runner was made to move! The Road Runner which housed a 330 horsepower 383 cu in engine (except for 10 which received a 426 7.0 L Hemi!); or later in the year the 440 Six Pack option which had a bare bones exterior and interior but the engine was topped with 3 Holley 2 barrel carburetors. The car made memorable body additions to compete on the NASCAR circuit. 1969 was the beginning of the ‘aero wars’ and found the cars (specifically the Road Runner and Dodge Charger) equipped with a HUGE elevated rear wing (which was 2 feet high), airplane-style flaps on the top/side and an aerodynamic nose cone on the front (which added almost 2 feet to the front of the car) which Plymouth would call ‘the Superbird’.

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7. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle 454 SS

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The May 1970 issue of Hot Rod Magazine said, “(t)he past is gone. The future may never see a car like this. It is one of the brutes, and all it needs is a way of staying in contact with terra firma;” in their review of the 1970 LS6 SS454 Chevelle. In 1970, the LS6 Chevelle and Mopar’s Hemi were the predators running the streets and destroying the competition. The LS6 engine was the most powerful engine being produced in 1970 and offered a pavement blistering 450 horsepower with 500 ft pounds of torque. From the cowl induction hood with cooling system to the 112-inch wheelbase, this 1970 Chevelle had all the show and the go needed to make it one of the greatest muscle cars (and memorable cars) of all time.


6. 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

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The first thing you think of when you think of a black Trans Am is the Bandit (Okay maybe KITT from Knight Rider too). It is hard to believe that it has been over 40 years since my parents went to see Smokey and the Bandit three times at the drive-in movies (and subsequently re-watched with me dozens of times). A movie which may have thrown Burt Reynolds into superstardom; but the true superstar of the movie was the Starlight Black Special Edition Package Pontiac Firebird complete with a fire breathing gold bird decal on the hood. A package which not only added gold pin-striping to the car, black and gold snowflake wheels, and every gold accent that you can image; the W72 Handling Package added 20 more horsepower to the V8. And by the end of the 70s, anything over 200 hp was crazy fast! Thanks to the Smokey and the Bandit movie, the ‘Screaming Chicken’ car was the car that we all wanted. Thanks to Hal Needham’s use of the Trans Am in the movie allowed it to become the greatest product placement of all time. Trans Am sales almost doubled in the two years after the movies release which cemented its legacy as one of the greatest muscle cars of all time and became one of my dream cars.


5. 1970 Hemi Plymouth Barracuda

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The Barracuda shared many similarities with the Valiant (which it shared the A-body platform with) and moved on to become a car that if packaged right, was the ultimate muscle car. The 425 horse power Hemi (called ‘hemi’ due to its hemispherical cylinder head) could be placed in a newly designed ‘Cuda with a variety of colorful paint options (Bahama Yellow or Sassy Grass to name a few). The Hemi ‘Cuda has become one of the most desired muscle cars and it is rightfully so.


4. 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge

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The year after the GTO was named Motor Trend Car of the Year, the car which had been just an optional package for the Pontiac Lemans in the early 1960s had an optional upgrade ($332 for the options package and $390 for the Ram Air IV engine upgrade) called “The Judge”. Many other companies had upgrades that would become almost as famous as the car itself (Pontiac’s Firebird Trans Am, Plymouth’s Road Runner, Ford’s Mustang GT500). Due to Pontiac’s genius marketing, classic styling and powerful options; the GTO Judge will always be one of the greatest Muscle Cars of all time.


3. 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS

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1967 was the first model year for the car that is arguably one of the greatest muscle cars of all time (and possibly one of the most recognizable). The Camaro was Chevrolet’s gun in the fight for muscle car supremacy that was at that time being dominated by Ford, Dodge and Pontiac (who they say was the one that started it all). The Chevrolet Camaro SS was one of the many options that Chevrolet offered for the Camaro. The SS model, which would go on to be the official Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1967, included the 5.7 L 350 cu in V8 with a almost 300 horsepower but it was the optional L78 with the 396 cu in 6.5 L engine that produced a thundering 375 horsepower. The special badging, accessories and striping just added to the cars ‘like-ability’. Despite the race-ready Z28 being the more powerful option out of the bag, the SS/RS seemed to be the more desirable car (where you could order both the RS and SS package together). The car has continued to grow in collect-ability and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of stopping.


2. 1969 Boss 429 Ford Mustang

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After the April 17th, 1964 introduction of the Ford Mustang (a mere 16 days after the Plymouth Barracuda) caused the 1965 Mustang to be Ford’s most successful automobile launch since the debut of the Model A in 1927. The originator of the term ‘pony car’, the Mustang would lead the pack of ‘affordable sporty coupes with long hoods and short rear decks’. Despite the mind-boggling number of over 10 million Mustangs being produced in the US since that 64 1/2 dropped into our laps there have been many styles of Mustangs. With V6’s and 4 Cylinders and big V8s with everything from a Mach 1 to the GT350 and the GT500 models; the Boss 429 Mustang is the baddest of them all. Its the baddest of them all and without a doubt is one of the greatest Muscle Cars ever. A car whose engine was born in order for Ford to dominate NASCAR. No the Mustang didn’t compete in NASCAR but regulations at the time stated that at least 500 cars be fitted with a motor and sold to the public before it could be used in a car. So a Ford 385 engine was modified and thus the 429 Boss was born. A real 429 Boss is one of the rarest and most valuable muscle cars. There were only 1358 true Boss 429s made.


