My two greatest lovesSteve Hammer
Since NUVO went to the printer on Tuesday afternoon, before the votes had been counted and John Kerry declared the winner, I can't write about the election results. So the 20th century didn't come to rural Indiana until the late 1930s, and then only because Franklin Roosevelt ordered it.
Just assume I'm on a three-day alcoholic bender if Kerry won and am purchasing survival gear if it's Bush. Visit my Web site for up-to-the-latest-Pabst updates.
Instead, I want to focus on two very different subjects, both dear to me: family and food.
Hard times in Mecca
My grandmother, Harriet Irene Bradburn Burton Alexander, was born on June 5, 1919, and got married to Fred Burton, my grandfather, in 1935.
He was 15 years older than his 16-year-old bride. My mother, Sue Etta Hammer, was born on June 26, 1936, in the beautiful town of Mecca, Ind., located outside of Rockville on the far western edge of the state.
The young family lived in the home of Grandma McCool, Fred's grandmother. The home, not much more than a shack, really, sat about 500 yards away from a large, very steep hill. Their only source of water was a pump that sat at the top of that hill.
Every time they needed water, it was a long trudge up the hill to fill up two buckets and bring them back down. Water for washing. Water for dishes. Water for cooking. Water for baths.
The stove burned wood and coal, but there was a free source of coal at a nearby location. Fred and one of his friends would go scrape some off the side of a stripped piece of land and beat the system that way.
Store-bought coal was just too expensive.
Fred had just finished up doing some work for the WPA and CCC when he met Irene and married her and moved in with Grandma McCool. When Sue was born, Grandma McCool would watch her while Irene went up the hill for water, three or four times a day.
It was a long, difficult climb even in good weather. When it snowed, it was almost an impossible task.
Grandma McCool passed away from rheumatism when Sue was 3 or 4. After that, Sue would have to accompany her mother on the many trips up the hill. There was a poker den in town, the "card house," and Fred liked to go there and play cards for money.
Unfortunately for Irene, Fred would almost never bring a bucket of water back with him when he returned from the card house. He'd always "forget" to take an empty bucket with him.
Electricity came to Mecca around the time Sue was born, but it took forever for the electric company to build a pole and run a line down the hill. So the 20th century didn't come to rural Indiana until the late 1930s, and then only because Franklin Roosevelt ordered it.
And once they got electricity at Grandma McCool's house, it was just lights. No electric stove and especially no electric water pump.
"We had a well but there wasn't any water in it," my grandmother says.
When Sue was 5 or 6, Fred landed a job with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the family moved to Indianapolis. It was wartime and jobs were available again. "We had it made after that," my grandmother says.
The family never went hungry, she says, but there sure wasn't any room for any luxuries.
"You didn't have a pot to piss in," I told my grandmother.
"We didn't even have a window to throw it out of," she said.
We laughed. I love my grandmother so much.
The bachelor's secret weapon
Nothing evokes the notion of bachelorhood quite like the tasty products available from our friends at Jack's Pizza.
When cooking seems like too difficult a task, either through laziness or intoxication, Jack's Pizza is always there.
When Domino's is out of your price range, you can always reach for a Jack's Pizza.
Like McDonald's, Jack's Pizzas maintain a remarkable consistency of quality. Unlike their froufrou competitors at DiGiornio, Jack's makes no pretensions to being like a home-delivered pizza.
The people at Kraft, Jack's owners, smartly know that if you'd wanted delivery, you'd have ordered it by now. Jack's exists simply to fill you up with a pizza-like product at the lowest possible price. No frills, no bullshit.
In investigating Jack's Pizza on the Web, I find out several interesting facts. First, I'd wrongly assumed Jack's was a nationwide phenomenon.
Not so. Only 17 states are fortunate enough to receive it, mostly in the Midwest and South. The East and West coasts are screwed.
Second, while it's no surprise that a cheese-based product originated in Wisconsin, it is slightly surprising that it only began distributing outside the state in 1992, when Kraft purchased the company, according to the company history page.
Thirdly, the Jack's Pizza FAQ Web page is a riot, with such questions as "How should I store my JACK'S Pizza?" (A: the freezer) and "What other tips do you have for JACK'S Pizza?" The suggestions include such helpful tips as well as "DO NOT USE microwave unless it is recommended in our directions.
I don't know; I've microwaved them out of desperation and they taste just fine. I would recommend, though, adding your own ingredients to the pizza, such as anchovies, Swiss cheese, bolts or M&Ms.
Either way, hats off to Jack's Pizza, not only the best frozen pizza available for under $2 but also the secret weapon of millions of lonely bachelors' kitchens.