Saturday, July 31, 2021

Times Moves on, Faster and Faster

 Am I  getting older, or is time really flying? Here we are at the end of August and my head is still getting through March. I read an article last month about how time actually does move faster as we age. The theory (or truth) being that as a young child we only have so many memories to deal with, only so many experiences to compare the events of each day to. As we age that number of life events, memories, and experiences expands - exponentially. Therefore as an older adult we mentally compare any given day's events to those many (many) thousands of days we have experienced in the past. 

Every minute, every hour, every day, and every week becomes just one of tens of millions of minutes and many ten of thousands of hours and days in the memory of our life. Where as in a 12 year old's mind there are multiple times fewer to moments to compare. 

Well, that explains a lot - I think. It took me a while to contemplate this concept. Does this mean that someone who has lived a very exciting and memorable life experiences an accelerated feeling of time moving on? Or in the case of a hermit who sees few people, rarely goes any where, or vary from a daily schedule - does he (or she) find time crawls by?

This begs to ask, when we are encouraged to live large, grab the brass ring, and make the most of our days are we scurrying toward the end at a more reckless pace? 

Friday, July 30, 2021

It's a Blog Not a Reality Show

Writing a Blog is an interesting undertaking. It takes commitment but it is a labor of love. I don't understand why some people decide they are going to blog and then don't. I was scrolling through a 100 or so blogs over the weekend and was struck by two things  (1) the number of blogs on the web that have not been updated or posted to in 6 months or more and  (2)  that a majority of those are mothers' blogs of their life or their kids' lives or their uniquely (just like the other 5000 blogging moms) adorable children who are so photogenic that there is book deal in here somewhere, or God forbid, a reality television show.

I hate to tell them but the way to get your kids on a reality show is not through a blog with photos and text of their antics. Marry your cousin, move into a trailer park, enter your three year old in every Little Miss Piggly Wiggly contest there is, teach her how to strut like Heidi Klum, dress like Dolly Pardon, and sing like Celine Dion, and Voila! Next thing you know, you'll be on TV. But, I digress.

When I started this Blog twelve years ago, I decided if I was going to do it, I was going to be dedicated to it. So I try to write several days a week -  operative word there being "try". Sometimes there is just not anything worth writing about or my schedule did not allow me enough time. In those cases, stay tuned, I'll be back in a day or two.There have been times I wanted to take a sabbatical, not knowing if my days as a blogger were over or not.  (Then I found the insanity in my life will only stay at bay for so long.)

And, I have gathered friends from all over, whom I only know through this digital epistle, whom I will most likely never meet in person. There are 12 brave souls who have officially "Joined" the blog who I am very grateful for. (On the great Blog Tote Board  you are judged by the number of followers who have 'Joined'. I guess they assume if someone 'Joins' they have drank the Kool Aid. Whatever!) 

But, there are so many more readers out there, who I assume are loyal because my analytics (those big brother numbers Google supplies every day to tell me how many people came to the Blog, how long they stayed, and what pages they read) show a consistent number that is building weekly. You can watch the stat counter on the Blog yourself and see the numbers grow daily.

If you are so inclined, please take the time to post a comment or respond to someones comment. Or, even just check a box at the end of a post. Better yet - join. There are no dues, no meetings, no dress code, no spam, it just shows that one more person thinks that this is a worth while endeavor.

Over the years I have run into several interesting issues. Loyal readers will respond with pride that they or their story was noted in a post. A major issue that arises as more of my family and (certain) friends become loyal readers, is that it cuts down on the pool of resources I have to write about. I would never want to embarrass someone or hurt their feelings. But, that's OK, folks are dying everyday and I take good notes. 

As time moves on, I find myself revisiting older posts (bare with me if you are a loyal reader). I was doing a Google search the other day and was very surprised to see that over the years several of my posts have been re-posted as articles (or editorials) in some newspapers.

The bottom line is that I very much appreciate your taking the time to read my little vignettes. Y'all come back now.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Big with the Pig

Back to "normal"- whatever that is. I'm off my soap box.

Reading an article about the death of the local grocer, I was reminded of one of those in my hometown and the end of that era. Two locally owned Piggly Wiggly grocery stores in Orangeburg closed a few years ago. There are still two Pigs remaining in the area: Fogle’s Piggly Wiggly, one on Edisto Drive in Orangeburg and the other the original “Giant Food World” in Neeses.

The two stores on Russell Street and Columbia Road were owned and operated by the Waters family. The father started the stores and the sons ran them until they closed. One store opened the year I was born – older than I wish to admit. The other opened in 1980. But age aside, they were institutions.

Oh, we have had nicer upscale grocery stores that have come and gone during this time, I will admit. And the Pigs (as they were affectionately known by locals) were not the biggest of stores. They didn’t always have the newest and greatest items. For instance, I doubt you could find Pesto should you need some. There may only be two choices of spaghetti sauce to choose from (yes spaghetti sauce – not pasta or marinara sauce). You may be able to find white rice in every size from a 1-pound bag to a 20-pound bag (yes, 20 pounds right there on the bottom shelf) but don’t bother to ask for wild rice, chances are they were not going to have it.

They had a generous supply of fatback, lard, salted pork and salted herring. You could find locally made sausage, liver pudding and hog’s head cheese. In the poultry area, they carried the best small, tender whole chickens that I could find nowhere else.

The produce section was marked by signs written in red or black magic marker that told you the particular local farm where the yellow squash or the zucchini or radishes came from that week. There was usually a small sign with the name of the farmer who grew the fresh collards taped on the end of the buggy full of bunches of the greens. The shrimp were marked to tell you the part of the coast from which they were caught; some noted Charleston, some Edisto Island, some Beaufort. It just depended on the day.

A shopper could find Blenheim Ginger Ale and Nehi soft drinks, in orange and grape flavors, on their shelves long before those products attained national notoriety. On the household cleaning aisle, you could still find Twenty Mule Team Borax, cans of real lye and boxes of Ajax. And on the toiletries aisle, I feel certain they still carried bars of Camay, Dove, Ivory and Dial soap, as well as Ponds Cold Cream. Now the store was stocked with everything a consumer needed, and in up-to-date products, just not the widest or most gourmet selection you may have on your shopping list.

Each year, the day in December that the Christmas trees, held up by strings, each in their pans of water, appeared in front of the store told me that the holiday season had officially started. And I knew summer was upon us when I saw the first ears of sweet corn and Lowcountry tomatoes in the produce section.

Then there were the conundrums. They had a wine section. Many bottles of wine had a hand-written index card on the shelf noting the Wine Spectator’s rating as well as the particular notes and finish of that specific wine. Who knew? Seriously.

Yes, there was the cracked tile floor. Huge sheets of paper attached to the front glass windows of the stores that listed the day’s specials handwritten in thick colorful magic marker (done in an incredibly talented handwriting I might add.) The stores were not lit like newer more modern stores nor was there soft music playing that lulled you into shopping.

The Piggly Wiggly was where you were most likely to run into old friends. My Mama said they had the “Carriage trade,” whatever. I just know that chances were I would see at least one or two old family friends or folks I grew up with on each trip. Not to say they did all their shopping there, but they always did some.

The stores served all socioeconomic groups. One would see a cross section of our fair town up and down the aisles on any given day. The asphalt parking lot with its faded lines and occasional potholes was filled with old farm trucks as well as shiny new Mercedeses. Moms in their large suburbans were parked next to older women in their Buicks and Oldsmobiles. You were just as likely to see a late-model Land Rover as a well worn Camry.

Whether it was the minivan or sedan, truck or SUV, fancy sports car or station wagon, it did not matter, they all were valued customers.

The Piggly Wiggly was the hometown store. It was the place I went in and never encountered a store employee who did not stop and say “Hello” with a genuine smile. I never had a problem finding someone to assist me when I had a question. They were the last place I know where young men bagged your groceries then insisted on carrying your bags to your car. On the way out the door, chances were the two of you would engage in some friendly conversation. Once I noticed a small sign by the door that explained carrying groceries to customers’ car was a service of the store and the young men were not doing it for tips.

That was the feeling you got – no one was doing their job for tips. They were doing it because the business was built on customer service – an old idea. The business worked hard to support the local farmers and in doing so provided fresh produce that was usually just a day or two at most from the fields. One of the son’s passion for wine was shared with all the customers when he took the time to hand write the reviews for the wine and tape them to the shelves.

Hoke driving Miss Daisy to the Piggly Wiggly may have brought the brand nationwide recognition, although I had many friends at the time who found it hard to believe I actually grew up with and still shopped at a Piggly Wiggly – for real. Out-of-town guests often insisted on getting a “I’m Big with the Pig” T-shirt to take home with them.

Some call it old, some refer to it as quaint. I think of it as a local institution that cared about their community and their customers. No, chances were you were not going to find everything on your grocery list if you cooked beyond the local church cookbook. But there was more to the store than what was on its shelves.

Things change. Life goes on. Businesses come and go. But with the loss of these two Piggly Wiggly stores, life as we once knew it in our hometown is gone with the wind and it is a shame that all we have left is that warm place in our hearts. There was that comforting feeling each of us had as we walked through that door, whether or not they had what we needed, they truly appreciated us being there and would do anything they could to help us and smiled while they did it.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Are You Part of the Problem

 I rarely preach, but I'm pissed!  Let me get on my soap box for a moment. This has to do with Covid-19. The new mask mandate is totally avoidable, Hell, the entire disease is avoidable - if a majority of the citizens of this country would get vaccinated. Scientist , yes, those who have spent most of their lives dedicated to the study of public health and immunology, have been very clear in their statements that until  70-80% of us are fully vaccinated, this dreadful virus will not 'go away'. Not only will more Americans die from it, Covid19 will continue to mutate, getting harder and harder to get under control.

And for those who say getting vaccinated and/or wearing a mask is a restrain on their 'freedom', perhaps they should consider what 'freedom' really is. The definition of 'freedom' is: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Well, consider this - none of us will have that power if we do not overcome this virus. In such cases, there will be no hindrance or restraint of Covid19. So it is your choice, you can temporarily give up your 'freedom' or take the chance of the virus exercising  its freedom.

It is simple, it is free, it only takes a 20 minutes or so, and can be found at most drugstores down the street or around the block. If you are holding out due to political rhetoric or ideological pressure, for the sake of your young children, grandchildren, or older parents - just do it. You don't have to admit any weakness you may feel, no one needs to know. If totally necessary, get the vaccination in a neighboring town, wear a hat and sunglasses, or a large trench coat, should you fear any judgmental friends may see you. Doing so will be your part of the solution.

As soon as I was eligible, I got the vaccination. And, at that time it is was a difficult to get an appointment for it. Now, there is no excuse. Anyone can walk into a drug store, Dr's Office, or Medical Clinic and get it. However, due to the hesitation, misinformation, peer pressure, and, in some cases, simple laziness, too many of you have failed to do so.

We are now experiencing a new mutation - the Delta mutation that has made this awful illness even harder to control. And, as a footnote, had we already had 70-80% of the population vaccinated, this would not have been such a serious issue.

When the mask mandate for the vaccinated was dropped, many of those not vaccinated chose also not to wear a mask. This is where the problem got worse. As one vaccinated, I had done my part. I no longer had to fear getting a severe case of the virus and suffering hospitalization, intabation, or death. I was safe, but those un-vaccinated were not. Opting their freedom by choosing not to wear a mask gave the virus freedom to spread and mutate. Now more younger people, 99% un-vaccinated, are suffering hospitalization and, in some cases, death.

As for 'break through' transmissions, this is rare and almost never causes hospitalization. (An exception being those with preexisting conditions and auto-immune issues). Naturally those who want to spread the misinformation about the vaccine say this is a sign that the vaccine does not work. In truth, it is the opposite, it does work in preventing severe illness or death. More importantly it is the only way the virus can be controlled or stopped. 

It is terrible to hear doctors and nurses talk about those young un-vaccinated patients' last words before getting intabated are often, said between gasps for their breadth, 'can I get the vaccination'. Then it is too late.

I may be cruel here, but I have lost all patience. For God's sake if not already vaccinated, get vaccinated. And, share this with anyone you know who is not already vaccinated. Don't be the thoughtless and ignorant one. Don't fall for the peer pressure of those who know no better. Do your part. I can't speak for you but I'm tired of all this, I do not want to wear a mask. And, I have little patience for those not willing to listen to the scientist and medical profession.

In short, you can be the problem or the solution. You can bend to false information or choose to do your part. However, should you choose the former, take in mind you are doing your part to extend this deathly virus. 

As we say down here, Pretty Please.... with Sugar on Top.

Monday, July 26, 2021

To Infinity and Back in an Instant

When I first got my Instapot, I was confused, but that is not unusual.  This 'Instant' notion was new to me, so I understood my learning curve would be a bit steep. What I was not aware of, was the time warp of the concept. An example of this was a recipe for  'Ligurian Lemon Chicken'. 'Ligurian' refers to the Italian Riviera. But I digress.

The recipe said: 'Serves 4-6, Prep Time: 15 Minutes, Pressure Cook Time: 12 Minutes'. Pretty straight forward, I would say.

