Sunday, December 19, 2010

.... just listen and keep an open mind, please

Everyone of us have truly extraordinary moments tucked way back in our deepest and safest recesses. You know, those so personally special they are rarely, if ever, shared out loud. Yesterday a reminder came strolling through this house with a familiar smile and a hug. You see, my volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America began in 1980. The years were filled with some of the most remarkable people and experiences; but in the Fall of 1990, stunned comes to mind.

This all began that Spring with a phone call .... "just listen to me and please keep an open mind". "Wait you want me to go to National Camp School for Shooting Sports Director, are you crazy? I'm 50 years old AND female. Our camp staff happens to be the age of my children. How are they going to react to this??? Oh, and if I do this, do not expect me to live in that staff area. The final decision will be my family ... o.k.?" Just to set the record straight, the skills required for this job were learned the first year of my 1965 marriage and honed over the subsequent years. So on that level, proficiency wasn't in question. Is this nutz?!?

And so it began. My housing was a 2 man tent located off to the edge of the Shotgun area by a large tree for shade. Finding a length of hose, the Ranger created my shower into the latrine water system. Wow, that was a real eye opener every morning - holy cow COLD!! [still causes goose bumps]. At the end of busy days, would climb into the rope swing with a good book. Sometimes staffers would come down to share tales of the day or just sit in the quiet star gazing.

Those 6 weeks everybody learned; merit badges were earned, and our little world of shotgun, rifle and archery eventually became a family. However, weather [that wild card element] on one occasion stretched our capabilities to the maximum. A sudden wind, rain, and hail storm swept through. We huddled together attempting to stay dry in the covered rifle area when lightening struck a neighboring teaching area. 30 or so faces were looking at me to "fix it or make it stop". Later,soaked and cold everyone was sent back to their campsites and then the 4 of us [me and the 3 staff] tore through the woods to help with whatever had happened. That day still is a vivid image of sodden unhappy faces expecting me to wave a wand and make life better.

The one thing I didn't expect that summer was the way the staff members accepted me, not as a mom. Most had seen me at other related events for most of their Scouting life, but just accepted me as staff. You know, some moments are rather a rite of passage as well as a farewell to Summer. We had a water tower. What was I thinking. It wasn't a dare, just an invitation to join some of the guys. Oh, yeah, my name was added to the side of the tank facing the lake ..... wow, what a view.

Fall returned with the usual hectic Scouting schedule of troop meetings, roundtables, distinct meetings etc. But that one roundtable, will not be forgotten. Seems the Order of the Arrow was tapping out candidates that night. I went to watch my sons perform this ritual in costume.
Imagine my shock when my younger son stopped at my chair and ushered me to my older son to be tapped. Funny, I had noticed some of the older staff from camp were in the audience .... they were there for me and that made it even more poignant.

Several weeks later, having completed the induction, I watched as my younger son joined the ranks of his father, brother and others by receiving the highest honor the OA has .... Vigil Honor. I haven't spoken of this very often and certainly not in a long time. But yesterday our visitor brought all those memories pouring forth. Funny, the difference those young men made in a life that summer..... mine. They are all grown, some with families; all making a way in the world. I am honored to have been allowed to share that time with them. So, yesterday, we sat and recalled and laughed and remembered .... thank you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Now, why did they call it a Pound Cake??

Today was supposed to meet cousins for lunch but the freezing rain brought that to a halt. Our conversations are funny memories of relatives we have had in common ..... primarily our grandmothers who were sisters. All the women of this clan apparently were excellent cooks which seemed to have sparked a bit of rivalry .... you know, "that was very good, but mine is better" kind of thing. Aunt Lucy and Aunt Lillie made the best peach cobbler EVER in my humble opinion. BUT my Grandmother [sister Sallie],by far, was the queen of the Pound Cake. According to my Grandfather, she made about 3 per week. You see he had it toasted for breakfast every morning, not to include snacks and desserts. Now remember, this was in the 40's and 50's before Kitchen Aide stand mixers and Viking ranges. She had one of those funny green colored gas ranges with variable temperatures.

Sitting at her breakfast room table during a Mississippi vacation, we waited for the most recent baking to finish ..... nothing like the forbidden slice, still warm from the oven and a glass of cold milk. She would fain fury at cutting a hot cake .... "it ruins the moisture causing it to dry out". Mercy, one didn't last long enough to actually dry out. All the same, that morning the question was posed "Why is it called a Pound Cake?". "That's simple, all the ingredients are a one pound measure".

Since that time have noticed many many recipes for the glorious Pound Cake and not one have the ingredients measured by a pound of this and a pound of that. Perhaps you've noticed this as well.

During a Dutch Oven Outdoor Cooking demonstration, was questioned unmercifully as to what makes it rise .... there isn't any baking powder or soda..... well, that's because there's a pound of eggs in it. And yes, this can be baked over and under coals just the same way it's baked in my oven. It is soooooooooo easy.

O.K., o.k., just remember I'm using my Kitchen Aide mixer and a fluted bundt pan [oiled and floured]. Do not preheat the oven, that's correct, it goes into a COLD oven.

The "Real Thing" Pound Cake

Blend well together until creamy:
1 pound unsalted butter
1 " sugar

Add and blend in:
juice of 1 whole lemon

Add alternating beginning and ending with the flour:
1 pound Swans Down Cake flour [twice sifted]
1 " eggs [about 9 large brown ... weighted out of the shell]

Dump into Bundt or tube pan.

Place in COLD oven and turn heat to 250 degrees for 30 minutes.
Then, increase heat to 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
Next, increase heat to 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
Next, increase heat to 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove and allow to cook on a raised rack, then place plate over cake and invert onto plate. Taa-daa and voila ...... enjoy!

Oven Note: My oven runs hot; so, have discovered the cake is near done [checked with a straw] about halfway to near completion of the 325 cycle and would be very dry and scorched if it continued to cook. You need to know your oven and/or begin checking with a straw so as not to over cook. Straw should come out clean.

Creative note: As Grand Marnier is a favorite of a friend, substituted it for lemon juice. You might at least start with 2 tablespoons and adjust to your taste. Obviously, whatever flavor you wish should work.

A time or two even added cream cheese and swirled chocolate. Am positive my Grandmother was sitting on a cloud wondering if I had lost my mind to take such liberties. But my Grandfather was probably nudging her saying something as to "leave her alone Sallie, she's having fun".

Note to my grandparents: thank you for lovingly sharing your life with me .... miss you.

So, best get busy and throw one together .... it's a Christmas present for a friend! Catch you later and Feast Ya'll !!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Remembering Snowy Sunday Chili

Third week of December, Dicken's Village constructed on grand piano, Bryer Caroliers adorn the 10 foot mantel and the tree is trimmed. Every few days the aromas from the kitchen have imbued the house with seasonal joys and expectations. See, a conscious decision to give gifts of food to family and friends instead of un-necessary items. This way if whatever doesn't suit them ..... chuck it in the trash and no ones the wiser. AND, no mall visits which is a very good thing.

Yesterday winter arrived with snow flurries followed by snow showers. The wind could cut us in half ..... brrrrrr! It was a perfect day for a fresh pot of chili with rice and spicy cornbread. And I must admit, it was the best from this kitchen ever. Oh, lawrd, you probably have an award winning recipe; you don't need one more ..... afterall, who measures?? Well,let's see -

Snowy Sunday Chili

Brown together:
about 1 lb. ground round
" 1/2 lb. sage sausage

1 very large chopped onion
stirring in until translucent

Then add:
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste

Thin with:
V8 Juice .. the entire quart [I didn't have any dark beer]

Stir in:
1 handfull chocolate morsels
1 cup coffee [or a tablespoon of dried coffee]

Quanities from here out are not exact so begin with some and add for personal taste:
2-3 TBLS Smoked Paprika
4-5 " Chili Powder
3-4 " Cumin
2-3 " Oregano
1-2 " Beef Base [careful, this can be very salty]

Turn the heat to med. low and allow to simmer. 30 minutes before ready to serve
Add 2 cans of beans with juice. Any beans; I happened to have used
1 Black bean and
1 Cannolini Bean.

To serve .... heap rice in middle of bowl and spoon chili around rice. Freezes well. [hope I haven't left out anything - you're quite welcome to add or substract - that's what I do]
Feast Ya'll

So today, squirrels are racing in and out of limbs, then up and down trees. The Cardinals are emblazened against the Pine boughs. Watching all this activity makes me smile just enjoying life's simple pleasures. The blue skies are being over come by large gray clouds; the harbingers of a more severe night to come. Oh, well, guess we'll just crank up the fire, find a good movie and cuddle up with Finnegan So stay warm ..... Christmas is on the way ..... and it might be white ...