O my God, thank You that I can help my daughter with my grandsons. Thank You she teaches eager immigrants English. But at 5 a.m.?! OMG, to think that when she was a groggy teen, I had to feed her breakfast in the minivan!
Soon after our wedding, Hubby and I discovered crucial differences. A key divisive subject: broccoli.
I had grown up eating broccoli, pretending to munch trees like a powerful giant. I liked the taste. Broccoli was good for me and filling — important in a household with four siblings. What wasn’t to like about broccoli?
In Hubby’s family, no one competed for food or imagined eating trees. His father and brother also loathed broccoli. Drowning it in cheese sauce, his mother insisted they eat it occasionally.
However, my new husband formulated his own broccoli policy, namely, nada.
I adopted his mother’s.
The debate continued for decades.
If my mother-in-law had cooked the President’s meals, he would have tried three bites or been sent to his room.
Like Steve, President Bush probably believed his DNA rejected broccoli. My husband even insisted God never created broccoli for human consumption.
I’d never encountered Scriptures regarding broccoli, with or without cheese sauce. However, several commanded him to give thanks for what was set before him.
Hubby replied with Scriptures that discouraged quarrels.
One day as I typed, deep in Novel Land, Hubby leaped from the hallway, hands thrown open like a spotlight performer. “Ta-da!”
He announced, “I’ve found scientific evidence that taste depends on a person’s DNA—”
“You interrupted my best writing time to diss broccoli?”
“Look.” He offered his laptop.
“I don’t have to look. That writer’s scientific expertise probably consists of blowing up science fair projects with his kid.”
Finally, I read the article. It stated a person’s DNA profoundly affects taste. The author, a bona fide scientist, didn’t sell snake oil or exploding science projects on the side.
Daily I become more aware of Steve’s forbearance and generosity … because he reminds me.
Still, the more I pondered his broccoli triumph, the more I questioned: Should our DNA enslave us?
I take bitter-tasting medicines because they’re good for me. Hubby wants his patients to do the same.
Yet he can refuse broccoli, despite its nutritional value, because it doesn’t taste good?
The great broccoli debate rages on ….
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What food inspires debate at your house?
When spring showed up for real, our mother would no longer imprison my four-year-old brother and me in snowsuits. She’d stop slathering us with Vicks® VapoRub ®. She’d let us go outside.
We didn’t dislike the tiny yellow trailer we called home. The kitchenette smelled like bubbling bean soup and love. Our play area: the closet-sized living room. We slept on the sofa, Ned at one end, and I at the other. Long before ESPN’s kickboxing competitions, we conducted world-class foot fights at bedtime — until the Head Referee called emphatic fouls on us both.
Finally, a hundred robins outside sounded an all-clear. Before sending us outdoors, Mom drilled us: Thou shalt not play around the railroad tracks. Thou shalt look both ways before crossing the drive to the playground. Thou shalt never speak to strangers. But the First Commandment eclipsed them all: Thou shalt not shed thy jacket.
Fully catechized, Ned and I darted to freedom. We stopped and looked both ways before splashing across the gravel road that circled the playground, the center of the trailer court and our world.
Paradise awaited, with a clangy old merry-go-round that spun us into an ecstasy of nausea. Ned and his buddies defied God, gravity and their mothers, walking the teeter-totters instead of sitting. Kathy and I soared on swings, singing Perry Como’s hit, “Catch a Falling Star,” as we touched heaven with our toes. Sometimes, we all simply galloped like a wild-pony herd around the playground.
As suppertime approached, Ned and I picked up dandelions like golden coins to take to Mommy. When Daddy’s old blue Chevy turned into the drive, we raced toward it. Daddy stopped and threw the back door open. Ned and I rode home, waving to friends as if in a parade.
Eating soup and johnnycakes, we fought sagging eyelids like an enemy. We wanted to watch Rawhide, with our favorite cowboy, Rowdy (a very young Clint Eastwood). I wanted to sit on Daddy’s shoulders, eat popcorn and comb his wavy, Elvis-black hair. But it had been such a long, wonderful … spring … day … zzzz.
What do you mean, fall asleep? Not me! It’s springtime! That lazy, good-for-nothing sun has finally shown up. I’ve got more to-do items on my list than candles on my last birthday cake: garage to clean, closets to organize. Plus, a new book to write …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What childhood spring memories warm your mind?
O my God, thank You for people who help us laugh. For Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, who grew up on a farm in our county. And, OMG, thanks especially for special people who laugh with me!
Take, for example, my living room upgrade. Unless I wanted to endure yet another year of the red print chair jousting with peeling, green, flowery wallpaper, I had to don my HGTV armor and sally forth.
New wallpaper? No, the last time Hubby and I attempted that option, we required a Middle East negotiator. Paint presented a simpler alternative.
Before the Information Age, I limited color research to two minutes in the hardware store, three kids dangling from me as I grabbed fistfuls of paint chips. Then came scrutinizing them against walls for three-second intervals between sibling wars, hamster chases and Sunday shoes flushed down the toilet.
Not a perfect decision-making process, but an oddly efficient one.
Besides, Hubby delayed progress. Perhaps it is the physician in him who prefers boring, neutral walls, like a hospital’s. Eventually, though, he uttered my favorite words: “Fine. Do what you want.”
Renewing my Internet color search, I discovered Dog’s Ear Pink. Perhaps this presented a bedroom hue with which a pink-loving woman could placate her macho husband? I objected to the delicate pink called Baby’s Bottom. Fresh from caring for my newborn grandson, I knew the person who conceived that name had never changed a diaper in his life. …
But why was I looking at pink? Abandoning the Internet’s “efficiency,” I returned to the hardware store. I would hold real paint chips in my hand, chips I would force my husband at gunpoint to hold up to the wall until I made my decision.
