Wit on Rye: Paul Violi’s “Counterman”

photo by Baldomero Fernandez (Katz’s: Autobiography of a Delicatessen)

So, where’s the beef?

It all depends on who’s roasting it and how you order. Here’s to the many flavors of language, elevating the seemingly mundane into art, and having the appetite for a tasty serving of wit on rye.

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“Waiting at the Deli Counter” by James Crandall

 

COUNTERMAN
by Paul Violi

What’ll it be?

Roast beef on rye, with tomato and mayo.

Whaddaya want on it?

A swipe of mayo.
Pepper but no salt.

You got it. Roast beef on rye.
You want lettuce on that?

No. Just tomato and mayo.

Tomato and mayo. You got it.
. . . Salt and pepper?

No salt, just a little pepper.

You got it. No salt.
You want tomato.

Yes. Tomato. No lettuce.

No lettuce. You got it.
. . . No salt, right?

Right. No salt.

You got it. Pickle?

No, no pickle. Just tomato and mayo.
And pepper.

Pepper.

Yes, a little pepper.

Right. A little pepper.
No pickle.

Right. No pickle.

You got it.
Next!

Roast beef on whole wheat, please,
With lettuce, mayonnaise and a center slice
Of beefsteak tomato.
The lettuce splayed, if you will,
In a Beaux Arts derivative of classical acanthus,
And the roast beef, thinly sliced, folded
In a multi-foil arrangement
That eschews Bragdonian pretensions
Or any idea of divine geometric projection
For that matter, but simply provides
A setting for the tomato
To form a medallion with a dab
Of mayonnaise as a fleuron.
And — as eclectic as this may sound —
If the mayonnaise can also be applied
Along the crust in a Vitruvian scroll
And as a festoon below the medallion,
That would be swell.

You mean like in the Cathedral St. Pierre in Geneva?

Yes, but the swag more like the one below the rosette
At the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.

You got it.
Next!

~ from Overnight (Hanging Loose Press, 2007)

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[tea-licious review + treats] How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea by Kate Hosford and Gabi Swiatkowska

Roll out the red carpet and get ready to curtsy: The QUEEN has just landed and she’s brought TEA!

If you’re thinking this new picture book has my name written all over it, you’re absolutely right. I will try my best to maintain a reasonable sense of decorum for the duration of this post, but as you can imagine, it will take every ounce of restraint I possess. Because TEA. QUEEN. ENGLAND. ADVENTURE. TOP HAT, MUSTACHE! All my favorite things!

*cartwheels* 

*backflips* 

*deep breath . . .*

That sound you hear in the background is the joyous clinking of tiny teacups in honor of Kate Hosford and Gabi Swiatkowska, a picture book team made in Assam heaven. In How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea (Carolrhoda Books, 2017), it is evident their whimsical tea-loving sensibilities are in perfect sync.

We first meet HRH one morning while she’s being dressed and coiffed by four maids. A haughty one is this Queen, she with the sour expression and wild hair. Every morning, her mustached butler James prepares her tea, and each day “her tea started to taste a bit worse.” Yes, she has a meltdown.

James, she yelled.

This tea is horrible!

She decides right then and there that she “must find the perfect cup of tea.” So off they go on a queenly quest to faraway lands via hot air balloon.

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please write, don’t call: my love-hate relationship with telephones

“The telephone, which interrupts the most serious conversations and cuts short the most weighty observations, has a romance of its own.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Rrrrring!!  Rrrrrrring!!

Oh, it’s for you. 🙂

Oil on canvas by Raymond Logan

THE TELEPHONE
by Edward Field

My happiness depends on an electric appliance
And I do not mind giving it so much credit
With life in this city being what it is
Each person separated from friends
By a tangle of subways and buses
Yes my telephone is my joy
It tells me that I am in the world and wanted
It rings and I am alerted to love or gossip
I go comb my hair which begins to sparkle
Without it I was like a bear in a cave
Drowsing through a shadowy winter
It rings and spring has come
I stretch and amble out into the sunshine
Hungry again as I pick up the receiver
For the human voice and the good news of friends

~ from Counting Myself Lucky (Blacksparrow Press, 1992)

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[book review] No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood by Calvin Trillin and Roz Chast

Do you have a bossy older sibling? Wish you could eat ice cream for breakfast instead of oatmeal? Why ride the bus to school when a helicopter would be so much better?

Ah yes, life’s little injustices! If you can’t change them, may as well laugh about them.

In No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood (Orchard Books, 2016), eminent New Yorker contributors Calvin Trillin and Roz Chast serve up big helpings of funny with their poems and pictures about various and sundry everyday things that can drive kids nuts. No matter our age, we’ve all been there. Ever have a wardrobe crisis in the morning?

GETTING DRESSED

Oh, this is such a silly rule —
That people must wear pants to school.
A better rule, a wise man said,
is wear your underpants instead.

This little morning complaint is just the beginning. There are complaints about school and for the evening, too. As the title states, no fair! no fair!

Many of the 23 rib-ticklers in this collection were inspired by real-life experiences from Trillin’s children, grandchildren, and his own childhood. Young readers will giggle in recognition at the ploys used to convince one’s parents to get a pet, the earnest desire to send back a new baby brother, and horror of all horrors — sitting next to a scoocher sister who won’t stay on her side of the backseat. Grrrrrr.

She’s over the line,
she’s over the line.
She occupies space
That’s rightfully mine.

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cornelius meets hillary: of cookies, chiles, and scrambled eggs

Some of you may know we love talking about Presidential Food here in the Alphabet Soup kitchen.

Whether it’s polishing off a bowl of JFK’s clam chowder, whipping up a batch of George Washington’s hoecakes, or wrapping our lips around Barack Obama’s homemade chili, learning about our leaders’ favorite foods makes them more human and accessible.

I like associating Ronald Reagan with jelly beans, George Bush with pork rinds, Jimmy Carter with peanuts. But what of the first female presidential nominee?

I guess Hillary Rodham Clinton can be summed up this way: she’s a hot pepper and a smart cookie. 🙂

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