Category Archives: Good Food

Hog In The Road.


My boyfriend and I fight.

It’s no secret to the few who know us as a couple.

He’s a petulant Aries, insisting on running his own show (the only show); I’m a stubborn Taurus, refusing to be led by the nose, with – thanks to migraine med, Imitrex – a streak of OCD, just to pepper the picture.

Yah. We’re a hot mess.

Today, in the midst of what much of the world is calling the downward slope of the first coronavirus pandemic, our town spiked for the second day in a row and, with only as many contact tracers as tested positive, we’re in for some tenuous coming days facing Memorial Day weekend on the lake.

He was to have spent today with me, at my house. He’d take the truck to inspection by 9:30, walk the dog up State St, and get to his mother’s across town before I woke up. But, the truck service center had its own inspection schedule to delay so his plan, to dig weeds at her place, got protracted into late afternoon.

I’d made a stop over, to take him a small snack and a water bottle, then another and, by the time the case count had come in he was physically exhausted and I was fit to be tied – by floating anxiety. Did he know about ticks, in the overgrown foliage in the backyard? I did; been bitten and infected, at least once. Had he brought his hat? Would he take a couple disinfectant wipes, for the truck when it was done? Would he soap the dog, after?

Sheltering in place, between our two properties – his a spacious country idyll with gardens to till, mine a corner lot in the burgeoning hotbed known as Zone 1 – had felt like a workable plan. And, for about 34 days, it had been. He appreciated the change of scene and close proximity to his mother’s; I appreciated his share of the cooking skill, as close to five star Michelin as any man I’d ever known. Together, we’d weathered it better than our usual score; only two major blow outs, and a couple fleeting grouses. I was sure that, when this was all over, we could make a set of How To videos. You know, for couples. Who fight.

But, once the weather finally broke he’d felt the farm calling and I’d run out of re-organizing brainstorms. Time to seed; time to rent the rototiller; time to acquire more laying pullets. So, he’d been spending more time at his place and I’d been spending more time proclaiming on social media.

Today, he’d gotten stuck and so had I; his day would become about weeding and waiting, mine about wondering and fretting. Then, his phone died.

Being ten minutes apart is nothing, until the phone goes out. By the time the truck was ready, he had reached his limit of tolerance of everything imposing on utter fatigue, including and especially my increasing need for communication. Could I drive him to the dealership? Nope; not even that was within his scope of acceptability. Weren’t we going to spend time? Nah. Change of plans. His. Always his. His show, you know.

He’d called me pale, on my first stop in the full sun. I flipped through the rack and found my best red sweater. Perfect for a warm day without a jacket. And, for the first time in two months, a little under eye concealer and foundation with blusher fixed the aging face. No matter the double mask; I felt ready to present to my man, no matter his sweaty, foul moodshifting self.

Heading back out, I grabbed a can of coconut milk and the container of Clorox wipes he’d given me. We could spend our evening at his house, over a little dinner, and check on the laying hens and the lone chicken’s dog bite in the pen. The drive was one part compulsion, one part commitment; I wanted to finish this day far better than it had begun doing what had always worked for us, in the past – being together.

The drive was its usual 23 minutes beating all the yellow lights. People, everywhere, without masks, a troubling cloud over a beautiful sky. Reaching his driveway I was quietly amazed; the garage door, shut, empty of any vehicle – and, the trailer for bark nowhere to be seen. Hadn’t he planned on getting a haul? What exactly, was going on here?

I left the can of Clorox where he could see it, checked on the injured hen, and headed back into town.

This return trip was always an opportunity for clarity. I could face myself, head on. Compulsive obsession only overtook me under intense externally imposed stressors, and this virus lockdown had tested it mightily. On this drive, I mulled and pondered and ruminated; how could this relationship survive everything that had been happening to us? When would any notion of “re-opening” allow us to resume, and to what degree would we be forced to contemplate our future without it? Where was he, anyway, and why did he leave me adrift on such a lovely day?

Heading north on Cherry was always the final leg, a coast all the way to my street provided the lights cooperated. Now, what was this stopping traffic?

I braked, and peered around to find out. Horns, from behind me; a pickup, off the berm southbound, finally resuming speed. Nobody moving. I waited, for a siren, wondering how I’d heard nothing to provoke it.

Finally, the car in front of me turned out around. The big reveal was upon us all. Right in the middle of old Erie town, former industrial mecca turned faltering resort, and next to the newly glistening facade of our lone, enduring city high school was the biggest, fattest, black hog I’d ever seen.


