Friday, May 6, 2011

Dorian’s Mother’s Day Smorgasbord: a Four-Course Meal of Fiction, Food, and Fond Memories

Me and Mom on Team Bartilucci's wedding day,
July 14, 1989
 With Mother’s Day coming this very weekend, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to run items about some of the memories and happy things that our family, a.k.a. Team Bartilucci, happens to enjoy. My late mom, Jacqueline Kehoe, enjoyed movies and fiction as much as I do. Once I began writing my own original fiction, which I write simply as Dorian Tenore to give the world’s typesetters a break (presuming typesetters still exist in today’s rapidly-changing publishing world), Mom was thrilled to read it, and I must admit her own lively life was among my inspirations. I’m currently editing my first novel, and I’m almost finished writing my second. I can almost hear Mom now, editing over my shoulder, saying, “I like this character, he’s got spunk…that character seems like a goody-two-shoes, but she’s got a wild past, I can tell….”  Mom and I had discussed writing a comedic novel inspired by her own and our family’s wacky, witty, glamorous exploits, but alas, Mom died of pulmonary fibrosis in December 2009 before we could really get into it. Well, maybe we’ll get lucky and find the notes Mom said she’d written down. But at least we have memories and anecdotes to pass down to loved ones and friends. Let’s get this Mother’s Day Smorgasbord started!

First Course

This was one of Mom’s favorite early stories of mine, a bit of flash-fiction inspired by true events and beloved cartoons:

The Beat Goes On
By Dorian Tenore


Ever since her teens, Kathleen’s favorite movie had been Casablanca.  From the first time she’d heard Dooley Wilson sing “As Time Goes By,” that had been her favorite song.  She’d never sung it to her little daughter Katie because, well, the song to which Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman fell in love just wasn’t your typical lullaby or sing-along song.  So when she heard Katie singing those familiar lyrics, “You must remember this…A kiss is just a kiss…” while picking out a toy to bring to her kindergarten Show and Tell...well, how could Kathleen not be surprised and delighted?

 “What a pretty song, Katie!  And you sing it so well.”  Kathleen knelt down and kissed Katie’s beaming face.  “Where did you hear that song?”“A doggie was singing it on Bugs Bunny, Mommy!” Katie chirped.

Kathleen laughed affectionately even as she tried to imagine Dooley Wilson’s velvet voice coming out of a cartoon dog’s mouth.


Kate liked to think she had a wide range of musical tastes, from big band to bubble gum to alternative and everything in between.  She had to admit, though, that next to “As Time Goes By,” her favorite was “I’m A Believer.”  As a kid, she’d loved The Monkees’ zany TV show and their snappy songs, and it had always stayed with her.

One Friday after her daughter Caitlin’s A.M. Kindergarten class let out, Kate took her to an afternoon matinee of Shrek.  Both of them loved the movie’s witty gags and kooky fairy tale characters, but Kate especially got a kick out the use of pop songs—including “I’m A Believer,” sung at the end by Smashmouth and the cast of the film.  Hey, pretty cool cover, Kate thought with a smile as she watched Caitlin bounce along to the beat.A week later, mother and daughter were grocery-shopping.  There was an especially good selection of Golden Oldies playing on the store’s P.A. system as Kate wheeled Caitlin and a cart full of comestibles through the dairy aisle.  Then she heard a familiar set of organ notes. A guitar joined in, and Micky Dolenz’s voice crooned, “I thought love was only true in fairy tales…” Yup, it was the Monkees’ original “I’m A Believer,” in all its glory.

In her child seat, Caitlin looked up towards the music and waved her hands in excitement.  “Mommy, it’s the Shrek song!”  she squealed.  “But who’s that singing it?”

Second Course

With the encouragement of fabulous fellow bloggers Becky of ClassicBecky's Brain Food and Clara of Via Margutta 51, we of Team Bartilucci wrote a Sunset Blvd haiku for the U.K.-based Hollywood Haiku contest now in progress until May 20th, 2011. Since then, I’ve come up with two Hollywood Haikus about one of our family’s favorite films, the 1963 comedy-thriller Charade.

Charade #1
Adam, Alex, Pete,
Life would be sweet for Reggie
If not for murders!

Charade #2
Widow Lampert has
Four beaus in one, but which one
Is “Truthful Whitefoot?”

