• Old Photos: More From 1938 Kansas City

    Continuing from my previous post, more photos of 1938 Kansas City made by William Vandivert. Most or all of these are previously unpublished; I could not find a corresponding issue of the Life Magazine from 1938. At the end of the post there are a few vintage burlesque show photos, they are hardly NSFW but be careful scrolling all the way to the bottom if someone is looking over your shoulder.

    © Time Inc. William Vandivert

    Continue reading →
  • Ukrainian Gourmet: Smoked Salo

    WARNING: This post is not kosher on any day of the year.

    My imaginary friend Moxie Mama wants to celebrate her 1/4 Ukrainian heritage by eating what real Ukrainians eat. Well, that’s real simple and no cooking required to boot. Ukrainian National Food is salo which is non-rendered pork fat. There is nothing like a thick slice of salo with a piece of rye bread rubbed with garlic. The only thing better than regular salt-cured salo is smoked salo and just for saying that I expect a mob of angry quarter-Ukrainians attack me with pitch-forks (which is Ukrainian national weapon). Salo is usually salt-cured and can be kept outside of the fridge for a long time. Smoked salo doesn’t have the same shelf-life but it has tender buttery texture with a more delicate,slightly smokey taste and chewy skin if you are lucky to get it. (Sorry I had to run to the fridge and take a bite).


    In Kansas City you can satisfy all of your salo-eating needs at the Russian Store, which coincidentally carries real-tasting rye bread. For an alternative for ethnically-challenged, head on over to Fritz’s Smoked Meats around 106th and State Line in Leawood, where I procured some smoked salo (ask for smoked bacon, they are Germans) just yesterday. The difference between this bacon and some crap in a vacuum packaging at the grocery store is that it doesn’t contain any unknown liquid (WTF is that anyway- formaldehyde or something?). Your friendly employee will slice it from a giant slab right in front of you. (Sorry I am off for another bite). DO NOT order it sliced thin, go with the medium or thick. I have a feeling that some synagogue is obtaining a restraining order against me as I type this. Well, if God didn’t want us to eat salo…, you know the rest.


    Your next step is to obtain rye bread. American people between the coasts have been deprived of real bread and forced to eat who knows what, albeit sliced. We have to hunt the bread down. Baking it is not so hard, but generally you can’t go wrong with Farm-to-Market bread CO (Hen House on 135th and Metcalf bakes it fresh) or pick up a loaf at the Russian Store. There are few places like this one and others where you can obtain normal crusty bread.

    You are all set. Get your favorite bottle of vodka from the fridge, peel yourself some garlic (rub it on the bread crust,see that’s why you needed the crust), pour yourself a shot and take a bite of your sandwich. Your Ukrainian Grandma would be proud.


    After a shot or three, listen to this song. You’ll notice you can now understand the words.
    Na Zdorov’e!

    More Photos

    Continue reading →
  • Pepper, Honey, Honey…

    Back in the day before vegetables were genetically modified to grow in winter and still retained their natural look, taste and smell, each produce had its own growing season. You couldn’t walk into a grocery store in December and expect to find a watermelon or a tomato* and it was OK, there was something to look forward to in the spring and summer. Even though it’s now available year round, I still don’t eat watermelon in winter, but it’s nice to know that I could if I wanted to. To overcome the fruit and vegetable shortage people invented many ways to preserve foods for the winter – canning, drying, pickling, etc. Many families including mine had a closet like you see on the left where we stored a variety of preserves my Mom and Dad cooked during the summer. Opening one of those jars always brought back the summer even if only for a few minutes. Today’s recipe is a simple to make throwback to these years.

    Imagine one day you are browsing around Costco, mentally restraining yourself from buying another gargantuan item when you see these:

    “Only two pounds, could be worse”, you think to yourself, putting the package into your cart. There are so many things you can do with peppers including just eating them raw. At home you can just wash the peppers in the sink.

    Combine 1 cup of regular vinegar and 1 cup of vegetable oil (don’t waste olive oil):

    By the way, if you use the term “EVOO” I don’t mind losing you as a reader of this blog, feel free to never come back.
    Pour oil and vinegar into a medium sized pot, add half-a-cup of water,3/4 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of honey, a handful of whole peppercorns and a bay leaf if you have it (I do). Bring to boil and make sure it’s all incorporated. While that’s going on, cut off the tops and slice the peppers in strips. These are pretty small (and I know a small pepper when I see one), so I just quartered them.

    Try the marinade, see if you like it, it should have a pleasant sweet and sour taste. I felt like I needed to add some more honey, which I did. Add sliced peppers to the boiling marinade (in batches if needed) and boil for 3-5 minutes. This recipe works best for heavier thicker peppers, these are pretty thin and you want them to retain texture, you are not making mashed peppers here.

    Take the peppers out with a slotted spoon and place them in a jar, then cook another batch.

    After all the peppers are cooked, pour the cooking liquid over them to cover completely. I had to add some boiled hot water to have all the peppers covered. Let them cool down.

    These peppers are good with everything: salads, sandwiches, garnish, vodka, whatever you can think of. I am not sure how long they will keep in the refrigerator, but peppers this delicious will not last that long anyway.

    I’d like to mention that my friend Donna recently tried my borscht recipe and not only liked it but is still in good health. That’s better than having a seal of approval.
    Even though we now have everything available all year long, summer is still the best for cooking and eating vegetables. Enjoy!
    *you were lucky to find cabbage and potatoes at the grocery store in December
    **due to unforeseen circumstances I was using my old camera, so the picture quality is not the best.

    Continue reading →
  • Road Trip Science

    During my recent road trip to Hutchinson, KS I have measured and recorded the following data:

    Insect Population of The State of Kansas

    Insect Population of The State of Kansas

    Continue reading →
  • The Soviet Army and Navy Day

    This year marks the twenty-year anniversary of the triumphant end of my military service. Shortly after my long-awaited discharge from the Engineer Corps in June of 1990, the American Secret Services sensed a weak spot in the pontoon troops where I had served and used it to break up the Soviet Union. Of course, it was unthinkable while I was still in service; my fierce looks used to send the enemy running for their lives.

    My Mom and Me. …long, long time ago… I can still remember

    Today is the Soviet Army and Navy Day – a long-renamed holiday of a long-gone country. 20 years ago I couldn’t imagine being nostalgic thinking about my military service. But here I am – it was a time uncomplicated by work, taxes and raising kids and now it doesn’t seem like such a horrible way to spend two years of one’s life. So instead of rewriting my last year’s post I will share a few music videos on the subject.

    This song is called “We Are The People’s Army”:

    And lastly – world-famous Kalinka, here you can find the lyrics and sing along.

    Continue reading →