Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Macho Meal for Wayward Husbands!!! by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Humor,Philosophy,Robert Katzman's Stories — Bob at 4:06 pm on Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From 1964 to 1969, when I was a teenager, I lived with my newly liberated father, who was originally married in 1946.  His name was Israel Katzman, but he was invited to “Americanize” his name, just before graduating from grammar school, in order to possibly prevent him from experiencing discrimination when he looked for a job.  He changed his name to Irving and Israel became his middle name.  He was practical about certain realities, but also intensely Jewish and proud of it.  Something he passed on to me.

My dad had an open door policy for wayward husbands who were temporarily dislocated, after their being ejected from their houses.  So, I got to know my dad’s friends, gradually, as they sought short-term refuge from their volcanic wives.  I would sit silently listening to their stories of woe, then hear about their hot girl friends, and eventually my dad and his pals, all in their fifties, would refight World War II.

Their side always won.

I imagine they edited their experiences because of my tender young ears, but occasionally whiskey was poured and words flowed with less reservation.  Some guys were distraught that their misadventures got them thrown out and they were filled with remorse.  Some guys needed a few bucks to tide them over, and my dad always had something to give them.  No one left with nothing.  I have no idea if anyone paid my dad back, but with all his relationships, wheels were greased and some doors opened for us, too, when we were financially backed against a wall.

I learned from all this–that friendship is not just about calling up a guy when you want to go to dinner or a movie.  It also meant that when someone was in real trouble, they could call on you, too.  My dad and I housed and fed those guys for the brief time they slept on our couch, and when they had the money, they brought us bags of food.

Sometimes, we all went out to a movie.  I was always included and the men treated me like I was one of the guys.  They made me feel good about myself, which at fifteen or so, was not a common emotion for me.  I think my father was aware of the beneficial nature of my being part of the group and not just watching them from the sidelines.  He was always aware of his responsibility to actively be my father.

My father, born in Kentucky in 1912, was on his own for a long time before he married my mother, and he was an excellent cook. He bummed around the country during the Great Depression as a teen, got escorted out of some less friendly towns by the local sheriff, and joined the United States Army on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) 1942, exactly one hundred days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

He fought the Japanese from New Caledonia to New Guinea to Guadalcanal, as the Allies chased their enemy north, from island to island, moving ever closer to Japan.  He learned to take care of himself and how to interact with very different people from all over America.

His being Jewish was not an advantage in an American Army that was overwhelmingly Protestant, German-American and/or Southern Baptist.  He was once chosen by other Jewish men in his unit to petition his colonel for permission to celebrate Passover, after that request was initially denied.

Permitted to speak in his colonel’s tent, he argued passionately that it was wrong that the Christian soldiers could celebrate Easter in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but that the much smaller number of Jewish soldiers were being treated like they were second-class citizens, if they couldn’t observe their own important holiday, and that was simply wrong.  After all, he argued, exactly what was it they were fighting for?  His rigid, and Baptist, commanding officer, initially hostile to my father’s plea, could not refute his final point, and permission was granted to my father to inform the Jewish soldiers they could observe Passover.

My dad managed to locate a rabbi on the primitive island, and a major Jewish holiday thousands of years old, commemorating Hebrews escaping slavery in Egypt, was celebrated in the middle of a steamy jungle in the South Pacific by a bunch of tough Jews from the West Side of Chicago.

He had other adventures during the long war, but he told me he was proudest of that single moment in his three and a half years in the army.  He eventually became a sergeant in the Signal Corps, taught many men how to use Morse code, and was part of the late October 1944 Leyte Gulf invasion that liberated the Philippines from their harsh rule by the Japanese.

For a while, my dad had a Philippine girlfriend.  He told me she was a singer in a nightclub. I saw her picture once.  She was good-looking.

He was wounded in his leg by pieces of red-hot metal shrapnel from an exploding bomb dropped by a Japanese warplane during an aerial attack.  He crawled over to a medic for aid in stopping the fast flow of blood, but rejected an offer by a doctor, later that same day, to be evacuated and sent back to the States with a Purple Heart.

Irving knew his immigrant parents were watching each day, as Western Union messengers walked down the streets of his old immigrant neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, holding their breaths in agony as they waited to find out whose boy had died in the war.  Which house would be the one where a son would never return?

My father refused to put them through that horrifying guessing game, even though some of the telegrams were about men being wounded.  But the parents wouldn’t know it was that kind of reprieve from death until they steeled themselves and actually opened their telegrams.  He was that kind of sensitive and aware son, father to me and then to his friends, when they needed him.  He died with that shrapnel still in him.

I learned about the war by listening to all the stories told by my father and his friends.  I learned about my father–and how he handled himself during that war–from many of those same friends, when he was out working and they were staying with us.  He was no big hero who came home with a lot of medals and all that.  But he was a pretty big deal to a certain group of men who flowed in and out of our lives in the fifty-five years following the war’s end, in 1945.

I attended many funerals over the decades–two in one weekend once–as all of his friends died one by one, until only he was left and then he died, too, on May 18th, 2000, at eighty-seven.  I was with him all night, and he died in my arms.  He missed all his friends terribly, and I wouldn’t let him go out alone.

Was he a hero?  To me he was.  But you already know that, don’t you?

Here is one of his great recipes that I learned to make after watching him feed his friends, over and over.

I am writing this memoir just before Thanksgiving 2008, because his soup is made from turkey and it’s something that reminds me of him, for which I am thankful.  I bet you’ll really like it.  I think it’s kosher.

If there are two or three people sharing this meal, this recipe will easily feed all of them.  If there are more people, go out and kill another turkey.

Irving Katzman’s Turkey Soup

Take two quarts of chicken broth and pour it in a large metal pot that has a top.

Put in three turkey legs and three or four turkey necks, and bring the chicken soup to a boil.

While waiting for the broth to boil, add two sliced and diced yellow Spanish onions, stirring them in.

Then cut up about four or five green onions after cutting off the roots on the end of the white part and disposing of them.  Add the green onions to the pot.  Stir.

Add a small package of baby carrots, about 25 of them or so, and stir them in.

Adding all these cold ingredients slows down the boiling.  That’s why you should start the boiling part at the beginning of all these instructions.  Keep the cover on the pot all the time while you are preparing the various ingredients.  You don’t want to lose any heat or risk losing the strong concentrated flavors either.

Add six vine-ripened tomatoes, medium-sized, after cutting them up into chunks on a large plate.  Cut out and remove the stem bases, and dump all of the tomato chunks plus all of the juice into the pot.  Stir.

Add a small package, a few ounces, of a good brand of thin linguini noodles to the pot.  But first, crumble them up in your hands so the noodles are in small pieces.  Stir everything up, so the heavy pieces of turkey keep moving and cooking.  It helps disintegrate the onions and the tomatoes, too.

Take a large container of salt, and shake it all around the top, once.  Then stir that in, thoroughly.

Take a bottle of Szechwan seasoning and shake it all around three times, and then stir that in, vigorously.  It will make your mouth feel all tingly and the flavor of all the various ingredients will be enhanced by the spice as well.  If you end up loving this recipe as much as I do, you can adjust the salt and Szechwan to your own particular taste.  You can also add a little at a time and keep tasting it, if you want, until you like it.

Reduce the boiling water to a simmer, meaning little but constant bubbles on the surface of the soup.

Switch from boiling to simmering the minute the water begins to boil.  I should have said this earlier, but better late than never.  You don’t want whatever is on the bottom of the pot to burn, so stir frequently.

All this stirring and cutting will use up a lot of energy, and make you very hungry.  Very hungry.

It will help if you don’t eat much the day before, too.  Turkey ain’t chicken, man.  It has strong flavor and takes longer to cook and make it tender enough to chew easily.  Cook everything for two hours, total.

All the combined flavors make an intoxicating perfume.  Don’t make any other plans for the evening.

When Irving’s Turkey Soup is finished–and you’ll be thankful too, by then–shut off the flame.  Then using whatever kitchen tools are handy, take one big piece of turkey out of the pot for each person.  Be careful, because if the turkey leg or neck slips out of your grip and falls back into the soup, you could get burned by the splash.  You won’t appreciate that experience very much, so let the strongest person present remove the turkey parts from the pot and distribute them.  Use a deep ladle to spoon the bubbling soup into your bowls.  You are best advised to use large bowls to make this easy.  If you don’t have large bowls, go to Target or someplace and buy those first.  This is not a small bowl, delicate kind of experience.

After your soup bowl cools down enough to start attacking the turkey, be careful.  You’ll need a fork and a sharp knife to cut the turkey off the leg, but the turkey necks you have to gnaw on, like a demented terrier.  This is not a first date kind of thing…unless you’ve already slept together, because then it’s very sensuous.  Rent the old Tom Jones classic movie about food as seduction, in case your lady misses the point, initially.

You have to use your hands a lot to remove sharp bones and so on.  If you sit across from each other, looking soulfully into each other’s eyes while talking, tearing and making a complete mess of yourselves, it will be like an aphrodisiac and no one will care about the damn dishes.

Then, you can have Turkey Sex!


Send this story and recipe to someone you love.  Or someone you used to love, for old time’s sake.  Send it to older people you may know who still remember the war, even if they weren’t in it.  Send it to farm families, if you know of any.  Start your own new November Turkey Soup tradition and perhaps you’ll  remember my father, Irving, too.

When my father died, his tombstone said: Israel Katzman.  I knew all that “Irving” stuff was just temporary.   He was plenty American enough without disguising his heritage.  I teach that to my kids.

When I think of him–and God knows I think of him–I imagine my father back with all his old buddies from the rough West Side of Chicago, happy, still refighting their big War, and nobody ever needing anything.

But I also imagine my father watching me, from somewhere in the Cosmos.  And, from time to time, when he can, and when I really need it, I see him pulling a few strings, like he always could, to help me open some door that’s been closed to me and help me to survive yet another crisis. The Celestial Cavalry.

That may be my fantasy, but then, you didn’t know my father.

He was always there, right by my side–unlike almost everyone else–when things were at their worst, ready to face whatever the next damn thing that was coming our way.  He wasn’t afraid and he never backed down.

Why would that ever change?


Readers, when you plan your holiday dinners, think about inviting someone you might know who has no family left, and invite them to join you, too.  If you’ve never done that, you can’t imagine how happy you will make them feel.  Plus, it’s a very nice thing to do, and your kids will learn about kindness and sharing by watching you.  They are always watching you.  Something to think about, and not just for one day a year, either.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Bob Katzman

Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $24.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.

 Twitter handle: bob_katzman


Comment by Don Larson

November 25, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

HI Bob,

Thank you for a wonderful Thanksgiving story about your Dad and his sumptuous recipe. I’m hungry now.

I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!


Comment by Bob

November 26, 2008 @ 12:06 am

Hey Don,

You always say such nice things, and I always believe them, too.

I rewrote the story at 1 AM tonight, as I usually do when I re-check the spelling, punctuation and clarity of what I am trying to say.

If you have time, reread it. It’s a longer, better story now, with much more detail I forgot to add at first. I think I was trying to convey my father’s generous heart, and how well he influenced me, fifty years after, in the way I treated my own kids. In a couple of weeks, I can start over and teach my first new grandchild! Gender to be announced later.

Now, Don, THAT is a very cool Chanukkah present.

See you, my friend. Go ahead and eat waaaay too much. Really, it’s ok.


Comment by Alan

November 28, 2008 @ 8:54 am


My favorite parts of this story include your further definition of “friendship”, and inviting people into your home who may not have a family. Great lessons for the future and for any family. Thanks a lot.


Comment by Adele Ballis

November 28, 2008 @ 5:31 pm

Bob, I never heard this story before and really enjoyed it. I certainly understand, even better now, the closeness between the two of you.
I also want to say I really enjoyed Thanksgiving with your family. You’ve got a lot to be proud of, starting with Joy.
Love, A. Adele

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