Doomsdayers claim that the world will soon cease to exist. Naysayers wish that it would, since everything has gone to hell in a hand basket.
Just ignore them.
Fortunately and not so fortunately on occasion, some things have remained constant during the past 50-60 years. But a lot has changed — much of it good.
Love, peace and hair grease
Goodbye, ice trays … So long, roller hand towels in public restrooms … Hello, nicer neighbors and more giving people.
A lot has happened since my father was shipped in 1961 from high school to a little known country called Vietnam. One thing, according to him, is the kindness and charity of our fellow man.
“People nowadays aren’t as kind as they used to be,” my friend noted to my dad during a conversation a few years ago.
“Bullshit,” Dad shot back abruptly.
“No really, Mr. Holland,” the friend said.
“Yeah really,” Dad responded, with a wide-eyed look on his face. “Adam can tell you how poor I was growing up and how we worked our fingers to the bone in the cotton fields after school and during the summer. We went to church and followed all the other rules of society, and no one ever offered us an ounce of help.”
“But y’all probably didn’t ask for help,” I intervened.
“The hell we didn’t,” he said. “And I’ll tell you something else … people looked down their noses at us back then just as much as they would now. Heck. There’s more help out there now than there ever was when I was young, so there probably aren’t as many people looking down their noses these days.”
Dad went on to acknowledge that plenty of rude and non-caring people still inhabit the earth, but that the ‘good ol’ days’ weren’t so good for a lot of people. More importantly, he told me that the late 19th century Currier & Ives depictions of America are most apropos for the time we live in now.
Judging by the prints I’ve seen, I think Dad might have been right.
Smarter and nicer (than their parents)
Just to qualify the the sub-headline, my children aren’t smarter than me … yet. After all, I still (barely) have the edge in education and I’ve been around the block at least a few more times. But there’s definitely something positive going on with this generation.
Our 16-year-old son takes classes in high school that I avoided in college. He can install a ceiling fan, change out a capacitor and offer a critical analysis of any book he is forced to read. But I was most amazed at what I overheard earlier this week during his telephone conversation with a technical support representative.
“Yes Ma’am. I understand,” he said. “But over the past year, this has happened at least once a month. Is there anything we can do on this end to keep our Internet up and running?”
I was at least 30 years old before I learned such diplomacy and tactfulness. I have yet to grasp the humility and compassion of our almost 14-year-old daughter.
A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a teacher, who told me that my daughter had mailed a get well letter to a sheriff’s deputy who’d been critically injured in a motorcycle crash. That letter, according to the teacher (and friend of the deputy) prompted the injured man to sit up in his ICU bed and put on his glasses to read it. His wife apparently couldn’t make it through the letter for all her tears.
Prior to that teacher approaching me about the letter, I knew only that my daughter wanted us to spend $1,000 on a new flute, and that she’d just finished her summer reading for her advanced placement classes, but hadn’t bothered with the journaling requirement.
But there’s more.
I remember, as a young child, asking my parents whether it was OK to invite a classmate over to play. Asking permission was the norm, but this was a different situation that I felt needed to be qualified.
That friend was black.
Now, my parents had no issue with people of a different color coming into our home, sleeping in our beds or eating at our table. A lot of people — even in the mid-1970s — felt differently though. And it showed … on TV, at school and even in neighborhoods, where we segregated ourselves in every conceivable way. Asking for a parental blessing to have a black person come over just felt like the natural thing to do … at the time. Our three children have never felt the need to ask for such blessings.
Times really have changed.
But life still happens
For as long as there are automobiles, teen boys will have the highest premiums. We’ve had to revisit that fact recently when our son became legal to sit behind the wheel of a car on a public street. Oh, I still believe males are much better drivers than females. We just tend to cause more expensive damage when we wreck.
There are plenty more constants, such as the unexplainable allure of reality TV — including competition cooking shows. I suppose though that as long as intelligent viewers look at these in the same way they look at WWE (fake wrestling), there is neither harm nor foul being inflicted. But still, nothing beats a good police drama.
Nothing tops a good hot dog either. But, as has always been the case, the ingredients are still a mystery. The average beef cow weighs between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds. I’m still curious … From what part(s) of the cow did the pound of ‘beef’ in a package of hot dogs come from?
A few other constants … Non-stainless steel still holds an edge better than any other blade. Weeding a garden or flower bed is a given, no matter how much mulch is used. Electronic money transfers still take as long as the paper version, despite that the newer way of transacting moves at the speed of light. Politicians are just as dishonest as they’ve always been.
And, damn it … I don’t care whether you live in Medicine Hat, Needles or Tallahassee, the ‘g’ in guacamole is still silent.
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We are annually fooled here in east Texas by the weather. I like to call it the autumn tease — when the temperatures drop all-of-a-sudden and being outdoors is actually pleasant. It occurred a little earlier this year and, though we didn’t go all out, soup and baked chicken became part of the menu. Obviously, it’s not a full-on autumn meal, because of the fresh local summer squash and bright cilantro.
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Sopa de frijoles y chiles (Chile Bean Soup)
4 quarts – Chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 – canned Chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped
2 cups – Enchilada sauce (canned or homemade)
3 cloves – Garlic, minced
2 TB – Cumin
1 TB – Oregano
1/2 cup – Fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup – Frozen corn
2 medium – Yellow or zucchini squash, sliced
2 – 15 oz. cans pinto, black or butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 – 12-15 oz. pkgs frozen pinto or butter beans, and/or cream peas, prepared
Kosher salt, to taste
Garnishes: Chopped avocado, tortilla strips, more fresh cilantro and/or cheese
Combine first 7 ingredients and bring to light boil in a medium stockpot. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by about 2 cups. Add beans. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Add frozen corn and squash. Bring soup back to a light boil and cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Remove soup from heat, stir in fresh cilantro.
Season with Kosher salt and garnish, as desired. Serves 5 as a main dish, or 8 as a side/appetizer. (As with most soups, this one tastes better the second day.)
Garlicky Cilantro Chicken
5 — Chicken leg quarters, trimmed of excess fat w/ skin left intact
1 bunch — Fresh Cilantro, rinsed
5 cloves — Garlic, minced
5 tsp. — Oregano
5 tsp. — Freshly ground black pepper
5 tsp. — Kosher salt
Chile powder (for color)
Mix oregano, black pepper and Kosher salt. Separate skin from meat and spread a pinch of the dried spice mixture directly to the meat. (Use all of the spice mixture.) Divide minced garlic accordingly and spread directly onto meat, beneath the skin. Break cilantro stems and leaves into 2-3 inch pieces and stuff liberally between skin and meat. (You might have some cilantro left over, as all bunches aren’t created equally.)
Place chicken, skin-side up in glass baking dish. Sprinkle lightly with chile powder. Bake at 425F for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked. This recipe is also easily grilled. Just eliminate the glass dish, and grill over low heat.