Wednesday, March 22, 2017

KALE - WHYWOULDYA?


In recent years, kale has become the darling of the food world. You’d think it was a new vegetable like the broccolini that’s been around for just over ten years. No. Kale has been around since Hector was a pup – at least it seems that way to me. I’ve never known life without kale, and I’ve never known many who liked it. My mother liked it, my sister liked it, I absolutely hated it. Still do. Well, maybe I’ll eat some fresh in a tangy salad, but if you were me and had been raised on overcooked vegetables that you absolutely had to eat, come hell or high water, you wouldn’t touch the stuff. I think my sister was from another planet.

What prompted me to write about kale is a recipe for “Potato Kale Breakfast Hash” in a recent shelter magazine. Frozen kale and hash browns, are to be cooked up, with all the expected additions, and served with fried eggs on top. Gross and disgusting. The ruination of the hash and the eggs.

My mother’s cooking forte was soup. She made wonderful soups of many varieties. I do remember her pea soup. She must have loved that pea soup color, because most green vegetables she cooked were done to match. I didn’t know that asparagus and string beans should be bright green, and I didn’t know I could love them so much. From dining out, I came to realize that vegetables were more palatable if they weren’t cooked to death. I eventually learned to steam anything but root veggies just until I could smell the aroma. Done!

We are exhorted to expand our food horizons and think up new ways to eat. I think I’ll leave my horizons just where they are.




Saturday, March 18, 2017

FOUNDATION GARMENTS

It's COOL inside? Oh, really?


Girdle
In our teens we all bought girdles
with rubber knobs to hold up our stockings.
We wiggled into them, our “foundations.”
So many things look absurd from a distance
that people still take seriously,
like whether there’s a Heaven for pets.
What ever happened to my girdle?
One day I peeled it off for the last time
and all hell broke loose.

This is the poem today on The Writer’s Almanac, and it gave me my chuckle for the morning. Before anything else, I had to google Connie Wanek. She’s ten years younger than I, but she’s “been there” and she just knows stuff. I’m not a fan of free verse, but her work appeals to me. I like this gal.
Girdles, oh, yes, we had to wear them, whether we needed them or not. And gradually I did need one. I vividly and acutely remember the girdles the poet describes. You might not believe this, but up to just a year ago I had two of what we called “two-way stretch” pull-on garments, without the rubber knobs, among my souvenirs. In the last decades we took to wearing panty hose, and recently, many women go without stockings at all. Just last year, along with a few full and half-slips I’d not worn in years, my unworn girdles finally went into the donations bag. Such garments, and even stronger ones, are still worn today, so I have no doubt some gal could use them. Me? I now live in comfort and clothing a size bigger. 

That last stanza of hers had me not too fondly remembering a time when I did peel off my girdle. It was on a warm September day, forty-some-odd years ago, and it was my wedding day. I had to get out of that girdle and I did, and then came the picture taking. Only later, in those days of film cameras when the pictures took time to be developed, did I realize that my stomach stood out as though I was a bit in the family way. I wasn’t!
All these years I've had a love/hate relationship with my favorite wedding picture. It's me and Frank and his children, along with my tummy, all lined up out on the lawn. Oh! I just had an idea: I am going to open that picture I scanned it in years ago - and crop off our bottom halves. I can do that in this day of digital photography.

Now that's better - but now I think I could have worn
 a better bra! I do wish I'd left on the jacket with the dress.
Geeeeze Loueeeeeze!

Voila!



Friday, March 17, 2017

TO SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO DREAM...


...ay, there’s the rub – the rub for us seniors, that is.* Very rarely can we say we slept like a baby because we usually sleep like a senior. Many or most nights we have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep.



Some studies say that a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep, others say it’s about 49%. Wherever you look they’re throwing numbers at the problem. Our well-being and our ability to sleep change as we age. We all know that good sleep is essential to our health, but how much we need is an individual thing. An exact amount of sleep may not really matter. Sleep studies now show that it is normal for seniors to awaken for up to an hour during the night. Even that time varies from person to person.

The National Sleep Foundation celebrates National Sleep Week each year in March. (or: - The Better Sleep Council designates May as Better Sleep Month.) It might be the ideal time to change your bedtime routines. Here are some you may want to try. As someone’s Mama might have said: “It couldn’t hurt.”



Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing

Before you turn off the bathroom light, flush your worries so they don’t come in to bed with you. Don’t worry about the kids and grandkids. Lying awake to worry on their behalf won’t make any difference in the long run. Try not to think about health problems: worrying about them isn’t an accepted medical treatment. Don’t make any major decisions while you’re trying to get to sleep. Make decisions just after waking up when your brain is fresh.

The mind’s eye is a useful tool. Don’t just lie there: think of something. Try reading an interesting article before bedtime. Read a bit from magazines like Smithsonian, National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, or whatever publication caters to your interests. Think about any recent book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen: what happened after The End?  Revisit great places you’ve visited or rerun great times you’ve had with family or friends. Start the plot outline for a book you could write. (You might want to keep a pad and lighted pen on your night stand.) As you prepare for bed be planning the topic for your train of thought – let the train take you away into sleep.




Don’t Knock it if You Haven’t Tried It

Eat two slices of bread before bed – before you brush your teeth, of course. Just bread, no butter or jam, but maybe a teaspoon or two of honey which is said to be a sleeping aid.

Sleep in the buff.  Nightgowns and PJ’s can be constricting and lumpy, and you have to fight with them when you turn over, and you get aggravated and…! Try a night without them.

Keep cool. Turn down the thermostat at night in the warm weather. Which comes first: your sleep and your health or the electric bill? Keep cool in winter too.

Move the alarm clock. Turn its face away from you so that you don’t watch the clock and agonize over all the time you think you’ve been awake. Ignorance is bliss.

Get rid of your old-faithful easy chair. If you’re one of those who fall asleep in front of the TV in your comfy chair, you’re robbing yourself of proper sleep in bed. Rearrange your living room if you necessary. If TV bores you to sleep, why watch it? If you’re falling asleep, go to bed. You might want to change your regular bedtime to an earlier hour.  


When we were little we usually had to take a nap, especially if we were doing something special that night. Mom always told us that we didn’t have to sleep but did have to rest. Nine times out of ten we’d fall right to sleep. Don’t worry about sleeping – get worry off your mind: just rest. Try some of the sleep routine-shaking changes above. They might just work for you.


* This is another of the essays I've recently submitted to the community magazine, so when I am referring to us seniors its because we are a community of seniors. I originally posted this on the bog back in June 2011. It still holds true.






Wednesday, March 15, 2017

ESSENTIAL INFORMATION - NOT


Are they serious? On this morning's installment of the daily email from Simplemost, they offered up this essential information: These Are the Most Popular Disney Channel Original Movies in Every State. 

Someone rally believed we needed to know this information. Someone paid someone else, or several someones, to canvass the population for this information. Someone organized the data, and someone prepared the map graphics. Folks, this is the scientific process at its lowest ebb.

Add these useless facts to the recent rash of "alternative facts" and we've got a truly informed population here in America.


"And I am unanimous in this"



Friday, March 10, 2017

STEPHEN



This is Stephen. This was 1965, and he, my oldest nephew, was exploring in his Grandmother’s back yard. I just happened to have my camera in hand. It could be any little boy on any given day, and the picture has always been one of my favorites.






Wednesday, March 8, 2017

WOMEN: SHIFTING STEREOTYPES



Today is International Women's Day, and this is an article I wrote for the March issue of our community magazine. I know that some of my readers live in Sun City Carolina Lakes, and may have already read this piece. It may be worth reading again, especially the bit where some men once considered us to be no more than defective, soulless beasts. That just frosts my soul. I really do think that the religiously celibate men who came up with this piece of doctrine were "depraved on acounta the were deprived." What were they thinking?!

March is Women’s History Month - and a fine history we do have. In years past though, we have had to put up with too many stereotypes. In the seventh century, the Council of Nantes argued that women were “soulless beasts”, defectives (defectives? Now, I ask you!) who could be treated as such by men, their natural masters.” Whew!
Over the centuries there have been rare, prominent women whose achievements - scientific, artistic, patriotic, or oven notorious -  have given them a permanent place in history. (Who hasn’t heard of Lucrezia Borgia?) It is only in the last century or so that women have started to reassert themselves beyond the realm of farm, hearth and home, and to shed some of the sentimentality and stereotypes assigned to ‘the soft sex’, ‘the weaker sex’.  
We women are no longer solely the sole keepers of hearth and home, not good enough to vote, much less run for office, and not capable of anything above simple home mathematics, much less rocket science. You name it, we could always do it. Only now, when we want to go beyond our female-specific and stereotypic pursuits, are we allowed the opportunity.
Gone are the days when a woman was told “bring in your husband” before she could transact bank business or buy a car; never mind buying a home or starting a business of her own. Gone are the days when hospital whites were worn by nurses and doctors went around with stethoscopes around their necks. Even better, gone are the days when a gal in scrubs is assumed to be a nurse, or a man in scrubs a doctor. The world can no longer ass-u-me. Now are the days when all stereotypes, all assumptions must be banished.
Lady cops, woman judges, female executives, or woman soldiers should be labels no longer: they’re just cops, judges, executives, or soldiers doing a pre-defined job. (Truthfully though, we still don’t understand why a gal would want to be a wrestler.) There are no more ‘old maid school teachers’, much less ‘old maids’, unless you’re playing that card game. The spinsters, battle axes, and buxom broads, and the little woman, the missus, my old lady, and all the other stereotyped gals have left the building.

But there are still thorns on the rose. An old cigarette ad, aimed at the newly ‘liberated women’ of the late 60’s, used the slogan “You’ve come a long way baby,” yet, as Helen Reddy sang: “I’m still an embryo with a long, long way to go.” We senior women have it fairly easy of late, but younger women, especially those in the work force, still have to put up with stereotypes, sexist labels, and discrimination. Lisa Abeyta, writing in The Huffington Post, has said:
“Until there is more gender balance among leading roles in entertainment, government and corporate leadership, our sons and daughters will continue to believe the stereotypes perpetuated in the news, media, and their everyday lives.”  






Friday, March 3, 2017

KNOW YOUR ONIONS*



Many idioms like “to know the ropes,” “raining cats and dogs,” or “high as a kite” have arguable origins. Like them, “know your onions” has several possible original meanings. Until an idiom appears in print and can be definitely dated, it is hard to pin down just when and how any phrase came into common usage.

For this month though, when we are asked to know and celebrate the onion.     
The National Onion Association, onions-usa.org, celebrates only the regular onion onions: the white, yellow, and red bulb onions we use most often. Knowing your onions can be as involved a pursuit as knowing the ropes on a ship or backstage at a theater – there are so many varieties, and culinarily speaking, they have many different uses. Good cooks usually know the onion ropes – or have ropes of onions.

The first onions that come to mind and bring tears to our eyes (it’s the sulphur in them) are the everyday onions. They come in those string or plastic mesh bags and leave their onion skin bits all over our carrier bags and refrigerator vegetable drawers. The now rarely used thin, stiff, transparent copy paper for typewriters was named for this stuff: “onionskin.”  These everyday onions are those best used for cooking. They’re what we want for sautéed onions on our burger, the zing and even sweetness in our spaghetti sauce (plenty of sugar in an onion), and the ‘meat’ in our onion soup. They are usually too pungent for eating raw in salads or as toppings.

This will be French onion soup - or I could pile those onions on my burger.
Makes me salivate just typing this caption.

For using raw, it’s best to stick to the sweet ones, the Bermudas, the Vidalias, the Walla-Walla’s and their like. They are full of Vitamin C. Bermudas are usually available year round, but the real sweet ones arrive in the late spring, just in time for summer salads.  Whatever the onion, whatever the month, for cooking or for eating raw, be aware that the flatter the onion, even with those Vidalias, the sweeter it will be. Save the pointy onions for sauce.

Along with those tasty big bulbs, the allium genus, named for the Latin word for garlic, includes that same garlic as well as the shallots, scallions, leeks and chives among the dozen or so varieties grown commercially and seen in every supermarket. These add a more subtle flavor to our food. There are hundreds of other species growing in the wild. You’ll know them by their aroma, sometimes from many feet away. All the plants in this genus have pretty flowers, especially the chives, but there are many spectacular garden flowers to be grown in our gardens. They’ve got names like Globemaster, Gladiator, Mount Everest, even Powder Puff. They’re long-lasting and critter-resistant too.

Alliums all

Any culinary variety of onion lends bite and flavor to our food. If you over-indulge in garlic or onion, be aware of its counterbalance: parsley. Unless everyone around you has eaten the same dish, grab that piece of decorative parsley you left on the plate. Chew it well and swallow. You’ll come up smelling like a rose.  (A rose – a topic for another month.)


*Another ‘foodie’ topic. I seem to be doing a lot of this lately. They usually begin as topics suggested for our community magazine. In recent months, I’ve done onions, fruitcake, soup, breakfast, and rice. Next month it's peaches. It's great to be able to write about something I love – and I love food!



Friday, February 24, 2017

NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN



Here's another little essay with a bit of interesting history.

On February 20, we marked the 225th anniversary of President George Washington’s signing of the Postal Service Act in 1792, establishing the United States Post Office, the foundations of which were established in July 1775. Today we call it the Postal Service. Coincidentally, in August of this year we will mark the 490th anniversary of the sending of the first known letter from this side of the pond, Newfoundland to be exact, to England, from Master John Rut, mariner, to Henry III. Though there were various methods and offices to handle the mails, including having Benjamin Franklin, working from England, act as Postmaster General, not much speeded up the mail in the 265 years between those two events. There’s not much more to be found on line to say who carried the letter to Henry VIII or even how long it took to get to him, but postal service has improved over the years. It improved, certainly, with newer and faster methods of transportation and organization, but these days it’s showing definite signs of decline and disuse.

At the website about.usps.com, you will find this:
  “The United States Postal Service is an independent establishment of the Executive Branch of the Government of the United States and operates in a business-like way. Its mission statement can be found in Section 101(a) of Title 39 of the U.S. Code, also known as the Postal Reorganization Act: The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.”

Those are lofty ideals, but it seems to us these days that the Postal Service carries only catalogs, annual reports, fast food fliers, and miscellaneous junk mail. On line we can get email, ecards, online billing, banking, and bank statements. Just as our use of cash is declining because of the almost universal use of debit and credit cards, so too, one day there will probably be little need for a government postal service. Carriers like United Parcel Service have trucks and personnel on the roads every day, and are already picking up mail deliveries. In the name of conservation of our natural resources, perhaps our laws will one day outlaw paper catalogs and reports. Even today, most of the information in them is easily obtained on line. These days it isn’t really essential that our regular postal carriers deliver to us each day – even three times a week could suffice – but carry on they do.

Unless it is stolen or mislabeled, very little mail is undelivered these days. We Americans are fortunate in our postal service. But if you are a postal employee in far off places that consist of dozens of nameless inhabited islands or vast tracks of land, finding the proper recipient can be a trial. Now, a new London-based company has developed what3words. (see them at http://what3words.com/ ) The system divides up the planet into 3x3 meter squares, roughly 10 ft. by 10ft, identifying it with a unique string of three words. For The New York Times office in Manhattan, it’s “zest.ropes.along.” For the Tonga Post headquarters, it’s “international.bashfully.placidity.” Identifiers will also come in French, German, Russian, Spanish, and many other languages. If the sender knows the recipient’s three-word address, the local postal office can deliver. (And agencies like the Red Cross will be using it to pinpoint areas in need of disaster aid.)


Did you know that what you thought was the motto of the U.S. Postal Service isn’t their official motto at all? You know the one: “Neither snow nor rain no heat nor gloom of night…” This quotation from Herodotus, this apt tribute to the postal workers, especially the wonderful ones we have delivering the mail here in SCCL, was a chance selection. It was made in 1914 by one of the architects involved, to be inscribed over the entrance to the new 8th Avenue Post Office building in New York City. The motto’s great visibility in one of the busiest areas of the city insured its connection with the postal workers from then on. 






Saturday, February 18, 2017

THE AMERICAN BREAKFAST




Breakfast as we Americans know it today might not be the same if not for J. Harvey Kellogg, born 165 years ago this month. Kellogg was not the first to have the dry cereal idea: the Native Americans introduced their breakfast of popcorn to the English colonists in the 1600s.

The Michigan-born John Harvey Kellogg was an M.D., a surgeon a well as a nutritionist, educated at New York University. Along with his younger brother, Will Keith Kellogg, a businessman and industrialist, he ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium. The sanitarium, owned by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, was a place for patients to regain good health while learning, according to the church’s tenets, to exercise, eat, and eliminate properly.

One of the beliefs at the sanatorium was that bland foods would lower the libido. A regular staple of the breakfast meal, part of a strict vegetarian diet, was boiled grains. The story goes that one morning the wheat grains were badly overcooked. What to do? In the spirit of “waste not, want not,” the brothers decided to dry and roll out the cooked wheat to make a dough. What they got wasn’t a dough, but flakes – wheat flakes. The patients liked it. That led to making flakes of corn, and thus corn flakes, were born. Kellogg’s has become synonymous with corn flakes.

Actually, the first to market corn flakes was C. W. Post. Post had been a patient at the sanitarium, and he ‘acquired’ the process and began to make and market flaked corn as Post Toasties. A year later, Will decided to do the same, and with his brother John, founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, later known as just Kellogg’s.

Oatmeal, farina, and such had always been available, but the dry cereal was less expensive and quicker to get to the breakfast table. After the advent of the corn flake, grains that were popped, pulled, puffed, or made into tiny o’s were healthier replacements for the eggs and meat, and maybe kippers if you were British, often eaten for breakfast.

For most people, on most days, breakfast, dried or frozen, now comes in a box. Dried cereal, sugared or not, is beginning to make way for new forms of ready breakfast foods that can be cooked quickly. Pop Tarts and Eggos aside, and both have been around for over fifty years, the selections have expanded to include things like breakfast burritos, filled croissants, stuffed hash browns, French toast sticks, and even steak and eggs. Corporate test kitchens are working overtime. Breakfast is an important meal, and it is becoming easier and easier to eat well while on the go.

Both John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will died at the age of 91. They must have been eating right for all those years.

The All-American artist, Norman Rockwell, did
illustrations for the All-American breakfast.




Thursday, February 16, 2017

MR. TRUMP AND SCIENTIFIC METHODS




In the ages of man, especially in the years BCE, scientists have discovered many truths. Prior to previous beliefs, we now believe, we now know for sure, that the earth is round, that it is not the center of the universe, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, that everything is made up of atoms and molecules, that living things carry their biological heritage in their DNA, that planes can fly and so can bees, and what goes up must come down. We thank Galileo, Newton, Crick, and so many others who used what we now call “scientific methods” for discovering these things.

We’ve come to trust the truths, confirmed again and again, that scientific methods uncover for us. Why doesn’t President Trump? Why does he doubt global warming and man’s part in it? Why does he question verified truths of various kinds? Doesn’t he believe the world is round?

     

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

THE NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE AT 75

No pencils please! We do it in ink.

I see that today is the 75th Anniversary of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. It took them about 28 years to get on the bandwagon.
I posted this blog in December of 2013, and since that time I have begun to do the Wednesday NYT puzzle, they're getting trickier.  I still forego the Monday and Tuesday versions. And when my red ink pens ran out, I took to doing the puzzle in whatever color was at hand. I think the crosswords help keep my brain in some semblance of order.


Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the modern crossword puzzle. I was made aware of this last year when Slate made spoof predictions on which other publications would do articles on the anniversaries coming up in 2013.

I’ve been doing the Sunday crossword for untold years – well, ever since I could buy my own Sunday Times.  Before that time the Sunday crossword was always ‘owned’ by my mother. She and her brother were great fans.

We got the Times only on Sunday. If there were crosswords in our daily paper I don’t recall Mom doing them. She was strictly a Sunday Times fan. On serendipitous occasions I would come upon a daily Times, perhaps left behind in a Long Island Rail Road car, and over the years I came to ignore them if they were the Monday to Wednesday variety – usually too easy.

And what’s too hard? Any day’s puzzle from The Times of London – those folks went off on a tangent that my mind could never follow.

Some people would call it cheating, but when I don’t know the answer to the clue I look it up. I’d be cheating myself if I passed up an opportunity to learn something. “When in doubt check it out” is my motto.  A neighbor and I, from where we once lived, agreed that this was a good way to way to learn something new. I still keep an atlas and dictionary right by my chair – but there’s a laptop there too, so Google and Wikipedia have become my best resources.  I’m pretty well read, but I know absolutely nothing about
“Gyllenhall of Brokeback Mountain” or a “New Mexico State athlete.” So if I can’t get them by filling in the answers I do know, I consult my handy-dandy online references. 

To me, one of the great benefits of the internet is having access to the New York Times crossword puzzle.  Now I print out the Thursday through Sunday puzzles. The service costs about $40 a year, and it is well worth it to me, especially since delivery of just the Sunday paper here in South Carolina would cost over $200. Saves on paper too. Another new motto of mine: “Save a tree, read the news on line.”

My uncle did the puzzle in ink.  I remember him peering over his eye glasses at me and commenting that it was the only fair way to do it.  So, to be fair, I do it in ink too – red ink, so that I really see those mistakes. When I do finish one with no errors it’s like I’ve given myself a Christmas present.





                                                                                  
C
H
MERRY
I
S
T
M
A
S

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

CELEBRATIONS, COMMEMORATIONS, AND OBSERVATIONS – ST. VALENTINE'S DAY




We can understand the basic differences in the meanings of the title words. On some special days we celebrate: think of occasions like Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving, or the Fourth of July. We commemorate, rather than celebrate, on Veterans Day or Memorial Day. The more solemn days like Yom Kippur or Easter are observances. It’s really not too clear if we celebrate or observe Halloween, but that’s another story and it depends on the age of the people you poll.

St. Valentine’s Day should fall under the category of observances. It is really just the observance of the day of the death of the saint now associated with romantic love. St. Valentine was a martyred, third century Roman who was often confused with other saintly Valentines who lived during the early centuries Anno Domini. Not much is known about any of them, but the saint who died on February 14 was singled out in the fourteenth century by one Geoffrey Chaucer. He used him in a work of fiction, Parlement of Foules, (Fowls), writing about the fictitious traditional celebration of St. Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers.
What started as fiction almost seven centuries ago has become a fact, and a lucrative, commercial one to boot. On a cold February day, one could wish that Chaucer had selected an otherwise-obscure saint who was born in the spring – maybe a day in May. You know the line from Tennyson: “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”  Yes, the spring would be more conducive to romance: flowers are in bloom, the birds are singing their mating songs, and every other living thing is tuned in to the beautiful weather. Birds do it, bees do it.

Christmas tinsel is hardly swept away when the stores explode with red and pink, gearing up for Valentine’s Day. Greeting cards run the gamut from packets of little cards meant for school kids to exchange (remember that?) to over-large, velvet-tufted expressions of undying love. And don’t forget the stickers. Kids love them.

There is an ever-expanding range of choices for gifts for our sweethearts, as well as an ever-expanding effort to get us to buy, buy, buy, lest we disappoint our significant other. Flowers and the traditional heart-shaped box of chocolates, and, of course, the Whitman Sampler (the caramels are mine!) have been joined by teddy bears, pajamas, and other personalized gifts. Jewelry has always been popular, and the more glitter the better. We hope money is no object. 
For us Seniors, it may all be getting to be a bit too much. We’ve heard of the couples who take themselves to the card store where each selects a card for their spouse, presents it to them, and has them read it. They exchange a hug and a kiss, and then put the cards back in the racks. Fun and inexpensive, and no tchotchke to find a home for.

The lasting legacies of the romance of Valentine’s Day are those born in mid-November, as I was.  We are all Valentine Babies.


Friday, February 10, 2017

WELL, I MEAN




Well, I mean,  good grief and holey socks, where did “well, I mean” spring from? On a racing news program a few days ago, an interviewer asked a race car driver what it meant to miss out on the championship. The driver began with “Well, I mean, …”  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard someone begin their answer with “Well, I mean…” He hadn’t yet said anything that needed further explanation or qualification. I’ve even heard one or two start off with “Yes, no, well I mean…” Why do so many interviewees start their reply as though they’d already given an answer?

Not every interviewee on the planet starts off with this strange qualification, but there are enough of them to notice a trend, and to have it really annoy me. 






Wednesday, February 8, 2017

CHOOSING UP




In a boatyard in Rapallo in 1998

in other words: eeny, meeny, miney, moe!


(It's pronounced  ahm ba ra ba, chi chi, coco, and it is fun to say!)
Eeny, meeny, miney, moe - what will you do with your day today?


Choices, choices - make good choices!


Originally, I posted this bit in July of 2014.  Just a while ago though, I surprised my younger granddaughters with this Eeny Meeny ditty that I learned long ago:

   Eeny – meeny – titsee -  teeny
   Ooo -  gah – gagh go lini
   Atch – patchi – goo go latchi
   Out goes Y – O – U!





Friday, February 3, 2017

JAMES MICHENER

The Cheapeake

If you want to know about a place, read a James Michener book: he did all the research for you. Among other places, in superbly crafted fiction, nonfiction, and masterful blends of both, his books can take you to

        Alaska
        The Caribbean
        The Chesapeake
        Colorado
        Hawaii
        Iberia
        Israel
        Iberia
        Poland
        Texas
               
To quote Dr. Seuss, another favorite author of mine, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

Today is the 110th anniversary of Michener’s birth. I will celebrate appropriately by re-reading one of his many books – Hawaii, my favorite.
            Or do I like Chesapeake best?



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

CRIMPLENE LADIES



Wood Street, Waltham Forest, London

Crimplene ladies sing dis song. Doo dah! Doo dah! With apologies to Stephen Foster, I can just see these to ladies breaking into song, and dancing their hearts out when they spotted Philipp Ebeling* and his camera.

The picture speaks to me of a completely different life than my own. These two ladies, curled and coiffed, properly wearing crimplene frocks and nylon tights, with their handbags and carriers, were probably on their way to the local Tesco, then on to the café for a cuppa. It’s London. It’s England. And, though I first thought this a picture from the fifties, from the looks of the cars on the street, it’s now.

I live in what is euphemistically called an “active adult community.” We’re all over 55, and some of us are ten, twenty, even thirty years older than that minimum. While a few of us do sport canes, or walkers when we’ve just had our knees replaced, not one of us would dress the way these two ladies do. We dress more like our daughters than our grandmothers.

Different places, different customs, different expectations. Interesting.


*You can see more of Ebeling’s extraordinary work here. The picture above is from his London Ends collection.






Friday, January 27, 2017

FIFTY FRIENDS

Well, maybe not this many 

Last year in January I read this in The Writer’s Almanac on the 16th:    

It’s the birthday of novelist, essayist, and cultural critic Susan Sontag (books by this author), born Susan Rosenblatt in New York City (1933). She grew up in Tucson and Los Angeles. She was a voracious reader from the age of three, and the first book she remembered being thrilled by was Madame Curie, which she read when she was six. She remembered lying in bed as a child and gazing at her bookcase: “It was like looking at my 50 friends. A book was like stepping through a mirror. I could go somewhere else. Each one was a door to a whole kingdom.”


Fifty friends – oh, more than fifty!  Books have been a necessity for me, like love and food, since I was aware of them and able to hold them. I’ve had many books given to me, and I’ve spent a tidy sum on books ever since I had the means to do so. It follows that I’ve also given away many, many of them. I’ve had only so much room in the homes where I’ve lived over the years. There are also a few real treasures that have “grown legs” over the years, and I do miss them terribly. But my very old-time friends are still on my shelves. Just a passing glance at one of their spines brings the whole story back to me in an instant. The flavor of the book runs a quick video through my memory. I can’t say the same happens when I see some of the newer books on my shelves. Old Friends are the best friends.

Friday, January 20, 2017

PIE AND A POEM

I was going to write a blog piece, I used this poem instead. You know I’m not a fan of free verse, but this one speaks to me. Grace Paley took the alternative and turned it into a poem.  In effect, she had her pie and a poem too – clever!

If I have to choose a pie, it will always be pumpkin.
I didn't get enough of it at the end of last year.


The Poet’s Occasional Alternative

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead      it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft      a poem would have had some
distance to go      days and weeks and
much crumpled paper
the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor
everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it      many friends
will say      why in the world did you
make only one
this does not happen with poems
because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership      I do not
want to wait a week      a year      a
generation for the right
consumer to come along



Friday, January 13, 2017

THE ONCE DANISH WEST INDIES

Here's another piece I wrote for our community magazine. This one was a labor of love because one of my most memorable vacations was at Caneel Bay on St. Johns, way, way back in the day when, the week before I got there, Frank Sinatra, Roz Russel, and Bennett Cerf and their spouses stayed there. (I got a lot of: "Guess who was here last week?")The place was elegant, the food fabulous, and the relaxation complete. From what I see in the images, it is still a wonderful resort.

This looks like where I stayed at Caneel Bay


One hundred years ago, as of January this year, give or take a month or more for signing, ratification, and proclamations by each of the countries party to the treaty, the United States, after years of negotiations, purchased the Danish West Indies from, of course, Denmark. The price, which has proved to be worth every ounce, was a nice, round figure of $25 million in gold, worth over twenty times that in today’s currency.

The final impetus for the purchase was the fear the Americans had that the Germans would take over the islands and have a foothold in the western hemisphere, and the concern the Danish had for their people there in the troubled months before and during World War I. The continued neutrality of the Danish was insured when the final transfer was made just days before the United States declared war on Germany.

Today we know the Danish West Indies as the American Virgin Islands: St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and the many other small islands and cays.
The history of the islands is quite interesting and includes Stone Age peoples, the more recent Arawaks and Caribs visited by Christopher Columbus, the colonizing Spanish, French, and Danish, and ultimate purchase by the United States.



Explorers once delighted in naming places they visited, regardless of whether they’d already been named by the indigenous people. We owe the name of the Virgin Islands, the US and the British, to Columbus. The whole system of islands and cays reminded him of St. Ursula and her thousands of martyred virgins, and he named the larger islands for saints and such. Some day we may see these places revert to their original names, as has Uluru, formerly Ayres Rock in Australia, and Denali, formerly Mt. McKinley in Alaska.

