One Handshake Away

Six Degrees of Separation.  Or the Six Handshakes Rule.  The notion that everyone in the world is separated by just six other people.

Sociologists and mathematicians and political scientists have played around with this concept ever since 1929 when the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy wrote a short story suggesting a game be played in which the players tried to make those links. 

University researchers in the 1950’s and 60’s were fascinated with the idea of human connectedness and started crunching numbers and publishing papers.  Intellectual stuff.  Andy remembers one of his sociology professors during his graduate school days at Colorado State University lecturing about how many folks we were just “one handshake away from.” The idea is you shake the hand of a person who has shaken the hand of a famous person, and that puts you one handshake away from the famous person.

(an update on these numbers:  Facebook research done in 2016 indicates we are now connected to everyone else in the world by only 3.57 people!) 

Well, I’m kind of fascinated with this too.  And I too suggest that in these days of isolation and boredom you might want to try outdo someone with a game of “I’m one handshake away from…”   Do it via Facetime!  Or Zoom!  Or Facebook (if you must).  Better yet, sit outside on your patio with a space heater going, carefully distanced,  and play it in person with your Besties.

Here’s our offering.  I’m covering the bright light side; Andy in Andy’s Corner has the sordid and seamy side (think David Duke!) covered. See if you can outdo us.  I’m upping the ante a little by demanding that there be not only a handshake from your go-betweens – but a conversation.  In other words, just a “meet and greet” – and no talk – doesn’t count.

I’m one handshake away from Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower.  (My granddad was a U.S. Congressman for 18 years.)

Should I brag about my grandfather and THIS handshake?

I’m one handshake away from Julia Child (our daughter, Sara, sat beside her at a luncheon in Napa.  But Julia was elderly and slept most of the time; the conversation wasn’t great).

Julia – years before she met our Sara. Nice knife, Julia! Are you missing the point?

On a more modern note, I’m one handshake away from Maya Rudolph and Natasha Lyonne (our L.A. friend, Danielle, heads up their Animal Pictures.  FYI – Animal Pictures will have an apropos comedy special out on Netflix late October starring Sarah Cooper. The title? “Everything’s Fine.” We need that to be true!).

This New Yorker virtual “Festival” sounds great. Eclectic group, including Natasha and Maya…we’re one handshake away! 🙂

But here’s one that I think is a game-changer!  I’m one handshake away from Bobby Zimmerman Bob Dylan.  This is what my friend Carolyn has to say about Bob:

Here’s the scoop. We were both from Minnesota. We were both Jewish. So it was inevitable that we ended up at Herzl Camp together. Bobby Zimmerman was adorable (and became my best friend’s boyfriend at camp). He wrote poems that made us cry (about the drunkard’s son, and about a dog that got run over . . . if memory serves me right). I still have copies of those poems in the mimeographed camp newsletter circa 1954. Some four years later we ended up at the University of Minnesota together. He was a frat boy (Sigma Alpha Mu) and would pull out his guitar at parties and sing in his gravelly voice that didn’t impress us one bit 🙂 He claimed he was Bobby V and that he had recorded “Suzy Baby.” I have such a clear picture of him (end of summer, 1960) in his shades and a leather cap announcing that he was going off to New York to make it big. Ha! we said. Sure! we said. Lots of luck! we said. Little did we know.

Bobby and Carolyn at Camp Herzl

And here’s an amazing video – a must watch – of Bob just a few years after he left Minnesota “to make it big.” It’s a 1963 TV appearance; Dyan is 21, and he’s singing his fabulous – and still relevant – “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

It’s weird to be writing about handshakes when the news of the day is filled with stories about the end of handshakes, given the virus – and maybe viruses to come.  I hope – when safe – we keep hugging and shaking hands.  Amazing how much human contact seems to be needed.

Now to the recipes.  I could post a martini recipe in honor of Winston Churchill.  Too simple! He apparently preferred them with just gin – no vermouth.  Maya Rudolph is well known for the disaster following her Brazilian steak dinner in the film Bridesmaids. Maybe a recipe for a Brazilian steak? 🙂 Or I could find some famous Minnesota recipe in honor of Bob Dylan.  But then there’s Julia.  How can I resist? We are a food blog…theoretically. The problem with Julia Child is that I generally find her recipes way too complicated for the lives we’re living. But here’s an easy one and a delicious one: Clafouti. It’s perfect for the pears, plums and apples available in early fall.

Julia Child’s Clafouti

Julia Child's Clafouti

This was originally made with pears – in Mastering the Art of French Cooking – but you can use peaches, apples, plums and – to be most French-like – cherries.

  • 1 1/2 lb firm, ripe pears – or peaches, apples, plums, all thinly sliced – or cherries; if you are using apples, see the footnote below
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar – divided into 1/3 and 1/3
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour


Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine the milk, 1/3 c of sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour in a blender. Cover and blend at top speed for about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides as needed.

Pour a little of the batter (about a 1/4-inch layer) into a buttered 9″ or 10″ baking dish or pyrex pie plate about 1 1/2 inches deep (a cast iron skillet also works nicely). Place in the oven for about 5 minutes–until the batter has slightly set in the bottom of the dish.

Spread the fruit on top of the slightly-cooked batter.  Sprinkle with the extra 1/3 cup sugar (unless you’re using apples – which you’ve already cooked in sugar). Pour on the rest of the batter.

Bake in the middle position of the oven for about an hour, until the clafouti has puffed and browned and a toothpick stuck into its center comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

If using apples, saute the slices, 2 T lemon juice, and 1/3 c of the sugar in 2 T butter in a frying pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring and turning. Add a pinch of cinnamon. Add that to the slightly baked batter and cover with the remaining batter. Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.


    • theRaggedys says:

      Andy here: “Stormy” was a student in one of Ann’s classes when she taught high school in Louisiana. In our BigLittleMeals game, that counts as a proxy for a handshake. And, for sure, Stormy had more than a good proxy for a handshake with “you know who.”


  1. Anonymous says:

    Your post reminded me that I’m one handshake away from Neil Young. I had a friend in high school that went to school with him. I also rode in an elevator once with Prince, who was surrounded by his bodyguards.


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