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Archive for November, 2011
19 Nov

The Persimmon Incident

We were at the grocery store the other day and happened upon a big display of persimmons, which we assumed were in season. These were small fruits that were orange-yellow in color and resembled small tomatoes. We had never had one before and the signs were saying things like “sweet and tangy,” which is right up my alley. So curiosity got the better of us and we got one each of the two kinds of persimmons they had. We didn’t know if they were fully ripe, as a lot of supermarket fruit is typically not ripe, so we put them on the counter when we got home. A couple of days went by and I grabbed the more oblong one (known as a hachiya) and decided to give it a try. What could go wrong? It’s a fruit, right?

The evil persimmon

I took a big bite out of a slice and started to chew. Within seconds, my mouth felt like a wool sweater just exploded. I could not taste a thing, it felt like my whole mouth was swelled up with fur, and it felt like no matter where I put my tongue, it got stuck. A quick drink of water relieved the fuzzy feeling in my mouth and I stood kind of dumbfounded. Who on earth would eat one of these things?  So obviously now that I had discovered this I had to let Rob try it without telling him what happened. Comical results would have to ensue, yes?  Yes.

I took a slice and handed it to Rob. He said, “oh, you slice it up – is it good?”  I didn’t get a chance to even answer or make up anything before he bit into it.  All of a sudden he gets a very weird look on his face and says “what is that!!”  I just look at him as if to say “what do you mean?” Then he gets a little nervous and says, “oh my god, I think I’m allergic to this!  My mouth is all full and blowing up!”  Of course, that made my start laughing, which was a bummer because I really wanted to explore this allergy reaction thing. Then I had to tell him the same thing happened to me. We were both clueless as to what was the deal with this persimmon.

Turns out (after looking it up on the internet – which is what we should have done first) that an unripe persimmon, particularly the kind I sliced, is incredibly high in tannins and if eaten in that state completely dries out your mouth – hence the feeling that you just ate a cat’s coat that was covered in dog fur. The time to eat a persimmon is after is had become very, very soft inside – almost gelatinous. Then you cut the top off and scoop out the insides. When it is fully ripe like this, the tannins are gone.

Of course, the other variety of persimmon we got (it is called “fuyu” and frankly I’d leave off the “yu” because, well, FU persimmons!) are considered non-astringent, so they have minimal tannins and those go away much quicker. That would have been the one to start with, but alas I picked the wrong one. The fuyu is still on the counter and I’m waiting for it to soften so we can try that one…maybe. The other one has found a home in the compost bin and I hope it is happy there drying up all the other scraps that come into contact with it.

Needless to say, we won’t be venturing near the persimmons again. I’m sure if they were served correctly or in something they might be delicious. But for us it is just created a moment in time we like to call “the persimmon incident.”

P.S.: Two days after trying this bizarre fruit, my new issue of Cook’s Country arrived and on a page they describe winter fruits. Guess what was featured with a notation about what happens when you eat an unripe one?  Geez – two days, too late.

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06 Nov

Andy and the Branson Days

Woke up this morning with the news that my former boss, Andy Williams, has bladder cancer. He announced it at his theatre in Branson last night. It is such sad news, however he has always been a fighter so my belief is that he has a great chance to kick the cancer and recover. The news made me all nostalgic for the days when I worked at his Moon River Theatre. I spent 8 years there and it truly was the best work experience I have ever had, and most likely will ever have. Here are a few of my favorite memories from those days:

The Show – At its peak, Andy’s show could easily rival any in Vegas or anywhere. It was a solid 2 hours, twice a day, 6 days a week. The show was structured in segments that flowed seamlessly from his early hits medley through to a full production salute to great movie themes – which included several of Andy’s hits. The sets, costumes, orchestra and dancers were first-class and Andy never disappointed. There were some truly great moments in each year’s show (new segments would be developed for each season), but my personal favorite was Andy singing “Moon River.” It was always a magical moment.

The People – Having a set of co-workers that you actually like these days can be rare. Having co-workers that you like to refer to as “family” is practically impossible. But that existed at the theatre. From Andy to the performers to the office staff to the box office, we all worked together as a unit and spent a lot of time together outside of work. The folks I worked with are truly unforgettable.

The Surreal – I look back at the time now and am really amazed by some of the experiences I was fortunate enough to have. Things like cooking for Andy’s family or catering at his house for a celeb-filled house party seem so unbelievable now. We had Shari Lewis in for some summer kids shows one year and I remember taking her for a promo appearance at Silver Dollar City. The appearance was just for Lamb Chop, so I stood behind a giant curtain with Shari with a theater full of people on the other side, and I held her purse while she reached in and grabbed Lamb Chop, put him on, stuck him through the part in the curtain and started the promo. I’m standing there, watching Shari do the voice with her arm through a curtain and me holding her purse open. Now that is odd – but fun. I also remember when Robert Goulet came in with his wife Vera. I was basically her “driver” when they were in Branson and Robert was working the shows. I had a purple Nissan pick-up truck at the time and that is what I drove her around in. But hey – it’s Branson! I was really embarrassed picking up this elegant woman in my truck, but she told me she loved it. Not often you see a lady in furs getting out of a purple truck.

The After-Parties – Andy often asked me to tend bar in his dressing room when he had gatherings or special parties. I have to say that these were some of my favorite times. It was fun to work the parties and many times the guests were celebs either performing in Branson or visiting. But the best part is when the party dwindled and usually near the end it was Andy and his wife Debbie, his brother Don, and a couple of the party guests that were the ones Andy really wanted to spend time with. It was always this time that Andy and Don would start telling stories, typically of their early days in the business. It was always fascinating. When Andy wrote his autobiography, a lot of the stories that I heard in his dressing room made it into the book. Each time I read something I knew, it brought a smile to my face and provided me with great memories of those evenings.

I truly appreciated the time I had there and I thank Andy and everyone who I was fortunate enough to meet and work with for providing me with and incredible experience. My best goes out to Andy for a complete recovery and I hope he is back on stage where he belongs next year. Here are a few of my favorite photos from those days:

One of my fave photos from when I cooked for his family.

 

Me with Debby Boone and Robert Goulet at our annual theatre Christmas party.

 

Me in my office - with Andy always looking over my shoulder.