I gathered my ingredients and went to work, following the directions:
  • juice 3 lemons
  • finely chop garlic, rosemary, and sage
  • add lemon juice and olive oil to chopped herbs and marinate the chicken for 2-4 hours
  • then saute the chicken in the inner pot for 15 minutes
  • remove chicken, add wine to inner pot and de-glaze - 3 minutes
  • return chicken to inner pot and cover with marinade
  • cook for 12 minutes
  • remove and serve

Now at my age, I realize this is new math and I have an old math mind. But still, aren't there 60 minutes in an hour. 2 to 4 hours equals 120 - 240 minutes - best I can calculate. But, before that there was the time preparing the marinade. Even with my fairly good cooking skills, it took me a minute or two to juice 3 lemons. Then maybe a minute or so more to 'finely' chop the herbs.

According to my calculations (using the shorter marinading time)  1 minute juicing lemon + 1 minute chopping herbs + 120 minutes marinating chicken + 15 minutes to saute the chicken + 3 minutes de-glazing the pan + finally 12 minutes cooking = 152 minutes (aka 2 hours, 32 minutes). This is where the time warp comes in. My only guess was that the pressure of the Instant Pot compressed the prep time from 137 down to a mere 15 minutes. Not so much in my case, but then this concept was new to me. Does that mean that this mystery pot shrinks the prep time so that when all is done, you are back to the future?

Sunday, July 25, 2021

I Don't Fry Chicken

That's right - you heard it here. I don't fry chicken. I stopped trying a while back. I could never get it right. Didn't matter who tried to teach me, what cook book I was reading, what TV show I was watching (even when I was holding my nose right - as my aunt once told me you had to do), I never learned to fry chicken

While I'm confessing, I might as well tell you I cannot make a good biscuit. I can make any kind of bread from scratch - yeast, sour dough, soda, it doesn't matter, but biscuits - can't do it. My grandmother made the best little biscuits in the world. So much so that after her death, when her kitchen things were divided up there was a major free-for-all among the five grandchildren over the metal covered dish she put her biscuits in to keep them warm. Anything we thought that would help us replicate those delicate, delightful Redband (she only used Redband) flour biscuits. But thanks to Modern Marvels, Pillsbury has saved me (and possibly my marriage) with their frozen biscuits.

For years, I could not cook collards in a respectable manner. My mother told me I needed to cook them twice - and add sugar - that was the secret. My mother-in-law's cook, Clemmie,  told me that sugar was a "no no" and you just "throw them in a pot of water, bring them to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, and cook 'til done." (Please define "Done" - I need some help here.) Finally, I found a recipe that worked for collards (that's humiliating to admit). I bet I'm the only southern women who uses a recipe to cook my collards. "Season to taste and cook 'til done" just didn't cut it with me when it came to collards. When you are dealing with one of the trinity of southern cooking, one cannot take a chance.

I am about as southern as the best of them but I was beginning to think this was some special club and no one was showing me the secret handshake. You are telling me I can make a souflee to die for, a flan that will make one swoon, cajun chili chicken with lime that will seduce your taste buds, but I cannot dredge a simple piece of chicken in flour and cook it in hot oil. Come on now, I'm from "good family". . . and I never wear white shoes after labor day. What other proof do you need?

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Seasoned Cooking or Why Never Washing Our Frying Pan Didn't Kill Us

There was this great article in Time magazine entitled "A Pan for all Seasons" and I only wish I could take credit for its brilliance. If you are a southern cook it says nothing new but supports everything you already know. I can hear those great cooks in kitchens of my youth shaking their heads and saying, "Uh, Duh." I guess this means a Lodge frying pan is the "in" thing now.

I get tickled when I try to explain to someone the secret of good southern cooking starts with the cast iron frying pan that never leaves the top of your stove. And, it is better if you are lucky enough to cook with a second or third generation one. (In our family, it was the second most sought after possession in the will, and second only to the Mikimoto pearls. But, I digress.) Nubies are following along with great interest until I get to the part about cleaning it - or not.

You see (as you should know) with a true cast iron frying pan, it never sees soap and water. You clean it with salt and a good rag. This is where the true cooks follow along and the Martha Stewart and Paula Deen wanna be's leave to find something on the Food Channel. The key to the frying pan is having it seasoned - hence the beauty of a "hand me down". Of course, Lodge now has pre-seasoned frying pans and I will admit they are truly seasoned, so you can skip the part where you grease the pan with Crisco, put it in the oven for God knows how long (until the smoke alarm goes off), and then take it out, wipe off the soot, let it cool and repeat the process. 

Every time I finish cooking with mine, it is an act of love when I wipe it clean and rub a small amount of oil in it (while it is still warm) knowing it is then ready for my next culinary adventure. It is a thing of wonder - although not magic, it will not fry chicken on its own. Trust me, I have tried to see if it could - to no avail.

We were taking our oldest daughter to look at the University of the South on her college tour and low and behold if we didn't find ourselves in Pittsburg, Tennessee, home of the  Lodge foundry (and, better yet, the Lodge factory outlet!) On our way back we stopped by to see everything Lodge. I was able to get a deep sided frying pan, which is what I use today. And, after one visit by the fire department and finally just taking all the smoke detectors down in the kitchen, I am proud to say I seasoned it myself.) Now I also have a Lodge cast iron wok that I use regularly and stays on my stove top.

So, yes, I also cook with an assortment of Calphalon and Le Cruset, but it is the Lodge cast iron pans that tells me someone show 'nugh knows how to cook. When I walk into someone's fancy kitchen,  I don't look up to see what's hanging on their pot rack, I look down on their stove to see what sitting there. Chances are, if they have a cast iron frying pan, it never leaves the top of the stove. 

And if, under your breath you are saying, "I just couldn't have a pan that was never cleaned with soap and water." Darling, let me tell you two things, if you are in a southern home, never eat the fried chicken and if the sanitation of the cast iron frying pan were an issue, most of the deep south would have long been wiped out by some pathogen. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Wily Chipmunks, Lurking Cats, and Innocent Joggers

 When walking Ellie and Marshall, I have learned there are several I need to be on the look out for several obstacles. When we are out before dawn around 5:30, we have encounters with runners wearing headlamps. If I happen to see them first, I can prepare Marshall so he will not take the oncoming runner as an approaching enemy. 

I have learned the walking schedules of the local dog owners. For instance, the older gentleman with his well behaved Jack Russell take their constitution at 7 am each morning. The other Ellie (an older Australian Shepard) is walked around 7:15 each morning, Several doors down a young man takes his 2, rather large, Labradoodles to work with him each morning. It is best not to be around his back door between 6:45 and 7:00, just saying. 

It is not that Marshall is vicious, quite the opposite, he is a very loving dog. He just has a 'funny' way of showing it. When confronted by a stranger, especially a male, he will start barking and lunging on his lead. Now remember he is a full size Yorkshire Terrier. A true dog lover will see his rapidly wagging tail and realize he is not out to get anyone.

Ellie on the other hand thinks everyone wants to be her friend and she never wants to deny them that opportunity. 

