Don’t Cook in Your Bikini – a letter to my sons

Today, I was working on my cookbook. It’s a book I’ve been working on for my sons for the past 10 years. First, handwritten, and then entered into the computer and now organized and digitized, it’s almost finished. I’ve got a few more recipes to add, and a few pictures to throw into place, but I think it’s almost done.

If I can just get them to stop asking me to add more recipes…cover-image

But as I was reading and editing, I found this – the introduction to the cookbook (aptly named “Don’t Cook in Your Bikini, and Other Things I’ve Learned in the Kitchen”), a letter to my sons as they turn from boys to men.

I hope they listen.

Dear boys – 

Over the past 30+ years, I’ve spent hours in the kitchen. Probably days or weeks, if you add it all up.

And I’ve learned a lot from all that time sautéing, roasting, spicing, creating and burning… I mean, browning… the meals that y’all have mostly enjoyed. I’ve learned from my successes and I’ve learned from my mistakes.

Mostly, I’ve learned enough to keep you all from sending me on to “Worst Cooks in America.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned though, it’s  Don’t cook in your bikini.

Why not cook in a bikini?

Well, let’s just say “grease splatters.”

It’s all well and good to think that even though a summer storm has popped up outside, you can still grill burgers inside on your griddle. But, when you decide to keep your bikini on and only cover up with a holey sweater, then you’re not really thinking.

And I wasn’t.

Right up until the moment when some of the grease from the griddle jumped up and splattered burn marks all over my stomach.

Then I started thinking a lot of things, many of which ended with “%$#@!!!”

Not that there are that many people who actually WOULD cook in a bikini, but it occurred to me that if I was stupid enough to do it, then YOU might think it was a good idea too.

Apple. Tree. You get the idea.

It occurred to me, however, that cooking in a bikini was a lot like wearing a three-piece suit to garden in – it’s just not a good idea. For every particular job or activity you’ll do, you’ll  have “appropriate clothing.” And there’s a reason for that clothing. You don’t see chefs wearing bathing suits in the kitchen. You see them in long pants and comfortable shoes, and short-sleeved shirts.

Why?

To protect themselves from spills, or dragging their sleeves through the food, or, you know, catching on fire. Yes, honey, that’s a real thing. And you don’t normally see businessmen in jeans and a t-shirt. Why? Because the formality of their attire matches the air of importance they give to their products and services. It’s simple sales, really.

All that got me to thinking … there are a lot of things that I’ve learned in the kitchen that  apply to other parts of your life.

Little bits go a long way. When you’re seasoning something, the best thing to remember is to add a little at a time, and let it cook for a bit before adding more. Think about it – if you added pepper to something and throw in a full tablespoon of it, you run the risk of having whatever you’re cooking come out way too hot. But if you add a pinch or two at a time, you can get to just the right taste.

And that’s kind of like life too. When you’re adding things to your life, try not to add too much at once. Don’t decide you’re going to start a new job, start playing softball, start dating a new girlfriend and move all in the same month. Pick one, do it for a while and then add another until you feel like you can take on something else. Add too much at one time and you’ll be overwhelmed by it all.

You’re not always going to be able to do that though. Life has a way of looking at all of your well-laid plans and happy little dreams, and saying “HA! You are SO cute when you think things are going to go your way like that…” Sometimes life is going to throw a million things at you at once. The best thing you can do when that happens is to just sit down and eat a little at a time until you’ve cleaned your plate. Then you can take a step back, rest up and get ready for dessert.

Don’t be afraid to try something new or make something up, but be creative with a measure of caution. You really should never be afraid to try new things, seek out new people or combine things you love together. For every goofy idea, there is a great success, as much as there is an abysmal failure. You know, buffalo chicken quesadillas started out as a crazy idea, but it worked! Same with the Skyline Lasagna. You should never be afraid to mix things up – whether it’s with a recipe or in your life.

But, remember… just because you like two things, doesn’t necessary mean they go well together. You may like chicken and you may like bananas, but that doesn’t mean chicken and bananas should ever, under any circumstances, in any part of the world, and in any way, shape or form, be combined in one dish and put on a plate.

Similarly, beer and skiing; steak and strawberries; Chuck E. Cheese and a migraine; lima beans and …well…anything… probably not a good combination. Be careful, but always be brave and try new things.

Know when you can fudge a little. Sometimes in cooking, you have to measure carefully. Sometimes, you can wing it. You just have to know which time is which. For example, in barbecue and pizza, really, there’s not a lot of measuring. In those cases, a little of this, a little of that goes a long way. But when it comes to baking, if the recipe says “1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda” you’d better damn well be sure that you measure out exactly 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda. I’m not kidding. Exactly.

The same is true in life. You may be able to be to skip sweeping under the coffee table every other day at home, but when it comes to work, you have to do the best and most thorough job you can as quickly as you can. You’ve got to know when it’s okay to wing it, and when it’s important to do your best. It makes a huge difference in how successful you’ll be in the long-run.

Be careful where you put your fingers.  You know, it’s important to know where your fingers are when you’re slicing something. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve told you all to curl up your fingers when you’re holding something to cut, and to be careful with knives and food processors. That applies to burning your fingers in the oven (note my hands some day) and putting stuff in hot grease too.

But it applies to other people’s business as well. You don’t need to go sticking your nose or fingers (or any other body part) into someone else’s business. If they want you to know about something, they’ll tell you. If they want you to get involved, they’ll ask you. If they want your help with something, they’ll let you know. I’m not saying, don’t ask if someone needs your help, but certainly don’t take on someone’s problems if they don’t want you there. Be loving and caring with people, and by all means, let them know you are there for them, but don’t stick your fingers in places they don’t belong.

Quit holding on to your recipes  Everyone has secret recipes and things that are theirs and theirs alone. But it doesn’t do anyone any good to hold on to them too tightly. Sharing your gifts with the world is the only clear way to get something back in return.

If I weren’t to share my recipes with you, either by writing them down for you, or cooking them for you, they’d all sit on a shelf and go to waste. But by sharing them, not only do they get a life of their own, but you give me something in return. Whether it’s “Oh, Mom, this is the bomb,” or “I loved your recipe for chicken bog, did you want my recipe for chocolate cola cake?” you get a little quid pro quo action going. When you give a little of yourself, you get a lot in return.

The things you make with love will always surpass the things you throw together Every time you cook, you should absolutely put your heart into it. And by that I mean, when you are creating something, care about the result, because someone is going to be eating that. Do you want to eat something that someone threw together without caring how it tasted, whether or not it was burnt, what kind of texture it had, whether or not the ingredients were rotten? Of course not. You want to eat something that shows someone took the time to do the best they could just for you.

Would you want something that showed someone took the time and effort to make something really great? Or would you want something that someone threw together without thinking about the end result? Put effort into what you do, care about the result – whether it’s in the kitchen or not – and your results will always be better.

Simple ingredients and simple cooking methods are sometimes the best – Eating at a French restaurant can be an amazing thing. Your Dad and I have always said French cooking is about taking out every ingredient you own and cooking them in every pot you own, cleaning all the pots and using them again to come up with an entrée the size of a walnut. It’s all very expensive and very complex and very beautiful and very tasty.

But none of it compares to a bowl of soup beans, or chicken bog, or a really good fried bologna sandwich. Not everything has to be about microgreens, or vodka-infused something or the other, or even about pan roasting something with black truffle oil and pink Himalayan salt. Sometimes, the good stuff is just about three or four ingredients put together and cooked up in the most simple of ways – strawberries and sugar with whipped cream; bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches; scrambled eggs with cheese. It’s the simple stuff that makes a difference.

And in that same vein, when you’re working, sometimes just having good quality products, without all the bells and whistles and razzle dazzle, is all you need. Got a Powerpoint slide show to do? Just do the presentation and make the information sing. Do you need slides that swoop on to the screen and blast the text from out of nowhere? Not really. Let your work stand on its own without trying to baffle people with bullshit. People know what bullshit looks like, regardless of how much glitter you sprinkle on it. Trust me.

I wish I had some beautiful, lyrical words to tell you about living a great life and making a success of yourself and being happy. I don’t. Because I really don’t know what the secrets are.

But I do know this. You only get one chance at life. Do what you want to do. Be who you want to be. Take the risks that will make you happy. It’s always better, in my mind, to look back with a smile at the end of your life and say “I can’t believe I actually did that” instead of looking back with regret and saying to yourself “I wish I had tried to do that.”

I love you both so much. You have made my life better just by being a part of it. Even when I was screaming and angry or crying and worried, you have been the biggest part of my heart and you always will be. I never knew that I could love someone so much that I would give up anything to make their life better. I know I haven’t been able to give you everything. I know I’ve made mistakes. But I also know that I tried to be the best mom I could be. And I know that no matter what, I will forever keep trying to be that and that I will always be here for you.

Probably will still be asking if you’ve brushed your teeth and done your laundry, but still… I’ll be here.  :-*

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2017

10 Things I Learned About the Old West from Gunsmoke

For the last few months, I’ve been watching a lot of Gunsmoke.gunsmoke_main_cast_1967

It’s on in the afternoons, and as things begin to wind down, I find myself relaxing in the company of Marshall Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty and Festus.

Secretly, Festus is my favorite.

But, I’ve learned a lot of things I didn’t know about the Old West from Gunsmoke. It wasn’t all wagon trains and cattle rustling you know.

 

  1. GunsmokeMarshall Matt Dillon was the tallest man in the world. No one was ever taller than Matt Dillon in Dodge City. And since, apparently, Dodge City was the center of the known world, it only stands to reason there wasn’t a taller person anywhere out there. There certainly wasn’t in the Old West. I think there was one guy, a bad guy named Deke, who could possibly have been as tall if not taller than Marshall Dillon, but he died inside the first four minutes of the episode, so I’m pretty sure he doesn’t count.

 

  1. festusNo one had spurs that jingle jangle jingled except Festus. The song was wrong. There was only one set of jingly jangly spurs in Dodge City, and Festus wore them. You can hear them jingle jangle every time he walks. And he’s the only one. I don’t know why he needs them – what with him riding a mule and all – but he’s got ‘em and his are the only ones that make a lick of noise.

 

  1. There was a dearth of jobs in the Old West. From the looks of it, no one had anything to do. Every day, there were tons of people just milling about, waiting for something to happen and gawking when a stranger or the stagecoach came in to town. Now you can tell there are stores, and black smith shops and the many saloons, but … there doesn’t seem to be anyone actually doing anything. They sure as heck have a lot of money to eat and drink though.

 

  1. Speaking of which, it’s never too early to drink in the Old West. Breakfast, lunch, dinner – it’s always time for a drink. Beer before breakfast? No problem. Whiskey before 10 a.m.? Why not? Want something to drink with your lunch or dinner? I’ve got two choices for you and neither of them are tea or milk.

 

  1. shoot-out
    Yep, not a drop of blood…

    No one ever bled. Gunshot wound to the neck? Just a schmear of red here and there. Gunshot wound to the gut? Barely a blood stain the size of a hockey puck. The alcohol must have served as a blood blocker. Regardless, a gunshot wound, no matter where, was almost instantaneously fatal. Unless you were one of the main characters. The main characters had the best aim ever and if they shot you from 300 yards away, you would fall down dead where you stood. The plains of Kansas apparently are littered with the bones of dead bad guys and innocent by-standers. And if you were a main character, you would be able to survive a gunshot wound to the spine and not only not be paralyzed, but also be able to fight through the pain to reach a gun, just in the nick of time. Just saying. If you’re gonna be in the Old West, make your way to the inner circle. All those guys wandering around Dodge City might as well have been the guys wearing red shirts on Star Trek.

 

  1. Marshall Dillon, Newly and Festus were the only people in the entirety of the Old West who knew how to use a karate chop on bad guys. They were also the only ones capable of sneaking up on bad guys ninja style to attack them from behind just in the nick of time to save the day. Similarly, Matt Dillon had the ability to ride a horse into the millions of acres of open desert and grassland there in Kansas and be able to stumble across the one person he was looking for right before they stumbled into a heat-stroke induced death. Astounding.

 

  1. Speaking of heat stroke, everyone wore the same thing every day, all three or four
    layers of it, except Miss Kitty. Even the women wore long skirts with petticoats and pantaloons and tops with at least two or three layers. Crazy. No telling when they washed them, or if they even did, but it’s the same outfit, with the same shoes and the same hats every single gosh blamed day. I don’t know how they stood it. The smell in the summer must have been overwhelming… if you could discern it from the horses in the streets and the dead bodies everywhere.

 

  1. miss-kitty
    Miss Kitty

    No matter what happened, nothing could damage Miss Kitty’s Old West make-up and eyeliner. Fall into a stream after being thrown from a stagecoach? Wet clothes, but perfect face and smile. Beaten and bruised by bad guys gunning for Marshall Dillon? Dresses and hair may be messed up and torn, but the eyeliner would be perfect. It didn’t even run when she cried. God, what I wouldn’t give for make-up like that. I wonder if she had some Indian princess tattoo it on her or something….

 

  1. nimoy
    yep…that’s Leonard Nimoy

    If you had the right nose and skin color, you could be any one of sever different ethnicities. It was only through stereotypical clothing and accents that you could tell if someone was American Indian or Jewish. And all the bad guys were easy to identify because they all looked the same. In fact, some of them looked so much alike, you would swear they were twins, if not the exact same person.

 

  1. Everyone in the Old West was concerned with lots of social justice issues. Discrimination, rape, domestic violence, gambling addiction, alcoholism – you name it, they were worried about it. And all of the issues they talked about we’re still talking about now. Have we really not come that far in that long? Course, no one ever brought up Festus’ inability to read, but … there are people in America now who are in positions of power who haven’t the brain of a turnip, so… I guess things haven’t changed much.

 

I guess there are deeper messages that I could learn about life from Gunsmoke, but… I was a child of the 70s. Nothing really gets much deeper than Steve Austin fighting Bigfoot and realizing he was never the real enemy after all. What can Gunsmoke possibly say to top that?

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2016

Horror movie quandries

I’ve never really understood a few things about horror movies.

Really.

falling victimI mean, why is it that there is always a stupid girl who tries to run away and then falls? Obviously, it’s because they’re wearing heels while running, but who goes into the woods wearing high-heeled shoes?

Not a smart girl.

We don’t go into the woods. Period.

And why do these stupid girls always make the worst possible decisions when faced with a life threatening situations?

It’s like they are begging to be a victim.

“Oh, wow. I heard a weird noise in this crazy, desolate house we just happened to find on a rainy night… I think I’ll go in the basement and check it out.”

Who actually does that?

No one with a brain, that’s who.

chattanooga choo chooWhen my husband and I got married, we honeymooned across the Southeast. We spent our first night in a bed and breakfast in Lexington, Ky., then hit the Chattanooga Choo Choo to stay in one of their railroad cars. After that, we headed south through Huntsville, Alabama and stopped at Space Camp before hitting the local Piggly Wiggly and to grab something for dinner that night.

After that, we realized that our car’s taillights were out while driving to New Orleans on the Natchez Trace. At that moment, it really made sense to camp out and cook out.

Really.

It wasn’t until after we set up the tent, put our sleeping bag in place and organized all of the camping equipment that we got around to eating our crawfish dinner. It was dark. The sky was filled with stars and no sound. It was heaven.

Until we realized we were the only ones in the campground.

As the campfire started to ebb, I heard weird sounds. Surely, whatever was in the woods right behind us had caught the scent of our crawfish cooked over the open flame and wanted a little taste.

Apparently, the carcasses and shells of the little critters we had flung into the forest weren’t enough for them.

Which led me to announce to my new husband the only thing I knew to say.

“Honey, this is how people die,” I said. “This is the type of setting where the serial killer comes out of the woods and slaughters the unsuspecting couple and they don’t find their body for forever. I don’t want to rot away in a swamp somewhere and have no one finde us for decades ’til some kid decides to take a leak.”

So, we did what any sane couple would do – we up and moved.

I mean, we packed up everything, tent and all, and we got the HELL out of there.

If we hadn’t, we’d have been the anonymous couple in the horror movie that gets killed before the real cast shows up.

Isn’t that what anyone would do?

haunted disposalWhich leads me to my other horror movie question – why do movie producers continue to create this sense of foreboding and terror when people in an obviously haunted house reach into a kitchen drain with a garbage disposal in it?

Usually, up until that point, there hasn’t been a time when the ghosts have done anything physically threatening, but still the scene will cut away from a close-up on the distracted Mom, to a shot of her reaching into the drain to get a spoon or fallen wedding ring or  whatever is making that unnatural sound, and then immediately the scene cuts to an even closer shot of the gears of the disposal ready to spring to life and tear her hand to shreds, ostensibly pulling the her hand and the rest of her body into the great unknown.

Has this ever happened before?

Seriously, is there some supernatural phenomenon that I’m not aware of that helps ghost make disposals spring to life when they can’t even move a chair on command or be in the same room with more than one person?

It’s not a fear I understand completely.

Yesterday, I was quietly washing the dishes while everyone else in the house played video games or watched TV. When it finally came time to clear out the sink, like any other Mom, I shoved everything into the drain, turned on the water and flipped the disposal switch on with my foot (since it’s located under the sink).

For a few seconds, that disposal grinded and cranked and did whatever it is that disposals do.

Then, all of a sudden, it started making this weird clunking noise – like there was a spoon in it or something.

And, of course, I did what any other sane Mom would do, I leaned back and started to lift my foot to turn off the switch and see what was wrong. About that same time, something shot out of the disposal and landed about where my head would have been if I hadn’t.

It was a penny.

A mangled, sharp-edged, chewed up penny that had all the harbingers of death via copper. One cent of shrapnel delivered via electronic gears.

That thing could’ve sliced my ear off, or worse, taken an eye out!

And my house isn’t even haunted!!!

But did I peer into the disposal and see what was wrong? NO! Did I reach into it to investigate? NO? Did I hang around when it was making weird noises and wait for something ominous to happen? Uhm, NO!

I got the hell out of the way!!!

CorrodedGarbageDisposalWikimediaCommonsI’m still not sure how anyone can think of disposals as gears of death via spirits from the great beyond. Heck, they could be deadly without the help of electromagnetic frequencies and Great Aunt Tilda holding a grudge against your redecorating the house.

But just like the camp ground, if that thing starts making noises, I’m getting the heck out of Dodge.

Let the plumber get hacked to pieces for a change.

It’s what a smart girl would do.

 

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2016

Car repair for girls

Woman-Broken-Car-1969081There’s nothing more frustrating than being a girl and trying to fix your car.

This past month, my 2007 Jeep Commander had a bumper that needed to be fixed… and by fixed I mean, reattached to the rest of the car with anything that does not resemble Duct Tape.

In complete girl logic, I just assumed that if I put off fixing it, it would stay the same until I got around to it.

