Pie with the gravy and other treats we had as a kid

The rolling pin didn’t come out every day when I was a child. But when it did it meant Mother Dear was making a special treat.

From friend apple pies to pie with the gravy. Pineapple, coconut cake to salmon croquette. It was always a special day when the rolling pin or “the special pots and pans” in the back of the cupboards came out.

What are some of the foods you grew up on as a kid that you miss as an adult because mom or grand mom no longer cook for you?

For me it was pie with the gravy, known to everybody else as peach cobbler. The first time grand mom made this I wanted to run in the streets in celebration because it was so good. I didn’t know what peach cobbler was. All I saw was this perfect brown crust with the juices of the peaches seeping out.

So I called it pie with the gravy.

No one makes it like Mother Dear.

Food tasted different back then. Today, we have these amazing non stick Teflon pants. Mother Dear cooked in a skillet. Our greens were seasoned with salt pork before we transitioned to the healthier smoked turkey wings and legs.

This has been an ongoing conversation with people over the years. Their mom makes the best lasagna, fried chicken, rolls or macaroni and cheese. This were meals we enjoyed as children, but we rarely had as adults.

My Aunt Gheri made the best chili I ever had. She’d make two huge pots of her famous chili and pass it out in Mason jars. I was spoiled, however, and got two Mason jars. I protected my jars with my life until devouring the last bite.

I’ve not had chili that tasted like hers in decades.

Do you know what the best restaurant in the world would be?

If we could gather all of our mom and grand mom’s recipes and found the right chef who could execute the recipes with the right ingredients and a dash of love, we’d have a great restaurant.

Michigan-Michigan State push to be Tobacco Road North

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo churned his legs on a treadmill inside his coaches office and basketball empire built off Breslin Center, seeking to stay in shape during another busy Big Ten basketball race. He’d just been named one of The Detroit News’ Persons of the Year and I was tasked with interviewing him and bringing his story to light.

The great thing about Izzo is nobody walks into his office and simply talks about the task at hand. The man’s mind skips. He rambles and dreams bigger although he has accomplished big dreams.

He wants his program to be great. But guess what? He wants the program down the road in Ann Arbor to be almost as great. He talked about the importance of winning a second national title that day. But he wants basketball notoriety to shine a light on the state of Michigan.

Izzo is a Michigan State man and a state of Michigan man.

He wants the state of Michigan to become Tobacco Road North and hopes some day that fans and the media views the annual Michigan-Michigan State clashes in the same vein as Duke-North Carolina — viewed by many to be the most intense and important college basketball rivalry in the land.

A few years earlier Warde Manuel bombed golf balls at the University of Michigan golf course. He is a former football player at Michigan, but basketball was also on his mind that day. Manuel wanted what Izzo has in his back pocket. Big Ten titles. Final Four appearances. A national title. But he did not want it at the expense of the Spartans disappearing from the national scope.

He believed that Michigan basketball could have a further reaching scoop than MSU. When you look at the Spartans roster over the years, the vast majority of players are midwestern men. Manual believed UM could be a world wide program made up of players from Michigan to California. Illinois to Italy. Indiana to Germany.

He never used the term Tobacco Road North, but it was obvious that the man wanted Michigan to become the center of the basketball universe. That may happen on the court, but watching a blitzkrieg of enthusiasm from our state’s fan base may never happen.

Basketball drips from the veins of people in places like North Carolina, Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky. It does not here. When you watch games in those states it just seems different. Games seem more important and the passion rumbles on the court and into the streets.

We are seeing signs of Michigan becoming a mini Tobacco Road North on the basketball floors of Crisler Center and Breslin. Michigan clinched the Big Ten regular season title with a convincing victory over MSU in Ann Arbor, which means state teams have had a share in the last four conference championships.

MSU rebounded Sunday to beat Michigan and keep alive its NCAA tournament hopes. That likely means the Spartans will play in their 23rd consecutive tournament beginning next week.

Now if you are a diehard Wolverine or Spartan who hates the other school with a passion you might want to stop reading. Although the Spartans and Wolverines are heated rivals on the court the hatred off the court is not as intense.

When Michigan decided to modernize its program and not make coaches walk a quarter mile from their offices to practice in the driving snow and wind, Izzo offered coaches and administrators a walking tour of his palatial digs to give them ideas on how to spruce up their facilities, which is a key recruiting tool.

Manuel said if there was anything he could do to help Izzo — within reason — he would.

Tobacco Road North? That would be nice.

The day I fell in love with my daughter, Celine

Wife Abs and I were older parents so there was a fear of having a child with mental or physical deficits.

We wanted to make sure that our first child was OK. Midway through the pregnancy Abs underwent a DNA test where doctors stick a needle through her stomach and remove fluid from the womb.

I got to see the entire process on a television monitor.

Celine was sleep when the procedure began. The doctor slowly inserted the needle at her feet so he would not cause brain damage by inserting it near her head. As the needle breeched the womb unborn Celine became agitated and reached for the needle. She began kicking as if to say “get this thing out of here.”

The doctor paused the procedure until unborn Celine settled down. At that moment I fell in love with my unborn daughter. And at that moment I knew Abs was giving birth to a fire ball in a few months.

She already had a personality. What I saw on the screen that day is the same woman who is now 22 years old. She is still a fire ball.

That fire ball is a senior at Stanford University with a job lined up in Chicago in the fall.

After this procedure we played classical music because that is supposed to stimulate the mind. And I talked to unborn Celine every night before going to bed.

“We are going to make sure you have a good life when you come into the world. And we are going to have a good time,” I’d say to her.

Celine came into the world crying, like most babies. Abs had a C-section because Celine was a breeched baby where she was standing up in the womb rather than being head down.

My job was to take Celine from the operation room to recovery.

“Welcome to the world little baby,” I said to our crying bundle of joy. “Mom and dad love you.”

She stopped crying, looked at me with these piercing black eyes as if to say “So you are the guy who has been talking to me these past few weeks.”

Yep I was that guy. I was also her guy.

Why I love my wife Abs

We were done. We were finished.

I’d never have to see this woman again. It was 1998 and my then girlfriend Abs and I had a big fight in our San Diego hotel room prior to the Super Bowl that year.

I was there to cover the game. Abs dropped in to enjoy the festivities. But something bad happened at the end. And that appeared to be the end of the line for us.

Abs flew home first. I returned to Detroit a few days later and dropped in on my Aunt Margo. She immediately sensed something was wrong although I assured her everything was going well in my life.

But she kept bugging me.

“What’s wrong?” she asked again.

I finally fessed up and told her about breaking up with Abs.

“Boy, you’d better go over there and make up with that girl,” she said.

I waited a few days before mustering up the courage to ring her front door bell in Oak Park. I didn’t know what the reaction would be. I basically told her to get lost. She said the same to me.

I rang the door bell. She answered the door.

“What took you so long?” she asked.

I got all sappy and stupid and said life was not the same without her. Please take me back. I’m just bad sometimes.

She forgave me and took me back. That’s when I knew I loved Abs.

We were married within the year.

Three months after we said “I do” we were in Tuscan. Now I was covering the Fiesta Bowl. The committee planned a day of bar hoping for the media. We probably had a couple margaritas too many when I stepped off a bus to hit another Mexican restaurant.

Abs trailed. I turned just in time to see her grab her head and fall. Luckily, Freep writer Nick Cotsonika trailed and grabbed her before she hit her head on the steps.

We’d find out later she was carrying our first child Celine.

Why I like Charles Barkley

The media sat in end zone seats at the Spectrum in Philadelphia where a loose ball bounced into my arms during a Detroit Pistons — Sixers game in the 1990s.

I caught it and tossed it back to Sixers star forward Charles Barkley. He recognized me from an in depth interview/bull session we had earlier that season at The Palace.

