Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Songs and Sweets for a Recession

By Paul Levine...

WORKIN' MAN BLUES: Times are hard. No one is singing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." (Or "Diamonds are Forever." Not even Ruth Madoff). Help me compile a list of songs for the recession. Here are some of my favorites, with a slant toward Americana, country, and folk:

1. "We Can't Make It Here Anymore," written and performed by James McMurtry

2. "Our Town," written and performed with an incomparable Arkansas twang by Iris Dement.

4. "Workin' Man Blues," Merle Haggard

5. "Old Calloused Hands," Hazel Dickens

6. "The Mountain," Steve Earle

7. "Tired," Willie Nelson

8. "T.B. is Killing Me," John Lee Hooker

9. "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Recorded by many artists beginning in 1931.

10. Okay, readers. Help me out here.

RECESSION SWEETS: I hope this doesn't upset Janet Rudolph, but I'm economizing on chocolate. Janet is a connoisseur of both fine chocolates and fine mysteries. She writes two of my favorite blogs. "Dying for Chocolate" has the recipe for the original Toll House cookie and directions for making a grilled chocolate sandwich. I'm there! "Mystery Fanfare" is a savvy blog devoted to...well, you know...what we do here.

I love chocolate. In the past, I've spent my allowance in search of the best. I've ordered Recchiuti Chocolates from San Francisco. Fancy and pricey. The two-pound, two ounce box shown here (which I've never ordered) costs $160 plus shipping.

I've picked up delicious and expensive truffles from K Chocolatier in Beverly Hills.

I've ordered chocolates from Hawaii because of a story I read in the New York Times. I've ordered chocolates from a highly touted sweets boutique on Cape Cod.

But now, forgive me Janet. I buy all my chocolate at Trader Joe's, and you know what, it's fine. Here are my favorites, all for about $5 or $6: Trader Joe's Belgian Dark Chocolate Non-Pareils; Chocolate Truffles (imported from France), and the Dark Chocolate Mocha Crunch Squares.

I'd take some photos to show you...but I've eaten all the evidence.

Another alternative...instead of shelling out for store or bakery desserts, make your own. I recommend my friend Rona Lewis's "Does This Cookbook Make Me Look Fat?" Rona is a top L.A. physical trainer and a former sprinter at Penn State. Check out her recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake made with low-fat cream cheese, fat-free sour cream and dark chocolate. Only 239 calories per slice! Plus 9 grams of protein, about the same as a glass of milk. More info about the cookbook here.

RONA WON'T APPROVE OF THIS: A.J. Liebling (below), who was not a sprinter at Penn State, dedicated "Between Meals," his gastronomic tour of Paris, to Yves Mirande, a theatrical producer and legendary gourmand...or glutton, depending on your definition.

"Mirande would dispatch a lunch of raw Bayonne ham and fresh figs, a hot sausage in crust, spindles of filleted pike in a rich rose sauce Nantua, a leg of lamb larded with anchovies, artichokes on a pedestal of foie gras, and four or five kinds of cheese, with a good bottle of Bordeaux and one of champagne, after which he would call for the Armagnac and remind Madame to have ready for dinner the larks and ortolans she had promised him, with a few langoustes and a turbot -- and, of course, a fine civet made from the marcassin, or young wild boar, that the lover of the leading lady in his current production had sent up from his estate in the Sologne."

Helluva long sentence, helluva lot of food. I don't know what half the items are, but I'm impressed by the sheer volume.

Paul Levine


  1. "No Depression in Heaven" AP Carter, 1930's:

    "I'm going where there's no depression,
    To the lovely land that's free from care.
    I'll leave this world of toil and trouble,
    My home's in Heaven, I'm going there."

    Billy Gold

  2. Defintely not, "Put a Ring on It" by Beyonce.

  3. I'm a great believer in eating as much Lindt milk chocolate as possible. Preferably while listening to Merle Haggard.

  4. How could you omit "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Earnie Ford?

    And "The Day They Closed the Factory Down" by Harry Chapin?

    Thank you,
    Steamed in St. Louis

  5. I actually like a lot of Trader Joe's chocolate. It's definitely economical, great for bulk cooking, and some (not all) is fairtrade organic. So, yes, Paul, I forgive you.

    Re: Songs for the Recession: How about the depression escapist song, "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" accompanied by Chocolate Cherry Pie, recipe posted on my Dying for Chocolate site again today. And, Paul, you can use Trader Joe's chocolate in this recipe.

  6. I love TJs chocolate covered blueberries. Yum, but LA's local chocolate company See's is usually what I buy.

    When I was researching my 4th book Cool Cache, which is set in an artisan chocolate shop in Beverly HIlls, I discovered a fabulous book called THE ESSENCE OF CHOCOLATE: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. I use their fudgy brownie recipe (with Scharffenberger chocolate, of course) to wow my friends. Excellent.

  7. One more you missed big-time. Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi." (Not the Sound of Music).

    "California is a garden of Eden,
    A paradise to live in or to see,
    But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot,
    If you ain't got the do re mi".

    Billy Gold

  8. Janet, you're a good sport. And that Chocolate Cherry Pie recipe , wow! http://www.dyingforchocolate.blogspot.com

    But I have to tell you...that "Good Grips Cherry Pitter" is scary. Looks like the device the mohel uses at a bris!


  9. James O. Born6/23/2009 9:22 AM

    Sixteen Tons is perfect for your list.


  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. "Sixteen Tons," sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Merle Travis, and many others over the years...

    "You load sixteen tons an' what do you get?
    Another day older deeper and debt.
    St Peter don't you call me I cause can't go:
    I owe my soul to the company store."

  12. "King of the Road" Roger Miller

  13. More contemporary but a great one, "My Hometown" by Bruce Springsteen:

    "Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
    Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
    They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
    Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to your hometown."

  14. Dianne,

    Parallel themes in "My Hometown," "Our Town," and "We Can't Make it Here Anymore."

    Maybe there should be a sub-genre in Americana music: Dying Factory Towns.

  15. Aragon Mill by Si Kahn

    Factory Whistle's Blowing by Tom Paxton

    and (I not sure of the title):

    Times are getting hard, my boys
    Jobs are getting scarce
    Winter's coming on, my boys
    Guess I'll leave this place
    Take my true love by the hand
    Lead her through the town
    Say goodbye to everyone
    Goodbye to everyone

  16. Sunny Side of the Street.
    Louis Armstrong

    How Big Can You Get?
    Cab Calloway

    Waiting on the Evening Mail
    Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake

    Billy Joel

    The River
    Bruce Springstein


  17. Don't overlook "Downeaster Alexa" by Billy Joel either.

    Mean, Paul, just mean. Now I must have chocolate!

  18. Jon is not going to believe this, but I swear it's true. I got married in Allentown, PA. First time, that is.

    Billy Joel was not there.

  19. How about something that offers a solution? Solidarity Forever!

  20. PAUL,In the words of that immortal group,The Monkees, "I'm a Believer.".....guess that what you meet a woman in Helsinki...wasn't it Helsinki? I just remember a post [last week?]...which also said we wouldn't believe it, but.....


  21. that is: guess that's what happens when you meet a woman in Helsinki