Thursday, November 20, 2014


    How in the  hell did it get to be the middle of  November?

  As of last weekend, I'm done with all my national and international travel, and looking forward to spending The Holidays at home...which means I'm getting ready to cook!  I cook like a fiend, and I love to make fabulous food, but I'm usually not around to be able to, cause I'm on the road dancing. But once I get home- and get into the kitchen- watch out!

 The following recipe an adaptation of  a scrumptious, sweet, savory and very spicy holiday dressing that has been in my family for over half a century. I have been eating it for as long as I can remember, and making it myself for over thirty years.

 My entire family are great cooks; it’s in our blood! My sisters Eddie, Cupcake and I even had a ridiculously popular food blog for a few years called “The Haphazard Gourmet”, which was named after a popular cook book my father, the late author Richard Gehman, wrote in 1966, when I was a  mere tot.

One of the biggest ironies in my life is that though I love to cook, I almost never have the chance to do it. During the holidays, when I am home, I always  cook up a storm, and this dressing is one of the things I love to make. It is extremely work intensive, and has a boatload of ingredients…but I’m tellin’ you, all the labor is worth it! Since it’s so very close to Thanksgiving, and you might  already have your meal plans set, you  maybe  will want to save this to make for Christmas or New Year’s Eve…  or just have a  Thanksgiving “rehearsal”!

Something that this stuffing has taught me over the years, is that if you are great cook and make something this luscious…


A little history  on the dressing itself: my father was a famous writer,  a bohemian bon vivant, and an extraordinary cook, who absolutely adored making-and enjoying- extraordinary food. Actually, now that I think about, my father was not unlike Don Draper from "Mad Men"! Anyway, before I was born, he interviewed his friend Morton Thompson, also a very well-known writer and man-about-town, and apparently this stuffing originated with Morton Thompson. I’ve put a link to my father’s article, and the original recipe at the bottom of this post, if you want to look it up.

This Gehman family take on Morton Thompson's recipe makes a ton of dressing, enough to feed an army and last you, your family, friends and neighbors for a few days so you can halve the recipe if you don’t want lots of leftovers… but of course you will want them, cause this dressing is the damn bomb!

Before I go into the exact details, you need to know a couple of the most important parts of the recipe.

The first thing is that there was a reason my father’s book, and our family cooking blog, were both called “The Haphazard Gourmet”. It’s because we improvise freely in the kitchen… swirling around like a tornado in an apron, using crazy ingredients, adding or subtracting them, making do with whatever is around.

Just like improvisation in dancing or acting, it’s fun to improvise in the kitchen. Don’t be scared to cook according to your own taste, and don’t feel lost without specific measurements. I’m  just giving you a guideline… don't be afraid of to making substitutions or adding in some new elements. My own personal version of this is quite different than the original version, but they taste similar and they’re both divine.

The second thing you need to know is that while you are making the dressing, you need to brag loudly, obnoxiously and continuously, or it simply won’t turn out right.

Tell everyone within earshot that you are not only foxy, but also the best cook on earth and they’re blessed just to be in the same house as you, inhaling the same oxygen that you’re breathing.

Tell them they’ll be on their knees kissing your feet- just after they take their first bite! Let them know you are an immortal being with culinary gifts from the heavens above…then let THEM clean up your mess…and thank you profusely the whole time!

Once I was cooking for Thanksgiving with my neighbor, and he had a recipe for dressing he got off the Internet, which he wanted me to make.

“Are you kidding?” I cried, “I never use recipes, I always cook by instinct! You’re gonna love this!”

He regarded me suspiciously, like I was a teenage shoplifter.

“Ok,” he said finally, “But if you fuck this up, I’m going to be really mad.”

“No problem!”, I sniffed indignantly.

The moment he tasted my stuffing, a strange look came over his face… the kind of pie-eyed expression guys get in romantic comedies when they realize they’re in love. He finally shook it off and came back to earth, and exclaimed loudly,

I will never doubt another word you say, as long as I am alive!”

Then he started cleaning the kitchen.