Over the past year or so, I have managed - most of the time - to avoid ugly confrontations. Of course the local squirrels and chipmunks have no schedule. They dart about, climbing trees and scurrying across the grass at their whim. I honestly think the chipmunks are very smart (and brave). If they notice us approaching, instead of running for cover, they will sit up and take notice. They seem to understand the lengths of the pups' leads and stay just 12 or 18 inches away. Needless to say this drives the pups mad.

But, we now have a new nemesis, a yellow house cat belonging to one of my neighbors. The feline stays outside most of the time. He lurks, much like the Cheshire Cat. He will sit quietly under a bush until we approach. At that time, he will make his way, very slowly and methodically, out into the open. At this point, he will sit and start methodically washing his face, knowing full well that the pups are restrained. 

By this time the pups, especially Marshall, are apoplectic.Yet the cat just sits there, seemingly unbothered.  I just try to round them up and drag them home. It is not a pretty sight. If I look back over my shoulder, I see cat slowly make his way back under the bush. I assume to lie in wait for the next unassuming dog and their owner.  

Any day I expect to round the corner and see an agitated rabbit scurrying about muttering that he is late. Meanwhile, all I am doing is trying to walk my dogs while avoiding any snags, wily chipmunks, lurking cats, or trips through the looking glass. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

We All Love Our Southern Mothers - Eventually

This year, my mother would have been 89 years. Like most southern women, I had that love, hate, ignore, love relationship with her. As a baby we all dearly love our mothers  - what else do we know?

Then we start to age and the truth starts to rear its ugly head. Southern mothers dote on you as a child, dressing you as they did their Shirley Temple doll. Well, in my case it was in gingham and ric-rac that I swore led to most of the ills in my life and finally my road into therapy. In reality, they were expertly handmade dresses that not every mother had the skill to make. It was a practical way to dress a little girl who was growing quickly. Looking back on family photos, the dresses were not the precious smocked bishop dresses my granddaughter now wears, but they were cute, well made, and the appropriate thing for a four or five year old to wear in the early 1960's.

Years later, my brother and I were dealing with a raging alcoholic totally out of control. Every time the phone rang you never knew what it foretold. It could be mother dear, sober, calling to chat. It could be some unintelligible very southern accent trying to explain something that made no sense. Often it was my brother telling me of another "crisis" we had to deal with. Or, worse case, it would be some stranger informing me they had my mother and I needed to come get her. 

One can only deal with that stress for so long until you realize that the counselors are right - if she is not going to help herself - you cannot save her. So I walked away. For several years, I ignored her. We had no contact. If I could not save her, I did not need to have my life go down the drain with her. And, yes, it was hard to explain to family and friends why I had nothing to do with my mother.

Then drawing on that inner strength that all southern women have (if they decide to use it), she emerged sober, healthy, remorseful, asking forgiveness, and ready to live the rest of her life. That was the good news - Mama was back. Of course, once again, my life was complicated - Mama was back.

Even though we spent time together, there were the phone calls to instill guilt that came if there had been several days without any communication, "Well, I just wanted to make sure you were OK." or "I know you are so busy, but . .. " and always, "I just wanted to let you know that Mary Johnson died. The funeral is Tuesday. I know you do not have time to go, but figured you would want to hear it from me."

She was there to help me with the girls before they were old enough to take care of themselves. Looking back on it, our visits those last years of her life were an inspiration to me, watching this lady live her second life, helping anyone she could, thankful for every day she had, always telling me she was lucky to be here. Watching her walk with her four foot eight inch body slightly crooked to the left due to the bone breaks from the many falls while she had her proclivity with the bottle, was quite humorous but it never slowed her down. Learning (quickly) that anywhere she went in town required a circuitous route that included a trip past our house. And, if a car was there unexpectedly there would be the phone call. "I happened to be going out your way, and saw . . ."

When Cokie Roberts wrote her wonderful book, We Are Our Mothers' Daughters I found it frightening at first. Was I going to be like this to my daughters? But looking back on her life, I can only hope that I can have that zeal for life, that appreciation for every day, the unapologetic southern female disposition, and the love for my family that my Mama did. 

Now I have to read the obituaries myself to learn who died since Mama is no longer here to keep me apprised. 

As most of you know I wrote about my very southern mother in Sterling Silver and Dollar Stores  

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Slipping into Fashion and Ditching the Pantyhose

My Mama, my dear Grandmama, my holier than thou Aunt J'nelle, and my sweet Aunt Kat all counseled me from a young age - "Never leave home with dirty underwear - what happens if you are rushed to the hospital, what would the doctors think?" Of course they went further to drill in me that a young lady never wears a dress without a slip. I doubt young women these days even know what a "slip" is. But, I digress.

I remember when the teachers at our private school in the late 1970's requested, albeit very politely, to the board of trustees that they be allowed to wear proper "pant suits" to work in lieu of the required regime of dresses. After much ado behind closed doors, the board relented. No doubt the fact that some of the members were married to teachers and wished for peace at home may have had a bit to do with the concession. Life went on and the morals at the institution did not digress into a full "women's liberation" movement as was predicted by some of the old stalwarts.

Although I still enjoy dressing well,  am very comfortable in dresses and skirts, and even "high" heels don't bother me, years ago I took a bold personal wardrobe step and quietly ditched all my pantyhose. In the winter I will wear tights, which I have always adored, however, the diabolical sadist who designed such a thing as pantyhose had it in for women. And women bought the itchy, uncomfortable, and ugly scheme with sheer (no pun intended) joy thinking they had been freed. 

My generation was born well after the hose and garter years. Well, long after that style was relegated to the bedroom and Victoria's Secret. So I have no skin in that game - so to speak. As long as I show up presentable - as in clean clothes (especially underwear) that coordinate (no red plaids with fushia polka dots and orange stripes) that fit correctly and are stylish but not too trendy who gives a damn if I shirk masochism and ditch the pantyhose?

I have a friend who often asks, "Do these people have a mirror at home?" Didn't someone want to stop them from making a fool of themselves or exposing us to their disgusting failure in fashion? One does not have to have money to dress in a way that does not make them look like buffoons. Or worse yet, thinking they are a Milan model in their size 24 body - it ain't pretty. Like my daddy used to say - you can't put two tons of fertilizer in a one ton truck.

A prime example of all this came to me several years ago when I was attending the Celtic Festival and Highland Games. Many people were dressed in costume for the affair. There were colorful kilts and tartan scarves and wraps. Many of the outfits were down right elegant. Then there was this "lady" who either did not have a mirror at home, friends who cared about the impression she made, or she thought she still was that size 2, 16 year old girl she fondly remembered from years ago. And someone wants to castigate me for shucking my pantyhose. Seriously?

This Scottish lass was dressed in a bright red flowing gown topped with a bodice, laced so tightly she resembled a fat pig, complete with rosy cheeks. Added to that, the tonnag she was wearing resembled a tartan table cloth.