The principal economic factor of the islands had always been the production of sugar and rum. This production declined significantly in the late 1800’s with the rise elsewhere of the cultivation of the sugar beet. Today, the principal economic factor of the islands is rest and relaxation, the enjoyment of good food, great beaches, and abundant sunshine: tourism.

Tourists from all over the world flock to the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands. The peak tourist season, with appropriately elevated prices, is December to March. The best time to visit is off-peak April through June, and even later in the summer when it’s off off-peak. Many northerners wouldn’t consider a Virgin Islands trip in the summer. What they forget is that the islands’ daytime temperature, even in summer, is usually around 80° and it’s usually cooler there than up here. It is certainly breezier there. Yes, there can be hurricanes, and yes, the temperatures may get a bit higher, but it’s usually a serene time in the islands. There is plenty of elbow room and plenty of beach room. There are museums and plantations to visit, duty-free items to buy in a relaxed shopping atmosphere, and swimming, hiking, and snorkeling everywhere, especially in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park. For further information, start googling.



Friday, January 6, 2017

FOODS FAST FORWARD

Ah, yes - here's another two-fer.  I wrote this one for this month's community magazine, and I've had a few favorable comments on it. We've all been speculating about the answer to the last sentence.

Image result for lobster newburg delmonico's
Lobster Newburg - I haven't had this in years!
Ingredients include cream, sherry, cognac, butter, and, of course, lobster.
Scrumptious!


Do you remember Lobster Newburg, Salisbury steak, Chicken a la King, and that all-time favorite Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast? This last one was also known to many of us as Sh..  …well, let’s just say that time marches on and, fortunately for us, so have the trends for what we eat.

We were accustomed to calorie-dense foods, foods that were relatively inexpensive but filled us and provided the calories for hard work and play. Noodles, pasta, potatoes, and bread played a big part in our diets. Unless it was spaghetti night, supper was meat, a starch, and a veg. Salads made very rare appearances on our plates. Farmers markets were few and far between, and unless your family maintained a vegetable garden, your veggies were days, even weeks old. The butcher, the baker, the green grocer, and the milk man, were the common independent purveyors who now find themselves under one roof in the supermarket.

Sundays were the days for a huge roast, perhaps leg of lamb or fresh ham, and all the accompaniments. Mom spent a lot of the morning preparing the roast, and the rest of the family spent the late afternoon working or snoozing off the effects of the meal. Today, such large roasts are served mostly on holidays. Many Baby Boomers don’t even remember a fresh ham, thinking it’s the non-canned variety of a smoked ham.

While weeknight desserts were things like jello, chocolate pudding, or tapioca, Sunday desserts were presentations: pound cakes, layer cakes, pineapple upside-down cakes, coconut cream pies, pies of every flavor, and, in season, things like buckles and cobblers. In summer there might have been a treat of home-made ice cream.

In the Fifties, while we on the western side of the Atlantic were eating these traditional foods, people like Julia Child were over in France learning new ways to cook. No longer was Chinese cooking just chop suey or chow mein. No longer was Asian cooking just Chinese. No longer were chop suey and chow mein or spaghetti and pizza the only international foods on our plates.
Television, advances in freezing foods, and widespread transportation meant that we were getting a larger variety of fresher foods and were learning new ways to prepare them. No longer did one cookbook cover everything we wanted to prepare. Fanny Farmer, Better Homes and Gardens, or the Settlement cookbook, have been joined on the packed shelves by hundreds of others. The vast variety of subjects to be covered in individual cookbooks meant that book stores moved the few cookbooks out of the Reference section, and began to devote whole sections of their shelves to them.

Today we aren’t as reliant on seasonal foods, although eating with the seasons, becoming a “locavore” and cooking with what is readily available from nearby sources, is the latest trend, especially for restaurants. Many restaurants don’t have freezers, preferring to use only the freshest ingredients for their menu. And that’s another difference in the way we eat today: more and more we choose to eat out. Rather than stock our kitchens with all the ingredients for international cuisines, we go to the local places that satisfy our tastes. Just in our area we can have Asian, Italian, Greek, Mexican, New York Deli, Southern, you name it, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and it’s nearby. So much food, so little time!

Just wonderin’…   …Remember the party standby, deviled eggs? Just plain deviled eggs. Today, according to a recent issue of Saveur magazine, they marinate the whites in soy sauce and raspberry vinegar - just for fifteen minutes, mind you - and then fill them with the yolks that were combined with lump crab meat, avocado, and apple. Chefs are getting inventive. Food is getting fancy. It’s probably a good thing, but we have to wonder what “comfort food” will be to generations to come.