Crazy Food Cravings

Craving foods 01-23-2014A Facebook friend who goes by the moniker Sherry Senile Camper Swanson posted a photo of a can of Hormel Tamales on her timeline: “For my gourmet dinner friends…here is my post of my lovely lunch of canned tamales…which I LOVE. Be jealous. Hee he.

Wife Lila chimed in, “Ken Steinhoff loves those things. Our grocer here quit carrying them, and I was charged with finding some… NOW! About six weeks later, I found them at another store and bought enough to keep him from going into a fetal position.”

That launched into a long discussion about those foods people keep in the back of their pantries for emergencies (in our case, hurricane supplies) or for the once or twice-a-year cravings. (If you can’t get them locally, here’s an Amazon link for Hormel Beef in Chili Sauce Tamales.)

It was interesting how many Cape Girardeans admitted to tamale urges. It must be a Bootheel thing, one said.

Smoked clams and oysters

Craving foods 01-23-2014

When nothing else hits the craving spot, I’ll reach into the hurricane supplies to pick up a can of smoked baby clams or oysters. I like them scooped up on Ritz Garden Vegetable crackers. I didn’t see the brand we buy listed on Amazon, but I haven’t been able to tell much difference in brands. For as seldom as I eat a can, cheapest is best.

All things being equal, I think I belch smoked clams for a shorter period of time than smoked oysters. Now, THAT’S a food review you don’t see on Friend Jan’s food blog.

Vienna Sausages

Broccoli, Vienna Sausages and KLSI was doing OK with this food talk until Ms. Swanson brought up Vienna sausages. I don’t think I’ve cracked a can of those things in 30 years, but I decided I should pick up a couple cans (they were on sale) when I went to the grocery store this afternoon. When I got home, Wife Lila was getting ready to make greens out of the broccoli leaves from her backyard garden.

She took one look at my cans and said, “You know how you have to leave the room when I drink buttermilk, well, I’m going to have to leave the room if you eat those.”

They DO look nasty

Broccoli, Vienna Sausages and KLSMs. Swanson rhapsodized about her VS experience: “I still have a can that I carried all the way across the US on my bike adventure. I was always afraid I’d end up in some podunk place with nothing to eat. I ate in a lot of gas stations on that trip…and the can of VS made it to the Atlantic Ocean and back here to Missouri.

When I cracked my can, I wish I had carried it unopened from one coast to the other.

Reading the ingredients didn’t make me feel any better: “Sausage: Mechanically separated chicken, water, salt, corn syrup. Contains less than 2% or less of beef, pork, Dextrose, natural flavors, sodium nitrate, garlic powder. Broth: chicken broth.”

Still, I had 50 cents invested in this adventure, so I had to go through with it.

I now know what “bilious” means

Broccoli, Vienna Sausages and KLS

Wife Lila didn’t run screaming from the room after all. She consented to photograph my experiment. She kept saying, “That one didn’t look exactly right. You’d better eat another one while I shoot it from a slightly different angle. Oh, there’s a bad shadow on that one.” [Editor’s note: For the record, Proofreader Lila doesn’t remember the photo shoot that way. I think she is suffering from sausage-induced amnesia.]

I had a horrible, guilty flashback. We had a feature columnist who did lots of what he thought were “funny” stories requiring personal deeds of (not) so daring feats. We photographers resented the space devoted to him that we thought could be better used by serious stories, so we didn’t cut him much slack.

One shoot involved a test of a laundry detergent to see if the stains really would come out after [name removed] had been dragged through a mud puddle by a motorcycle. One of the most reliable photographers on the staff had the darnedest time that afternoon. They light was wrong, the timing was off, his film slipped on the reel… Poor [name removed] and his clothing were certainly muddy after about half a dozen takes, but, to his credit, he didn’t gripe about the misfortunes the photographer had.

I now sympathize with [name removed] and feel a little guilty.

After I finished the seven “sausages” in the can, I looked inside and saw a gelatinous goo left behind that wouldn’t even pour out.

A word floated into my mind; a word that I hadn’t used in so long that I had to look it up to make sure it was the right one. Yep, “bilious” was the right term: “Bilious fever was a medical diagnosis often used for any fever that exhibited the symptom of nausea or vomiting in addition to an increase in internal body temperature and strong diarrhea. “Bilious” means the condition was thought to arise from disorders of bile, the two types of which were two of the Four Humours of traditional Galenic medicine. The term is obsolete and no longer used, but was commonly used by medical practitioners in the 18th and 19th centuries, often cited as a cause on death certificates.

