Chúc mừng năm mới

If you can’t read that (I can’t either without help) I’ll translate for you – Happy New Year! Tomorrow begins the Lunar New Year celebrations throughout the Asian world. If you’re an ugly American as even the most sensitive of us sometimes are, you’ve called it Chinese New Year for most if not all of your life, if you called it anything, Out in the real world, the Lunar New Year celebrations stretch back to the second century BC during the Han Dynasty. The “Chinese calendar” that begins time with this new year is a lunisolar calendar based on the moon’s cycles or phases in addition to our solar orbit.  (A true lunar calendar based solar on the phases of the moon spans 354 days rather than the 365 days it takes to completely orbit the sun – give or take so additional adjustments are made not unlike the quadrennial habit of tossing in leap day.)

The Lunar New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, this year on our February 12 and marks the beginning of year 4718, the year of the Ox (or Buffalo, Bull, or Cow).  Over 2 billion people from mainland China to Brunei, more than a quarter of the world’s population will celebrate the turning of that calendar page . The greeting I began this post is in Vietnamese where the celebration westerners call Tet will begin with a day devoted to the immediate family. (“Tet” translates to “Festival”) The lunar new year celebrations can last up to 14 days ranging to the first full moon after the new year. For as many cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year there are that many variations on the celebrations. In Vietnam Tết Nguyên Đán (Festival of the First Morning of the First Day) may last only 3 days.

We would do well to emulate the Asian cultures celebrating this new year. Unlike the western new year the Lunar New Year is not marked with discounts on mattresses and major appliances., there won’t be insincere promises to resolve to do better, be better, live better for the next 12 hours or until the first sign of temptation comes along, and the first morning won’t be welcomed with a hangover headache from over celebrating on the eve of the day most likely to be on the road with a drunk driver. Lunar New Year celebrations typically revolve around family: the immediate, the extended, and the helpers. Traditions likely include sharing tokens of good luck and prosperity and  homes brightly decorated and filled with scent of long held traditional family foods. Think of Thanksgiving without Black Friday mixed in with a little Christmas and a bit of the Fourth of July (fireworks, everything is better with fireworks!).

If you’re looking for a reason to celebrate this weekend and you’re not already one of the aforementioned 2 billion, grab the ox by the horns, gather round the family, and wish each other long life, good health, and prosperity to all!

Ox

I’m Board

Long before the pandemic hit my corner of the world I was already spending more time indoors alone than probably healthy, exploring few opportunities that would take me to other places that a grocery store, or a pharmacy, lab, a doctors office or other medical facility, or outside for a solo walk. It’s like I was made for this crisis. But I will say that even I am getting a little bored. I’m sure I wouldn’t be so bored if I could only get a little board! You know I haven’t worked for quite a few years now. I had settled into the routine of, if not a refined retired gentleman at least one not quite as bad as a crotchety old fogie. That’s because I kept my brain young. Yes, I am using past tense. I believe I’m slipping.
 
Even though the forays to the outside world were not often and typically instigated by one if the aforementioned reasons, I almost always made some detour on the way home. Perhaps I would stop at one of the big time mega-marts and wander the aisles getting some exercise and often some deals from the clearance shelves. Maybe I would find a local diner and compare its grillmaster’s patty melt to the last visited diner’s offering. Maybe I’d browse a thrift shop because they are just fun to walk around in and I’ve found a remarkable selection of candy dishes in them over the years. Even if I was feeling adventurous today, and lucky enough to venture out where others may be, those places aren’t open anyway.
 
When extended outdoor time wasn’t desired or desirable like in times of freezing weather (which we seem to have 9 months out of the year) I would amuse myself baking oatmeal cookies or concocting a new marinade for something on the grill. Now though I’m limiting my flour to bead and pizza dough and experimentation time (not to mention counter space) has given way to knead, rise, knead, rise, rise again, bake, slice, eat repeat.
 