  1. 1969 Dodge Charger RT-SE/Daytona

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It hurts my heart to not put the Mustang as the greatest Muscle Car of all time; because they are my personal favorite BUT I told you guys that I would be impartial and try to limit the influences of my personal opinions. In regards to sales, lasting popularity, pop culture influence, desirability/collectibility, and overall influence on the car world; I can’t deny how much impact that the 1969 Charger has had. While the current Dodge Charger is a four door sedan, the first generation Charger that went into in 1966 was slow burner and sales weren’t as great as Dodge would like; but it was the redesign for 1968 that brought about a design and car that would bring the muscle car world to its knees. The demand for the 1968 charger was so high that the originally slated 35,000 units had to be tripled to well over 96,000. The cosmetic changes to the exterior was the most drastic because the engine and drivetrain were the same. In April the design team had to work extra hard to compete in the NASCAR realm and after the Dodge Charger 500 lacking aerodynamically (as was with the aforementioned Plymouth Superbird); the Charger was fitted with an extended nose cone and rear wing. While the radical looking design was nabbed by the 1,000 customers that ordered the Dodge Charger Daytona.

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There were more The factory options than just big wings and long noses. Your regular 1969 Chargers had even more exterior changes from the 1968 while the RT package from the 1968 Charger was still the same. The RT package came with the 440 Magnum (a massive 7.2 L, 440 cu in engine and was rated at 375 horsepower) but in 1969 you could also add on the SE package added an exterior and interior trim package which made this car boom in popularity. The 1969 Charger was popular enough but it was an orange 1969 Dodge Charger named the General Lee that would skyrocket the cars popularity into otherworldly realms. The General Lee was the star of The Dukes of Hazard TV show and is now a Pop Culture icon.

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Images:

Featured Image – Shelby Mustang GT500 by Tadekptaku – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10757242

Two Hot Rod Eliminator cars lining up on the drag strip at Wisconsin International Raceway by original uploader Royalbroil – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18036908

1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 image accredited to Barrett Jackson Auto Auction, https://www.barrett-jackson.com/Events/Event/Details/1967-CHEVROLET-CORVETTE-L88-2-DOOR-COUPE-161046

1970 Oldsmobile 442 by Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA – 1970 Oldsmobile 442, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69250274

1969 Plymouth Road Runner by Sicnag – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17234889

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS454 by Sicnag, 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40645241

1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am by Spanish Coches – 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38113198

1970 Plymouth Barracuda by Bull-Doser – Own work., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16424219

1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Hardtop by Sicnag – Own work, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23227624

1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS by Jeremy from Sydney, Australia – 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37779751

1969 Dodge Charger RT by Sicnag – 1969 Dodge Charger RT, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40645050

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona by Sicnag – 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40645882

1969 Dodge Charger in the Dukes of Hazzard by Bull-Doser – Own work., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11520663

Just in the Nick of Time: Some more Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases

In my research for my 10 part History of my favorite Idioms and Colloquial Phrases series, I found a lot of phrases that I had forgotten about. Or some that I had honestly never heard. I decided just to share some of my favorites that didn’t make it to the series but definitely deserve to be mentioned.



Here are some sure fire ways to sound as Southern as they come when you get angry or upset: 

“She’s having a hissy fit.” – When someone is throwing a temper tantrum.

“She’s having a duck fit.” – Not sure why but this one is worst than a hissy fit.

“Madder than a wet cat.”

Or…how about you just want to talk about someone who doesn’t show their nicer qualities:  

“You egg-suckin’ dog!”

“Girl you’re gonna get the old and ‘new’monia dressed like that.”

“He’s got a burr in his saddle.” – In reference to someone who is in a bad mood.

“His pants are so tight I could tell his religion.”

“He’s a dang snake in the grass.”

“He is so cheap, he squeezes a quarter so tight you can hear the eagle screaming.”

“He’s so cheap, he wouldn’t give a nickel to see Jesus ride a bicycle.”

“She’s so stuck up, she’d drown in a rainstorm.”

“He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow.”

“That girl gets my goose.”

“That dang yankee is like a hemorrhoid. A pain in my a** when they come down and always a relief when they go back up.”

“She could make a preacher cuss.”

“He could worry the s**t out of a septic tank.”

“She could piss off the pope.”

“He’s about as useful as screen door on a submarine./He’s about as useful as a trap door on a canoe.”

“He is about as useful as tits on a boar/bull.”

“He don’t know his a** from his elbow.”

Or how about a response to those below the poverty line: 

“He don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.”

“I’m so poor, I can’t afford to pay attention.”

“Her house is in shambles cause she’s too pour to paint; but too proud to whitewash.”

And finally, just some really good ones: 

Big fish in a small pond.

The bees knees.

The Real McCoy.

Tail wagging the dog.

Joined at the hip.

An Indian summer.



Featured Image:

Ron’s Big Fish by and attributed to Ron Shawley, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46523576

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 10

I almost feel sad coming to the last section of my blog series where I concentrating on idioms and colloquial phrases. I began my investigatory journey back in May of 2017 and I must admit that I have learned a lot. And I guess that learning the true origins of these crazy sounding phrases was the reason why I started looking into all of this. So as I come to the end of this blog series, I think I have left some of the best for last. (Here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9) The remaining six have some of the best origins; and are some of the most interesting idioms and cooky colloquial phrases. They are: “Dot the i’s and Cross the t’s”, “For the Love of God/Pete”, “Your Eyes are Bigger than your Stomach”, “Til the Cows come Home”, “The Writing is on the Wall”, and “Blood is Thicker than Water.



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“Dot the i’s and Cross the t’s”

Origin: Quite simply the phrase is in reference to the adding of the dots and crosses to the letters that have been written, specifically in cursive. If the writer is not careful, this process is sometimes forgotten. The phrase itself is believed to have began in the 1800s and was used by teachers as an admonition to students. They were told to make sure they ‘dot their i’s and cross their t’s’ when writing. One of the first usages was by a teacher in the 1800s where he said, “be meticulous and precise, fill in all the particulars, as in Laura had dotted all the i’s and cross the t’s, so she wondered what she’d done wrong.” William Thackeray also used the expression in a Schribner’s Magazine article in 1849 where he said, “I have dotted the i’s.”

Meaning: To pay close attention to the smallest details in a task.



For the Love of God/Pete” –

Origin: Similar to the origin of the phrase “for God’s (Pete’s) sake” that we discussed in part 4, the phrase came into popular usage more than a century ago. “For the Love of Pete” was used first in writing in 1906, which would lead us to think that “for the love of God” was used much earlier. People are not sure why they started saying ‘for the love of Pete’ instead of saying ‘for the love of Bill’ or ‘for the love of George’; but we know that they used it as a euphemistic replacement for God. Now over a hundred years later, the saying has stuck around. The expression is used to try to implore someone to do something; and what better way to prompt someone to do something quickly than to question their love of God. To say that if they truly loved God that they would do that specific task.

Meaning: A phrase used to express exasperation, annoyance, surprise, or a yearning for someone to do something.



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Your Eyes are Bigger than your Stomach” –

Origin: A phrase that has been used in my family since I can remember, ‘your eyes are bigger than your stomach’ has been around for a really long time. No one exactly knows the origin but the phrase seems pretty straightforward. Similar to the phrase ‘bit off more than you can chew’, the phrase isn’t always (if ever) associated with food. The phrase was used metaphorically in the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s 1580 essay Of Cannibals where he discussed the exploration of the New World by saying that “…I am afraid our eyes are bigger than our bellies, and that we have more curiosity than capacity…” The phrase was also used in John Lyly’s didactic romance Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (another work written in 1580); “(b)ut thou art like the Epicure, whose belly is sooner filled than his eye.” So whether its being used in late 1500s literature or a reference by my grandpa to my plate full of food; the phrase has and will continue to have its place in the plethora of idioms and colloquial phrases that we love.

Meaning: A figure of speech meaning that someone took more food than they could eat; but is used to refer to anytime a person does something that they can’t handle.



Til the Cows come Home” –

Origin: I don’t use the expression ’til the cows come home’ often but I have always loved the imagery in the expression. But the beauty that I always thought was being referenced was that of the picturesque scene of cowboys riding across the plains bringing the herd of cattle in after grazing. To my amazement, this has nothing to do with cowboys and more to do with a cow actually coming home. The phrase is used in the Jacobean play The Scornful Lady by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher to say to “sit and turn boys,/Kiss till the cows come home…” while the same phrase was used in another Beaumont/Fletcher play The Captain and says to “Drink till the cows come home.”  The reference to the cows returning is in reference to the cows that would be milked early in the morning, graze on the grasses in their pasture throughout the day, and would return home that night. So in this usage, you have all day to do whatever it is that you need/want to do. I think now, the saying refers to a much longer period of time; but I think that the meaning still has its original feel. And I’ll feel that way til the cows come home.

Meaning: To do something for an extended period of time.



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The Writing is on the Wall” –

Origin: If you spent a lot of time in Sunday School as a child, you have probably heard of Daniel. No, not my son Daniel but ‘the Daniel and the lion’s den’ Daniel? That ringing a bell now? If you are one of these people who spent lots of time in church or have read the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, then after me telling you that it has something to do with Daniel; you may be able to pick up the origin of the phrase ‘the writing is on the wall’ relatively quickly. If not, I’ll try to quickly explain. The story starts in chapter five of the Old Testament book of Daniel where we find King Belshazzar in the midst of a great banquet that he had thrown for his nobles. He was drinking his wine and he gave orders to his people to bring the gold and silver goblets that his father (King Nebuchadnezzer) had taken from the temple in Jerusalem so that he and the people at the banquet could drink from them. This was done in great disrespect to God and they worshipped their gods in mockery of the Christian God. While drinking the fingers of a human hand appeared on the wall and wrote “mene mene tekel upharsin” upon the plaster on the wall. The King was petrified to the point that his knees weakened and he turned pale with fear. He brought in all his enchanters, astrologers and holy men of his religion. No one could tell him what it said nor interpret its meaning. After a while the queen came in and told the King that there was a man (Daniel) who had a keen mind, knowledge, understanding and could interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Daniel came in and told the King that he had disrespected the God that had allowed his father to have that kingdom in the first place. He told him that he had not been humbled and that by drinking wine and praising his gods from holy vessels was wrong. Then he spoke of the words (since your Aramaic may be a little rusty as well, I’ll spare the exact translation) saying that the writing was; “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God has numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; thou art weight in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” The King was slain that night and the kingdom was given to a Mede. So the saying is quite literally in reference to someone who couldn’t see the ‘writing that was on the wall’. He could not see the warnings that were apparent because he was caught up in his sinful life.