 Topics for future exploration

When I get over my bilious condition, we can explore those other foods of Swampeast Missouri like tongue with horseradish, pickled pig’s feet and brains and eggs.


Licking the Gateway Arch

Matt and Sarah Steinhoff St Louis Arch 12-26-2000I tell newcomers to St. Louis that it is a tradition that first-timer visitors have to lick the arch. I elaborate that in the summertime, entrepreneurs sell alcohol wipes to the germphobes and in the wintertime they sell cups of hot chocolate to chug so your tongue doesn’t stick to the frigid stainless steel.

I tried that at Christmas in in 2000 when Son Matt’s newly-minted wife Sarah joined us at Brother Mark’s for a Christmas celebration. She had been around the Steinhoffs long enough to be inoculated against that kind of foolishness. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Friend Jan almost bit

Jan Norris at Gateway ArchI came very close to convincing Friend Jan to do The Lick, but she remembered who she was with at the last minute and backed out.

Young and gullible Curator Jessica

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9916It was time to get Curator Jessica up to St. Louis to catch a plane back home to Ohio. Over the kitchen table at Brother Mark’s, I asked if he had any alcohol wipes she could use at The Arch in the morning. Without missing a beat, he said he could provide some, which would save her bunch of money over the ones the vendors sold to tourists.

The hook was set.

On the way to Cahokia Mounds the next morning, I said, “Drat! I forgot to get the wipes from Mark before we left.”

“No problem,” she responded, “I was going to ask you to stop at a Walgreens on the way. I can get some then.”

As soon as she left the car, I called Wife Lila in Florida. “Guess what Jessica’s going to do?” I asked.

“You didn’t?”

“Yep,” I did.

 I get The Look

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9924When we arrived at the arch, a group of high school kids were standing on their hands with their feet on the stainless steel. “You might want to lick a different section,” I suggested.

In return, I got The Look, something common to all the women in my life.

Getting down to business

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9927It’s time to pull out the wipes. “All they had was a big package,” she said.

Swabbing down the Arch

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9932Miz Jessica makes sure that no germs are left.

Holy Cow! She did it

Jessica Cyders at Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9935Contact is made. Mission accomplished.

That Tram sure is small

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9938When Jan was here, we ran short on time and she wasn’t crazy about climbing into the tram that carries you and four of your soon-to-be closest friends to the top. You can see why here.

We watched a movie on the building of The Arch, something that Jessica’s engineering prof husband would have appreciated. I tried to get her to buy him a copy of the movie in the gift shop, but she saw how much it cost and said, “I love him, but not THAT much.”

When it came time to board the tram, she was less claustrophobic than I was. Of course, she’s about half the size of me and the other guy who was in there with two other women. You develop friendships in a hurry when you’re crammed into a tin can like that.

“You know, you and I are sitting closer than I got with my first four girlfriends,” I told the woman across from me. Funny how it didn’t take her long to exit when the door opened.

On the way down, we met a guy who painted such a succulent picture of the food at Pappy’s Smokehouse that we made a beeline there as soon as we could get back to the car. Like I said, quick friendships.

We made it to the top

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9956After what didn’t feel like a long time at the rate of about 3.86 mph, we made it the 630 feet (7,560 inches, the website translates) to the top of the structure. It seemed like lots of folks were sharing our space, but it’s designed to hold up to 160 visitors. The Gateway Arch website has lots of interesting factoids.

Leaning out feels strange

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9950Miz Jessica wasn’t bothered by the tight quarters in the tram, but she has a touch of fear of heights, so she wasn’t sure how she’d feel in The Arch. I warned her that leaning out to look at the window can feel like you’re going to cause the thing to sway.

A tour guide assured us there was nothing to worry about: it was designed to sway as much as 18 inches, nine inches to either side. I tried to convince Jessica to get the visitors to run from side to side to see if it would start it swaying, but she nixed the idea.

That was probably just as well she didn’t waste her effort. The guide said that it only sways about 1.5 inches in a 50 mph wind and will, in theory, survive a major tornado and earthquake.

A friendly group

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9958Everybody on the top was friendly, with lots of people volunteering to take pictures of groups. Maybe the knowledge that you might be trapped in a tram with your neighbor if it jams, something that happened quite a few times in the early days of operation, puts you on your friendliest behavior.

