Friday, May 6, 2011

Dorian’s Mother’s Day Smorgasbord: a Four-Course Meal of Fiction, Food, and Fond Memories

Me and Mom on Team Bartilucci's wedding day,
July 14, 1989
 With Mother’s Day coming this very weekend, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to run items about some of the memories and happy things that our family, a.k.a. Team Bartilucci, happens to enjoy. My late mom, Jacqueline Kehoe, enjoyed movies and fiction as much as I do. Once I began writing my own original fiction, which I write simply as Dorian Tenore to give the world’s typesetters a break (presuming typesetters still exist in today’s rapidly-changing publishing world), Mom was thrilled to read it, and I must admit her own lively life was among my inspirations. I’m currently editing my first novel, and I’m almost finished writing my second. I can almost hear Mom now, editing over my shoulder, saying, “I like this character, he’s got spunk…that character seems like a goody-two-shoes, but she’s got a wild past, I can tell….”  Mom and I had discussed writing a comedic novel inspired by her own and our family’s wacky, witty, glamorous exploits, but alas, Mom died of pulmonary fibrosis in December 2009 before we could really get into it. Well, maybe we’ll get lucky and find the notes Mom said she’d written down. But at least we have memories and anecdotes to pass down to loved ones and friends. Let’s get this Mother’s Day Smorgasbord started!

First Course

This was one of Mom’s favorite early stories of mine, a bit of flash-fiction inspired by true events and beloved cartoons:

The Beat Goes On
By Dorian Tenore


Ever since her teens, Kathleen’s favorite movie had been Casablanca.  From the first time she’d heard Dooley Wilson sing “As Time Goes By,” that had been her favorite song.  She’d never sung it to her little daughter Katie because, well, the song to which Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman fell in love just wasn’t your typical lullaby or sing-along song.  So when she heard Katie singing those familiar lyrics, “You must remember this…A kiss is just a kiss…” while picking out a toy to bring to her kindergarten Show and Tell...well, how could Kathleen not be surprised and delighted?

 “What a pretty song, Katie!  And you sing it so well.”  Kathleen knelt down and kissed Katie’s beaming face.  “Where did you hear that song?”“A doggie was singing it on Bugs Bunny, Mommy!” Katie chirped.

Kathleen laughed affectionately even as she tried to imagine Dooley Wilson’s velvet voice coming out of a cartoon dog’s mouth.


Kate liked to think she had a wide range of musical tastes, from big band to bubble gum to alternative and everything in between.  She had to admit, though, that next to “As Time Goes By,” her favorite was “I’m A Believer.”  As a kid, she’d loved The Monkees’ zany TV show and their snappy songs, and it had always stayed with her.

One Friday after her daughter Caitlin’s A.M. Kindergarten class let out, Kate took her to an afternoon matinee of Shrek.  Both of them loved the movie’s witty gags and kooky fairy tale characters, but Kate especially got a kick out the use of pop songs—including “I’m A Believer,” sung at the end by Smashmouth and the cast of the film.  Hey, pretty cool cover, Kate thought with a smile as she watched Caitlin bounce along to the beat.A week later, mother and daughter were grocery-shopping.  There was an especially good selection of Golden Oldies playing on the store’s P.A. system as Kate wheeled Caitlin and a cart full of comestibles through the dairy aisle.  Then she heard a familiar set of organ notes. A guitar joined in, and Micky Dolenz’s voice crooned, “I thought love was only true in fairy tales…” Yup, it was the Monkees’ original “I’m A Believer,” in all its glory.

In her child seat, Caitlin looked up towards the music and waved her hands in excitement.  “Mommy, it’s the Shrek song!”  she squealed.  “But who’s that singing it?”

Second Course

With the encouragement of fabulous fellow bloggers Becky of ClassicBecky's Brain Food and Clara of Via Margutta 51, we of Team Bartilucci wrote a Sunset Blvd haiku for the U.K.-based Hollywood Haiku contest now in progress until May 20th, 2011. Since then, I’ve come up with two Hollywood Haikus about one of our family’s favorite films, the 1963 comedy-thriller Charade.

Charade #1
Adam, Alex, Pete,
Life would be sweet for Reggie
If not for murders!

Charade #2
Widow Lampert has
Four beaus in one, but which one
Is “Truthful Whitefoot?”

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

How to submit your Hollywood Haiku to our writing competition

Closing date for entries: 20 May 2011
1. Review the film of your choice in the form of a haiku (3 lines: 5-7-5 syllables). Don’t forget to state which film your Hollywood Haiku relates to.
2. Post your Hollywood Haiku on your blog. You can enter as many times as you like – but please make a new blog post for each haiku.
3. Include the following link under your haiku, copy and pasting the yellow text below:
4. Email the url of your blog’s haiku entry to Put HAIKU in the subject header of the email. In the body of your email, include your entry’s url, and the description of your blog you’d like us to use if you win.

Third Course

When Mom Met Marlene

Our fabulous fellow blogger The Lady Eve has urged me to recount one of our family’s favorite anecdotes. Reliable sources have assured me that back before I was even born, my dear late mom had the good fortune to be escorted by her then-beau to not only see Marlene Dietrich perform live, but also meet her in person after the show! According to these family sources, this momentous meeting took place sometime in the 1950s during one of Dietrich’s cabaret performances (some say it was in Las Vegas, some say it was Carnegie Hall. You decide!), well before I was born (in 1963, for the record. As luck would have it, that was also the year my beloved Charade was released…but I digress….). The story goes that Mom’s gentleman friend was able to pull some strings, resulting in his introducing Mom to Dietrich in her dressing room. Those who knew Mom can attest that she was stylish and mesmerizing, yet warm and witty in the great Cherry Girl tradition. Yes, Cherry was Mom’s maiden name. And yes, Mom and my Auntie Joy, her sister, were constantly the subject of racy jokes about their last name from those naughty boys! In any event, with both Dietrich and Mom being glamorous and irresistible, they reportedly got along famously, chatting away like the best of friends for over an hour about everything from fashion to traveling to the state of the world. It’s times like this that I wish I had a time machine to be part of that auspicious occasion, if only to see if it was as awesome as I keep hearing it was! Heck, I’d settle for a photo of the lovely ladies together, but at least I have accounts of Mom's memories, which is more than so many people have. Small wonder that my husband Vinnie and I teamed up on a“Suave Hall of Fame” blog post last year in which we named Marlene Dietrich as Most Suave Female and George Sanders as Most Suave Male! I look forward to reading Charlotte Chandler’s much-praised new biography Marlene in the not-too-distant future, too! Now if only I had a 48-hour day to fit everything in....

Fourth Course

Hungry after all that reading? Have a yummy Mother’s Day brunch right in your own home! Since I’m gluten-sensitive, my hubby and favorite cook Vinnie adapted Alton Brown’s sweet potato waffles recipe from his Food Network TV series Good Eats so that I could enjoy them without the gluten-related side effects. If you folks don’t have to worry about gluten, feel free to make Brown’s original version, leaving out the xanthan gum and using regular all-purpose flour.

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Waffles
Adapted from the "Potato, My Sweet" episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats

1½  cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (or guar gum)
6 egg whites (approx 1 cup), at room temperature
1 cup milk (or the milk substitute of your choice)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Optional: 1 heaping tablespoon ground flaxseed
Optional: Cinnamon to taste
Optional: ¼ teaspoon cardamom

Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Special equipment: steamer basket and waffle iron

Put cubed sweet potatoes in a steamer basket. Place the basket in a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of steamer. Allow potatoes to steam for 20 minutes of until fork tender. Mash cooked potatoes and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In another bowl combine the sweet potatoes, milk, brown sugar, butter, and grated orange rind. Stir the sweet potato mixture into the flour mixture and thoroughly combine. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold egg whites into batter 1/3 at a time. The batter will be thick. Using a large ice-cream scoop (or if you’re a stickler for details, a No. 20 disher), place 2 scoops of batter onto a preheated, oiled waffle iron, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Happy Mother's Day to you and/or the mothers in your life!
Mom and Baby Shugie (a.k.a. Siobhan), 1996