Meaning: To not be able to heed the warnings that are in front of you.



Blood is Thicker than Water” –

Origin: While blood is quite literally thicker than water; the phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ is ancient. The oldest record of the phrase can be traced back to 12th century Germany. A variation of the phrase first appeared in the 1180 medieval German epic Reinhart Fuchs (aka Reynard the Fox) by Heinrich de Glichezaere. The German proverb (originally ‘blut ist dicker als wasser’) in the different form was used by Reinhart Fuchs where he said “ouch hoer ich sagen, das sippe blut von wazzere niht verdirbet” or as translated into English as “I also heart it said, kin-blood is not spoiled by water.” This is used to say that no matter the distance (or water between them), family ties do not change. Some historians have tried to imply that a blood covenant (made between two people who cut their hand, shake hands to show a bond by the blood from each partner flowing in each other’s veins) is stronger than that of the ‘water of the womb’ (meaning people with whom they shared a womb; but there has been nothing found to support this claim. Nor is there any support for the claim that it is in reference to the bond of soldiers who ‘spill blood’ with one another being stronger than that of their family (or whom they share a womb). Essentially, the ancient proverb has shown up in countless written works and was even how one Civil War soldier explained how he chose sides. Whatever you think, the fact is is that blood is thicker than water in reality and whomever you consider to be your blood; that relationship knows no bounds.

Meaning: Famous English proverb that says blood relationships are deeper than any other bond.



Images:

Featured Image – The Cow Boy 1888 image by and accredited to John C. H. Grabill – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsc.02638, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2615100

Illustration from Illustrated History of Furniture, from the Earliest to the Present Time from 1983 by Litchfield, Fredrick accredited to unknown artist – http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12254, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=480563

Picnic plate full of assorted food by and accredited to Itai – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2527136

Daniel Interpreting the Writing on the Wall: illustration from the the 1890 Homan Bible by and accredited to illustrators of the 1890 Holman Bible – http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/1890holmanbible/bw/danielinterpretingthewritingonthewall.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11987583

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 9

Oh wow. I didn’t realize that it had been over a year since my last installment of my Just in the Nick of Time series. Despite my absence from researching the topic, the idioms and colloquial phrases that we use in our every day language are still one of my favorite things. As we have discussed before; these idioms and colloquial phrases sometimes sound completely ludicrous out of context, but many of them have very real and amazingly explainable origins. Many of us have used or know someone who uses these interesting idioms or crazy sounding colloquial phrases. In this second to the last part of our series (you can find 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 here) we find out the history of:

“Half a mind to”, “Bless your heart”, “If the Lord doesn’t come back”, “Flat as a Fritter”, “Like a chicken with its head cut off”, and “Letting your hair down”. 



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“Half a mind to” – 

Origin: “The Texas Troubadour” Ernest Tubb is a Country Music Hall of Fame member and was a prolific songwriter. Not only is he a pioneer of country music but he also is what I think of whenever I think of the term “half  a mind to”. He did a cover of the Roger Mill song (which was later covered by fellow Hall of Fame member Loretta Lynn whom Ernest Tubb also did many duets early in her career) “Half a Mind to” which he popularized. While the original usage of the phrase is not from the Roger Mill song; the origin is unknown. Its usage grew in popularity during the first half of the 1700s but I have a good mind to think that it all started with someone with a really good mind making a really funny joke.

Meaning: The inclination that something is not definite. Mostly used in conjunction with a threat.



 

“Bless your heart” – 

Origin: If you aren’t from the American South, then you probably only heard this expression used by comedians or by the quintessential Southern character on TV. To those of us from the South, its just a saying that most of us use. The origin of the phrase is not known but it has been around for a while. While Southern women have popularized the expression, Charles Dickens actually used the saying in this 1838 book Oliver Twist where he said “Lor bless her dear heart.” Now I’m not implying that a group of dignified Southern ladies started using this saying after reading it in their book club; but hey it could happen. My interpretation is not confirmed but it is my belief that the phrase could be an amalgamation of the phrase ‘God bless you’ and something else. The reason I say that is because when the bubonic plague was ravaging through Europe, Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) suggested to tell someone “God Bless You” after coughing and sneezing because they were symptoms of the plague. In hopes that this prayer would protect them from otherwise death. The well wishing bestowment of the “God bless you” was more than likely the original intent of the “Bless your heart”. Coincidentally, there is a myth that your heart stopped when you sneeze. Just saying. That’s quite a coincidence but it more than likely comes from well wishers just hoping for blessings to be bestowed upon someone who needs it despite the negative usages of the phrase that are sometimes found in our modern society.

Meaning: 1. Used in conjunction with an insult (ie “Bless her heart, she’s dumb as a doornail but at least she’s pretty.”) or to say something negative but they don’t want to appear rude. 2. Used as a genuine expression of concern for someone or the situation that they are going through (“Bless his heart. His car broke down on the way to his wife’s funeral.”)



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“If the Lord don’t come back” – 

Origin: A phrase similar to an already discussed phrase “Lord Willing/Lord Willing and the creek don’t rise“, the “if the Lord don’t come back” phrase is different in that it has true religious origins. One of the origins for the phrase “God willing” or the Latin deo volente is from the book of James chapter 4 verses 14-15: “Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” While that origin is true for that specific phrase, the phrase ‘If the Lord don’t come back” is in reference to the rapture. The rapture in regards to the Christian religion is a promise Jesus made where he said “…if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” The promise is discussed many times in the Holy Bible and would be a well known thing for many English speakers. The description of the event is for Jesus to come and ‘like a thief in the night’ take his people home. So when used in conjunction with a promise, the speaker is saying that they guarantee that they will do it, as long ‘as the Lord don’t come back’ before they can.

Meaning: An expression used in conjunction with a promise that that action will be done as long as there are no extenuating circumstances to stop them from completing that action.



Flat as a fritter/flitter” – 

Origin: The fritter is sometimes filled with some sort of meat or fruit but it is normally like a small pancake. The fritter is a flour/liquid mixture, cooked in a pan with oil (similar to a pancake) and is cooked almost all around the world in some variation. The colloquial phrase however is more often used in rural areas of the western United States although it is also popular in the American South. The phrase (which is a simile) varies as some believe that the correct wording is fritter; but the ‘flitter’ is also another word for a thin pan fried bread (thin flapjack, Johnny Cake, Ho-Cake, corn bread, etc). Who knew that both exists as almost the same thing?

Meaning: A simile showing relation to an item being flatter than usual.



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“Like a Chicken with its head cut off” – 

Origin: I’m sure that all of you have not had the pleasure (please sense the sarcasm in my voice) of killing a chicken or turkey and witnessing it run around crazily for several minutes after decapitation. When I was a youth; my family (grandparents, parents, uncle and aunt, cousin and myself thought that it would be a grand idea to kill, clean and pluck our own turkey for Thanksgiving. Well after the chopping off of the head, the next thing I remember is the turkey running around my grandparent’s backyard with no head and blood squirting from its neck. Sounds far fetched? What happens is that the brain delivers the messages to the body parts but in the time of the beheading, the body goes into shock. That is why sometimes the animal lives for quite some time afterwards. Sometimes the live for a very long time if the animal is not butchered correctly. Like in the case of Mike the headless Chicken or more commonly known as Miracle Mike, he was quite literally ‘running around like a chicken with its head cut off’. In 1945, a Colorado farmer named Lloyd Olsen was planning on eating chicken for supper with his mother-in-law that night, so his wife sent him outside to the chicken yard to bring back a chicken. Lloyd chose a five and a half month old Wyandotte chicken named Mike. Well when Mrs. Olsen went to cut the head off of Mike, but the axe removed only the bulk of his head. It missed the jugular vein, one ear and most of his brain stem. Mike balanced himself after the failed attempt and the Olsens found him the next morning with the remaining portions of his neck nestled under his wing like normal. (Most of a chicken’s basic reflexes <breathing, heart rate, etc> are controlled in the brain stem, so Mike was relatively healthy.) One of two things, the owners felt sorry for him or they saw a money making opportunity. As word spread of the “Headless Wonder Chicken;” the owners began to tour the sideshow circuit and people were lining up to pay a quarter to marvel at this headless chicken (at one point the family was making up to $4500 a month). Mike would have lived a lot longer but as his fame grew on his national tour (was photographed by countless newspapers and magazines; and was even had a spotlight in both Time and Life Magazines); his owners lost the dropper that they used to clear the kernel of corn and fluid that would occasionally settle in the small throat that was left. Mike sadly choked to death on his own spit in 1947.

The phrase itself was around long before the famous, money-making headless chicken and would have been very well known by the late 19th century. The phrase, which the English teacher in me wants to remind you is also a simile, was even used as such in an 1882 Atlanta Constitution article to describe an escaped prisoner where they said; “(f)inding himself free from the heavy shackles, he bounced to his feet and commenced darting about like a chicken with its head cut off.”

Meaning: To run around in a frenzied manner.



 

Letting your hair down” – 

Origin: The idiom “letting your hair down” has been around for hundreds of years. The idiom originated in the 17th century, when women were expected to wear their hair a  certain way in public. It either had to be pulled tightly up to the head, in a bun, pinned on either side of the head, or in some sort of elaborate style. The only time that it was acceptable to ‘let their hair down’ would be when they were home alone and could relax. This was the time that they would remove all the pins or other accessories that were holding their hair in that style, wash their hair clean of any products, and brush their hair.

Meaning: To behave freely, act more casually and relax.

