That’s just not going to happen

Julia Child and producers, circa 1963

Julia and producers, circa 1963

Today I’ve been making Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon for a Julie and Julia party tonight. I’m not sure how I got volunteered for this esteemed role (after all, it’s the dish that Julie flops in the movie), but I’m giving it my all. (more…)

Goober peas

English: Sheet music cover of "Goober Pea...

English: Sheet music cover of “Goober Peas”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had peanuts on the brain today. It started out with a few Goobers (the candy). Then I considered what an odd word “goober” is. I wikimedia’d “goober,” found this sheet music, wiki’d “goober peas,” and here we are.

Note that the real composer of this sheet music is A.E. Blackmarr, who credits A. Pindar and P. Nutt as the lyricist and composer, respectively. (A pindar is another word for peanut, along with ground nuts and ground peas.) Who says the South doesn’t have a sense of humor?

For those of you not in the know, goober peas are more than just peanuts. They’re boiled peanuts, which a lot of Southerners lived on at the end of the Civil War, after they lost their farms and were cut off from the rail lines.

I guess boiled peanuts are worth singing about when you’re hungry, but I never cared much for them myself — possibly the only peanut product that doesn’t attract me.

At any rate, this folk tune has been sung by people like Burl Ives, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and The Kingston Trio. In recent years, it was covered regularly in live performances by Elton John, although it’s never appeared on one of his albums.

This sheet music bears the address of Canal Street, New Orleans.

Goober peas have been written about far and wide. I really like this story by the Smithsonian Magazine: “The Legumes of War: How Peanuts Fed the Confederacy.”

Verse 1
Sitting by the roadside on a summer’s day
Chatting with my mess-mates, passing time away
Lying in the shadows underneath the trees
Goodness, how delicious, eating goober peas.
Peas, peas, peas, peas
Eating goober peas
Goodness, how delicious,
Eating goober peas.


Happy (?) Ides of March

Painting of the Death of Caesar

Morte di Cesare, Vincenzo Camuccini, 1798

The Ides of March … is it a happy thing?

Caesar was assassinated on that date in 44 BC, even though he’d been warned to protect himself (“Beware the Ides of March”). He was stabbed to death by a bunch of angry senators.

The Ides of March, until Caesar was killed, was mostly considered the day to settle debts and also a festival day for  Mars, god of cattle (later he was promoted to god of battle).

The Ides of March was originally thought to have been the day of the full moon, an auspicious day for the Romans (except, eventually, for Caesar).

And today, the Ides of March is celebrated every year by the Rome Hash House Harriers who run (in togas) through the place where Caesar was killed.

Guys willing to wear skirts on March 15th must mean that spring is near.

It occurs to me that my Shakespeare teacher, Dr. Nancy Tatum, probably scheduled our reading of the play Julius Caesar to coincide with the Ides of March. That would have been like her. Dry sense of humor. Completely dedicated to Shakespeare. She knew everything about Shakespeare. Absolutely everything. As far as I was concerned, she WAS Shakespeare.

One evening Nancy Tatum secured the school van and took us to a Kennedy Center production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For me, it was an incredible experience. I’d never been to a professional play before. I was in love.

I learned a lot about writing from Nancy Tatum, whose austerity frightened me into my best work. Other students would consult with me about papers because they thought I had the secret to winning her favor. I had no secret. I read everything I could, and tried to give her something new.

One day, Dr. Tatum called me aside and asked whether I had plagiarized a paper about Shakespeare. The approach was so much like a critical book written about him, which I’d never read. I was shattered. I think she saw that I was completely crushed and shocked, and we never spoke of it again. I secretly took it as a compliment. I still got the A.

I had no idea until a moment ago that today I’d be thinking so much of this teacher. But I realized that it was she who taught me what I did know about Julius Caesar. It was she who may have had a covert love affair with Ted, the owner of a popular local bar. It was she who lived alone, perhaps drank a bit too much, and eventually, after my time, became the head of the English Department. It was she who told me how brilliant she thought my final compositions were – three days of solid writing (barbaric, really). She even told me why I hadn’t gotten the top honor I so coveted (I hadn’t taken a class with a professor on the review board). To curry Nancy Tatum’s favor was to receive crop rain from the gods.

I recently learned that my revered teacher is in a dementia center in Florida, probably still lecturing, waving her arms, and weaving her well-worn tales of Shakespeare. (Of the death of Edward II, who died by having a red-hot poker thrust up his rectum, she asked, “If anyone can think of a worse way to die, please raise your hand.” I took her course twice just to hear her stories.)

Nancy Tatum, this Ides is for you.

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