So: you will need a large frying pan with a cover, couple of small bowls, a couple of large bowls, aluminum foil, and two Pyrex or disposable aluminum baking pans.

Two boxes bread cubes or stuffing mix, of any type you prefer

Six stalks of celery- take off the strings

Two green peppers

Four large yellow onions

Six to ten fresh garlic cloves (or fresh mashed garlic from a jar)

A handful of loose white mushrooms

Two large apples (red or green, either is fine)

Two large oranges, or a medium sized can of Mandarin oranges

Two cans of sliced or chunk pineapple in plain water- not syrup

One large can sliced water chestnuts

One and a half giant handfuls of walnut halves or walnut pieces ** I have even thrown in pecans, and in some years added pre-made trail mix here as well. Like I said, improvise!

Two large containers of chicken or vegetable stock

Quarter pound stick of butter… if you don’t eat dairy, then eliminate this step, and just use more stock to keep the stuffing moist.

Four or five links of spicy Italian sausages- if you don’t like traditional pork sausage, chicken or turkey sausage is ok… and again, if you are a vegetarian, just eliminate the sausage altogether!

The herbs can be fresh or dried; it’s your call! Fresh is better though.

You’ll need rosemary, oregano, sage, marjoram and thyme… plus three or four large, whole bay leaves, and a small bunch of fresh parsley. The parsley must be fresh. Separate the leaves from the stems, and snip them up with a scissors.

If you’re using dried herbs, use a quite liberal pinch or about a very full teaspoon of each; for fresh herbs, then cut up a few leaves of each. I usually go heavy on the sage and rosemary for a more savory taste. Put these herbs into a bowl, mix them up, and set them aside for now.

I’ll say this again: I don’t measure when I cook, I do it mad scientist style!

 So, for the following spices, you’ll need a few very healthy shakes of each: salt, pepper, all spice, cinnamon, nut meg, curry powder, cumin seed, and cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes, turmeric, and a small chunk of fresh ginger, which you’ve peeled and sliced.

If you’re scared to spice up your food the way I do, then measure out about a quarter teaspoon of each, and put them in another small bowl, making sure they’re mixed up. Set these aside, too.

Cut up or dice all ingredients- EVERYTHING!

 This is the time consuming, hellish part. I usually dice everything into small, thin pieces, but I have also made late-night, post-dance-gig rushed versions of this dressing where I carelessly chopped the peppers, celery and onions into larger chunks… so, whatever you want to do is fine.

 I cut the parsley with a scissors- and at the same time, if I am using fresh herbs, I cut them, too. If you want, you can also used diced packaged onions, cause crying while cutting onions is the worst, but I usually just weep my way through this part of the process.

Skin the sausages, and either crumble them or cut them into thin pennies, then get ‘em into in a very large frying pan or skillet with a little blop or two of extra-virgin olive oil, and start cooking them. If you are making the veggie version of this stuffing, just eliminate this step and start sautéing the veggies. You want the sausages cooked through, and a little browned. When the sausages are almost done, throw in the diced onions, garlic, peppers and celery, parsley, and a few generous pats of butter and stir. You will need to stir this continuously! Take a few pinches of both the herb mixture and the spice mixture and throw them both in, according to your taste.

Have a glass of wine here if you drink… or if you want to be like my father, make it a scotch.

 Make sure you’ve been bragging to whomever is around! If no one’s at your house yet, send a few texts, tweet about it,  post a pic on Instagram, or update your status on Facebook about the manna from heaven which you are creating. Do it… remember, you need to brag or it won’t turn out right! Then preheat your oven to 350.

When the veggies have almost cooked, throw in the apples, walnuts, mushrooms, oranges, and pineapple, with all the juice from the can. Drain the can of water chestnuts and throw those in too. At this point, you will probably need more of the herbs and spice mixtures- I know I always do! And while you’re at it, just start adding more pats of butter like a crazy person with a death wish! Stir it all up well. Turn down the heat, put a lid on the pan, and keep stirring it occasionally. Take a taste and figure out if you need to add more herbs and spice… I know I would! While you’re at it, throw in some more butter.