 



 

Images:

Ernest Tubb (Ad on page 335 of Billboard 1944 Music Yearbook) attributed to Source – Unknown – , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42571795

Mike the Headless Chicken attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25497651

100th Year Anniversary of the End of a War and the Death of a Poet

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In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, led a delegation to (then General) Dwight Eisenhower to expand the day to not just memorialize Armistice Day but to make the day to honor all Veterans. In 1954, Congress amended a bill (a bill originally presented by Kansas US representative Ed Rees and was signed as a law by that time President Dwight Eisenhower on May 26, 1954) and on June 1, 1954 replaced “Armistice” with “Veterans”; thusly creating the Veterans Day that we know today.

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Before all of that happened, it was the signing of an armistice on the 11th hour ‘of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ of 1918, that the allied countries (made up of France, the UK, Russia, Italy, the US, Japan, Belgium, Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, Romania) that opposed the Central Powers (made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria) during WWI that would lead to countries around the world Wilfred_Owen_plate_from_Poems_(1920)memorializing the 11th of November. Many days before that 11th day of November in 1918, a soldier died in battle. Before leading his men across the Sambre-Oise canal at Orse, Wilfred Owen was awarded the Military Cross (an award he had always hoped to get because it would justify himself as a true war poet) for his gallant leadership and courage when his men stormed an enemy stronghold near the village of Joncourt. This would happen mere months before he was killed in action on November 4th, 1918. Almost exactly one week before the Armistice which would bring an end to the war, he lost his life. Continuing in true poetic fashion, his mother received word of his death as the church bells in Shrewsbury were ringing out in celebration of the signing of the armistice.

His beautiful poetry, which was all published posthumously, memorialized the darker underbelly of war while not being afraid to romanticize the camaraderie of the soldiers. And mere days after the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that would end World War I and mere days after the 100th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest war poets of all time; I leave you with one of my favorite poems. A poem which I think is perfect to commemorate the sacrifices that the men and women of the armed services make; and also bring some light on the tragic poetic ending of the prolific (and in my opinion the greatest) war poets are the perfect mirror to his beautiful but tragic poetry. The Preface to his poetry read “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity;” and will serves as a great preface to this poem.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

Wilfred Owen, 1893 – 1918

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.


Images:

Featured Image: Poster for Veterans Day 2018, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I by and attributed to the US Department of Veterans Affairs – VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs poster gallery, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72414272

NY Times front page 11-11-1918, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38072749

Image of Joseph Abrose, an 86 year old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982. he is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War attributed to the Department of Defense. Defense Audiovisual Agency; Scene Camera Operator: Mickey Sanborn – National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=734516

A plate from Wilfred Owen’s 1920 Poems book attributed to Unknown – https://archive.org/details/poemsowenwil00owenrich, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11769951

A Culture of Food: The Goody Goody Omelet House

In college, they say that your eyes are opened to a world of new experiences. You truly are exposed to a lot of new things. Well when I moved to Wilmington to finish up my bachelors degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington I was exposed and experienced something amazing. When my roommate, who had lived in Wilmington two years before me, found out that I had never been to the Goody Goody Omelet House, we went the next morning. So now here we are 16 years later, I am still going to the Goody Goody Omelet House but now I have introduced my my wife and child to my favorite diner. A place where the food and menu are a constant. That constant is keeping it simple but keeping it delicious.

IMG_6606The menu is simple but there isn’t a thing on the menu that isn’t delicious. If you get there in the morning, the breakfast options are completely amazing. From their famous Spanish omelets (with their homemade Spanish sauce) to traditional eats like sausage, waffles and hash browns. For thirty years, the owners have been serving their delicious dishes. The husband and wife duo of Roscoe “R.B.” Mayhew and his wife, Ida, have always loved serving others. From R.B.’s time as a cook in the United States Navy to their BBQ restaurant to the three Krispy Kreme donut franchises that they owned and operated. But it wasn’t until 1977 when they opened the Goody Goody Omelet House that they knew exactly what they wanted in a restaurant and exactly what the people needed. With their son Ernie, an experienced line cook as well, by their side, they became a delicious diner destination in Wilmington.

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Ida herself asks, “why change?” When you have everything from their vast array of breakfast options, delicious hand-pattied hamburgers for their mouth watering cheeseburgers, fluffy waffles, grilled sirloin steaks, roast beef sandwiches, scrumptious pancakes, fried chicken sandwiches, their name sake omelets or anything that your heart could desire; why would you ever have any reason to change? You can’t go wrong with the Goody Goody Omelet House. If you get there and all of the 35 seats are taken, just wait…you won’t be disappointed.

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You can visit the Goody Goody Omelet House at 3817 Market Street, Wilmington, NC 28403 from 6 AM to 2 PM Monday through Saturday and 7 AM through 2 PM on Sunday.


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Jesus: What’s in a name?

In Shakespeare’s infamous play Romeo and Juliet, Romeo says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This famous quote was of course referring to the woman that he loved belonged to a family that his family had feuded with for ages. Despite his distaste for names; just the mere mention of a name is enough to make someone think a certain thing. Want me to prove it? Hitler. You immediately had a thought about him didn’t you. Jack the Ripper. Without knowing what he looked like, you know his reputation and who he was.

