Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (Merrycoz.org)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Papa, Can You Hear Me?

I was commenting on Butterscotch Krimpets below and went on for so long I thought I'd just put it in a post.

I think I've seen these for sale at the CVS right next to my subway stop. I have to pop in on the way home for some toothpaste, and who knows what will leap into my basket? Maybe I'll just brush my teeth with Tastykakes and eliminate the middleman. Speaking of Tastykakes, do we have these in Nashville? I thought they were a suspicious Yankee brand like Drake's Cakes.

Does anybody else think the Tastykakes Web site seems rather fraught with innuendo, what with all the Kreamies and Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Rods? Like Candyland* meets The Red Shoe Diaries. How funny, and profoundly American, is it that Tastykakes are available in Sensable lo-carb form and a Doublicious version with twice, twice, twice the icing? For those who don't mind being buried in a piano case!

Also, you'll be relieved to learn that Tastykakes have been kosher-certified by the Orthodox Union, because God forbid you should defile your corporeal temple with a traif snack cake.

Once when the Comrade was still living in an apartment block on Avenue U, I was leaving his place one Saturday morning when two giggling college girls in kerchiefs and long denim skirts** stopped me in the hallway. "Are you Jewish?" they said. They seemed faintly hysterical, which made me a little hysterical myself because it seemed there was only one right answer to this question but Yahweh knew what it was. (Also, there's something disarming and weird about talking to strangers who live in your building, because you know you're not going to be able to make a clean getaway if they turn out to be needy or crazy.) I told them I wasn't Jewish***, and they started giggling even more maniacally and asked if I could come in and turn their oven on because they weren't allowed to do it themselves on the Sabbath.

I had been tapped for Shabbos Goy! My New York fantasy was complete.

I followed them into an airless one-bedroom apartment where everything smelled warm and coddled, like stewed food. Two or three other modestly attired twentysomethings of both sexes sat around a table expectantly looking at a toaster oven with a lone piece of chicken inside. There was an air of barely suppressed mirth, as if I were about to be the target of a practical joke, so I tried to look pleasant and noncommittal while surreptitiously sweeping the place for rubber vomit and onion gum.

My new clients showed me the button to press, and I did, and they were grateful, and I left. But I left with a Talmudic burden of unanswered questions: If they're supposed to rest on the Sabbath, why was it okay to put the chicken in the oven, but not okay to turn the oven on? Were they all going to share that one chicken breast? What if they hadn't been able to find a wandering Gentile? Did they have some backup Tastykakes?

After all, as the Yiddish proverb says, Mann tracht und Gott lacht.****

*The alert reader will note that there's a Queen Frostine in Candyland, but that's not how I got my Internet name. My mother used to talk about her friend "Frostine," which I always thought the biggest hoot -- imagine how devastated I was as an adult when I found out it wasn't Frostine but Fostine. Which is funny in its own way but lacks the deluded grandeur afforded by the extra consonant.

**Live in New York long enough and you come to recognize this look as Hip Orthodox.

***There are four Jews in Tennessee.

****"Man plans, and God laughs."

6 Comments:

Blogger Recovering Baptist said...

No, no, no. There are plenty of Jews in Tennessee. But they're all Messianic Jews, so they all believe in the baby Jesus. Now there's a group of people who get a lot of holidays.

And no, we don't have Tastykakes in Tennessee. You have to order them from their, I agreed, mildly disturbing website. Although I like to dwell on their trivia page.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Tastykakes are "born" in Philly so they have a limited delivery range. Sort of like Middleswarth Potato Chips...oh yum!

My Mom usually sends me a care package of these treats once a year (and when I go home I buy boxes of them and fill my suitcase up).

2:47 PM  
Anonymous ashok said...

I go to a really small fundamentalist school, and the thing about fundamentalist kids is that they have a weird set of notions regarding what they find funny.

They probably thought it was really funny to have you push a button for an oven, probably thinking that Gentiles could be made to believe anything about the Orthodox. I dunno, though. That explanation makes some sort of sense, so I'm doubtful about it.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous ashok said...

Big question:

What is the appeal of Post Secret? And why do I think I'm not going to like this answer?

7:04 PM  
Blogger frostine99 said...

Ashok, this makes me feel defensive before I've even started to answer it, so I don't think i will! If I were the kind of person who used smileys, I'd type one here.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I just wanted to show you what I was forced to do!

8:29 AM  

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