THE OLD DAYS, OR “THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS”

some of the greatest blessings in life

are the unexpected blessings… 

they are a gift in the midst of everyday life

and, as we look at our life, especially when we are

gifted

with the advancing of years and aging

…aging just gives us more opportunities for experiences…

we can see blessed experiences have piled up and are there

if we but recognize them and cherish them as they unfold

***

a quote we often hear is

“there are no accidents”

and here is a story about a no-accident that is a true blessing

***

the patient…an older black man

the therapy worker…a younger white woman

the patient seemed to know who the therapist was…

but the therapist had never heard of the patient

***

the patient started to question the therapist and said…

I know who you are…

your doctor granddaddy set my arm way back in the 1930s

when I was a little boy

and fell off climbing over that fence

and broke my arm

***

he was a fine man, a good man

and my sisters and I remember your great-aunts

and their cats and dogs and chickens

and their horse and buggy

and their pistol

and their palm-reading

and how we all lived out there on your farm…

all of us, my granddaddy and my uncle too

and we walked that dirt road

and fished in that pond

and played in those woods

and gathered eggs underneath your aunts’ house

***

the patient said…

I can sit in this room in the hospital

and look out the window at the woods

and remember the old days

of running through those woods

playing and running and being so happy and alive

***

as the therapist did not have the privilege of knowing

her grandfather and great-aunts

…they died before she was born…

she was

so thankful

for the opportunity to hear these stories

and meet the man who was her connection to her past

and the man was thankful to meet the woman

who had the family “blood” in her

and had her grandfather’s voice

and her grandfather’s walk

***

with tears in his eyes, the patient told me…

it’s just so good to talk to somebody about the old days

he remembers his childhood as a blessed happy time

what wonderful memories he has

and how wonderful that he came into my life

completely unexpectedly

***“there are no accidents”***

thank you, Mr. Johnny


from Doc-eeee

*****

I live outside the city limits of a small town of less than 6,000. One would think that somewhere along the way the patient, Mr. Johnny, and I would have met up, more than likely in the grocery store…which is usually the best place in town for having a friendly chat. Truth is, I had never laid eyes on him, so his searching looks at me and questions to me of “do you know who I am? I bet you don’t know me” discomfited me slightly, yet he seemed harmless enough.

Once the floodgates opened and Mr. Johnny started pouring out memories, however, I saw the past come alive. I had heard endless stories of my wild, loving grandfather and eccentric great-aunts from my mother, but there was something about hearing a stranger’s remembrances of living on the farm and the love he had for my grandfather that gave me a whole different perspective on how a non-family member viewed my family and this safe time in his life.

Mr. Johnny might take umbrage at being termed “a non-family member”, and you know what? He would be right. I felt as close to him and as comfortable talking with him as I would my blood kin.

And you know what else? Saying Mr. Johnny “had tears in his eyes” is not quite right either.

Mr. Johnny actually was speechless with dry sobs and emotions almost every time we talked. Such is the aching,  stirring beauty of shared memories of “the old days”.


A BURNING ALZHEIMER’S QUESTION: CORNELIA, DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD TIME FOR MY BATH?

my friend, if you’re reading this, it’s

Cornelia

writing about our fun times together

when you were a patent in the hospital

do you remember how we talked and laughed?

do you remember telling me about your boys and their personalities

and how sweet their wives and your grandchildren are?

do you remember talking about men and women

and saying

“honey chile, that’s just how men are”?

do you remember telling me about the cake that your mother said was

“a sufficient cake”?

I remember all those times, even if you don’t…

because that bad Alzheimer’s had to go and upset your brain’s wiring

Cornelia will always be the friend you thought she was…

a little thing like being called by a different name didn’t really matter

as long as we were having a good time together

*****

The patient, Mrs. X, was the quintessential old-fashioned Southern lady. She was soft-voiced, humble, comfortable and gracious around presidents and their subordinates and captains of industry—and yes, she truly was around them—as well as those without a penny to their name. Though I could tell by our conversations she was an excellent cook, Mrs X would just laugh that sweet laugh and say “oh, it’s just plain old cooking like I grew up with”, but such is the self-deprecation of one who knows that there is no need to “put on airs”. She had the elusive talent of being both self-assured and modest, a personality combination we would do well to emulate.