Wrong! What happens to you, when you’re a girl trying to keep things together with fingernail polish and bobby pins, is that men look at you and laugh.

If you don’t take the time to put in that rear wheel well (which actually fell off last year during a traumatic tire explosion on the way home from the beach with a car full of teenagers), what happens is that bumper/fender assembly pulls away from the rest of the car and decides to flap dangerously in the wind, like a really stiff champagne-colored shirt in a 40-mile an hour gale ready to come undone and blow onto someone else’s car at any second.

And when that happens, many men would rather do it for you instead of watching you do it on your own.

This, of course, is what happened to me when I was driving back from Greenville and was traveling in excess of 60 miles per hour. That bumper looked like it was going to break off like a piece of the Apollo 13 space craft.

Houston, we have a problem.

duct tape carWhen I looked into my rearview mirror and saw what was going on, I stopped at an auto parts store for help.

That’s where I met Mr. Johnson, whose initial solution was to take some Gorilla tape and attach the bumper to the rest of the car.

(Okay, not to be too picky, but let’s review here – champagne SUV, black gorilla tape, wildly swinging back bumper… can you say redneck?).

After several minutes of back and forth between a plastic parts aisle and my car, Mr. Johnson determined they didn’t have the part I needed and that I should go to Low Ray’s, an auto parts store down the street, to ask for the right rivets.

I asked him what part I should ask for. He just looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, honey, if you tell them where it needs to go, they’ll know what it is.”

So I went to Low Ray’s two days later and found, much to my surprise, that the auto parts of was filled with enough toy pedal cars and hobby horse airplanes to start a toy museum, which, you know, seemed odd to me as it was an auto parts place.

But that’s where Mr. Johnson said to go, right? As I walked in, I saw a fence behind all the toys and asked if they had the part I was looking for. I told them Mr. Johnson sent me.

car parts storeThe guy I was talking to abruptly disappeared into this auto parts cave for a few minutes. He never really looked at the car, never asked what I actually needed outside of my vague “I need the things that hold my rear bumper on to my car.”

Believe it or not, they didn’t have my part. He recommended the Internet.

So, I went home and got online. For more than an hour I searched for the parts I needed. I even chatted for help.

HC-chat-rep-620x344Auto parts website chatbot: Hello, my name is Brett. What can I help you with?

Me: (not answering because being on chat hold for 18 minutes tends to make me diddle around on Facebook)

Auto parts website chatbot: Hello? Is there anyone there? I haven’t heard from you in a while.

Me: Yes, I’m here. I was on hold for so long I went to another website.

Auto parts website chatbot: Great! We’re glad you’re back. My name is Brett. What can I help you with.

Me: Hi, Brett. I’m looking for a part for my 2007 Jeep Commander. I need the things that hold the bumper into the frame and the wheel well into the body of the car. Do you have a those?

Brett: Great. Let me check on that for you. Do you have the part number?

Me: No. I looked on your website, but I couldn’t find anything that looked anything like the little plastic doohickies I need.

Brett: That’s okay, I can look them up for you. While we’re waiting, Liz, would you like for me to sign you up for our email list?

Me: Well, honestly, Brett, since I was on chatbot death hold for 18 minutes, I’d really just like to get the part I was looking for.

Brett: I understand. To speed up the process, why don’t I just use the email address you entered when we started this chat, Liz?

Me: Brett, why don’t you just look up the part for me so I can order it and \ will no longer be driving around with duct tape holding my car together?

Brett: I can do that. Do you know what the part is called?

Me: If I knew what it was called, I probably wouldn’t have watched “All of our representatives are currently helping other customers. Someone will be with you shortly” repeat on my screen for nearly 20 minutes.

Brett: Okay, let’s see. We have the rear passenger-side bumper assembly package here for just $137.11. Can I place that order for you, Liz?

Me: Brett, I have the bumper. I just don’t have what I need to attach the bumper to the car. Don’t you just have those little thingamabobs that you stick up into the car to hold it on to the metal part?

Brett: That’s what the rear bumper assembly will do.

Mfrustrated on computere: That’s crazy. Why do I need to buy the whole kit, when all I need is those little spindly thingies? Whatever. Will it fit my 2007 Jeep Commander?

Brett: Uhm, no. We don’t really carry a lot of parts for the Commander.

Me: Seriously? Couldn’t you have just told me that to begin with?

Brett suggested I go to a dealer.

Which, of course, I did.

I dressed up in my best “Yes, I’m a girl but I can use a screwdriver” look and hoped they would take pity on me and help me find the right parts for my car for less than $50.

They didn’t.

In fact, they nearly smirked when I drove the car to the dealership and they showed me the drawing of what it was supposed to look like and how difficult it would be to install.

But I would not be daunted. I ordered the parts, picked them up a day later and took them to a friend’s garage to work on the car. My friend said “You know, I can do this for you, so you don’t have to lay down on the ground and get dirty.”

Sigh.

I’m not that kind of a girl.

When we figured out the parts guys hadn’t given me the right rivets, it wasn’t until I went back and dropped my friend’s name that the parts guys took me seriously. When they came back with the wrong part three times in as many days, it wasn’t until I started to cry in frustration that they found the right part. When I asked them how much it would cost to fix a shorting fuse in the lift gate, it wasn’t until I told them I had already done my research that they came down from their $600 estimate to a $200 part.

mechanic girl_car repairAnd it wasn’t until the female parts assistant came in to help me that I got treated like an actual person without being talked down to. She was the one who told me I needed a rivet gun and she was the one who helped me get the right pieces to use.

And after that, I did it. I fixed the bumper. I reattached the wheel well. I put the flair back on. I learned how to use a rivet gun. I laid down in the dirt and didn’t even get upset when mud and oil from under the car fell into my face and hair.

I didn’t cry when I broke a nail.

Sure, I didn’t do it ALL by myself – I had help from my husband and my friend, who showed me what to do and how things went together. But I did the work.

And for that, you gotta give a girl credit. Even if I don’t know all the parts’ names, or how to use all the tools, I can still do it.

I am not helpless.

I’m just a girl who likes fixing her own car.

That, gentlemen, is nothing to laugh at.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

A mother’s curse

When I was 12 years old, my mother cursed me.

And I don’t mean she yelled profanities at me, I mean, she put a curse on me through my future progeny.

I remember the day clearly. I was home watching ZOOM! in the living room.

Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34
Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34

Remember ZOOM on PBS? It was an after-school show where kids did all sorts of fun stuff sent in by other kids. It was one of my favorite shows and identified me early on a dork of enormous proportions.

On this particular episode, they were capturing spider webs. In this scenario, clearly not intended for children without adult supervision, you took a piece of construction paper and placed it behind a spider web. From there you softly sprayed spray paint onto the web. What wasn’t web would show up on the construction paper as paint, leaving behind the design of the web in negative. Easy enough, right?

My sister was at work.

My mom was at work.

I was home alone, hoping to find something interesting to do.

“Well,” my little pre-teen brain said. “This looks like fun.”

pedal carSo, I went into the garage and got the only can of spray paint I could find. It was bright red. Fire engine red, in fact. I know it was fire engine red, because it was the same spray paint I used to paint the antique powder puff blue convertible pedal car my Dad had gotten me… I don’t recall mom or dad being too happy about my actions that time either.

Anyway, spray paint in hand, I went looking for construction paper.

One would think that the house of a kindergarten teacher, my mom, would be filled with construction paper in many different colors, but I couldn’t find any.

Granted, I was 12, so without it being in the open, on top of a stack of anything other than laundry and with a six-foot-tall neon sign saying “THIS IS THE CONSTRUCTION PAPER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!” pointing to it, I wasn’t likely to find it even if I tripped over it.

After more than six whole minutes of dedicated searching my pre-adolescent brain decided I didn’t need it. In fact, it came to the conclusion that in this activity, construction paper was like coconut in a cake, completely optional and most likely not at all necessary.

Armed with a spray paint can and an eagle eye for anything arachnid, I ran outside and searched the yard for spider webs to create art.

I didn’t see any webs on the grass and I didn’t find too many in the bushes and I didn’t notice any at all in the trees.

I did however find a number of them in the garage windows.

spraypaint11Let’s take a moment here to recap the ingredients in this particular activity – several spider webs, one can of red spray paint, one willful 12-year-old tom boy, several garage windows framed with white paint.

No matter how you mix it, it was a recipe for disaster.

When my mom came home, every window on her garage facing the street had little circles of red covering the corners of the window frame and onto the glass itself.

To say my mother was a more than just a little mad, would be like saying that Ghandi was on a low calorie diet for a while.

“Mary, what have you done?” she screamed.

As hard as it may be to believe, this wasn’t the first time I had heard those words.

“My windows, Lord Almighty, my garage windows!” she screamed. “What on earth possessed you to spray paint the garage windows??? What were you thinking?”

I looked at her incredulously.

momdaughter yell“They were they only ones with spider webs on them,” I replied matter of factly.

I’m pretty sure the fact that I didn’t say “duh!” is the reason I am still alive today.

Mom closed her eyes, grabbed her head in her hands and gathered together her wits. You could almost hear her counting to 10 in her head.

And then, it came.

“Mary Elizabeth Carey, I swear, one day I hope you have a child just like you,” she said.

There it was.

The curse.

The longest running curse in the history of womankind, bestowed at one time or another on every misbehaving kid on the planet by their mothers.

And it worked.

I have a child who is just like me.

When I was a kid, for a while I wanted to be an Olympic bicyclist, until the day I wiped out on gravel and ended up in the hospital with 22 stitches in my leg.

Boy jumping
Boy jumping

My youngest son, Max, was determined to be a super hero when he was five, and jumped off a slide to prove he could fly. When he landed successfully the first time, he decided to do it again to show his friend, and promptly fractured his foot on landing.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t find a brush one day, so I used one of those little pot holder loom thingies to comb my hair. The resulting rat’s nest of a tangle required an emergency visit to the stylist.

Max decided one day he didn’t like his bangs or his side burns, so he cut them himself, using a razor, leaving one inch stubble over his right ear and bangs slashed diagonally across his forehead. This also required an emergency trip to stylist and an entire summer growing out a crew cut.

When I was a kid, I wore my favorite red patent leather go-go boots until they were so tight that my second toe on both feet grew crooked because I wouldn’t let them go.

Max had one pair of pants that he would wear all the time. All. The. Time. until they could no longer be called “floods” or “highwaters,” as much as really long shorts which I had to steal from his room in order to throw them away.

When I was a kid, I would stay up late at night, reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries until my Dad came to tuck me in or I passed out asleep.

Max will sneak his way to reading Creepy Pasta and other things online on his Chromebook until the wee hours of the morning, or until I walk into his room at 1 in the morning and tell him it’s time to go to sleep.

I have a nasty habit of just walking off, away from the people I’m with, if I see something that interests me. When Max was little and we visited the zoo, as we often did, my husband, older son and I routinely took turns at “Max duty,” to make sure he didn’t walk away and end up figuring out a way to get into the giraffes cage or end up petting the Bengal tigers.

Now I understand what my Mom went through raising me.

I understand the sheer terror of wondering what your child is up to because the house suddenly goes quiet.

I understand the fear of not knowing whether or not you child will survive into adulthood even without the threat of you beating them to death.

I understand what kind of conflicted emotions she must have felt the day I accidentally sucked the gerbil into the vacuum cleaner trying to help out with the chores, or when I spilled India ink on her new carpet while drawing her a picture.

I’ve stood in her shoes.

It’s not exactly a true curse, and it’s not exactly a true blessing, but I think it’s a little of both.

581719_3662309190010_2038050352_nMothering any child had its heart-stopping moments. But having a child like me, helps me to see the world through my mom’s eyes for a while, and helps me to understand the world Max sees as well.

I hope that as Max grows into a man, that I can be like my mother was with me – patient (most of the time), willing to let me be me and understanding of her willful adventurous little girl.

Mom taught me a lot about letting your child be independent and responsible and capable of facing up to the consequences of their actions – especially if it involves stealing the family car for a joy ride at 14 and knocking over a basketball pole, something I pray Max never does.

And I hope I can be as firm as she was in her resolve to teach me how to be a better, calmer, more focused person. It’s a daily task, I’ve learned, that isn’t easy and forces you to look into your child’s hurt and confused eyes while you dole out punishment. She taught me how to do that, even if she never told me how hard it was.

How she did it alone, and without killing me, is beyond me.

Thanks to her, I think I turned out pretty good. And because of the things I learned from her, I think Max will turnout pretty good too. After all, he’s well into his teen years and he’s still alive, so… there’s hope.

It goes without my saying anything that one day Max will have a kid just like him.

And my mother and I will have given Max all the tools he needs by then to deal with the curse.

Hopefully, he will see it, as I do, as a blessing instead.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

23 things only a child of the 70s will know

I was talking to a friend the other day when we got into a discussion of Star Wars.

All he knew was the remake.

For him, Greedo shot first and Han was just defending himself.

WRONG!!!!

The conversation reminded me that cultural differences can span just a few years.

The first time I realized this was in college. I was in my first summer of college and I was working at a fast food joint. During a heated debate, I piped up “Jane, you ignorant slut.” You would have thought I had actually meant to insult one of the girls in the room, despite the fact I was only talking to boys.

Another time, a friend of mine and I went to our first U2 concert. It was the Rattle and Hum tour and we were in floor seats at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. As was their tradition, U2 played Beatles music during the warm up. My friend and I were in college and were having the time of our lives when the girls in front of us asked us who the warm up music was.

“It’s the Beatles… you know? John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison?” we said.

This was about the time that George Harrison had a hit single “I’ve got my mind set on you” on the charts.

Stellar lyrics there, “I’ve got my mind set on you” repeated about seven million times. A little less thrilling than “Norwegian Wood” if you ask me.

“Oh! My! God!” the girls shrieked. “George Harrison was in a band? We have GOT to check them out.”

I’d never felt so old.

And later, as the oldest woman (at the ripe old age of 28) working at a local ISP (remember ISPs?), I was talking to one of the teen-ish guys working there who was excited to be seeing Star Wars in the movie theater for the first time. I didn’t get his excitement. I saw it in the movie theaters when I was 12… I think I sprouted my first grey hairs that day.

And now, I realize, there are just some things a child of the 70s, who went to college in the 80s, will know, that others just can’t begin to understand…

First things first…

  1. Han shot firsthan shot first
  2. Time travel required the Libyans
  3. Barney was the devilBarney+731895
  4. The coolest alternative music came from the British Isles and Athens, Georgia and was best heard on “97X… BAM! The future of Rock and Roll”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBGiU4usqqg
  5. Fonzie should never have jumped that shark. And no one cared whether or not Joanie loved Chachi

    Seriously, who water skis in a leather jacket????
    Seriously, who water skis in a leather jacket????
  6. Rutger Hauer was the most badass, scariest villain ever
  7. Rocks make good petsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  8. Mainstream rap started in new wave/punk rock with the insane tracks of Debbie Harry
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHCdS7O248g
  9. Conversations were just more intense when you stepped around the corner and wrapped yourself in the phone cord
  10. Hours spent in front of the radio with your tape recorder making a mix tape meant true love
  11. Bionics just can’t beat the Alien Bigfoot Alliance. And by the way, that cave was just damn scarythe-six-million-dollar-man-Bigfoot
  12. Before he was Joe Cool, Snoopy was a World War II flying ace
  13. Blue M&Ms used to be tanOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  14. Video games meant more when they cost one of your hard earned quarters
  15. Musicians just sang, actors just acted and everyone left politics to the politicians
  16. School lunches of pizza, corn and fruit with boxed milk were the bomb!pizza
  17. McGee always made Dr. Banner angry, cars could talk and Southern Sheriffs were always stupid. Oh, and no one ever got sued for portraying anyone as stupidrosco(1)
  18. Trapper Keepers and a new lunch box were necessary elements of going back to school.
  19. Peter Gabriel, Robert Palmer, Bob Geldhof, Phil Collins and George Harrison were in bands. Some made it big with solo careers, I hear.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBAl9cchQac
  20. A car horn that played Dixie was THE cool thing to have
  21. Recipes came in cook books and on hand written note cards, snide remarks were made to one person at a time and comments on news stories required letters to the editor
  22. Weekday afternoons meant the Brady Bunch, Thunderbirds, and Gilligan’s Island reruns. Friday nights meant videos. Saturday mornings meant cartoons. And summer days meant being outside until Mom turned on the porch lights.gilligan
  23. Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Bosom Buddies and Facts of Life/Return of the Killer Tomato were all proof that embarrassing career moves CAN be overcome.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PShKWD2NKUE

My kids will never understand. Half of the people that I talk to everyday will never understand. But those of us who grew up on less than 10 television stations, Saturday Night Live, and a life without DVDs, OnDemand or email will get it.

And seriously, let’s get one thing straight.

Han definitely shot first.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

Eight ways you know the holiday honeymoon is over

I’m pretty sure I am all Christmas’d out.

Seriously.

As I sit here on my couch on a rainy 60 degree Sunday, some of my friends are celebrating their fourth and fifth family holiday today. Heck, some of them have had more than eight holiday celebrations in the course of the last month.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas as much as the next person… christmaseveprobably more than some in fact. I love the secrets, the smells, the sights… even the sappy Christmas specials where the evil shopkeeper realizes there is more to the season than commercialism and peace returns to Happyville and little Timmy gets his dog back.

Yeah, I know, I’m a bit sentimental, but life can’t be all sarcasm, moonshine and zombies now, can it?

So, after countless batches of Christmas candy, a seemingly endless stream of holiday engagements and a month-long marathon of shopping or making gifts, I think I’m done for a while.

How can I tell? The signs are all around us… Here’s the top 8 ways to tell you’re done with Christmas.

  1. smoking-credit-cardYour credit card is no longer smoldering and your mailbox is busting at the seams with with bills.
  2. The desire for rich foods like turkey with all the fixings, crown roast of pork and prime rib has been replaced by an urgent need for salad, soup and sandwiches or a plain baked potato.
  3. No one in the house wants to eat any of the goodies you’ve painstakingly made over the past month. Christmas cookies and peanut butter fudge go uneaten, while jelly beans and Doritos disappear by the handful.christmas-tree-dry-211x300
  4. The sight of Christmas trees and the not-so-green-anymore greenery around the house brings less feelings of nostalgia and holiday spirit and more thoughts of kindling and the growing concern over how long into Spring you’ll still be sweeping up pine needles.
  5. The pangs of guilt over things you didn’t get accomplished – including not knitting your grand niece and nephew matching glove and hat sets because you ran out of time and not mailing out handmade Christmas cards because you forgot they were in your glove compartment – have dissipated and been replaced by nagging thoughts of “I should probably still try to do that sometime before Valentine’s Day.”
  6. ragincajungatorsYou’d rather watch “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators” on Syfy than suffer through yet another showing of “Elf,” “Shrek the Halls,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” or “A Christmas Story.”
  7. The long list of holiday engagements has been replaced by long afternoon naps and curling up with a good book for hours on end.
  8. As temperatures here in South Carolina reach up into the 50s, planning holidayspring_vegetable_garden_guide_when_to_plant travel schedules is replaced with an urgent desire to plant a garden.

So, let’s take a few minutes and say goodbye to 2014’s holiday season. It’s been one to put in the record books… well, the keepsake books anyway, if indeed we keep any of those. And remember, there’s just 363 shopping days left to find the perfect gifts for Christmas 2015.

Copyright Liz Carey (c) 2014

Back to drool shopping

It occurs to me that high school is the denouement of back-to-school shopping.

Or maybe it is the eye of the storm between kindergarten and college.

school_shopping_0811It’s hard to tell.

Mostly, because it’s so boring.

This year, back-to-school shopping for my high school students has been less than fun.

When my boys and I went shopping a few weeks afo – with obligatory stops at Hot Topic, American Eagle and Aeropostale – the reaction ranged from “Yeah, it’s cool, I guess” to “Mom! Stop! You’re touching me in public! Have we not discussed this?”

And no matter where we go, it’s all the same stuff.

I’ve bought enough jeans to clothe the entire male population of Bolivia.

wcfanzoneHalf of these jeans look as if they have been worn BY the male population of Bolivia every day for all 378 days of the World Cup. The other half looks as if they have been dipped in the vat of dye that changed forever the color of the Joker’s hair.

Everything else is black. Or blue. To match, one can only assume, my kids’ moods.

Where are the dress shirts and the kicky sweaters that got pulled out for the first day of school and on picture day?

No where, that’s where.

Which, of course, is also where their underwear is. Every time I ask if they need new ones, they mumble and shrug, leaving me to believe that all the good underwear I bought them last year has been traded to the Bolivians for pairs that show more wear and tear. Ditto their socks.

Come to think of it, maybe the Bolivians are to blame for our recent spoon shortage as well.

Gone are the long discussions where my sons and I anxiously decided between Iron Man or Bakugan for the perfect backpack personality for the new school year. Gone are the smells of a brand new Trapper Keeper, or the never before opened box of 64 Crayola crayons – complete with silver, gold and bronze. Gone are the walks down the aisles of Kmart, buying matching Granimals and Underoos.

Now, instead, I buy notebooks, dry erase markers, loose-leaf graph paper and 3-ring binders.

Bleah.

I used to look forward to back-to-school shopping as a kid.

The new backpacks, the new lunch boxes, the loose leaf paper and crisp sharpened pencils – it’s like you get to go crazy at Office Depot! And the clothes! Oh, my GOD, don’t get me started.

When I was a little girl, each August meant two new pairs of jeans, one dressy outfit, a new pair of Nikes, at least three or four new shirts, and a smattering of really cool skirts that would spend more time on my closet floor than on my hips, but that came straight out of the pages of Seventeen, so I knew I would look good whenever I got around to wearing them.

God, I loved those go go boots... is it okay for a middle aged woman to wear short skirts, sweater vests and go go boots still?
God, I loved those go go boots… is it okay for a middle aged woman to wear short skirts, sweater vests and go go boots still?

One year, I got a red plaid school lunch box with matching Thermos, that matched two of my new outfits in red and black. I even had red, shiny go go boots to go with them, which was WAY cooler than the year before’s purple corduroys and purple turtleneck body suit that SO did not match my Jonathan Livingston Seagull lunch box.

“Thanks, Mom! I love them!” I said, flinging my arms around my mother’s neck.

It really was much easier to please me back then.

In years past, I even looked forward to buying all the things my kids would need to be stellar students.

One year, their back-to-school supply list included, along with the regular paper, pens and pencils – one ZipLock gallon freezer bag, one box of Kleenex, one bottle of anti-bacterial liquid and one bag of candy. The boys used to get a kick out of picking out their candy, their favorite colored folders and their new pencils with their almost sharp enough to be deadly tips.

Not anymore.

This year’s list included: one artist’s sketch pad, one Pearl eraser (pink), two TI-83 calculators (cost $140 per), four packs of index cards (that I can guarantee you will never be used), post-it note pads and a different 3-ring binder for every subject.

Not one mention of a Trapper Keeper anywhere!

And when I ask my sons if they like the new stuff we’ve picked out, their responses range from “Eh.” to “I guess so.”

Joy.

This past week, I bought what we needed in terms of pens, and pencils, and paper. Whatever.

pens-and-pencils-300x217Seriously, how much paper do teachers think that two teenagers are going to go through in a school year? I’ve bought enough paper to keep my office in business for half a year, and we’ve got seven people in there! I’ve bought enough blue and black pens to write “I will not chew gum in school” for my junior high school teacher Ms. Ford seven BILLION times – which coincidentally, is roughly double what I wrote for her when I was actually in her class.

I know that in two years, it will get better. My oldest will tromp off to college and there will be new college-themed clothes, the microwave and the mini fridge to buy – along with the matching bedroom set and the bathroom towels. And I know most of this he will use and then inevitably throw on the floor, only to bring home to me to clean and get rid of the “funky smell.”

It’s just not fair. It’s like this let down after years of detailed lists and character stuff that forever reminded me that they were kids.

Where’s the fun in buying warehouse store quantities of office supplies? Where’s the challenge? Where’s the creativity?

Maybe it’s the fact that they are in high school. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re not “kids” anymore. Maybe it’s just another fact of being a mom to boys. But there’s no getting over the fact that it’s boring.

I blame the Bolivians.

 

2014 (c) Copyright Liz Carey

Soup beans and cornbread

 

Last Sunday was soup beans and cornbread night in our house.

Great Northern beans almost the way Dad made them... just need a little ketchup now...
Great Northern beans almost the way Dad made them… just need a little ketchup now…

It was 60s out in May in the South, so it was soup weather. And what good is soup without cornbread, right?

There was a time when I wasn’t exactly proud of telling anyone that we regularly ate soup beans.

I mean it is a reminder of my family’s poor upbringing. It’s rural Kentucky food. It’s mountain food. It’s not the food that anyone is going to put on the menu at a fine dining restaurant, but everyone has seen on the menu at Cracker Barrel.

