Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack;
I don’t care if I never get back!
In 1908, while riding a train to Manhattan, vaudeville entertainer Jack Norworth noticed a sign: "Ball game today at the polo grounds." He pulled out a scrap of paper and wrote the words to the now-classic seventh-inning-stretch song, Take Me Out to the Ball Game. He asked composer Albert von Tilzer to compose the music, and the song was introduced in a vaudeville show.
It’s still around 95 years later.
Cracker Jack, that delicious confection of molasses-covered popcorn packed in a colorful box with the surprise inside, was first introduced to the public in 1893. I bet sales of Cracker Jack immediately soared once Take Me Out to the Ball Game gained in popularity. I always loved Cracker Jack and remember when it was 25 cents a box. Now it’s close to a buck.
Bags of peanuts, the all-American new-world food, were hawked at ballparks all over America. I remember cracking them in the stands at Connie Mack Stadium when I was a little girl, but I never ate them at the Vet.
I have fond memories of dining in the stands at Veterans Stadium, especially with my husband Edward, family and friends. We always packed a picnic lunch or supper. Our picnic hamper, which became a trusty veteran of many baseball games, is an old polystyrene cooler that Edward brought to our marriage in 1981. What went into the hamper much depended on the weather.
I clearly recall a twi-night doubleheader in April 1986. The weather in April can be tricky. The day dawned bright and sunny and I went to the deli to buy corned beef, roast beef, turkey, a large Jewish rye and several half-done Jewish dill pickles.
Several hours before the first pitch, as I was building sandwiches and wrapping them in aluminum foil, the weather turned from warm sunshine to cooler temperatures with a blustery wind. I finished filling the hamper and immediately changed into warm socks, sweat pants, a cotton turtleneck and a
heavy Phillies sweatshirt. We were going to the game with another couple, one of whom was from Montreal and insisted on wearing a Montreal Expos baseball cap.
By the time we arrived at the Vet, darkness was upon us. "I’m not seating you in my section if you are going to wear that cap," kibitzed the young woman who showed us to our seats. We dug into the hamper and realized the wine we poured into a thermos clearly did not suit the rapidly dropping temperatures. Edward went to get us coffee and hot chocolate, which would wash down well with my squares of rich chocolate fudge brownies. I ate my dinner and drank my coffee wearing gloves.
Suffice to say, we were absolutely freezing as the first of the two games progressed. I realized then and there that the next time we attended a springtime night game, a large thermos of soup would be most appropriate. I did just that. In honor of the American peanut, the first soup I ever toted to the Vet was African peanut chicken soup.
I soon became a pro at making the right kinds of treats for the hamper. I learned never to make a corned beef or roast beef special because the cole slaw could drip and run all over my Phillies sweatshirt. Store-bought sweets were OK, but I much preferred baking cookies and brownies.
I had a sentimental attachment to Connie Mack Stadium because it was the ballpark of my childhood. I went to the baseball games with my father — who was a lifelong Phillies fan and lived to see them win the World Series — and my sister, Sandy. I was quite upset when it was torn down.
My feelings about the Vet are different because I was already an adult by the time I saw my first game there. My Vet memories are about exciting games and the delicious foods we toted in our battered hamper.
The recent hubbub about bringing hoagies into Lincoln Financial Field brought a smile to my face. In all the years I attended games at the Vet, I never saw anyone eating a hoagie in the stands.
Here are recipes for memorable treats we enjoyed during Phillies games.
African Peanut Chicken Soup
From Blue Corn and Chocolate by Elisabeth Rozin
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large sweet red and/or green peppers, seeded and chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28-ounce) can Italian-style tomatoes, with juice, coarsely chopped
8 cups chicken stock or one (64-once) can chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed dried hot peppers
1/2 cup long-grain rice
1-1/2 cups finely diced cooked chicken
2/3 cup unsalted peanut butter
In a large, heavy pot, saut� the onions, peppers and garlic in oil over moderate heat until the onions are just beginning to brown. Add the tomatoes, stock, black pepper and dried hot peppers. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for one hour.
Add the rice and chicken and simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, until rice is tender. Stir in the peanut butter and whisk it until completely dissolved and smooth. Taste for salt and hot pepper, adding more if desired.
Serves eight to 10.
3/4 cup flour
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 ounces unsalted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to overlap ends of the pan by about 2 inches. Grease the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Place chocolate and butter in a large, heavy saucepan over the lowest heat, stirring frequently until just melted and smooth. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the corn syrup. Let stand until the mixture cools to lukewarm.
When cooled, add the eggs, one at a time, beating them into the chocolate with a large wooden spoon. Add the dry ingredients and stir until well blended and smooth. Pour the batter into the baking pan and spread it evenly to the edges.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the center of the brownie just begins to feel firm when pressed with your finger.
Remove the pan from the oven and let stand for about 15 to 20 minutes. Lift the brownie out of the pan using the overhanging aluminum foil. Place the brownie on a rack to cool.
Carefully peel the foil from the bottom of the brownie and set the brownie right side up on a platter. Cut the brownie into 2-inch squares.
Makes about 16 brownies.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Cream the butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well.
Sift the dry ingredients together and stir in the butter/sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add the chocolate chips to the batter and form the cookies in the following manner. Using an average-size ice-cream scoop, scoop some dough and drop it onto the cookie sheet. Wet your hand and smoosh down the dough into a 5-inch cookie. Repeat until all the cookie dough has been used.
Bake the cookies on the middle rack of the oven for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Cool on the cookie sheet for about five minutes. Carefully transfer each cookie to a rack to cool.
Makes about 25 cookies.
Note from Phyllis: Feel free to add 1 cup of chopped walnuts, macadamia nuts, shredded coconut or peanuts to the cookie dough.