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

How to submit your Hollywood Haiku to our writing competition

Closing date for entries: 20 May 2011
1. Review the film of your choice in the form of a haiku (3 lines: 5-7-5 syllables). Don’t forget to state which film your Hollywood Haiku relates to.
2. Post your Hollywood Haiku on your blog. You can enter as many times as you like – but please make a new blog post for each haiku.
3. Include the following link under your haiku, copy and pasting the yellow text below:
4. Email the url of your blog’s haiku entry to Put HAIKU in the subject header of the email. In the body of your email, include your entry’s url, and the description of your blog you’d like us to use if you win.

Third Course

When Mom Met Marlene

Our fabulous fellow blogger The Lady Eve has urged me to recount one of our family’s favorite anecdotes. Reliable sources have assured me that back before I was even born, my dear late mom had the good fortune to be escorted by her then-beau to not only see Marlene Dietrich perform live, but also meet her in person after the show! According to these family sources, this momentous meeting took place sometime in the 1950s during one of Dietrich’s cabaret performances (some say it was in Las Vegas, some say it was Carnegie Hall. You decide!), well before I was born (in 1963, for the record. As luck would have it, that was also the year my beloved Charade was released…but I digress….). The story goes that Mom’s gentleman friend was able to pull some strings, resulting in his introducing Mom to Dietrich in her dressing room. Those who knew Mom can attest that she was stylish and mesmerizing, yet warm and witty in the great Cherry Girl tradition. Yes, Cherry was Mom’s maiden name. And yes, Mom and my Auntie Joy, her sister, were constantly the subject of racy jokes about their last name from those naughty boys! In any event, with both Dietrich and Mom being glamorous and irresistible, they reportedly got along famously, chatting away like the best of friends for over an hour about everything from fashion to traveling to the state of the world. It’s times like this that I wish I had a time machine to be part of that auspicious occasion, if only to see if it was as awesome as I keep hearing it was! Heck, I’d settle for a photo of the lovely ladies together, but at least I have accounts of Mom's memories, which is more than so many people have. Small wonder that my husband Vinnie and I teamed up on a“Suave Hall of Fame” blog post last year in which we named Marlene Dietrich as Most Suave Female and George Sanders as Most Suave Male! I look forward to reading Charlotte Chandler’s much-praised new biography Marlene in the not-too-distant future, too! Now if only I had a 48-hour day to fit everything in....

Fourth Course

Hungry after all that reading? Have a yummy Mother’s Day brunch right in your own home! Since I’m gluten-sensitive, my hubby and favorite cook Vinnie adapted Alton Brown’s sweet potato waffles recipe from his Food Network TV series Good Eats so that I could enjoy them without the gluten-related side effects. If you folks don’t have to worry about gluten, feel free to make Brown’s original version, leaving out the xanthan gum and using regular all-purpose flour.

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Waffles
Adapted from the "Potato, My Sweet" episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats

1½  cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (or guar gum)
6 egg whites (approx 1 cup), at room temperature
1 cup milk (or the milk substitute of your choice)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Optional: 1 heaping tablespoon ground flaxseed
Optional: Cinnamon to taste
Optional: ¼ teaspoon cardamom

Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Special equipment: steamer basket and waffle iron

Put cubed sweet potatoes in a steamer basket. Place the basket in a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of steamer. Allow potatoes to steam for 20 minutes of until fork tender. Mash cooked potatoes and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In another bowl combine the sweet potatoes, milk, brown sugar, butter, and grated orange rind. Stir the sweet potato mixture into the flour mixture and thoroughly combine. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold egg whites into batter 1/3 at a time. The batter will be thick. Using a large ice-cream scoop (or if you’re a stickler for details, a No. 20 disher), place 2 scoops of batter onto a preheated, oiled waffle iron, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Happy Mother's Day to you and/or the mothers in your life!
Mom and Baby Shugie (a.k.a. Siobhan), 1996


  1. I am happily stuffed from the smorgasbord (Caftan Woman groans) of rich memories and the abundance of loving selections.

    A perfect Mother's Day post.

    PS: It's impossible to stop haikuing, isn't it? Is that a word?

  2. Caftan Woman, thanks so much for your charming comments about today's blog post! It was indeed a happy labor of love, and I'm delighted that you enjoyed it. And I agree with you that haikuing is addictive; if "haikuing" isn't a word, I say we submit it to Merriam-Webster and make it one! :-)

  3. Why am I not surprised that your Mom and Marlene Dietrich got along famously? Both were cosmopolitan, wordly women. And, like Marlene, your Mom would eventually come to wear her age lightly upon her shoulders.

    (Speaking of Naughty Boys: Ye Correspondent currently trying to deal with mental images of Miss Jackie in a tuxedo, top hat and fishnets; lounging on a piano and singing "See What The Boys In The Back Room Will Have!")

  4. What a wonderful post, Dorian - many courses, and I savored them all. What great, sweet mom-linked memories. & so glad you posted the anecdote your mom and Marlene. Happy Mothers Day to you!

  5. Michael, thanks for your lovely comments about my dear mom, which of course I totally agree with! :-) Funny you should envision Mom in top hat, tux, and fishnets, because sometime in the 1970s, when Mom and Dad were still married to each other (remaining friends after the divorce once the dust settled :-)), they went to a costume party in which Dad dressed as a Roaring Twenties-type gangster and Mom dressed as a sexy saloon girl, including fishnets! Need I say she rocked the look? :-)

    By the way, everyone reading this should log onto to order a copy of Michael's rollicking romantic comedy novel COSIMO'S RAVEN, which is not only a delight in itself, but also happened to be one of Mom's favorite books!

  6. Eve, thanks for your kind words, and thanks for encouraging me to share our "When Mom Met Marlene" anecdote here! A very Happy Mother's Day to you, too!

  7. Oh Dorian, what a beautiful piece of writing...your Mom was gorgeous, and her encounter with Dietrich as one glamour gal to another must have been a thrill. Your stories about children and old music were so sweet. I love taking my grandkids to see the Shrek movies, partly because of that! I'm always showing them my favorite old movies, and 42nd Street, Golddiggers movies, Astaire/Rogers, had such wonderful songs we need to pass on!

    I had to laugh at your Mom and Aunt being teased about their names as kids -- Jacqueline and Joy Cherry! That is so cute. I'm sure your Mom would be so thrilled about your novels (I'd like to read them). My Dad died very young at 52, and he always liked and encouraged my writing. I know he would love my blog, as your Mom would love yours.

    Only one thing I can't agree with -- I HATE sweet potatoes! LOL! Sounds like a great recipe, if not for the SWEET POTATOES! Ack! But that is completely over-ridden by that darling picture of you and Siobhan!

    Like you, Mother's Day has to be a memory day for me. My dear Mom died in 2005 after suffering from Alzheimer's. We lived together after my boys grew up and we had such fun together. I was able to take care of her here at home until she died, and I try to remember what a blessing that was. Happy Mother's Day to your Mom Jacqueline and my Mom Carolyn! And the same to you and me!

  8. Becky, thanks for your enthusiastic praise of my "smorgasbord" post and for sharing your own loving memories of your parents! I'm so sorry to hear your father died young; sadly, so did Vinnie's dad, from complications of diabetes resulting from pancreas injuries in the war. Bless you for having the love, courage, and stamina to care for your mom when Alzheimers reared its cruel head; Carolyn must have been a wonderful person to have a great daughter like you. At the risk of sounding sappy, I'd like to think our late parents are somehow reading our blogs over our shoulders in Heaven! :-)

    Thanks for your encouragement about my novels, Becky. I ran Chapter One of THE PARANOIA CLUB in TotED last year, but if you're interested, I'd be happy to show you more chapters -- and more after that if you like what you see! :-)

    Actually, that picture under the sweet potato waffles recipe is of Mom and Siobhan, not me and Siobhan -- or as we affectionately call her, Shugie (pronounced like "sugar" but ending with an "ee" sound, not an "er" sound). But your comments made me smile because every time people look through our family photo albums, they ALWAYS mistake Shugie's baby pictures with MY baby pictures, and vice-versa! She and I have the same face and curly hair 33 years apart. :-) Anyway, don't worry about not liking sweet potatoes; if you like, you can try my buttermilk pancakes recipe. We do the gluten-free version, but folks seem to love it either way. :-)

    Speaking of Astaire/Rogers musicals, your remarks reminded me of the time my mom was spending a week with us, and we happened to have one of their movies on. I'm embarrassed to admit I can't remember offhand which one it was (I like musicals very much, but for some reason it's always the witty suspense films that stick in my memory), but it had Ginger Rogers dancing in a heavily-beaded gown. Shugie was only 2 at the time, but she took her baby blanket and began dancing like Ginger, her blanket swirling around as she twirled. Mom and I were oohing and aahing like nobody's business!

