Archive | February 2016

Maryland, My Maryland

Last night Stacey and I got home from our trip to Maryland to bury my father. Except we didn’t bury him. Joyce, my stepmom, will do that in the spring. She’ll take his cremains to Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, and inter them in the same plot that holds my mother and my first stepmother, Carol.

My father and I had been estranged for several years, beginning when I was outed to him as transgender. But I was able to speak with him last week on the phone, and we reconciled. We told each other we loved each other, and I began making plans to drive down to visit him.

Alas, that was not to be. On Tuesday, February 9, as Stacey and I were about two hours out of Rochester, my father died.

When my mother died, I knew it immediately. And later, talking with my brothers, it turned out that they did, too, as did several other close family friends.

But with my father, nothing. I wonder if it had anything to do with the way each of them went: Mom’s passing was peaceful, in her sleep, while Dad had a hard time of it, struggling for each breath.


My daughters were there as well. Both the one I’ve been in constant contact with and the one who, like my father, had stopped speaking with me—and for the same reason. But when we saw each other, and hugged each other, that separation, too, disappeared, and all is well with us again.

Then there was my cousin—daughter of my father’s brother. I was worried how she would react to my changes, as I had not really been in contact with her for a long time. But I needn’t have worried: she said when her son came out as gay, they had no problem accepting him for who he was, and the same applied to me—no matter who I am, she loves me still.

About Maryland

It’s a strange state, this Maryland. It is considered the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States. Facts about the state are far too numerous to mention here, so I suggest you do what I did when I started my research, and check out its Wikipedia page. Ironically, despite the fact that Maryland remained on the Union side during the Civil War, it was a slave state, and as such, was not affected by the provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation, as that decree only applied to those states in the Confederacy…a fact that wasn’t taught when I was in school.

Driving around the state—especially on the back roads Stacey and I frequented—you’ll see numerous old barn-like buildings in various states of disrepair. They’re not barns but in fact old tobacco-curing sheds. Maryland had a large tobacco industry at one time, but a state buyout greatly reduced its presence. It’s curious to note that although the sheds are no longer needed nor in use, it’s illegal to destroy them. And so they stand, mute witnesses to a past era.

Controversy Over the State Song

Periodically, efforts are made to change the state song to something less martial. As Wikipedia says,

Due to its origin in support of the Confederacy, it includes lyrics that refer to President Abraham Lincoln as a “tyrant”, “despot”, and “Vandal”, and to the Union as “Northern scum”, as well as referring to the phrase “sic semper”, which was the slogan later shouted by Marylander John Wilkes Booth while assassinating Lincoln. For these reasons occasional attempts have been made to replace it as Maryland’s state song, but to date all such attempts have met with failure.

Summing Up

For these two Northerners, Maryland’s road system was a nightmare…and we weren’t the only ones to think that. Navigating via GPS didn’t help: it was always a case of “Turn left in 200 yards…Duh! You missed it! Make a U-turn at the next intersection.” There were many cases where it told us to make a turn onto a given street even though we knew from past trips that we still had 1/4 mile to go before we would even reach that street.

It just validated my own strongly-held belief that GPS will never entirely replace a decent map.

Thanks for reading,

Robyn Jane

When A Parent Dies

My father and I have been estranged for the better part of 7 years, ever since I was outed to him as transgender. Over that time, I have made several attempts at reconciliation, only to be rebuffed every time.

Today my daughter called me with the news that my father—who had a stroke almost a year ago—is dying. She said that she had spoken to my stepmother who informed her that he was going to be 88 on his birthday—“if he makes it that far.” And since his birthday is next month, well, you can see the implication.

This evening I called to see if my father would speak to me. My brothers were there with him, and he accepted my call. I told him that I loved him, and much to my joy, he said the same thing. We had a mostly-good talk (I say “mostly-good” because I was on my cell-phone and he was on speaker phone, and his speech has been adversely affected by his stroke), and we ended on a positive note. I asked if I could call again next week, and he assented.