To the patient, I was “Cornelia”. At the beginning of her hospital stay, Mrs. X called me by my Christian name; I might have had to remind the patient of my name every morning, but that was no problem. One day, however, I walked in and was dubbed “Cornelia” by the patient, and from that moment on, Mrs. X and “Cornelia” shared many confidences. One of the most poignant moments I experienced with Mrs. X was when Mrs. X was unsure about whether it was a good idea to have the CNA give her her bath before therapy. I saw the hesitation and confusion on the patient’s face, the CNA was standing there with soaps and towels and basins, and then Mrs. X’s voice dropped a little and she whispered “Cornelia, what do you think? Do you think this is a good time for my bath?” So “Cornelia” said “well, yes, I think it would be a fine time.”

What went through my mind during this interchange? How unsure, yet trusting, Mrs. X was? How hard it is to witness a human’s decline, whether it be mental or physical? How easily those without strong minds and strong bodies could be taken advantage of in all sorts of ways by those with evil intentions? Of course—all these thoughts and more.

I know that we can’t solve all the world’s problems, but allowing this patient to exist in these in-the-moment safe bubbles of idly talking and laughing and reminiscing with the one she thought was her childhood friend “Cornelia” seemed to be the answer to the problem of “how to give an Alzheimer’s patient a little respect and joy on just an ordinary day”.


LET THEM EAT HOECAKE

There’s cornbread, and then there’s hoecake.

Mrs. Hate will not wax eloquently about cornbread, because it’s been done so often before and usually in such an overdone (to her) manner that those writings should suffice. She does, however, reserve the right to write (that sounds sort of linguistically funny) about cornbread at some future date as the spirit moves her.

So, now that cornbread has been summarily dismissed, let’s talk about hoecake.

And this hoecake is Mrs. Hate’s mother’s and grandmother’s style of hoecake. You’ll need:

  • white cornmeal

  • salt

  • water

  • bacon grease

  • spider

  • brown paper grocery bags

Dixie Lily stone ground cornmeal is such a great little cornmeal. That yellow thick paper-y bag, that steel ring noosing the bag top that confounded Mrs. Hate so much when she was little with those bitten-to-the-nub fingernails—but then Mrs. Hate was pretty much interested in cooking only Toll House chocolate chip cookies and 1-2-3-4 cakes, so her inability to show that steel ring who was boss (i.e. get the bag open) did not bother her too much. Hoecakes were getting a little too close to vegetables and meats, the cooking of which just did not intrigue her at this stage in her life.

Another post can delve into the meat/vegetable cooking and the lack of interest; let’s just say it had a LOT to do with having to touch raw meat.

So, back to that bread of the gods and of people with good sense…hoecake.

AND P.S.

You’ll need a Pyrex measuring cup, preferably a 4- or 8-cup.. Mrs. Hate’s not playing here—this cup is INTEGRAL to a good hoecake.

Let’s have some fun (depends on the readers’ ideas of fun) and just throw out the scratch concept of this recipe.

Throw some of that Dixie Lily cornmeal (plain) in the Pyrex cup. For help for those readers who don’t want to fly by the seat of their cooking pants, let’s say…hmmmm…close to 2 cups.

Add a goodly pinch of salt—goodly. And it’s just plain old table salt, know what I mean? Not sea salt, not kosher salt, not gourmet salt flakes.

Add enough water (from the tap is fine) to make it really runny—the fork you’re using to stir with can tell you when it’s the right consistency. If your fork isn’t telling you that, either you’ve got the wrong fork, or you’re not listening hard enough.

Confession here: it’s 6.00 a.m. Mrs. Hate time, so she’s not exactly in the kitchen stirring up some hoecake at this hour. However, she IS thinking “do I take pity on the reader and try to nail down that amount of water to use?” So, a web search finds that one suggested proportion of cornmeal to water is: 2 cups cornmeal/3.5 cups water. Personally, that sounds like a LOT of water to Mrs. Hate, but she just cannot start up the hoecake cooking at this moment. Let your sense of touch and sight be your guide. Start out—cautiously—with maybe 1 cup of water and go from there. It’s better to add more water to a batter that’s too stiff than add more cornmeal to a batter that’s too runny. Why is this so? If you went down the route of adding more cornmeal, you might end up having so much batter that you could Feed the Five Thousand, one of Mrs. Hate’s favorite phrases. (Matthew 14:13-21)

NOW comes the artistic part. Pray for guidance and creativity and a calm, yet strong spirit (these are true words here, not fluff words—you’ve got to be on your game here).

You’ve got your spider on the stove eye. Now, a reader might wonder “what the heck’s a spider?”. In Mrs. Hate’s world, a spider is a flat skillet, with just a miniscule edge around it, while a skillet has sides. It goes without saying it needs to be seasoned cast iron (search for “how to season cast iron” at this point if you’re unsure/confused/didn’t grow up with/didn’t inherit good old skillets and spiders). Which brings up ANOTHER point (there sure are a lot of points to cover). You will be so blessed if you inherit your spider. If no inheritance coming your way, try some junk shops or something similar, or buy a new one and season it yourself. Good luck.

This spider from Lodge Cookware is the closest Mrs. Hate’s seen to her spider:

Pour a thin layer of bacon grease—left over from when you had a bacon craving—on the spider and start heating things up. Start out pretty hot (near the top of the dial; perhaps yours says “high”) and then lower just a touch—or more. You’ll want the hoecake mixture to sizzle when it hits the hot grease (hoecake cooking will start to get EXTREMELY artistic here).

Hold that Pyrex cup up kind of high off the spider (and the hoecake mixture most likely will have thickened, so let your fork tell you how much more water to add—a splash or so—to make it perfectly runny…but you don’t want it to be watery).

Splash down a goodly pour of hoecake mixture. The height at which you hold the Pyrex, the thinness of the mixture, and the resulting force of the splash is what makes these hoecakes perfection (lacy edged). Now, “goodly” perversely means a SMALL enough amount so that your spider will hold three, at the most four, hoecakes. There are recipes out there that say “cover the skillet with the batter and make one big hoecake” but NO NO NO that’s not the Mrs. Hate way. You want to make maybe six or seven spider’s worth of hoecake at three to four hoecakes per spider because your family and/or guests will be eating them as fast as you make them—and that is flat the truth and it will happen. If you’re making them right—a delicate lacy edge,a  thin, firm, tender middle, and nicely golden—they are…someone please invent a better, a stronger, word than addictive.

Back to reality.

You’ve poured out, say, three hoecakes, and things are happening pretty quick now.

Get a thin metal spatula and start poking around up under the happiest hoecake edge and see if it’s firm enough to flip. You’re talking maybe a minute of cooking on this first side before turning the hoecake AND you will be twiddling with the heat AND twiddling with adding more grease as needed to keep hoecakes from sticking. Practice is the word of the hour here.

So, you’ve flipped it, you’ll cook it a little more, and the art is almost complete.

Put those hoecakes to drain on the brown paper bags. Using a paper towel to drain the grease would be so…yucky…blechhhh. You NEED that slick brown paper to make the grease behave and drain correctly so that the hoecakes will remain happy and crispy and tasty. Paper towels just make the hoecakes sad and soggy and pitiful. That heat and that grease and that steam hitting that waffly, limp paper towel? Nightmarish!!! You may, up to this point, have cooked a perfect hoecake, but if you drain them on a paper towel, your efforts will go south quick. (Mrs. Hate hates using that phrase, being Southern and all, but it is necessary here.)

If you’ve cooked them right, don’t worry about getting to sit down and eat with the folks. You’ll pretty much be standing there cooking more hoecake and will generally join the table when everyone else is about half finished eating. Mrs. Hate saw her mother do that often. Her mother was a saint, a giver, and creative to the core.

HATE POINT: not having hoecake to eat with field peas and okra and mashed potatoes and sliced tomatoes

LOVE POINT: a childhood filled with eating like this with vegetables from the garden and loving parents who were the best


SHE SMOKED UNTIL 93, LIVED UNTIL RIGHT AT 100…IS HER POUND CAKE THE SECRET TO LONG LIFE?