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Ah, The Magnolias

I have recently taken up painting some of the photographs I have taken over the years. It is cathartic, relaxing, and each one brings back the memory of the subject. Where I took the picture, how I found it, and what it took to get there all come to mind. But all this aside, my work pales in contrast to my mother's talent. Mama could paint, very well, and in oils. 

My mother had many talents - seriously. She iwa a seamstress. (She made my all my school clothes until I went into total revolt.) She was a great cook. (Unfortunately, she never let me in the kitchen, so I never learned from her.) But most of all she was a very talented artist.  As I was growing up she would dabble in oils, a camellia here, a sea scene there, but her pes des resistance was a project she undertook as a present to my father in celebration of their 15th wedding anniversary. This mission of hers took a year to complete and turned our dining room into her private studio for that entire time. According to her - the light was right. Knowing her proclivity for the bottle, it was close to the liquor cabinet and the ice in the refrigerator.

The subject of the picture was Magnolias and it was large - 3 feet by 5 feet. So for a year she would go in and out of the dining room carrying various magazine articles on Magnolia grandiflora. The dining room table was covered with an oil cloth and she had an assortment of different tubes of paints and linseed oil. She would bring leaves and branches in to make sure she had the texture correct and in June the room had the delightful fragrance of the blossoms themselves as she refreshed her vases daily.

This was all behind closed doors - we were not allowed in. Once I crept in to survey her progress. There it was, this huge canvas, the background in dark gray with the beginnings of the leaves and branches. This was going to take a while. And it did. But eventually it was completed. On the back, she wrote in pencil, "To My Husband, Happy 15th Anniversary, With Love" and presented it to him. He was touched by the gift, she was proud of her work, I was thrilled the ordeal was over and we could have our dining room back. The picture went on the living room wall and our life went on.

Fast forward 20 years - during their divorce (our most recent unpleasantness). In one of her moments of non-sense, my mother demanded the Magnolia painting. She said it was her work and she was entitled to it. My father reminded her that it was a gift from her and he had her hand writing on the back to prove it. The Magnolia went to him. That very afternoon, he showed up at my front door with the painting. "I never want to see this again", he said as he handed it to me and left. I always liked the painting, so I put in on my dining room wall.

As many times as she was in and out of my house, my mother never commented on the painting. It was hard to miss. Most people don't have an original oil painting of that size hanging in their dining room. Then one day, she stopped and looked at it, and then looked at me. "When did you get that?" she asked.With that I knew her battle was over, my mother was back, and I was thrilled.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Not That I would Ever Judge Anyone

I don't mean to be judgmental, however there are times one has to question another human being's actions.

Yesterday I was standing in a fairly long line. While waiting I was privy to the conversation between to the two women in front of me. The first to speak was obese, could hardly walk, and generally looked unhealthy. Her friend was not in much better shape, but was most likely 75 pounds lighter which still put her in the extra large sizes. The conversation went like this:

"God, I'm finally going to get my knees done," said the first one. "I'm so tired of hobbling around, always being in pain, dealing with medication for high blood pressure, and now they say my sugar levels are high."

"Well good for you. I know that will make you feel better," said the second.

"I don't know about that, I am having to do so much to get ready."

"Like what?"

"Well, I'm pretty proud of myself. I've started watching what I eat - you know cutting out fatty and fried foods and pasta and bread. I've even started eating vegetables. When I go out anymore I try just to order a salad."

"Now that will make a difference."

"My doctor says so. He says it will lower my blood pressure, my triglycerides, my weight, and help with my knee. And it is really so easy. All I do is watch what I eat."

About this time we had reached the buffet table we had been so patiently waiting for. The first lady got her plate and added a good helping of pasta salad. Next was a nice green salad. She passed.

"Don't you want some of the salad?" asked her friend.

"Not today"

Then we moved onto to the fried chicken. She took a piece and hesitated. I could see what was going through her mind - her diet and her knees. I felt her pain. I had dieted before. Just then she put the large piece of chicken on her plate and picked up a second.

"You know I was only going to get one, but then I realized I would have to stand in line for a second piece. And with my knees and all...."

Naturally, not only did she get a heaping of BBQ, she made sure she had a bun to put it on as well as lots of sauce. By this time, I had had enough. I had no pity for her. We parted ways. I went to get some iced tea and she made her way to the desserts.

Obviously she had the easy part down - she was watching her food alright. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Back to the Future Without an E-Ticket

44 years ago, in the summer of 1977, I had the privilege of traveling around Europe with a good friend of mine. 

My father believed that my brother deserved a larger allowance and a new car given he would be dating and he would need the resources. While I was on a reduced allowance and drove a used AMC Gremlin because, after all in his mind - I would be dating and therefore, someone else would be paying for my dining and entertainment. Ah, but the days of southern chivalry were long gone before the 70's. However trying to explain that to my father was hopeless. Ironically he did not think twice about funding a trip to Europe. That, he saw (thankfully) as an experience everyone could learn from. But, I digress.

We set off from Lyon (after a Maymester class in France) armed with our Eurail Pass. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with a Eurail Pass, in those days this was the equivalent to a Disney E-ticket. (Showing my age, the original "E-ticket" was the ultimate ride ticket at Disney world on a scale that started with "A" - being the Mad Hatter Tea Cups to "E" that got you on Space  Mountain.) This magical pass allowed one to travel first class on any train, anywhere in Europe. And, at that time, the price for the pass was very reasonable. Better yet, unlike the US, most of Europe is accessible by train.

The trains were mostly new, well run, comfortable, reliable, fast, and always on time. Our pass not only gave us First Class seats but if we were on a night train, we had access to sleeper accommodations (that afforded us breakfast service of tea, jam, and fresh warm croissants served in our "room"). This came in handy when we were unable to find a place to stay due to lack of suitable or affordable hotels. If all else failed, we could take an overnight train to Amsterdam, usually the furthermost destination from wherever we found ourselves. Then the next morning we would take a short train ride to another destination we had yet to visit.

All this reminiscence comes forward to America's train service, or lack there of today. Amtrak has struggled for years to break even and serve the country. My experience  several years ago was an example. Where as in Europe, there is a train system from small towns to the major cities that crisscrosses the continent, in the States a few lines go up the Eastern Seaboard, across the country east to west, and up and down the west coast. Only the northeast has a decent train system, but even that is lacking.

Notification that our train was delayed was made in red pen on a small white board propped up at the ticket window. Unfortunately that notification was updated often given the delay ended up being almost 90 minutes. I will admit that Amtrak has a text messaging system that notifies passengers who had registered their cell phone numbers of the delays - however it lags behind the white board.

