Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We saw the movie The Great Gatsby yesterday afternoon. It was in 3-D thus we wore glasses over our glasses. It has loud, boisterous parties in several scenes that seem to last forever. They are garish, noisy and gaudy. David Denby of The New Yorker said of the writer-director, Luhrman is “less a film maker than a music-video director with endless resources and a stunning lack of taste.” In the party scenes the director “confuses turmoil with style.”

However, the story stays fairly close to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story line in the novel about Gatsby.  Leonardo DiCaprio plays Gatsby in a thoughtful and convincing way. He is vulnerable chasing a dream that makes him, at heart, weak. He is in love with a vision of the past, a woman that he can never have. In a larger sense it is the American dream of progress and glory, which no one can achieve but only strive for. The acting is very good and believable.

It is a movie very worth seeing. The costumes and sets are the 1920’s. The movie is entertaining and moving. The quiet moody music is enchanting. The party music is so loud and words unbearable, it must be popular.

The moral vision is that we must keep going onward and upward no matter what. The means of illegal drugs and alcohol justify the ends of riches, glamour and even love. The evil nature of the human condition is touched on by hints of poverty, degradation of women and carelessness of human life by reckless driving. But Fitzgerald and the film writers really don’t believe in sin or evil as part of human nature. They have hope that the good will prevail. I think that life is lived best when we acknowledge the depths of our evil and the fullness of our joy and live in a balance between the two.

Gatsby is a “splashy, trashy, opera” that shows an empty seeking of pleasure and love amidst an entertaining, sometimes funny, romp in the 1920s.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


In the late 30s we lived in Great River, N.Y., on Long Island. My first food memory is of eating Wheaties, the Breakfast of Champions, topped with a banana and the flakes swam in 100 % full fat pasteurized milk. Did I like it? Who knows? I ate it.

We moved to Sayville, NY for a year or two. Sweet apple cider graced our tastes in a Halloween season.  Sweet, very sweet and creamy icing birthday cake tastes come back to me.

In the early 40s, dad was the rector of Church of the Redeemer in Astoria, Queens, N.Y. On December 7, 1941, after dinner, I listened on the radio to the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I was lying on my stomach reading the comics. I was 10 years old.

This was the last time he was rector of a parish. He held church services on Sunday. Afterward, Grandpa Reinemann or mother would cook a traditional roast, mashed potatoes, vegetable and dessert. Canned fruit salad was a favorite and I yearned for the pale red cherries. Then after dad napped and the evening came, we had traditional Sunday night supper, cold cuts of baloney, salami, liverwurst, Swiss cheese, mustard, green pickles, bread and rolls to make sandwiches.  Two kinds of potato salad, German made with vinegar and American made with mayonnaise were standards. Adults did not want to cook another meal after a big dinner in the early afternoon. When we left Astoria dad worked in hospitals, prisons and did interim work in churches around Brooklyn and Queens. He was not home for Sunday dinner in the afternoons anymore.  We did eat well in the evenings when he returned home.

Grandpa Reinemann lived with us off and on until his death. He often cooked dinner as my mother and father both worked in the 1940s. He made lentil soup with frankfurters cut up in it. I loved the salty, chewy texture of the meat and the rich nutty flavor of the lentils. Nutty is not a word I would have used then to describe a taste.  Grandpa also made spaghetti and meatballs right out of the can. An Italian family lived next door to the rectory on High Street in Brooklyn in the 1930s. The mother made real meatballs, brown atop red sauce and pale spaghetti. I knew they were different from the ones Grandpa got out of the can. But who cared? I didn’t. I ate any and everything put in front of me.

Orange soda was our favorite drink. My brother Edwin and I drank at least one bottle every day. After dinner we dash out of the house and across the lawn to the candy store located two doors down. Shirley took our small change, removed a cold bottle of orange soda from the red icebox with Coca Cola written on it, popped off the cap and gave it to her regular customers from next door. Off we would go, out to play in the summer or into the house to listen to the radio in winter. I used to wonder why I had so many cavities in my teeth growing up. I know now.

Going to the movies was another culinary opportunity for us pre-teen kids. Saturday and Sunday afternoons we ran off to the Loews Tri-Boro or Skouras Steinway for the double features. For many years it we ate Black Crows, then multi-colored Dots and then Raisenettes, sweet raisins covered with milk chocolate.

During the later war years, my mother Helen would take Edwin and me out for “pitz ai ol.” That is how I pronounced pizzeria. No such thing then as a pizza parlor or pizza by the slice.  We went to John’s Bar and Grill on Fulton Street in the East New York section of Brooklyn, dad often worked late during the war years. There was a bar with stools on one side of the restaurant and red and brown booths on the other. We sat in one of the booths. Mother ordered beer for herself and orange sodas for us boys. The pizza came in one large round 24-inch platter. No such thing as salami, vegetables, pineapple or sardine topping. It was just cheese and tomatoes, period. We scarfed up the pizza slice by slice pushing the crust aside. Smooth and stringy cheese hung from the slices and the tangy tomatoes blended in on top. Mother ate crusts and all. We loved the pizza.

When we lived in Brooklyn, mom and dad had some financial difficulties. Dad would say, “Three more days until pay-day, so go easy.” But we always had food, shelter, heat, clothes and a happy loving home. One day I got home from school and found a note that mom and dad would not be home for dinner. I was 13. When I went to get something to eat for Edwin and me, there was just some bread and butter. So that’s what we had for dinner.  When dad got home he saw there was no food. He was aghast. He went to the hallway door and there was the food delivery that he had arranged knowing that our cupboard was bare. The delivery boy had put the groceries where we didn’t immediately see when we boys got home.  My father was apologetic, chagrined and embarrassed. He hugged us and kept saying how awful he felt that we did not have enough food. We goofy kids did not think much about it. Looking back I can certainly see how awful he, and mother felt.

Dad loved the bakeries nearby on Decatur Street and Ralph Avenue and Fulton and Warwick Streets. There were always brown cinnamon buns with white icing, powder-sugared jelly donuts or apple pies or their leavings around the house. Dad’s father had been trained as a baker, owned bakeries and for many years was a bread maker at the Navy YMCA, all in Brooklyn.

The war raged in Europe and the Pacific. We boys played soldiers and sailors, built mock airplanes and pretended to be air aces shooting down Japs and Nazis. Food stamps were issued. Butter and meat were scarce, but we seemed to have whatever we wanted.

In August 1945 World War II ended. For the following summer there were street parties every weekend evening in various Brooklyn neighborhoods. Streets were blocked off from traffic. Small bands of drums, trumpet, clarinet and guitar played for dancing and just for watching and singing. Ah, the food. It was hot dogs, sausages, buns, sauerkraut, mustard, relish, onions, pizza and donuts. There was always a keg of beer for the adults and plenty of sodas for us kids.

When I was in high school in summers I often went to Rockaway beach to swim in the Atlantic Ocean and ogle the girls, bake in the sun and eat the sandwiches, which I brought with me from home. I loved Silvercup, the World’s Finest Bread, white, cushy with soft brown crusts. I spread one slice of bread with peanut butter and the other with purple grape jelly. I made eight such sandwiches, sometimes threw in an apple and put them in a brown paper bag.

I went to St. Paul’s School in Garden City, New York for high school. Boarders and day students went to classes together.  Since the school provided three meals a day for the boarders, we dayboys ate lunch in the dining room. We had to wear coat and tie. I hardly remember the food except for two items that everyone else hated but I liked and ate heartily.  One was known as shit on a shingle. It was creamed chipped beef on a slice of toast. I liked its salty tang and smooth creamy sauce on a nice piece of toast. Most boys left their main course only to be cleared away by whatever boy was assigned to the job for that day.

The other despised dish was a dessert of prune whip. The prunes were spun into whipped cream in a tan amalgam of sweetness and quite nice flavors. I always ate mine and took one or two extras from the other boys who disdained theirs. We ate prunes at home from time to time, so I liked the flavor. Since I lived in Brooklyn and my folks never earned much money, I ate everything. The other boys at school came from more affluent homes, had more refined foods, tastes or were just spoiled and picky. I suspect the latter.

In summers I went to Camp DeWolfe in Wading River, N.Y. on Long Island. I don’t remember the food at all. However, I never complained and continued my pattern of eating what was presented. One afternoon off, a group of us counselors went to a small restaurant nearby for lunch. I ordered a liverwurst sandwich on rye bread. It came with mustard, dill pickle and lettuce. I wallowed in the taste and sharp livery flavor, the crunch of the lettuce and sense of satisfaction inhaling that delicious sandwich. I did not like the flavor of Coca Cola so I ordered a Ginger Ale I liked its snap and sweetness.

One summer’s day I went to the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y. with friends who were member. They went off to watch some match, leaving me on the deck overlooking the deep green lawns of the club. I ordered a Coke, for some damn reason I can’t fathom. It came in a tall glass with ice cubes, a slice of lemon and a maraschino cherry with a mint leaf flowering the glass. I took a sip and found the taste refreshing and delicious. The sickly sweetness of the Coke was diluted. I thought, I’m hooked. Oddly enough it never took. I may have had one or two more like that one in my long life, but I never order a Coke.

I think I hate the ludicrous profits made by that company and the teeth that it has rotted throughout the world, especially in poor countries. It symbolizes to me the way American companies have polluted the countries, citizens, profits and poor around the world. Besides, I really don’t like the rich sweet flavor.

College, Seminary, Lillian, Judith, Bachelor, Ann and Now.

Food during college and seminary days was highly forgettable.
When we lived on Welfare Island a cook came with my dad’s job paid by as a chaplain, a New York City employee. Her name was Bertha, an enormous African American woman who came in to work from 9-5 on weekdays. She did make wonderful soups. She made pea soup rich with cream and salt, carrot soups and others. Otherwise she prepared roasts, steaks, chops and fish. I have no idea if she used fresh vegetables. I’ll bet she didn’t. She was always polite and pleasant but seldom really friendly. I don’t even remember if she had a family.

I worked for a few months for Nedick’s, a fast food chain that served hot dogs, hamburgers, orange drink and coffee. I ate those hungrily and without noticing much about what I ate.

In seminary I ate the institutional fare offered from the kitchen, fattening and producing naps. I cannot remember any specific food I ate during those years.

Lillian and I had married by then. At home we ate simple breakfasts of cereal, bacon and eggs and dinners that she prepared with meat, some fish, occasional Spam and frozen vegetables. This was in the fifties. The same diet prevailed during our whole marriage. Lillian did make a fine beef stew, which I enjoyed, and miss even now. She liked salads and we had those. Our daughters liked and disliked the various foods presented depending on the varying tastes and interests they had at different times.

We moved to California in 1962 with our children, Leigh, Sarah and Jessica.
We dined much as we had while we lived in seminary and in the East. Our daughters adapted to our eating habits

One day a new friend, Don George, invited me to lunch in a Japanese restaurant. I had never been in such a place before. He said try this sushi, small pieces of raw salmon or tuna over rice. I tried it and loved it immediately. I eat sushi every week now.

We divorced in 1969. I became a bachelor and had to shop and cook on my own, which I did for thirteen years. In the early 70s a revolution in food and cooking swept California and much of the nation, especially in the major cities.

Fresh vegetables and locally grown foods became popular – eggs, cheese, greens, meat, chicken and locally caught fresh fish. Pasta-making fresh at home became popular, so also bread making. Most of all that passed me by.

Judith came into my life. She was a fine cook and I spent a lot of time watching her cook.  Hearing her talk about fresh vegetables and taking time to cook and really looking at and tasting food began to awaken in me a desire to try things on my own.

One day she saw me open a package of frozen broccoli. She said, “Robert, try fresh broccoli. I t is very easy to cook, about eight minutes in a steamer. It takes about the same time to open the package and cook the frozen vegetable.”  After that, I did in fact buy fresh beans, corn
 and carrots and cook them when I cooked for myself.

We often dined out. We would pay attention to the food, discuss it and taste it more deeply that I had ever done before. I began to enjoy food more. I added chicken, fish and pasta to my meat heavy diet.

She introduced me to a wide variety of dishes, tongue with a green relish sauce, cucumbers in vinegar with a dash of sugar and a thick slit pork chop with prosciutto and cheese.

The San Francisco Dinner Party Cookbook by Judith Ets-Hokin, was published in 1975. I still use some of her recipes.

I discovered the 60-Minute Gourmet, by Pierre Franey, recipes from his New York Times column.  I did not want to spend a lot of time cooking. But these recipes gave a rich variety to eating and asked for fresh ingredients. I have used this and other cookbook recipes to this day.

After marrying Ann in 1983, I did the shopping and cooking and enjoy those “wifely” chores. Ann is a fine cook but she takes her time. Impatient me, I like to eat dinner on time and get on with the evening. As I had a more leisurely schedule as a parish priest than she did as a very busy high school English teacher, my cooking was a natural and easy way to do things.

Ann did not want much meat and I was easy about that. I often ate out for lunch and had hamburgers and a steak more often than she did anyway.

I love to prepare chicken in a wide variety of ways. My recent favorite is a chicken with Italian sausage and potatoes with lots of rosemary baked in the oven for an hour or less. Chicken in Mexican or Mediterranean style with olives, marinated chicken, fried or baked chicken are also favorites.

When entertaining, I use recipes from The Clay-Pot Cookbook by Georgia McCloud and Grover Sales. We especially like Lamb Calypso, leg of lamb cooked in Curacao, orange bitters, dark molasses, mace, cinnamon and allspice. It is a pungent West Indian recipe served with brown rice and fresh steamed vegetables with feta cheese. The clay-pot cooking needs no basting. Put it in and take it out.

The Williams-Sonoma Chicken cookbook also provides many different and interesting ways to cook chicken. We also love fish, mostly fresh salmon as it has the most strong and distinctive flavor. I make it with an onion, lemon, butter and caper sauce. We also love K-Paul’s seafood spices and we enjoy snapper or other fish fried with K-Paul’s spice. We love pastas with clam sauce, tomato sauce and especially basil pesto.

We eat well. Ann is more health conscious than I. I still enjoy a good steak once in a while. On the whole we are compatible in our diets and tastes. I love reading the food pages in the newspapers, I can’t stand the TV cooking shows. I’d rather cook and eat than watch cooking and then commercials.

We love to entertain. It is my favorite entertainment-drinking, talking, eating and sharing our lives with others. It beats the movies and TV for enjoyment and pleasure.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Religious Freedom in Israel

Sen. Barbara Boxer supports religious freedom in the democracy of the United States. However, she does not support religious freedom in the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel. American citizens who are Muslims are not permitted to enter Israel. Boxer wants Israelis to enter the U.S. without visas. (SF Chronicle, May 13, 2013) But Israel will not allow American Muslims to enter Israel except in a very limited and discriminatory manner.

The Israeli democracy, which allows some religionists to avoid military service, keeps thousands of Palestinians in camps, and violates treaties by allowing some Israelis to build luxury homes next to impoverished settlements on Palestinian land. Boxer wants special privileges for Israeli citizens whose government rattles sabers recklessly in a war weary world.