Granny was probably one of the very few people who could smoke and not get lung cancer or emphysema or anything mere weakling mortals would. You see, Granny was tough.

Her fingernails may have been just slightly yellow, and her Buick and little back porch may have always smelled of stale Winstons, but I’m guessing Granny’s sheer toughness repelled anything bad catching hold of her (“bad” being cancer or emphysema or such as that).

Or, was it her pound cake that formed a shield against ill health??

All I know is, she could have easily cooked a thousand pound cakes in her long life. I should know…there was usually one on the kitchen counter on Sundays for strawberry shortcake.

And what’s interesting about this to me is, Granny cooked only ONE pound cake recipe her entire life. It was a good pound cake, and it tasted the same year in and year out…a classic, if you will…but I’ve tried all sorts of pound cake recipes and enjoyed every minute of it. Furthermore, I’ve analyzed this recipe-trying trait in myself and have decided it’s very obvious that it comes down through my mother and my grandfather (Granny’s husband), in that the desire to try new things and be stimulated and curious and restless and have challenges both large and small comes from the mother and the grandfather, not from Granny.

Granny was even of temperament to the point of being functional, phlegmatic as described in the Russian tea story, and pretty much devoid of curiosity…therefore, one pound cake recipe. It would be a disservice to refer to her as “shallow”, but she certainly didn’t display her emotions. And all of that was all right, because she was Granny.

You see, Granny was about 5’3” tall, probably weighed 100 pounds, smoked Winstons until she was 93 (and only quit then when the cute young doctor told her she needed to), had a worm bed a.k.a. compost bed that was beyond superb, had Guillain-Barre syndrome in the 1950s and was in an iron lung machine, got hit in the head when she was 80 for her pocketbook in a Greyhound bus station bathroom on the way back from visiting older sister in New Orleans (I cried when I went to Granny’s house across the road to check on her as soon as she got back, but Granny didn’t cry), picked pecans up in the sleet in November at age 93 (bending straight over from the waist to pick them up), shot at cows with a BB gun when she said they were putting their hooves in the cow trough and messing up the water, chopped snakes’ heads off with a hoe, drove home from her mountain house, a 6-hour trip, at age 89…89!!!…all by herself with double vision and said “oh, I just shut one eye and then I would see only one car coming”, and lived to be almost 100.

Why be creative and curious when you can do all that??

WIthout further ado, here is Granny’s pound cake recipe. Frequently served with strawberries crushed up with a little sugar and whipped cream for…ta-da…strawberry shortcake. It should last close to a week before a little staleness might start creeping in, but—as we all know from reading so very many cookbooks—pound cakes tend to improve after the first day or two and get moister and moister and moister.

 

GRANNY’S POUND CAKE

1  2/3 cups sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter

2  1/3 cups sifted cake flour

5 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

***

Mix the standard way

Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 10 minutes in a greased and floured Bundt or tube pan

HATE POINT:  I’m a little afraid of being bushwacked by a pound cake hit squad being sent after me, but…cream cheese pound cake and sour cream pound cake
LOVE POINT:  loving that hopefully one gets such an interesting mix of character traits and personal quirks from all parts of the family gene pool that each individual will make his or her own unique way in this world, enjoy life to the hilt, and be thankful for their family heritage


IF FACEBOOK AMERICA GETS ANY FULLER OF “SWEET GIRLS”, WE’LL BE A NATION OF DIABETICS…FRIDAY RANT, PART 3

“sweet girl” this

and

“sweet girl” that

“mean girl” thinks we need to chat

***

And I sincerely apologize if this title offends any diabetics,  but there is such a strong association between sugar and diabetes that this title seems valid.

What’s wrong with being sweet? What’s wrong with being a girl? Absolutely nothing…both delightful states of being.

But “sweet girl”??

Now we’re entering into a cotton candy world full of fluffy pink clouds, vanilla ice cream cones, bakery birthday cupcakes, and cloying candle scents, a world where many of the female sex feel compelled to glorify other females with sugary, syrupy salutations.

We’re also entering the abhorrent world of lack of imagination, linguistic triteness, paucity of expression, and the “pigs rushing off the cliff in the Bible” scenario (also known as…if everybody else stuck their head in the oven does that mean you have to, too?).

Thus begins Part 3 of how Facebook encourages, advances, subliminally promotes, whatever you want to call it, paucity of expression.

If you take as a given that “sweet girl” could be improved upon, here are some alternate suggestions from Mrs. Hate for overwrought verbal sugar:

  • You are so sweet
  • You are some more sweet
  • You are the sweetest thing
  • You’re just too sweet for words
  • If you got any sweeter you’d be a Baby Ruth bar

You may still be yapping on about how “sweet” this “girl” is, but at least it’s phrased in a little more original way.

And not EVEN going to get off on the tangent of…”her?? sweet?? everybody knows she’d stick a knife in you before the sun comes up!!” But NO…in the cotton candy world, every girl is sweet and floats around in some alternate universe of fluff.

Once again, with this “sweet girl” thing, I’m boggled—and masochistically fascinated—at how a phrase comes out of nowhere and enters the public domain. Phrases like:

  • it is what it is
  • “this”
  • reach out
  • whatever floats your boat

get on my nerves in varying degrees of irritation (mainly a high degree), but there’s just something about phrases having to do with people that go beyond the pale for me. (See prior posts on “DH” (Part 1) and “strongest woman” (Part 2) )

It just seems like you’re not respecting the person’s individuality by referring to them with a phrase that you refer to…everrrrybody with.

Please, people…don’t you see that whatever sweetness a girl has is being diminished by repetition? That the phrase “sweet girl” is something that even the most witless person will eventually begin to stare at blank-eyed when scrolling through Facebook?

I don’t predict any monumental changes in folks’ thought processes and their subsequent written expressions, but this “mean girl” feels like, once again, she has a duty to call attention to and call out linguistic triteness.

Otherwise, two hundred years from now, Earth’s inhabitants will say “my gosh, was everybody that sweet except that foaming-at-the-mouth Mrs. Hate?”

 

 


DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT DEPRESSION

this patient was strong in her faith

comfortable in her skin

and loved to read…

a perfect combination

***

she grew up rural

with a mama, a daddy

and

five girl children and four boy children

this upbringing made her the person she is today

***

picking cotton and shaking peanuts

gathering eggs and milking the cow

toting water and sweeping the dirt yard

had a way of strengthening a person

in both body and soul

***

nowadays we talk about having

“good self-esteem”

or how to get it if we don’t

but back when this patient was young

you didn’t have to fret over your self-esteem…

you were too busy getting through the day

helping your mama and daddy

and

self-esteem grabbed a hold of you naturally

***

when it would be coming up on Christmas

this patient and her siblings would walk home from school

couldn’t hardly wait to get a look at what

their mama

had cooked and put in the pie safe…

chocolate cakes, caramel cakes, coconut cakes

it was so pretty

***

now what did this little girl wear to school?

well, according to her

her mama bought a 25 pound bag of flour every two weeks

lots of biscuit-making and flapjack-making going on

and when the flour sacks were especially pretty

with flowers blooming on them

her mama would cut them up and make dresses and underwear out of them

I’d be so happy when I got a new dress

***

her daddy took care of the shoes for the little girl

when she had walked so much a hole wore through the bottom of the shoe

Daddy had a little machine and would cut a little piece of leather

and use the machine to patch it onto the shoe…

we couldn’t afford new shoes

***

if you had all this and more in your background in your growing-up years

don’t you think you’d be strong in your faith and comfortable in your skin?

as the patient said…

I thank God I know where I came from

***

and what about the word

DEPRESSION

in the title of this story?

***

the patient said…

you can be depressed if you want to

but not me…I grew up hard

I have faith in the Lord and trust HIM

*****

My opinion on this?

I think that growing up poor with loving parents on a farm taught her how to have faith and joy and peace and working hard can generally improve even the worst depression.

I think that there are valid reasons for taking prescription anti-depressants.

I think that a combination of anti-depressants and physical activity can work wonders on a depressive state.

I think that a loving family and friends are integral to bolstering the depressive personality.

I think that faith, if you’re a believer, is paramount.

I know that my mama said whenever she felt down, she’d go out in the yard and pull weeds or get a mop and mop the kitchen.

Lord, help those who are depressed, and help them find peace through some combination of the above.


EGG SALAD…IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MOUTH FEEL

Mrs. Hate says “Yowza, baby” on that title!! 

But truly, that is exactly what is deemed an important factor in delicious egg salad, according to The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition, 2nd Edition, pages 121-122.

I came to egg salad late in life, in that I’m not particularly what I’d call “wrapped up” in eating eggs. Deviled eggs are good most any time, every month or so an omelette, or maybe a fried egg, fried ’til it begs for the torture to end, with lots of mustard and cheese on Sunbeam bread and then grilled, is something I might have a craving for once every ten years, but other than that, I’m not an egg fiend.

One day last year, however, I thought “you know, why not be brave, get over the perceived eggy-ness of egg salad, and just make the stuff”.

Here’s what happened…I didn’t use a recipe because I thought it would be so easy to just add a little mayonnaise and some (yuk) sweet pickle relish (which I really pretty much loathe, but seems to be de rigeur in egg-type recipes in the South) and whatever else seemed appropriate and mash it all together.

No matter how many times I tried, the darn stuff never tasted worth a flip. I’m not even sure if some days it tasted better than others; the whole experience was just puzzling and nightmarish and therefore I’ve blocked it.

Salvation came the day I was flipping through The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition. The recipe called for capers, not sweet pickle relish (YES!!), some grainy mustard (yum), some other things I would leave out due to family peculiarities (Mrs. Hate…ever considerate), and this very important statement:

“Eggs diced into small cubes (just under 1/2″) gave the salad the full mouth feel we had been seeking.”

With apologies to a certain blogger (the throw-down here 🙂 )…oh shoot, might as well say it’s Toby at Plate Fodder…who said “The finer you get the eggs, the better your salad will be”, I respectfully disagree.

THIS was part of what had been missing for me…the mouth feel!! Makes perfect sense!! Not too big of a chunk, because then you might think of little baby chicks running around enjoying life and then you’d gag, but not too fine, because then it might coat your tongue like a cross between pureed baby/elder food and something the cat couldn’t digest.

I’ve made this egg salad plenty of times since The Discovery of the Perfect Egg Salad Recipe, Complete with Full Mouth Feel, and I’m not tired of it yet. Just keep in mind that my version uses only:

  • eggs
  • mayonnaise
  • mustard
  • capers

One day I’ll probably get around to adding a few of the things I leave out of the basic recipe, but that would be when the celery- and onion-haters in this household go somewhere for a day or two, and I’m not seeing that happening any time soon. Plus, I refuse to make separate little bowls for each according to his taste; I mean, isn’t celery innocuous enough so that if it were finely chopped into flea-sized pieces it could cause no harm?? The answer here from the other household members is No. Celery is an abomination.

And now, for your gustatory pleasure, the recipe.

 

CLASSIC EGG SALAD

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 TBLSP minced red onion
  • 1 TBLSP minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 medium celery rib, chopped fine
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper

**note: I add 2 TBLSP capers (1 of 4 recipe variations for egg salad in The New Best Recipe) and have never chopped or rinsed them as recipe states; I also salt to taste after mixing all together

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in medium bowl.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

*****

Now I’m wondering…is there such a thing on WordPress as a definitive smack-down throw-down recipe contest for certain foods?? Where there’s an entry deadline and voting and comments and blahblahblah etc etc etc?? This is called “Mrs. Hate’s mind is wandering”, because I’m a believer in everybody has their own taste buds, what’s sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander, one man’s jicama is another man’s bile, and so on and so forth. Therefore, contests are just one of those things that may exist in part to satisfy the gladiator urge in us to WIN!! Or, if we’re sitting on the sidelines all fat and happy (metaphorically speaking), we want to BACK a winner.

Whoa Nelly…I think it’s time to rein my wandering mind in and close with the famous statement by Rodney King: “can’t we just all get along?”.

Radishes and scallions and dill and curry and cilantro and anchovies and bacon and shallots and watercress. All getting along together in the four variations of Classic Egg Salad.

Hated not to share with folks what the other variations included, but “not ganna” type out all the combinations and permutations!! Unless someone requests!! Then I’ll be glad to do it!! Just writing these sentences to enjoy using exclamation points!!