Instead of having a ticket with a seat number and designation as you board the train, your paper or phone is swiped electronically - new age! Then your seat is assigned (in some mysterious system) by an Amtrak employee crossing your name off a piece of paper as you step on the train. After you are seated (in your assigned seat) another employee comes and sticks a torn piece of paper with your destination handwritten on the luggage rack above your row. (Something akin to "Paddington" pinned to the Bear).

No doubt as one makes their way up the north east corridor and boards the Acela (the high speed upscale train that runs from Boston to DC) they will find themselves on board a modern train, that travels at high speeds offering amenities and comforts professional travelers expect. Customers can enjoy the Acela Cafe with fresh salads and craft beers. So I can say in this case after 44 years we have gone back to the future. 

Comparing my experience riding the train these days, as pleasant as it is, to the many train rides I enjoyed across Europe in 1977, I may as well have been  running through a pillar at King's Cross Station in London to find Platform 9¾ and catch the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade Station. It was hard to fathom that this was a mode of transportation, a quasi-government funded entity, of one of the most powerful nations in the world. 

Yes, we can send a man to the moon, develop nano technology (that only Michael Crichton can explain in his novel "Prey"),  design phones that are smarter than their users, yet we cannot make our trains run on time. Where is that DeLorean when we need it?

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Joe or Java

Staying on the "coffee" theme, I recently had a "Just where did that come from?" question. Why is the beverage often referred to as "Java". Well it seems that coffee was introduced to Southeast Asia by the Dutch in the 1600's. They initially planted coffee on islands in Bali and Sumatra. . . and Java. Originally coffees were noted as 'Single Origin", as in coming from one specific island. Think Sumatra. Over the years, the single origin references were dropped. However, for some reason all coffee started being referred to as 'Java'. So there!

And "Joe', as in cup of Joe? It all started with the US Navy. The story goes that Josephus Daniels was  Secretary of the US Navy during the Woodrow Wilson administration. On June 1, 1914, Secretary Daniels issued General Order 99 that prohibited alcohol aboard any US Navy vessel -not a popular move. Much to the dismay to the sailors, the strongest beverage available on a ship (boat or submarine) in the Navy was coffee. In response, a cup coffee on aboard began being called a "Cup of Joseph", which eventually became 'Cup of Joe'.

Of course there is also the thought that the that the origin of this reference was based on coffee being the one beverage that the common man could afford - Common Man as the 'Ordinary Joe'. Soon it was a cup of "Joe".

So now you know the rest of the story.

I'll spare you the sagas, the stories, the fables, etc of the origins of Coffee's other names, such as dirt, mud, brew, cuppa, daily grind, lifeblood, tar, rocket fuel, and worm dirt, to name a few. No doubt there's a good story there - or not.

Friday, July 16, 2021

A Ritual of the Soul

 Now that I have my espresso machine out and working, it is time for a good cup of coffee, cappuccino in this case. I had forgotten that just preparing the drink is a ritual. Not a burden, but the process itself is part of the enjoyment. First is the fragrance of the coffee grinds either out of the jar or the grinder, depending on which I use on any given morning.

After filling the filter, tamping it down, and attaching it to the machine I am ready to go. Turning on the switch (yes, the one I could not find!) I select the 2 cup button. Keep in mind an espresso cup is only 2 ounces, 3 at most, as opposed to a standard cup of coffee at 6 to 8 ounces. Espresso is very strong and complex, as opposed to a regular cup of coffee.

Next comes the aroma of the coffee as it is pressed through the grounds. Here is where the sensory experience really takes hold. The very dark brew fills the cup with a thin line of caramel colored foam on top. 

If I am making cappuccino, at this point, I turn the machine from brewing to the steam setting and put the stainless steel cup of cold 2% milk under the steam wand (real cream does make a good froth). This is where the signature "screaming"or "hissing" as the milk is steamed. Once the foamy milk reaches the top of the stainless cup, I turn off the machine and gently spoon the foam onto the top of my espresso and then add just a bit of the hot milk.

Voila! A perfect cappuccino.  

Come to think about it, making espresso in the morning is akin to 5 of the 7 rites of the Church.

There is the Baptism, that first time one enjoys a perfect up of coffee.This usually is served by a professional barista or a host that knows what they are doing. 

Then there is the Confirmation - the first time one attempts to make that "perfect"cup.This initial attempt is usually followed by a succession of failed efforts for perfection until the ritual is learned. When perfected, that deep dark rich smooth cup of espresso is produced with the ideal creama (that, aromatic, reddish-brown froth that rests on top).

The Eucharist is the enjoyment of that perfect cup, savoring the fruits of your labors, that effects all five senses of one's soul.

Often this is followed by the Confession or Penance, asking oneself if the 2 ounce cup is really worth the emotional toll,  successive failed attempts, and moments of self doubt that the production required.

But then, all is worth it with the Anointing, the connection of God and the body with that first sip.

And, yes, I realize that using a Kurig would have been a simple quick process of inserting a pod and pressing a button. But, in my case, the preparation of espresso or cappuccino is almost a religious experience. Each step builds the expectation of the first sip of the final product. My senses are a piqued with the smell of the grounds and the incredible scent of the java as it is pours into the cup. The process is truly a sacrament,  a ritual of the soul.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Que Sera Sera

Folks have odd habits - or rather I should say funny little "rituals" to bring on good luck.  There are the old wive's tales of things one should avoid to prevent bad luck. A prime example is the obsessed fan who refuses to change his underwear as long as his team is winning. Or the single women who have tossed thousands of dollars in fountains in hopes of a man. (That made for a great movie in 1954, long before my time - I might add.)

Of course the Gullah culture had a whole issue with the haints (ghosts or lost souls) that they said lurked about. They would paint all the door and window frames of their houses blue to keep the haints out. For years you could still see houses with the blue around the doors and windows. Now they are all but gone - the blue windows that is, I cannot speak for the haints.

One of my Mama's favorite songs was "Que Sera Sera". Of course the irony there was my asking her what that meant.  

She used to tell me things like:
  • Warm hands, cold heart, Cold hands, warm heart
  • Washing a car will bring rain
  • It is bad luck to open an umbrella in the house
  • Lady bugs bring good luck
  • You must get out of bed on the same side you got in on or you will have bad luck
That last one was always confusing to me as a child, given I was constantly being told I had "gotten up on the wrong side of the bed" when I came down for breakfast in one of my more surly moods. But I digress.

I personally have found that every time I get myself organized, my house in order, something major changes in my life. Some examples in my past have included the simple act of getting a new office set-up at work. At one of my earlier jobs, I had just gotten all the furniture installed and finally moved around as I liked, when I was offered a better job with another organization. 

When I was with the Judge we had extremely nice chambers. However given all the space we had, I had this very small desk. Finally after 14 years we remodeled the office. My junior size work space was replaced with this much larger (appropriately sized) desk that made my daily life so much better. I was able to reorganize and make my office more efficient. Naturally, it wasn't nine months before the Judge was diagnosed with early onset alzheimer's and I found myself closing the office and packing everything to be shipped off - including my nice desk.

Over the past several weeks I have gotten very industrious. I have gone through my orchids, thrown out any dead plants, divided some, and re-potted and fertilized all of my them. I have reorganized all my photography files and made sure all my external back-ups (as well as cloud backups) are working. I have cleaned and filled my fountain pens. Then I went through the random papers, notes, and bills that were scattered about, filed the relevant ones, and trashed the rest. 

Now, does this mean I am close to winning the lottery? Is some other fortune coming my way? I dare to think. Whatever the winds bring I will have at least organized part of my life. So as long as I have cold hands, get out of bed on the same side every morning, don't open an umbrella in the house, and avoid the haints - life should be OK. 

"The future's not ours to see, . . . What will be, will be,"

On second thought, maybe I should go get some blue paint.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Predisposed to be an Old Maid

 As a little girl I was confused and scared of growing up. I had an old maid aunt on each side of the family. The future did not bode well for me. To make things worse, both were eccentric, each uniquely so. The way I saw it, I was doomed.

My mother's sister lived in Boston while she was getting her (first) master's degree at Harvard. My Dad said she was never right after that. It seemed every summer when I went to stay with my grandparents, my aunt was at some different school, in a different place. Once it was Oxford (as in England) for some degree. I never got the full story on that. All I know was the words "high faluten" and "pretentious'" were used in the description. The next location I heard about was the University of Colorado. Seemed she needed to get her second master's (in "God's know what" - my mother's term for that degree). After a year or so being out west she moved on to the University of Michigan for her Doctorate. Somewhere in all this she was back at Duke (her undergraduate alma mater) getting some additional hours toward another degree in some unknown esoteric field. Finally she moved home with 2 masters degrees and a doctorate, where she declared that she was unemployed could not find a job.

My grandparents, who had funded her rather extensive education just wanted her out of the house. Now in their late 60's they very much enjoyed the empty nest. She had continued to come home for visits and holidays during her tour of the various universities, and that was OK, but it never dawned on them, that their investment was going to be the egg back in the nest.

On the other side, my father's sister was 13 years old when he was born and helped raise him. She never left home - as in never. She went to work for the phone company when she was 17 and stayed there for 40 years until she retired. Then she cared for my Granny until Granny died. Her life consisted of work, family, church, and bridge. She was prim and proper - think white gloves, a pink dress, and a Sunday hat. She was a lot of fun because she doted on my brother and me - we could do no wrong. But she could have lived in the 19th century (with the exception of the telephone) and never known the difference.

Between the two of them, I never knew either of them to have a date, escort, or even talk with a man. My mother always said her sister was "too educated" for anyone - who would have her? There were always whispers of a lost true love my father's sister had when she was young (I never knew the details and Lord knows it was not something you asked about.)

So here I was, looking at the prospects (and the genetic predisposition) of either being a roaming student unable to find work or a true spinster, stuck in the 19th century, never to leave home. As a child, at this point, I hoped I was adopted.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Espresso

This morning for the first time in a long while, I wanted to brew a cup of espresso. For some reason I haven't brewed a cup in several months. I moved my espresso machine from the counter over my wine cooler to the kitchen counter. After using it for the last time, it was clean and ready to go. 

I rinsed the water reservoir out and filled it with fresh cool water. Deciding not to grind fresh beans, I reached for a sealed jar with some finally ground Starbucks coffee in it, scooped the appropriate amount of coffee, and filled the sump (the steal filter.) I tamped it down, enough to fit tightly when I secured the sump to the machine. 

I pressed (or mashed) the brew button on the front of the machine but noting happened. I tried it several more times. By now, I was not a happy camper. I unplugged the cord and plugged it into a different socket, but it still would not turn on. I removed the reservoir and turned the machine upside down thinking maybe the cord was cramped - or something. A girl can hope. But alas, nothing. My beloved machine was dead.

Not only was I not going to get the fresh brewed cup of espresso, I had a machine that did not work. A replacement was not in my budget.

A little history here. 7 or 8 years ago, I requested an espresso machine for Christmas.   As usual, my most benevolent Santa did his research and what I found on Christmas morning was a bright shiny new espresso/cappuccino machine. It was a bit more intimidating and serious than what I had in mind. But after reading the directions and watching a video on You Tube - I was able to set it up and make a fabulous cup of espresso.

Over the years, through several moves, I have always had my espresso maker. And it never let me down until this morning. Knowing it was an older model, I hoped to find one exactly like my deceased one, perhaps at a lower price, maybe on clearance.

Finding one online, I saw that the exact model I had was still highly rated and no less expensive than it had been many years ago. This being way out of my price range, I did some research and reading and found a machine that was highly rated and reasonably priced, albeit in a different class from my beloved machine. I went ahead and ordered it. 

Later, I found some reviews of my new machine. I also went to You Tube to find a video. It was a bit overwhelming to find one entitled, "How to Setup and use you New Espresso Maker."  How difficult could it be? Then I remembered the learning curve I had with my initial machine.

The video started with an orientation of the machine - the reservoir, the sump and filter, the steam wand, etc. Three minutes into the video, the narrator noted it was time to switch the machine on. He reached to bottom left side and hit a switch. My eyes got wide.

Damn, I thought, there was hope after all. I put my laptop down and went to the kitchen. Sitting on the counter was my blessed machine, I had not had the heart to throw it away. I reached down to the bottom left base of the machine and pressed the Off/On switch.(In my defense the switch was a flat button hidden on the base at the back, the same color of the base of the machine.) Voila - the 3 lights on the front turned on and started blinking as the machine heated up.

I felt like an idiot. It had not been that long and yet, I had forgotten how to turn on the machine. But, I recovered quickly, knowing that I could now return the second rate machine I had ordered earlier that morning. Once again, life was good. I could look forward to a fresh cup of Joe whenever I wanted one. That is, if I don't forget how to turn the machine on by tomorrow morning.


Monday, July 12, 2021

The Myth of the Cast-Iron Pan

Although, I pride myself in my original text, often I find something I want to share. The following is an example of such. This was an article in the New Yorker entitled "The Myth of the Cast-Iron Pan", by by Jiji Lee and Laura Mishkin.



Birth

A cast-iron pan is forged in the flames of a volcano, by the mighty god Hephaestus. When the pan is the color of obsidian, and its weight equals that of a mountain, it is carefully placed in a cardboard box, and is ready for shipping and handling.

Habitat

The indestructible pan assumes its preƫminent place on the stovetop. Jen, a mortal, appeases the cast-iron gods with special offerings of fried eggs.

Baptism

The mortal consults an oracle (food blog) and discovers a prophecy that one day she will cook tomatoes in her cast-iron pan and will suffer severe consequences (rust). The oracle goes on to warn Jen that she must avoid washing the skillet with soap. Having sprung from the core of the earth, it will die a tragic death if exposed to the tiniest soap bubble. The mortal gently cleanses the cast-iron with water, like a doting river nymph.

Playing with Fire

The mortal browns a rib eye on the stovetop and finishes it in the oven, creating a perfectly seared exterior and a juicy, mouthwatering interior. As she takes her first bite, she realizes—this is what it must feel like to be a god.

The Prophecy

The mortal fulfills the oracle’s prophecy and makes shakshuka for brunch because she saw a recipe on Smitten Kitchen that looked really good. Enraged by the mortal’s hubris, the gods seek vengeance and sentence her to an eternity of lower-back pain and overcooked steaks.
Seasoning

The mortal, seeking to escape her cruel punishment, carefully massages vegetable oil into her cast-iron pan, and bakes it in an oven at five hundred degrees. As a protective coat forms, the skillet slowly regains its strength. Jen prays that the immortals will be benevolent and bless her with a Dutch-baby pancake.

The Fall

Once again, the gods remind Jen that she is a mere mortal who can drop a cast-iron pan on her exposed foot.​

--

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Real Macaroni and Cheese Does Not Come in a Blue Box

It is sad, actually it is ghastly, to think that a majority of American children think "Macaroni and Cheese" comes from a Blue Box. I shudder to think. As a southern mother, I am proud to say never has one of those Kraft blue boxes darkened my door or entered my pantry.

My children were brought up eating the real deal. Although from two different schools of thought - both their grandmothers baked excellent macaroni and cheese. However, they were entirely different. Let me explain.

My mother used my grandmother's recipe which was a serious cheesy macaroni dish that had a scrumptious hard cheese crust around the edges. She used an egg base with a bechamel sauce so her dish was easy to cut in pieces to serve.  Left overs could easily be heated up - however, this was not issue, there never being any left over. 

My mother-in-law made this incredible dish that bubbled with all the butter and cheese in it. She, too, used eggs so her dish could be cut and served. Her recipe called for spaghetti noodles in lieu of the traditional macaroni noodles so there was much more "noodle" to the dish.

I have my mother's recipe and have made it several times. Unfortunately, I have not been able to quite replicate my mother-in-law's recipe. It is either not cheesy enough or lacks enough butter. My guess is practice makes perfect and eventually the secret will be unlocked and a (near) perfect dish will be revealed. For now, I just bemoan the absence of her rich cheese dish at every family occasion.

Personally, for me, I have launched off on my own when it comes to macaroni and cheese. I have found that there are recipes that, while are not the same as what I was raised reared on, they are no less enjoyable. In fact mine is richer and cheesier, full of cream and several different types of cheese as well as whole grain noodles. 

My attitude - if you are not going to go rich, creamy, and large, stay home. My family is quite dubious when I bring my dish to the supper table. "It's just not the real thing'" they will say. Well it may not be, but they all seem to enjoy it and rarely does it last more than a day. Maybe it is three different types of cheese or the substitution of heavy creme for the milk.

So, all I can say is - Out, out, Blue Box. And I pity those who know no better.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Bar-B-Que (Food of the Gods)

Continuing on the Bar-B-Que rant -If you ever wanted to know why the North invaded the South in 1861, it is simple, they wanted Bar-B-Que. You can't get it anywhere else. Why do you think they started in South Carolina?

Bar-B-Que in the south is a religious experience. If you are from here, I am not telling you anything new - in fact I'm preaching to the choir. The only question is to which god do you pray: the god of mustard base - that yellow tangy sauce with a slight sweet background or ketchup based - the red sweet flowing goodness with only the slightest taste of tang or (in my humble opinion) the premier - vinegar based -that thin nectar of tang filled with peppers and other spices and just enough mustard to give it some color. 

Whatever your sauce of choice, here the only meat is pork. and that pork must be slow cooked over hickory wood to be done right. There are several other signs to look for to ensure you are about to partake in authentic honest-to-God southern Bar-B-Que:

  •     the establishment is only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (it takes them Monday to prepare the meat & get the wood ready for the fire, Tuesday and Wednesday to cook and on Sunday they rest)
  •     the sign on the front of the establishment usually has a family name in it
  •     it has an old tile, linoleum, or concrete floor (if they have spent a lot of money redoing the place - their priorities should be in question)
  •     the chairs at the tables should not necessarily match and better yet there should be picnic tables
  •     there should be sweet tea and white bread on each table
  •     vinyl table cloths only
  •     beware of places that sport a full buffet - they wandered from their mission (green beans and fried chicken maybe, but even that is suspect - after all you came to eat Bar-B-Que)

And some other secrets to those of you first going to the alter of the gods - put the hash on top of the rice (otherwise everyone will know you are not from here) and just don't ask what is in the hash - trust me - it is tasty. We've been eating it for years, and it hasn't killed us yet.

Friday, July 9, 2021

It's not called Barbecue, Stupid, Unless it Really is!

Let me clear one thing up right now. If you are in your backyard and the activity you are engaged in includes cooking some type of beef, hot dogs, or sausage on a grill, be it charcoal (or God forbid gas, imho, real men don't cook on gas grills, but I digress) you are "Cooking Out" not "Barbecuing". To Barbecue you need some form of pork, some type of wood that will provide good smoke flavor, a secret rub, sauce (or both), and a lot of time to make it right. Bottom line, if you have ever had honest to God good southern Barbecue, you know the difference, you'll never forget it, and you'll be trying to figure out how to come back for more.

Up north, they call any cooking out of doors "Barbecuing". Like with a lot of things, as my Aunt Kat would say, "They can't help it, they just don't know any better". We try to explain this to our friends who are not from 'round here. Being a self proclaimed grill-miester is thing of pride with southern men (and women). This is something we take damn seriously. When one says, "Why don't you guys come over tonight? We're going to Barbecue steaks." Any southern cook within ear shot will reply something like this: "You don't Barbecue steaks! You grille steaks. And, for the hundredth time, you are not Barbecuing - you are Cooking Out."

Don't get me wrong, we love our hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken and thick steaks down here. Cooking out is a favorite past time of ours.  Southern men collect grilles like notches on their belts. I grew up grilling steaks every Friday night. I'm not sure where (or when) that tradition started.  Cooking outside is an ingrained part of our lifestyle.

Now maybe to someone not from here this is a trivial argument over semantics. But in the South it is gospel, because Barbecue is a religion. Preparing and eating it is a religious experience. And among the faithful, there are the different denominations. You can worship in the houses of mustard based, ketchup based, or vinegar based. Then there are the hard core "evangelicals" who always want ribs. What ever your belief, in the south, we go hog wild. We rub it, baste it, smoke it, cook it real slow over hickory, then we pull it and, ever so lightly, put sauce on it. Does that sound like throwing steaks on a grille in the backyard to you?