Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Rant of the Season: Pumpkin belongs in Pie. Period.

Pumpkin belongs in Pie. Period. (And maybe bisque, especially if it's finished with sherry.) But there should be no Pumpkin flavoring in bagels, coffee, vodka (really?), tortilla chips and beer. Pumpkin flavored Pringles (no, I do not jest) are an abomination against natural law. Allow me to illustrate what happens when the epidemic of flavoring everything with pumpkin gets out of control:

I was in a hurry, trying to get a cup of coffee at the airport before my flight boarded. The line seemed pretty short at Starbucks, so I decided to brave it. And things started well--although I should have known that the lady in front of me carrying her dog was going to be a problem.

"How are you today?" the dog lady asked.

No answer from the barista, just a harried smirk.

"You got any specials today?"

The barista indicated the chalkboard, where a Pumpkin Spice Latte was featured. 

"Pumpkin Spice, eh? What does it taste like?"

(Editors Note: In the background of the security camera footage, I can be seen stuffing my neck pillow in my mouth.)

"Would you like to try a sample?"

"What do you think, Mary Alice?" This to her traveling companion, who is also carrying a dog in a small crate. "Should we try it?"

"I don't know, Mabel, do you think it's real pumpkin? You know how those imitation flavors don't agree with me?"

"Is it real pumpkin, miss? My sister gets really gassy if she eats anything artificial."

I glanced at my watch: boarding had started (and I am really hoping Mary Alice is going to foul the air on someone else's flight.) I try to sneak a peak at her boarding pass, but the large package of organic dog treats obscures the view.

"No, it's not real pumpkin ma'am. Is there something else you would like to try?"

"Ah, shucks, I kinda had my heart set on Pumpkin Spice."

"Maybe we should try it, Mabel. I brought some air freshener just in case my intestines started acting up."

Mabel turns to face her sister, and the boarding pass swings into my view. To my horror, they are on #369--my flight.

"Ok, what the heck. You only live once. One small pumpkin spice latte."

"Is that hot or iced?"

"Iced? Who in tarnation wants to have iced coffee?"

"Not so fast, Mabel! Maybe iced coffee is easier on the intestines?"

Mary Alice relays this question to the barista, who shrugs. A TSA agent gets into the back of the line, and I am hopeful the twins will be confused for a pair of terrorists. (It's even possible they really are terrorists--how do I know the matching toy poodles aren't filled with Semtex?) 

"Well, Mary Alice? Whadaya think? We can't take all day. I've got to take Peaches to the ladies room before we board."

"Is there a cost difference?"

"They are both 4.25$."

"4.25? For a cup of coffee? Are you out of your mind?"

The barista shook her head; no, she was not out of her mind. (Editor's note: I am now out of my mind, and am doubly glad that TSA regulations prevent the carrying of sharp objects.)

"You got anything cheaper than that?"

"A small cup of coffee is two dollars."

"But there's no pumpkin in it? Right?"

"That's correct. No pumpkin in the regular coffee."

Sadly, I couldn't stay for the ensuing discussion, because Peaches wasn't the only one who needed to go to the bathroom before boarding. There was a line to use the bathroom and I just barely made my flight, ducking inside the gate right behind--you guessed it--Mabel and Mary Alice and Peaches just before the gate was closed.

Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I considered asking them if they had gone with the pumpkin spiced coffee, but I didn't have to bother. Mary Alice had been dead on about the effect of artificial flavors on her intestines, and she evidently didn't have the air freshener handy.

If this true story (Ok, it's embellished, but still true) doesn't make my point, nothing will. I am calling for a ban on all pumpkin spice before Pumpkin Spice toothpaste appears. Ooooppppsss, it's too late:

Rant over. 
Cheers, p 

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Intern, coming in 2019 from TouchPoint Press; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series, which was a finalist for the 2019 Killer Nashville Claymore award; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets. Peter is the creator, producer and host of Your Health Matters, a health information program, which airs on cable television, streams on YouTube and sounds off on podcast. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Summer of Chicken and Biscuits

Like a lot of other things, The Summer of Chicken and Biscuits started innocently enough, on a whim. It was a Wednesday night in June, and, with the sun still high in a cloudless sky, it was a nice night for a drive. We hadn't been to the Wheel Inn in Benson, VT for a spell--where they cook up the best chicken and biscuits in Vermont on Wednesday nights--and so we hopped in the car and set off.

Those of you who have taken an evening drive in these parts about this time of year will know that the peonies are blooming, the tree canopies are swaying with the light spring breeze, and the smell of lilacs perfumes the air. (Those of you who haven't should get around to it pretty darn quick.) What with all the sights and sounds and smells the ride sugared off nice and pleasant--even with my kids in the back seat.

Yessiree, things were good when we pulled into the driveway of the Wheel Inn there on the four-corners of Benson--God's Country. There was even a spot in the parking lot and a table in the dining area. (No waiting for chicken and biscuits? Can you imagine such a thing?) 

Our good fortunes continued: No, they hadn't run out of biscuits (according to Kim, the waitress) and, at least for the time being, the Victory Circle Pie was still in good supply--but no promises, of course. It is, naturally, unthinkable to go to the Wheel Inn and not have pie, not when they bake over a dozen different varieties right there in the kitchen. (I like all of them best.)

Nice thing about chicken and biscuits is the service, of course. It's about all I can do to take a few sips of my Switchback lager (think heaven in a sixteen-oz glass) before the plates slap down on the table, brimming over with baking powder biscuits, chunks of chicken in gravy, and enough mashed potatoes to fortify a barn full of square-dancers. It's the peas I come for, though, a mess of them wedged in between the biscuit and the mound of mashed, soaking in chicken gravy--just the way my doctor recommends them. 

Now, I mentioned this before, but I'm old enough to repeat myself, so I'll say it again: No trip to the Wheel Inn is complete without pie. It's just downright unnatural, like electric cars and left-handed people, not to have pie when you are in Benson. The problem is--in complete contrast to the race for the 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination--there are just too damn many good choices. Unofficially and off the top of the my head, we have Apple, Raspberry, Coconut creme, Chocolate cream, Victory Circle (think Toll House), Peanut Butter, Blueberry, Banana Cream, Blackberry, Walnut, Pecan, Strawberry Rhubarb, and Almond Joy. For those of you <gasp> who don't like pie, there is Grapenut mouse, Three-berry crisp, and their famous Cheesecake.

There are few things I can compare to the feeling of leaving The Wheel Inn after chicken and biscuits, but walking up a steep hill with a refrigerator tied to your back is one of them. Best to bring a leather awl with you to make another notch in your belt, or just wear elastic pants. (No sweatpants please: This isn't Fair Haven!)  

And so began the Summer of Chicken and Biscuits. It's been a great run--no doubt--but I suspect that once the school year begins we'll get busy with soccer, piano lessons, Jazz band, scouts, Key Club and whatever else we fill our time with. It's one of the things I like best about Chicken and Biscuits at the Wheel Inn (besides the pie), it's a throwback to a simpler and less over-scheduled time, when families actually ate meals together. 

But enough of that, it's Wednesday night, time to get on the road to Benson for the the last Chicken and Biscuits of the summer. I can't wait to get to those peas...

cheers, p

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter is He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.