Take for instance people who will in infamy or are famous. We can even argue the greatness of people based on just the legacy that they are or have left behind. I haven’t even forgotten what my Uncle told me when he told me and my friend when I was in high school that we should be cautious of how we live because your name has things attached. We can be reminded of people’s lives and can even argue greatness:

Shakespeare vs. Mark Twain

Tom Brady vs Joe Montana 

Beethoven vs.  Mindleson

Muhammed Ali vs. Floyd Mayweather

Alexander the Great vs. Julius Caesar

Hank Aaron vs. Babe Ruth

Michael Jordan vs.  LeBron James 

Plato vs.  Socrates

Elvis vs. The Beatles

Jesus vs. ?

The name of Jesus has no real comparison. Jesus’ name is all inclusive. There are over a hundred listed biblical names of and references to Jesus. He was called ‘Advocate’ as found in 1 John 2:1 all the way down the alphabet to ‘Word of God’ in Revelations 19:13.  He’s the Rock, the Lord of Lords, the Morning Star, the King of the Jews, the Lamb of God, the Bread of life or the Cornerstone.

His name brings Peace.  His name makes the Devils knees buckle.  But what about appearance? There are no real references to the way that Jesus looked. 

real jesus

I am by no means making a claim that that picture is by no means to be taken as an exact representation of what Jesus looked like…but it is a re-creation of an adult man (in his mid thirties) who lived in and was from the same place at the same time that Jesus lived. Forensic scientist Richard Neave led a team that used a skull (that was carbon dated back to the time of Jesus and was found in a grave near where Jesus lived) and using modern technology recreated what that actual man looked like.

For North Americans, this other picture of Jesus that I ask you to think of is that of a taller, lean man with long, flowing, brown hair (most of time with blonde highlights), a nicely trimmed beard (or no beard at all), fair skin and light-colored eyes much like the one that hung in my grandma’s Sunday School class.  This image is more familiar to Americans; especially those who have been to Sunday School or a Christian church; but is it a flawed representation? According to the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane before the Crucifixion, Judas Iscariot had to indicate to the soldiers whom Jesus was because they could not tell him apart from his disciples. Jesus’ features were obviously like that of the other Galilean Semites of that time. Nowhere in the New Testament was Jesus ever described, nor have any drawings of him ever been uncovered. Since we know that Jesus’ body is now in Heaven, we cannot use his exact skull to get a picture of what he looked like. 

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I remember reading a 2015 article from Popular Mechanics where a forensic study used the same technology that forensic anthropologists use in crime investigations or in other historical investigations to reconstruct a person’s appearance to show a true depiction of what Jesus could have looked like while on Earth. It made me think about the picture of Jesus that used to hang in my parents house. Had the creator been inherently wrong or was the depiction done purposely? Had we as an American and predominantly white society been so caught up with uplifting ourselves that we wanted to ‘Americanize’ Jesus? Sadly it isn’t just our interpretation of Jesus based on the images created by white Europeans centuries ago that are guilty of this. Jesus’s appearance is often portrayed as black, Asian or even Hispanic; depending on where the depiction is created. So why do we have hang ups about what Jesus looked like? Could it be that the original depictions of Jesus had never seen anyone from that country before or did they purposely paint that depiction of Jesus to better service their culture? 

I said all of this to say this…our outward appearance has nothing to do with our inside.  Whether Jesus had dark curly hair or long brown hair, his life is what he should represent.  If we were visited by the Jesus of 2000 years ago, how accepting would our Americanized (or wherever you are from) hearts be? How close-minded would our hearts and minds be to our Savior?  When we are visited by people of different races, nationalities, backgrounds, socioeconomic classes….how do we react?  People with tattoos, weird haircuts, different styles of clothing, piercings, loud music, maybe even someone of a different race or socioeconomic class….how do we react to them? Do we push our noses 308px-Christ_before_Caiaphas,_from_The_Passion_of_Christ_MET_DP820914high in the air and be happy in our nice little Christian world? How do you think Jesus would react to someone? Are your thoughts and words mentally stoning them? Jesus wouldn’t and doesn’t judge people based on their appearance; and I think that the socioeconomic classes that have been prevalent in Christian culture in the last hundred years have placed so much importance on appearance that our true Christian calling has been lost. If Jesus were walking this Earth right now, he would not drive a Cadillac and live in a mansion? Being a Christian isn’t easy; but we let need to let the love of Jesus rule our hearts and minds and not put so much priority over what color the carpet is in the sanctuary or discussing the new man at church’s tattoos. We need to put more priority on what our lives represent and less on things that don’t bring any positive edification to God.  We need to be less like the Pharisees and Sadducees (whose fear of losing their political and socioeconomic class due to Jesus’ teachings led to him being crucified) and more like the first Christians who dropped their nets and followed Him.

Don’t think of me being negative when I say that I don’t think that there was anything especially beautiful or majestic in the physical appearance of Jesus. But there is a simple fact: Jesus didn’t attract a large following based on his physical appearance. The Lord’s appearance was not the point of his life and death. The Lord is not remembered for his face but he now has glory in his name. I merely want you to remember that the legacy and name that we project should be the basis of how we should live. It should be about how we live and not what we look like; because our soul lies in our hearts and is not projected on our faces.

Isaiah 53:2-12 is my inspiration for this blog.   


 

Images:

The Last Supper By Leonardo da Vinci – High resolution scan by http://www.haltadefinizione.com/ in collaboration with the Italian ministry of culture. Scan details, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3032252

Re-imagined image of Jesus, Source – Popular Mechanics, Fair Use, December 2002.