But paint namers struck again. Our living room’s ambience had to feel stylish, yet cozy, the backdrop for family to gather around the piano and the Christmas tree. I didn’t think a shade called Totally Scientific would accomplish that. I liked Blue Dust, but already found sufficient dust in my living room, thank you very much. Water Fountain was the nice pale blue I desired, but the name resurrected grade school images of yellow-stained porcelain and anonymous bubble gum with tooth marks.
Somewhere, a paint namer exists with a simple, yet profound gift for calling the colors as he — and I — see them. Maybe even Light Blue.
But then, I would have to quit procrastinating … and paint.
O my God, didn’t we used to diaper, swing, and kiss these little nerdlings’ boo-boos? Now, one grandchild is a texting teen, one’s voice alternately booms and squeaks, and the youngest beat Grandpa at Scrabble! Thank You for this new grandparent adventure. But OMG, we’ll have to grow up to handle it!
Birthday cakes boast a long, illustrious history. According to the Huffington Post, Greeks and Romans commemorated births of gods and men with candle-lit cakes. As wine flowed freely at birthday feasts, the honoree occasionally set his robe/toga on fire.
Birthday cake traditions still are regarded as sacred. Abstainers offend the family/office/church Cake Queen. (Watch your back, or she may stuff you into her oven.)
So, for survival reasons, I eat birthday cake. Thankfully, lighted candles suck out all calories.
On my upcoming birthday, however, I will indulge in raspberry pie. À la mode? Of course, à la mode. Do you think I’m an idiot?
Don’t answer that. You, either, Hubby.
Obviously, this crucial subject demands discussion. Though my sweet tooth welcomes sugar, regardless of origin or creed, I have always liked pie best, especially my mother’s — fruit-plump, with ambrosial juices bubbling through golden, flaky crusts.
As a child, I even loved reading about pie. Almanzo Wilder, in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, reverently scanned hundreds at a county fair: “When he began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else.”
Mom would have made me birthday pies, if I’d dared request them. But tradition ruled. I blew candles out on cakes.
Pie Heaven does exist on this earth. My brother not only married a woman who bakes the world’s best peanut butter pie, he practices optometry where Amish patients gift him with luscious offerings. Amazingly, he once shared his birthday shoofly pie with me … which made me suspicious. Had he stuck bananas up my Ford’s tailpipe? Informed the IRS I never had the three children I claimed? Volunteered me for a ten-year mission in the Sahara? I still wonder. …
Some opponents caution that deviating from the cake custom opens the door to chaos. Only at one’s wedding does one deal with cake-in-the-face. But birthday pie increases pie-in-the-face risks exponentially.
And their point is?
When globs of luscious pie are within licking distance, who cares about my hair? Some people should get their priorities straight.
Did you hear that, Almanzo? I know you’d bravely take a pie in the face. And choose birthday pie, too.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which would you choose? Birthday pie or cake? Which kind?
Does anything spell h-o-m-e like a kettle of simmering soup?
I grew up in southern Indiana, where winter (aka slop season), gleefully dumped rain, sleet, snow, or all of the above on us. After school, my siblings and I slogged through frozen fogs and bogs. After petting all the wet dogs we could find, we arrived home looking like mud-sicles. The bubbling, meaty fragrance of Mom’s soups thawed us out and cured a host of maladies: lost-library-book anxiety, gym class climb-the-rope deficits, spelling-contest memory loss and flat-chest syndrome. That delectable vapor also scared away any viruses that had followed us home.
Dad, after long days at his construction job, noticed a similar curative effect. His sore muscles unknotted. The what’s-this-economy-coming-to hammer on his temples slowed.
Mom’s soups, consisting of between-paycheck rations, wouldn’t appear on The Food Channel. Teeth-defying beef bits were simmered into submission with potatoes and frozen vegetables from our garden. She boiled ten-cent-a-pound chicken wings, then cooked “slop-and-drop” rivels in the broth. My Southern-born dad looked forward to ham-bone bean soup. Saturdays brought chili, a suppertime ritual sacred as the weekly bath night.
When no meat remained in the freezer, Mom cooked creamy potato soup. Occasionally our family saw several days of bean or potato soup in a row, a silent marquee that proclaimed, “Don’t ask for money.” Still, those soups warmed us up, filled us up and helped us grow up.
Perhaps, by law, every northerner should consume one steaming bowl of soup daily from November through March.
Groucho Marx wouldn’t agree. In the classic 1933 Marx Brothers movie, Duck Soup, he elaborated, “Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you’ll duck soup the rest of your life.”
Duck soup? He obviously hadn’t tasted my mom’s soups. Perhaps Groucho had been sampling Chinese bird’s nest soup. This concoction with an unappetizing name — and a literal bird nest— currently costs $30-100 per bowl. Or maybe he ate lunch with a Japanese mountain tribal group who served their soup of bananas, beans, and dirt (twigs included). Perhaps Groucho hadn’t recovered from a trip to the island of Palau, where bat soup — boiled whole and hairy with ginger, spices, and coconut milk — is considered a delicacy.
I’ll stick with less exotic fare. Tonight, beef vegetable barley soup, using Sunday dinner’s leftover pot roast, plus crusty bread, will take the Groucho out of Hubby and me. And leave us only one pan to wash.
Simple. Cheap. And, as an old canned soup commercial declared, “Mm-mm, good!”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What favorite soup warms your winter days?