Hello, Vandergelder!

Horace VandergelderI’ve never been the sort of blogger who concerns himself much with how many pairs of eyeballs have graced his pages on any given day, but when I noticed my stat counter had reached 500,000 views a few days ago, my initial reaction was of the Peggy Lee-circa-1969 variety– after eight years of writing, IS THAT ALL THERE IS?

I have friends who achieve that in a week.

All those years of writing, creating recipes, and exposing myself. All that time, energy, and money spent. For what? It was like noticing one’s odometer had just ticked off half a million miles and thinking, “God, this car is really fucking old. It’s about time I got rid of it.” Annoyed, I shut my computer down and went to do something out of which I’d derive some real pleasure and satisfaction– washing the dishes.

It was when I was drying and seasoning my cast iron skillet that I realized I was being a complete jackass. As I rubbed a thin stream of oil into the surface of the hot pan with a wad of paper towel, I noticed that the vessel was so smooth and well seasoned that I could see myself reflected with only minor distortion in the thin sheen of hot fat. It was a rusted out mess when I bought it for $2 at a garage sale but, through years of effort and love and care, it has become something I’d be loath to ever part with.

Which, I have come to realize, is exactly how I feel something else. A straightforward bit of housework led me to look at my blog and its 500,000 views in a much more appreciative light.

I didn’t start this blog to become famous. I didn’t start it to become rich or popular or nab brand ambassadorships. I didn’t start it because I felt starved for attention or to keep up with my friends or to broaden my platform in order to get a book deal.

I started it because I thought I had some interesting stories to share and, over years of postings and hundreds of hours of writing, I think I’ve learned to tell those stories more and more clearly.

I started it because, frankly, I had absolutely no direction in life at the time and found a creative outlet both emotionally helpful and amusingly diverting.

I had absolutely no idea how many wonderful things could come from starting this strange little blog. I’ve met an obscene amount of interesting people, I’ve made an embarrassing amount of friends, and I’ve had so many good people guiding and rooting for me that if I mentioned them all by name it would feel like shameless bragging.

This blog has gotten me invited to symposia, conferences, parties, foreign countries, and dinners. It’s gotten me inclusions in anthologies, lots of award nominations, and even one actual award with my name correctly printed upon it. For writing. Which I learned to do right here.

It has also granted me the luxury of getting to choose my own literary agent. And that, dear readers, is bragging at its most naked and shameless.

Like cast iron, I suppose, a blog needs to be used and cared for on a regular basis, or it will turn to rust.

Momentary absence of good sense aside, I do realize that quality is far more important to quantity. I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing. My readership might not be vast, but it’s comprised of some marvelously smart people who consistently manage to leave comments composed not only in complete sentences, but with wit and great care. And those of you who have dropped in to say hello over the years make me feel very rich indeed.

Maybe not as rich as, say, a Rockefeller, but rather as rich as Mr. Horace Vandergelder, the well-known, unmarried, half-a-millionaire.

500,000 views. Is that all there is? It would seem so. But instead of weary disappointment, I now choose to celebrate and to do so, I’ve decided to follow Miss Peggy Lee’s further advice, which is to break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is.

Vandergelder Cocktail

The Horace Vandergelder

If you’ve no idea who Mr. Horace Vandergelder is, I understand. He is a character from a Thornton Wilder play entitled The Matchmaker, which was taken by composer Jerry Herman and turned into a hit Broadway musical called Hello, Dolly! starring Carol Channing and then taken by Gene Kelly and turned into a Hollywood musical starring, (inexplicably) Barbra Streisand as Dolly and Walter Matthau (wonderfully) as Vandergelder himself.

He is a turn-of-the-century tightwad, middle-aged grump. Though I am not a tightwad, I find the rest of the description personally apt. And, as previously stated, he is a well-known, unmarried half-a-millionaire. Though I am not exactly well-known, the rest is, of course, true.

This is a cocktail one would not associate with a known tightwad, as its ingredients are anything but cheap. But it would feel right at home at someplace as fancy as The Harmonia Gardens, which also happens to be where our grumpy hero finds himself in the film. And with cognac, champagne, and absinthe as its most notable players, this is a beverage which certainly could have been served in that plus belle of all époques, the turn of the last century. Well, plus belle if you’re a half-a-millionaire, at any rate.

Makes: One (grumpy, middle-aged man feel very happy to) drink.


• 1 ¼ ounces of your best cognac
• 1 eye dropper’s worth of your deadliest absinthe
• ¼ ounce of your  freshest lemon juice
• ¼ ounce of your simplest of syrup
• Ice, for chilling, obviously
• A decent champagne
• Lemon peel for garnishing. Or whatever you like, really.


Pour cognac, absinthe, lemon juice, and syrup into a cocktail shaker that has been liberally filled with ice. Do as the name of the vessel into which these ingredients have been inserted suggests and do so vigorously until all is well-chilled.

Liberate the chilled mixture into a very cold champagne coupe (you may use a flute if you really insist but they’re not exactly fin-de-siècle, if you understand my meaning).

Top off the glass with champagne, garnish with lemon peel, or cherries and feathers, if that’s what you’re into, put on your Sunday clothes, take a seat somewhere there’s music playing, and say hello to your Vandergelder cocktail.

Repeat as often as necessary until the image of Barbra Streisand as Dolly Levi has been safely replaced with the likeness of Carol Channing or, if that is too upsetting for you, Pearl Bailey.

Or repeat as often as necessary until you stop comparing yourself to others and start appreciating just what it is you’ve got going on.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Liquids and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to Hello, Vandergelder!

  1. diane leach says:

    Your blog is loved for its intelligence, wit, dearth of rhubarb recipes, and continued fine spelling. You aren’t hugely famous? We live in a country where the Republican nominee is an openly bigoted fascist. To wit: we share our nation with fools.

  2. Genie says:

    I could not be more pleased to be part of the 500,000. You remain one of my favorites, both in writing, in drinking, in eating, and in being. <3

  3. MaggieToo says:

    Assuming a U.S. population of 319,000,000 then….

    I’m a 1.56percenter! I’m a 1.56percenter!

    Seriously, Michael, your readers are such an erudite bunch that this is the only blog where I read ALL the comments after reading the post. Why would you want to be swimming in the mainstream anyway? Well, apart from the money, and the fame, and the groupies…..

    • MaggieToo,

      I didn’t mean to imply that I have 500,000 readers, because I don’t. The number merely represents the number of times my blog has been visited. This, of course, means that you are in a much more rarified group than previously thought.

  4. Katrina says:

    I love your blog, and thoroughly enjoy it whenever I see a new post. I will be a happy reader for as long as you continue writing!

  5. Kuntala says:

    Hi Michael, I am sure I have your friends’ blogs which gather half a million views in a week in my feedly and I also have your blog. But I never feel so excited to see new posts under their names as I feel to see yours. Yours is one of the most original, most thoughtful, most humourous blogs out there. I wish I could write like you. Thank you and congratulations!

  6. I love finding cast iron at garage sales!

  7. You could try writing about kale, matcha, chai seeds and cupcakes. But then, I would not be reading your blog.

  8. Andy Walter says:

    I am honored to one of your 500,000. Yours is definitely my favorite blog. In fact, yours is the only one I follow regularly.

  9. David Leite says:


    Your blog is my fifth favorite thing on my third favorite day of my second favorite month. xoxo

  10. Anne says:

    I feel so privileged to be one of the 500,000 readers and fans. Michael, to quote another lyric, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” Here’s to many more years and many more splendid reads until you finish. Cheers and congratulations to you!

  11. Trevor says:

    I feel like you are speaking to me here as my pan is rusting a bit. Thankfully well made pans such as these are resilient and can be returned to glory with just a bit of knowledgeable care. I do hope your literary agent is hard at work trying to help you with the other half-million. You deserve it.

  12. Terry Taylor says:

    I am also happy to be one of the half-million. Love your writing style. Your column is INTERESTING and personal. I only wish you would post more often!

    • If only I *could* post more often. But that would mean that I was an endless font of ideas, which I am not (sadly).

      But it makes me glad to know that you love my writing style. I wish I knew what that style was, exactly.

  13. Neil Bergenstein says:

    I’ve never been so pleased to be amongst one half of a million.

  14. Alles says:

    I love you more than my matched luggage. Every post is an event I cherish! From Milton Berle to Easter Corndogs, from Harissa on that radio station to the Big Bertha here — for which I bought my coupes — your posts are a joy and an education.

    “So…golly, gee, fellas….find her an empty knee, fellas
    Dolly’ll never go away….I said she’ll never go away
    Dolly’ll never go away again!”


    • When I was a kid, my brother and I wrote new lyrics to “Hello, Dolly!” to suit our favorite country singer, Dolly Parton.

      “Such compliments, fellas/
      For my en-dow-ments, fellas/
      Ev’rything about me, men, is real.”

      It will be a chapter in my memoir, which I am currently doing the proposal for.

      Also, how much are you loving those coupes?

      • Alles says:

        I’d like to say I’m enjoying them, but the idea of Marie Antoinette’s right tit in my drink is disconcerting. It’s not like a fly you can grab and shout, “Spit it out, you bastard, spit it out!”
        Other than that — they’re quite lovely!

  15. Annie says:

    How dreary to be Somebody…how public…like a frog.

    You’re definitely one in half a million.

    • But that would mean there are approximately 14,000 people just like me, which is a number far higher than my readership. And I’m okay with that.

      Also, are frogs especially public creatures? I must be kissing the wrong ones.

  16. kate says:

    i love your well-crafted, thoughtful, insightful posts. I had a moment of panic when you
    got discouraged. Please keep writing, posting. I love you rcommenters almost as much as your post itself. Congratulations and thank you.

