Today on the tray: Boston (cream pie)

October 23 is National Boston Cream Pie Day.

Here’s a little primer on Boston cream pie, courtesy of Wikipedia:

A Boston cream pie is a cake that is filled with a custard or cream filling and frosted with chocolate. Although it is called a Boston cream pie, it is in fact a cake, and not a pie. Created by Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856, this pudding and cake combination comprises two layers of sponge cake filled with vanilla flavored custard or crème pâtissière. The cake is topped with a chocolate glaze (such as ganache) and sometimes powdered sugar or a cherry.

The Boston cream pie is the official dessert of Massachusetts, declared as such in 1996. However, it is not mass-produced in Boston.

Boston cream pie isn’t the only great thing about Boston. The city has provided the setting for many a TV show. Below is one of my favorite openings to a TV show set in Boston. No, it’s not that one where everybody knows your name. It’s James at 15, a coming-of-age drama from the late 1970s. (The show was retitled James at 16 when the character hit his 16th birthday and lost his virginity to a Swedish foreign exchange student in the same episode—talk about coming of age!)

Opening credits, James at 15 (1977)

I’m also partial to the another series set in Boston; this one is based on a movie that takes place at Harvard Law School. No, not Legally Blonde. I’m talking about The Paper Chase. The opening is memorable for the 1970s soft-rock theme song performed by Seals & Crofts, and for John Houseman, as the crusty law professor, saying “You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush—and, if you survive, you leave thinking like a lawyer.”

Opening credits, The Paper Chase (1978-79)

I love it when teachers deliver nuggets of wisdom in the opening credits of a show that way. Like in the opening credits of Fame, when Debbie Allen as the dance teacher tells her students, “You’ve got big dreams. You want fame. Well fame costs—and right here is where you start paying—in sweat!” Yeah, we get it: If you want something badly, you’ve got to be willing to work for it.

But all I really want right now is some Boston cream pie.

Today on the tray: The can-can!

October 23 is National Canning Day. You might celebrate by canning your own food—or, if you’re like me, you might say “screw that” and head over to the supermarket. With any luck, ShopRite will be having their Can-Can Sale!

ShopRite’s 1980s can-can commercials were my first exposure to the can-can dance. Because I no longer live near the ShopRite chain, I didn’t realize that ShopRite still has the Can-Can Sale and still uses the same jingle. Here’s the 1980s version I remember:

Shop Rite Can-Can commercial (1983)

Now, ShopRite does the can-can
Selling lots of brands of everything in cans, cans!
Today, it’s great to save some cash
So come to ShopRite’s Can-Can Bash
From can to can to can to can
You’ll save much more on every brand
You’ll save much more on every brand
Now’s the time to shop at ShopRite’s Can-Can Bash!
Now it’s time to stock up while the values last!

ShopRite also has a cool app where you can upload your photo and create your own ShopRite can-can. Here’s mine. I’ve got great gams, if I do say so myself! Oh-la-la!

Today on the tray: Four prunes

four prunesOctober 17 is Four Prunes Day.

Why four? According to The Nibble, it’s because “four prunes are the minimum of what people who want more ‘digestive regularity’ should take per day (up to a maximum of 9 prunes a day).” Well, the label on the prunes I buy says that a serving is five prunes, so that is what I eat—but enough about me.

Below, see a wacky prune commercial from the 1960s featuring science fiction author Ray Bradbury.

Sunsweet prune commercial with Ray Bradbury (1960s)

By the year 2001, the ad forecasts, people will travel around in penumatic tubes. (Nope, never came to pass.) TVs will be large enough to take up a whole wall. (Yes, some people have pretty big TVs.) And prunes will be packaged in mini-packs. (Yes, Sunsweet does sell them individually wrapped.) Well, two predictions out of three is pretty good.

Bradbury, puzzled by his own presence in the commercial, says, “I never mentioned prunes in any of my stories…What are these people trying to pull?” He also observes that prunes are “badly wrinkled.”

“Sunsweet wrinkle technicians will one day conquer that too,” the voiceover boldly promises. This, my friends, is how the plum was invented. 

But really, I’m glad they never found a cure for prune wrinkles. If they had, then calling someone “prune-face” would no longer be an insult, and I need it in my arsenal of insults to hurl at my aging friends.

Today on the tray: A very Brady mushroom


October 15 is National Mushroom Day.

According to Wikipedia, a mushroom is “the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus.” Gross. You can leave the mushrooms off my side of the pizza, thanks.

You may recall that in the 1996 movie A Very Brady Sequel, Alice serves spaghetti sauce made with psychedelic mushrooms to “Roy Martin” (Carol’s back-from-the-dead first husband). It seems Alice found them in Roy’s room and thought he would enjoy them.

Upon eating the ’shroom-laced spaghetti sauce, Roy hallucinates an animated sequence featuring the characters from The Brady Kids Saturday morning series (1972-73), set to “Good Morning Starshine.” It’s hysterical even if you don’t remember The Brady Kids, but I gave an extra shriek of glee when I saw Marlon the magical mynah bird and the pandas Ping and Pong! I didn’t realize how much I missed them. Watch it below.

“Roy Martin” (played by Tim Matheson) takes a trip after Alice slips him psychedelic mushrooms in A Very Brady Sequel (1996)

Born on this date: Hank Patterson

Fred and Doris ZIffel

Fred Ziffel (Hank Patterson) and Doris Ziffel (Barbara Pepper)

Hank Patterson, who played Fred Ziffel on Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, was born October 9, 1888. If he were alive today, he would be 126! It seems impossible that he could have born that long ago, but apparently he was in his late 70s when Green Acres started. IMDb shows acting credits for Patterson dating back to 1939.

Fred Ziffel, of course, was the “father” of the pig Arnold Ziffel, who was treated like a human. In the clip below from Green Acres, Fred and his wife, Doris, are upset that Arnold has started to bark after forming an attachment to Mr. Haney’s dog, Cynthia.

Clip from “Love Comes to Arnold Ziffel,” Green Acres (1967)

Today on the tray: Noo-noo-noodle O’s!

Andy Warhol soup can

From Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans II

October 6 is National Noodle Day.

Did anyone ever tell you to use your noodle?  says that “Use your noodle” was originally an insult: “The phrase likened the body language of a simpleton wagging his head around while pondering some basic concept, in a way similar to a dangling, wet noodle.”

But I intend no offense when I say: Use your noodle, and find a clever way to celebrate National Noodle Day!

Has there ever been such a versatile food? Noodles come in all different shapes and sizes. You can serve them with cheese, tomato sauce, pesto, peanut sauce, or soy sauce. You can boil them, stir-fry them, bake them into a noodle kugel, or prepare them in countless other ways. You can eat them with chopsticks or a fork — or, like the kids in the commercial below, you can use a spoon to eat them in soup.

Yodeling Mom


Those kids sure seem to love the little round soup noodles. Watch as a mother calls out with a queer-sounding noodle yodel — “Noo-noo-noodle O’s!” — and all the neighborhood children come running like she is the Pied Piper of soup. I actually find it kind of disturbing. Let’s leave yodeling to goatherds, shall we?

“O ladle those Noodle O’s!”

Campbell’s Noodle O’s soup commercial (1970s)

Whose coffee advice do you trust most?

September 29 is National Coffee Day. So let’s take a moment to acknowledge our favorite coffee spokespersons and thank them for their valuable coffee advice over the years.

Clockwise from upper left: Mrs. Olson (Virginia Christine) for Folgers; Cora (Margaret Hamilton) for Maxwell House; Lauren Bacall for High Point; and Robert Young for Sanka.

Perhaps the best known coffee personality is Mrs. Olson, played by Virginia Christine. Women seek out Mrs. Olson’s sympathetic ear to complain about their husbands’ insensitive remarks, which always seem to center on the wives’ poor coffee-making ability. Mrs. Olson advises using mountain-grown Folgers coffee, “the richest, most aromatic kind of coffee.” On the surface, it seems like helpful advice, but it still leaves the women believing that they deserve to be treated like dirt unless they learn to make good coffee. Maybe instead, Mrs. Olson should recommend marriage counseling or suggest that the women leave their abusive relationships and discover their own self-worth. Folgers, the coffee most preferred by women with low self-esteem!

MRS. OLSON: Mary, come in! My goodness, you look as if you lost your last friend.

MARY: It’s my Jim again. You should have heard him this morning! “Mary, your coffee is as undrinkable as ever.”… Maybe he’s right. I just can’t seem to make good coffee.

When you were a child, did Margaret Hamilton scare you as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz? Did every cackle and “my pretty” send a shiver down your spine? Well, you’ll see a much milder Hamilton as Cora, the proprietor of the general store that carries no coffee but Maxwell House. Instead of sinister and shrill, here Hamilton is wise and earthy. And a bad businesswoman. She should at least carry one other brand so people feel like they have a choice. But Cora insists there isn’t room in her small store to carry anything but the best. “I only sell one kind. Maxwell House,” she boasts. “Like they say, ‘Good to the last drop.'” Now give me those ruby slippers!

One thing about running a country store: You only stock what’s best. Fruit in season. Home-baked pies, when I can get ’em. Even coffee. I only sell one kind. Maxwell House.

Robert Young knew best on Father Knows Best and played a doctor on Marcus Welby, M.D., so his coffee advice certainly seems trustworthy. Just ask the young couple in the commercial below. Times have changed since Mrs. Olson’s day, and now, it’s not the wife’s poor coffee-making that’s the problem, it’s the husband’s ineptitude. Poor Don even has trouble folding a map. Don’s wife makes excuses for him: “The doctor says caffeine makes him nervous.” A little Xanax would probably help, but since Robert Young isn’t a real doctor, he prescribes “Sanka brand decaffeinated coffee.” Later, Don’s wife claims that switching Don to Sanka brand helped make their vacation a second honeymoon. Yeah, that’s what happens when a guy’s blood vessels are no longer constricted by caffeine. Young concludes, “Sanka brand: The coffee that lets you be your best.”

ROBERT YOUNG: You should drink Sanka brand decaffeinated coffee.

DON: But I only like real coffee.

ROBERT YOUNG: Sanka brand is real coffee, and tastes it. Try it.

Finally, there’s Lauren Bacall for High Point. Like Young, Bacall too drinks decaf, explaining that she doesn’t need the extra caffeine: “I’m active enough, thank you!” Rushing around to make her eight o’clock curtain, she drinks instant decaffeinated coffee in her limo, wearing a fur coat and pearls. Bacall purrs about how much she loves the taste of that crap. She really is very convincing; she deserved all those acting awards she won during her lifetime. When she says “That’s rich!” you truly believe she is referring to the taste, and not making an ironic comment on her own endorsement. But if you’ll permit me to make a pun, I’d say that High Point was a low point in Bacall’s career. Sadly, they stopped making High Point years ago. I do hope she managed to find another instant decaffeinated coffee to keep in her limo and satisfy her “coffee-lover’s taste.”

You know what makes High Point taste so good? Deep-brewed flavor. I love it!

Today in TV history: The wreck of the S.S. Minnow

Gilligan with mouth openGilligan’s Island debuted on this date 50 years ago (September 26, 1964).

The first episode broadcast was “Two on a Raft,” in which the castaways discover themselves shipwrecked on “an uncharted desert isle.” It was not the pilot, however. That wouldn’t be televised until 1992, nearly three decades later.

The pilot is like an alternate universe version of the show. No sitting right back to “hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.” In this version, there is a calypso theme song. Looking for Mary Ann? You won’t find her — there’s someone named Bunny instead. Ginger and the Professor are there, but they’re played by different actors, and Ginger isn’t a movie star — she’s a secretary. Oh, and the tour is six hours, not three.

There is something disturbing about seeing something you know as well as your own name — and it’s almost the same, but different. Ready to have your mind blown? Watch the pilot show opening theme below. You don’t know the words to this one!

Rare opening theme, Gilligan's Island pilot (1963)

Talk like a pirate… and dress like one too

September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arr! But talk is cheap. Why just talk like a pirate when you can also dress like one?

Perhaps you’d like to wear a puffy pirate shirt like Jerry Seinfeld (above right). In “The Puffy Shirt,” Kramer’s new girlfriend Leslie, a “low talker,” says something inaudible to which Jerry nods his head and smiles. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s just agreed to wear a puffy pirate-style shirt she’s designed during his upcoming appearance on the Today show. Reluctantly, under pressure from Kramer, Jerry goes ahead and wears the shirt. Bryant Gumbel gives him grief:

BRYANT: (Talking directly to the camera) Back now, 7:46. On Tuesday the 19th here in New York there will be a benefit for the Goodwill Industries – a used clothing organization that provides services to the needy. One of the performers will be comedian Jerry Seinfeld. (Turns to face Jerry) Jerry, good morning.

JERRY: (Mumbling out) Thank you, Bryant.

BRYANT: (Pointing out) And speaking of clothing, that is a very, very unusual shirt you have on.

Bryant Gumbel and Jerry SeinfeldJERRY: (Looking down at the shirt; mumbling) Oh, thank you.

(Backstage, Kramer’s standing with his girlfriend. She’s brimming with pride)

BRYANT: You’re all kinda, (waves his hands around) kinda “puffed up.” (Chuckles)

JERRY: Yeah, it’s a puffy shirt.

BRYANT: (Laughing) You look kinda like a pirate.

(Elaine, also standing backstage, closes her eyes – showing her dissatisfaction)

JERRY: (Nervous laughter) Yeah… like a pirate… (attempting to get on another subject) Anyway, ah, you know, we’re hoping to, um, raise enough money… with this… uh…

BRYANT: (Rudely interrupting, still snickering at the shirt) You… ah, look, I’m sorry, it is just a VERY unusual shirt. It could be kind of a whole new look for you.. you know, you could put a patch over an eye, you could be kind of like the pirate-comedian.

JERRY: Uh-huh, yeah. (Smiling, nodding, clearly wanting Bryant to shut up)

BRYANT: Are you going to be wearing the shirt at the concert?

JERRY: (Losing it, mad) Look, it’s not my shirt.

BRYANT: (Confused) Whose shirt is it?

JERRY: What’s the difference? I agreed to wear it. It’s – it’s a puffy shirt. I feel ridiculous in it, and I think it’s the stupidest shirt I’ve ever seen, to be perfectly honest with you. (Nodding)

LESLIE: (Off camera, shrill, high pitched yelling) You bastard!

BRYANT: (To Jerry) Did you hear that?

JERRY: (Pointing off screen, nodding) THAT I heard.

From “The Puffy Shirt,” Seinfeld (Sept. 23, 1993)

Today on the tray: TV dinners

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

September 10 is National TV Dinner Day.

Who came up with the nifty idea of TV dinners, anyway? Well, several different parties lay claim to the invention. Swanson & Sons is credited with coming up with the term “TV dinner.” A popular story is that Swanson & Sons had 260 tons of unsold frozen Thanksgiving turkey on their hands one year, and one of their executives, inspired by airline meals, came up with the idea of packaging and selling the excess turkey as as part of a frozen dinner. This was in 1954. Quaker State Foods was already selling frozen dinners in aluminum trays in 1949, but Swanson was the first to enjoy widespread success with the frozen dinner concept.

In 1973, Swanson introduced its larger-portioned Hungry-Man Dinners. Below, a pre-Taxi, pre-Grease Jeff Conaway stars as a hungry man in an early commercial for the new, larger meal.

Jeff ConawayEver since we got married, all he does is eat! Good thing I found these Hungry-Man Dinners from Swanson! Look at all that chicken! Four meaty pieces. Swanson already put the second helping in. There’s fried chicken, turkey… four Hungry-Man dinners with the second helping already in!

It’s the next best thing to your good cooking. Swanson makes it good!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 78 other followers

%d bloggers like this: