Cooking (or not) with Nonno

If you’re a foodie (or not), this post is for you. I cook once, maybe twice, a month on average. I go to the store, buy meat or fish or one of my favorite cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts, and cook it in a pot (see Cruciferous Me). Or frying pan. Or microwave. I don’t mix these things up but keep them separate the way a finicky kid keeps the carrots from the peas on his plate. I used to be big on spinach but gave it up. The spinach at the Safeway where I shop looks anemic, as if it could use some spinach.

So, I put the fish into a frying pan after I wash it thoroughly–a practice I developed in the Bronx, where I washed everything I brought home from Modern Foods–and season it with cayenne pepper, turmeric, or paprika, which my Hungarian friends taught me to call ‘pap-rika with the accent on the first syllable. If I’m feeling creative, I’ll sprinkle all three on the fish. Then I put the broccoli in a pot for steaming, except I don’t have a steamer. I used to have one, but I threw it out with the fondue pot that the French woman in Midtown never picked up after she contacted me on Next Door to say she’d buy it. Not only is that another story, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

To be truthful (why wouldn’t I be?), I rarely buy meat to cook at home. I’ve used an oven twice in the past three years, and one of those times the smoke alarm went off for twenty minutes. Lately, I’ve started buying pre-cooked meatloaf, which, I am happy to report, does not look anemic. Of course, I understand how buying meatloaf at Safeway makes me look anemic, but I don’t care anymore. The last time I bought meatloaf, the guy at the counter complimented me on my narrow-brimmed trilby, so I consider that a win (see A Chapeau to Go).

To be even more truthful, I don’t buy fish anymore, not after getting food poisoning. I just didn’t think it would spoil after walking home with it in the heat and letting it sit in the back of my refrigerator for a week. As I told my daughter, who knew? Now, I buy more pre-cooked chicken than anything else. I also like deli salads (e.g., chicken, shrimp, potato, egg, broccoli). I mix these with various spices, cinnamon included, and then balance it all with raisins. I like the sweet-sour, sweet-salty, sweet-spicy balance. Raisins go with martinis, too.

All of this is exhausting. In the Bronx, I used to schlep up four flights of stairs with my groceries. Now, I walk seven or eight blocks, which isn’t far. Still, when I run out of deli salads or meatloaf, I don’t walk to the store but scrounge around my kitchen for scraps. I can usually find homemade bread, almond milk, tuna, pickles, and Jack Daniels. If I have enough energy, I’ll fry some eggs. You have to have cheese or salsa to make the eggs work, though, which can be tricky. That’s one thing I’ve discovered. Not only do you need the right ingredients, but they have to be there at the same time. Timing, as in comedy and sex, is everything. Again, who knew?

Not long ago I had my grandkids over. We scrambled eggs with bananas, cinnamon, milk, and vanilla extract. Then I sprinkled whiskey on it. You know, for flavoring. We had great fun. I thought of them again last night when, out of food, I opened an expired can of pumpkin meat, mixed it with homemade cheese from Italy and red chili pepper, and ate it with cinnamon raisin bread. My stomach settled by bedtime, although I’m thinking maybe I should be gentler to it.

But, ever the entrepreneur, I got the idea to start a YouTube channel showing the dishes I make and how anyone, if they put their mind to it, can survive on cereal and trail mix. It would be the antithesis of a real cooking show for those who don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. Then again, cooking like that, they won’t spend too much time in the bedroom, either. Maybe my next post should be about dating.

Image credit: feature by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash; pot by Sergio Camalich on Unsplash; cereal by Alex McCarthy on Unsplash. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.” This post is dedicated to Anthony LeDonne, comic-cook extraordinaire.


  1. Wow!!! Robert, you amaze me. It seems that anything you put your hand to becomes art! These days, I do not find the energy to bake the Betty Crocker oatmeal cookies mix I bought several weeks ago. Each day I think about it… Does that count?

    1. I don’t know about art. I’ve been accused of having things I touch turn into something else…Yes, weeks-old oatmeal cookies definitely count…if they’re hard as a rock, even better.

  2. As someone who loves to cook, I found this to be a truly frightening Halloween story!! Who makes the homemade bread? And don’t say Safeway’s!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights