05 April 2007

Tupelo Toxic Waste #4,432: The Mulligan Stew incident

4! 4! 3! 2!

A) ...is the PIN number for the ATM card I carry from The Bank of Hell.
B) ...was the amount, to the left of the decimal point, of my last gasoline fill-up.
C) ...was a mantra which haunts my jalopified brain today.

Any poor soul who was exposed to the old Mulligan Stew program back in middle school probably remembers the whole "4-4-3-2" schtick. It was a short series promoting good nutrition, produced in 1972 by 4-H (Hogs, Hens, Horses and Heifers?). It was catchy, although a bit dated, even by 1977. It consisted Maggie, Mike, Mickey, Manny and Mulligan, who together formed rock band The Stews (they played Woodstock, you might remember. The group bombed, amidst warnings to 'avoid the brown broth'). Along with requisite "adult advisor" Wilbur, they embarked on adventures designed to .... everybody with me, now ..... PROMOTE GOOD NUTRITION!

The requisite foil was a neo-hippie named "Flim-Flam Man", who did subversive things like slipping fast food to these kids. Oh, the shame.

So, what was the whole "4-4-3-2" thing all about? Well, back in those pre-pyramid days, we had something called "the four basic food groups." 4-H promoted it as such:

FOUR (4) daily servings from the "Fruits & Vegetables" group.
FOUR (4) daily servings from "Bread & Cereals"
THREE (3) daily of "Milk & Cheese", and
TWO (2) daily from the "Meats/Fish/Fowl" group.

Hence, 4-4-3-2. That's the formula for me and you. 4-4-3-2, That's the only thing that'll do.

And as proof one can find damn near anything on You Tube, a case in point:

Did I mention the drummer for The Stews died ... of food poisoning?

Just kidding.

Or am I?

Update 03/25/2008: The "4-4-3-2" song has been deleted from YouTube, but I subbed the above clip. It doesn't include that damned song, but this comes awfully close.

We had a unit in 6th grade science class where we were force-fed all six episodes of Mulligan Stew. I thought it lame ... warmed-over Electric Company was more like it. (For years The Stews held a grudge against rival band The Short Circus ... jealous The Circus was more successful, and produced Irene Cara. Dammit, dammit, DAMMIT!!)

Well, the climax came during one of the handful of "P.E. free days" when both X and Y chromosomes got an hour of freeplay, instead of the standard gender rotation in place at Green Street. We were going to make ... MULLIGAN STEW. Wowsie. My skin is breaking out in goosebumps at the whole idea of staying inside a hot classroom, made even hotter by whatever cooking apparatus we'd be using to prepare this concoction (air conditioning in Tupelo was a luxury reserved only for the principal's office and - of course! - the hallowed teachers' lounge).

In any case, I didn't hear the words "mandatory" or "everybody has to participate." I thought it was going to be an optional exercise, so I went about my bidness. Meaning, I wanted to see just how much progress the Mississippi Highway Department was making on the new alignment of US-45 (not much, it seems; the highway didn't open until 1983!).

The "Mulligan Stew Incident" happened after "The Broken Beer Bottle Board-Beating-Butt Blues", and by then I kept waaaay to myself. I was down to counting days 'till the end of school. When I'd sit at my usual fringe spot, I always made sure not to get too lost in my daydreaming. My ear was always peeled toward the ballfield, as when the noise abated, that meant the kids were beginning to head back inside. Break time's over, back on your heads.

Well, I looked behind me, only to find two (2) of my teachers - both wearing sunglasses, I clearly remember (so ... was Miss Hopkins "Jake" and Mrs. Worthen "Elwood" ... or was it the other way around .... Ummmm, can I have dry white toast with my stew?). ANYway, my English teacher (Miss Hopkins) and Mulligan-exhibitin' science teacher (Mrs. Worthen) were coming toward me. I got up to approach them, and found out that I was ....

.... much as you'll find this hard to believe ....

.... not being "part of the team" (or words to that effect). My lack of attendance in the making of Mulligan Stew was, clearly, the worst offense this side of breaking yet another empty Schlitz Malt Liquor bottle.

And Miss Hopkins said she was going to call my mother.

Yes, terror gripped me the rest of the afternoon. The phone rang twice, I remember, but Mom never came back to my room to inflict any mental and/or physical torture. I did my best to eavesdrop on Mom's side of the convo, but I guessed that Miss Hopkins didn't follow up on her threat.

But the message was clear. I was being anti-social.

Now, who would ever accuse Talmadge Gleck of doing something so heinous as "not being part of the crowd"? Verily, I ask you.

Look, if I wanted the nutritional 4-4-3-2 value of beef stew, I'd sooner opt for "Brown 25."

Well, as Mr. Woolery might've said, "I'll be back in 4-4-3-2-and-2."

And as Mr. Gleck always says, "Ciao for niao."

--Talmadge "The Original Flim-Flam Man" Gleck


Kate/Susan said...

I've never done drugs, but I have a feeling I know what it'd be like, courtesy of that little video stroll down Nutrition Lane.


Talmadge G. said...

That song digs its claws into your skin like a small tick, doesn't it?

Imagine having that melody residing in a brain cell for 30 YEARS.....


jackparsons said...

Jesus Christ. I just googled something bizarre like "4 4 3 2 song basic foodgroups" because, 25 years later, I CANNOT GET THAT SONG OUT OF MY HEAD. It's been there, lurking, and together with my memories of wholesome Christmas mornings and my first kiss is that bratty singer and the hook of this song about the basic foodgroups. Do you think the director spent any time in a North Korean prisoner of war camp?

Talmadge G. said...

I dunno ..... then again, my time in Tupelo felt like a POW camp.

With songs like "4-4-3-2", who needs waterboarding?