Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Horatio, more is in your universe than your checkbook ever knew

So many have told me Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. Good food. Good company. Laughter.

I've heard this from folks in the sunny realms, where often the kids and even we can run around.  I've heard it from persons in the Northeast. We like the break, to breathe, say, "well, that year wasn't so bad,", to hug loved ones.

But the greed digs in. Off at 11 last night? Be back at 5 on Thursday. Big push.

Last weekend, so many communities caved. The Christmas trees are up, the ads are out, only a few companies are really giving their employees time to love, laugh, eat leisurely, bake good stuff, and hug.

Costco didn't cave, nor did Radio Shack. A third I don't remember, and I am sorry. I do know all three make money, some more than others, they treat their employees like human beings, and have high employee satisfaction ratings and little turnover Which is part of why they make money. Experience counts. So does a friendly, not desperate. salesperson.

I have friends who love to shop and will, to my mystification.

Will Thanksgiving become a forgotten meal? I hope not. I think it feeds into the kindness of Christmas.  I know a country that is Christian, Muslim, and many others, and because they have all been taught to care, in December, they go back to their homes and give help. This country has melded the concern, and they do well. I wish my country could do as well.

For the first time this year, Chrismas selling overrode Thanksgiving.

It will be worse next year.

Quality of life? Time for love?

As the JC Penny ad says, "go,go,go, buy, buy, buy."

And you'll be happy.


Friday, November 22, 2013

November in NorthTexas will Never Be Solved

November is one of the fun months about Texas.

There's a saying, that if you don't like the weather wait five minutes and it will change..

Huh. I've lived here since 1961, and that has NEVER been true in July or August.

November, now. November has possibilities.

Today it was cold, wet and near freezing, 50 years from the death of a president that was commemorated today. 

That day was sunny, short-sleeved weather. It wasn't hot, though I have been sunburned in late November. It was clement, then.  A lovely,, clement, brilliant day.

Today is nothing of the kind.  It is a nasty day, dark clouds, spitting rather than actually raining icy drops. Raining would be more mannerly. Not freezing, just threatening to. One degree off.  No clemency.

I usually let my eldest granddaughter set her schedule. Today, I told her I was picking her up after school and I was sorry if this interfered. I texted all this. I hope some of you are impressed. I knew by texting before the bell rang I would not get her into trouble if she didn't read till after the bell.

Anyway, both girls were glad to go home.

Tomorrow promises to be much the same, eroding into Sunday, We are going into sleet and snow.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is  eating  Thanksgiving dinner outside when the trees hadn't turned and the grass was green and the honeysuckle still smelled sweet, and I worried about a sunburn. Another Thanksving was a wintry day when it sleeted, we had a wood fire blazing, and cozily sat inside.

November is like that in North Texas.

Oh, God, I love it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thank God for Thanksgiving

Anticipation is the best sauce for experience.

And so we love Thanksgiving.

When I was a kid,, the turkey started roasting  WITH THE DRESSING IN about 4 in the morning. I woke to the smells of coming feast, and bacon, maybe the world's favorite smell,..

I had a small family. I've met some big ones, out in the hinterlands of Texas, and they mostly  are kind people.

Thanksgiving is the thankful holiday. No presents. No decorating if you don't want to. No fireworks. No eggs to color, no argument about gifts at Valentine's Day.

Just you. Who you invite, who might not be family but are loved and welcome.

Love is all appreciated, and a full tummy of yummy food.

For most of us, that's enough. Some of us may not say it--I  do!-- but Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday.

It is the holiday that fits all sizes-- 1, 2,5, 20,well, y'know, Thanksgiving fits any size.

People say Thanksgiving is about plentitude. It never has been. Never has been if you look at history.
That first Thanksgiving we go on so much about involved survivors of a colony where half had already died. These weren't fat people,at all.. These were skinny survivors, and most of the children had already died in the past year.

Celebration is another word that means Thanksgiving. These gaunt survivors were celebrating their survival, the help the Indians gave them, and their joy of life over mourning.   A number did not survive the harsh winter.

It was, in modern parlance, a photo shot at the time.

So. Anticipation, Celebration. All to do about Thank God. We lived another year.

It is a simple  holiday. Very tasty. Unknown outside the United States, as such.

Small matters. It has been at least 60 years since I smelled turkey with dressing cooking, and country bacon frying for breakfast.

The smell alone told me it would be a great day. And it was.

Thanksgiving has somehow, through merchandising, become about opulence.

We historians, we amateur,  poor historians, know differently.

Thanksgiving is about survival.

It's nice if you have cranberries and rolls and some kind of meat and fancy vegetables and 100 pies to choose from. That's not anticipation, celebration, dedication. I think Thanksgiving is all three.
If you survived this year celebrate. Wherever.

 If it actually tastes good, be thankful.  If you can survive another few days or a month or a year, be thankful. But dedicate your life to making it better next year, however you can, lawfully, ethically.

Anticipate better times. That keeps you alive and  trying.

Celebrate yourself, your family and that you have food today.