“Hey I thought you were going to come visit me before the game,” Barkley said.

I explained that Pistons center Bill Laimbeer sustained a last minute injury so it did not allow me time to come into the Sixers dressing room for pregame.

“It figures that ass hole had to be involved,” Barkley said.

You’d think the conversation would be over because an NBA game before a nearly packed house needed to be finished. But Barkley does not follow rules all the time.

He asked about the family and how I enjoyed covering a bunch of jerks like the Pistons. Finally the official grew impatient, blew his whistle, and demanded the ball from Barkley.

“Excuse me,” he said. “I have something else I got to do.”

That exchange explains Barkley in a nut shell. Irrelevant, funny and a man who walked outside the lines in life. This is why I like Barkley.

A few days earlier we sat together in the visitors dressing room at the Palace talking life, race and his controversial “I am not a role model” statement that sent the sporting world blaze.

We spoke for about 45 minute prior to the Sixers game against the Pistons. The media must leave the premises 90 minutes before tip off so my time was nearly up. A fidgety public relations guy stood near by ready to give me the boot because it was a few seconds after 6 pm for a 7:30 tip.

“He’s got to leave,” the PR person said to us.

I gathered my pre-game notes, thanked Barkley for his time, and was headed out the door.

“We are not finished,” Barkley said firmly. “My man does not have to leave.”

I did my best pivot and returned. We continued to talk for another 10 minutes and it was the only time that I can remember being in an NBA dressing room after the bewitching hour.

A few years later we stood in the middle of the Phoenix Suns dressing room laughing in stiches.

Players, media, front office staff, security. Barkley, who gained much of his fame with the Philadelphia 76ers, was finishing his career with the Suns and he was doing what he does best — besides dunking basketballs — and that’s making fun of teammates.

Today’s victim was 7-foot-7 gentile giant Manute Bol, who ran the floor like a giraffe and acted as a perfect gentleman off the floor. His mistake this day was walking by Barkley’s dressing stall with no shoes on. Barkley pounced and for the next 15 minutes cracked joke after joke only on Bol’s feet.

One of his best lines focused on how ashy Bol’s feet were.

“Lotion is no match for those ashy ass feet,” Barkley cracked. “You need Pennzoil or Quaker State on those bad boys.”

The abuse became so intense that the 7-foot-7 Bol shrunk into a 5-10 man. He held his hands up in surrender saying in his African accent: “Charlie. Charlie. You are not funny. Stop if Charlie.”

He was funny. Barkley was the reason I was bent over in laughter with pain shooting from my stomach and tears flowing from my eyes.

This is why I like Charles Barkley.

What bars and restaurants will survive our new world?

Mini Vinnie is my cuisine tour guide for downtown Detroit, Mid town and Corktown.

The former Detroit Free Press sports writer lives in Mid Town and can walk to some of his favorite restaurants. Most people call him Vince Ellis. I call him Mini Vinnie. He hipped me to the Brakeman and Penny Reds which I absolutely adore, especially prior to Detroit Lions Sunday home games. I often never make it to Ford Field, opting to check out all the NFL games across the country at the Brakeman while munching on fried chicken, potato salad and honey biscuits from Penny Reds.

Mini and I sometimes met up at Founders for Friday afternoon beer tasting and snacks before Covid-19. We’ve hit The Detroit Shipping Company, Rocco’s Deli and Jolly Pumpkin. Motor City Brewing Works is a great place for pizza and a beer also. Have any of you had pesto on pizza before? Try it.

One place Mini Vinnie and I will not hit is Lady of the House in Corktown. He’s been there several times and has invited me for one of its unique dinners. Lady of the House is closing, a reminder that some of our favorite bars and restaurants won’t survive the pandemic and state shutdowns imposed by Gov. Whitmer.

Gov. Whitmer saved lives, but killed business.

During this attack of the virus the Governor carried out one of my political pet peeves. Democrats have a game plan and they carry it out without Republican input. Republicans do the same thing.

