Sorting Out, Moving On


June 30, 1996|By ROB KASPER

I have never taken kindly to moving. All that sorting, all those decisions. But it has to be done. The Sun has decided to stop publishing Sun Magazine and next week this column will move to inside Today, one of the broadsheet sections of the Sunday paper.

I have written for Sun Magazine for two years, which is a mere flicker in the magazine's 50-year life span. But it was long enough to have basked in the warm glow of good feelings that most readers had for the publication.

People read stories throughout the newspaper, but they really cared about what appeared in the magazine. From guys in the locker room at the Downtown Athletic Club who commented on a column about the demise of National Premium beer, to the women of the Brandeis University National Women's Committee who offered opinions about rhubarb pie, I regularly heard from folks about what had been in "their" magazine.

Lately, I have doing what people do when they move. I have been sifting though my old stuff, churning up a few memories, tying up a few loose ends.

One of the loosest ends is the telephone number needed to order bacon from prime Maryland hogs. In October 1995 I wrote a column touting the hickory-smoked bacon sold by Roy L. Hoffman and Sons in Hagerstown. I gave the price, about $20 for 2 pounds of bacon plus shipping. I testified that, unlike much of store-bought bacon, this stuff didn't shrivel. I didn't give the phone number because I figured that folks who had a hankering for smoked meat could get the number from directory assistance.

Directory assistance has changed from the days it relied primarily on operators named Gertrude who knew everything and everybody in town. Now it relies on computers that cough out only what has been typed into a memory bank. If you don't have the name of the place, exactly as it is listed in the computer, you are often out of luck. Lots of bacon eaters who couldn't get the Hoffmans' number from directory assistance called me. It turns out that Roy L. Hoffman and Sons is now known as Hoffman's Quality Meats. I should have known that. Gertrude would have figured it out. But the directory assistance computers couldn't. Here are the bacon-ordering numbers: (800) 356-3193 or (301) 739-2332.

I also neglected to give the Chicago hot dog its due. In a July 1994 column offering a rundown of the various toppings that eaters in various cities put on their hot dogs -- bologna in Baltimore, chopped onions in New York, and black bean salsa in Los Angeles -- I failed to mention the Windy City, the "big dog" of topping towns.

It was a serious omission, pointed out in a letter sent to me by a reader. I have since lost the letter but remember its sentiment. To make amends I recently called Byron's Dog Haus on Irving Park Road in Chicago, and asked Joe Campoverde, who has managed the joint for the past 14 years, what Chicagoans put on their dogs. The list was impressive.

"No ketchup, that is only for kids," Joe told me, adding that mustard is the condiment of choice. Then he recited the other toppings normally on a Chicago dog: "chopped onions, relish, fresh cucumber slices, green peppers, half a tomato slice, a dill pickle, celery salt, hot peppers on request."

The dog underneath those toppings is always a locally made, Vienna-brand frankfurter, he said. The bread is always "a steamed bun, no seeds on the bun."

Now I come to the "Dead Freddies" episode. This tale began last summer when I accompanied Gus Kaplanges on a tour of Northeast Baltimore. Gus is a combination boxer, bartender, salesman and seeker of good eats. During the sightseeing portion of our journey, Gus pointed to a bar in the 7200 block of Harford Road and told me it used to be owned by a guy named Fred, who had died. The new owners called the place Dead Freddies, he said. I put this in a column.

It turned out that a guy named Fred had owned the place. But he was not dead. The place was called Dead Freddies, in part, because the new owners thought the name was catchy. Another reason the place was called Dead Freddies was because the new owners had this terrific neon sign left from the previous owner that spelled out Freddies. The "Dead" part of the sign was easily added on.

Dead Freddies is still on Harford Road, and according to David Steele, one of the owners, it is now quite lively.

As for Fred A. Romeo, the former owner and namesake of Dead Freddies, I spoke to him the other day.

He is 64 years old, enjoying his retirement, and crabbing on Stoney Creek, near his Anne Arundel County home.

He is, in other words, very much alive. Which, sadly, cannot be said of this magazine.

"Rob Kasper's Maryland" will appear in the Sunday Today section beginning July 7.

Pub Date: 6/30/96

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