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Brian Schropp on Cuisine

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I was giddy with anticipation after receiving the invitation via Electronic “Snappy” Mail. Arnold and Dotty Blake, family acquaintances who lived a few streets over here in the Deep Northern Suburbs, were opening their first restaurant and wanted me to come over to try a few recipes. I was brimming with pride– it was nice to think the Blakes thought highly enough of my ‘advance taste profile’ to want my opinion. My mom, however, was pretty skeptical of the invite. “Why the hell are they opening a restaurant?” she said, looking at the fancy engraved note on the kitchen table. “They have been retired for years.” She then proceeded to yell in the direction of the living room- “Honey, aren’t Arnold and Dotty who live down the street retired?!”

By Brian Schropp

By Brian Schropp

“I think so dear!” my Dad shouted back. He was in his armchair solving the daily ‘Word Jumble’ in the paper.

My Mom was shaking her head. “Doesn’t make sense. I remember the few times we went over there for neighborhood functions that the food was really bad. I think your dad got sick once eating a hamburger.” Again my mom shouted over- “Honey, didn’t you get sick one time eating a hamburger over there?!”

“Yeah, it was pretty raw in the middle, I think I threw up in their grill!” I heard my Dad give a slight curse, he must have messed up on a letter in the jumble.

“I just don’t get it.” It felt like my Mom was trying to solve the mystery of the century. “Dotty stayed at home even though they had no kids, God knows what she did all day. And he was some type of salesman—“Honey, what did Arnold Blake do again?!!”

Arnold and Betty Blake

Arnold and Betty Blake

“He was a salesman for ‘Nuts, Ah!’ Used to sell nuts all over Lankville, that was back when nuts were a big business, now I think all they’ve got is that kiosk in the mall!” I heard my dad turn on the TV, clearly the jumble was tough today and he didn’t want to be disturbed any further.

“What could a former nuts salesman and his more than likely alcoholic housewife possibly offer anybody in the way of food? And why are they asking you to try stuff? Are they just microwaving breakfast sandwiches?”

I tried to tell my mom that maybe she was being a bit too cynical and even though the Blakes might not be the most skilled chefs, an open mind was needed until the food was tried. This led into a little tangent about how I felt that they (my Mom and Dad) didn’t really respect my work at the paper nor realized how others in the community valued my critical look at most food-related things. But after my rant was done, I looked up to find my Mom had left the kitchen and was in the laundry room folding some sheets. She must have realized I was done ‘standing on my soapbox’ “Well if you are going over there I hope you know you are going to wear something halfway decent. Not any of your ‘Pizza A-Round’ garb, I won’t have Dotty talking about us to others.”

So a few days later I was practically skipping out my front door on a cool crisp evening eagerly awaiting the feast ahead. I had had a few days to dream about the possibilities of the culinary delights, putting my creative mind into overload. Knowing my articles and rep as a food writer, they undoubtedly had some dishes which were geared towards my “advance taste profile”. Maybe real cutting edge fancy stuff like my ‘Deep Northern Meat Bits Loaf Topped With Sweet Southern BBQ in a Green and Yellow Butter Sauce’ for example.

I was greeted by Mr. Blake almost as soon as I had turned into his street. It was almost as if he was waiting in the bushes for me. He shook my hand vigorously while guiding me quickly to their house. “Thanks for coming out Bri. We really appreciate you trying this food.” I tried to ask him which articles he and his wife had enjoyed that made them select me for this task. “Oh, you write for the Daily News? That’s great, you will really enjoy this then” all the while walking me with a steady pace and still pumping my hand ebulliently.

I thought that was pretty odd but really didn’t have time to inquire– we were now at the front door where Dotty Blake was waiting with a big smile on her face. “Good to see you Bri, thanks for coming. Did you bring anyone with you?”

“Oh no. Your invite clearly stated I should come alone. So Mrs. Blake, what do you have in store for my taste buds? They are ready to be tickled.”

“Step inside and see.”

I guess I didn’t have a choice, the momentum from my escort sent me straight through the door. Once everyone was in, the door was closed quickly behind. The Blakes lived in a smaller older northern suburban ranch style house, one that has both the living room and kitchen together in the front. I saw the pan on the stove top and quickly went over to investigate, truth be told I hadn’t had a bite to eat for quite a few hours, saving my appetite for this visit. “I’m keeping my mind open to anything,” I said. “In addition to this dish, if you have a breakfast sandwich or two you can microwave as well, my stomach is really growling–”

Advancing to the stove top I was in for a very bitter disappointment, the only contents in the pan were a few ‘southwestern wieners’ on top of some corn. My first thought was to of course keep the thoughts open, maybe the wieners were stuffed with something. I took a bite and then quickly spat it out, the wieners weren’t even cooked!! Nothing is worse my dear readers than putting a cold southwestern wiener in your mouth. I nibbled a bit of the corn which turned out to be your typical (probably from Foodville) canned corn.

I turned around. “What’s going on guys?”

​Fell for the ol' 'southwestern wieners' with corn in a pan trick

​Fell for the ol’ ‘southwestern wieners’ with corn in a pan trick

Mr. Blake spoke first. “Sorry Bri, the whole opening a restaurant invite was just a ruse to get you over here. We had our orders, there is someone who wanted to talk with you in private.”

“Orders?”

My heart thumped with fear when two men entered from an adjoining room, they wore white robes with pizza slices on them. The Floating Baby Pizza Slice Cult!!!!!!

“Follow me into the rumpus room. The leader of the’ Deep Northern Suburban Sect’ wants to see you.”

I hesitantly followed. How could there be a deep northern sect? How deep did this cult go? And more importantly what horrors could await me in a place called a ‘rumpus room’?

I was made to sit down in a nice comfy armchair (much like my Dad’s). Mr. Blake was grumbling how that was his chair but the cult members told him to be quiet. There was a little ceremony involving candles, a bunch of yelling, interpretive dancing, and pizza slices. Both Arnold and Dotty Blake joined in, so they were definitely in this mad cult. Once this foolishness was done a cult member (with pizza smeared on his face) shouted “All hail The Deep Northern Suburban Sect Leader!”

Then from a back room this person walked out. At first I couldn’t tell who it was– their robe was very fluid, covering the face and body. Was it a man or woman? Could it be Lizzie Starlight (who is really BALD btw)? Slowly advancing, the figure stopped before me and pushed back the long hood. And I shit you not dear readers, it was a Lankville reporter, THE SAME LANKVILLE REPORTER WHO IS ALSO THE HEAD OF THE BSU (Breakfast Sandwich Underground). The ‘sect leader’ stood before me with a sinister grin taking in my dropped jaw. “Startling you again I see.”

I wasn’t sure if the comment was a reference to the time I was brought to the grocery store or just the other day when this person innocently knocked into me in the crowded paper bullpen. “You sure keep yourself busy, with the paper, terrorist attacks, cult stuff–,” I said.

“Shut up, we don’t have time to talk about me.” A real Jekyll and Hyde personality. This reporter, whose articles you read everyday, who you bump into on the streets and have a quick talk and laugh– you would never guess the true insidious nature that boils deep within. “I brought you here to talk about one thing, that manager of yours, Scott–”

“Where is he?!!” I hadn’t heard a word from Scott since the curious note he had left me (see my last two thrilling articles!!).

“Somewhere in Southern Lankville.” The cult leader/dear reporter shook their head. ” We thought he really was a chump but this guy is proving us wrong. He’s hell bent on finding Lizzie Starlight and is tearing through all the’ Southern Baby Pizza Slice Sects’. He’s a one man wrecking crew!! We need to find something to stop him, some kind of weakness. Only a person close to him will have the answer–.”

From one of the long robe sleeves a piece of sparkling glass in the shape of a pizza slice was produced. It was lifted in front of my face slowly where it was waved back and forth. “Now watch the glass and tell me how to stop him!”

I watched the pizza slice swing back and forth and its brilliant glow. After a few moments all I saw was the glowing pizza slice with the soft yet evil laugh of the Floating Baby Pizza Slice in the background. Yet with all this metaphysical trickery it could not compel me to reveal anything about Scott.

I wish I could tell you who this reporter is!!

I wish I could tell you who this reporter is!!

“Damn must be the bumpkin in him,” my fellow reporter muttered. “Come on Bri, just tell us something-anything. I mean, we put all these scary robes on and everything.” This in a goofy comical tone. much like what you would expect.

“No way, Scott is my friend.” I clutched the sides of the armchair ready for the cult to do their worse. Mr. Blake briefly complained that I was ruining his chair but yet again he was silenced by the cult members.

The reporter’s face turned from comical to evil again (maybe bi-polar?) “I wish we could torture you, slowly grind this information out of your mouth here in this rumpus room. Yet I am forbidden to harm you for reasons which I won’t go into. Just remember this, if you hear from that manager of yours you tell him ‘The Floating Baby Pizza Slice Cult’ will find a way to stop him. Now go—”

“Do you mind if Ms. Blake heats up some of the southwestern wieners and corn? I haven’t had anything to eat since early afternoon and don’t know if I have the strength to get home.”

“JUST GO!!!”

Once safely back at the house I alerted The Pizza Cult Division of what had happened. Racing over there, they found the Blake’s house empty. The force (along with my folks) were pretty doubtful about my story until one officer pulled out the stove and found one of the wieners lurking in the space behind.

I will not reveal who the reporter was for two reasons- first and foremost the safety of my family. Second, even if I told the Pizza Cult Division who the person was I doubt they would believe me. I swear it would blow your mind!!

So with a heavy heart I can not give you the food review I was hoping for. I sure hope this cult business is cleared up soon and things can get somewhat back to ‘normal’. Until next time my gentle readers, please keep your mind and mouth open to new ideas. Happy Eating!!-Bri

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