Not for nothing do I choose to be an anonymous blogger. When you start ranting about “praying”, you better watch your back…and the “you” I’m talking about here is “me”.
So, kind of like my antipathy for “sweet girl”, which was the catalyst for my post regarding that phrase (making the point that there’s nothing wrong with either being “sweet” or being a “girl”, but there’s a lot wrong with using the phrase “sweet girl” ad nauseum), there’s absolutely nothing WRONG with praying and everything RIGHT with praying, if you are a believer, which I am.
Here’s the problem as I see it, and it usually encompasses all the areas in the post title: poetry, praying, and posturing.
Someone has a real problem in their life, states the problem, and then requests prayers on Facebook (this could spin off into a whole nother rant-post for Mrs. Hate). Or maybe they do a “vague-post” and just say “requesting prayers”…which is certainly problematic for a reader like me (the somewhat suspiciously cynical, yet kindhearted, sort), because then I’m wondering “are they such a dimwit that they’ve dreamed up a horrible problem like “I just don’t know what flowers to plant in the side yard…maybe I better request prayers on Facebook”, or is it a “real” problem??”. Hmmmm…nevertheless, the person is requesting prayers.
Sometimes the poster (for clarity here, the one requesting the prayers) waxes poetic in their request for prayers, but here’s how it usually goes…those who comment on the post now have a wide-open field to either say “praying!!”, “praying now!!”, “prayers going up!!”…which always reminds me of a bunch of jack-in-the-boxes popping up…or they spin like whirling dervishes and go forward into a most poetic rendition of grandiloquent and bombastic sentences. I’m not EVEN going to string together a bunch of what I would consider “grandiloquent and bombastic sentences” because, in all seriousness, I would get dangerously close to taking the Lord’s name and the concept of prayer in almost a vain way, and that is NOT good.
And what if you know the person, they have a real problem, everybody is posting “praying!!” and you DON’T post along with the herd, even if it’s all very legitimate and very sad?? And you are praying great drops of blood and sweat for them anyway, but just don’t care to hop on the Facebook prayer train?? THEN (the dangers of small-town life) “people” might “think” you, the non-poster, are so cold and uncaring. AARGHHHH. BLAHHHH.
When I ask myself what IS it about requesting prayers, using Facebook as the vehicle, that bothers me, I guess it comes down to this…I don’t believe in drawing attention to myself, I don’t believe in putting all (shoot, ANY) of my stuff out there on Facebook, whether good or bad, and I don’t believe in trying to be posturing-poetic.
Then my spiritual mind started rambling, and a BIble verse came to mind: Matthew 6:6.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
I’m no BIblical scholar, and I know it’s easy to take a verse and twist it to suit your own needs, but to me, this verse stresses “don’t pray in a show-offy way”.
I did a little Internet searching on this verse and found comments containing these phrases:
- prayer in public that is motivated by a desire to show off
- prayer promoted by the spirit of ostentation
- a flowery, public prayer might be based in a desire for people to speak well of you and how kind you are instead of letting God reward you
Law, law…and I’m not talking about policemen here. I’m talking “lawzy me” over the disintegration of knowing how to act.
Sadly, Facebook and its narcissistic, stupefying influence has taken over many people’s lives, and sometimes I feel like I’m a voice crying in the wilderness, but, as always, my philosophy is to stay private, avoid fluff, and be your own person. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I’m getting too wore-out with how to write this post without coming off like a complete unfeeling, hardass atheist to think further.
To soothe my brain, I will re-read “Valhalla for the Inarticulate”, a column by Taki Theodoracopulos. Quotes from the column and links below; Taki T. states much more beautifully and incisively than I ever could my feelings about Facebook and modern culture.
“And don’t get me started on Facebook, whose concept has been explained to me by my son and daughter.”
“The urge to blab and spill one’s innermost secrets to strangers is more than weird; it’s sickening. It springs from a navel-gazing culture of narcissism that would have made even poor Narcissus blush.”
“The slovenly emotionalism of Oprah has replaced privacy, good taste, reticence, and other such restraints people of my generation grew up with.”
Waldorf salad is another one of those things that can just be kind of tossed all together according to the taste buds of the cook. And if you’re a really sweet, kind cook, you will take into consideration your family’s/guests’ taste buds also.
But what if the item to be served is not a matter of taste so much as it is texture??
This very thing has happened in Mrs. Hate’s family—a texture issue brought to the forefront by none other than her son-in-law.
Waldorf salad showed up on the dinner table on a fairly regular basis when I was growing up. Here’re the ingredients:
- apples (your preference of a tasty, crisp eating apple…back then apples were generally of the Red Delicious persuasion)
- mayonnaise (used to use Kraft until they completely lost their cool AND their mojo when they changed the recipe several years ago..I HATED that little corporate decision (ridiculous), but rallied and discovered Duke’s mayonnaise…really quite good)
- celery, diced
- pecans, diced
- marshmallows (why not use miniature)
And here’s how to put it all together!!
Peel or don’t peel your apples and cut in small chunks.
Add all other ingredients to your liking and proportion.
This must be the shortest Mrs. Hate recipe yet!!
But what about the rest of the recipe title…”fruit and mayonnaise and marshmallows and nuts all mixed together freak me out”?
Love that son-in-law, wouldn’t swap him for the world, he worships my daughter (she’s worship-worthy to the nth…a kumquat if there ever was one)…but his food quirks can be a challenge to the cook.
This is the type of son-in-law who throws his all into everything—intense, cheerful, thoughtful, curious, smart, talks a mile a minute, multitasks like Hydra in Greek mythology could have if cell phones and tablets and laptops and all such things had been around in myth time—but you put an innocent, harmless bowl of Waldorf salad in front of him and he says:
“WHAT IS THIS WITH ALL THIS FRUIT AND MAYONNAISE AND MARSHMALLOW AND NUTS IN IT? THINGS WITH FRUIT AND MAYONNAISE AND MARSHMALLOWS AND NUTS ALL MIXED TOGETHER FREAK ME OUT!!”
Well son, you are easily freaked out—a little high strung there it seems.
The poor thing kind of paled when we told him what it was and how much we loved it and could eat it by the bucketful.
Since he’s a big talker anyway, and my sisters and I were curious about just what was it about Waldorf salad that was so freakishly scary, we…asked him!!!
He started making his case for the fact that, individually, he LIKED all those ingredients and had no PROBLEM with them…individually.
But you mix them all together and the texture just…freaked him out.
We love him. He’s ours, all ours.
But Waldorf salad RULES, I don’t care who you are!!
HATE POINT: the new Kraft mayonnaise
LOVE POINT: that son-in-law
my friend, if you’re reading this, it’s
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
“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”.
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:
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.