Divide your bread cubes up into two large bowls. Prepare according to the package, but use your chicken or vegetable stock instead of water to moisten it up. Mix it well, and then slowly start adding in the big mess of ingredients you’ve got in the frying pan.

When you’ve gotten the entire contents divided into the two big bowls, start mixing it all up. Mix it until you think you’ll get carpal tunnel!

Take a few pats of butter and grease your baking pans, yelling loudly that you’re about to put this divine creation in the oven, and soon everyone’s going to be hearing the angels sing. Divide the well-mixed dressing into the baking pans, then put a few more pats of butter on top, cover them with the foil tightly, and pop ‘em into the oven.

Let them bake about fifteen or twenty minutes, then take the foil off, and let them bake another ten or fifteen minutes so that the top gets browned and crunchy. By this time, you’re going to be beating people out of the kitchen like a lunatic, because the whole house will smell amazing. Have them make you a drink and tell them they need to start cleaning up…cause the gorgeous aroma from the dressing you created just enriched their sad, humdrum lives!

Take the baking pans out of the oven and keep them covered until you serve them. I usually make this the night before, and keep them in the refrigerator until serving, because it allows the flavors and spices to marry. You can heat them up on Thanksgiving Day (or whatever day falls after you make this unearthly creation) and it’ll be even more divine.

Bon Appetite,  Happy Holidays...and remember, the recipe won't turn out right unless you brag!


  Get a  signed copy of my  memoir  Showgirl Confidential  here:

A link to a reprint of the original recipe for this dressing…and for an incredible turkey recipe, too is here: “Morton Thompson’s Turkey” by Richard Gehman:

Friday, November 14, 2014


 Berit demonstrates The Facts Of Life on the ferry  from Helsinki, Finland  to Tallin, Estonia

 This past weekend, I made my last road trip of  the year.  I spent most of 2014 on the road, which wasn’t much of a change from the previous few years.  I travel constantly to teach  and perform dance. Though I could definitely live without the scary airport food and the hassle of   condensing my cosmetics in a TSA-approved quart baggie, I love most aspects of traveling.  To this day, I feel blessed and grateful that I am not only doing something I love, but that I get to travel all over the world to do it! 

 But life on the road isn’t always glamorous as you might think…  I often joke that every year, I lose at least fifty IQ points to jetlag!

Traveling seems to generate unusual incidents, at least for me it does.  I’ve been through five separate hotel fires: Vancouver, BC; Memphis Tennessee; at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, on board the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, and at the Mena House in Cairo. I’ve missed countless planes and had my suitcase handle break off on an English train platform…  while the train departed... and my suitcase remained at the station!

 I’ve been delayed and searched at international borders, spent the night in a Cairo police station, and bump into all sorts of random people at airports, including rock stars. Ron Wood from The Stones helped me get my bags off the carousel once, and I walked right into Alice Cooper at the airport in Athens, Greece.  I see people I know in foreign places, too. On a flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles, I endured an awful thunderstorm with infamous LA punk band manager and record magnate Posh Boy, and on a return flight from Egypt that transferred through Paris; I was coincidentally booked on the same plane to LAX as my ex-husband!

 Beyond that, once in a while, it gets even wackier. Sometimes it’s just a matter of not understanding the language or confusion over local customs, but other times things get so totally out of hand and downright bizarre that I actually start to think:

There’s the signpost up ahead… The Twilight Zone!

  In 2011, I was in five different countries before Valentine's Day, and wasn’t home longer than a week and a half until just before Christmas.  As per usual, I spent a lot of that travel time on a bullet train to Crazy Town.

In February 2011, I went on a solo European dance tour. Not only did my luggage get lost three times on flights to three different countries, but also the two and a half hour ferryboat ride from Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia was completely surreal.

