Friday, April 27, 2007

California Breakfast [CCR]

After spending a very busy week in California I looked forward to the trip back to Ohio, especially since spring has finally arrived in Ohio. But the airline schedules didn’t exactly work for a perfect flight schedule. I couldn’t leave Orange County until noon. This slight delay meant I could work from my hotel room after partaking of a leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Up until the final day my host had provided meals and I would be making my first breakfast visit to the hotel restaurant.

Most people would agree food is an important part of Southern culture if not all humanity. I have pointed out many times that we Southerners understand the importance of breakfast in preparation for a busy day. So with that thought I found the restaurant and hoped something would be attractive on the menu. I opt for the oatmeal on most of my trips as it is often filling and healthy. But once I saw the menu something caught my attention. They offered oatmeal, but they also had a “South Coast” special. That special included two eggs, an offering of meat, potatoes, and toast.

The bowl of oatmeal was $6.00, more than I could imagine. The “South Coast” special was $15.00, beyond reason. A glass of orange juice to quench the thirst was $5.00, no refills included. Even though I was on an expense account my nature meant I had to be reasonable. So first I scratched off the orange juice and ordered water. But, if I am going to pay more than expected I might as well splurge a little. I decided to sin and order the “South Coast” special. I slowly sipped on my ice water while I read the newspaper anticipating my copious breakfast.

Soon the waiter arrived with a silver cover over my plate, furthering my anticipation. Anticipation soon turned to interesting disclosure when he removed the cover. It seems I ordered a portion of scrambled eggs that looked a lot less than what I remember for two eggs. Maybe the portion looked less because it was slightly undercooked or maybe it was some kind of powdered egg. I’m not sure. Beside the egg lay two strips of slightly undercooked and very soggy bacon. Maybe these folks haven’t heard of using paper towels to soak up the grease. The egg and bacon were joined by half a small potato cut into quarter sections and “lightly” broiled. Two slices of dry wheat toast with no additional toppings and a single thin slice of orange topped off the meal. Is it too late to choose the oatmeal?

It seems I forfeited my healthy choice only to learn that somebody needs to show these fancy talking folks how to cook. Yes, I ate the meal. But if you are going to sacrifice the health benefits you expect a little flavor. I simply settled my mind that I would choose my next meal with a little more wisdom than greed.

Finishing my meal on time for the flight was not a problem. I took my bags and dropped by the desk to correct the mistake on my bill, a $3.00 error. At $200.00 per night and high dollar meals I think I deserve my $3.00. It makes one yearn for the days I spent with Dad on hunting trips when Dad cooked our eggs and bacon over the camp stove while we enjoyed the predawn air anticipating the hunt.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Rocky Mountain Cold [CCR]

Here I sit in California again trying to figure out how I am going to adjust my time schedule for the week and then torture myself again Friday. My day started at 4:00 AM Eastern Time and won’t end before 10:00 PM Pacific Time. It would not be so bad except the trip out here seems to take forever. The only break is a look at the snow peaked Rockies and a short stop in Salt Lake City. It is a wonder to see from a distance.

We didn’t see any snow capped mountains growing up in Alabama. Granted we saw snow, but that snow was shared among all of us in the hills of Colbert County and down near the river valley. Comfort lay in the fact that the snow was only temporary and life would return to normal in a day or two. The ice was our dreaded enemy.

That evil mixture of air and water that lays between the frozen solidity of snow and the wet splash of rain would leave a crust of ice. We saw it fall as either sleet or freezing rain. Either way we heard the sound of limbs cracking under the weight of ice. Only luck would determine if we kept our electricity. And then an equal amount of luck determined the extent of damage and how long before power was restored to the countryside.

We culled samples of both the dry wood to heat the fire and green wood to make the fire last. Between the two samples we kept the wood heater burning and the house warm. I ventured out to either replenish the wood box or empty the ashes from the stove tray.

People often snuggled beneath the roasting warmth of their electric blankets. Not in my case. I hate to say it, but I made the prohibition of such blankets a part of my life. As a child we had electric blankets until one night lightning found its way to my blanket and gave me a buzz I won’t forget. For me those cold nights meant snuggling into a pile of quilts and curling into a warm ball. By now, even if a blanket were double sure safe, the nostalgia of the quilts prevent my return to artificial heat.

With quilts keeping my bed warm I would cover my head and hear the fan on the wood heater blowing comfort throughout the house while the electricity lasted. I always dreaded venturing out the next morning to feel the cool air. Once out of bed you hurried to get dressed. If the electricity had died through the night you hurried to the bath hoping to get a last drop of hot water. If the hot water was gone, maybe you could warm some on the stove once the fire was roaring again.

Today I travel through Ohio and see older homes with fireplaces. I know how cold winter gets in Ohio and I wonder how these folks made it through their winters. Just the thought of how cold it would be without our modern creature comforts makes me long for home. Now you know why my return flight over the Rockies may be just as beautiful from a distance, but I have no desire to get a closer look. I’ll take my week here in Orange County and enjoy the warmth and hope that Ohio has actually found spring before my return.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pet Food [CCR]

This year we had a new puppy join the Daily household. Sammie is a spry Miniature Schnauzer that keeps all of us on our toes. Somehow I don’t think Sammie will make a good coon dog, but he does keep his eye on the squirrels. Having been born in the late fall in Northern Ohio, Sammie hasn’t seen much green grass. It was a hoot watching him jump and skip on the icy snow as his paws froze. At times the snow was deeper than his height which made things difficult for the little dog.

The recent pet food scare that has hit the nation even had us looking twice at what Sammie has been eating. Everything you read points to the scare spreading and makes you realize that you really should pay attention to labels. For me it brings back a different time that actually was a little safer for the pets.

My pets probably ate better than most pets eat today. We grew most of the food our family ate in our garden. Our freezer helped carry us through the winter and what we purchased usually supplemented something from the freezer. With any meal there was a few scraps left. Either my sister or I would carry the pans of scraps out to the dog. As a treat Dad would sometimes pour bacon grease on the scraps. I don’t ever remember the dogs or cats having problems with that food. Well, there were a few dog fights at my Granddaddy Daily’s house between Butch and Guard since they shared a pan.

Food for the cows and the ponies was a different story. Dad kept corn we gathered from leftovers in the fields. We had a corn crib in our little log barn. The cats supplemented their food supply on the mice that might want to venture to the corn crib. Of course that was the primary job for the cats. We kept hay in the barn too. We milked the cows and in the summer that meant fresh ice cream. But when Dad went to milk the cows the kittens would gather around begging for a taste. It is amazing how a cat can catch a squirt of milk in mid air.

Unfortunately our little pastures did not really have a natural supply of water. It was necessary to keep the water pails full for the cows, horses and goats. Dad had a trick for winter when it got cold enough to skim the water with ice. He kept an iron rod in the bucket and we only had to go out and jiggle the rod to free up the water. But each day we also had to carry fresh water out to the field. I always said I would run a water line out to the upper pasture one day, but we never did.

Today people are fretting over the health of their pets, and rightfully so. Some of our pets provide essential services while others are merely vital companions. Either way, we do get attached. I recently heard that web sites and bookstores are selling out of pet cookbooks. What is a pet cookbook? I can save you a lot of money if you just remember the pet doesn’t mind sharing what you have left from dinner. It won’t hurt them.

So I dropped by our kitchen and there is a big pan of a concoction with rice, chicken broth, chicken meat, peas, carrots, and a few other things. It looked good, until I found out it was specifically fixed for Sammie. I’m not sure about this situation. Maybe Sammie and I sure have one of those matches like Butch and Guard at my Granddaddy’s house. Actually, I think I’ll wait. Cindy has a chicken roasting in the oven.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sentimental Journey [CCR]

Yesterday was a sentimental day for me. I attempted to repair the window my little blue car. That car may not mean much to anyone else and it is certainly old, but it has carried me around for fifteen years now. I have other vehicles, but something makes me hang onto this car. I guess personal significance or maybe a bond. It isn’t fancy. I installed the radio and it doesn’t have any luxuries. Just the same, I’ll keep it around a little longer.

It is amazing how we develop bonds to our inanimate objects. Most people are bonded to their house. I have moved so many times that my television starts shivering when I come home and look at it funny, so houses aren’t a big problem. But it is human nature, beginning with our security blankets, to bond with people, pets, and some rather interesting objects. I think they call it sentimental value.

Maybe we can now understand why I enjoy going home to Alabama so much. I bonded with that little area of land along Moody Lane just above Malone Creek. That plot of land shared many of my good times and a few of the bad as well. It was home to great imaginary battles that included my assistant, Pupstar. Pupstar was my first dog. We enjoyed many escapades together.

As a child two cedar tries grew between our house and Granddaddy’s house. They too bonded with me. The trees were the halfway marker. The walk is short today, but it is long for a small child and landmarks were important. If I ever get the chance I am going to replace those two trees which got removed by a farmer renting the land from my uncle.

Some of those many bonds we celebrate as the years go by. As a teenager we couldn’t wait to graduate high school and discover the world. Now we wonder back on certain anniversaries to celebrate homecoming. For many it is a comfort zone, a place where we may have struggled through tests and homework but we also found friends for life.

Mom called the other day and said they tore down the old elementary school. I guess it was past time for the building. It had served its purpose for thousands of kids. But I don’t know if I want to ride by there and see the barren land. I still remember the swings on the playground where we found joy in our recess. The front lawn played host to many pretend war battles where I once dreamed of becoming a medic.

Many of our old school buildings haven given way to the future, but it doesn’t mean we need to forget. If you drive slowly past the old Barton school site you can still hear the children playing on the old playground. You can even hear the teacher’s whistle calling them back to the classroom.

No, I’m not suggesting we should not move along into the future. But we should not forget the past. The past made us who we are today, the good and the bad. We should honor what went before and hopefully learn something that will brighten our future.

I wasn’t able to fix the mechanism to roll down the window on my blue car. Some plastic gear seems to be worn. But the car runs well and it carries me to work every day. I just can’t seem to bear the thought of its retirement. For now it will continue to serve me well. Unfortunately, one day it too will become an honored memory of children falling to sleep at the hum of the engine or the daily trek to work faithfully trudging through the snow. Sentiment is a strong trait and I think one that actually makes us human. You can keep the past if you only look forward to tomorrow.