Then there is that portion of the day I called down time. That would be the time I’d spend watching an old movie, reading a book, or going through the whole of a newspaper following stories missed during the morning headline review, laughing at the funnies and doing the crossword puzzle. The papers have all stopped publishing hard copies, the library and bookstores are closed and I can read only so much electronic prose, and even I am getting tired of old movies (except for anything with Audrey Hepburn). (Nobody can ever tire of Audrey Hepburn.) (Nobody!)
 
Add to those losses the loss of Sundays with the Daughter. (Yes, yes, of course this should be at the top of the and indeed it is but I had to keep it for last one mentioned to build dramatic effect. If you don’t like it, go wrote your own post – sheesh!) (But don’t leave yet. We’re finally getting to the point of this post.) Sometimes after we cooked for a couple hours then ate for a couple hours we’d pull out a game board and play for a couple hours. But not just any old game. Our game was, and will be again, Backgammon.
 
If you’re a chess player there are apps and live sites and virtual games around very corner. I know first hand that there are indeed crossword puzzle apps that you can play all day long and not be interrupted by a single ad. For free! Word games abound, arcade games are electronic naturals, even “jigsaw” puzzles can be assembled without interruption on line or in apps. But backgammon…
 
Indeed there are some backgammon apps but every one I ever tried forces you into watching ads to earn tokens to build moves with. And there are a few backgammon live sites where you can play against AI or a distant opponent. These are few and the opponents are fewer. (And I think the AI cheats. Nobody can throw that many doubles.) Besides, backgammon needs to be experienced in more than two dimensions and with more than just sight. You have to hear the dice rolling in the cup before bouncing across the felt, you need to feel the smoothness of the tiles as you slide them along the points, you have to see you opponent slump when you bump her or him to the rail or bear off your last stone. The Mesopotamians weren’t thinking computer when they drew the first points and carved the first stones 3,000 years before Jesus walked the Earth. Backgammon is to be experienced, not pixelated.
 
But this isolation won’t last forever. Until then I’ll still take my set out each Sunday. Now I just polish it. Eventually I’ll get to play it. 
 
 
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Happy Birthday, By George!

how to draw birthday balloons Awesome Birthday Cake Drawing Cartoon at GetDrawings
In honor of today’s pretend holiday I slept late, had a big breakfast, and did not go to work. Just like most Mondays around here.
 
When I was working there really were no holidays. And not just the “minor” holidays.  People in health care are used to the idea that any day, any shift, is potential work time. The funny thing is, hospital administration, particularly Human Resources, are often not health care workers and try to insure everyone is treated “fairly” and should not be denied their “time with their families.” As a department head I was responsible for making sure my staff got their time off but still had all my shifts covered. Of course the problem was that as far as their families were concerned, the holidays that were celebrated as families like Thanksgiving or Christmas were celebrated on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Others like Washington’s Birthday weren’t celebrated by them either so who cared when that day off got made. And thus, the “floating holiday” was born. 
 
On one hand it made for a nice surprise sometime during the year to get a day or two off that didn’t require using sick or vacation time. On the other, when would you use it? Did you tack it on to a planned vacation picking up an extra day on the company’s dime? Did you save it for your anniversary and surprise your spouse with a day all his or hers assuming she or he could also get that day off? Did you take it to paint the living room, plant the garden, or sit at the DMV for your picture to be taken for your new driver’s license?
 
I can say with scientific certainty after years of study on the subject those who are graced with a floating holiday will most often use it to celebrate a birthday. Often their own birthdays with spa days, shopping days, drinking days, or overeating days. But just as often for a birthday in the family. A young child who didn’t get to see Mommy or Daddy on Christmas morning but here they are now on the child’s own birthday morning and staying together all day long. A parent who gave up many of his or her own birthdays and holidays to work extra shifts or second jobs to send Junior through college and watch him fulfill his dream of working with the sick now finds Junior planning a surprise party for his parent’s milestone 75th birthday. A spouse who keeps a supply of cards and candles when Hubby comes home and says “don’t forget we have that birthday party to go to tonight” comes home from work to find Hubby putting the finishing touches her birthday dinner all on his own. These were often the days people took off for their “celebrate with your family floating holiday” days. 
 
Although we often didn’t get days off to party with Martin Luther King or George Washington we got to celebrate with some pretty special people. So Happy Birthday George, and thanks for all the days you gave me and my family over the years.
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For The Heck Of It

Last summer was a bad time for me. A baaaaaad time. After I got out of the hospital I was anxious to get home but smart enough to know that wasn’t the wisest choice. That’s one of the things that people who loooove the freedom of living alone don’t often consider. Long story short, particularly because I wrote about it often enough last summer, I spent several weeks at my daughter’s getting my feet and other body parts used to stepping in time for themselves. And even after I ventured back to my lonesome life, the child of mine continued to assist with daily activities that eventually morphed into weekly activities that now ultimately has settled at one weekly activity.
 
It’s been seven months, 3 minor procedures, two rounds of physical therapy, and one new ongoing exercise routine since my reentry into “the outside world” and if I say so myself I’m just as good as new! Or at least as good as the average slighty used, only driven on Sunday, new inspection but no warranty, as is, all sales final, yet you’ll still get some decent use out of it. Certainly well enough that household chores aren’t much problem as long as I stay away from “the big vacuum” and split my grocery shopping into no more than 10 pound bags. As far as cooking is concerned, especially since the last round of therapy, I can stand in the kitchen and slave over a hot stove as well as I ever could (as long as I don’t use the big cast iron skillet) (that weight limit goes in the kitchen too you know). Still, yesterday my daughter was over for our weekly 4 hour cooking extravaganza and we prepared a week’s worth of meals for the both of us – me because I need the help and she because she is so busy during the week. Except neither of those is true. 
 
Why do we still do this? Because it’s fun! I’ve always been good in the kitchen but as a 60-something Italian-American it most often involved red meat, red tomatoes, and fresh cheese. Add a glass of wine and I had the 4 basic food groups at every meal. The daughter has always been good in the kitchen but as a 30 year old urbanite her refrigerator has things like leftover pad thai, vegetables of every color, and a token chicken breast to satisfy the occasional meat craving. Fortunately wine rounds out her fourth food group also. Different color but still it was a common starting point. 
 
I firmly believe if you want to put people together, regardless of how different they spend the rest of the week there should be one day each week they must cook together. It is much too difficult to complain about trivial matters like politics and religion while you’re trying desperately to whisk fast enough to make mayonnaise knowing no store bought stuff will make a good enough base for your Romesco. And when you can’t get your point across about why you think your way might be better, an immediate taste test removes all doubt and answers all questions. 
 
After 7 months of cooking with each other we’ve both expanded our tolerances and are practicing cultural inclusion through yummy dishes from every continent except Antarctica. (Being involved Pittsburgh hockey fans neither of us is in a hurry to add penguin to our meal prep.) (Another common point.) Oh if only the rest of the world could come over every Sunday afternoon we’d all be doing so much better.
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bubble-wrap-groceries
Oh hey, not that it has anything to do with anything else but today, the last Monday in January, is Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. Thought you might want to pop that in your calendars, you know, just for the heck of it.
 
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Yippee Ki Yay…

We’ve bitten off the better part of the first week of December. That certainly makes it Christmas movie time without complaints that it’s “too early for Christmas!” Personally, I watched my first Christmas movie for this year, this year’s new favorite Christmas movie, on Thanksgiving night and I’ll watch it again at least once a week until Christmas Eve. More about that later. 
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I haven’t done a rant on what makes a Christmas movie for a few years and it’s probably time to revisit that topic lest some of you try to use the season as an excuse to pull out Die Hard from your old VHS library. Yes, there is a Christmas tree in the ball room or whatever that room was supposed to be. If it was the company’s reception area that was the grandest display of corporate opulence even by movie standards. Anyway, the presence of a Christmas tree is not the defining factor of what makes a Christmas movie, otherwise The Poseidon Adventure, Gremlins, and Eyes Wide Shut would be experiencing revivals at your local Bijou every December. 
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Along with characters and plot, movies have to have a setting. Even if it’s an indeterminate long ago and far away they take place at some time in some place. Sometimes the some time is around Christmas. The Shop Around the Corner (which grew up to become You’ve Got Mail) and Untamed Heart are two movies that spend a lot of time around Christmas yet neither identifies as a Christmas movie. The production companies, distributors, and audiences recognize them as love stories and if some scenes have a Christmas tree it is just creating a believable setting. 
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Every once in a while things get more than a little confusing in that regard. In 1947 George Haigt, and Robert Montgomery, and MGM Studios teamed up to present Lady in the Lake, a Steve Fisher adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s 1943 novel of the same name featuring private detective Philip Marlowe. Movies don’t often mimic the books from which they are adapted, in fact you can say they rarely are on the same page. Chandler’s readers were probably confused right from the opening credits of the movie which were presented in a series of Christmas cards with popular Christmas carols providing the background music. Throughout the movie, Christmas trees and wreaths are prominently displayed, holiday greetings are offered and returned, the season is toasted, gifts are exchanged, and one scene opens with a recitation of Dickens “A Christmas Carol” playing on the radio. All from a book whose action takes place entirely in mid-summer in a movie that was released in late January. Christmas movie? Um, no.
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But fear not Christmas movie lovers, there are scads of films, old standbys and newer releases, that will transform the Scroogiest viewers into holly, jolly revelers without ambiguity – movies that add punch to any nog and present their presents wrapped in bows and delivered with care. Everyone has a favorite and every favorite has an ardent following. Yours may be a classic in black and white or an animated interpretation of a classic tale. It could be a big budget musical or an independent dark horse. It’s your favorite because you identify with a character or are reminded of an event every time you hear the title song. Or perhaps it offers a dream holiday you know you will not experience in your own life. Or, like my current favorite, offers an experience almost exactly like my own life.
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I say my current favorite because like children there can be no real favorite among Christmas movies. The favorite is the one making you smile today or remember yesterday, the one encouraging a perfect alternative to an imperfect world and providing an escape from the ordinary. My current favorite is full of imperfections. Imperfect characters making imperfect plans, and ordinary people doing ordinary holiday things while dealing with ordinary year long problems. With all that mediocrity come the glimpses of joy and the fleeting feelings of fun that accompany real people living real lives. Before the closing credits roll you are smiling at them and yourself and ready to get back to whatever is next on your to do list only now you do it with that song running through your head. And not annoyingly.
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My current favorite Christmas movie for this year is Love the Coopers. It’s so unmovielike! It asks you to suspend very little disbelief and quite believably could be about any family, including mine. You want to give them all back but you can’t because you love them so dearly. Love the Coopers, I think it needs a comma but Steven Rogers didn’t and it’s his story so I guess he should know. Maybe it’s more commanding that way. Or maybe it’s supposed to be just a little ambiguous. Just like us.
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Merry Early Christmas!
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Acquaintancegiving

Sing along with me… It’s the most confusing time of the year! 
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The week before Thanksgiving – ugh. (Non-American residents please hang in there, next week we’ll be back to more universal topics.) This week the food related sites and emails are torn between last minute meal prep tips, what to do with leftover turkey tips, and Christmas cookie freezing tips. Home decor posts are split between the Thanksgiving tablescape to die for and how to make this year’s Christmas wreath out of empty aluminum soft drink cans (the new skinny 8oz. models). And editorial writers aren’t sure if they should sharpen their quills for the annual “1001 Things to Be Thankful For” column or “It’s Time to Apologize to Displaced Native Americans” missive. The only ones who seem to have a handle on the week are the merchants who will be switching headers on the sales catalogs from “Black Friday Sale!” to “Holiday Sale Spectacular!!!” (Same ad, just a different name.) 
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A new confusion, one even I missed the early signs of, are what we call this upcoming holiday. Although there had been “Days of Thanksgiving” in what would become these United States since the early 1600s, it was by a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that the holiday we celebrate today was established. For years thereafter the President would proclaim one of the last Thursdays in November to be a “Day of Thanksgiving.” In 1941, Congress finally got around to formalizing the holiday with a resolution permanently stamping the fourth Thursday in November on future calendars as Thanksgiving Day. 
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And so it was for going on 80 years that about this time each year, people would greet one another with a jaunty “Happy Thanksgiving!” Sometime in my life, which admittedly spans more than 3/4 of those 80 years but a far smaller portion of the 300+ years since the Pilgrims made up the silent majority, people began to augment Happy Thanksgiving with phrases like Happy Turkey Day or Good Harvesting. Then in 2007 Friendsgiving reared its ugly head.
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“Thanksgiving is for families,” the argument went. “I want to celebrate my gratitude for my closest friends with my friends.” Sometimes people would actually verbalize that they liked their friends better than their families anyway. Now I am not against friends and friendship nor do I feel friends should be excluded from our celebrations, our gratitude, or our celebrations of our gratitude. In my world when we wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends we invited those friends to Thanksgiving dinner. The house was more crowded, table was a lot fuller, and not all the plates matched but we all squeezed in, gave our thanks, and proceeded to devour many pounds of food apiece. A couple of years we even tried a buffet style dinner and one particularly warm year we extended the festivities onto the back yard deck. What was important was that we all shared the wish for family and friends with the same expression of gratitude.
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By a totally unscientific review, this year that great marker of contemporary social acceptance, the Television Sitcom Holiday Special, featured more Friendsgiving celebrations than family Thanksgiving meals. I know next month the airways will be full of “Happy Holidays!” taking the place of yesteryear’s “Merry Christmas” and I’ve learned to accept that. I suffer through the growing number of Indigenous Persons Day recognitions where Columbus Day used to be and I am willing to concede Presidents Day actually exists even without ever having been recognized by any governing body outside of Madison Avenue. Valentine’s Day is for more than lovers and St. Patrick’s Day really is a test of who can drink the most green beer in a single seating. Can’t we leave just one holiday alone?
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If you’ll excuse me now, I have to make room in the refrigerator for some turkey hash, sweet potato pancakes, and green bean casserole soup. I want to be able to properly give thanks well into next week too!
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Happy Thanksgiving!
Turkey

Food For Thought

It’s time to clean out the refrigerator. For me it’s that time every time this time of week. I’ll be getting ready to cook.

Perhaps I should start in the middle. When I was in the hospital, because of why I was there my sister naturally was also in the hospital. That took two members of my immediate family out of daily activities including, among other things, cooking. The other two spent much of their time at the hospital while were inpatients, limiting their available time for daily activities including, among other things, cooking. But friends and other relatives eased that burden by creating food chains or meal trains. When it became evident that I was destined for a much longer than anticipated hospital stay and recovery period, those friends and relatives along with friends of relatives and even relatives of friends presented us with the modern equivalent of hot casseroles, gift subscriptions to meal services. So many in fact that this Sunday we will be preparing the last of the gifted meals.

We in this case are my daughter and I. We’ve been spending a day a week almost every week since mid-June, first in her kitchen now in mine, preparing the following week’s meals. This is hardly unique. Much of the working world preps and even pre-cooks the upcoming week’s meals. Even when I was part of the working world I would do some manner of advance preparation. Then it was often a matter of my daughter and I chopping, seasoning, arranging, and storing in a suitable cooking vessel that day’s dinner before I went off to work and she to school each morning. Sometime after her return in the afternoon she cookrd and plated as I dragged myself in from another day at the rat races. (I always bet the #7 rat to win the 7th race by 7 lengths but he never came in.)

So you see, meal prepping is in our blood, or at least on our resumes. Little things like my daughter’s own entry into the working world and my entry into the limited lifting and standing world, coupled with the fact that we no longer live in the same house, make daily prep pretty inconvenient. But the once a week plan has really made life much easier for me.

Something else it’s made me is it’s made me think how fortunate I am to have a daughter who is willing to give up one of her two free days each week to spend with her father. It’s also made me realize that if there are a few others like her out there maybe this world isn’t destined for global annihilation as soon as the last of the Baby Boomers leaves it. The few hours it takes us to chop and season, arrange and cook, store and clean up make for some pretty quality time. And so does the eating and sitting and chatting and re-bonding after.

A family dinner really is a gift. Even a bunch of them all at once.

