Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Still Got It!

Ah, the bitter sweet advantages of being middle aged.

One of these is the revelation that it is acceptable to go out of the house without make-up, dressed in a non matched outfit, hair a mess because the hotel you were staying in did not have a hair dryer. In other words like you recently escaped from a mental institution and are trying to look inconspicuous. The trick is to hide behind big sunglasses and know exactly what you are going to pick up so you do not have to whip out your eyeglasses (which incidentally you just stepped on, ala Christmas Story, and give new meaning to cock-eyed) and get in and out fast.

This is the persona I presented to the world as I plunged into Walmart after a two hour drive. Looking like a high class derelict will cause people to avert their eyes and give you a wide berth. This is the way I like it when I visit the Walmart closest to my home. This is the busiest Walmart on the face of the earth. It is the most convenient in a 50 mile radius sitting directly off the Interstate. The parking is a nightmare, expect a hike from the lower 40, and exiting is an exercise that would make even the most talented NASCAR driver pale.

I was making great time and was headed towards the check out area when I suddenly was struck with the memory of a pulled pork recipe I had viewed only that morning. Right then and there I decided to make a detour and head to the Meat Department and find a pork butt.

As I was looking over my pork selection and marveling at the diversity of pork butt, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a Meat Department associate loading fresh meat into the display case. In Walmart, where associates will actually run away or mysteriously disappear on break if they suspect you may ask for assistance, this guy asks if I need help. I was caught off guard!

Three recipes ,the abbreviated version of his life story, and five minutes later, he wrapped up with a remedy to cure sleeplessness; one part Mogan David wine, one part ice and one part sprite. Sip, do not gulp. (do I look like a gulper??) Somewhere around minute two I just gave in and went with the moment. The invisible string that was trying to yank me away from this lunatic slackened and I just went with the flow. I was even amused when asked to repeat back the complicated steps of the first recipe. Even as I began to maneuver away, with my pork butt tucked in my cart, and head towards the fresh vegetable section he tried to continue the conversation. It was difficult to breakaway, as he clearly did not recognize the subtleties of retreat.

But if truth be told, even though he was a Looney Toon, it was nice that he saw beyond my Middle Age disguise and recognized the real me.

One hot babe.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dear Trip Advisor

And so on the spur of the moment we decided to go to Bowling Green Kentucky to watch the State Cheer leading competition in which we had a family member competing (they won!!) The task of finding an affordable hotel was assigned to me. But first, Joe had already found the cheapest on line and emailed the info.

I attacked the task by going to the usual web sites I have used in the past, but was so disappointed with the results on Hotel.com, Priceline.com, Hotwire etc. I went to Comfort Inn’s web site because I had seen an advertisement that if you stayed two nights, you received a third free. Naturally, the restrictions seemed overwhelming at the time and I was not in the mood to call and converse on the 800 number. I thought that if I booked something as cheap (as the hotel Joe found)and it turned out awful then I would never hear the end of it, but if I booked his place and it was PU then it would go without comment.

I went with the latter choice.

I pushed the” I agree” button and as soon as it was a done deal I realized I should have checked the reviews on Trip Advisor. With a growing feeling of trepidation I signed on and took a look. Oh No! It was bad. It was worse than bad, it read like the Bates Hotel. They received a 1 out of 5! Could It could be worse? Out of the eight reviews, only two gave “recommended” without any info. The info under the “not recommended” made my skin crawl. Dirty bathrooms, paper thin walls, broken air conditioners, no alarm clocks, unresponsive staff blah, blah, blah. I was advised to bring my own pillows and blankets. “You get what you pay for” was the reoccurring theme.

I remembered a long time ago booking a Travel Lodge in Miami through Price Line. We took a taxi cab to the address and I was stunned when we were dropped off. It looked nothing like the pictures on the web site! It was scary looking. We entered the building and the staff did not speak English, only Spanish. It was a challenge to even check in. We were directed to a creepy old elevator (I have one of those irrational fears of elevators) that had an operator, a cage that was closed before the doors and no panel on the wall, but a lever that he used to speed us to the top floor! It was unbelievable! Our room, into which he carried our bags was indescribable, but I will try. You stepped onto a landing and the old style bathroom, (tub only)circa 1930’s, was right in front of you. To the right, down two steps and a hard left was the bed-room with one big bed taking up the entire room, and a tv. To the left, down two steps and a hard right was a second room with a saggy old couch and a second tv. We peeked out the window and the view was the back of the building about five feet away.

We sat on the bed and looked at each other in disbelief.

It was the best Hotel ever! When we returned, after taking a three day cruise, they treated us like long lost relatives. They guarded our luggage for a whole day, drew maps to restaurants, and haggled with taxi drivers on our behalf. They graciously took us up and down the elevator as many times as needed (you have to know us) because the five flights were just too much, and the elevator was just …well, phobia aside, very cool.

So, I was not going to pass judgment just yet. I was going to give it a chance.
It was not Miami, but for the price, it was AOK. I was glad I brought the extra pillows, and I wish I knew to bring a hair dryer, but all in all, the breakfast was wanting, but not as bad as the granola bar we once got as a “Continental breakfast” my first night in Ft. Wayne.

I’m going to write a good commendation on Trip Advisor. Sometimes, you do get what you pay for!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Frugal - A Four Letter Word?

My daughter was whining about how she wanted to go do something but everything was so expensive .If this was some hint that I lend (give) her money, she was barking up the wrong tree!

I sat there looking at her a moment and then asked, “Do you remember the stuff we did when you were a kid? I had little to no money, yet we always had some where to go, something to do. That’s what you do, cope.”

As a single parent attending night school and working at a pink collar seemingly dead-end job, money was tight. Yet, we never wanted for things to do. I was always able to come up with something that did not cost much, if anything at all.

There was the duck pond at the Cave Hill Cemetery. At the time, you could pick up a bag of bread for pennies (recently I visited a Day Old place and the bread was higher that at ALDI…what the hell is going on?!!) . Off we would go and have a great and inexpensive time. And we were not alone. Those were some of the best fed ducks in the city..if not in the world.

There was a dollar movie theater within a few miles of us. There were four screens and every week featured a family friendly movie. Because times were rough, we would sneak in our snacks and avoid the concession stand. I have this image in my minds eye of Bridget and one of her friends standing in front of the Snack Police clutching to their tiny brests small brown bags of penny candy looking guilty and caught red handed. “NOT ALLOWED!!” she bellowed, I pushed them in past her looming glare and just glared back.

Other times we would just go to one of the many city parks. The city is just filled with them! Wonderful parks packed with children area’s that offered many hours of muscle building, sweet child sweat producing exercise. Swing sets, monkey bars, teeter toter's, slides….and the chance for Bridget to meet other children.

The libraries were always a welcome haven with their children area’s, Children’s Hour and lots and lots of books. Bridget would spend lots of time shifting through books looking for her favorites and making me read them right then and there to her! I know Hop On Pop by heart, even to this day.

At various times through out the year the area Malls had some type of happening going on. Everything from the finalist of the science projects, to the mind blowing displays of train sets at Christmas. Now that I think about it, there was always something being highlighted! The kiosk’s had yet to take over all that open space!

We would take trips to the Pet Shops and she would look at all the puppies and kittens, the fish and the spiders in the glass tanks…yuck….she loved it.

We may have had little money to spend on entertainment, but entertainment was only an imagination away.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Up's and Down's of a Day

A day of several highlights begins with the trip to Kroger for batteries (because I was close to Kroger on my errands) and I pick up some Duracell’s that were advertised on the bin as 2/$9.00 and I had a $1.00 coupon! At the cash register they rang up much higher. I brought it to the attention of the cashier who brought it to the attention of Price Police and I received my pack of AAA free!

I go to the Sanitation Dept close to the Kroger, which was why I ended up in these parts, to purchase my new required garbage bin. Last week, I rushed to the front door and peeked out when I heard the garbage truck making its way down my street. I had a mountain of garbage that had been put at the curb the night before, missed the previous week due to the ice storm, so two weeks worth were piled precariously at the end of my driveway. They had missed it (the reason I was checking is on another occasion they had missed it) and so I called to them from the ice encased harbor of my front porch.”Oh Mister, Oh Mister” finally he was able to hear me when the truck had finished its smashing mashing action, “Oh Sirs O, Sirs!! You missed my garbage. “We can’t pick it up because it’s not in the proper container!” He shouted back. “Oh please pick it up, it’s two weeks worth!!” “No can do, not allowed to pickup anything not in the proper container” (this is when you wish you were 25 years old and wearing that low cut cute pink sweater)

“Where can I get one of these containers…” “At the City Dept!!” and off they went on to collect other more law abiding citizen’s garbage. I couldn't be angry with them, because I knew they were only doing their jobs and I had caught wind of this new injunction against unruly garbage receptacles when I had voted in late October. The cost of these new bins was mentioned and it made my eyes blink.


My plan was to steal the neighbor’s bin, the guy who has his house on the market for the past six months, since they had the shouting match in front of their house last summer. Well, that was the break up, except for the several times she would come back and continue with the shouting match. It was hard to believe he continued to live in the house, the curtains pulled shut, the shades down tight. He must have rolled the car into his garage under the shadow of night, and left before the first rays of sun lightened our street and I am certain he mowed his lawn with an electric mower under the full moon. He was a quiet dude, in sharp contrast to his wife who was loud and had a yappy little dog who poo pooed on my lawn. But, when I scoped it out, under the wing of a new realtor, the yard has been meticulously groomed and the bin removed from the side of the house (along with the little red wagon I also coveted and was hoping they had a yard sale. Hell, I never saw them move out!)

So, I go into the City Sanitation Dept and plunk down my blood money and ask the lady if there is anyway I can receive my container before the Wednesday pick up because if not, then I will have four weeks of garbage accumulated and it’s smelly. “Not as smelly as it would be in the summer!” she laughed.

It would not fit in my car, so we did not even try. They would deliver it and she waved at a stack of orders (obviously I was not the only garbage container offender in the city) at least two inches tall!

Imagine my surprise when I arrived home around 7pm after having a nice dinner with my pal C. on the river because it felt like spring today and there was my new beautiful bin.

Yay! Who would have thought a garbage bin could bring joy.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A letter from my Sister

"Dear Friends and Family,

February 4th is the one year anniversary of my Father's death. I'm embarrassed that I have taken so long to write each of you. 2008 from start to finish was filled so much illness, sadness, and death that it paralyzed my family from completing many necessary and everyday tasks. Please forgive the tardiness of this note and know that we were only able to get through this year with the love, support, and most definitely all the prayers that each and everyone of you surrounded and provided for my family.

my Dad, T.F.F., was very ill for many many many years, My Mom would often say he was living on borrowed time for the last several years of his life. When I remember my dad I always think of the adage, "They don't make them like that anymore." He was a quiet soft spoken man who always did the right thing, never said a bad word about anyone, and took excellent care of those in need. He was a great father and probably the best person I have ever known. His last years were filled with many trips to the hospital, much pain from the cancer, and a lot of frustration with his memory loss from the dementia.

There were multiple incidents during his final years when we thought dad just couldn't go on anymore. On those occasions I would spend a lot of time in V. and many of you would pick my children up from school, feed them, and help in any way possible. Thank you for your years and years of support , help and prayers.

My Mother is adjusting to living alone. She now haa spare time which she devotes to the St. Leo's grade school stamp club, her study and investment clubs, her prayer groups, and her beloved libraries of WC. She is an amazing woman, The sole reason my Dad survived for as long as he did was the loving care and commitment provided by Mom. She was a shinning example: living up to her wedding vow of "in sickness and in health". There were several occasions when Dad had bad days and was confused as to who all the people around him were. Then Mom would step int he room, Dad would calm down, smile and say, "There's my beautiful bride".

When Dad was in his early 30s, doctors told him he had a very weak heart and would only live a few years. The doctors were wrong. Over the next 58 years his heart was giving and loving and never let anyone who knew him down.

On his anniversary this week, I know he is in heaven and I am sure he's sending all of you have helped over his rough years grace, peace, and well wishes."

Saturday, February 07, 2009

It's Friday Night and I'm Feeling Alright! (And a little bit blown away!)

My daughter asked if I wanted to go out and have a drink with her last night! It does not often happen, so I jumped at the opportunity. We drove to downtown and did not find anything that fit our purpose and mood so we headed back down the Pike and found a hole in the wall joint situated at the end of a shopping strip.

Into the Pub we go, and we are greeted by the thumping pumping Rat-A-Tat-Tat guitar sounds as if expelled from a machine gun sound of Motor Head. There are three people playing pool at a table situated right in front of the Juke Box. They are young, but still, in these parts you expect it to be Country flowing around you rather than this heart thumping ear drum busting wall shaking sound.

The waitress approached us, she was also the bartender and if I were to take a wild guess, also the owner. “What can I get you all?” “Beers, do you have Blue Moon?” “We have Bud Light and tonight is a bucket of six for $11.” Good Lord, give me a bucket!

Bridget and I took a table in the eerily lit room, the light emitting from the bars name splashed across the East wall. She laid the bucket in front of us and asked if we would like menu’s. The she put her hand to her temple and said, “That music’s something, ain’t it? I’m too old anymore.” “Me too,” I agreed and Bridget nodded in a youthful “I’m too respectful to disagree” agreement. The ladies skin had the light brown color from a life time of too much sun or a liver that was beginning to fail. Her face was marked with the lines of a cigarette smoking since the age of 12. She could fall anywhere in between 40 and 60 years in age.

But Lord was she an excellent server! She kept the bar going, the tables waited on and everybody feeling appreciated if not a little blown away by the music. Finally someone from the bar, an open face area separated from the restaurant , walked to the juke box and took matters into his own hands.

After a moment, Tracy Chapman’s 'Give me one reason’ began to stream from the speakers and the atmosphere began to relax and a collective sigh of relief rippled through the sparse crowd not at the pool table. Right about then our pizza was delivered. It was surprisingly good! Then the cook came out to make certain we were enjoying it, “It’s the best ever!” Bridget assured him. He sat down in front of a large screen TV with no sound and watched Extreme Makeover with us for awhile.

I recalled some of Dorothy’s magical words at the end of the Wizard of Oz, “………if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.”

Same goes for a Pub, but please, no more Motor Head, I’m too old.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Ecomonic Crisis Hits Home

You have to be living under a basket to not know some parts of of the US got hit hard by a severe winter storm. First there was the sleet, then the ice, then the snow, then the sleet again. It was pretty bad for us here. I think half of Kentucky was without power at one time. And some are still waiting for the lights and heat to be turned back on.

My friend C. lives in an area that was hard hit, having huge trees in a mature neighborhood with no underground wires. Her power was out for five days. She was lucky that she had family to stay with while waiting it out. The pull to go home and check things out overwhelmed her, so she and her Dad went for a visit to check up on the house. And naturally, her Dad got stuck in the mountain of ice and snow scraped from the streets and deposited in front of all driveways. They tried and tried to get the car dislodged when finally someone came upon them and asked if they needed help.

He attached the car up to a wench and in a matter of moments had the vehicles back on the safe side of the drive way and clear of the ice barricade. Her Dad tried to give the guy money and he waved it off saying, "I'm paying it forward.", jumped in his truck and vanished.

Her father was not familiar with the term so C. explained that there was a movie that had this beautifully simple idea about people doing something meaningful for each other, strangers, family members, doesn't matter. The hitch is it is to be something hard and not easy....then the person receiving the "gift" is to "pass it on" meaning to do something for five other people, who in turn do something for five people, and in time, the world will be a much nicer place for everyone.

Later that day, after hearing her story I was in our local ALDI, the incredibly inexpensive (but very limited brand names, few but their own) grocery store replenishing the bread (.79cents) and a gallon of milk($2.29, was $1.99 until Jan. 1). I was standing in the back of the line, because there is always only one line and one cashier in my ALDI store, minding my own business when I sensed there was something going on at the front of the line.

A woman, with her two grand kids, was trying to check out. She had her daughters debit card and was trying to input the secret code. It was not working,. "I'm sure these are the numbers" the lady said in frustration. The two kids had become very quiet and concentrated on Granny's predicament. "If you try the third time and still don't get it right, the system will freeze you out.'

"Oh Lordie" she sighed and tried for the third time. I think we all held our breaths. It did not take.

The basket of groceries was pushed aside as the small family exited the store.

Something in my gut was telling me to step in and pay it forward, to pay for those groceries. And my heart was aching because I could not. I barely had enough bills in my hand to pay for the meager things I had.

I would have done it in a heart beat a year ago.

If I ever get back on my feet again, I will never ever take anything for granted again.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

More Secret's from a Catholic School Girl

(This is St. L.)

When you attended a Catholic school, regardless of religious affiliation, you went to Mass at least twice a week. Mass was held at noon everyday. Since the church was right across the street, two classes each day were marched over and attended with the local worshipers, which consisted of the elder generation, (such as my Nana, who followed us to KY in the mid-60’s. She sat in the back rows with her little toy terrier Pogo, hidden in the folds of her coat) (Pogo was given special dispensation by the Priest to attend Mass with Nana) (he vowed not to yap), retirees and the younger stay at home Mom’s with small children who whined and cried during the service. We waited patiently for the highlight and apex when one of them would escape and crawl under the seats and cause a ruckus.

We were marched into the front rows and were required to mumbled the Latin responses and sing at all the appropriate moments. Two of the older kids would be alter boys, usually pulled from the seventh and eighth grades. It was a great privilege to serve as an alter boy, not to mention getting out of class for the 20-25 minutes of a low
Mass. High Mass was different, because you sang a whole lot more, thereby making it much longer. These were only held on First Fridays, which somehow I think is a second class Holy Day of Obligation for us Catholic’s. I am certain there must be other differences for High and Low masses, but they escape me now. I was not a good Catholic girl, as I was too busy trying to trade holy cards and jockeying to see who got to kneel next to BKA .

On Friday’s all eight grades would march across the street and attend Mass. There must have been some bedlam involved trying to corral so many children. This was a long time ago, and there was no such thing as class helpers/monitors, only the usual two to three nuns and a couple of lay-teachers and some sharp eyes Mom’s attending mass that day. First graders needed to go to the bathroom, some kids got sick (because Mass was held before lunch), and rumbling stomachs made us all laugh, be it a swallowed laugh or snort, hidden behind a clenched fist, as you did not dare bust out laughing, as the Nun had full authority to box your ears. Nothing on this earth can raise a bile of panic as the sound of beads clacking and clicking against each other as a Nun rushes towards you! Somehow, with a lot of luck, you could sneak up into the balcony and “attend Mass”. High up, above everyone, maybe because one of the Nun’s was playing the organ (such a beautiful old instrument that was moved to the new church many years later) you might be able to sit, kneel and stand and sing and then receive communion and walk back up the crooked stair case to the holy ground of the balcony.

My best favorite memory of the balcony was when PGG got up there and got his head stuck in between the wooden slats of railing overlooking the church. How and why his head became lodged in the railing? I personally believe it was on a dare, once his head went through his ears prevented the return.

The older boys had to lay hold of a saw and cut him out.

It remains the highlight of all those years of mid-day Mass for me.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Alphawoman - The Early Years

First grade at St. L’s was the beginning of a journey with a handful of kids whom I would spend the next eight years. Some would join us by being left back, others by transferring in and we lost a few from the usual, moving or transferring to public schools. The beginning was with four girls and one boy that took their places in the front row of seats in class room that next day, when school really began. Three out of the four girls (one left early on) formed a bond that stays with me today.

Not exactly a healthy bond, mind you. It seemed that the three of us could never get along as a gang. It was a cruel game we played during the day. We would splinter off when one would say, “You are my best friend and we are going to shun Mary/Missy this week”.

I call myself Alphawoman, but that girl, that B.K.A., she was the Alphagirl. What does not kill or crush you only makes you stronger!

She was teachers pet. She was the smartest , (until Mike showed up in 4th grade, but he was an early version of a nerd, so she continued to triumph), she had the perfect handwriting, her papers were always neat, the sandwiches she brought for lunch had the crusts cut off, and she had lovely dresses, and curly hair, she developed breasts and curves before the rest of us, the boys were all in love with her, she ended up being the teachers pet, she had the most wonderful school supplies including mechanical pencils, had the first “Nifty”, she had long eye lashes and blue eyes and Dag Gum It, when we had a school re-union (to celebrate 75 years of St. L’s) if she didn’t show up looking absolutely stunning!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

(Here she is with her arms raised up showing off her budding chest!! We were around 10)

For seven years, until she left after our 7th grade, I struggled with Missy to be BKA’s best friend. Other girls came and went, and Shelly and Frieda were always hovering the in back ground to take in the ostracized “third” girl (be it me or Missy). I did have one certain advantage over Missy. She lived on a farm way out in the country and had to ride the bus home every day. I, on the other hand, was able to stay after school. I was able to keep BKA company while she waited for her Mom (who worked at the factory and would pick BKA after her shift ended) and then I would walk home. We would help the nun’s and swing on the play ground equipment if the nuns would allow us to take the swing seats out of the shed and reattach them to the steel links bars. Or we would walk downtown and visit the 5&dime. Or we would play in the tunnel. Sometimes we played in the church (but don’t tell anyone) and on the church grounds.