 To begin with, Finland and Estonia are so far north that in February, it doesn’t get light til about 10:00am, and darkness sets in again a little after 3:00pm.  That alone is disorienting to a California Sunshine Gal like me. The median temperature while I was there was 28 degrees below zero.  My nostrils literally froze and my eyes ached every time I went outside. I don’t know how those Northern gals look glamorous in winters like that, but they all do!

The morning I was leaving Helsinki to go to Tallinn, I had to be up super early, check out of the hotel, and get to the ferry dock two hours before the ship departed at 9:00 am…. or, as I took to calling it, dawn.  I was meeting my Estonian sponsor Berit   and the other gals from her belly dance studio Mustika at the Helsinki dock, because they’d come to Finland for my workshops.  In my haste, I didn’t have time for breakfast, so I grabbed a hard-boiled egg from the buffet and shoved it into my purse.

The dock looked like Ellis Island- I didn’t know the ferry was going to be so big, it was the size of a cruise ship.  The embarkation line stretched outside into the darkness and falling snow. Also, the ocean was completely frozen.  The boats all had ice cutters on the prow and as they pulled in and out of the harbor huge chunks of ice flew up like a gigantic blender!

 I finally found the Estonian girls, and we got on the ferry.  It was three stories high; there was a duty free shop, a huge casino, restaurants, and lots of bars, plus a lounge area that had karaoke, where we settled. Beiritt said it was the best place to spend the journey, and asked if I wanted breakfast or coffee from the bar.

I dug in my purse and pulled out my egg, confessing I’d had no idea there’d be food onboard.

All the Estonian dancers laughed in disbelief.

“You look like an old Russian grandma!”, said Daisi, a burlesque artist from Tallinn, as Berit took off her scarf and wrapped it around my head like a babushka,

 “What else do you have in your purse?”

 The ship started sailing and the moment we had our coffee, a lounge singer came on, singing Beatles and Johnny Cash songs in Finnish, Estonian and Russian.

“Oh shit,” Daisi groaned, “This is not helping my hangover!”

  Soon the karaoke began.  As Daisi winced in pain and the other girls kept joking about my egg, we were treated to hideous versions in various languages of ABBA’s  “Dancing Queen”, Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” and the enduring all-time Euro-trash hit, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

Soon, a young, wholesome- looking guy dressed all in white, with a tousled blonde bowl-cut took the microphone, and before he started singing, everyone burst into applause.

 As he launched into a terrifyingly off-key rendition A-Ha’s “Take On Me”, the Estonian dancers started laughing hysterically and whispering amongst themselves.

 “What’s so funny?”  I asked, utterly confused since they were speaking Estonian.

“Oh, this man singing is the biggest porn star in Estonia!”   Yahna exclaimed.

“No way!”  I said, convinced they were making fun of me   in all my jet lag.

“No, really, he is!”  Daisi assured me,   “ Everyone knows him in Estonia, and he is very, very famous for his bondage and latex videos!”

 As I sat dumbfounded, Berit added,

  His name is Arnold, but we call him “Second Arnold” because “First Arnold” is our president, Arnold Ruutel!”

Just before  “Second Arnold” launched into Culture Club’s  “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”, I started to believe them, because a few audience members went up to him and had him sign autographs on napkins.

 “ I can’t take this any more,” Berit declared, “I’m going to Duty Free.”

 When she returned, Second Arnold was still hogging the mic.  He was on his sixth song, much to the delight of the crowd. A few matronly older women stormed the stage, giggling like schoolgirls, taking pictures.

 “ I got you something to go with your egg!” Berit cried, handing me a foot-long plastic sperm, with big googley cartoon eyes.

  As Second Arnold began to croon Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf”, I held the giant sperm in my hand, regarding it mutely, quite unsure of reality at this point.

“Some cream for your coffee!” Yahna laughed, as Berit unscrewed the sperm’s head and poured a whitish-yellow substance out of its body and into my cup.

 As I stared in shock, Berit assured me it was Bailey’s Irish Crème… and, thankfully it really was!

Arnold didn’t stop singing for the rest of the voyage.


  The story  you’ve just read is from my memoir “Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road”
( Punk Hostage Press, 2013) Purchase a signed copy here: