Category Archives: Brains 25 Cents

The Winners of the meaning Brains 25 Cents, Drive In Contest

There are two winners of “what does Brains 25 ¢ Drive In and the two sample poems tell us about the book of poems.”

Helen Brager:

Here’s what I think – the poems need deep thinking for interpretation, so one will need a good brain to decipher what you wrote.  So go buy yourself a good brain.

Mike Henson:

Brains 25c Drive In is a blatant call from a carnival barker, as if brains could be dispensed at such a reasonable price.  A call that Dorothy’s scarecrow would find appealing.

Here the wordsmith brings working class food at a working class price.  It is that simple.  The surprise is in the eloquence of such a dish.

With some sadness, I am remembering a time when the brain sandwich was a staple of south St. Louis pubs and diners. Now only a handful of brain joints remain. Of course the sign and all of its fame points to a forgotten or secret club. Such a place would hold fantastic gastronomic and intellectual delights catering to those two most important organs, the stomach and the brain.

When you read the book of poems, see if you think these are valid explanations. Next week: a recipe for Brain Fritters. I would like to hear what you think of them. Nothing like sitting down to a brain sandwich and read a few of these poems alongside, like cole slaw.

Share your favorite brain recipes.

While there was no longer brains for sale where the sign was, in my early days in St. Louis (1973 and the next seventeen years) I would go to the Webster Grill on Lockwood Avenue in Webster Groves on my way to teach (Webster College.) The cook, red-headed Carol, often had brain sandwiches on the menu for lunch. Pan fried brains, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato on white bread. I ate many. Then, for a long while I fried them at home. Many people say yuck! when I mention brains, but they never ate any. I’m not talking about brains and scrambled eggs, which I find wastes the finest qualities of a good brain dish. Here are my recommendations. and for two fried brain recipes.

My wife, Sarah Barker, and I served ours with melted butter, lemon juice, and capers poured over the brains. There are other ways to cook them.

Share your favorite brain recipes.

Don’t eat too many or too often. They have a lot of cholesterol. Time for me to fry another batch.

I will be happy to publish the most interesting brain-eating accounts.


Win a Copy of my New Book of Poems

brains_cover_-_MoWANNA WIN A FREE copy of my brand new BOOK OF POEMS? Tell me what you think the book’s title (Brains 25c Drive In) means. I’ll select a winner on March 21, 2014.

In late January the first copies of the book of my selected and new poems—
25 ¢
Drive In
–was published by Aldrich Press.

The book’s cover is a photograph of a sign on the wall of an old workers’ lunch buffet in St. Louis, Missouri. The building is gone, and the sign with This photograph remains. These poems preserve its spirit as I absorbed it.  After he saw the cover, actor Don MacKay wrote me, asking what the words on the sign had to do with the poems. I told him to think about it and send me his interpretation. He did. He was right.
The titles of books of poetry invite the reader, like an appetizer, a foretaste, setting the reader’s mind in the right direction.

The Contest: Send me your interpretation of the title. On March 21 I will pick the winning explanation and send a copy to the person who came up with it.

Read two poems from the book. Maybe they will give you some ideas. Anyway, enjoy.

You can take part in the contest in one of three ways:
1) on Facebook you can comment on my post
2) on Facebook you can send me a message
3) send me an email.

How a Sign Became the Title for a Book of Poems

brains_cover_-_MoWhen I lived in St. Louis (1973 – 89), our house in Lafayette Square was a mile from Servian’s,. Part grocery store—cold cuts, white bread, canned vegetables–and part take-out lunch counter, the building was on Choteau Avenue. Nooter Boiler Company and other heavy manufacturing companies across the street.

Factory workers bought their lunches there–two thousand calorie, I would guess. A plate cost about $3.00. Boiled or smoked pig ears, snouts, tails, turkey legs, meat, loaf, heaps of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, spaghetti mac (a St. Louis specialty), greens of all kinds, chicken stew, fried fish—I remember these.

But there were no brains on the menu by then. The building gone, burned–sadly with Mr. Servian asleep in his apartment above the store–then demolished years ago. The photograph remains.

The poems expresses the sign’s spirit as I see it. An age. A fried brain sandwich you could buy for a quarter. Slice of raw onion, mayonnaise, thick, on the top slice of bread.

Along with the Gateway Arch of Westward Expansion (The Arch), the picture is a St. Louis icon, an icon of the underbelly.

Before the book was published, I was talking by phone with St. Louis poet Jane Ellen Ibur about the cover and the title. She said on the wall that she faced across her office was the photo.

Some time later I described the cover to theater director Jim O’Connor, former chairman of the theater department at USC, Jim had directed plays at St. Louis’ professional theater, the Loretto Hilton. O’Conner said that he has the photograph in his office. Coincidence?

Many own copies of the photo. William Stage, (he is on Wikipedia) St. Louis journalist, is also known for his photographs and books of painted signs from the mid-west. He used to sell the picture as a post card from Kumquat Press.

Years ago I told William some day I would use the picture for a cover for a book of poems. He said go ahead. Decades later here it is.

(The main St. Louis icon is the Gateway Arch of Westward Expansion. Look to the left edge of the cover where the sky meets the buildings. What do you see? Two icons in one picture.)