Whet Your Palate with Foods from the Present and Memories from the Past

Standard

10360464_10152551882813628_3075317463844957508_n

My Danish grandfather had several pigs that were kept in a pen near the back garden. If it was “pig slopping” time, I was there. The snorts and squeals of the pigs as they gulped down their food made me giggle. The smell of the mash mixed with whatever leftovers were available from the house, garden or dairy barn seemed intoxicating. Those pigs really knew how to scarf down a meal.

Feral Pig

Feral Pig

When people “feed their faces” or “chow down” on foods they love, I’m always reminded of those blubbery fat hogs. One of mankind’s favorite pastimes is eating. A phrase spoken around the world in many different languages is: “What’s for dinner?” When my children were still toddlers they would crowd around my legs and ask “Time for eat?” They were not only hungry. They wanted it now!

???????????????????????????????

“The Cook” 11×14 acrylic on canvas

Sometimes I stressed out about what to feed them. I wanted to provide something nutritious that they would enjoy, and I needed to stay within my budget. I didn’t want an anxiety attack every time I had to prepare a meal.

Solution: “The menu Plan.” I literally planned out a full month of assorted meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Now I had something to work from when I went shopping. I didn’t have to worry about food because I knew exactly what we were going to eat and when. I knew the ingredients were waiting somewhere in the cupboards, the freezer or refrigerator because I’d purchased them myself.

images (2)

When there were leftovers, I’d incorporate them into the menu. Two big hits were omelets and fried rice. Both used miscellaneous meats or vegetables in small quantities that could be folded into an omelet with cheese or stir-fried into rice. Hidden veggies were eaten with added bacon bits or ham to sweeten the pot.

download

download (1)

Cooking became an art form. I fashioned make-ahead meals and blended together the makings for cookies, cakes, and muffins. All I needed to do was add egg, oil, and milk and the rest was already done. I look back now and I wonder how I found the time or energy. I was a volunteer, I worked as a free-lance writer, and I had a large family. I think one reason may have been “lack of fear.”

images

There was a time when parents didn’t have to hover over their children and worry that they might be snatched out from under them by some pervert or kidnapper. My parents certainly never had to worry about me. I roamed the neighborhood and played outside for hours exploring the world I lived in. I rode my bicycle home when I was hungry. My mother knew my haunts and she knew whom to call. I never felt restricted or tied down. I seldom felt afraid.

Food no longer seems to call us back home. We can buy it almost anywhere. In fact, more people eat out than ever before. They either eat fast food or buy take out and eat at home watching T.V. Our society eats on the run and does far too much snacking. Nutrition sometimes gets lost in the balance.

When my kids were still in college, I’d get a phone call asking for a recipe they remembered. Today they have their own recipes and children of their own. Even holidays don’t involve the time and effort they used to. Store-bought items take the place of the time-consuming hot rolls of the past. Potatoes and gravy are now prepared for you. Even a “home-cooked” turkey can be purchased from your supermarket.

images (5)

Although the traditions of the past come in a new form, and busy working mothers don’t have the time to prepare a full spread; people still enjoy sharing food and laughter with those they love. Ordinary food will always taste better in good company. Perhaps that’s what those snorting pigs were trying to tell me so long ago” “Bon Appetite!  Let the good times roll – oink, oink!”

images (3)

Tis the Season that Memories are being Made All Over the World!

Standard

Gateway Lights 004

We usually repeat what’s pleasant: a beloved piece of music, an old storybook, a novel reread until the stitching comes loose on the binding. Old movies are another sweet experience we enjoy reliving over and over again.

Warm memories shared may replay in our minds especially if their associated with a holiday or vacation. Rituals we cherish with those we love are automatically recorded and later brought to mind in times of loneliness or pain.

Before bed, my children adored stories, songs and “cuddles and kisses.” When I was in a hurry, I’d rush through a rhyme my Uncle Walt taught to me: “I’ll tell you a story about Annie and Norrie; and now my story’s begun. I’ll tell you another about my brother, and now my story is done.”

Popeye-one 009

My kids were so disappointed. “No, no, not that one,” they wailed. Read Go Dog Go!” Dr. Seuss was always a favorite. As a result, a familiar chant “Go, around again, dog” was said when someone had to repeat an action or they wanted a do-over.

The Chipmunks brought us “Pardōn” with the appropriate response: “wee wee, Monsieur.” That phrase still slips out in my speech today, even though no one is around who is familiar with this practice. I respond, even though I’m alone, with an appropriate “wee wee, Monsieur.” Old habits die hard.

If one of my sons came up with a bright idea or outsmarted a brother or a sister, they would put a small finger beside their nose and say: “I be smart” thanks to old “Ben Gunn, a character from “Treasure Island” that they enjoyed imitating. The books we read together and the fun we shared found its way into our vocabulary and in our interactions with others.