I think BKA was my first crush as I coveted her friendship above all else and was granted it only every so often. She and Missy had much more in common, both farm kids, both with older siblings, and both of them being many , many generations deep Kentuckians. Their parents did not talk with funny Northern accents.

Nor did their parents did not try and change things (as my Mom had been known to do). They were inseparable and I tried to squeeze myself into their world. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it was horrible.

We all went to different High Schools and found new circles to run with. It was my first and very elongated introduction to cliques.

I have never liked them since, and have found myself on the outside looking in most my life. Beginning as a little kid, in the early 1960’s in Mayberry USA.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Crushed to pieces

Recently while going through boxes of old photo's I "borrowed" from my Mom I realized there is not a single picture to document the auspicious occasion of my first day at school!

I did find a photo dated August of that year, so this is about as close to how I looked that day so many years ago. My memory is being to default to the legends. The details are blurring around the edges, beginning to fade if remembered at all. But that day remains intact mainly because I was traumatized.

My Mom sent me off on the first day of school with great fanfare, it not documented with still photo's, but saved for all mankind on 8mm film. I was the first of her children to leave the nest. I'm certain my three brothers cried (the baby held in one arm, the camera in the other) as I ventured off into the world to find my fortune! I'm certain they would miss me,just like the next year when the Irish Twins were busted up and the youngest T. was asked how he was going to deal with N. going off to school, "I'm going to be crushed to pieces" he replied.

I climbed on the school bus and headed for parochial school in the small town of Mayberry. It is highly unusual that Catholic kids are allowed to ride the school bus and have that bus actually deliver and pick us up, but it was argued that parents of the Catholic kids paid school taxes like everyone else so their kids were entitled to ride the buses along with the heathens. (I am going to have to get my hands on that film because Joe lived at the other end of the street and rode the same school bus, driven by the beloved Shorty Nichols, who also lived on our street. I would love to see if Joe was part of that motley crew that ascended the bus and rode towards our destinies. Joe was a cry baby and I picture him clinging to his mothers skirt and resisting entry into the world! Maybe he put on a brave face and climbed those enormous steps up into seething withering screaming all grades smashed together, three to a seat, Bus #33, under his brothers wing...)

I was dropped off in front of St. L. school, which was a Victorian two story house that was both a school and a convent for the nuns. Back in those days, there were only two school rooms. Grades 1 - 5 in one room (grade five had only three students) and the rest in a smaller one room building that was detached from the main house.

I'm certain I must have had a clue when I was the only kid stepping off the bus. The next clue must have been the lack of any other children on the school grounds!

Was I early? Was I late?

I was very early, by one day. The nun(s)(?) took me to the room that would be my home away from home (the same room I was sitting in when the Principal threw open the door on Nov. 22, 1963 with news). I helped to wash down blackboards and given the task to take the erasers outside and bang them together as the chalk dust whirled around me and got up my nose.

I distinctly remember thinking (a little schemer even way back then!) that I should be teachers pet due to the circumstances. The bonding that occurred before any of my other baby boomer classmates arrived. I was the star! I was the one who knew how to slam those erasers together with great enthusiasm.

No doubt they called my Mother and Hipped Her to the fact that so anxious to get one child out the door (and educated surrounded by holy Catholic nuns, no doubt) that she had sent me too early.

And my mother, surrounded by her brood of young pre-schooler's and a baby, told them to have me walk home.

So down Broadway and up Highland Ave and down Ashmore, up Cleveland and cut through the back yard of our neighbors the Fredericks, and avoiding their dog, who was tethered up next to the drain ditch behind our house in her dog house, and through the back yard up to the back door and TA DA ! I was home from my first day at school!

Monday, February 02, 2009

"No One Hipped Me To It, Dude."