Jesus mural image attributed to pixabay.com user Devanath. Fair Use, CC0, https://pixabay.com/en/jesus-altar-light-faith-holy-1129928/

Christ before Caiaphas by Hendrik Goltzius – This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60873975

Popeye the Sailer: The real within the Fiction

Howard-Hughes-TIME-1948Writers find their inspirations in a variety of places. In the comic book world, Stan Lee claims that Tony Stark aka Iron Man was influenced by Howard Hughes. Howard Hughes was a former richest man in the world who was an aviation pioneer, defense contractor, and ladies man while Tony Stark is a multi-billionaire playboy who is a defense contractor that creates a flying suit of armor. Kitty Pride aka Shadowcat was drawn to look like a teenage version of Sigourney Weaver but her name came from a classmate of the character’s creator. John Byrne had a classmate named Kitty Pryde and he loved her name so much that he asked her permission to use it in a comic book. She gave him permission to and he brought Shadowcat aka Kitty Pride to life in the Uncanny X-Men comic #129. While they may not be exact, the inspiration is still there. For folks in Chester, Illinois; there is no doubt that Popeye the Sailor and other characters in the comic strip had very real and almost uncanny inspirations.

Thimbledecem11951Much like the origins of fellow comic book superhero Superman, Popeye the Sailor started off on the pages of a comic strip; and Popeye and his wacky universe of characters were created by E.C. (Elzie Crisler) Segar. While Popeye made his first appearance in January of 1929 in a comic strip entitled “Dice Island” as a rough sailor for hire, he was a support character for owner of the boat in which he had been hired to man. It was on this boat that he would be introduced to the thing that would be the beginnings of his powers. Popeye received “good luck” from rubbing the feathers of Bernice the Whiffle Hen (Bernice was also introduced in the Thimble Theatre comic strip but was introduced shortly before Popeye in 1928.) Bernice’s owner, Castor Oyl had hired Popeye to man the ship while they were venturing to Dice Island (which was home to a huge Casino. Oh you caught that? Yes you guessed it. Castor Oyl is the older brother of Olive Oyl. Olive Oyl and her family were created many years before Popeye but despite Popeye and Castor Oyl’s hi jinx; Popeye’s popularity rose and rose. Popeye became the main protagonist of the comic strip and after Olive Oyl dumped her boyfriend Ham Gravy (yes I know); the two of them would become one of the most recognizable cartoon/comic book couples of all time.

Popeye-comic-book-cover

By that time 1932 rolled around he was receiving his ‘super-strength’ and incredible abilities from eating spinach. Though he was strong sailor with incredible luck and resilience thanks to Bernice (she even healed Popeye’s bullet wounds after he was shot at the casino); Popeye started to favor spinach due to it being a healthy source of strength. That also could have been that while in Africa, Bernice the magical Whiffle Hen met a boy hen and they lived happily ever after.

The storyline sadly has continuity and there are numerous plot holes and contradictions in the characters from then on; but there is one thing that is the same: Popeye. Popeye was a pipe smoking, squinty eyed sailor with a prominent chin, a strong muscular physique and wasn’t scared to throw his giant fists around. Another thing that is the same is that these characteristics are almost mirrored to the real life Popeye that lived in Frank_“Rocky”_Fiegel_(January_27,_1868_-_March_24,_1947)__Popeye__The_SailorSegar’s hometown of Chester, Illinois. With a squinty eye, prominent chin, wooden tobacco pipe, and athletic build; Chester local Frank “Rocky” Fiegel had a propensity to engage in fistfights in the local tavern. Coincidentally this was the same tavern that the short, chubby opera house owner William “Windy Bill” Schuchert would send his employees to purchase hamburgers for him. See where I’m going with that one. So, we have a Popeye and a Wimpy but what about his infamous skinny, bun haired love interest Olive Oyl? Well she could be found down at the general store in town as a uncommonly tall, skinny, straight framed woman named Dora Pascal whose dark haired bun sat close to her neckline.

Though Popeye isn’t your contemporary comic book superhero, (though many historians consider Popeye to be the precursor to the superheroes that would go on to be in the comic books) he is one of my favorite characters of all time. He has been in countless cartoons, comics, comic strips, movies, and was even portrayed on the big screen by comedy legend Robin Williams. But honestly, I think it’s a bit more awesome, knowing that Popeye was loosely based on a real person that Segar had seen in his hometown. Knowing that someone like Popeye existed brings a smile to my face. I just wonder who had the awesome anchor tattoos!


 

Images:

Hughes on the Cover of Time Magazine by and attributed to Time Inc., illustration by Ernest Hamlin Baker. Time failed to renew the copyrights of many early issues; see wikisource:Time (magazine). – Time magazine archive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60507077

Bud Sagendorf’s Cover of Popeye #50 comic book from October 1959 by and attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3035220

Featured Image – Frame from Popeye the Sailor 1933 cartoon by and attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13612364

Thimble Theater Popeye comic strip from 1951 by and attributed to Tom Sims and Bill Zaboly, Source http://ilovecomix.myjungledisk.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22243233

Image of Frank “Rocky” Fiegel (January 27, 1868 – March 24, 1947) accredited to Unknown – Internet, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72758339