Monday, February 14, 2011

Sometimes Cooking Just Doesn't "Take"

I fear I have failed my child. But sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, it just doesn't "take". In this case, I am referring to cooking and youngest daughter. Now the desire is there. Well, it has risen its curious culinary head lately. And, like everything else with her, she only listened when it suited her. And, in this particular category that wasn't often.

Our first hint was when in high school, she had difficulty fixing Stove Top Stuffing - you know the kind in the red box. Not only does it only involve water, a pot, a stove, and the ingredients in the box, there are instructions on the back of the box that walk you through the simple process, step by step with pictures. Alas, even that endeavor resulted in failure. 

Yesterday I get a phone call from her. "Mom, how do you roast a chicken?" "What kind of chicken?" "Chicken pieces." "Um, I generally, roast a whole chicken." "Well, I've had them in a pan in the oven for an hour now." "On what temperature?" "You always cook everything in the oven on 350 for an hour and a half." This was news to me. Not wanting to argue, and hoping to salvage her meal, I asked, "Is it covered?" "Yeah, with marinade?" "I mean is the pan covered?"  "What would you cover a pan with?" "Aluminum foil?" "You know we don't have accessories like that?" Of course I did.  I foresaw chicken jerky versus roasted chicken. 

The culinary question prior to this one started with, "How do you flavor chicken soup?" "With the vegetables, you know the carrots, celery, and onions, as well as salt and pepper and some bay." "I don't like vegetables in my soup, what else can I add?" "You added them the last time you made chicken soup." "I know, and it was obnoxious when I had pick them out before I ate it." OK, I thought, that would be unbearable.  "So that leaves water and chicken." "But you still haven't told me how to flavor chicken soup?

And, the irony here? This is the child who can make the most light, delicate, delicious crepes from scratch. Go figure.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fashions at Wal-mart

I was in Wal-mart early Saturday and looked around. Where do these people come from? I don't have a clue.  I've never seen most of them before (thank goodness). Maybe their mother ship is parked out back. 

It is obvious that they have never seen a mirror, because I cannot imagine venturing off my front porch (sober) dressed the way they do. The basic theme is camouflage (for the men and women). Now green camo over Hello Kitty pajama bottoms makes a statement. And, then there is always the underlying NASCAR motif along with any clothing item sporting a beer or cigarette logo. Sometimes, these shoppers can be mistaken for a walking trailer park bill board. "This shopper is brought to you by Budweiser." Just for the record this Bud was never for me.

And, if their clothes don't set them apart, then it's hard to miss their hair styles. Even in our town down here mullets are not standard fare. Billy Ray Cyrus had his run in the early '90s and is long gone. In some ways I get the feeling I am living on the set of "Roseanne". There is a lot of yelling among the "family" members and language that my mother would not find becoming. So this is why they make plastic flowers and polyester pants. I always wondered.

As I get in my car to leave before someone decides to "take me to their leader", I look in the mirror. Maybe I should have brushed my hair before I left the house. And, I wonder if anyone noticed that my red sweater perhaps did not match my pink shirt. But, that didn't matter. No one could see it. After all I was wearing my bright yellow vest over it all - a true fashion statement.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


My mother, always on her mission to keep us protected from the dregs of the life the White Trash, set certain rules. An obvious one was that we were forbidden from trailer parks. In her mind, the "other side of the tracks" no longer was a true line of distinction, she actually pointed out neighborhoods where families who were "not our kind of people" lived. I never could get her to explain who these people were, she would just say, "One day, you will understand, and thank me."

My brother and I were enrolled in a small private school both for academic purposes and to assure my mother that we were ensconced in this social cocoon and with "our kind of people". For some reason, she assumed that only "our kind of people" would pay tuition to attend school. Oddly enough, this wasn't a racial issue . So my brother and I rocked along in our little world (our very small world). Mom and Dad knew most of the parents of our friends, except for the kids who drove in from the surrounding small towns.

At 12 or 13, there's only so much a girl can do, since we weren't old enough to drive. Mom liked that because it gave her a certain amount of control over my life and my friends. One friend, she and Dad particularly liked was Marni with her warm smile and her quick wit. I particularly liked Marni's older sister who would pretty much take us any where we wanted to go - an incredibly valuable commodity for a 12 year old.

One Saturday afternoon, when I came home, Mom asked me what I had done. I told her we had gone to see a move at the theatre downtown. "But, we dont' go there," she said slowly. "I know, I never had. It was pretty neat."

The next time I wanted to go to Marni's, Mom insisted on taking me instead of Marni's sister picking me up. As I gave her directions to her house, I could see the countenance on her face change as we crossed that line. Marni lived in the forbidden land. Marni was not "our kind of people" (according to my mother's definition.)

As she pulled up in front of Marni's house, I looked at her and said, "Why do you look so surprised? You don't recognize 'not our kind of people' when you see them?" For once, my mother didn't quite know what to say. I jumped out of the car with my overnight bag and reminded her to pick me up the next morning. As she drove off, it dawned on me she had never been in this part of our very small town, I wondered if we should have left bread crumbs for her to find her way out of the dark forest.