[Sca-cooks] OK, since we're all kids burning food, here's another one...

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius.magister at verizon.net
Tue Aug 29 10:04:12 PDT 2006

I was just wondering if this was an isolated instance of insanity in  
my family, or in the Bronx, or something...

My father, who was born in 1917 in the Bronx (the single New York  
City borough that is in mainland New York State, and not on some  
little or middle-sized island), and who had an entirely urban  
upbringing, such as it was, used to speak of roasting mickeys as a  
child (note that I can't vouch for the veracity of this; it may have  
been his idea of a joke, but somehow I doubt it). This wasn't chloral  
hydrate; the neighborhood wasn't _that_ tough back then  --  
apparently mickeys were a form of roasted potato, cooked in a  
somewhat unique (AFAIK) manner, that sounds to me like something that  
might have reached its peak among hobos in the '30's, but this would  
have been pre-Depression.

Apparently a mickey was roasted in a tin can, probably one like those  
28-ounce cans tomatoes come in (a #2? I forget...), maybe larger.  
You'd punch holes in it, all over, leaving one end open, place fuel  
like wood chips, bark, and paper at the bottom, a raw, whole,  
unpeeled potato in the middle, and more of the same fuel on top.  
You'd have string or wire run through some holes punched near the  
opening end of the can, you lit the fuel, and swung the hole thing  
over your head until the fuel burned out, creating through  
centrifugal force and wind a miniature blast furnace of sorts. What  
you ended up with, it was claimed, was an ash-covered baked potato,  
burnt on the outside and somewhat raw in the middle, which you then  
ate. I guess if you hurled it was your own affair, ditto if the  
string broke and you hurled a Molotov potato through someone's window.

It occurs to me now that Mickey may have been some sort of reference  
to the Irish and their reputed interest in the potato.

Incidentally, you could do all sorts of cool and highly dangerous  
stuff in big cities, once upon a time, back when people had common  
sense, took responsibility for their own screw-ups, and fun was  
legal. Some of these hijinks included fire use of some (theoretically  
benign) form, and apparently people used to cook over open fires on  
city streets somewhat more often than they do now. There was a well- 
known NY gangster and Tammany thug at the turn of the 20th century  
named Chuck Connors (not the "Rifleman" star) who, even after he  
became quite a wealthy man, would still enjoy a chuck steak cooked  
over an open fire of scrap lumber at the side of the street, for old  
times' sake, and this was said the be the source of his nickname.


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