    • Kate,

      I will NOT be abandoning this blog. Not at all. But a lot of the stories I was planning to tell on here are now going into a book (yay?), so I have to find new inspiration…

      And I am rather fond of my commenters, too. Yourself included. It’s half the fun of this here blog.

  17. Becky Castle Miller says:

    You write my favorite food blog. And you write the best recipes for reading…I love how you slide humor not only into your prose but also directly into your recipes. I am always happy to see an email notifying me that you’ve written a new post.

    • This is your favorite food blog? Thank you for that.

      You know, I started writing my recipes like I do for a very specific reason– I wanted to make sure that people actually read them carefully…

  18. Christopher says:

    Your posts are special to me. I end up trashing many of the things I’m subscribed to after a couple days sitting unread in my inbox. I just can’t get to them all so I give up in my compulsive drive to keep a tidy inbox. But never your posts. I hold your dispatches “unread” until I find the perfect, undistracted moment to enjoy them. Some have lain wait longer than a month.

    • Christopher,

      That is one of the best compliments I’ve ever received regarding my blog. Thanks for that.

      I once had a woman tell me that she would never read my blog at work. Instead, she would wait until she got home, pour herself a drink, and only then read my new post. Sometimes, I think alcohol helps the doing…

  19. Amy says:

    Long time reader, first time (second time?) commenter…

    Your blog is one of the few blogs that I read. I love your stories.

    • Well thank you, Amy. That means a lot.

      Sometimes, I worry that I might run out of stories, which is terrifying for a writer, but then I see something that reminds me of something else and the two eventually fuse together and wind up as a new blog post.

      And then I stop panicking for a week or two…

  20. Heidi Wolff says:

    Please don’t ever become a home for 15 minute quick supper recipes. Your readers love reading you, even if we’re a stout-hearted few. I was well on the way to feeling devastated when it seemed like you were on the verge of a farewell performance.

    • If I ever become a home for 15 minute quick supper recipes, rest assured that my dump and cook videos will be uniquely unsettling.

      Also, may I ask why you thought I might be on the verge of a farewell performance? I’m not going anywhere. Just consumed with a book proposal.

      I WON’T stop writing. On this blog or elsewhere.

      • Heidi Wolff says:

        I’ll put it down to the Peggy Lee or perhaps it’s just my current gloomy outlook. No doubt the beaming LA sunshine has addled my brains.

  21. Linda says:

    See? Your readers are loyal, committed and, may I add, a pretty cool group! We enjoy your blog and cherish its arrival every time. So, buck up! Have another cold one on this very HOT day, and know that we are toasting you with ours! 🙂

    • Linda,

      Correct! They (you among them) *are* a pretty cool group. And my readers are a major part of why I keep this here blog.

      I will toast you back today as I drink sangria poured by a dear eleven year-old baby dyke-in-training.

  22. Adri says:

    In a world awash with blogs, I find my self bored with most. That is not meant as a slam to the many dedicated writers out there; it is more about me, but yours is one I never miss. Your wit, insight, and humanity bring me back time after time. And the cocktails too. Best to you now and forever, and may you continue to rack up the views. You deserve the attention, amico.

    • Good heavens, Adri! I didn’t see that there were more comments to this! Apologies for the late response.

      You are one of my favorite readers and it’s comments like this that encourage me to do more. Thank you, amica.

  23. Jenny says:

    This is my favorite food blog as well.
    After Brexit and a number of other horrid things going on in the world, I’d be so sad if Michael stopped writing but I think the readers are a patient and devoted bunch.
    My kingdom for some absinthe right now!

  24. Kim says:

    As always, I learn smth new everytime I read your blog. Food or not. Yours and David Lebovitz are the only two blogs I read from start to finish because it would be a shame to miss out anything. I’m pondering whether I should start a blog, for the same reason as yours (and the hope to meet amazing people like you). I really hope I can write half as good, haha. Doubt yourself, we all need to at certain moments in time, but that is how we can reflect on our own imperfections and decide whether they are worth keeping. I”m glad you found the answer we/readers all hope for. Thanks for keep writing.

    • Dear Kim,

      I shall do as you say and keep right on writing. And thank you for the lovely compliment– I am extremely fond of David Leibovitz, even though I like to tease him any chance I get.

      So start a blog! Have fun with it and see where it goes!



  25. Tina says:

    Dear Michael,
    I too look forward to your wonderful stories, and recipes. I do not understand how some bloggers churn out something everyday, and I appreciate your entries as I know they are well worth reading. You are funny and very much in tune with compassion and honesty, and I thank you for that. Cheers!

    • Oh, Tina…

      My response is more than two months late because I did not see your lovely comment until just now.

      Frankly, I don’t know how they do it, either. Or, rather, I think I do, which is a life I would find completely horrifying.

      I am grateful you find me funny. And one of the reasons this blog is important to me is because it forces me to face myself and be honest about what I see. As for compassion, that I also do my best to practice. It doesn’t always come naturally, but I won’t give up on trying…

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