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All In The Family

My cousin and his wife are out walking. They are in Italy right now. Or maybe Germany. Could even be France or Switzerland. You see, they are hikers and are wandering around the Alps on this trip. I’m not sure when they started hiking. When I remember those childhood days of visiting him two whole states away I attribute his current walking prowess to his wife because as a 10 year old I seem to remember reluctance on his part to cross the street on foot. Now the two of them have even adopted a portion of the Appalachian Trail to keep it free of litter and debris.

I wish I could be like them. In my more agile years I had often trekked through various state, county, and local parks’ walking and hiking trails. I even had a hiking merit badge in the Boy Scouts. (Oops, they don’t use “boy” in that organization’s name any more. Something about not being inclusive. Someone should mention that to the Girl Scouts. But I digress.) I liked to walk. I still do. Now my walks are more along the line of up and down the sidewalk in front of my building and a half mile is as much trekking as I do at one time. I remember walking a half mile from the parking lot to the trail head in some of those parks.

Walking might come to me genetically. The hiking cousin takes his walks to the extreme but everyone else in my family is quite comfortable lacing on a good pair of walking shoes and hitting the pavement for a few miles close to if not daily. My daughter has taken her pavement pounding to the extreme in that she sees her daily two mile walk as just something to do between tooth brushing and showering and runs for her “real” outdoor exercise, a bad habit I might have instilled in her before she was even born. Fortunately I saw running for the folly it was and after a few years and a couple half marathons I returned to the peaceful pace of multi-mile walks. She on the other hand never met a marathon she didn’t like and has run the local marathon (half-marathon version) for seven consecutive years and shows no sign of breaking that streak.

BootsI’m quite content with my daily strolls at distances now measured in yards rather than miles. I do it with a cane and I do it slowly but I do it. I figure if I keep that up every day or at least almost every day I can still outrun heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and crippling arthritis even at my slow pace. And if they get too close I’ll just beat them away with my cane. It’s one of those good sturdy aluminum jobs so I should be able to put a decent dent in bad fortune with it.

If I keep up with that routine, if I ever get to the Alps I might not have the stamina to hike my way around them but I’ll still be strong enough to make it from the parking lot to in front of the fireplace in the lodge. I figure that’s just the right distance for me!

One (Zucchini) Out Of Many

My last post I said I was going to do something I hadn’t done for a while, complain, which may have been somewhat inaccurate. This post runs to something I don’t do often enough and is surely quite accurate, be grateful. Not any old gratitude is it that I am expressing, but heartfelt thanks for my nearly 19 year old electric range, and my almost 29 year old eccentric daughter.

Most social media platforms are the most antisocial of platforms but I indulge for the special interest groups. Support for chronic illness or rare diseases is easier when you involve most of the planet. And hobbies or interests can be explored more easily when you spend most of your days in a smallish apartment by way of a connected phone, tablet, or laptop while plopped in a comfy chair. It is one of the latter groups of groups that reminded me of how good I must have it. Yes, I seem to be quite more fortunate than others not among those sharing medical burdens but of those who enjoy cookery to fill a few otherwise dull hours throughout the week.

Apparently one cannot really cook unless using a $500,000 range metering gas fed flames unless one instead is cooking over the open flameless heat of natural chuck charcoal or in the smoke of natural hardwoods in a specialized outdoor vessel. Or so those of my cooking aficionado collective extol in their various posts, complete with pictorial evidence.

Yesterday my daughter interrupted my trip to the local farmers market to bring me a basket of bounty from her backyard garden. Included in that were several zucchini, just the right amount for one of my favorite summer treats, zucchini fritters. Or zucchini cakes if you want to think more healthily, but just barely. And handful of readily available pantry ingredients and 60 minutes later we were sitting on the patio enjoying piping hot patties of grated zucchini dipped in ranch dressing enjoying the summer sun’s warmth and shine.

Thanks to my apartment complex provided and now aging electric stove I enjoyed a most wonderful repast on a most wonderful break with the most wonderful offspring. I’d include photographic evidence but we are it.

You’ll just have to take my word that I expressed the right amount of gratitude.

—-”

Bonus recipe! Real good zucchini fritters

1-1/2 pounds zucchini, shredded and drained.
1/2 large yellow onion, shredded
1/2 large red onion, shredded
1 or 2 or even 3 Italian banana pepper, chopped fine
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 tsp adobo powder (or chili powder)
1/2 tap garlic powder

Shred zucchini and onions. I use the shredding disk on my food processor. A real cooking hobbyist would use the large holes of a box grater. Place in a colander over a bowl, or to be like me into a salad spinner, and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the salt and allow to sit for 10 to 25 minutes.

Mix flour, baking soda, the remaining salt, and the herbs in a small bowl.

Transfer the zucchini and onions to a clean tea towel and wring the devil out of them. Hopefully all the water will also get wrung out. If you were like me first take them for a spin in the salad spinner and then transfer them to the towel and squeeze with all your might.

Heat a large frying pan to medium high and add enough oil to cover the surface. (I use light olive oil but any normal oil will do. I’ve even used corn oil. But don’t get fancy and try to use coconut or avocado oil for goodness sake!) Assemble a cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet and heat your oven to 250°F (120°C).

Plop the now abused zucchini and onions into a large bowl and fluff with a fork or some other fork like object. Mix in the chopped banana pepper and the beaten egg. (Thought I forgot about them, didn’t you?) Add the flour mixture in 3 installments a making sure each is completely incorporated.

Add a reasonable amount of the mixture to the hot pan and squish down to about 1/4 inch thickness. (I use a quarter cup for six 4 inch diameter fritters fried in two batches but do your own thing). Fry until golden brown, admit 3 to 5 minutes per side then transfer to the cooling rack. In between batches add oil if need to cover the bottom of the pan and allow to return to heat. Once all fritters are fried and resting nicely on the rack, pop the baking sheet into the oven for 15 minutes.

Eat and enjoy. Best shared with a friend or friendly relative.

Telling Tales

My daughter was over for lunch yesterday. After our meal we sat out on the patio enjoying the air’s in-between storms sweetness. While we discussing the differences between curly and straight leafed parsley she brought up traits children inherit that they don’t notice until they’ve put a few years on their adulthood and that reminded me that UPS avoids left turns in their delivery routes.

Well it made perfect sense to us! That’s because of the trait she got from me. Babbling (her word). Or rambling (my word). Or perhaps story telling (the polite words I should have led off with). (Maybe)

Apparently it came up last week when she was out with a couple of her girlfriends and their conversation move to the things they do they don’t realize they do that nobody but their families understand. Mostly only their families understand. Most of their families only understand. Some of their families understand. Their families might recognize but even most of them don’t necessarily understand.

It you think about it, there is probably at least one thing you do that nobody else in the world (or at least is not common behavior in your part of the world) that you can trace to you parents or an older sibling or that great aunt who came over every Sunday for chicken and spaghetti and then stayed to watch Gomer Pyle then the Ed Sullivan Show. It might be the way you tilt your head at a weird angle when contemplating answers to a particularly difficult question.  It might be how you fold a napkin under the plate at dinner’s end. Or it could be in how you ramble.

Actually, it’s not rambling as much as always providing the back story. And its back story if necessary. After all, every story has a story and a good story teller knows the story’s story as clearly as the story. It’s what makes for storied stories. In my daughter’s case, as a copywriter and content editor, being able to tell a story is essential although she often has to temper her desire to be as thorough as she’d like. But when it comes to her personal writing, no story takes a back seat to its own story. Or back story. Even.

For me, I was often reminded to get to the point more quickly at meetings or in email exchanges but just as often I was glad I kept the thoroughness in my correspondence knowing that while others were getting calls and memos asking for more detail, my projects were being presented for approval and reports stamped “OK.” Still, I have a hard time with text messages and even Twitter’s new expanded character limit is far less than appropriate for any meaningful communication.

So, you know UPS designs its routes with as few left turns as possible. Apparently it means a tremendous savings in fuel costs. That came up the last time my daughter was over and we has just finished a killer frittata for brunch.

It made perfect sense to us.