Out the back door

Just a door. My door. The one that leads to the deck. That’s the deck from which I take most of my woodsy pictures because it’s a great view of the yard and the woods that seem to go on forever. It’s an old screen door, not in very good shape. It came with the house so it’s nearly 40 years old. And original.

Hopefully, it’ll make it through another year. And the leaves will have to be cleaned up or they’ll make a horrible mess when the snow comes.



Santarpio's Pizza in East Boston

Santarpio’s Pizza in East Boston (Photo: Wikipedia)

Living out here, 70 miles away from bustling Boston, the endless war over building (or not) a casino on Suffolk Downs raceway seems unlikely to have much effect on us semi-rural types. There are already two major casinos not far from here, just cross the border in Connecticut, Really just around the corner if you feel that itch to lose your hard-earned money. Plenty of flashing machines and gaming tables. More than enough organized busing to get you there and back home again.

Here’s the story. Not the entire story, but an overview, sort of. The citizens of East Boston rejected the whole thing and the pols are scurrying to try to pull their irons out of the fire. From the Boston Herald:

Pols call new Suffolk casino bid a longshot

Suffolk Downs’ eleventh- hour effort to shift its proposed casino site from East Boston to Revere is looking more like a Hail Mary bid, with House Speaker Robert DeLeo expressing doubts and Boston Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh touting Milford yesterday, while Revere’s own mayor said he’s in the dark.

“Right now, quite honestly, I’m waiting to hear from Suffolk Downs,” Revere Mayor Daniel Rizzo told the Herald yesterday — in sharp contrast to the race track’s claim that it is working closely with the city.

Suffolk Downs CEO Chip Tuttle said in a statement late yesterday he is “working in real time with Revere and with potential suitable gaming partners on an alternative proposal that would meet all the necessary requirements.”

Rizzo, who tweeted Wednesday that he strongly backs a Revere casino, said yesterday, “I’m taking all of my cues from them going forward, because it’s them that has to make the case to the Gaming Commission. Our voters made the case by voting yes in an overwhelming fashion. It’s up to them now.”

DeLeo echoed a chorus of pessimism over the Revere plan yesterday, calling it “a noble effort,” but adding, “I’m not sure at this time if that’s feasible.” Meanwhile, in an interview with WCVB-TV, Walsh said that since East Boston voted down the proposed casino there, he would prefer the eastern region’s casino license go to Foxwoods in Milford, saying a casino in Revere or Everett would have impacts on Boston “with little return.”

– See more at: The Boston Herald 

English: Logan Airport in East Boston.

English: Logan Airport in East Boston. (Photo: Wikipedia)

East Boston is a most put-upon neighborhood. They’ve got Logan Airport. It’s a place where you talk in bursts between long silences to let the planes pass. If you live towards the end of a busy runway, you become intimate with the underbody of the latest, greatest passenger transport. The infrastructure out there is old. It’s a poor neighborhood, probably because there aren’t many people all that eager to live with the noise. If you want your world rocked, probably this isn’t what you meant.

The roads need widening, the bridges need upgrading. The streets lack parking and the whole area lacks any sense of thrivingness (is that a word?). I can’t remember a time when it was any other way. A blue-collar area, hard-working people many of whom are clinging to the fringes of the middle class by fingernails. What would a casino do for them? Bring in busloads of happy holiday spenders, organized crime (like we don’t have enough of our own, home-grown criminals and need to get some from other places?). They tried to sell the locals on how much business a casino would bring in and how many jobs it would create.

Eastie people weren’t buying the pitch. Casinos have been around for a while. Everyone knows the only improvements the neighborhood will see from its presence are better roads leading to the casino … which will be more than made up for by the increased traffic. And those bums at the casino? They’re not going into downtown Eastie to pick up a pack of smokes or a quart of milk. They’re going to stay at the casino. They’ll never see where the townies live and wouldn’t care if there was no town at all. Not their problem.

English: Suffolk Downs MBTA station, East Boston

English: Suffolk Downs MBTA station, East Boston (Photo: Wikipedia)

Jobs? How many? Really? Connecticut isn’t booming with jobs or fat payments from their two huge casinos. Short of doing a Nevada and become all casino all the time, the residents who came out in droves to say “Hell no!” to the referendum see little advantage — and plenty of disadvantage — to the idea. Shot it down. Whack, rejected.

Now they’re saying how short-sighted people are, how hard it is to do business in Massachusetts. But you know? I’m pretty sure that the hard-headed Yankees over there in Eastie are just a little smarter than other dupes and shills the casino advocates have dealt with before. A little better informed. A lot harder to fool.

What does it mean to me? We get to stay off the radar. So far, praise the lord, no local fathead has decided building a huge casino would cure what ails us. Glad to have East Boston fight the battle on our behalf, even if they don’t know they are fighting for us and wouldn’t much care anyhow.

