OBSESSION


083

I’ve been thinking a lot about the similarities between elderly people as well as the differences between the old and the young. You might think that is a no-brainer, but it isn’t really. My circle of friends includes all ages from a post-toddler to several ladies in their mid-90’s, so I am aware of these anomalies firsthand.

An elderly woman of 90 had a collection of old coins which in her mind were quite valuable. She fussed and fumed for several months to have someone take them to a coin dealer and assure her they were worth a few thousand dollars. Whenever she thought of it, she telephoned several times a day to get someone to take them. Finally they were taken and evaluated and discovered to be worth about their face value and not much more. The dealer bought them, and when she got the news and the money, she insisted and believed she could have gotten more. Similarly a small child will obsess about a lost toy or an implied promise of an ice cream until his parent is ready to disown him. It’s futile to try to convince either of them that it is useless to complain. It is what it is.

A gentleman living in a nursing home once asked a relative to make out his income tax for him. It was a simple one, and was returned to the old fellow promptly, who then insisted they had done it wrong, and he should get more money. With that in mind, he took it to a CPA, and when it was returned, it was found to be correct down to the penny. Even though he had been out of line, there was no apology given to his original helper. By the same token the ingratitude of children is well-documented, so we don’t need to get into that.

Both age groups and our canine friends have a similar sense of Time. Their need to “get it done immediately” is important to them. In either case, if they don’t get it done it will be too late. In the aged, that conception is understandable. The child and the dog only conceive of the Now. They live in the moment. And all are capable of throwing a tantrum if that moment passes.

The child and those at the opposite end of the spectrum often have a compulsive need to “do it themselves”. They reject help, even though it’s often needed. Old fingers and very young fingers aren’t as agile as they might be, and even though they may botch the job, they insist upon doing it themselves and then despair when their efforts are less than perfect.

At an early age little folk tend to babble a lot, as do the older generation. Any nearby human being is ripe for a conversation, and they view everyone as fair game. You can send a talkative kid to bed, but certainly not his grandparent. We have an adult grandson who once talked his way from the San Francisco Bay area to Diamond Lake, Oregon seemingly without taking a break.

Maybe this is the reason that small children and their grandparents have such a good relationship. Their similarities connect them. Their view of Life is open and willing to take a chance. The child hasn’t learned suspicion, and the old ones think nothing untoward will happen to them. Both are easy prey for a good con man or woman. Both have selective memories and hearing.

You might think that is a cynical viewpoint, but I find the comparison extremely interesting. We go through the various stages of Life either suffering or enjoying the same manifestations and thoughts.

It is considered necessary to sigh painfully and call the Senior years the “Golden Years”, or to complain collectively about the similar trials of poor health. It somehow connects that age group in empathy. In the poor health department everybody is probably right. Bodies like houses and cars, wear out, and eventually everybody has something. During my years as an art gallery curator, when asked what my job description was, I just said “I Pull, Patch and Paint”. Pull the nails from the last show, patch the holes and paint over. There is a lot of similarity.

Advertisements

STAFF OF LIFE


Beside soup and possibly love, bread is perhaps the greatest source of sustenance the world has ever known. You can’t live on love alone, but it is possible to live on soup and bread.

It was 9:00 o’clock on a sunny summer morning when a small group of bright-eyed women, aprons in hand, converged on my kitchen, all intent upon taking home a loaf of their very own homemade bread for dinner. It wasn’t a regular cooking class, just a few curious friends interested in finding out what was so mysterious about a food which had sustained humans from nearly every culture since they stumbled out of their caves. We were doing different yeast recipes, and each woman took her choice of one.

The variety of bread around the world is mind-boggling. From tortillas from Mexico to the airy croissant of Paris, each have their place in history and on our dinner tables.

Bread is politically correct, not caring if you are a Democrat or a Republican, or a Catholic or Jew. A few yeast cells in a bowl of flour and some water, in a suitable length of time, can transport you to nirvana. The added pleasure of bread making is the glorious smell of baking bread, better to me than the most expensive bottled perfume.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************

Once on a rainy morning in Paris a line of people drew me into the convention hall opposite Notre Dame cathedral where a large group of professional bakers were contending for prizes in their particular offerings. A good many were making sculptural renditions with bread dough. There were baskets, animals, flowers, etc. All impractical but beautiful.

The divine smell combined with the excitement and chatter of the great number of onlookers all engrossed in watching the expertise of the various bakers, was a morning I won’t forget. If you are a bread baker, or if your mother or grandmother supplied your daily bread you will know what I mean.

A week or so ago, I had made two kinds of bread plus a few jars of apricot jam. A grandson stopped by and promptly relieved me of a jar of jam and a loaf of bread. Clearly the smell of one or both were too much for him. I well remember my mother’s kitchen on baking day. It was like waiting for Christmas to come before she would allow me to cut into the warm loaf and slather it with jelly. It was a nice beacon to get me to hurry home from school on those days.