Part III

Several months ago Joe was asked to pick up a cook book that represented the local flavor of the Memphis food scene. We went to a thrift shop thinking that would be a good place to start, but stuck out. Then, while driving down a main artery close to State Line Road we ran across a Goodwill Book Store! The Cookbook section was over flowing with possibilities. I pulled up a foot stool and began to run through all the titles to find the hidden jewels.

Tucked in between the SouthBeach books, the LowFat Cooking books, the ubiquitous Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker's are the regional Women Club offerings,locally published paperbacks with spines of gripping plastic teeth sporting names like, "The First Baptist Church of Lucky Hollow Women's Recipes", "Women's Exchange Cook Book Volume I", "St Jude's Special BBQ Edition" and "Best of the Best from Tennessee"....how does one choose just one?

Well, one doesn't. On every return visit since, I have made a side trip to pick up another cook book. And at $2.99 - $3.99, it's difficult to limit myself to just one. The temptation is overwhelming with recipes sporting names like "Oysters Broussard", "Gregnon-Bonne Femme", "Potato Cressonniere", "Scallops St. Jacques", and "Creole Chicken" which gets your mouth watering and stomach clamoring and your hands itching.

My Cook book assemblage began years ago when presented with my first "Women's
Collection". My boyfriends Mother gave it me when she realized I was clueless and soaking up her cooking expertise like a sponge. (Who knew you could put half a pear on a lettuce leaf and flavor with shredded cheddar cheese?! Who knew?)

My Mom added The Shaker Cookbook in honor of the summer I spent there and subsequently the five pounds I picked up when I discovered Cornbread! and Eggplant casserole! And Yellow squash souffle! Oh that summer was marvelous and educational in so many ways!

But the Bible and linchpin of my cooking education is The Prudence Penny cookbook (dated 1938) that I found in an old abandoned barn. This single book has guided me to many an excellent endeavor by pointing out the basics that most cook books just take for granted. Such as which veggies to salt the water and which to not. Did you know that you only boil fresh corn for four minutes? I didn't until Prudence hipped me to it, Dude.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Cabin Fever

Or Why I've been obsessing about food!

Part II

As I said, Dad would walk in the door around 530 and within a short time the family would be seated at the dinner table to share the meal together.

This is how we arrived at the dinner table. For as long as I can remember, the Gang of Three (me and my two “Irish Twin” brothers) had chores that were appointed due to sex! I had to peel the potatoes and set the table. My bro T. cleared the table, I washed dishes, T & N dried said dishes and put away, N. took out garbage. I argued until I was “blue in the face” (one of my Mothers favorite sayings) that this was unfair! (I was a feminist from the get-go!) Just because I was a girl, I had the hardest task (dishes) and the most tasks compared to the boys. I was ignored and suffered in sneering and muttering mountains of dirty dishes and sudsy water as our family grew.

Sitting at the table my Dad would say grace, “Bless us O Lord for these thy gifts as we are about to receive from thy bounty thru Christ our Lord Amen” “Amen!” And he would begin to pass the food to his left, to my Mom. We may as well have had assigned seats, as they never varied. I sat next to N., T. was across from him next to Mom and the baby sat in the high chair. T. was generally strapped into his seat with a belt as his tendency was to slide out of his chair and hide under the table, especially when it came to eating mash potatoes. He hated them and made retching sounds, as if he were gagging and going to throw up accompanied by the most incredible faces while being forced to take a few mouthfuls.

As captivating as that sounds, it was not the main source of entertainment. Dad would ask each of us how our day went (“Fine”) what did we do at school (“Nothing”) and then begin his nightly routine with us kids…

“What is the capital of New York?”

“How do you spell prestidigitator?” (This is how my brother N. began my Fathers eulogy last February.)

And so on and so forth. Until T. finished his mashed potatoes because you always asked to be excused from the table and if T. had not choked down his tablespoon of potatoes, we all suffered.

Then it was the clearing of the table, the agreement on the one solitary tv show we were allowed to watch, Dad would kick back in his lazy boy and watch “Maverick” or “Wagon Train” or “The Rifleman”…oh how he loved Cowboy shows! I’d wait until physically threatened and then drag myself into the kitchen to begin the dreaded clean up.

And it would all begin anew the next evening. Family Time.