Dedicate to make it better. Hey. Or at least as good. We talk about the food, not the hugs. How many of us would forgo the pie for the hug? I would. Hey, day after Thanksgivng, all those delicious pies go on sale. The hug is now.

Oh. Simplify. Always, simplify.

It helps the love show up better.

I so appreciate those with an abundance of love and food.  Many give to others.  I envy the tables of those tv chefs who are cooking next week. Yum!

But  Thanksgiving comes in many forms and stratas. 

For dinner, at Thanksgiving, a can of Spaghettios, Beef Wellington, and  plain turkey and dressing are all to be thanked for.

They all feed bellies. They all help us, with that belly, to anticipate the future with expectation.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Saddest Place to be--Dallas, Texas, November 23, 1963

I'm sorry, but the media is wrong.

Not everyone took Kennedy's assassination seriously. When I came home to New Mexico for Thanksgiving, I was shocked to find friends who laughed about keggers Sunday night and sleeping in the day of the funeral. They were miles from the epicenter. I suspect their numbers were legion.

I was a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The story I want to tell has evolved over the last 50 years, and questions still exist.

I had a poly sci class at 11, and classmates offered me a chance to go downtown to see the President. I refused. Two years before, my senior year in high school I stayed awake till 4 a.m. to find out Kennedy had won. I was grief-stricken. My Modern European History teacher looked as bad as I did, and he had stayed up as late. He was elated.

I had a noon business math class. When I left class, something was going on. Something bad. People were sitting in their cars and listening to their radios. I heard one boy tell another,"That means Lyndon Johnson could be president."

And I began to run.

I burst into my sorority house to find the cook and I the only ones in the television room. I heard Walter Cronkite say the President was dead. I remember we backed away from the television. We both had our arms extended to ward off this truth.

I was so young I still believed in civilization. The last assassination wasWilliam McKinley Sept. 5, 1901. I honestly thought civilization had grown up beyond  killing a President.

The school held a candlelight vigil. Of course it did. What else do schools do? I went.

I heard they caught Oswald. As a journalism major, I thought to order a paper. The Dallas Morning News was sold out. I have my Dallas Herald, which has been defunct for years. And yeah, I'm wondering if it is worth anything.

I went to church on Sunday, First Methodist in downtown Dallas. After the sermon, a man brought a message to the pastor. He froze, then told us carefully that Jack Ruby had killed Oswald. We prayed. I didn't listen much. I was absorbing a crazy reality.

That afternoon, three of us drove downtown with thousands to circle Dealy plaza. In the car, away from supervision, we laughed and joked with each other. No, not about the President. But we laughed. I realized a few days later I had heard no laughter at all for three days.

Dallas took it hard.. We young people took it hard. We felt smirched.

In 1965, I spent 10 weeks in Europe. When people learned I was from Texas, they always asked about Kennedy, and Dallas. I remember an African student who was shocked I would speak to him. He was used to apartheid. We spent an interesting afternoon drinking tea and talking. I hope he felt better about Americans afterwards.

Let's see. It was the Birch Society, an ultra-conservative group with a base in Dallas. We speculated about assassination beforehand.  Not too seriously. But we speculated. Was it after Kennedy's death that politicians and Popes quit traveling in open cars where they were fish in a barrel? I think so.

I love pageantry and history. I was glued to the television on Monday.

I later went to work for the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

The Kennedys spent Thursday evening and night in Fort Worth, only 30 miles from Dallas. A couple of years ago, a friend and I ran into a docent at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. We knew each other's names. He and Mrs. Carter picked art especially for the President's suite with Mrs. Kennedy, knowing of her great love of great art. He toured us all over the museum to show us those paintings then.

A PBS show featuring them recently was shown on television, and they were wonderful paintings.

In my years as a reporter, I also met one of the surgeons who served the President in his dying moments.

This morning, a newsman I know published a picture I knew well. You see, when Oswald was buried, no one would carry his coffin to the grave..Reporters I knew for years picked up the casket and carried it. It opened a door for occasional news stories through the years. Oswald's mother was grateful. And, well, the casket needed to be taken to the burial spot. They were kind of neutral. No one would scoff at them unnecessarily. Not even the funeral home provided staff for this.

I have watched some of the hoopla and interviews, but not many.

I don't intend to listen to the showpiece Friday.  I still hope to visit the Sixth Floor Book Depository Museum, and I would like to before I die.

Assassinations are big. Kennedy was adored by so many. This assassination, to me, is a demarcation.  Before. Kennedy was called the Camelot Administration. And then there was After.

Please get it. I was not a fan. But---MURDER.

When the towers were destroyed in 2001, I was shocked, hurt, sorry that enemies had hurt us again, horrified by the number of victims. But when Kennedy died---

The world has never been the same again.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tasting the Fruits of the Earth

I just listened to a food journalist prattle about quince paste, and she lives in New York. She talked about buying pineapple quinces for a tasty paste, then learning about quinces from a Japanese shrub of some kind. I don't know about either of those.
I know about the quince tree in my grandmother's orchard in New Mexico. It was a pale fruit, and like a peach, needed peeling, because it was fuzzy.
It was fairly pale, almost white, and was used with peaches for exquisite preserves when my grandmother preserved peaches. It created a tart-sweet preserve. It was unlike any others. People knew of it and ate it in the early 1900s/

I suspect we are going back again to more than the quince.

Our ancestors ate more widely than most of us do, because they had the water and the space to grow more fruits and vegetables.

I have read today about the "Paleo diet" and don't think much of it. That is too far back. Whatever type of hominids then didn't live long.
Unless you are going to be harvesting (swinging the scythe) all day long or cutting trees, or digging canals, you don't need the amount of meat most restaurants offer, nor the carbs, etc. Actually, the diabetic diet, so-called. suits most of us: meat the size of your palm, carbs: half that size, and green-yellow veggies plus salad the size of the whole hand.

I never ate pasta growing up and don't know how to balance it against other foods. People who eat pasta regularly don't eat corn tortillas, and vice versa.
I eat tortillas.

My late mother-in-law loved persimmons, which had to be ripe and frozen in the first frost or in the freezer. She would be diving into one today.

I grew up eating pomegranate seeds, but it never occurred to me to squeeze all the juice out. Not a bad idea and still a tradition.

On the other hand, I never ate mangos or papayas until I was grown.

We are clinging to our local plants, and reaching for our exotic or forgot foods.

Seems like a tasty food basket to me.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I work in a soup kitchen once a week for five hours. I work on Friday and handle the snack packs homeless persons get to nurture them through the weekend when we are closed.

Some get food stamps. The popular sneer when I was growing up was the man or woman in a Cadillac driving up for their benefits. Now it is the folks on drugs. Both happen. Often it doesn't.

I can't change your mind. I am simply telling you what I see.

Compassion works. It should be a part of your life or you will be singing, "Me-me-me-me-me."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Exotic Food Products Vie with Organic Home Grown


You have a membership at Sam's Club.

I don't. A household of one doesn't need Sam's.

Apparently, a lot of weird fruits are forthcoming from there.

Ziwi berries, that, sliced, look like miniature kiwis, don't have the fuzzy coat and are miniature. They taste like ziwis.  Kids love them.

Grapples. these are ordinary apples somehow infused with grape flavor. I think also at Sam's.

A crunchy banana that has apple characteristics. I think I have heard of this and it comes from Brazil.

Thing is, lots of weird fruits are showing up in my granddaughters' lunches  that I know nothing about. My middle-schooler mentioned more, but I was overburdened.

My granddaughters eat a lot of US-produced fruit.  I am glad.

It is so strange, the drive for local and home-grown produce, and the drive for the exotic and where-the-hell fruits from exotic locations.

I used to worry most about the pesticides on foreign-grown produce. I  never used to worry about genetically altered food. I see more and more getting sick.

My pastor just unleashed a video on hog slaughter that may put me permanently off bacon and ham.

I get the point. Profit.

Let the consumer beware.  How archaic. And true.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

An ancient word still serves our praise

If I had not met and married a  native Texan whose mother grew up in Itasca, Texas, I would never have learned the term, "larruping."

I had never heard it before. Many still haven't, but the  word is still in use.

It's a colloquial expression, but I found much about it on the internet, God bless it.

If something is larruping, or more likely, pronounced :larrupin', it is damn good.

In fact, according to the internet, it is excessively good.

That fits. The best food I ever ate was larrupin'. I kid you not. The word transcends class. For example, the Grand Marnier soufflĂ© I once ate was genuinely larrupin'. Forty years later, I think of it and kind of shiver. The pomegranate cheese cake a friend made for a Christmas party two years ago was larrupin'. Another friend's delicious, gooey chocolate brownies with walnuts were, on the other hand, delicious. They didn't reach  larrupin'. I once had some alligator tail with lemon that was larrupin'. I had some green beans with Swiss cheese at a holiday meal that was so good, I skipped dessert and went back for more green beans. That was larrupin'.

It's an old-fashioned word.  I never heard it till I reached Texas. I would say, thinking about it, that it is a country person's way of saying exquisitely delicious.

I thought about the term today when my oldest son sent his daughter over with a still warm helping of beef roast, potato and carrots, in a rich sauce of commercial mushroom soup, vermouth, fresh garlic and bay leaves. I  wasn't too hungry, having eaten a light meal for supper. But the beef was tender, the carrots sweet--it was larrupin'.

Another component exists. Larrupin' means it not only tastes good in a bite, but in the many bites after that the hunger rises from the wonderful taste. Larrupin' means that after you have tasted and fed, you tummy is very happy. Very. Not necessarily overfull, but happy.

We all know what that is like.

My dogs are not gourmets.  They enjoy their Purina dog chow with either broth or 2% fat milk. They enjoy it. Every so often, I have leftover beef or chicken stew, and I give them a dollop with their meal. By dog standards, that is larrupin'. They know how to smile.

And after I give them this treat, they smile all evening long.

Just the way I am doing now after this unexpected gift of roast beef, carrots and potato in such a wonderful gravy. Yum!

And that is the true meaning of larrupin'.