This doesn’t mean the casino guys are going to give up. No sirree. They’ll keep trying to find some community desperate enough, ignorant enough or poor enough to figure they have nothing to lose.

Thing is? There’s always something to lose. You won’t know what it was til it’s gone.


It was raining this morning. Not torrential rain. A steady, dismal drip, drip, drip. Kind of like our noses. Drip, drip, drip. And our spirits. Drip, drip, drip.

Whatever medication the doctor had to offer we are already taking. It was time to bring on The Big Gun. Jewish Penicillin. The cure-all. Chicken soup.

I make really good chicken soup. I didn’t learn it from my mother because she was a terrible cook and thought heating up a bowl of Campbell’s was haute cuisine. I get recipes from cook books and friends, then keep messing with them until they taste the way I like. For this reason, I’m a little hazy about quantities.

Nonetheless, this is about as foolproof a recipe as you could want. Although I’m not much for precise measuring when I cook, I’m very precise when I bake. But cooking is forgiving. If you don’t over-salt it or overwhelm it with garlic or some other strong spice, it will turn out well enough. Usually much better than that.

This is the recipe for chicken soup to cure what ails you. The kneidlach (matza ball) recipe follows.

Chicken soup 1


You need 4 boneless, skinless chicken quarters — lower or upper quarters will serve equally well — and a good-sized pot. A 7-quart tureen should do nicely. Some people like to use smaller pots, but I like room to spare. It makes less of a mess.

Put the chicken quarters in the pot. It doesn’t matter if the chicken isn’t entirely defrosted. It’ll defrost soon enough. Add enough water to cover the chicken with maybe an inch or two to spare. A lot of it will boil away as it cooks. Add a large quartered onion. If you have one, peel and cut up a carrot or two. Into the pot it goes.

If you have a sweet red or yellow pepper, clean it, dice it into bite-size pieces and throw it in the pot. Green pepper doesn’t work with this recipe. Trust me. It doesn’t.

Turn the heat to high. While the pot is coming to a boil, get the spices ready: salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, basil, dill and oregano (it’s not just for spaghetti sauce). And three beef bouillon cubes.

Crush the bouillon cubes and turn them to paste with some hot water. Into the soup pot. Add all the aforementioned spices. To taste. Don’t get carried away with the garlic and especially, not the salt. You can always add more, but it’s hard to remove. How much of each you use is a matter of personal taste. A couple of bay leaves should suffice. Otherwise, it’s up to you. I use a lot of basil and thyme. Some people like a bit of rosemary, but use with caution. If you have fresh parsley, chop it up and add it.

While this is coming to a boil, it’s time to make the goop, aka – Kneidlach or kneidels. Pronunciation is a matter of dispute, depending on your extraction. My mother and father spoke different version of Yiddish. The issue was never settled. If you aren’t sure, refer to them as matza balls. Technically, they are matza dumplings.

When the soup is boiling, turn it down to a high simmer. It should continue to boil slowly and gently.

Chicken soup 2

Kneidlach (Matza dumpling) Ingredients:

4 eggs, well beaten

1 cup matza meal

1/4 cup very cold water or seltzer

1/4 cup corn oil

A bit of pepper, a pinch of salt and my no longer so secret ingredient, a dash of nutmeg.

Mix it up in a bowl. I use a wooden spoon because it sticks less to wood than metal. Put the mixture in the fridge to chill. An hour or more makes the dumplings lighter and the mixture easier to handle.


The soup is done when the chicken is falling apart. Taste it. Add whatever you think is missing. Exactly how long to cook it? A couple of hours is enough. Contrary to cooking mythology, longer isn’t better. If you cook anything too long, it loses flavor. Except for salt which will grow stronger until it’s the only flavor left. If the soup boils down too much, add as much water as you need at any point.

Make sure there’s enough liquid to cook the kneidlach. Dumplings need to cook in liquid.


Bring the soup back to a full boil. Take the goop and roll it into balls and drop them (one at a time) into the boiling soup. How big should they be? I prefer medium. My granddaughter likes them huge. Some people make them really small. I find if they are really big, they don’t cook all the way through in the right amount of time. They should cook and start to float in five minutes or less.

Some folks like to chop up the chicken and return it to the soup. I sometimes do, sometimes I just serve the pieces. It makes a nice meal. This is when you will appreciate having used boneless, skinless chicken. You can, if you prefer, extract the chicken and make chicken salad. When I was even poorer, I made chicken salad as a separate meal the next day.

Serve very hot. The soup’s legendary curative powers are stronger when it’s piping hot.


Do not serve this soup before a large dinner. No one will eat dinner. I once served a clear version of this soup with Kneidlach before the turkey on Thanksgiving. I had an entire dinner left over, but not a drop of soup remained.