ADVENTURES IN COOKING

ADVENTURES IN COOKING – Amaze Your Friends!

So, this happened during the Coronavirus shutdown: I am finally learning to cook.

One of the few things my Mom failed at was teaching her eldest son how to cook. Oh, there were some modest accomplishments: I learned to fry bacon and scramble eggs, grill burgers and hotdogs, mash potatoes, even bake a cake – all the basic food groups. I mean, after all, what more do you really need? I also learned to make a mean “Honeymoon Salad” (lettuce alone). Simple and uncomplicated is good.

True, we have done our fair share of ordering take-out during the shut-down, wanting to support local restaurants which stayed open and keep their employees on payroll. Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is just as tasty when eaten at home.

But along the way, we got a “teaser” offer from Sunbasket, a California firm which markets fresh-food ingredients, home-delivered each week. The first basket of 3 meal ingredients was half-off, with a free meal thrown in. So we selected a diabetic-friendly diet, and soon Sunbaskets started showing up on the porch, reliably delivered to the front door every week. We have discovered that while Instacart and the delivery services of Amazon and Walmart are impressive during “normal” times, they don’t always work well during a pandemic – even when items are in stock.

SOME THINGS I HAVE LEARNED

Cooking is waayy more time- and labor-intensive than I imagined.

Bette is an excellent cook. So was her mother. So was mine. (I knew that already).

Lentil sloppy joes are edible, when properly seasoned – but vastly improved with some beef!

There is a lovely, subtle yet profound intimacy in cooking together with a trusted partner who knows you well.

Still, you want to be pleasant and friendly when your cooking partner has a hand on a sharp utensil, blunt instrument, or pan of hot oil.

Spinach (and other rejected-in-childhood vegetables) CAN be prepared in ways that are downright tasty. But zucchini “noodles,” while nourishing, are still no substitute for pasta.

I have renewed appreciation for the bounty of God’s good earth, which He filled with food.

Props, kudos, and many thanks to the farmers who plant, grow, and harvest our foodstuffs. Many of us would starve if left to our own devices.

Blessings upon the memory of those who “discovered fire,” and the utility of heat which transforms many substances into more palatable forms.

And to those who invented refrigeration, and flash-freezing. (We are also supplementing with Schwan’s home delivery, which we had never used before – not bad for frozen).

I am impressed, and grateful for, the many devices (both manual and electric) which carve, slice & dice, mix, and otherwise manipulate and re-arrange ingredients.

Renewed respect to those professional chefs who not only make it look “easy,” but come up with unusual but delicious food combinations.

And, finally: many, many thanks to the good sisters who have cooked numerous meals for me and others during the various meetings and lectureships I’ve spoken on through the decades. For those who may not have had the experience, these are very nice, even elegant, guest-of-honor meals, with much forethought and advance preparation required. Even though I have tried to make it a point to be complimentary and express sincere thanks, I was likely not nearly as effusive over their efforts as I should have been. Despite my best intentions in expressing gratitude, I’m sure now that I did not comprehend the time, energy, and expertise required. So, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU! Compliments to the chef!

Now, what’s for supper?

Random Reflections from a Coronavirus Funeral Journey

Random Reflections from a Coronavirus Funeral Journey

As many readers are aware, my mother, Jean Wolfgang, passed away on March 31, and was buried on April 7, in Indianapolis. This necessitated two Chicago-to-Indy trips for Bette and myself, and allowed for some reflection on many things. I’ll share a few impressions here.

Deserted streets. I-65 had far fewer cars than ever before (and plenty of electronic signage reminding us to stay home except for “necessary” trips). But it was well-populated with trucks, bringing us all the stuff we have ordered on Amazon or InstaCart. But the far northeast side of Indianapolis (I-465 & I-69, 86th & 82nd Streets, etc.) is normally a hive of activity and traffic jams, now almost completely deserted.

It is strangely disorienting to stay in a Hampton Inn which has only three other rooms occupied (and one staff person). When we checked in late at night on the first trip, we increased the hotel population by 50%. The second night was crowded: triple the occupants — 10 rooms occupied. Four of them were truckers (at least, there were four big rigs in the parking lot, refrigeration equipment humming).

But no breakfast area, not even coffee (by order of the Department of Health – understandably). The generous Christian who donated points to cover our stay during the funeral commented, “Coronavirus has turned Hampton into a Motel 6!” My response: Nope. Hampton, even on 4 cylinders, is much better!

Thus, I made numerous trips foraging for food, discovering that the only food establishments consistently open, from Chicago to Indianapolis, were McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and an occasional Steak&Shake.

We did find that the Longhorn my parents liked, on Washington Street, was open for carry-out. In normal times, we often eat at a Chicago-area Longhorn for Sunday dinner. So I was able to get our usual Sunday meal, on Tuesday: Bette’s favorite salad with pecans, strawberries, orange slices, and grapes, festooned with steak strips from the Flo’s filet we usually get – tender enough to cut with a plastic knife!

We knew already, but re-learned, that Chick-fil-A servers are waayy friendlier than McDonald’s. They have created a culture of pleasantness. Our oldest grand-daughter, Ada, served at the second-largest CFA in Atlanta before the crisis, enjoyed it, and wants to return. They look for conscientious, friendly young people, and teach them the trade. But we do still like McDonald’s coffee much better!

Each time we stopped at a Chick-fil-A, there were numerous happy, pleasant young people, seriously concentrated on fulfilling their assigned tasks, but often laughing and having a good time working with each other and their customers in very unusual circumstances. The lines were long, stretching around the building and into adjacent parking areas, but very well-signed and organized and moving expeditiously, bustling with order takers and food deliverers. “My pleasure” – even through a mask.

On the central purpose for our trip: It is beyond weird to try to organize a funeral during the “present distress.” Severely reduced audiences (more than 100 for Dad’s service only 5 years ago; 7 for Mom’s service – barely enough for pallbearers). Physical distancing. Virtual fist bumps can never replace a good hug. A video of a short graveside service may provide some measure of closure for some, but it leaves others simply wanting “more.”

And, yes, the funeral homes are busy, and using “extra refrigeration,” as one funeral director put it. (Read: refrigerated semi-tractor-trailers to store the bodies).

But in one way it provided a sense of relief. Not just that Mom’s suffering (and frustration at being unable to speak much since her February strokes) is over. But relief, in a sense, for us as well who have been separated from her by this virus — unable to visit, or even talk much since her hand strength was not sufficient to dial or even answer her phone.

Though she was thankfully not afflicted with the virus, in another sense she was essentially taken prisoner by it due to the restrictions it caused. We were basically incommunicado for the last few weeks of her life, dependent upon helpful staff and Hospice nurses to dial her phone for her so we could speak, or occasionally see each other via Skype – and praying that she understood why we could not visit. Blessings upon all who cared for her during this time!

The last thing we saw, leaving the assisted living center after collecting her few earthly possessions, was a young couple, sitting in lawn chairs close to a window of a room in the nursing-home wing, separated but only inches apart from a loved one on the other side of the pane. For many, the struggle continues. May God have mercy!

And, finally and overwhelmingly, tremendous gratitude for the gift of a mother’s love, tendered by a Godly, diligent, intelligent, witty, and spiritual woman, and matched by her love for my father. May she rest in peace, and rise in glory!

P.S. Yes, a Memorial/Celebration of Life service is planned, TBA, at a future date when travel and other restrictions are lifted.

Father’s Day Biscuits

Father’s Day Biscuits

My Morning Coffee

First things first, I am going to be at Maywood Christian Camp next week. So you will have to go without a fresh cup of coffee. But just a slight foreshadowing, we are only a few blogs away from number 100!!! So be sure not to miss out on that one.

There is a story about a family who enjoyed having breakfast for dinner every once in a while (I can relate). This particular evening after a long hard day at work, a mother brought plates to the table and her kids noticed that the plate she gave their dad had extremely burnt biscuits. The kids watched as their dad did not make a face or a comment, he just ate and when his wife apologized for the burnt he replied, “Honey, I loved burnt biscuits every now and then”. At bedtime, his kids asked him if he really liked…

View original post 281 more words

Two Are Better Than One

Two Are Better Than One

Lindsay makes her Dad smile, and warms his heart!

twisted running

Last weekend I ate my words and finished a race I had said repeatedly I would never run (and I still haven’t run it-ha!). Though our family in Corning, NY had asked us to combine a visit and a race, we had told them no several times. First, I hate the name. I could spend hours telling you about how much I hate alcohol for all it has done to people I love(d), but I won’t. So running the Wineglass Half, even though there was no real connection between the name and the race, wasn’t high on my list– even though I had heard such amazing things about the course (fast and net downhill), the setting (hi Upstate New York in peak leaf season) and the medal (pretty pretty Corning glass). Secondly, as a Sunday race it was off the boards for us because we have been pretty staunch…

