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Learning can last a lifetime

One skill that has come in very handy for me since March is one that came into my life as a youth – cooking.
While my normal routine in recent years has been a lot of meals out, the stationing at home the past few months required me to break out skills learned when I was growing up. Both of my parents stressed I should acquire the skills.
Perhaps it was their foresight that it would not be likely to find a woman of my generation willing to dedicate themselves totally to cooking, cleaning and raising children, or perhaps it was my mother’s independent spirit as someone who was before her time.
My mother began operating her own restaurant when she was in her 20s, so needless to say she was a career woman long before I entered her life.
I think she knew that more and more women in my generation would be entering the workforce and spending more time in the workplace.
However, with my arrival and due to some of my unforeseen health issues, she left the business world to look after me until my health improved enough for her to work again full time.
As I grew, I helped out all I could, and one of my chores once she returned to work was to help with evening meals.
With her help, I learned to cook a variety of dishes from Hungarian goulash to Southern style meatloaf. My favorites were the sweets, pineapple upside down cake, pecan and sweet potato pie, which of course barely lasted to the table.
When I was around 13-years-old I had the opportunity to solo on my very first holiday meal — turkey, cornbread dressing, sweet potato yams with marshmallows, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, slaw and pumpkin pie. Of course, like any good teacher she quietly coached and helped with some of the odd jobs like peeling potatoes, grating the cabbage and carrots, opening cans, and of course getting the turkey started soon enough to be done by meal time. You know, if you do not take that thing out of the freezer a day before you’ll be having fried Spam instead.
One thing that to this day I just cannot deal with is those little turkey giblets you put in the gravy. I think gravy is just fine with them swimming in the gravy boat.
For the occasion we invited our neighbors, Millie Dobbs and Bessie Yarbray, to join us.
I was also in charge of setting the holiday table with our finest linens, bone china, crystal glasses and silver ware. These were always reserved for special occasions and guests.
I will never forget my excitement as the meal was set on the table and the guests arrived to see what I had done.
The image looked like it could have come right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
I am pleased to report that everyone said they enjoyed the meal and the portions evidenced that. As far as I know there were no late-night visits to the emergency room, so I guess you can say the event was a success.
I also may have been inspired to pursue this endeavor by the fact that my brother’s wife could not boil water. They spent many evenings sitting around our table.
As an adult these lessons have served me well, and while cooking is no longer what one might call a passion for me, I do know how. As long as food is available in the absence of someone desiring to cook, I won’t starve. Although I have discovered over the years that my food choices are becoming what we perceive today as healthier and as a result over the last few months I was blessed with losing weight – about 30 pounds.
But as years go on, I am sure that will be plain to see as I develop an ailment, which afflicts many of my kinfolk – Dunlap disease. My belly dun lapped over my belt. Bon appetite!

Take off the gloves and put on the mitts

The election season is finally over once again, barring any post-count legal maneuverings by either side.
It is now time for all candidates on every tier of government to take off the boxing gloves, shake hands and come out fighting for the American people rather than against each other.
I have often wondered what miracles could be accomplished if candidates took those millions they use to travel around the country via bus and plane, creating a presence on television, radio, newspaper and Internet while smiling, waving, shaking hands and kissing babies, to accomplish something needed in our country like improving some roads and bridges.
Of course, this is a dream that will never be realized. In the early days of our country, people were simply elected on the merit of what was written about them in newspapers and through word of mouth.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most Americans to even get to see a candidate let alone a president.
We had candidates such as Washington, Jefferson, Adams and countless others who traveled as far as the horse and buggy or ship or boat might carry them.
When trains came along, candidates would stump largely only where the rails could carry them. The classic speech from the rear of a caboose is a wonderful early political image.
Today, however, candidates are in our face almost every minute trying to get our attention to get behind their agenda.
It is safe to say that more money has probably been spent in some races than ever before. What could be done with that? What if it was put in Social Security? What if it was used to help our military families? Instead, it pads the coffers of every advertising concern on earth. At least that helps to pay the salaries of folks like me, who pound away on the computer to try to shed light on the news and encourage with uplifting words. I guess that is one benefit that I do appreciate.
Now that it is all over and the gloves are off, candidates could instead put on their mitts. Let’s have all the candidates — winners and losers — form baseball teams and gather in the largest stadium in the country and face off one final time for the enjoyment of the people. It could be shown on pay-per-view, and the money raised from the event could go toward helping pay down the national debt.
That would at least be more entertaining than the last many months have been.
This would be a tremendous way for candidates to help relieve the tension placed on families across the country.
If baseball isn’t the answer, they could don oven mitts and the competition could be a bake-off. With the popularity of the Food Network these days, I bet even that would work. Maybe they could all volunteer to serve us our as our cooks for Thanksgiving.
Then after the games are over, hopefully, they can all shakes hands, and the winners and losers can work together to make our country a better place to live.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful.

Cooking, cleaning and compliments

Thanksgiving is a time in my memory that takes me back to the days of splendidly set tables, endless rows of holiday delights and friends and family gathered with their heads bowed thanking God for his blessings upon our homes.

I can still smell the turkey turning a golden brown, the sage that flavored the cornbread dressing baked from scratch, or the tempting urge to run my fingers through the icing of that double layered coconut cake. Read more