View to the west

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9946We were lucky to be there on a fairly clear day when visibility could have been as much as 30 miles. The green-domed building is the Old Courthouse, which is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

A lot of new buildings since 1967

View from St Louis Arch c 1967Compare this photo I took in 1967 with the one today. There has been a lot of new construction over the years.

Ballpark to the southwest

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9948The round, reddish structure to the southwest is Busch Stadium.

Yellow building is the Casino Queen

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9960The yellow building on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River is the Casino Queen. If you strain your eyes to the horizon, you might be able to see Monk’s Mound at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. (Or it might just be the massive landfill to the west of it.)

Gateway Geyser

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9964The round body of water is the Gateway Geyser, which shoots water as tall as the arch three times a day during the spring months.  It is all part of the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, which includes a 40-foot Mississippi River overlook. Malcolm Martin was the man who was instrumental in protecting the area from commercial development and as a green complement to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds across the river.

Project started in the 1940s

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9973What I didn’t realize until this trip was how long the project had been in the works before the gleaming stainless steel structure was yanked out of the ground. It got its start in the 1930s, partially as an urban renewal project to get rid of scores of old buildings that cut off the view of the waterfront.

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial was envisioned to occupy the 62-plus acres where the original French colonial town of St. Louis was founded. Architect Eero Saarinen won a 1947-1948 competition to design the site. His vision of an arch became the focal point of the memorial instead of just a point of interest. Construction of the arch started in February 1963; the north leg opened in July 1967, and the south in May 1968. That must mean that I really was one of the first visitors.

It was all about the river

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9962St. Louis became the gateway to the west because of its location near the intersection of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and being just upstream of the Ohio River in Cairo. Like Cape Girardeau, it’s still a river town at heart.

Basilica of Saint Louis

Gateway Arch 11-04-2013_9952The Old Cathedral, the building with the colorful trees around it, was closed when we visited, so we couldn’t go in it.

[Editor’s note: I think this may be the last of the Curator Jessica stories from this trip. If you are wondering who she is, Jessica Cyders is curator of the Athens County (OH) Historical Society Museum. We became acquainted about a year ago when one of her interns stumbled across my collection of protest photos. I made a swing through Athens with Friend Jan at the end of January and we hit it off. Since then, I’ve done several exhibits and presentations at the museum and at Ohio University. She’s working on persuading me to donate my Ohio photos to the historical society when I go toes-up.

[She stared following this blog and listening to my many tales of growing up in Swampeast Missouri and decided to take a road trip with me to see if anything I told her was true. As you can tell from this account, every word that comes out of mouth or pen is absolutely gospel. (OK, maybe it’s gospel according to Ken.)]







Through the Mountains

Mountains 11-28-2013_1411I hated not being home for Thanksgiving, but I liked the empty roads the holiday presented me. I had a pleasant day’s drive through the mountains in West Virginia and Virginia.

Jan was driving last time

W VA Mountain 11-28-2013_1312I pretty much missed seeing the mountains the last trip through there with Friend Jan.

  • A. It was at night.
  • B. I was asleep because I found the best way to be a passenger when Jan is driving is to have your eyes closed.

I wish I had done a better job with these. It’s hard balancing the camera on the steering wheel while you’re rocketing downhill on a twisty road. If I had been able to adjust the polarizing filter and diddle with the zoom and exposures, these would have been more interesting. As it was, I just pointed and pushed the button.

Photo Gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the sides to move through the gallery.

Frost Leaves Me Cold

Frost in Athens OH 10-25-2013When I walked out of my room at the motel where I’m staying in Athens, Ohio, I had an unpleasant surprise: my car was encased in a solid sheet of ice.

What is on the back of my van?

I spotted the housekeeper who throws me new towels every morning coming across the parking lot. She’s a friendly sort.

Leading her around to the back of my van, I asked, “What do you see on the back of the car?”

She looked at the car, then at me, and shot me a confused look.

This is against the law

Frost in Athens OH 10-25-2013“That’s a Florida license tag on this vehicle,” I clarified. “Don’t you folks in Ohio know that it’s against the law for a Florida vehicle to be covered in ice?”

She laughed, but it was a nervous kind of laugh.

I wonder if I’ll have new housekeeper in the morning?

Since I didn’t have Friend Jan along to scrape the ice off the windows, I just let the engine run for about 10 minutes, then scraped the ice off the mirrors with a credit card.