View original post 1,584 more words

June 6th

Interesting day: Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of marriage to my best friend. (Steve: “How did this happen?!” — Bette: “One day at a time”). However, Bette was not feeling well, so we postponed the “celebration” to June 6th (quiet dinner in a corner booth at one of our favorite restaurants). This series of days in early June is bittersweet in many ways — my father’s only trip to Europe was via Omaha Beach, and D-Day has always been a solemn date to me (and many others, of course). My parents’ wedding occurred on June 8, the year following the end of WW2. Had he lived another 15 months, this would have been their 70th anniversary. Verily, nothing in this fallen world is truly “permanent.” I am content to be “in the moment.”

James H. Wolfgang (August 13, 1922 — March 20, 2015)

Today, I’m thinking of my father on what would have been his 93rd birthday. It is the first of his birthday anniversaries since he passed earlier this year — and the first time we can’t celebrate with him. The Blessed Hope of the resurrection in Christ tempers our loss, as we anticipate the more sublime celebration after awhile. In the meantime, I am posting some comments by my brother John, which he read at Dad’s funeral on March 28, 2015. Well said, John!

MORE IS CAUGHT THAN TAUGHT

My Dad taught us many things. He taught me how to ride a bike and how to drive a car. When I was in Cub Scouts, he tried to teach me how to climb a tree, but that didn’t work. When I was in 7th grade, he tried to teach me the rules of football, but that didn’t stick. But there were many things we learned from him just by being around him and by observing, because “more is caught than taught”.

When I was cleaning out Mom and Dad’s house a few months ago, I came across Dad’s office– that’s not the room with the computer and file cabinet, etc. It was the dining room table. That was his “office”. That’s where he did his “book work”–church finances, home finances, correspondence, etc. And in these last few years, when it became more difficult for him to get around, he “nested”, gathering the things around him that he needed. What I found among these “office” things was 4 books. For some reason, I laid them out and took a picture of them and later came understand that each one represented something about Dad. And that’s what I want to share with you.

The first book was a recent gift to him from Steve called, “Lost Indianapolis”. There wasn’t anything about Indianapolis that was lost to Dad. He knew everything about the city, having lived here for all of his 92 years (except for his years in the service). He could tell you where anything was or where it used to be i.e., “oh that’s on Capitol Ave….” or …”that’s where the RCA plant used to be” or whatever. And he knew the state of Indiana, too. You could ask him anything about any town or county and he could get you there…”take State Road # whatever and go up through such & such town”. And if for some reason he was stumped, he would get his map and a magnifying glass and find it for you and then report back to you when he talked to you the next time.

And he was mentally sharp to the end. He knew who some distant relative was that I had never heard of, and without missing a beat could tell me her name and the relationship to the family.

And Dad was the first GOOGLE. The only difference was that it was all in his pocket. He wrote down everything that was important to him. And he could give all kinds of information from the notes in his pocket…like, when Lesley was born, or what Liam’s middle name is. And that was one of the important things I learned, ASK DAD.

The second book was a book about Song Leading. It had things in it like, “what to do with a rogue singer” etc. I found it amusing and thought he would enjoy it. Dad had a really nice voice. At the Care Center, when I would play the piano for him, he would sing along. And one of the residents commented, “Your Dad sure has a nice voice. He must have been in the choir.” If he was in the right mood, you might get him to sing the Wheaties song, or his a high “a,” believe it or not, in La Golandrina, or maybe even the Tech Fight Song. He loved to lead the songs at church and he was good at it. He learned from older men when he was young and he taught the younger men when he was older…how to use the pitch pipe and beat the time, etc. And, I think most importantly, he wanted to do it well. So he would practice at home, in front of a mirror, to get it right. And if he needed a little help with a melody, Mom would help him. He would work hard at it, just as he did at everything else–his job, the yard, the house, the church jobs–all done with HARD WORK–another thing I “caught” from my Dad–WORK HARD.

The third book was from Tech HS, called “400 Words Everyone Should Be Able To Spell”. Doing things RIGHT, mattered to Dad. How it looked. He had very neat handwriting even into his last years. Small numbers, tiny print, etc. And he kept this ready reference book handy (I believe) so he could check his spelling. And if he needed some help, he ASKED MOM. I have a picture in my mind of him sitting at the office table, and summoning Mom from the kitchen, he would seek her assistance. She would be there in her apron, dish towel and dish hand, looking over his shoulder, checking his work and giving her help or approval. What was caught, more than taught? If you need something done right… ASK MOM! (she was the first Spell Check, by the way).

Book number 4 was car book–a Ward’s mileage book, where he kept a record of every trip, every gas fill (to check mpg) and every maintenance done on the car. And it really was a record of their life. Where they went travelling, what they did and who they visited. And he had a brand new one for this year, ready to use. He loved his cars and could tell you every single one he had, beginning with 1941 Chevy Coupe (?). He was a Chevy man, then digressed for a few years to Plymouth and Dodge, and then returned to General Motors. And then I guess they had a sale on red Cadillacs, that was their favorite. It was his pride and joy to drive and to take care of. Washed, cleaned, swept out regularly with a whisk broom, and always looking brand new. And that was the lesson observed, TAKE CARE OF WHAT YOU HAVE. And that, of course, extended to us, and so it wasn’t surprising that during my last visit with him, he said, “Take care of your Mother.” Take care of what you have and those around you.

And so, thanks Dad, for the many lessons you taught us; not just these 4, but so many more. Rest now, from you labors, and know that your work was not in vain.

Footnote 32 – Bob Greene, Duty: A Father, His Son, And The Man Who Won The War. HarperCollins, 2000, 2009. Kindle Edition, pp. 13-15.

Bob Greene’s book about his father’s death reports conversations he had with Paul Tibbetts, who lived in retirement not far from the Green family home in Columbus, OH. For those who might not know, Paul Warfield Tibbets, Jr. (February 23, 1915 – November 1, 2007), was a brigadier general in the United States Air Force, best known as the pilot of the Enola Gay – named for his mother – the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb in the history of warfare. That bomb, code named “Little Boy,” was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945.

Any child of “Greatest Generation” parents, especially those of us who are losing or have lost them, can surely relate to Greene’s reflection on this Memorial Day. Today I am remembering James H. Wolfgang (August 13, 1922 – March 20, 2015), whose one and only “European trip” was via Omaha Beach in 1944, and for whom Memorial Day was always very meaningful.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

“Do people know my name?” Tibbets asked. He was repeating the question I had just asked him. A soft, private look crossed his face.

“They don’t need to know my name,” he said. The deed he had carried out was one of the most famous the world has ever known; it will be talked about in terms of fear and awe forever. He, though, even here in the town where he lived, was not as famous as the local television weatherman.

“People knowing my name isn’t important at all,” he said. “It’s more important—it was more important then, and it’s more important now—that they know the name of my airplane. And that they understand the history of what happened. “Although sometimes I think that no one really understands the history.”

And so we started to talk. Neither of us knew it that day, but it would be the first of many conversations—about the war, about the men and women who lived through it, about their lives, and the lives of their sons and daughters: the lives of those of us who came after them, who inherited the world that they saved for us.

As I sat with Tibbets that first day—thinking of my father in his bed just a few miles away—it occurred to me that Eisenhower was dead, Patton was dead, Marshall was dead, MacArthur was dead. And here was Tibbets, telling me in the first person the story of how the great and terrible war came to an end.

… gradually the stories would expand in context, would begin to explain to me certain things not just about this man, but about the generation of men and women who are leaving us now every day.

It is a wrenching thing, to watch them go. As the men and women of the World War II generation die, it is for their children the most intensely personal experience imaginable—and at the same time a sweeping and historic one, being witnessed by tens of millions of sons and daughters, sons and daughters who feel helpless to stop the inevitable.

For me, as my father, day by day, slipped away, the over-whelming feeling was that a safety net was being removed—a safety net that had been there since the day I was born, a safety net I was often blithely unaware of. That’s what the best safety nets do—they allow you to forget they’re there. No generation has ever given its children a sturdier and more reliable safety net than the one our parents’ generation gave to us.

The common experience that wove the net was their war. And as I began to listen to Tibbets—to hear his stories, later to question him about the America that preceded and followed the war from which his stories came—I realized anew that so many of us only now, only at the very end, are beginning to truly know our fathers and mothers. It was as if constructing that safety net for their children was their full-time job, and that finally, as they leave us, we are beginning to understand the forces that made them the way they were.

Tibbets began to speak, and as I listened I thought I could hear a rustle of something behind the words—I thought I could hear the whisper of a generation saying goodbye to its children.