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Archive for September, 2009

no nostalgia today, toots.

I’m going to stray from the theme a little bit here today.

Today was…well, I guess I’ll just tell the story.  I work with a person that, to choose a biblical theme, is a thorn in my side.  Or this person is just God’s test in my life to teach me how to love when I feel totally incapable of loving.  Patience when I have none.  Wisdom when I want to have the last word.  

Today I failed.  I have no patience, no love, no compassion.  Or, very little at least.  Most times I try to be amicable, to acknowledge this person’s presence and communicate normally, but generally at least a few times a day, I snap a little, make a comment here and there.  Today this person confronted me and asked what my problem was.  I told.  I told and it got tense and then we didn’t speak to each other for awhile.  As crappy as I felt thinking I was unable to deal with this person anymore, I felt worse afterward.  I wished I hadn’t said anything.  Even if what I said is true…the fact is that I so badly want to force this person to change.  I want to say, “hey you! Have a different personality please.  Thanks!”  It’s like, the more I realize it’s my decision to be the bigger person, to shrug things off and move on with my day, the more difficult it is for me to do so.  

During my lunch break, before today’s incident, I was reading in Kathleen Norris’s “Amazing Grace” the chapter on tolerance/forbearance. She talks about the two different kinds of zeal, one which is bitter and divisive and one which is acts of love.  She quotes St. Benedicts thoughts on this: “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weakness of body or behavior.”  Um, ouch?  While I realize he was discussing the monastic life, I think it still applies.  Every day I have to work and interact with people.  People different from me.  People with different walks of life that got them to where they are that particular day.  Benedict says that “thorns of contention” spring up every day when trying to live with other people.  Norris writes, “Continually asking God to forgive us as we forgive others warns us away from the vice of self-righteousness and also lack of love.”  

So…keep in mind I had just read this before I responded with total lack love, without patience or respect to this person’s weakness of body or behavior.  I write all this because although I know there are many different paths to deal with this person and this situation as a whole…I honestly don’t know where to go from here.  If anything, what I have learned today is that it’s easy to love people who are lovable.  It’s very very difficult – seemingly impossible – to love the people who I deem unlovable.

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food nostalgia

My mother is not a gourmet cook, but she did cook a meal nearly every night.  And not too much in the way of Hamburger Helper either (well, maybe once every six months or so).  She really did cook from “scratch” and only now am I realizing that my mom really knew how to stretch a dollar.  At one time, there were 8 of us living in the house, since my grandparents were also living with us.  Even if I don’t often cook the same foods as my mom, I still definitely get nostalgic for home cooking.

I think there were definitely some aspects of growing up in the 50’s and 60’s that affected my mom’s cooking.  She was a big fan of putting fruit in the Jell-o.  I was a big fan of picking it out.  And living in Nebraska, we definitely ate a lot of beef.  We also ate a lot of casseroles.  And leftovers.  My mom was very good at figuring out how to make new food out of old food.  Or sometimes she didn’t even try.  We’d just have “leftover night” where she would put random bowls of everything we’d eaten earlier in the week, and so it was kind of like a buffet.  To this day, I still have a hard time eating leftovers.

It also makes me realize that I’m still in the process of defining what being a home cook means to me.  As much as my mom cooked when I was a kid, I was never really that interested in learning how to cook myself, and wasn’t a very good helper in the kitchen.  I remember being terrified once when she wanted me to help her brown the ground beef. All I’d ever been good for was grating cheese and shucking corn.

I think the first time I really started to appreciate different food, was when I moved to Hartsville, South Carolina.  See, there is seafood in the south.  My dad hates fish, so my mom never cooked it.  Once a year, if we were lucky, she’d buy a box of breaded shrimp or fish sticks for us kids.  It was a big deal.  So when I had dinner at my friend Jessie’s parents, her mom made shrimp linguine.  It was this delicious pasta dish with shrimp and who knows what else…I’m sure just a mix of heavy cream and parsley and shallots or something, but either way, it was truly unlike anything I’d eaten as a kid, and I loved it.  Later on in the year, Jessie and I went to her grandmother’s house for Easter, and her grandmother lives in Charleston.  Her uncle had a shrimp boat, and had gone out that morning and caught enough shrimp to feed the whole family for many different kinds of shrimp dishes for Easter dinner.  I was in total heaven, and still don’t think I’ve had better shrimp to this day.

From then on, I kept discovering new things to eat, and it helped that I was earning my own money and buying my own groceries.  I still didn’t exactly “cook” though.  I would order fun stuff when I went out to eat, but still pretty much stuck to grilled cheese and canned soup at home.  I moved back to Nebraska in 2003 and discovered Wild Oats market.  I bought a lot of sandwiches and pizza and food from their deli.  Sometimes I even tried to cook.  Well, not really.  I’d buy a rotisserie chicken and boil some pasta and pour some jarred alfredo sauce on top, and call it dinner.  Not a very healthy or tasty one, but at least I was trying.  My roommate Jill could cook, though.  She could make rice!  And pork chops!  And grill a great steak!

Soon, I met the man who I would eventually marry.  We’d make some attempts at cooking in his kitchen.  I remember a breakfast of pita bread stuffed with scrambled eggs and cilantro.  We also made a lot of boxed falafel.  The good thing is that he worked at pretty much the only vegetarian restaurant in town, and while neither of us were vegetarians, it did force us to look at food differently.  Like, vegetables don’t always have to come out of a can!  There are salads without iceberg lettuce!  And the smoothies!  Anyhow, I started doing most of my shopping at Wild Oats from then on.  I had a lot of friends ask how I could afford it, but well, I’d never had a car payment, and I was single splitting rent, so I just didn’t care.

Right before I got married, I started working at Whole Foods, and I’d say this is where the real food evolution came.  I got married a month after I started working there, and knew that I didn’t really know how to cook.  I used to brag that “I don’t cook, I assemble.”  However, being engrossed in the new food culture I found myself in, it was only a matter of time before I started getting confident enough to try my hand at cooking.  I think the first thing I was proud of was cooking a chicken in the crock-pot with potatoes and carrots.  It tasted like home.  The second thing I remember feeling good about was making a barbeque chicken pizza.  I even made the dough!  Sure, it was a mix from a box, but it still involved yeast!  I made some buffalo wings once that almost set our kitchen on fire.  At least they were a hit at the Christmas party.  Oh, I should probably mention I had the smallest kitchen on earth during this time.  One of those tiny stoves, and pretty much zero counter space.  I remember rolling out some pie crust on the dining room table.

So then we moved here to NC.  I was still working at Whole Foods, and we now had a kitchen about 3 times as big as the one in Nebraska.  I started buying actual kitchen appliances and better knives.  I got a big dutch oven and a roasting pan.  A blender, a good food processor, and a Kitchenaid mixer.  A mezzaluna, a magnetic knife holder, microplane zesters and graters.  Magazine subscriptions, a growing collection of cookbooks, and some nice heavy bottomed hard anodized pans.  I even planted my own herbs.

We live in town with lots of great restaurants and farmers markets.  People here love to eat good food, and it’s definitely had an effect on me.  So while I’m not my mother and I don’t cook from scratch every day, when I do cook, I love it.  I’m much more adventurous now, and am no longer afraid to use yeast.  My favorite thing is when my husband really likes what I made.

But I have to say, my favorite things to make are the things that remind me of home.  My mom’s chicken and dumpling soup is one of the only things that I look forward to eating the leftovers.  And the caramel rolls she made on holidays, while time consuming, are still one of the best pastries I’ve ever made.  However, whenever my parents come visit, you can be sure I’m making them Jamaican Jerk Pork Burgers with Bacon, Smoked Cheddar, and Green Apple Slaw.  It will blow their minds.

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It’s time to confess.  I might possibly be the most judgmental human being alive.  Well, okay…just in certain areas.  In all things traffic related, whether that be cars, or just how people decide to walk through a mall or get through the crowd at a concert.  I really wonder if I am meant to live in a small town or in the country so that I don’t have to deal with driving very often or at least not around the massive amounts of people that I do.  I don’t live in a big town, but it has a lot of traffic since it’s fairly dense.

I could go on and on about all the things I hate about traffic.  I could tell you how much I absolutely hate when people take forever to turn when they’re the first at a green arrow.  I could tell you about how it drives me insane when people drive under the speed limit for no reason at all, and then it makes me hit a red light.  I could tell you how much I hate the two roads that involve merging from two lanes down into one lane in order to get or stay on 15-501.

But more than just vehicle traffic, what really bothers me is the way people walk in public.  I have a theory: if I were one of the two last people on earth, and the other person and I were walking toward each other on a road a mile wide, that other person would probably walk so close to me as to bump my shoulder, or at least seriously invade my space bubble.  I say this because to a lesser degree, this happens all the time.  People with PLENTY of room in a walking space just love to walk as close to me as possible as to invade my space.  Also, people really just really do not like to get out of people’s way.  I have resorted to dirty looks.  I gave a girl at Trader Joe’s a dirty look today as she nearly ran into me b/c she was too busy texting.  Then her mother saw me give her the look and said, “ok, no more texting” to her.  HA!  TAKE THAT.

However, the most upset I’ve been lately at someone who seems to reject public etiquette, was at a concert at Chapel Hill’s famous Cat’s Cradle.  There is a little platform area where people can sit.  This platform has about two stairs that go up to it.  There was a guy who was standing right in front of the stairs, and when I and others tried to get by him, did he move?  NO. NO HE DID NOT MOVE.  I gather he probably wasn’t even thinking about the fact that he was in front of the stairs, but after one person tried to get by, his line of thought should have been “hey, maybe I should move out of the way since I’m in front of the stairs and clearly people are trying to get by me.”  But no, he just stood there another hour or so and made it nearly impossible for me to enjoy the show b/c I was sending dirty looks into the back of his head.  I mean…in front of the stairs?  Who stands in front of stairs?  I don’t care if it was just two stairs or a whole flight, it’s the same thing as standing in front of a door-way or in the middle of a narrow walk-way, or walking too close to someone when there is plenty of room to keep your distance.  It’s just freaking rude.

I am completely and totally obsessed with rudeness, and I know this comes from 16 years of working in retail.  So, this relates to nostalgia how?  Well, today I was thinking about how some of my older customers are some of the rudest.  And I was thinking well, they’re old and probably don’t feel like putting up with anyone’s bullshit anymore, and so they just say what they’re thinking.  On the other hand, they’re also just rude.  And then I thought, oh no!  What if I end up some rude mean old lady?

All that to say, when people are being rude, I don’t think it’s intentional.  I might feel like it is in the moment, but really I know that it’s just the result of people not thinking.  People (including myself) are pretty much only thinking of themselves and their goals and the quickest route to wherever they are going, or they are being overly cautious (slow left-turn takers on green arrows), or they really just have no space bubble and assume nobody else does either.  Who knows why people do what they do.  It’s probably why Jesus asked that God forgive people b/c they don’t know what they’re doing.  He really did have some keen insight on humanity.

I’m sure I come off as rude to people already.  I’m not really very cheery and friendly toward cashiers or people in the service industry even though I am in that same industry.  I’m nice enough to my customers but I don’t chat people up in the grocery line and I don’t like getting to know the personal lives of the cashiers.  I just want to get my stuff and go home.  But I realize that I should probably take a little bit more time to recognize the humanity of the person I am interacting with so that they don’t think I’m just some rude lady who they’ll go blog about later.

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