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Bon Appetit!

cow tongueSee what you think of these dishes, the recipes for which I found in a cookbook that has rested on my kitchen shelf for decades. A fat volume of brown and food-stained pages, it was passed down to my mother from her mother, who received it from her mother, born in the long-ago 1830s.

Here’s a recipe  that caught my eye right away:

“Wash a fresh tongue” it begins, and yes, I too thought “Gack! Whose tongue are we washing and for what purpose?”

But the recipe doesn’t say whose tongue. It just goes briskly on:

“Barely cover the tongue with water in a pot and until morning when you will put it in a kettle full of cold water, stand it over a very slow fire, and simmer it gently for four hours, until you can pierce it with a fork. Then, when it’s done, stand it to cool in the liquid in which it was boiled, peel off the skin starting at the tip,” and -boom! – “the tongue is ready to use.”

Ready to use HOW?” you might faintly wonder, as I did, the little hairs on the back of my neck stirring uneasily.

But back then people knew what a critters’ tongue was for: It was for dinner.

And you’ll admit it would make for some hearty eating, especially if it were a cow’s tongue which Google shows to be a good 18 inches in length.

Now a second recipe, for the delicacy known as Ox Cheek:

“Soak half an ox head – (yes, the whole head) for three hours and clean it well with plenty of water. After eight hours of cooking and four hours of chilling, remove the cake-fat and warm the head and the pieces in the soup, adding truffles and vegetables as desired.”

As a 21st century person I don’t know what cake-fat even is, unless it’s what shows up around your middle after pigging out on birthday dessert.

Finally why not try tripe, which Wikipedia defines in it its no-nonsense way as “a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various animals” and which the old cookbook says is “both delicious and easily digested.”

 For those of you who have never seen it, tripe resembles a white, rubbery open-celled sponge.

To prepare it, “scald the stomach in boiling water sufficient to loosen the inside coating. Wash and scrape it well through several boiling waters, then soak it in cold water overnight and in the morning, scrape it again until white and clean. “

Which leads you to queasily wonder what it looked like BEFORE you scraped it clean.

Yet who are we to pass judgment on foods with which most of us are unfamiliar? Who are we to shrink and quake at these details? For the farmer of the 1800s or any folks prosperous enough to buy their food at a market, meat was at the heart of every good meal. 

People enjoyed their meat dishes and would have seen no reason to practice denial about where it came from. We moderns are the ones practicing denial.

 Styrofoam trays and plastic wrap help us do this but make no mistake: a living creature died so we could sit down to this roast, this burger, this chop. Let’s at least always stop and offer up that pre-meal prayer of thanks.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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They Laughed

IMG_4661They laughed at my i-Phone 6 Plus. Or rather at the case; the case is what kicked me over to the realm of the laughable. 

I have been trained by the teenagers in my life to use the Otter Box for a case since with an Otter Box you can drop your phone onto a floor made of prison-yard concrete with impunity.

And pink was the only color Otter Box they had at the Verizon store that day besides black, and I knew I couldn’t have a black case? In the depths of a purse or backpack I’d never spot it. But as you can see, this wasn’t just pink, it was HOT PINK. Barbie Doll pink. As I carried it over the last two months I’ll admit I was beginning to feel like a person walking around in clown shoes.

And boy did people made fun, my family members especially. One of them said the case made it look like I was carrying around a hot water bottle. “My phone does look like a hot water bottle!” I thought.

Or an enema bag.  I remember the days when an enema bag was a real rubber bag, and the 90-year old woman who was the sage in my family held one high in the air, letting gravity do the work as a pink hose conducted its contents of warm soapy water down into the wee small opening in my wee small bottom.

I was five so I don’t remember more of this episode, except that my big sister danced past the bathroom door and called exultantly, “Her face is PLAID! Like all checkered, red and white!” Then I fainted, less than a second after the two ends of the tubing were ‘connected’ and the flood of water began,

So, you know: Bad associations with pink.

Lucky for me I have just come from seeing my friend Bobbie, who has just bought a phone case that doubles as a slim wallet. With her phone nested inside this palmful of sleek black leather she looks power-dressed even at the gym in workout clothes. Maybe she saw the look on my face as I regarded it. Maybe it was all she could do not to laugh when she first spied my clown phone. As we were finishing up at the gym anyway, she asked me if I wanted to go with her to Best Buy and look at cases.

We did go there and look at cases and I found this little beauty. It’s a soft moleskin brown. It has only two little slits inside the front cover so it doesn’t hold as much credit-card-wise as Bobbie’s does but that works for me too.

And so… I bought it, and for less money than I had spent on the original pink monstrosity. None of these cases are cheap but it’s money well spent, because, as we all learn pretty quickly on this titled and wobbling planet, we do need protection!  

adopted phone case

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Thou Shalt Not Shame, Blame or Attack

finger pointingWe are all harmed when we blame, or shame, or attack each other – or even ourselves. I learned this truth at a VISIONS® workshop I attended some eight years ago. And yet dear as I hold this teaching, there are moments when I slide back into a state of forgetting, as I did twice, just in the last week.

The first time occurred when I messed up at work and then got called on it. Immediately I curled up like a badger and withdrew to my badger-cave, the one with the sign over it reading, “You’re hopeless, you’ll never learn, you might as well quit.”

I had made a mistake, yes. But I dragged it around like an ant with a dead ant on its back. I lost two whole days of my life during this cave-retreat and nothing was made better for my having stayed there, chanting over my little witch’s brew of self-contempt.

So that was my first ‘forgetting.’

The second forgetting occurred when I began blaming and shaming someone other than myself the silent and sneaky way: in my mind. 

This happened as I was entering the women’s restroom in a tourist hotel and heard a commotion from within.

“It’s STAINED Mother, have you heard of the concept ‘stained?’“ a young female voice was shouting. “And no, the stain WON’T come out!” she added.

“I actually think it will,” a second female voice said. “It’s only make-up after all and–”

I rounded the corner then and saw a mother by the sinks standing beside her child of about 15, who was wildly scraping at the corner of her gauzy top with a wad of wet paper towel.

“We’ll go up to the room. I have some liquid Tide-” began the mother. But the girl was having none of it.

“It cost friggin’ $200!” she bellowed, only she didn’t say ‘friggin.’’

“Let’s go to the room and see what we can do,” continued her mother in the same quiet voice. “Come on now,” she urged again, and exited the restroom as if to lead the way.

“I! Am! Not! COMING!” bellowed the girl, even more loudly and stayed where she was, so that she and I were the only people in the rest room.

I approached the sink to wash my hands and glanced briefly at her in the mirror. She wouldn’t look at me. I wanted to say “Wait and bring it to a good dry cleaners and you’ll be fine.” 

But there she still stood with that furious scowl on her face and her harsh words echoing in the tiled space, so that then I wanted to say a few more things:

Like, “Hey, calm down!” 

Also, “What’s wrong with you, talking to your mother like that?”

Also, “How much of a sap does a person have to be to spend $200 on a half-yard of fabric that looks like it’s made of Kleenex?”

And then I caught myself. Maybe she couldn’t meet my eye because she was ashamed. I thought about how quickly her mother had left, and with no apparent anger. Maybe the girl has a condition, some turbulence that has beset her since birth, something she has no control over.

In short, who was I to judge?

Now if I could just learn to REMEMBER this valuable teaching I hold so dear, I just know I would do a lot less damage, both to myself and to others.

 

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Cave Thrown Open?

easter lilyNoontime on Mondays I would go to the nursing home to help feed my husband’s aunt. She couldn’t move her arms – or wouldn’t. Couldn’t speak – or wouldn’t. She had not taken a single step since she had first come to this place after breaking her hip some six years before. Her caregivers said she uttered a chance phrase from time to time, “pretty good,” or “yes indeed,” emerging clear as clear from the depths of her silence. Mostly though, she regarded us all with a dull and lifeless gaze.

In the beginning she had talked a little.  “The years are passing so quickly!” she said once out of the blue. And “Eddie is so good to me.” And, one day, “You look exhausted!” 

Back then, a look of animation would flash over her face when I first arrived. She would smile and color would mount to her cheeks and I would begin talking and talking, hoping to keep her there. It never worked. Within moments she was gone again, far away and alone. Our communication remained focused on the simple ceremony of feeding.

“What should I do after she eats?” I asked Uncle Ed once. “Where she won’t talk, I mean?” 

“Just sit with her,” he said. “Just hold her hand.”

So I did that, and watched what went on around us.

Mostly I watched Edna, tall and big-boned, with wispy hair.

“Girl! What time is it, Girl?” she asked me once. “That poor soul,” she added, indicating another with a nod of her head. “She’s touched, you know!”

I liked Edna. “I’m goin’ out for a smoke! Where’s my bag?” she would say, just as if she could walk on out whenever she liked. She carried that small black purse with her everywhere. Once I saw her bring it to the dining room and put it in the trash. Later in the meal she became agitated. “Where’s my tea?“ she kept saying.

“Right here,” said her helper.

“No! My TEA! ” she exclaimed, looking now under the table.

“Is this it?” I asked, going to the trash and fetching forth her purse.

“Yes!”

 Later, she spilled her actual tea and saw the erratic shape the spill made on the tiles. “Girl!” She hailed me. “There’s a chicken on the floor here!”

 In time, Edna fell permanently quiet, as sooner or later they all fall quiet on this ward. When she died, I cut out her obituary. I have it still.

It took almost ten years before Auntie Fran died. By then she had long stopped wrinkling her nose as she once did when I would bend to kiss her and my hair would tickle her face and she had gotten so she would hardly eat.

I stopped worrying what to say to her when I came on Mondays.

 And I got to wondering if she were in there at all, until two things happened in a one-month period.

 Once, when I did not briskly pull up and away at embrace’s end but stayed there, my cheek against her cheek, she made that little sound people make when you kiss them and they like it. And another time – it was in this same month of new beginnings that we are now in – I brought her an Easter lily when she was already in bed, blue eyes on the ceiling. I tipped the plant until it was nearly horizontal, and the soft chalice of its blossom dipped toward her face. 

She shut her eyes and inhaled deeply.

She was in there all right, and to this day I am still so glad I was able to reach her there just that one time, deep in her cave and waiting for the great Transformation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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“What’s That Again?” 

"Your eyes are fine.  I'ts just that on some eye charts they type is too small."  The nearly blind leading the nearly blind.I just read that when people are approaching 60 they can literally see only half of what they could see at 30. 

Now while I mind this, I’ll also admit that there are lots of things I’d just as soon NOT see – like the little white bunny-tail of toothpaste you sometimes find on your cheek or,  God forbid, in your hair, even hours after you brushed the old chompers.

This second thing has been known to happen to me. Before I bring out the bristling arsenal of smoothing tools every morning, my hair is so wild with waves and tendrils that all kinds of things get stuck in it. “The net,” my guy David calls it. 

Of course HIS eyesight isn’t that great anymore either you should see the two of us squinting at the remote in our effort to watch TV of an evening – but this is why God gives us children, so that, when they get older, they can come by the house and clean us up a little.

Just recently I met up with one of my grown children after not having seen her for some weeks. She leaned in toward me for the hug, or so I thought – until she spoke:  

“Hi Mum, you look great – and you only have this ONE little whisker!” she cried cheerily and began applying a sharp pincer-like movement to the underside of my jaw.

HairChin

But a thing equally bad is the inability to see with the old acuity is the inability to hear the way you could once hear: When you get older, you hear so much less. It’s a shock really. I mean here you’ve been, going on for years easily following two or even three conversations besides the one you are in. 

This ability to hear all around you is what’s behind that thing you see when people stick one foot out to the side and then sort of surreptitiously s-l-i-i-i-de from one conversational group to another.  What has happened is that they have detected greener conversational pastures beside or behind them and are basically voting with their feet.

Once your hearing starts to go there’s no more pulling off this strategic side-step into better conversations. By then you’re glad if you can hear what the one person directly opposite you is saying.

Of course actual deaf and hard of hearing people do just fine. On its website, renowned Gallaudet University describes itself as “a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English.”

American Sign Language: a language that allows the deaf and hard of hearing to function every bit as well as, and perhaps possibly better than, the rest of us. American Sign Language: yet another language most of us Americans do not study and do not know.

I certainly don’t know American Sign Language so what I find myself doing is telling people to take their hands away from their mouths so I can read their lips, or asking them to  SAY THAT AGAIN PLEASE.

deaf

I hate having to do this. I’m afraid I come off sounding grouchy and that’s the last thing I want to be doing as I get older.

Still, I know it’s just pride that makes me feel this way and what do I need with pride at this stage of my life? “Just go with it T,” I tell myself. “Just accept it”

But anyway, tell ya what: it turns out toothpaste in the hair makes a pretty good styling gel.

 

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2015 in aging, humor

 

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Exotica!

IMG_4589This is me on a typical Monday morning, hand over my eyes, pretending I don’t have to get up and begin again pushing that workweek rock uphill.

Not really.

This is an orangutan I took a picture of last week when I went to the zoo again, only this zoo was the famous zoo in San Diego.

San Diego!

 

Is there a more beautiful spot on the continent? It mists up at night, just enough to keep the grass green, then, and then, like in Camelot, the moisture lifts come dawn and you have a sunny day whose colors seem to come right out of an artist’s palette.

They don’t though; the colors are real. Look at this view out our hotel room window; it’s looks like a watercolor, right?

IMG_4580

We did a lot in San Diego, even though we were there for only two full days. We went to spend time with our beloved older brother and his husband,

toby & rusty

…in the Ocean Beach section of San Diego where they live, walking and eating great food at the Organic food co-op and Ranchos Cocina, and – of course! – going out onto the very long pier where people still fish for the dinner while 70 feet below crazy people in wetsuits surf the giant waves.

There’s more to say about the trip, but one thing I know I ‘ll remember is how I walked down Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach and met a woman about my age with dreadlocks, who held a sign reading: “Dirty Jokes: 25 cents each.” I wish now that I’d sprung for a couple. I do admire the entrepreneurial spirit.

Well more later about this Camelot. Until then let me rise up from my monkey-nap and keep on working. Just a day-and-half left to the workweek NOW!

 

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in humor

 

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Bubbles, Baths & the Pearly Gates

heavens-pearly-gates-23869764On a rainy night with the scent of the wakening earth filling the air, I drove to a dinner where I found myself seated beside an elderly gentleman with dark and shining eyes.
After we had performed the small unfurling ceremony of the napkins, he turned to me with a pleasant look.

“And so,” he said, “What have you been doing here on earth?”

What?” I thought. “Who was this, St. Peter come down to do an early audit on me?”

At first my mind reeled back to the time I was three and used my nap to do the wallpaper over in a bright Crayola rainbow; and also the time I got expelled at age seven for incorrigible whispering.

“Do you mean what has my WORK been?“ I finally said, since Americans all think that their work is who they are.

I thought back to the jobs I have held as a swimming counselor, and a lifeguard, as a teacher, and a chambermaid.

And then there has been this decades-long career of writing for publication, which I picture as a kind of mangy tail that I ‘m dragging along behind me, like that super-long scarf I tried to knit in Sixth Grade and had to keep ON knitting because I didn’t know how to finish it.

“Casting off” I think is the term for it. I have never learned to cast off in life.

Yet I knew that none of this is what the man meant. I could tell by his expression.
“Let me put it another way,” he said. “What have you cared about in your time here? What have you loved?”

Stated like that, the question set up in me such a whirring of mental gears that I was struck utterly speechless. Lucky for me, just then the emcee tapped his microphone and began the program.

I was off the hook.

And though the elderly gent and I never did return to the topic, his question remains with me still.

 Now if you thought this was the place where I might go all sublime and send my thoughts soaring into the realm of the angels, well, you’d be wrong.  The things I keep coming back to are more in the realm of the schoolyard. They are that simple.

 So what are they, these things I have loved so much? Well, baths, for starters. I love baths. I love taking baths myself and I love giving baths to little people, who look so much like baby seals with their hair all slicked back you forget they have ears.

Also, bubbles. I love blowing the kind of giant bubble you can make by soaping up one hand, making a fist with it, then slowly opening the fist just enough to see that a pane of iridescence in the nickel-sized opening. I love how you can blow lightly on it and – presto! – make a bright wobbling orb as big as your face.

I love listening to small children and delighting in what they will say.

I think of the time one suddenly said to me “I like your nice fat arms,” or the time another leaned close to her mother in public to whisper, “That poor man has nipples all over his face!”

I love being in the presence of kids generally, no matter what their age or what they are doing, just because they are so funny and honest. I love the way they live in the here and now.

And I think that St. Peter might want me to live like them, open to surprise and delight as they are, with no more thoughts about mangy tails or the casting-off skills I will likely never, ever possess.

bubbles

 

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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in humor

 
 
Flaming Honesty

By James Christopher Darling

Something Like a Storybook

Where Morgan Bradham shares.

Days Like What

There are 24hrs in a day, here are mine.

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

The Freelance Retort

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!

uppervalleygirl

Another Good Day in Rural America . . . . . . . © 2012, 2013, 2014 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat

Flaming Honesty

By James Christopher Darling

Something Like a Storybook

Where Morgan Bradham shares.

Days Like What

There are 24hrs in a day, here are mine.

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

The Freelance Retort

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!

uppervalleygirl

Another Good Day in Rural America . . . . . . . © 2012, 2013, 2014 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat

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