Life and Gravestones

 

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Laurie Buchanan’s post this week (http://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2018/11/27/in-between/ ) prompted me with some thoughts that often float through my mind.

 My daughter and I have visited many old cemeteries searching for markers of ancestors. The dates on the stones may be in the 1800s, 1700s, or 1600s.

It is somewhat daunting to remember that every single person in the cemetery had a life of joys and sorrows—joys and sorrows like the ones we have faced, or are still part of our lives.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own events, we forget all those people whose names are on those stones lived a life like us. They had children and grandchildren, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. They had people who brought them sadness and laughter. Some were comics, others too serious, some were optimistic, others pessimistic. Some traveled to many places in the world, and some lived their lives in one small town or village.

Whatever or wherever they went in life they knew the same sorrows and joys, tears and laughter that we have in our lives. Hopefully, when someone studies our gravestone a hundred years from now, that person will remember that we laughed and cried today.

The answer to Laurie’s question this week:  Life has gifted me with people and places and opportunities I would not have dreamed possible. I have had sadness, but it hasn’t overwhelmed the joys which God has given me in my family and the people He brought into my life.

 

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ADVENTURES IN COOKING – PART IV

 

This segment could also be called, “Cooking for One.” I entered a new way of cooking. I am now alone and must feed just myself. This has been challenging for me – one of the more difficult parts of life after being married nearly 59 years.

A friend who is in the same situation, cooks a dish and then eats it three or four times until it is gone. I can’t do that. The second time for a dish is all right, especially if it turned out to be good. I can even manage a subsequent lunch, but that is it.

Recently, I have tried reducing standard recipes to one or two servings. Some dishes lose their flavor. Cooking the full recipe and then freezing leftovers is an option. For some reason when it comes to thawing and heating most of these, I lose my interest.

To reduce recipes requires small quantities of ingredients, which are not easy to find. What do I do with a half can of leftover soup that sits in my refrigerator drying out. Soon it will begin to grow and I will have to throw it out, something I couldn’t do when it was first opened.

One way I cope is to buy and wrap pieces of meat or chicken separately before freezing them. I buy frozen fish fillets. I can thaw one piece quickly, sauté it in a few minutes while a potato boils has been baked. With a salad I have a reasonable dinner. Not very imaginative, but usually satisfying.

Other sources for meals include an abundance of frozen meals at the grocery store, hot meals available at my local farm store, and take out from local restaurants. There are now several companies who prepare and pack the ingredients needed for a requested meal. I have used Blue Apron. The food was good and not difficult to cook. Each meal had two servings, and provided more than I could eat, so there were leftovers.

Recently, I have planned a menu and shopped for the ingredients needed.  It is better than being hungry without an idea of what to fix. But then there are eggs in the refrigerator and easy mix pancake flour.

I would love to hear from single cooks who have found satisfying ways to cope meal time.

 

ADVENTURES IN COOKING – PART III

 

As I began teaching kindergarten, I lived witH a home economics teacher, who taught in the high school, now for her third year. She had good ideas for cooking for ourselves.

In October, I met a U.S. sailor whom I would marry two years later. One weekend, when my apartment mate was out of town and my cousin was visiting me, Richard was home on leave and we invited him to dinner at my apartment. We made a nutritious meal of meatloaf and baked potatoes. He seemed appreciative. Several months later, Richard visited my home on the farm. Mom made meatloaf. When she offered him a second piece, he accepted saying, “Yes, it’s not dry like Phyllis’s.” He lost some brownie points and never lived down his faux pas, even in sixty years.

We married and lived in a two-room apartment in Philadelphia. All summer I was afraid to use the gas stove because the flames shot up a foot-high each time it was lighted. Instead I made everything in our new electric frypan, including using it to bake a cake. We had small electric plate I could use for boiling water. I finally discovered the gas burners had all been put in upside down. Corrected, I could use the stove.

Richard left the Navy for Cornell University. We lived in a mobile home in the village where I taught. On our third anniversary, we planned a pleasant dinner at home. Richard cooked chicken on the grill, but it was partially raw. I cooked potatoes and squash. Without sufficient water, they scorched. The ice cream for dessert was delicious. There was nothing we could do to it. It was a memorable anniversary dinner while others eaten at wonderful restaurants are forgotten.

While Richard was in college, he often brought home others for an unplanned study session. As I walked home from school, I would check for extra cars in the driveway. Normally, I planned dinner for two, so what happened when there were five? I bought a pound of ground beef at the grocery.

 

ADVENTURES IN COOKING III

 

As I began teaching kindergarten, I lived wit a home economics teacher, who taught in the high school, now for her third year. She had good ideas for cooking for ourselves.

In October, I met a U.S. sailor whom I would marry two years later. One weekend, when my roomie was out of town and my cousin was visiting me, Richard was home on leave and we invited him to dinner at my apartment. We made a nutritious meal of meatloaf and baked potatoes. He seemed appreciative. Several months later, Richard visited my home on the farm. Mom made meatloaf. When she offered him a second piece, he accepted saying, “Yes, it’s not dry like Phyllis’s.” He lost some brownie points and never lived down his faux pas, even in sixty years.

We married and lived in a two-room apartment in Philadelphia. All summer I was afraid to use the gas stove because the flames shot up a foot-high each time it was lighted. Instead I made everything in our new electric frypan, including using it to bake a cake. We had small electric plate I could use for boiling water. I finally discovered the gas burners had all been put in upside down. Corrected, I could use the stove.

Richard left the Navy for Cornell University. We lived in a mobile home in the village where I taught. On our third anniversary, we planned a pleasant dinner at home. Richard cooked chicken on the grill, but it was partially raw. I cooked potatoes and squash. Without sufficient water, they scorched. The ice cream for dessert was delicious. There was nothing we could do to it. It was a memorable anniversary dinner while others eaten at wonderful restaurants are forgotten.

While Richard was in college, he often brought home others for an unplanned study session. As I walked home from school, I would check for extra cars in the driveway. Normally, I planned dinner for two, so what happened when there were five? I bought a pound of ground beef at the grocery.

My recipe:

Put a pound of macaroni over to boil. Turn the oven on for 350 F.

Chop an onion. Brown it with the ground beef in the frying pan.  When the meat is browned, pour in a can of tomatoes, or tomato soup, or spaghetti sauce, and a can of mushrooms, if available. Leftover vegetables in the refrigerator can also go in. Be sure to season with salt and pepper along the way.

Drain the macaroni and add it to the mix. Pour it all in a casserole dish. Sprinkle crumbled saltines.

Bake until it is bubbly. Serve with whatever else is available, such as, green salad, a mix of fruit, or pickles. Bread is also a good filler.

Over the next several years, my cooking skills matured, and my range of dishes enlarged.

While our children were growing, I began to worry that should I break a leg or something happen to me, no one in the family would know what to do. By that time, Richard was a pastor. He said the church members would make sure they didn’t starve.  He was undoubtedly correct, but I was convinced that everyone should know how to make something. We began to have Sunday afternoon “cook-ins.” Everyone made part of the dinner. Richard, who thought cooking was mysterious, discovered if he followed a recipe the result would be something that was good to eat.

When we lived in our next home, Richard began to enjoy making soups. A few years later there came the day I was working and not getting home until nearly 6:00.  Richard, who often had 7:00 meetings realized that if he didn’t cook, he wasn’t going to eat. He began to think of the kitchen as his domain. He became the chief cook for the next thirty years. I was his assistant and the cleaner-upper.

Over the next several years, my cooking skills matured, and my range of dishes enlarged.

While our children were growing, I began to worry that should I break a leg or something happen to me, no one in the family would know what to do. By that time, Richard was a pastor. He said the church members would make sure they didn’t starve.  He was undoubtedly correct, but I was convinced that everyone should know how to make something. We began to have Sunday afternoon “cook-ins.” Everyone made part of the dinner. Richard, who thought cooking was mysterious, discovered if he followed a recipe the result would be something that was good to eat.

When we lived in our next home, Richard began to enjoy making soups. A few years later there came the day I was working and not getting home until nearly 6:00.  Richard, who often had 7:00 meetings realized that if he didn’t cook, he wasn’t going to eat. He began to think of the kitchen as his domain. He became the chief cook for the next thirty years. I was his assistant and the cleaner-upper.

ADVENTURES IN COOKING – PART II

My experience with cooking gave me a job in the college cafeteria when I went to Fredonia State Teachers College, which is now part of the University of the State of New York.

Fredonia was a small college. The cafeteria was in Old Main. As part of the first building on the campus, it was really old. At dinner my job was on the line. I cut and plated desserts to go on the stainless steel shelves. I dished salads and put them out. Or if I was assigned beverages, I served coffee and tea, and made sure milk was in the ice ready for pickup. The steam table was usually assigned to taller workers, but occasionally to me.

Our cafeteria bought its food from a commissary that served the steel mills in Dunkirk and western New York. Consequently, we often received leftovers in 2-gallon jobs to reheat in our steam table. The jugs might contain stew, a hamburger goulash, or macaroni and cheese.

A couple of semesters I worked the grill on the breakfast shift. Weekdays we had a given daily item such as French toast, scrambled eggs, or pancakes with bacon or sausage. On weekends, I gave everyone their choice because traffic through the breakfast line was always slow until the last five minutes before we closed at 9:00.

The Student Christian Association soon figured out that when they had a retreat at the college camp, I could and would organize the meals. The same was true of the Methodist Youth Group that I attended. When food was called for I found myself in the church kitchen.

I needed summer job after my freshman year. I called the judge in my town who also acted as the employment agency. An elderly couple living in their lakeside home needed help. Mrs. R had broken her right wrist and couldn’t manage the housework. I became their chief cook, bottle washer, laundry main, and cleaning lady.

Sometime during the summer, Mr. R learned I could bake a pie. Blueberries grew on their land next to the house. Several times each summer I picked the berries and baked a pie for them, much to Mr. R’s delight.

The first year there I wasn’t required until about ten in the morning. Once I finished the day’s work about 2:00, I was free until time to get dinner. I would walk around the end of the lake to a resort where other friends worked, or go to the movie there in the evening with a young man whose family had a cabin on the lake. A passenger boat cruised the lake all afternoon and evening, so we didn’t have to walk back.

I continued to work for the Rs the following two summers and I had graduated from college.

BLUEBERRY PIE

Double the recipe for crust from custard pie. Set oven at 425 F.

Dust the bottom crust with a tablespoon of flour. Mix together 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Fill crust with blueberries. Spread sugar mixture over them. Add the top crust. Slit the crust in a pattern or “B.” Bake for 10 minutes in hot oven. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake until juice begins to bubble through a slit in the crust. Cool on a rack. Serve with cheese or scoop of vanilla ice cream.