My thinking is the more eyes on the prize the better chance we have of coming up with a better solution. We live in a smart society. Why could we not come up with some type of compromise that saved lives, saved jobs and saved us from being depressed by being shut in?

Why did we not have both parties working deep into the night, working together?

I’m either na├»ve or missing something. My backwards ass keeps waiting for our entire government to come together to try to fix things. And the few times the government bonds politicians brag about it like they’ve discovered the cure for cancer.

If I were a government official I would fess up that I do not have all the answers. I’d reach across the aisle often seeking solutions to very complicated problems.

At some point we will venture from our virtual worlds into the real world. It might be shocking to see what’s left of our world of bars and restaurants. We will miss last call of some of our favorite haunts.

Lady of the House was just one of them.

Michigan hoops: Like a yo-yo on a string

When the Bad Boy Pistons were on a roll ripping opponents apart with precision and good decisions team captain Isiah Thomas often said the team played like a yo-yo on a string.

In other words everybody pulled in the same direction and the slight of hand was beauty to behold. There is no better place to see everyone pulling in the same direction as the Michigan Wolverines basketball team.

“A lot of guys can be selfish, looking at their stats, but we don’t have that here with Michigan basketball,” Isaiah Livers told the media recently. “When we all win, we all shine. Everyone has bought in to the culture. We don’t have one selfish player on our team. When everyone buys into that, you are going to raise banners and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Their coach Juwan Howard used to raise the roof back in the day. Now it is time to raise those banners than Livers talked about. If nothing else Howard should rise above his piers and be named Big Ten and National coach of the year. Everybody and every thing is buying in from the inside brute and precision of 7-foot freshman center Hunter Dickinson to the crisp passing and offense of Franz Wagner and the stellar offense of Livers.

The Wolverines (17-1 overall, 12-1 in the Big Ten) are running away with the conference race following Thursday nights 79-57 victory over Iowa at Crisler Arena. Now team like Baylor and Gonzaga, who were considered out of reach, are well within reach and at some point will be targets of the spirited Wolverines.

This team is even beginning to resonate in the often sleepy college basketball hamlet of Ann Arbor where basketball takes a back seat to football 365 days a year. Wolverines are chirping about the defensive footwork of Chaundee Brown, who is strong enough and tough enough survive Hunger Game battles that dominate Spartans camp to the north.

Michigan was often considered the pretty boys of the Big Ten. Yeah, they had stars and could score points, but toughness wasn’t a word used to describe them. No more.

To steal a line from former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, Dickinson built a “fucking wall” around Iowa star player Luka Garza and walled him off from pounding the Wolverines again. The Great Garza scored 77 points in two games against Michigan last season but struggled Thursday against the Great Wall of Dickinson, scoring just 16 points on 6-for-19 shooting.

Livers and Wagner are fantastic players, but let’s get a little geeky here. Does anybody else appreciate the defensive footwork of Brown, who stays between his opponent and the basket with a river dance of movement?

The Wolverines will be dancing soon, making a run in the NCAA tournament, usually reserved for Spartans and Blue Devils. It’s been a fun ride, from the 92-87 victory over Ohio State, one of the greatest games in Earth, to the methodical demolition of Iowa.

It’s been like a yo-yo on a string.

Tiger Woods like many pro athletes drives like a bat out of hell

Tiger Woods isn’t the only professional athlete who drives like a bat out of hell.

It is a trend that has played out across America for years. Unfortunately Tiger lost control and may have ended his career. Other athletes navigate our streets and byways at reckless speeds and get away with it. It is a secret that few sports fans know about.

Do you remember the photo of former Detroit Piston center Andre Drummond cruising to practice on I-75 at 96 miles per hour? Things like that happen every day.

Many professional athletes are multimillion dollar corporations and live jam packed days with places to be and people to meet. In Tigers case he was late for a shoot and a golf lesson with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees at 7:30 am. At 7 a.m. Tiger peeled out of his hotel parking lot and nearly hit the car of a director for the television show Grown-ish, according to TMZ.