Popeye-one 016

I had a friend who always lamented that she was a “terrible mother.” She wasn’t patient. She was too busy working and didn’t spend as much time with her boys as she would have liked. One day she fell and fractured a rib. In the process of dealing with it, the doctors found she had a tumor on her kidney and was near kidney failure. She immediately went into hospice.

I was there for her funeral. I wondered what these “neglected boys, now men, would say about their mother?” Had they been unhappy? Did they feel ignored and alone?

The memorial service spared nothing. A presentation of slides and photos revealed it all – the happy faces, the rough and tumble play, the picnics and the story telling. One by one each son stood and expressed his love and gratitude toward a mother who never knew, perhaps because they had failed to tell her.

Each son quoted passages from famous authors and their books. Shakespeare was a favorite. Biblical passages once memorized were used in praising her. Some had been used in helping them make difficult decisions in life. Their mother’s influence had been with them throughout their lives and had helped them to cherish great literature, to glean wisdom from its pages, and to live honorably because of it.

This faithful woman had died thinking she was a failure; that she should have done more. Yet her sons had blossomed under her care into doctors, attorneys and teachers. They had become good citizens, neighbors, husbands and fathers. Small and insignificant things do matter!

The unique touch of a mother’s hand can leave an indelible imprint on the future of the world. What if these sons had focused on her deficiencies and mistakes; would they have achieved as much recognition and success as they apparently had? Would they see their lives half-full instead of brimming with laughter and knowledge?

The perfect life doesn’t exist. We never have enough time or money to do all of the things we wish to do before our own demise. Sometimes our bucket list never gets finished. The best we can do is to let the people we care about know how much we love them so they don’t end up like my late friend, never knowing the truth.

choelhee-lillie 013

Some of my “Grands”

Those Awkward Moments – Filling in the Gaps

Standard
A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

Some things, if repeated often enough, catch on. Take the word “awkward” said in a sing song voice after someone puts their foot in their mouth or there’s a lapse in conversation.

It happens to all of us. When my husband and I were dating, he’d fill in those silent spaces by saying: “Yup, yup, yup.” I tease him about it now; but obviously, when we were getting to know each other, he felt uneasy when there was a “pregnant pause” between our exchanges.

I’m a writer and an artist by trade so I’m better on paper and canvas than in verbal discussions where the bold and the loud hold sway. Maturity and life hurdles have given me muster, but essentially “chit chat” is not one of my strong suits.

Once I bumped into a mirrored pillar in a department store and said “excuse me.” When I looked up and saw that the open-mouthed face staring back was mine, I laughed in surprise. It’s healthy to laugh at yourself. When things go wrong seeing the humor can soften a bad situation.

Like the time my teenaged boyfriend walked me home from school and the elastic around my waist band snapped. I felt my slip crumple to the ground. Hey, at least it wasn’t panties! I stepped out of the slip, rolled it in a ball and carried it under my arm as we walked home. Nothing to fret about. Just another reason to make light of an embarrassing scene.

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

Another time I wore my skirt inside out to a meeting. I didn’t notice until half-way through the speaker’s message, and then I turned three shades of red thinking that the frayed seams and ragged hemline announced my stupidity. A quick trip to the girl’s room fixed my dilemma before any fuss could be made of it.

Waiters and waitresses are notorious for being on the receiving end of complaints by getting skimpy tips and insults. A waitress once spilled a glass of soda into my lap and apologized profusely. I could tell by her body language and facial expression that she expected an irate tongue lashing. When I smiled and said, “Everyone makes mistakes,” she breathed a sigh of relief. How could I not forgive her when I’m a klutz myself by nature?

On the news recently, someone pulled out a gun and shot someone for spilling a cocktail on his expensive suit. Many people take offense at far less than this. The world is turning into a population of whiny, short-tempered egoists who want their lives to progress without any problems. Pity the person who gets in their way.

Awkwardness is part of growing up, for Heaven’s sake; a stage of life prone to accidents. Arms and legs grow faster than we know how to use them. One day we’re short people with the perspective of a pup, and before we know it we’re towering over our parents but still under their rule and command. This odd time needs to be handled with patience and good humor.

"Shimmy Shake" 11 x 14 acrylic in black box frame

“Shimmy Shake” 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame

My first marriage died from lack of humor. When you can’t laugh at yourself, or you resent other people teasing you or playfully trying to ease you out of a bad moment, you’ve got a compatibility problem.

Irritable, touchy people hate it when you try to cheer them up. They’re afraid that if they laugh or give into humor they might lose control and compromise their dictatorship.

Shouting from behind may get people to move, but real leadership beckons from the front with words of encouragement that say: “You can do it! Come on – follow me; I’ll show you how. Let’s do it together.”

Patience and kindness can bridge those awkward times we find ourselves in. No one has a “right” to make other people miserable or to constantly demand his or her own way. Relationships require that both parties get something out of it. Unpleasant personal encounters and dealings with other people should always be courteous and respectful, period!

"And All that Jazz" 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame

“And All that Jazz” 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame