Tuesday, August 8, 2017

MY WICHITA LINEMAN

And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time.


Possibly the greatest words in any love song, ever.
A love ballad in fifteen words. 
Sung by a tall, good-looking, supremely talented, Southern boy.


I have spent a few tears today. My first troubadour has died. Glen Campbell's music was the first music I wanted to own. He was also the subject of my very first blog post (August 11, 2013).

I was born and raised in Texas but my family was from Southwest Arkansas. We'd never been to Delight or Billstown but I remember my father always being interested in anything Glen Campbell did. Arkansas Boy making it good.

My Daddy loved to sing and we would travel with the car radio playing the latest hits, singing "Where's the Playground Suzie", "Galveston", "By the Time I Get To Phoenix." I was too young to recognize the leavings and longings of popular music.

When I was about ten, I wanted a Glen Campbell album for Christmas. A couple of days before Christmas, I found a wrapped album with my name on it, under the tree. I remember having to live with anticipation of what I knew had to be a Glen Campbell Album.

Tearing the paper that Christmas morning revealed an illustrated vinyl record of Walt Disney's Peter Pan. I was crushed and panged with guilt, trying to hide my feelings and say thank you for a gift I didn't want. I remember thinking my parents still thought of me as a little girl. But at night, I was lying in bed, listening to my transistor play "Wichita Lineman."  

 The double platinum album of the same name won the 1968 Grammy for Best Engineered Record, Non Classical and topped charts in Country Western, Pop and Adult Contemporary.  Written by Jimmy Webb, ("Up, Up and Away," "Galveston," "MacArthur Park" to name a few), Wichita Lineman is ranked 195/500 on The Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of all Time. Of course. It should be higher ranked but it is only two below "Freebird." Or Freebird should be two below the Lineman. 

Please, Power and Light, give this man a vacation. He can't work because everything reminds him of his beloved. Jimmy Webb doesn't even mention the word love. He doesn't have to. Needing and wanting. All that anyone really wants. Which came first? Need, want, love. This is a commitment for all time. This is open and honest.


And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time.

I love this song. It never fails to pull at me. I love Glen Campbell. He was my Wichita Lineman. No one is shocked today but we are sad. Life is better celebrated than mourned.

 Peter Pan resides in a flea market somewhere.  About five years ago, my parents gave me a birthday present they said I would like.  At the first rip of the paper, I could see Glen Campbell's smiling face.   
We will always want him.







Monday, August 7, 2017

HANGING ON BY THE DOT

Bone on bone. Two words you never want to hear.  But we did, a year ago today. Instead of a fun birthday celebration for Burt, we sat eating at our favorite meat and three, mulling over the situation. It would require a lengthy recovery - six months to a year. Frankly, it was a lot to take in. But we had been taking it all in for almost twenty years.

I had just bought a used piano from a friend - $100. I learned to play the piano in 3rd grade. Since getting married, my dream was to have one in our home. Fifteen years later, I finally got my wish.

Only one day. I cleaned and polished. With the piano in the house, I felt like I had gotten back a piece of me. I knew the classics and scads of scales, Dan Fogelberg and Stairway to Heaven. The piano was my voice, a barometer of my day. I turned to the piano in joy, in sorrow.

Being Father's Day weekend, I fixed Burt a favorite meal of hamburgers and onion rings.The onion rings were delicious. We three ate onion rings until we could pop. I didn't make them very often. Onion rings are not that hard to prepare (I see a new post in my future) but there is a big mess of grease, dried flour and egg. Afterwards, I wanted to run in and play the piano for a minute, until I could clean up. And I'm also never one to jump at work when there is something more fun to do.

I was on the phone with Val, playing hymns and singing happily. I wanted her to hear my new piano. She said she would never forget what she heard. There was a big scream, commotion and then Burt got on the line and said he had to call the ambulance.

I will never forget the sound in my head. The piano bench broke on my ankle. I had never broken a bone. When the firemen arrived they said they had to wait for the paramedics. The medics arrived and said "Yes, it looks like..." They secured my leg, lifted me up on the gurney and put me in the back of the ambulance. It was 6 o'clock in the afternoon but not a single neighbor came out to see why a firetruck and an ambulance had raced down our street. Cate got to ride shotgun without the sirens. Burt followed in the car.

That one minute changed our lives, as "one minute you are fine..." . The life changing in an instant resides on slippery slopes and floors, inside of cars or four inches of looking away for just a minute. An inadequate amount of life changing is the lucky Publishers' Clearing House, "Mama, there is this boy", I got the job; sometimes, it seems that way.

Surgery with pins, a six week recovery in a hot pink cast and family and friends filling in the pieces. Many years of normalcy. But slowly, the bones gave into progressively worsening arthritis.  Twenty years of later - debilitating movement, range of motion with stiffening and swelling.  Now we were considering a major surgery we hoped would cure the situation for another 10-15 years.  Measuring my steps in my head had become second nature to me.  I was afraid of falling. My strength was nil. Knowing how far I could push myself which wasn't very far. I was becoming so crippled to the point, I watched commercials noticing how people walked and ran.

I was only going to check out the situation. Words like no weight for three months, two weeks in a cast, elevate, walker, wheelchair, cane, no driving.  P.T. The unknown. The complications. Basically, a total disruption for months which would rehabilitate me but meant never ending work for my family. Because I would need almost total help. I signed on the dotted line.

***

937,000 acres of farmland glistening gold as seen overhead in the flyby, a tourist of another kind. Do you take the picture in the moment of?  The tragedy is spread out before me but on the ground, eye level is watching water rise hoping the levee will hold, the bags are packed full and high.  Men stand looking at the disappearance of a road as a car lot inches into brown. A home surrounded by the gold, no drive or road to anywhere. After a few inches, what is the difference. The gold ebbs away from a piece of road, the slope of a yard but stretches into the culvert. High. Low. Gilded fields with an occasional green burst. My birds eye view. I can see the water poured out in days of rain across the plain, but there a house is stretching high where I can see just fields away, gold. I spy a red dot, a bulls' eye on a patch of green. An outbuilding steps away from the house still holding fast, a green rick rack pressing a border. To high ground. Red dot. Not enough to go around. Fool's Gold puddles into mud, down streams sixty-four million dollars.  

***

Standing next to her, I was a giant. She was a grown woman, the size of an eleven year old girl. She was holding a blouse. I nodded to let her step in front of me. I had several items to purchase. She never acknowledged my offer, which she took. In the South, this would be a double thank you. The woman looked across the store to a man waiting. There was no color in her clothing or face. There was no second of wasted energy in her movement. Her hands were the only life in her body. At first, I turned toward my daughter and raised my eyebrows for the "quick" purchase I had so graciously acquiesced to.

The longer we stood at the counter, I realized her pain. Past or present, a slippery slope had changed her. Her frame was so slight as if she had relinquished what made up her life.  She was in the grip. There is no pain without fear. With no comfort zone, she balanced as if on the top of a pinhead, the circumference of one wound tightly. Standing, barely a dot of existence.

***

Five fingers feverishly reaching out. Just the hem, the tip of the fringe. A fleeting chance in the dust of the road. Everything was gone; the money, the physicians, the hope, the joy, twelve years. The hemorrhaging was getting worse. Did she want twelve more years, living a life unclean, without ceasing?

He was surrounded by a large, unrelenting crowd. People shouting to get his attention. People bumping into him to tell them their stories. The disciples did their best to protect him.

If I can just touch the fringe, just the brush of it on the tip of my finger. That's all it will take.

Jesus stopped and turned around. The crowd still moved around him. He saw the woman, still leaning over. She looked up, realizing she had been noticed. Jesus said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." I know. I know the minutes of your day. I see you physically breaking down, overcome by a flood of depression. I know the anxiety of your never ending condition.

In one instant, the woman was healed.

The last hope in frailty, flood, fear. Faith to let go - of the dotted line, a red dot, the dot of a pinhead - and touch the fringe of the hem of the cloak worn by Jesus.  











Wednesday, August 2, 2017

VACATION RECESS: Double First Cousins, Southern Comfort and Just Desserts

Summer in the South usually means at least one family reunion with first, second and third cousins, and sometimes double first cousins.  Double first cousins are not cousins marrying cousins, but the offspring of sisters who married brothers.  You cannot be raised in the South and not know who your people are.  You will be asked more than once, when meeting new folks, if you are related to the Judge with your last name, but you say no, because his people didn’t come from middle Tennessee in the 1870s.  Even my Yankee (anyone whose sun sets north of the Mason-Dixon Line) friends admit we tend to keep up better with family.

The origins of these reunions are often found in birthday celebrations.  Grandpa may still be rocking on the front porch but Grandma seems to get the parties.  In family pictures, Grandma is usually a severe-looking, bun wearing, snuff-toting, Bible thumping woman who has spent her better days looking out for everyone but herself.  After tending fields, making clothes, plucking chickens, nursing babies, and stirring pots; without any modern conveniences like warmed baby wipes, satellite TV, fast food fries, e-mail, or hormones in a bottle; well, you get the picture, the old lady finally gets well deserved recognition. 

Grandma’s birthday becomes a holiday when the oldest passel of kids wants to sing her praises for raising twelve surviving children.  And a good reason to party at the old home place in the country.  My two family reunions are the result of Grandmas’ birthdays in July and August.  The reunions started over seventy years ago.  My reunion memories started with big kisses from Grannie and “The Aunts”, sitting in the shade, wearing cool cotton dresses, hosiery and sturdy black shoes and sensible summer hats.  Today, the great aunts sit comfortably in the air-conditioning in their polyester pants and tennis shoes.    
***
The July reunion is on my father’s side.  There is a four-generation picture with me as a baby, sitting on my great-grandma’s lap.  She was very old.  Fifteen years ago, the last of her twelve surviving children died.  This reunion has evolved from the old home place, a city park, the air-conditioned community center, another outdoor venue due to unforeseen circumstances and a weekend reunion at a nice-sized country hotel with a pool and a big dining room complete with a kitchen for all the cooks to gather around.  For the past few years, we are now meeting about an hour south in another state, where most of the cousins now live.  We get together Friday night and have lunch at Saturday noon.  Everyone wears a nametag, which is very helpful, as you only see these people once a year unless someone dies or has a long hospitalization. Facebook has been great to help keep cousins connected. I’ll never forget driving three hours down to the family cemetery on a cold, foggy January day and turning up on the gravel road at the church to see a huge hosts of my Daddy’s cousins already standing on the road beside his grave. Most of them had travelled over three hours. That is family. 

Our fun would begin when we got to Mamaw's and Papaw’s house on Friday night.  My sister and I would run to the kitchen to see what sweets Mamaw had fixed for her baby, our Daddy.  On a sugar high, we would jump into the rollaway bed on the sleeping porch, lying right under the window unit.  The casement windows around the tiny room were adequate for a breeze but no match for a humid, summer night in South Arkansas.  Being a city girl, I loved the artificially chilled air.  On Saturday morning, the smell of bacon would wake us up.  Bacon, eggs, toast, oatmeal, juice, milk, coffee, peach preserves and sorghum.  Papaw set the breakfast table every night before retiring.     

 Sunday came early as all the cooks crowded their hips into Mamaw’s kitchen to pack up all the food and head for the community center.  The old home place is now a grazing field and not family-owned but we did have a “singing” on the property a few years back.  Spread out on tables in the air-conditioned, fly-free room are, at the very least, garden fresh tomatoes, fried okra, buttered corn, purple hull peas, squash casserole, sliced purple onions, bacon seasoned green beans, dressing, macaroni, cucumber salad and a couple of jello salads. 
 Stuffed bell peppers are lined up next to pot roasts and briskets.  Homemade fried chicken and store bought fried catfish.   A dessert table laden with caramel pie, banana pudding with meringue, jam cake, chocolate cake, peach cobbler.  Milk jugs labeled sweet and unsweet.   More than enough to feed one hundred people.  A look around the room reveals we eat what we cook because it is truly Southern comfort.  After seconds and thirds, family matters.  Births, weddings, graduations, and a moment of silence for those not with us this year.  This side of my family is more weepy but there is a lump in your throat when they say your loved one’s name.  Then we pass the hat, or plate, nowadays.  By the time you drive off, your first button is undone and you fight the tide of sugar calling you to slumber.
*** 
The Labor Day Sunday reunion is on my mother’s side.  For almost every Labor Day weekend of my life, I headed to Grandmama and Pa’s.  We would have a little family reunion on Saturday and depart on Sunday morning for the drive to see our extended family.  Ten people would fill up two cars.  I always wanted the car without my parents.  My sister and I would be dressed in our new back-to-school dresses and shoes, whatever the temperature.  If you rode with my queasy cousin, you might get a bottle coke when we stopped to get her one.  Coca-Cola is good for what ails you.

 Family still owned the farm, complete with a red barn, whispering to city children to come see the charms of the country, and the smells.  In our brand new finery, we would climb halfway up the hayloft ladder and jump into a huge pile of hay. Miraculously, no one was ever hurt.  When we were sticky, dusty and hot, the bottomless ice drink coolers offered every kind of cold coke.  In the South, Coke, not Pop, is universal for any sweet carbonated drink like Dr. Pepper, 7-Up, NuGrape, IBC Root Beer, and certainly, Coca-Cola.  Every reunion we counted up how many drinks we guzzled.  These were the days when children drank milk and water all week long and a Coke was something special.

 This reunion was still held outdoors.  The only respite was when you were standing inside, in line to use the bathroom which had been added to the back bedroom of the original home place.  The bed would be piled with purses while ladies checked their lipstick in the bureau mirror.  The men used the hall bath.  Drinking eight cokes sent me in and out of the house.  At noon, everyone gathered around another food-laden table made of sawhorses and planks.  This dinner had the addition of exotic meats.  During the prayer, everyone closed their eyes so they wouldn’t see the flies having a field day on the disrobed food.  Several ladies could not fan every square inch of food.

My Pa was always in charge of this reunion.  He spent many, many hours in genealogy studies, long before online services.  He would’ve loved having a computer and the information highway at his fingertips. His mother was born just weeks after the family jostled all of their earthly goods over hill and dale, arriving in the new state to settle on fresh land.  My sister now lives hundreds of miles away, in the same town our people started out from. In a way, she has found a new dream in this faraway land, completing the circle.


Signed,

 A lady holding a plate of southern comfort and another plate piled with just desserts      

p.s. Grab the dessert plate first and be sure and get a taste of my Pina Colada Cheesecake, it’s a special request

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

VACATION RECESS: Summer Necessity Right Now

Perfect iced tea even in the morning or in the middle of the night when you get up and go in the kitchen for a glass of milk.  Being a good judge of all things Southern (the good parts), I say a person who drinks iced tea in the middle of the night has a Southern gene in their body.  Another indication would be the drinking of a glass first thing in the morning.  Right off the bat, let me say, this is not about how many cups of sugar are in the brew.

(Picture courtesy of AT)

 My parents always made good iced tea.  I would ask them how and they would say "this, this, and this."  But I had a hard time duplicating.  At family reunions, there are always cleaned out milk jugs marked "sweet" and "unsweet."  Beverage companies are jumping on the iced tea bandwagon after someone figured out bottled tap water would sell.  There is only one brand I like/only purchased in an iced tea emergency and I'm not telling.  Like everything else, homemade is better.    Good grief.  I'd been married for almost thirty years and I was still looking for the holy grail of ice tea perfection.

I am a good cook.  I just decided I was going to practice and come up with the perfect recipe for iced tea. Sometimes the most common and easiest of things allude us. Doesn't everybody in the South know how to make iced tea?  Somehow I missed out on that lesson.  I can tell you how to fix Chicken Fried Steak, Flatsy Patsy (cobbler), Cornbread, and Purple Hull Peas. (Just to name a few.)  And I can say "Bless Her Heart" while smiling and not move my lips.

Here is the recipe I came up with.  A fridge magnet holds up my recipe (with Clark Gable's pic and "Frankly, my dear" spelled out).  I try not to curse but I did yell a big cuss word after I fell down the steps the other day.  I apologized to my painters.  After all, I am a new Sunday School teacher, not a perfect person.


Amy's Perfect Iced Tea    Guarantea'd

   FILL a four cup teapot with cold water
   PUT on stove and boil water
   REMOVE from heat
   ADD 4 individual-sized tea bags*** (I prefer the tried and true brand name)
   COVER with the teapot lid (little tags hanging out)
   STEEP for 8 minutes (to soak, to cover or plunge in liquid, to saturate) I set a timer.
   WHILE the tea is steeping
   PREPARE a 2 quart plastic jug (I prefer plastic because glass can shatter.)
   ADD 4 cups of ice to the jug
   (Sister has lived in the Deep South and likes to drink Iced Tea Syrup.  I prefer very little sweet or just straight.)
    IF I add something sweet:  2 tablespoons of sugar  OR 1 good squeeze of honey
    BUZZER goes off
    POUR hot brewed tea over ice in the jug.  Stir with spoon if sweet has been added.
    FILL large glass with ice and pour in ICED TEA.  Add lemon or lime slice to taste.
    POUR fresh iced tea from the plastic pitcher into crystal pitcher (for show).
    SIP, GUZZLE and ENJOY!

***I now make DECAF/CAFF tea.  Instead of 4 teabags,  ADD 1 FAMILY-SIZED DECAF bag and 2 INDIVIDUAL tea bags.  Everything else stays the same.

Anyone, North, South, East, or West, can consistently enjoy delicious iced-tea, with this process and the measurements.

For Iced Tea emergency, contact Amy's Iced Tea Hotline where good tea is guarantea'd.





Monday, July 24, 2017

VACATION RECESS: #SIZZLE - PERFECT CORNBREAD - NO STICK GUARANTEE

Butter melting on a slice of Perfect Cornbread

As I was sitting down to eat my breakfast slice of cornbread, I realized that I did things backwards in regard to my last post, Pea Salad for a True Southern  Repast  (7-20-17).  I should have posted this post, Sizzle Perfect Cornbread - No Stick Guarantee , before I did the Pea Salad.  I hope my mix up did not cause culinary distress.  Afterall, wonderful cornbread is the cornerstone of any good Southern meal and the Pea Salad classic delicacy.

Any good Southern cook worth her weight in Crisco can stir up a fitting pan of cornbread, worthy of all the purple hull peas, fried okra, butter beans, sliced tomatoes, fried eggplant, cooked squash and new potatoes that might have the honor of residing on the same plate with this crispy delicacy.  But there are new cooks rattling the pots and pans every day.  This recipe is for the new cook of any region seeking an authentic quick bread to serve with soup, beans or meat and three.  Or maybe the experienced cook who can't get the cornbread to pop out of the skillet without sticking.  If it starts out in a packet or a little blue box, it is only an imitator hoping to achieve greatness.

I have mentioned Perfect Cornbread previously, Pea Salad for a True Southern Repast 9-1-13.  The original recipe came from a cookbook that looks like a checkerboard tablecloth which was a wedding present of my Mother's.  This is the only recipe I ever use.  I don't mess with perfection.  I learned the secret to good cornbread at my Mamaw's knee.  It's all about the sizzle, two sizzles to be exact.

1 cup of flour                                              
1/4 cup of sugar                                 
1 tsp salt                                            
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup of shortening
1 cup yellow cornmeal                      
2 eggs
1 cup of milk



Yes, this recipe does have sugar in it.  Now I am a die-hard Southern cook, except in this case, but a little bit of sugar only sweetens the pie and will get you lots of compliments.  Infact, I have never made it without.

Add 1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
to a large mixing bowl and mix well.

Prepare 1/4 cup shortening.
Add shortening to a cold cast iron skillet.
Put your cast iron skillet on the stove over a good heat, a bit more than medium.

While the shortening is melting in the skillet,
Add 1 cup cornmeal to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Add two eggs and 1 cup of milk to the dry mixture, mixing everything together very well.

Watch your shortening. ( I never walk away from the stove when heating any oil.)
When the shortening is hot pour the hot grease from the skillet into the wet mixture.  You should hear a sizzle (1).  The picture to the right is just after pouring the hot grease into the mix.

Put the skillet back on the stove and add a good dollop of shortening.  This will melt while you are stirring the hot shortening into the wet cornbread mixture. When the second round of shortening is melted, pour the wet cornbread mix into the skillet while is is still on the stove.  You should hear a sizzle (2).

Using a mitt, put the skillet of cornbread into the oven at 425 for 20 minutes.  It will be done but you might want to check it while it is cooking and turn down the oven (5-10 degrees) if too brown on top.  Using a mitt, remove the skillet from the oven.  Turn the skillet of cornbread topside down onto a cutting board or heavy plate.  Put the skillet aside.  With the backside of cornbread facing up, place a plate over the backside.  The cornbread will be between two plates.  Flip the plates so that the top of the cornbread is on top.  Remove the plate.  It is harder to read about it than to do.  You can play with that.  If you have done all of this correctly or even mostly correct, it will jump out of the skillet for you!  Enjoy!

Now that you can make Perfect Cornbread you can move to Lesson 2, Perfect Cornbread Dressing (Perfect Cornbread Dressing Site is currently under reconstruction.)

Perfect Cornbread hot from the oven!

The backside of Perfect Cornbread



For even more background on Cornbread, check out my post,                                          
The Nascar Cornmeal Conspiracy 11-11-13


                                                                           







Thursday, July 20, 2017

VACATION RECESS: Pea Salad for a True Southern Repast


Welcome to Wonderful


Southern Summer Homecooking


In our home, this scrumptious looking plate of goodness is referred to as a veggie dinner.  We come from a long line of summer vegetarians.  When the fresh summer vegetables are so plentiful and delectable why bother with meat?  Obviously, not totally meatless with the addition of a little piece or two of leftover ham in the green beans.  Both of my grandfathers had successful vegetable patches.  What I wouldn't give right now for one of their good tomatoes.


In the summertime, I can hardly remember my mother cooking anything besides vegetables.  I remember going to the Farmer's Market sheds downtown and coming home toting bags of goodies.  Summer wasn't summer without purple thumbs.  Or the pop of snapped green beans falling softly into the pot.  Or the pfft of corn juice bursting from the cob and  across your face.  Sadly, I was practically an adult before I fell in love with tomatoes.  I remember the plates of tomatoes I passed around the dinner table without having the good sense to fork a couple onto my plate.  My aunt would eat a tomato like an apple! 

This is not the column about my cornbread (which is perfect).  (Perfect Cornbread Post 11-23-13) That will come later when we delve into the proper method of making Cornbread dressing, close to Thanksgiving.  But you will need a mighty fine cornbread to go with this recipe.  For a little history, I will tell you that I made my first batch of cornbread one summer day when my mother had taken to her sick bed.  (This is a rarity for my mother who is the original inspiration for the Energizer Bunny.)  She had veggies cooked for lunch.  In his new job, my father was able to come home for lunch, rain or shine, which was a nice break from the stress of retail management. 

She told me to go make the cornbread for his lunch.  At this point in my shaky culinary career, I don't know if I had even baked a cake mix.  She told me the "Red and White Checkered Book" and the title.  Those were my instructions.  I know you are thinking this is a lot of info on cornbread, how could there be more if this isn't THE column, but I am the Cornbread Diva and my vast knowledge can't be contained here.  This is supposed to be about Pea Salad.

I don't know if Pea Salad is a family invention but I do know I have yet to sit down at another table serving purple hull peas and see this accoutrement. But I forgot about the purple hull peas!

I know I have eaten Black-eyed Peas but not by choice.  Purple hull peas are the purest choice for those of us down south just like we know the right way to pronounce  pecans 
(pu = pu(ff)  + cons ).  Pettest peeve - not PEECANS.  That is just rude. Not PEECONS.  Senseless. Enough.

Fresh Purple hull peas (which will turn your fingers purple if you shell them but that is what shelling machines were invented for so spend the extra unless you want sore purple fingers or you wish to inflict a character lesson upon a child) after shelling, must be washed in a colander to pick out any bad peas (very, very few).  Place them in a big enough pot to cover well with water and leave room for a small simmer.  It is tempting to boil but it will make them tough.  Cook them on low, very slowly.  They have a little scummy foam (nothing bad) you will need to slough off with a spoon during the first part of cooking.  They are best cooked for about an hour and a half or longer.  But not to the point of being mushy.  You may need to add a little water as the juice boils off.  You want more juice than peas. Add salt and pepper to taste.  And also add, the butter of the south, a good tablespoon of bacon grease.  It doesn't take much but flavors perfectly.  They are not to be swimming in bacon grease, just gently flavored.  This is the secret to using bacon grease, less is really more.  Once they are seasoned, you can keep them on the stove until the rest of the meal is ready.

My great-grandparents had several hotels in different little towns throughout their career and sons who would follow in their footsteps.  Some of these hotels also had dining rooms and hotel kitchens.  Knowing my love of cooking and family, my uncle has been so good to share with me some of my great-grandfather's cooking leaflets and recipes.  Unfortunately, I think most of the recipes were those he knew by heart and never wrote down.  But now that I'm writing about Pea Salad, I think maybe this is where it originated, for our family.  My dear sweet Burt, who was born in a border state with the Mason-Dixon running through it, loves Pea Salad on his purple hull peas and cornbread.





Measurements are approximate.  You need:     
1 good size green bell pepper/   1 small onion/    1 medium tomato
1 tsp. sugar/   1 tsp. salt/   1/2 tsp. pepper/ 
1/2 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar/  Equal parts water and white vinegar

Clean and seed bell pepper.  I used three rings of pepper, dicing the rings into small pieces, as pictured.  /  I peeled and sliced and diced most of the onion, small pieces. /  I peeled the tomato and sliced and diced it into small pieces./  Add water and white vinegar in equal parts, more on the vinegar side.  Add salt, pepper and sugar.  For something different, I added the Balsamic vinegar and it works great.  Chill before serving.  The longer this sets, the tastier it gets.  To serve:  Slice and butter a piece of hot, out-of-the-oven cornbread.  Open cornbread up and add hot, cooked purple hull peas on top of the cornbread, with a little bit of the pot juice also.  Top this with cold Pea Salad but don't use a slotted spoon.  You will want the tangy vinegar dressing.  Add a little or a lot, depends on you.  There will be several layers of taste sensations.  You may consume another serving.  It is also permissible to make your entire meal of just cornbread, peas, and salad.  As my Pa would say, "Mighty fine, best I ever had."  You have arrived.                                              (Like the country.)




signed,
a woman with butter dripping down her hand as it melts on hot cornbread (the dessert slice)       


 

**I wonder if anyone else has a similar salad for peas?
**This is also a necessity on New Year's Day and is delicious with Prime Rib, Ham, or Fried Chicken.    


Originally published 9-13-13

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

VACATION RECESS: A Good Air Mattress Will Get You Through

We had four because we were four, traveling the country in a packed to the gills Yellow Ford Galaxy and later, a Shimmery Green Chevy Impala.  The best ever air mattresses were dual purposed, a necessity for camping.  By night, soft pillows of air tucked under flannel lined sleeping bags.  In the light of day and within sight of water, buoys across whatever beach, river, or lake called our name to a day of water-filled adventure.

The best air mattress, wide and long, with the reminiscent smell of a sturdy Goodyear tire, tried and true.  Every seam of the mattress was sealed to perfection, above and beyond the rest of any just plain water toy.

The green mattress had the feel of suede.  Surely, this rubberized canvas was sea worthy if a mast could be installed without puncturing the sturdy fabric.  Standing on the edge of the beach, looking out over the Gulf, one could imagine launching the float towards Cuba and arriving, if only to push up on the foreign soil for just a moment before discovery.

Landfall in Cuba brought to mind the struggle of the old man and the sea, and his daily tin can of hot coffee for breakfast before sunrise, another day searching, using the handmade ropes to capture the glory fish of his last days after a lifetime of just enough.

My imagination would be only a slight match for the old man's small wooden skiff.  The race of a silver blue fish out into the Gulf, caught in an unknown trap, a heavy load to shake off.  The old fisherman's gnarled hands gripping the endowed rope, the prize finally within his seasoned grasp.  The untamed, unchallenged will of the wild fighting with every cell this unknown outcome. 

The stillness of the sea, the unshadowed sun, the scavengers of the defeated.  The strength of anger to raise an oar and strike at nature's predators circling and circling.  The real one that couldn't get away.

The call to come in, dragging the air mattress behind me, leaving stripes in the sand as I turn towards evening camp chores.  When my parents were still drinking coffee around the fire, Sister and I would head to bed.  Finally tucked into my cozy sleeping bag on top of the taut mattress, the worst sound would be the barely discernible buzz of air escaping. Or the high pitched noise might be a blood thirsty mosquito dive bombing my ear.  At this point in the trip, a mosquito was the preferred option.  With rolling over came the realization that morning would find me on the surface of the topography of this campsite with only a tarp and a canvas floor as a cushion between me and the hard, rocky ground.  Nothing is flatter than a flat air mattress that has given up the ghost, slowly all night long.

When camping, we had exactly what we needed, carefully thought out for the two week trek to the echoing Colorado mountains or the Atlantic Ocean.  Year after year, my mother mapped out a trip months ahead of time, sending letters inquiring about the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde and the free maps offered by the different states we would travel through.  Or procuring tickets to visit The White House and The Capitol.  (We didn't camp while in Washington, D.C. but going and coming.)  Those mattresses were packed and unpacked many trips.
On the trails in Colorado

Campsite unloading.  Always a happy family time.  The folded mattresses would be put on the concrete table. We didn't have anything resembling an air pump but two pairs of lungs.  Oh the joy for the lucky children who got to blow up the mattresses.  But the campsite was not up and running until the "beds" had been made in the tent.

Blowing up the mattress would make me dizzy.  My cheeks would hurt.  I would blow and blow and see little result.  I would throw out a complaint which would not usually be noticed by parents placing stakes and smoothing the tarp.  I can still hear the sound of the heavy green canvas tent unfolding and becoming a shelter against the wilds of the wilderness like bears and cougars and skunks and hurricanes.

Immense effort continued in my physically exhausting attempt to get that float finished.  Sister would be working on her air mattress.  I don't know if it was the time expended in achieving the result or the burning lungs and exhaustion after the fact.  Toting water back to the campsite from the distant water spigot.  Shining a skinny flashlight down the camp road to get to the facilities in the middle of the night.  Waiting for the rain to stop while staring at the green canvas, not daring to touch the sides and start a horrible leak.   Blowing up the air mattress was the least favorite of the unfavorites.

But suddenly the welded rubber seams would straighten up and the flat columns of air would pop and I would quickly close off the brass nozzle.  The stress and struggle would result in something that would hold me up as I floated in the nearby lake, laying across it sideways, dangling my legs into the water which got cooler as I went farther out.  Or laying down on the mattress as I bobbed across salt water, soft waves on a quiet sea running underneath. 

But without the stress and the struggle I would only have a flat piece of suede-like rubber.

When life gets hard, look for a buffer.  Don't lay down on rocks covered only by a plastic sheet and canvas.  Pour the stress, anxiety and pain into something that can lift you just inches above the uneven surface.  Without the tension of the trapped air, the mattress can't inflate.  

You can be standing on your little Ship of Life and a rogue wave knocks you into the water.  Lady Overboard!  For a minute I flounder before I remember I can swim.  The best air mattress is thrown my way and I grab it and hang on tight, kicking out of the deep water.  Finally on top, I lay back resting on the pillow, as my tears of panic dry under the glory of the sun. 



Originally posted 4-3-14