Mine are nothing like what you get at Cracker Barrel… tonight it was pintos and salt pork with peppercorns. Throw it all in the pot with an onion and let it cook for hours and you’ve got a huge bowl of flavorful protein. Yum.

Sometimes, we have navy beans or great northern beans with left over ham. That’s my special favorite because it reminds me of my Mom’s house.

Sometimes, we have 15-bean soup, which comes with its own ham flavored seasoning pack, so you don’t have to add, you know, … meat. It’s the soup equivalent of Coors Lite – a little bit of flavor without any substance of any kind.

When I was a kid, it seemed like every time we went to my grandmother’s house to visit, we had soup beans and cornbread.

pintos-and-cornbread

I hated it.

In fact, I dreaded it.

The smell is unique and has a smoky sweetness with a sort of bacony aroma.

And every time I smelled it, I groaned.

But, it made sense. My grandparents weren’t rich, and soup beans were the best choice for them when the house went from two to six. Cheap and easy to make, it was a way to extend a meal to feed a crowd, no matter how many showed up.

But I hated it. It wasn’t bad. I mean, it’s tasty, but I wanted pizza or hamburgers, or fried chicken even. For a spoiled doctor’s daughter, soup beans were NOT the dinner one looked forward to.

Of course, my mom loved it. It was her mother’s cooking, after all. She loved going back to the comfort of her childhood.

I grew up hours away from my grandmother in Central Kentucky, but still my mom made Kentucky favorites. Summers were spent eating cottage cheese and tomatoes fresh out of the garden with a little dollop of mayonnaise on top. We had corn pudding for Thanksgiving dinner. Derby time always meant Derby pie.

And soup beans were a rarity, but a still on the menu

I couldn’t stand them. I just let my mom eat them.

It was like when our family went to Florida. Everywhere we stopped to eat, someone was handing us grits. The further south we got the more plates of grits piled up on the table. Actually, they all ringed my mother’s plate, as we all passed them to her and let her eat them. It’s honestly a miracle that woman didn’t blow up like a hot air balloon that summer.

It was like when our family went to Florida. Everywhere we stopped to eat, someone was handing us grits. The further south we got the more plates of grits piled up on the table. Actually, they all ringed my mother’s plate, as we all passed them to her and let her eat them. It’s honestly a miracle that woman didn’t blow up like a hot air balloon that summer.

At the time, I was starting to cook. I was 11 or so, and I discovered that I really enjoyed cooking, especially cooking for others. I made quiche because I thought it was cool. I made barbequed hot dogs on noodles when my mom went back to school. My aunt taught me to make pies using gooseberries that had been in the freezer since the day I was born. I learned how to make Mom’s chicken and dumplings and beef stew.

Of course I also wanted to expand my knowledge. I devoured cookbooks like some people do peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches. I learned about French cooking and the specialties of New England, and the differences between Northern Italian and Southern Italian cuisine.

I all but turned up my nose at the Kentucky food I had grown up on.

One day, I was reading a cookbook and found a recipe for Senate bean soup. I was thrilled. If it had the word “Senate” in it, it had to be special didn’t it?

look familiar? yeah... you'll find recipes for Senate bean soup in Bon Appetit, but soup beans and cornbread? Not so much...
look familiar? yeah… you’ll find recipes for Senate bean soup in Bon Appetit, but soup beans and cornbread? Not so much…

This was going to be my culinary adventure into Northern cooking, I thought. Why, they even had cans of it by some famous chef in the grocery store! It had to be excellent when made from scratch, right?

Imagine my surprise when I looked at the ingredients… beans, ham, water. It was fricking navy bean soup! Only with a few potatoes added.

Yep... sorry folks, polenta is Italian grits. Seriously. You can do this at home...
Yep… sorry folks, polenta is Italian grits. Seriously. You can do this at home…

Disgruntled at being tricked, I decided to only cook recipes from Europe from then on. I learned how to make shrimp scampi, paella and pate. By the time I had worked my way up to Italian polenta, I was a dutiful Europhile foodie … right up until I realized that polenta was basically fried grits.

All of the food I had hated during my childhood was loved by others. They just had different names!

Now in fact, a bowl of soup beans and cornbread is probably one of the most ordered side dishes in the South, right up there with macaroni and cheese, sausage gravy and biscuits and rice and gravy.

I’m telling you – don’t turn your nose up on rice and gravy until you try it…

But it wasn’t until after I graduated from college that soup beans and cornbread became my go-to comfort food.

Always on Sunday afternoons, when it was cool and rainy out, soup beans became this way for me to be home, without actually going home. It became the way to connect with my past, and rethink my future.

It’s the smell, I think. Its earthiness and richness grounds me. I can put them on the stove; take a nap and fall asleep dreaming of my old Kentucky home.

In our house, we eat soup beans differently – the way my dad did.

Traditionally, with soup beans, you eat them with raw onions broken up in the bowl and cornbread on the side. Since my husband can’t stand soup, he crumbles the cornbread right into the soup beans to make some sort of stew like substance.

My dad, however, ate them differently. You take the soup beans; you add ketchup and a forkful of sweet pickle relish. Why? I have no idea. Then again, my Dad perfected the fried bologna sandwich and was the first person to ever make yellow tomato ketchup.

I’m not sure that says anything about Dad, but I do know that’s the only way I will eat soup beans, regardless of the weird looks I get from waitresses in virtually ever restaurant I’ve ever eaten it in.

I know there are regional favorites that I’m sure some people identify with like I do bean soup. Maybe Mainers are like that when they eat New England clam chowder, or a lobster roll. Maybe Southwesternites are all happy when they eat Tex Mex. Maybe even Chicago-ites wax nostalgic when they eat a slice of pizza.

But none of them know what it’s like to eat a bowl of soup beans and be taken back to their grandmother’s house – with its heat vent in the middle of the hall, the smell of cigarette smoke and coffee in the air, and millions of memories lingering in the walls, the rooms and the furniture.

This past weekend, I made the guys French toast, bacon and grits. My kids rolled their eyes at the lumpy white mush. I’m hoping one day, they’ll look at a bowl of grits and think of their old Mom. Or at least take me on vacation and load me up with all their unwanted bowls of grits.

And maybe, one day, they’ll make a pot of soup beans and cornbread and smile.

As long as they eat it with ketchup and relish, I’m okay with that.

(c) Copyright Liz Carey 2014

 

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