The thing had just taken two dumps, and was waddling in all directions, sniffing the unfamiliar asphalt wondering why nothing moved under its snout.

As soon as I could, I grabbed my phone for a capture, best possible in that lighting from the restrictive distance of the Pontiac hood, and then proceeded around the animal.

No sooner had I passed through the next traffic light, but this: a monstrously wide semi rig, backing for a turn right in front of me.


Yes. Apparently, even the convenience store had to take a moment during the coronavirus pandemic and refill its steam table. Stop, again; wait, again.

The next intersection was the top of the final hill. Its light remained red long enough for realization to gel. Even OCD and generalized incompatibility were no match for these two gems, little gifts of stopped time, levity in the midst of the grandest test of human patience and understanding I could recall over life as I’d come to know it. Perspective was the objective, after all; where would we go, from here, and who really cared if we did?

Surviving had become both the end and the means to it. Either we did that together, or not. But, better to avoid allowing any more roadblocks to reason, acceptance, forgiveness, and a reach toward unconditional love.

Worth the fight.







© 5/21/2020   Ruth Ann Scanzillo       All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line.   Thank you for respecting the life of another.




The Good Family.


The best of families live.

In denial.

They have memories of storybook clans, or those they knew from afar. In more recent years, many have taken TV sit coms as models. But, whatever the persuasion, families which remain intact enough to celebrate a holiday together know the meaning of turning a blind eye.

They look the other way when the drunkard shows up. Nobody talks openly about the homosexual, particularly if any one of them can’t see the point. The children who wreak havoc and break things are found to entertain their grandparents’ peals of laughter.

The single young adults who arrive late and forget presents are praised for their hairdos and shoes. The sloppy and overweight are given the best easy chairs, the nervous the napkins and silverware to arrange, and the most chatty the smiles and nods of oblivious disregard.

The best food gets all the praise because why bother, otherwise? Everybody flies in to eat, after all, and all those outside of strict Fundamentalism to drink. Any thoughts of hierarchy of importance, i.e. whose children are the smartest, the prettiest, or the strongest are kept quite private, to be discussed later in hotel rooms or upstairs at the homestead.

The best families tell jokes, and with very great finesse. All debate or disagreement is soundly tabled in favor of palate pleasing platitude. Hugs are felt, peculiar smells at close range tastefully ignored, chin hairs noted in stoic silence.

And, somehow, by the time the plates have been filled, the dinner consumed, and the left overs packed in take home carry ons, all are convinced that theirs was the best celebration ever. All are immensely proud of their own comportment,  their positive attitude,  their polite if pretensive compassion, their wit, personality, and enthusiasm for life.  Each one hopes to be thought of by every one present as the friendliest, warmest, most desirable relative in the room.  Each one’s wish is that theirs will be the family which endures to survive another year.

They all know this, each in their own hearts because, without a willingness to carry on, the alternative is unthinkable. They opt, in a world which breeds hatred, violence, loneliness, and isolation to pretend that, at any moment, they might all be saved from it.

Whatever it takes, theirs will be the good family.

And to this they hold on.

For dear life.



Happy Holidays!







© 12/15/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Neither copying, in whole or part, nor translation permitted. Thank you for respecting original creative material. You are the better person.



The Sweet Thanksgiving.


The brisk breezes would stir the “whisker” tree’s fist sized tumbleweeds, scattering them between our feet as we scrambled up the steps and took the path between the rock gardens to the front porch at Mammy’s house. In summer we’d take the lazier, flat wide stone walkway from the drive, parallel the porch, the potted geraniums and succulents snuggled side by side along its railing under the broad, royal blue canvas awning flapping in the wind. From that side path, we could almost look Mammy in the eye, cushioned into her steel porch rocker in the far corner awaiting our appearance, smile alight.

But, come fall, we’d hasten past the battened down and molting toward the warm yellow light framed by the front door, halfway up the porch already hearing Aunt Martha’s belly and Pappy’s booming laugh, rising out of the maelstrom of chattering chaos already testing the outer walls of the entire house. Grasping the round, brass doorknob, and leaning into the glass paneled hardwood, we’d push and burst through, hardly noticed by the throng until one face turned and then Pappy, arms above his head, hands curled from hard work, roared out his raging welcome and everyone except the aunts who never stopped talking turning then to gather yet another of us into their arms.

Kicking the snow from our overshoes onto the multilayered hooked rugs, we’d stack them and take the short diagonal between the twin bookcases past the round oak dining room table and the African violets in the east window through to the kitchen, passing the ceramic cookie jar setting our paperbagged salad fixings carefully on the kitchen-turned- server table next to the apple, mincemeat, pumpkin, and rhubarb pies, where Mammy stood over the stove in her rick rack trimmed cotton apron, stirring a pot of gravy with a wooden spoon, the pressure cooker’s indicator bobbling and sputtering over the back burner like a steam train waiting in the station. All the aunts took their wide hipped turns in the kitchen, two of them diligent about the food and the other two appearing to inspect and taste test, the youngest with a wink toward a niece or nephew as she licked her finger.

Pappy was loud, and three of his four son in laws quiet, each quick with a joke or a witty comeback, Uncle Frank sitting with a closed eyed smile, Dad who was called Uncle Tony with his hands in his belt, napping already in the only scene where he would not command the center of attention, Uncle Bud standing tall near a corner already giggling through a long, spun yarn for the home movie camera, and Uncle George, egging Pappy on with his bright, Irish bell tenor.

We grandchildren were fifteen in all, the firstborn Alan, a brilliant artist and pianist, rarely able to come home anymore being married in Michigan, his four other siblings Philip, Lydia, Lois and Frannie often present, living only two doors down, the elder girls wearing their engagement rings dressed in wool sweaters and straight skirts and pointed pumps, Frannie in keeping with her other, younger counterparts in winter wear warm enough for playing outside if there were enough snow later. Then, cousin Bonnie and half brothers Butch and David from Lawrence Park because Uncle Bud worked at GE, and me and my two brothers, Nathan and Paul, having walked from around the corner and across the street and, finally, our four cousins from Ohio, Becky, Beth, Timmy and Kathy, the latter two with flaming red hair. Being either the first or last to arrive, once all were in house the card table would come out, and the floral painted linens, we among the smallest cousins relegated to the workroom where the rugs were braided and the clothes sewn and the toybox waited and, while the piano took turns being played and songs chosen for singing, the family like a choir from an old country church, Pappy the only tone deaf voice among them, the potatoes were mashed, the boiled bacon drippings poured over the salad, the parsnips and rutabaga and peas and Lima beans and corn ladeled into their divided serving dishes, the silver plated forks knives and spoons set on each soft, embossed linen napkin, tomato juice poured into the slender tulip glasses and set at the center of each China plate, head lettuce leaves placed on each smaller one for salad, fruit filled Jello squares lifted onto each leaf, one half teaspoon of Hellmann’s to dot each center, the gravy poured into the boat, the butter set in its silver dish, the roast carved and, finally, the Parker House rolls, ready and hot, in the round, linen lined bowl basket to table.

Pappy could be heard from any room in the house, but usually Aunt Dora Mae or Aunt Betty would call all to the dinner table. Aunt Dora Mae was hands down the better cook among them, Mammy’s eldest, but Mum’s voice was the most penetrating on account of her hearing loss and Aunt Frances was likely in earnest discussion with another of equal intellectual bent and Aunt Martha busy, laughing in a far corner, her nephews gathered around her ready audience testing their latest comedic mettle.

But, the food drew us all, to the oak table round circled by both Dora Mae and Betty as they’d labored the delivery of their firstborn, to the card table in the living room where Risk, Monopoly, Probe, and Life were won and lost, to the child’s table and chairs that Pappy made in the workroom just beyond the pantry and we, the Sweet family, sat our chaos down to the warmth of hot, family style Thanksgiving dinner and bowed our heads while Pappy thanked the God who brought him all the way across the Commonwealth to build cranes at BuCyrus-Erie, to the street corners to preach, to the City Mission and the Gospel Assembly Hall to settle his family in the east side neighborhood at 923 East 29th.

Then, everyone filled their faces, still all talking at once, Mammy finally sitting down at the kitchen end of the table, laughing with her mouth full, Pappy hunched over his plate, gumming his food with his teeth out, the aunts and uncles and cousins all tasting the same food with their own unique manifestations of the family DNA, all together, the whisker trees’ tumbleweeds flying about outside the east windows, as remnants of the feast wafted throughout the house to leave behind its everlasting aroma in the wallpaper, the white silken window curtains, the ceiling plaster, the floor underfoot, and the dark wood framing each room in the house, the collective spirit of nourishment sustaining life on one small, thankful speck of the planet as the world spun around once more.





© 11/27/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line.

From the heart of Sweet gratitude: Happy Thanksgiving! from