It is only fitting that Kansas City-born Ed Asner should have had a pork chop recipe card in his culinary deck. Until you discover that he was the son of Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants and was raised Orthodox, Hebrew name Yitzhak.
Eddie, as he referred to himself, did a stint at the University of Chicago majoring in journalism until the day a professor told him there was little money in the field. This would have been around 1950, the heyday of American newspapering. He switched to drama, but dropped out, worked odd jobs including in a steel mill, and was drafted for a two-year Army stint.
He headed up to Chicago and then off to New York, where did Broadway and off-Broadway, and made his TV debut on Studio One in 1957. In 1963 he appeared as Detective Sgt. Thomas Siroleo in The Outer Limits episode “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork.” In 1965 he popped up in an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Around this time he made his film debut in 1962’s Elvis vehicle Kid Galahad.
This doesn’t sound very promising, does it? But in 1970 his luck changed immeasurably for the better when he was cast as irascible Lou Grant, the news director at WJM-TV in Minneapolis on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, for which he won three Emmys. That ran until 1977, and then his character moved over to the drama Lou Grant (two more Emmys). That same year he showed up on the miniseries Roots as the captain of the slave ship that brought Kuta Kinte to America (another Emmy), and I still remember how shocking it was to watch him in that role. Also, in 1976 he played Axel Jordache in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man, which got him another Emmy. With seven Emmys total under his belt he is the male actor with the most Emmys ever, a factoid you can impress your friends and family with.
Off-screen, and out of character, in real life he was a good leftie. He was President of the Screen Actor’s Guild for two terms and wholeheartedly supported the 1980 strike. He was a member of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and its successor, the Democratic Socialists of America. He very vocally opposed American meddling in Central America at the time, in Nicaragua and elsewhere. It is thought that his activism got Lou Grant canceled in 1982, despite the fact that it was in the Nielsen Top 10. Later in life, among many other causes he adopted, he supported Humane Borders, an organization that distributes water to migrants crossing the Sonoran Desert, was an advisor to The Rosenberg Fund for Children, founded by children of Julius and Ethel to provide assistance to political activists, and was a Board member of Defenders of Wildlife. The father and grandfather of autistic children, he added that cause to his portfolio. For four years he worked on a documentary about AIDS denialism. All this while maintaining a busy schedule making guest appearances on multiple TV shows and doing tons of voice work. For details, go to his wikipedia page, like I did.
The only dark spot in all of this (for me, as a New Yorker) is he became ensnared in the 9/11 Truther movement and his contributions to those efforts we don’t really need to go into.
Anyway, Eddie lived a good long life, he made it to 91, and to celebrate that life let’s make his pork chops:
Ed Asner’s Pork Chops in Sour Cream
4 large loin or center-cut pork chops
4 whole cloves
1/2 cup water
1/2 bay leaf
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
Dredge chops well in seasoned flour; insert 1 whole clove in center of each. Brown lightly in vegetable oil; drain, place in baking dish. Combine all remaining ingredients except the sour cream; heat slightly, pour over chops in baking dish. Cover and bake in preheated 350 degrees F. oven 1 hour. To serve, remove chops to serving platter. Heat pan drippings over direct heat, adding sour cream, stirring until mixture is thick but not boiling. Taste to correct seasonings. Pass sauce as side dish. Terrific served with whipped, sage-flavored potatoes. Serves 4.