YOU WANT MY WIFE'S recipe for potato pancakes?" Slats Grobnik asked. "And the chicken soup with noodles? Or the meatloaf with lots of oatmeal mixed in it? And macaroni and cheese?"
What has brought on this outburst of culinary interest?
"Gettin' ready. And if you're smart, you will, too. Buy a few sacks of potatoes and onions. Stash 'em away in a cool place. Keep the grater handy."
What are you planning, a pancake party?
"Boy, you got a short memory. Didja eat potato pancakes when we were kids?"
Sure, at least once a week.
"And the chicken soup with vegetables and noodles?"
Of course. And the meatloaf with lots of oatmeal. And the macaroni and cheese. So what?
"So how come?"
How come what?
"How come you ate potato pancakes once a week?"
What a stupid question. Because we liked potato pancakes, that's why. And chicken soup with noodles. And meatloaf with lots of oatmeal mixed in it.
"Because you liked it, huh?"
That's what I said.
I don't have to sit here and take this. There's a stool open at the end of the bar.
"Listen, you ate potato pancakes once a week, and the rest of that stuff, because it was Depression food. You could feed everybody in the house on potato pancakes for a buck-two-ninety-eight."
Yes, I suppose the economy was a factor.
"You bet it was. And that's why I'm getting ready. I already got enough potatoes and onions in my basement to last until the year 2000."
Don't you think you're overreacting?
"And Velveeta. If you're smart you'll buy stock in Velveeta. By next year, nobody is going to be eatin' brie. Even the yuppies will be eatin' Velveeta. It sticks to your ribs. And to your lips and teeth and tongue, too. And you can use it for making dough bait."
"Yeah, mix the Velveeta with cotton, put it on a hook, and you can catch a carp. People ate carp in the Depression. I remember my old man bringing a big live carp home and letting it swim in the bathtub for two days before we ate it. He said that cleaned it up."
Two days? How could the family use the tub?
"He caught it on a Sunday, and we didn't need the tub until the next Saturday. So remember to get some cotton for your dough bait."
I really think you are taking too pessimistic a view. Why, just the other day, interest rates were once again lowered to stimulate the economy, encourage businesses to borrow and expand, and consumers to buy.
"I don't care about the interest rates. I pay hard cash for my Velveeta. And all those boxes of shotgun shells, too."
You are buying shotgun shells? Are you planning on stalking your own game?
"No, I want to be ready to protect my potatoes and onions and Velveeta."
"Listen, this ain't gonna be like the last Depression, where people helped each other out. We're gonna have looters and gangs roamin' the streets, lookin' to steal somebody's potatoes and Velveeta. And when they show up on my block, I'll stick the shotgun out the window and blow 'em away."
You would shoot them over Velveeta?
"When it comes to defending his grilled cheese sandwiches, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."
Try to calm down. Remember, this isn't the 1930s. We now have all sorts of social safety nets. And President Bush and Congress will surely do something to fine-tune the economy.
"You ever drive a truck?"
At one time, yes.
"You ever jump out and try to fine-tune it when it was going downhill on a curvy road?"
Of course not. You would be run over.
"Yeah, well that's what fine-tuning this economy is gonna be like. They can't fine-tune it because they don't know how to make it stop long enough to figure out what to do. Rostenkowski says that maybe Congress should mug a few fat cats. Bush wants less juice on credit cards so we can go deeper in hock. Quayle says the recession is over. I guess his father must have sent the allowance check early. Nah, they're just sitting in the truck going downhill, hanging on to the steering wheel, and hoping the brakes don't blow."
Well, maybe Mario Cuomo will enter the race, win, and become a modern-day Roosevelt, bringing the country back from a Depression.
"Yeah, and remember how Roosevelt did that?"
By introducing social and economic reforms.
"Nah, we went to war with Japan."
You know, I wouldn't mind having your meatloaf recipe after all.