***********************************************************************************************************************************

In my own kitchen on our communal baking day, the several bowls were rising nicely except for one disappointed lady, whose dough looked sullen and unhappy with its situation in the bowl, so we had a vote and decided it might be better to toss it in the waste bin and she could try again. Given the unpredictability of yeast dough, the silly thing began to rise nicely while nestled comfortably among the leftover cabbage leaves! Not that it was planned, but cabbage can make a good biga, otherwise known as a yeast starter. Serendipitous.

We keep our kitchens so sanitary, and have all sorts of modern equipment to make baking fast and fun. We fuss over the dough trying to make it perfect. But yeast has a mind of its own and will do whatever it pleases.

In my first summer of staying with the Pueblo, I became part of the morning baking for the village. There were six of us working together to make about twenty-four loaves.

After the dough was mixed and while it was rising, a number of pieces of wood went into the beehive oven, and when the heat felt right and charred a small piece of paper, the dough went in. No timer, no thermometer, no bread pans, nothing fancy. When someone figured it was right, the first loaf came out and was thumped to see how it sounded, and it was pronounced done. Their people had been making bread the same way for centuries.

***************************************************************************************************************************************

My friend whose dough took a vacation in the wastebin, reminded me of that day recently. I don’t know if any of them still make bread, but I do. Every week. Drop over sometime and have a warm slice with butter and jam.

SHARE THE WEALTH


068Mama Mia” bronze sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

It is St. Patrick’s Day, and we are invited to share a corned beef dinner with friends later in the day. When I woke up my plan was to make ginger cookies to take to my friend. It seems they are her favorite as well as the favorite of Dr. Advice and several others.

The recipe is one I developed a number of years ago, and I have been quite selfish in keeping it all to myself as a “signature” treat. Bad idea. After searching through the place it should be, and then all the places it shouldn’t be, it appears that it has taken leave of my home. Another sad aspect is that I was going to share it with you, and now I can’t. Always share your recipes with at least one person you can trust.

************************************************************************************************************************************

Of course I’m sure you are all aware that Patrick was not an Irishman, and he probably didn’t get rid of any snakes there either. About ten years ago I fell heir to a leopard coat (fake). It is really quite chic, and a friend of my daughter gave it to her when she tired of it. My daughter felt it attracted more attention than she was comfortable with, so she gave it to me, knowing my view that attracting attention is not a necessarily a bad thing!

Anyway, on a cold St. Patrick Day evening soon after the coat came to occupy my closet, I wore it to a “Potato Party” in Patrick’s honor. When questioned t became an Irish leopard coat. It followed that St. Patrick could not have driven the snakes out of the country, because the Irish leopard had done that before he landed. At least it gave me a good conversational opening to meet new people and something to wear to subsequent St. Patrick’s parties.

In lieu of the cookie recipe, here is my recipe for DILLY CASSEROLE BREAD:

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup cream style cottage cheese heated to lukewarm
1 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbs. instant minced onion
1 egg
1 tsp salt
2 tsp. dillweed
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cup flour

Soften yeast in water, let stand 10 min. Combine in large bowl the cottage cheese, butter, mixture of sugar, salt and baking soda. Next, the onion dill, egg and softened yeast. Beat well and blend thoroughly. Add flour gradually, beating after each addition. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour) Stir dough down; turn into greased 1 1/2 to 2 qt. casserole. Let rise in warm place until light (30 to 40 min0 Bake at 350 for 35 to 45 min until crust is goldn brown. Brush top with soft buttered and salt. Bon Appetit!

AS TIME GOES ON


OC OK
“And we shall walk through all our days with love remembered and love renewed.”
Print by Robert Sexton

If we’re lucky we all get to do it–get old I mean. It’s not only a challenging time, but an interesting one. Our bodies are like the computer, made up of video cards, sound cards, drivers which need to be updated occasionally, and of course our browsers which keep the whole shebang going. The “fixer-uppers” give us patches to make things run more smoothly, but when we install a new device now and then, one thing or another no longer works the way it should, and we need a new one.

It’s worth noting that our cars, homes, appliances, etc. all have these same obstacles of age as well. When we analyze the situation, it is plain that the same challenges are caused by one factor: age. Things wear out, people wear out. Nothing to do about it but continue the journey.

Since it’s true that some products last longer than others, so do people. The woman who cuts my hair is from Thailand. Last October she went to visit her mother there for a month. The mother is 94 years old and rides her bicycle everywhere. She lives in a small village with no amenities to speak of. The village is some distance from the airport, and the old woman took a long bus ride to go meet her daughter’s flight. Her best friend who accompanied her is 116. That’s right–one hundred sixteen years old. They go to the movies together, shop and do everything most older retired people do to amuse themselves. Nothing to it.

More and more of us are living longer, though in some cases, not better. The medical profession is doing its best to keep ahead of the game, and for the most part, they are. My aunt, who was a lifelong Christian Scientist, recently passed away at the age of 99, never having seen a medical doctor except for childbirth, in her life. Good genes or good luck possibly. Others meet a variety of doctors as time goes on.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************

I went to lunch with some high school girl friends at a venerable ladies club in Oakland the other day. You’ll notice I called it a “ladies” club. There is a great difference between a “women’s” club and a “ladies” club. Women in a club usually have an agenda to discuss and it can become rather lively and/or heated on occasion. A ladies club on the other hand caters to a dying breed of women who remember and appreciate a refined and gentile dining experience. There were no younger people in the dining room which tells us something about the aging of the “ladies”. As one of our group said, she was surprised we were not required to wear skirts as once was the case. I guess that went out with the hats and gloves we used to put on automatically. Times change.

One thing that doesn’t change is the attitude needed to adjust to the changes. It’s all good if you make it good. Fight it and the internet goes down irretrievably. Old people are just like the rest of us, it just takes a bit mor work to keep us running.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************
Black and white print by Robert Sexton. Stippling, one dot at a time.

OATMEAL SCHMOATMEAL


oatmeal2
Oh I know you expect me to launch into a glowing account on the virtues of a bowl of hot oatmeal. Well, forget it. I hate oatmeal.

You can tell me how life-enhancing oatmeal is, and how warm and satisfied it keeps you until it’s time for the lunch hour hamburger fix. Acclaim its time-tested qualities, and how your grandmother dolled it up with brown sugar, raisins or bananas, and how it reminds you of being young and carefree again.

Well, I’m not convinced. I still don’t like it.

Dr. Advice loves oatmeal. He loads it up with bananas, prunes, raisins and brown sugar. I’m sure it is all the fruit which makes him think it is so good. Or maybe it is because it is one of the few things he has mastered as a culinary novice. What’s wrong with bacon and eggs?

A long time ago, before I became a charter member of Oatmeal Haters of America, I touted the appeal of Scottish oats to my friend Corrine. They come in a nice time box you can use for storing something else after you enjoy the oats, and besides they take up far less room than the large boxes of flakes. I even bought her a can as an introductory present as a dinner guest, and took it as a gift instead of the same old bottle of wine.

She returned them the next day unconvinced and told me she still hated it.

In addition to the taste and texture, the cleanup is gummy and if it happens to boil over, forget it. They were passing out free samples of the stuff at a local grocery store recently, so I bought some thinking perhaps it had improved over time.

It had not. It still tastes like wallpaper paste. I’ll take a “proper English breakfast” consisting of eggs, bacon or ham, hashed brown potatoes, and a nice hot cup of tea thank you.

THESE BOOTS NOT MADE FOR WALKING


Dressed In Her Best
“Dressed In Her Best” oil painting by KSR

On a cold rainy day some years ago, we sat with our daughter in a charming small Mexican restaurant in Malibu, Ca. Malibu is notable for Pepperdine University and the Colony, which is a collection of homes on the expensive sand of the Pacific Ocean where many luminous or formerly luminous movie stars dwell. Sorry, but those who are star-struck or who merely wish to dip a quick toe in the ocean are prohibited.
They say that one of Johnny Carson’s prospective wives walked in front of his house a number of times until she was noticed. You see what persistence can bring?

On the particular day we were dining, my eyes were attracted to a pair of boots on a man who had just entered the restaurant. I did not look further than his legs which were bare. He was wearing a short raincoat over a pair of shorts even though it was raining. They were great boots and I remember that I had seen them on someone on TV awhile back. I guess I was staring at the boots, wondering how I could find a pair, when my daughter told me to stop staring; it was Larry Hagman!

It was the end of football season, and the USC-UCLA game was on the large TV in the back of the restaurant, so Dr. Advice went over to watch it. Our daughter assumed that he was on his way to talk to Larry Hagman and was horrified. “Oh no, he’s NOT going to talk to him is he?” Let it be known that though my husband is an energetic conversationalist, he would never be so crass as to purposely engage a local movie star in anything more than a nod of the head.

However, Mr. Hagman had chosen to watch the football game at the same time, and the two men had a grand conversation, mostly about their mutual love of fishing. His wife was also an artist and had painted fish scenes all over the plastic raincoat he had purchased at L.L.Bean. When he found that I was an artist, he came and insisted that we join him and his family and discuss my furnishing my husband with the same raincoat.

I found out that his very attractive boots were UGG boots which I had not heard of 15 years ago. The men traded good fishing spots, Dr. Advice sent him ajar of our fine smoked salmon, and we returned to our daughter and our lunch. Who said you shouldn’t speak to local celebrities?