I finished by speaking with my brother, who said he’d call me tomorrow and we’d talk about what’s going on, and what I can expect.

I’m trying to keep it together long enough to write this, but it’s hard. Hard to sort out the jumbled thoughts and mixed emotions, hard to see the screen through my tears. Hard to realize that the man I’ve looked up to and idolized for such a large part of my life will soon be gone.

But I’m trying to stay positive by concentrating on the fact that we are in fact effecting a reconciliation. My daughter and her mother (my ex-wife) will be flying out to see him soon, and I wish I could afford the air or train or bus fare to see him one last time.

It’s been hard these past few years, but he’s my father, and I love him.


My Search For Authentic Pub Food

One of my regular programs to watch is PBS’ “The Mind of a Chef.” One of the most recent episodes featured Scotch egg. A Scotch egg consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or deep-fried. Pretty simple, huh? But before I invested any time in learning or finding a recipe, I decided to check out various pubs around Rochester to find the best Scotch egg in town. So I fired up my browser and Googled® “Rochester NY Pubs,” and started going down the list.

I must have checked the menus of at least 6 “authentic” Irish pubs before realizing why I don’t patronize any of them. How can you claim to be an “authentic Irish pub” when your menu consists of nachos, Buffalo chicken wings, tacos, sliders, and nothing but traditional Southwest American cuisine?

Then I checked out The Old Toad. Here’s what it has to say about itself:

Located at 277 Alexander Street, The Old Toad is nothing short of your traditional British local. From the staff to the food and ales, everything is purely authentic. Even the bar itself was imported from Great Britain. Truly “a pub from over there, over here”.

And on the menu? Under “Starters” I discovered this gem: “Scotch” Egg. Hard boiled egg wrapped in Scotch whisky seasoned sausage meat, bread crumbed and fried until crisp and golden, served with homemade mustard sauce.

A further look at Google® confirmed my suspicions: The Old Toad is the only place in Rochester that offers a Scotch egg. The only other hit for “Scotch egg Rochester” on Google® was an Irish pub in Rochester, Minnesota. And that’s just too far for me to drive.

I did, however, find a link to the web site for the magazine Edible Finger Lakes, a publication which features cuisine and beverages from our neck of the woods. And there I found the article For Passing at Parties: The Scotch Egg. And wonder of wonders, the attribution for the recipe is “a non-boozy version from The Old Toad!”


Now the only decision remaining for me is this: do I go to the Toad, or make it myself?

Scotch Eggs

By The Old Toad in Rochester

scotch eggs
A platter of Scotch eggs. Photo by Robyn Wishna

(Serves 12, as an appetizer)


3 leeks, finely chopped and washed
1 tablespoon butter
3 pounds of sausage (breakfast sausage works well)
2 shots of whiskey (optional)
7 drops of Tabasco
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
12 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups breadcrumbs
Canola oil


  1. Pan fry leeks in a little butter over low heat until translucent. Let cool, then mix with sausage in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
  2. Place eggs in a pan of cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 8 minutes. Quickly remove from water and refresh making sure that you crack all of the eggs (this will stop the yolks from going grey). Peel shells and wash eggs of any remaining shell bits.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using clean, slightly wet hands, encase sausage meat around an egg and shape it into a ball. Place finished eggs on a baking sheet while you work through them all. Put flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in three shallow bowls or pie plates. One by one, dip each pork-wrapped egg in flour then whisked egg and lastly into breadcrumbs.
  4. After all the eggs have been coated, fill a frying pan with canola oil, about two-inches deep. Heat oil to about 350 degrees. Flash fry the eggs, turning them with tongs until evenly browned on all sides. Place fried eggs on a clean baking sheet and cook in oven for 20 minutes. Turn each of the eggs over to prevent them sticking to the tray. Remove from oven, allow to cool and enjoy.

Thanks fpr reading!

Robyn Jane