    Thanks again for your encouraging words, Becky, and have a very Happy Mother's Day, Becky, and that goes for all the wonderful moms in and out of TotED! :-)

  9. I should have realized that was your Mom, not you. Duh. I would love to read what you have ready of your novel. If you don't mind, maybe you could email it to me. Is it too long to do that?

  10. Since you asked so nicely, I've e-mailed you a document containing the first five chapters of THE PARANOIA CLUB. If you like them, I'll gladly send you more. Thanks for your encouragement, Becky, and keep an eye on your e-mail! :-)

  11. I love your 'smorgasbord' post, Dorian. I'm late to the banquet (what else is new) - I've just returned from a brunch celebration with my daughter, her hubby and their sweet, sweet little baby daughter. (Her one year birthday is coming up this month - all together now: My, how the time flies!)

    I can barely move from all the good food - they had a waffle bar!. I simply threw caution to the winds, consequently I am now sitting here in a stupor. HA!

    We're having beautiful weather here today, a very good day.

    Thanks for sharing your memories and your writing with us, kiddo.

  12. Yvette, beaucoup thanks for your kudos for my "smorgasbord" Mother's Day post, and even bigger thanks for taking the time out of your own Mother's day celebration to join the conversation! I'm delighted to hear about your lovely brunch with your family (Vinnie's making gluten-free lasagna for my Mother's Day dinner - yum!), and your granddaughter's upcoming one year birthday, and I bet you're thrilled to spend time with her! I remember how much my late mom doted on our little Siobhan (admittedly, "little" Shugie is almost taller than me -- she gets the tallness from her dad :-)), and our cross-country visits (we live in PA and Mom lived in FL).

    I'm happy you and your family got the most precious gift of all on this Mother's Day: the gift of time happily spent with loved ones. Happy Mother's Day, Yvette, and hugs to you and your loved ones from Team Bartilucci! :-)

  13. What a tasty post...and with no classic movie calories! Loved the story about your Mom meeting Marlene. The waffles sound good, too, but my culinary skills are quite limited.

  14. Thanks, Rick, I'm so glad you enjoyed my little Mother's Day "smorgasbord"! If only blogging worked off the calories of M-Day banquets! :-)

  15. You know, Dorian, I'm embarrassed. It occurs to me that I did not compliment you on your wonderful tribute to your mom and the sharing of your happy memories which was the whole point of your 'smorgasbord' post. Jeez. I reread my comment and it was all about me-me-ME!!! I am verklempt.

    All I can say is: I'm apologize. I guess my ego got in the way. GAK! (Me coughing up a hairball.)

  16. Yvette, I assure you no apologies are necessary! I was delighted and touched to hear about your lovely Mother's Day with your family and grandbaby. Indeed, I welcome all comments about everyone's Mother's Day delights -- we must give moms and the people who love them their say as well as their due. So don't you worry, my friend -- you and your happy stories about loved ones are always warmly welcomed here at TotED!

  17. Thanks, kiddo. Much appreciated. :)

  18. Hey, everybody, please extend a laurel and hardy handshake to TotED's newest Follower, PrettyClever Films! Feel free to join in the conversation any time!

  19. Wow that's truly one of the best posts about Mother's Day! A recipe, Haiku contests and movie reviews including personal stories of Marlene Dietrich and even a baby photo of your little one! Too sweet.How come the most suave fellow my poor mother ever met from Hollywood was Danny DeVito? Life is unfair!

    1. Eve, my friend, thanks for your kind words about my Mother's Day Smorgasbord! How time flies; hard to believe (even for us!) that our Baby Shugie has long since become teenager Siobhan -- but she'll always be our baby one way or another! As for Danny DeVito, I'm sure he's a good joe, too! :-D Happy Mother's Day to you and all the mothers in your life!