May it Please the Palate: 'Hoarders' and various sundry items

My niece Anastasia graduated from high school this year, and my sister Elaine had a graduation party at a local park. I asked Elaine what I could do to help. She told me, "I'm having chili-cheese dogs and fried chicken. I'm also making a baked bean casserole, baked rigatoni, two kinds of potato salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, and a veggie tray, with three kinds of dip. Pretzels and chips, beer, water, lemonade. Oh, and a cake and Jell-O salad for dessert.

"Plus, Aunt Tina is bringing her stuffed grape leaves, and Cousin Joe is bringing his gyro truck. So I'm pretty much covered. But maybe you could do a salad, Nick?" My sister offered.

She concluded, without a trace of irony, "I'm really keeping it simple, Nick."

Two days before the party, Elaine was bouncing off the walls. Fran went down to calm her down and help. She also, somehow, persuaded her to drop the rigatoni.

Caught up in the planning for a guest list of 250, I shopped for ingredients for Greek salad. How much to buy? I read something that figured 2ounces of lettuce per person, and went from there. I bought 5 pounds of spinach, 4 pounds of romaine, and 3 pounds of spring mix. That would feed about 96, according to the formula I'd found. I also purchased 10 English cucumbers, a few pounds of cherry tomatoes and variously colored peppers, a huge bag of green onions, a 7-pound block of Feta, a gallon of Kalamata olives, and a gallon of Greek dressing. It took nearly an hour with three helpers to make the salad, which stuffed two kitchen garbage bags full.

The party was a huge success. Perhaps 120 came and went. We ate and drank plenty, sang karaoke and danced, and had a good ol' time catching up with friends and relatives. But at the end of the day came the dreaded ritual: the division of leftovers with my sisters. Fran held up items like an auctioneer. It was nearly 1 a.m. While I did manage to snare a case of Yuenglings, my booby prize was the return of my salad.

I ended up with half a garbage bag full. Although it was kept on ice during the party, overnight, and for the 5-hour car trip, it was nonetheless the worse for wear once we got it home. My family was sick of it after having it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner two days straight.

With great hesitancy, I threw the rest away. There were still three gigantic bowls left in my downstairs 'frig. It was ... edible. I hate wasting food, and this was hard for me. But after salvaging about a jar's worth of olives, I did it. I texted my niece Anastasia, who responded that as far as she was concerned, after two days worth of leftovers, the dog food at the veterinary clinic where she works was starting to look good.

The weekend also had me contemplating whether to throw away something else I'd accumulated. These were my old Sports Illustrated ("SI") magazines. There were about six-plus years' worth, from 1967-1973. Somehow they'd reverted into Fran's possession over the years. After unsuccessful attempts to sell them at garage sales and through EBay, she gave them back to me after the graduation party, and I brought those home as well.

My original idea was to save a few covers and throw away the rest. Denny McLain winning his 30th game of 1968. O.J. Simpson breaking rushing records. Vince Lombardi getting carried off by his players. Joe Paterno, man of stellar character.

Then I got absorbed reading them, and they were fascinating sociological study. I was particularly interested in the treatment of women. In the early years of my collection, SI barely covered women's' sports, and when they did, they were unabashedly chauvinistic. A story about a women's golf tournament was merely a photo spread about "today's pretty female golfers." Coverage of female Olympians was the same, "Look at our attractive women athletes." And of course, there was the infamous annual swimsuit issue.

A few years later, SI was a little more hip. They'd done some terrific exposé journalism about the challenges facing Black athletes, and wrote a relentless article about the glaring inequalities facing women athletes on the cusp of Title IX's 1972 passage. In general, reading my old issues of SI was interesting counterpoint to what was happening in the US in the late '60s and early '70s.

So I am hedging on my original vow to finally throw away those 40-45-year-old magazines. They've outlasted my junior high, high school, college and law school years, and a long career of law practice. And now they're lasting longer in my house than last weekend's Greek salad.

Like Elaine, I started out with good intentions, trying to keep things simple. But unless I do something soon, I'm going to end up on the TV show "Hoarders."

Anyone want an old magazine, or some Greek olives?

Published: Thu, Jul 5, 2012