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Hey Matt: I burned toast. Pretty soon the whole house smelled like burned toast. Stronger than anything I can remember. Tell me why. — Great Gregg Cook, via email

Hey, Grandma. Hey. Yo, Grandma. Here’s one for you.

“Just toss it in the trash. I’ll get around to it later.”

C’mon, Grandma. We haven’t bothered you for an answer since before you made that statue of the neighbors poodle out of profiteroles, and that was months ago. A mighty tasty poodle it was, if I do say so. Ya hear that, Grandma? I complimented your poodle dessert.

“Okay, okay. What do you want now? We’re coming up on St. Patrick’s Day, the elves’ busy season, and I’ve got to get last year’s cabbage stains out of their tunics, so make this fast.”

Okay. Gotcha, Grandma. So, this guy wants to know why burned toast smells so strong for so long.

“Matthew, how many times have I told you that you absolutely have to get a respectable job? Who is this person, and do you think it’s a good idea for him to know where you work? That’s how serial killers start out — by asking innocent-sounding, stupid questions so everybody lets their guard down. Next thing you know, you’re getting exploding fruitcakes in the mail. Are you sure you want to encourage him?”

Yeah, just this once, Grandma. Hit it.

“Hit what? What are you talking about, Matthew? Oh, anyway, you’re lucky I took that weekend quickie course in biochemistry, otherwise I’d tell you and your little friend to take a hike. But it turns out that burned food — all burned food, not just toast — gives off PHAs, which —”


“Stop interrupting. PHAs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. There. Satisfied? Lucky I still have that crib sheet that I wrote inside my wrist. So, anyway, these PHAs are toxic, so in our bodily wisdom, we’ve developed a fine sensitivity to them, making them seem extremely strong. As for toast’s PHAs, there are no oils in toast to trap the smoke particles, and there’s no cover on a toaster — the smoke goes everywhere. The teeny, tiny particles spread fast and stick real well to upholstery and curtains and even painted walls. There you go. Just like you lighted a Glade Burned Toast Scented Candle. Now go away, Matthew.”

You got it, Grandma.

Hey Matt: Why did they stop making my favorite beer: Colt 45? Was the name too aggressive or politically incorrect? Also, why did they remove the cigar from the mouth of one of the Pep Boys in their emblem? Truly we’ve become a Nanny State, a nation of wusses. — Irv Jacobs, via email

Pretty true, Irv. Any day now, I expect to hear that Canada has been asked to come down and babysit us so we’ll stop our whining. Egypt can overturn a whole political regime with one peaceful demonstration; we can’t even advertise an oil change and bad booze without somebody making a stink. So, Irv, sit back and crack a — what? Olde English? — and listen to the tale of Colt 45. Truth is, your favorite beer (actually, a malt liquor) is still out there. Unfortunately, you’ll have to drive to the Midwest or some other location where Colt is more popular than it is in your neighborhood. Manufacturers/distributors and store owners alike only stock what sells. Apparently there aren’t enough Colt lovers here to make it worthwhile. But to make up for your disappointment, here’s a little-known fact about the “Colt” and the “45” in “Colt 45.” It has nothing to do with a gun. (Ever wondered why there’s a horse on the label if it’s named after a gun?) The brew is all about football. Named for the Baltimore Colts; and 45 was the number on running back Jerry Hill’s 1963 uni. So, the quaff honors a sports hero who probably wouldn’t be caught dead drinking one.

Colt 45 still lives, but Pep Boy Moe’s cigar is definitely a goner. The car repair and auto parts company began in the 1920s, when the three founders (Manny, Moe, and Jack) were immortalized in the well-known logo. The caricatures were based on each man’s real-life appearance, and since Moe always had a stogie in his mouth, the artists included it. Smoking was cool in the ’20s; by 1990, not so much. At that point, somebody in the Pep brain trust decided that Moe’s see-gar had to go. So, on the day of the annual Great American Smokeout in 1990, they announced that the logo would be tidied up. Ever since, Moe’s been smokeless, though he’d been dead for more than 30 years when they yanked the cigar from his mouth, so he probably didn’t care.

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