Tiger was late. He had an hour drive to his photo shoot. The smart thing would have been to call ahead and report that he is going to be late. Who is going to argue? He’s Tiger Woods for heaven sakes.

Instead it appears he piloted his vehicle at a high rate of speed through the dangerous hair pin curves of Hawthorn Blvd. Los Angeles County Sheriffs are still investigating the crash and have not released how fast Woods was traveling. But the agency said he was traveling at a high rate of speed because he skidded down an embankment for several hundred feet.

Some of the roads outside of Los Angeles, particularly those near the ocean are beautiful and dangerous. They almost look like you are driving the roads of Northern California or Arizona with deep vistas and canyons.

Woods was lucky when he lost control of his car. His north bound car skipped the middle divider and sped across the south bound lanes. He’s lucky no other car was on the road, because he could have hit an unsuspecting and innocent driver. He was lucky that the air bags deployed, he was wearing a seat belt and that the shell of the car held up when it flipped over several times before hitting a tree.

And he is lucky that this stretch of road did not have a vista that dips for hundreds of feet.

Why not hire a driver? Woods likes to have a bit of normalcy in his life. Driving is one of those things he can do to mimic a normal person. He drove to Oakland Hills during the Ryder Cup for instance.

After Pistons practices I admit to cranking the old buggy to 76 miles per hour on the freeway. But shortly after leaving the practice facility a slew of cars passed as if I were standing still. These were Pistons players driving home for a nap, meeting or shoot. They had to be going at least 90 miles per hour.

There is a total disregard for speeding laws in the pro sports world. I’ve witnessed it first hand with players from the Detroit Lions, Tigers, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These guys look ready for the Daytona 500.

It’s amazing that we don’t hear about more accidents involving our top sports stars.

In Tigers case, thankfully, we didn’t have another Kobe Bryant situation where death was involved in the greater Los Angeles area. You may or may not like Tiger Woods, but he is the reason many of us took up the game of golf. He is the reason we bought Nike golf clubs instead of more reliable clubs from Titleist, TaylorMade or Callaway.

He is the reason some of us bought red golf shirts and black golf caps with his famed TW signature. And Tiger is the reason some drive a Buick.

And if he’s in the hunt on Sunday, especially during a major, all other plans must be placed on hold because I’m watching.

A smaller grocery bill brings sad times

The saddest day of the week is Tuesday. That is when the wife goes to Kroger to do weekly grocery shopping. Except its every other Tuesday now.

We’ve gone from a family of four to a family of two and you notice your children are missing when its time to buy food — especially with son Brandon out the house.

We shipped him to the dorms at Michigan State University about a month ago and our declining grocery bill comes with a hint of sadness. My job is to fill out the grocery list Monday night. It used to be a full page filled with unnecessary food items. Now it is down to a half page.

And I get yelled at.

“Terry how come you don’t have Oreos on the list,” wife Abs screams.

“Because we don’t need any,” I yell back.

“You forgot to put chicken wings on the list,” she retorts.

“Nope, I did not forget,” I respond. “We still got two packs in the freezer.”

Then we grow quiet for a moment. It is during those times of reflection that we notice how much we miss Brandon.

Friday nights are not the same either. That’s when we get carry out or Door Dash for our Friday treat. We hit Olga’s Kitchen shortly after Brandon left and she brought this skinny ass bag of food in the house.

“That can’t be ours,” I said. “Did you grab the wrong bag?”

It was our bag. Missing was the fried chicken and fries the boy usually gets, along with the Snackers. We no longer get the cheese bread with bacon and ranch dressing on pizza night.

The air fryer no longer runs 24/7/365. Sometimes we baked cookies and they disappeared in 48 hours when the boy stalked the kitchen for midnight runs. We made cookies last week and half of them remain, stale and hard now.

It’s different now. We have more food, a smaller bill and quicker trips to Kroger.

Damn. We miss that mouth.