Don Herbert, who was a big part of my weekly television viewing as a youngster, died several days ago. He was Mr. Wizard, of the Watch Mr. Wizard science-for-kids TV show in the 1950s. I was a very faithful viewer, and I'm sure his explanations of science principals had a lot to do with my love for learning how things work, and for my career in engineering. He did a great job of explaining how things worked in dramatic and yet graspable fashion, and it may be that my own decent ability to explain things to "civilians" owes much to him and his TV show. As I recall, the program was sponsored by a cereal company, and began with a child coming to his door to see what Mr. Wizard was doing. He'd start off with a flashy little demo or a probing question, and then go through the background and processes to re-create or illustrate it. Then each episode ended with some little gimick that said "Time to go home." It was pretty captivating for me.
The other man was Bob Evans, the founder of the eponymous restaurant chain (590 stores now, in 18 states; not including Massachusetts, alas). Though I didn't discover his restaurants until the late 1970s, I fell in love with them, and particularly a simple, signature dish: biscuits and sausage gravy. Biscuits in my own family were just an alternate form of bread, often from a Pillsbury tube or a box of Bisquick. At Bob Evans' Restaurants they were a whole 'nother thing; slightly crispy outside with a fluffy yet doughy center, sweetly buttery and redolent of good ol' hard wheat flour, and always warm-from-the-oven fresh. And while Bob Evans sausage itself was only OK, their sausage gravy remains the gold standard for me -- creamy, full flavored, just the right amount of meat bits, never greasy or gritty. When I lived in Tennessee, a few years after I first discovered Bob Evans sausage gravy, I was constantly disappointed in the the "authentic Southern" versions I found, which were usually thin in flavor, pasty and altogether lacking in character. That rich Ohio recipe has spoiled me forever.