Monday, October 30, 2023

Random thoughts on a cold night

 


I have no idea what this image has to do with this blog, 
but it somehow landed here and I cannot get rid of it.
At least it satisfies the algorithms.



This is the kind of night when I really notice the one flaw in my cottage: there is no fireplace and no room for one. Jamie bought me a tiny artificial fireplace—the flames look very real, and it gives off just a smidge of heat, but I like it for the atmosphere, the thought of a fire. We have not yet gotten it down from wherever it was packed away over the summer. The cottage tonight, however, is toasty warm. I have the thermostat on the two ductless split systems—one in the living area and one in the bedroom—set at a level I never would in a regular furnace, but I don’t think these units heat as well. At any rate, I am comfortable—and I spent yesterday being cold all day.

I had the classic school dream last night—I was enrolled in two college classes but didn’t really want to take them. Finally I realized that I had already completed the degree requirements, and I dropped the classes. Such a relief! Occasionally I dream I am enrolled in a class and it’s time for the final, but I’ve never attended—or I couldn’t find the classroom. I think the class is often paleontology, something way out of my field of interest.

School dreams like that are not unusual and often mean that you are dealing with unpleasant memories or are anxious about something. I really don’t feel that there’s much in my life to be anxious about. But in the wider world, there is so much to be anxious about. I find that since the horrific Hamas attack on Israeli settlements, I am less optimistic. These days I am truly worried about an international war, with our troops suffering air raid strikes and half the Middle East ready to join the fight—though who on which side remains sort of unclear, except I don’t think Israel would have many allies. And at home, antisemitism is on the rise at an alarming rate. It’s like that night over three weeks ago Hamas let loose all the evil and hate in the world. It scares me that people are so fierce, and the individual stories break my heart.

Where is Solomon with his wisdom? Not only did he use his sword to settle a matter of motherhood, he successfully ruled over two tribes and is recognized today, in different ways, by both Jews and Muslims. I see no path forward to peace, and I grieve at the bitter fate of civilians on either side of the conflict. I read somewhere that over half the Palestinians killed in the conflict were children. Both sides are fixed on vengeance, but as Ghandi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” I am afraid that is what is happening to us.

It's hard these days to go back to the ordinary, to root yourself in such things as Halloween and getting plants in before tonight’s frost and what to fix for supper tomorrow night. But it is those ordinary things I think that often hold us together. And today I read an article about that most ordinary of things: the common southern phrase, “Bless your heart.” We all know it can be a biting insult, but an article in Southern Living suggests it is much more nuanced. The meaning depends heavily on the speaker’s tone of voice.

Whispered in a conspiratorial voice, usually about someone not present, it casts doubt on the subject’s abilities, mostly mental or social. Stated in a clear, caring tone of voice, it conveys real concern or sympathy. Said with sass, it implies judgement and an incredulous, “What were you thinking?” If the speaker’s voice holds pity, and you’re the recipient, accept that it is not a compliment and move on. If it’s said matter-of-factly, it may mean that the speaker doesn’t want to reveal their real feelings and wants to end the conversation.

Feeling much better today—thanks for asking. Cold symptoms cough and stuffy nose persist, but I have more energy and more interest in what I’m working on. Wrote a thousand words today, most of them good words.

Bless your heart, one and all.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

A sudden burst of winter

 


Megan's pot of chili

I am not a happy camper now that the temperature is in the low forties. I have been shivering in my boots all day, despite extra layers of clothing and a fleece jacket I refuse to be parted from. Sophie on the other hand is delighted by the weather and begs—uh, demands!—to go outside every minute.

In the proper spirit of Halloween and the arrival of cold weather, Christian made a large pot of chili tonight—does indeed warm the bones. My day was also brightened by talking by phone with my two sons and by text with Megan, who was also making a big pot of chili. In her house, Brandon is the king of chili, but he was out of town, and Megan explained they would need chili tomorrow when the high in Austin is to be in the low forties. Brandon will no doubt have something to say about her usurping his role.

Jamie gave me a Facetime tour of his new apartment in Denver—all glass and modern, in downtown Denver with the South Platte River right outside his window—well, a few stories down. Today it had the added beauty of brand new snow covering everything. I honestly think sometimes that kind of cold feels better than what we are having. Jame says he enjoyed running in it yesterday. Today he too cooked for the weather—not chili but a big pot of soup.

Busy weekend around here. Yesterday Christian went to a watch party for the Baylor game—oops, I haven’t even asked who won. Jordan went to a John Mayer concert in Dallas last night. When I asked Christian this morning if she enjoyed it, he said “Jordan could listen to John Mayer burp for two hours and be happy.” I replied she is one of thousands of women in their forties and fifties. Jordan and Megan have been known to go as far as Chicago for one of his concerts—or was that an excuse to go to Chicago?

I first heard of Mayer several years ago when I was editing a novel by the late Holly Gilliatt. I think the title was ‘Til St. Patrick’s Day, and it was built around a Mayer song by that title. The gist of it was that you don’t want to break up with your significant other in October or November because the holiday season is right ahead and nobody wants to be alone for Thanksgiving or Christmas. And then of course there’s New Year’s Eve, for which it’s essential to have a sweetie, and nobody wants a lonely Valentine’s Day. But St. Patrick’s Day? It’s okay. Nothing special. That’s the time to reassess. Holly tried hard to get permission to quote the lyrics but learned a stiff lesson in the ways of music copyright. I think Mayer agreed but his producers did not. Holly must have been in the early wave of John Mayer fans. I’ve heard a song or two and he’s okay, nice, soft music, but I wouldn’t go to Dallas on a cold night for one of his concerts, let alone Chicago.

Covid has me in its grip still—or the aftereffects do. I cough and sneeze and blow my nose a lot, and I still don’t have much ambition. I did absolutely nothing worthwhile yesterday but did manage to go to church virtually and do some editing today. I am hoping to get back to a real schedule and routine tomorrow. The trick, I keep telling myself, is to stop thinking I’m sick. Today I began to wonder if it might not be better to admit I don’t feel a hundred percent and just take to my bed. But then, of course, I’d be itchy about the things I’m not getting down.

Stay warm and safe everyone. I’m about to go try to convince Soph it’s time to come in for the evening.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Kitchen Tales


My kitchen sink

Last night Jordan found an old cookbook on my shelves. “Did you write in this?” she asked, the moment she opened it. The pages were covered with notes, recipes on index cards were stapled in at various places, and hand-written recipes covered the endsheets. Jordan, who’s been trained not to write in books, was astounded. I told it was a first edition of Helen Corbitt’s first cookbook that had belonged to Linda’s mother, Billie, and Linda (one of my closest friends) loaned it to me, knowing that I was fond of Billie and at the time studying Helen Corbitt. “Linda can’t have this back,” she said as she leafed through it. (Be forewarned next time you visit, Linda!)

So I thought Jordan might enjoy the cookbook my mom had helped put together in the fifties for the auxiliary of the osteopathic hospital where Dad worked. Mom was sort of the force behind that book, but reluctant to  have her name appear too often, she signed some recipes with the pseudonym Penelope Jones. Helpful cooking hints were contributed by the anonymous “Gourmet Grace”—guess who. And then some recipes carried the names of my far-away aunts. It was one of those projects where the recipes are reproduced in the donor’s handwriting—and there it was, in roundish, childish handwriting: my first published recipe, for hot cheese dip.

Jordan was surprised by the amounts or lack of. “It says one roll of garlic cheese—how do you know how big?” I explained that back then garlic cheese came, from Kraft I believe, in a standard size. It’s no longer on the market that way. Another surprise for her brought forth, “You can’t buy lobster in a can!” I assured her you could, probably still can today. She looked it up and it is available, at quite a price. Several more oddities struck her, and we had lots of fun talking about the difference in recipes. It was especially fun since she, my youngest, had been her grandmother’s special baby because soon after she came along my mom moved down the street from us.

Ruth Reichl’s Substack column today struck home with me. It reprinted a column she’d written several years ago from an ultra-modern, ultra-efficient, swank leased kitchen in LA. The kind where you can do everything with a push of a button. The dream kitchen of thr 1950s. Reichl hated it. It was cold and sterile, and she longed for her home kitchen with the stove that didn’t work right. She then reviewed various kitchens in homes where she’d lived, with the thought in mind that the kitchen should be a happy place (Helen Corbitt would have loved this woman!)

Of course it got me to thinking about kitchens I’ve known, from the remodel in the fifties that Mom was so proud of to the remodel in what I call my doctor’s-wife kitchen. That remodel, I swear, began the dissolution of the marriage. And then of course I came to my tiny kitchen today. One of the points Reichl made was that she had cooked for years in kitchens without dishwashers, which gave her a new appreciation for that appliance. I cook without one now—no room for it. And as most of you know I cook on an induction hot plate and a toaster oven—no stove, no microwave.

I’ve been saying that if I thought I would cook and live for another twenty years or so, I’d hire one of those expensive kitchen designers to gut my kitchen and redesign it. Our contractor, who is a minor god in my book, did a good job, building on knowledge from his wife’s kitchen. Mine is functional, but I am sure there is a better way to design it for more storage, more efficient use of space, and better accommodation for a person in a wheelchair. I don’t do it because one never knows in the mid-eighties how long this good run is going to last, and it would not be an investment in the future—I can’t imagine anyone caring that much about a 4x6 kitchen in what will probably be rental property one day. Meantime, taking Reichl’s advice, I’m going to focus on my kitchen as a joyful place—it mostly is, for me.

I resurrected a bit of the past today when Teddy and Sue came for wine. I Jezebel sauce. There are hundreds of recipes out there, but I’ve never found the first one I ever made, so I was delighted to find this four-ingredient one: 1 18 oz. jar apricot preserves, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 2-3 Tbsp. horseradish, cracked pepper to taste. Pour it over a block of cream cheese and serve with Ritz crackers. It was a hit, though I halved the recipe and still had about half of what I made left over.

I had one more kitchen tale to tell—a disastrous delivery from Central Market—but it’s late, and I’ll save it for another day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Back at work, mostly

 

 

 


Quarantine’s over! Not that I’m rushing out into the world—or even inviting Christian to the cottage for supper (tonight’s supper was not very good anyway—delicious gravy, but the meat was tough—I got tired of chewing.) Our doctor’s advice was to mask for five days after quarantine, and I will take that literally. Disinvited the friend who was to come for happy hour tonight and the one who was coming for supper tonight.

I‘m having trouble sorting out the sleep/wake/work thing. Today I crashed about one o’clock, too early for my usual nap. I think a rainy day contributed, plus the fact I had cleared the decks for writing—and was maybe intimidated by that. It’s the old Irma Bomback syndrome—she once wrote she’d rather scrub floor than look at a blank piece of paper in the typewriter—Irma’s day, of course, predated computers.

I had a good nap, woke up and wrote a thousand words on the Irene-in-progress, now titled Irene in a Ghost Kitchen, because the old title, Missing Irene, no longer was appropriate—she was only missing for the first thousand words at most. I think the ghost kitchen will remain relevant, but you never know—stories have a way of taking on a life of their own, no matter what the author plans.

For two nights now, since our stomachs felt better, Jordan and I have been eating supper in the cottage together, because it’s the one place we don’t have to mask. What are we going to do? Give covid to each other? Last night was green noodles (watch for tomorrow’s Gourmet on a Hot Plate column). Tonight she liked the idea of cube steaks in gravy. I recently cooked cube steaks and got them tender, but not tonight. Will have to keep working on that. I’ve been getting really good frozen green beans from Central Market so I pulled those out of the freezer. They had subbed microwave green beans for the ones I usually get, which wasn’t helpful because I don’t have a microwave. I cooked them the old-fashioned way, and they were okay—but uncut and difficult to eat. I am increasingly leery of any subs made by CM shoppers.

We’ve had slow rain for most of two days—lovely, but it makes me sleepy—and tonight it has just stopped coming down rather steadily. I saw one report of four inches in our neighborhood—the poster made it sound like a challenge to see if anyone could beat him. Sophie is made very nervous by the occasional thunder and follows me everywhere. Since we think she has pretty much lost her eyesight, I speak to her, “Now we’re going to the bathroom to brush my teeth,” or “Now we’re going to my desk.” She follows along and camps wherever I am. Her presence has the advantage of making me follow one piece of advice always given to writers: Putt your butt in the chair and keep it there.

I’m going to take a glance at Facebook and go back to bed. Thanks for all the good wishes. I truly appreciate them.

Monday, October 23, 2023

An absolute bummer of a day

 



I awoke this morning to a stunningly quiet cottage. It took me a moment to realize there was no hum of the refrigerator, no white sound from the HVAC unit. None of the appliances had their little lights lit to show they were functioning. I looked across the yard at Jordan’s house and saw there were no lights. Then I found she had texted me that an accident at the stoplight, a block and a half away, had taken out an electric pole. It would be fixed by nine-thirty, according to the power company.

There is not much I can do in the cottage without power—no cup of tea, because I have nothing to heat the water; no hot water (good thing I didn’t want to wash my hair); even the bidet wouldn’t work. I had thought my computer would work on battery, but no such luck. No TV. No reading, because I read on my computer. Oh sure, I could do some of that on my phone, but it’s tiny and both my old fingers and old eyes are not happy working on it.

Besides, last night, having had I guess all the sleep I needed, I was awake and at my computer at midnight, making a list of things to do today, like cancelling tomorrow’s dental appointment, making sure the Book Ladies knew I’d cancelled the group happy hour tomorrow (I still am afraid one will show up, appetizer in hand). I wanted to check if the church would have charitable turkey dinners, and I needed to check on a neighbor. Little stuff, and the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t get it down, but a lot of it was locked in my computer.

Nine-thirty came and went, then ten-thirty. At eleven groceries were delivered, and I ate a banana. An email told me the power company now said three to four hours. I went back to bed, but I was restless, my body achy from having spent too much time in bed. The power came on about three, and I worked like a demon until seven-thirty. With all emails read and dealt with, my to-do list considerably shortened with only one of two things postponed until tomorrow, I took a nap. Woke feeling so cozy and comfortable, I debated getting up. But I did.

Now, at nine-thirty I’m about to go back to bed. I think my Covid is better, but neither Jordan nor I are ready to charge out into the world. Tomorrow is the last day of quarantine. I’m counting on a better day.

I have a message for anti-vaxxers (of course, none will read my blog): get up to date on vaccines. At my age, Covid could have turned into something severe. As it is, it was like an annoying, bad head cold, with a persistent cough (now mostly gone). I feel very lucky but also grateful that I had good medical advice and kept up my vaccinations. Of course I’m not completely out of the woods yet, so maybe I’m too smug.

A sign I’m feeling much better: I ate the leftover tuna salad tonight, and I am again enjoying looking at recipes. So guess what I found tonight? A recipe for an appetizer, of a Spam cubes (yes, you heard me), Gruyere, coarse mustard, and a cornichon. It would either be interesting or appalling. I am amused at the combination of what you might call a low-class food—Spam—with a gourmet cheese like Gruyere. I also found a recipe for updated stuffed celery. I remember that from my childhood.

And a Facebook me that hit home, because I thought I was having such a bad day: “If you think you’re having a bad day, remember that the Salzburg airport has an entire counter for folks who flew to Austria thinking they were flying to Australia.”

‘Night folks. Sweet dreams.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Ginger ale and other memories—a brief update

 

Sophie and her empty bowl


Yesterday I was talking to Megan, my Austin daughter, and mentioned that I wished I had some ginger ale because that’s what my mom always gave me when I was sick. In a slightly amused tone, Megan said, “That’s why my mom gave me too!” Couldn’t believe I’d forgotten that. She went on to remember that I gave them Lipton’s chicken noodle soup from a packet. I don’t have the soup, but either Christian or Jacob got me some ginger ale, and I’ve been guzzling it.

Sophie still rules the roost and doesn’t understand that I’m not following my routine. I usually go to bed about 11:30 and give her a snack of kibble then because it’s a long time for a girl from dinner at five to breakfast at seven. The other night I fell into bed at nine-thirty, completely forgetting the snack. At 11:30 promptly, she woke me up. I opened the door for her to go out, but she wasn’t interested. So I fed her two little treats. That didn’t satisfy her either, and she went to the kitchen corner where she usually eats. It dawned on me she wanted her kibble. Gave it to her, and she trotted happily off to bed. Sophie has a most accurate internal clock.

She has always disliked my being in bed—will sometimes wake me, just to get me up. So she’s doubly unhappy these days when I go back to bed several times a day. I don’t let her have access to the back yard when I’m not up and keeping an eye on her, so that adds to her frustration.

I’m glad to report I have apparently (knock on wood) had a mild case of Covid, like a really annoying head cold. But now I’m on the mend—ate a little bit today (not quite up to the tuna salad in the fridge but had cottage cheese and later a buttered potato), slept soundly, coughed less, and generally felt better. Jordan is not feeling as much better but has no fever (I never did have). Two more days of quarantine! Not that I expect to rush out into the world.

Have a good week, everyone.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Taking the night off


Sophie, my companion in isolation

No blog tonight. This morning, Jordan and I tested positive for covid. We’re both okay, just lethargic and not at all hungry. I think I live such a reclusive life back here in my cottage, but it was amazing this morning how many people I had to notify, appointments to cancel. I think I got everyone, and now I’m getting you, my blog friends.

One thing I learned today and am passing along in case it will help someone else. We’ve all heard that if you get covid, you should start Paxlovid right away—it keeps the disease from turning severe. So I was ready to send someone to the drugstore, but Jordan wisely said, “Let’s call the doctor first.” I see a physician and she sees a PA in the same clinic (which is where we think we were exposed, through no fault of theirs). We saw the PA virtually, and she said I cannot take Paxlovid because I am on a blood thinner.

So my warning is twofold—if you get covid, be sure to check with your physician before you rush off to self-medicate, and if you are on a blood thinner, do not take Paxlovid.

We are to isolate for five days—as Jordan said, it’s good we can hang out together—and then mask in public for five days. So if I don’t blog, you’ll understand, I hope.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Food, war, and chaos--finding comfort in bad times

 

 


You know it’s a slow week when the highlight of the day is going to the doctor’s office for blood work. The nice thing about that is that Jordan and I both had appointments. And the brdy part was that it got me out in the fresh air.

But that’s sort of how my week has been, so tonight this is a non-blog. I just don’t have much to say. My week has been consumed mostly by my dive into the food we ate in the 1950s. I can’t figure out if I’m working on a cookbook, a memoir, a narrative about culinary history or some weird combination of all those. I’m loving some of the facts that I turn up, along with the stories friends tell me. One friend remembers her grandmother making biscuits in an old enamel pan, adding a pinch of this and a glop of lard—no measuring. Still another remember the time the flour from the store had little black specks in it—not knowing any better, she dumped it into the barrel where her mom kept fresh flour. Of course, the whole thing had to be thrown out, and her mother was angry. She had lived through the Depression, as had my mother, and she was terrified of waste.

Two other things consume me, and my thoughts frequently go to the Middle East, grieving over the Israeli dead and those held hostage and equally over the Palestinian civilians caught between two warring armies—and two ideologies. But at the same time I am riveted to the chaos in our House of Representatives, or as Hakeen Jeffries calls it, “the Peope’s House.” I am relieved beyond measure that Gym Jordan’s hopes for the speakership seem doomed, but I am still a bit afraid to count on his defeat. To think of that man wielding political power, let alone being third in line for the presidency, is a horror beyond imagining. I should think that this clown show has the Republican party hemorrhaging votes, but I know that mine is a simplistic attitude. At this point, there’s no explaining die-hard Republicans.

I have also done some menu planning this week—I will be entertaining a small group next week one evening, some book ladies, and a longtime friend another. So I was thumbing through old recipe files, something I like to do. For the small group I will fix pigs in a blanket and onion soup biscuits—where you quarter refrigerator biscuits and roll the pieces in butter and onion soup. Remember how many things we fixed with that soup back in the day? Today most people still use the classic dip with sour cream—it’s so addictive. But I am trying to stick to finger food, so no dip. One friend is bringing deviled eggs—yum!—and another Parmesan crisps. The night my friend comes I’ll do a stuffed eggplant (it’s okay—she doesn’t read on Facebook) because I know she loves eggplant, and my family won’t eat it.

And then there are some eat-alone nights. I’m still in search of a can of corned beef hash so I can fix it like my mom did—refrigerated, then took both ends off the can and pushed the meat through in one big cylinder, which she sliced and fried. She got a good, crisp crust on it, something I have yet to duplicate, but I’ll keep trying. Speaking of such retro dishes, I did fix creamed chipped beef (commonly known as SOS or shit on a shingle) for someone last week, and we both raved about how good it was.

As I look back at the week, or half week, I realize that I find comfort in reading, writing, and talking about food. It draws my mind from the chaos of our world and somehow reassures me that the normal world is still there for many of us. That normal world is so fragile, and we are so fortunate, that it sometimes scares me a lot. But I am an optimist. I pray for peace abroad, and for tolerance here at home so that we may truly love our neighbor—and let our kids read whatever books they want.

I’ll quit and read a good mystery. Watch for Gourmet on a Hot Plate tomorrow—hint, the recipe of the week is something from the fifties (no surprise there), and it involves chicken and linguini.

‘Night all. Sweet dreams.

Monday, October 16, 2023

A little lesson on food and cooking

 

 


Leftover roast salmon with pasta.
So good!

My mother made bread by instinct. When she taught me, her caution was, “Don’t use too much flour or your bread will be tough. Knead it until it feels right.” She knew just how much to knead, how long to let it rise. She had a big old wooden board on which she pounded that dough. Her bread came out in beautiful golden loaves. No recipe needed.

I have a friend whose grandmother made “the world’s best” biscuits in a shallow, white enamel pan she also washed her dishes in (on the kitchen table: there was no sink). She dumped in a couple of coffee cups of flour, “measured” baking powder and salt with the spoon out of the sugar bowl on the table, pulled a glob of soft lard out of the lard bucket with her fingers and worked it into the flour. Added milk until it looked right, kneaded a bit, rolled it out with a rolling pin her husband carved from a chunk of maple, and cut the biscuits with a water glass. I still have the old, metal orange juice can that my grandmother used to cut biscuits. Nobody cooks that way now. I call it intuitive cooking.

Jordan gets frustrated when she asked me how long to cook something, and I say, “Until it’s done.” Or when she wants to know how much flour to use, and I say, “Until it feels right.” She wants a printed recipe, complete with amounts and detailed instructions in front of her, and I don’t think she’s unusual in this day and age. Many young women have lost or never had instincts about cooking. (I do wonder if I somehow failed in that aspect of raising her.)

Many of the women of my generation—we old ladies of the Silent Generation—mix instinct with recipes when we cook. We can size a recipe up when we read it, judging whether or not it will work, and then we can adapt it to our taste and needs as we go along. (Christian cooks that way too.) And we can make a pie or rolls without a recipe, because we’ve done it so often—and we learned from our mothers.

The women of the 1950s, that decade when American foodways changed so dramatically, may be the last to base their cooking purely on instinct. They had cooked with their mothers and grandmothers, and they cooked the way they learned. Not all women of the fifties, though. During that decade, food manufacturers switched their attention from supplying the military, since the war was over, to courting housewives. Advertising departments decided women hated to cook, and so the food industry set out to simplify cooking, make it easier and quicker. They did this with prepared food and new gadgets. By the end of the fifties you could buy an angel food cake mix or a tube of prepared biscuit dough. All you had to do was bake.

My theory is that having most of the work done for them by manufacturers, women gradually lost touch with the food they were cooking. They didn’t have to measure and judge the texture and feel the dough to see if it was right. (I hope I get a lot of indignant responses to this.)

On another food note, I read a Ruth Reichl column today which convinced me that I’ve found my niche in studying the plain, traditional food of the fifties. Reichl is writing from Marseilles this week and sending pictures of the food. Beautiful pictures—and probably not a dish that I, a fairly experimental eater, would touch. Blue soup that is fish broth with chard floating in it (no idea what makes it blue); sliced bottarga (I had to look that one up: a cured fish roe pouch) with caviar; a “garden of fish” floating in a green, seashell jelly; a carabinero (had to look that up too: a large, deep sea shrimp) served somewhere between raw and cooked, with fennel; ravioli filled with clams and mussels in an “intense” fish soup. Absolutely gorgeous pictures, smashing photography. But I don’t know that I’d have eaten any of it. I love reading about it, and about the old French restaurants with lots of atmosphere, but I somehow can’t translate that to my life in Texas.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make a pasta dish out of last night’s leftover roast salmon. The simple life. (This is me, trying out material for the cookbook/memoir I hope I’m writing. I’d love feedback.) Just for fun, here’s what I did with the salmon (without a recipe):

Cook enough pasta for one. Drain and put aside.

Melt some butter in the skillet. Add a garlic clove and cook it briefly.

Add salmon and some frozen green peas. Salt and pepper.

Put in a glob of sour cream, enough to make a sauce.

Ad the pasta and stir until dish is warm. Do not let it boil or sour cream will separate.

Put in a pasta plate and top with grated pecorino.

 

 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Arguing with myself

 


University Christian Church
Fort Worth

Today, my church, University Christian, celebrated its 150th anniversary with one huge service instead of the four separate services of a usual Sunday. The music was spectacular. Hymns and anthems from our traditional services blended with guitar accompaniment to “How Firm a Foundation: and “His Eye is on the Sparrow”; a powerful group of wind instruments contrasted with the folk-music feel of guitar; and a full choir soared to the high notes. Every minister on staff was involved in the service in some way, but the highlight was a dialogue between senior minister Russ Peterman and former senior minister Scott Colglazier on the future of the church, what the church of the next 150 years needs to be about. Visiting dignitaries made brief appearances—the mayor of Fort Worth, the president of TCU, the regional Disciples minister, and a representative of the national headquarters of the church. The congregational turnout was huge and enthusiastic. Even in these glum days, an air of optimism and gratitude and grace elevated the service. Afterward there was a celebratory reception with food and fellowship, and a lot of people I would have liked to see.

I wasn’t there. I watched the almost two-hour service online, which has some advantages: I could hear everything better than I often did in the sanctuary, and when the ministers were talking, it was as though they were sitting across my desk talking directly to me. I almost had an urge to reach out to Scott and say, “Hi, nice to see you again.” During his pastorate, I was most active in the church. My good friend and the director of music, Betty Boles, could always find things she thought I ought to do. And I did them willingly and happily. It’s a part of my life I miss now.

I argued with myself all week about going to this service. When I first heard about the plans I was excited, ready to be in the congregation. Since I don’t leave the cottage often, I think I should never miss an opportunity. But the more I thought about it, the more I questioned the wisdom of going. Christian would push me in the transport chair, but if it was as crowded as I expected it would be awkward and difficult. I didn’t want to go the reception because when you’re in a wheelchair at a reception where people, all standing, are milling around, you somehow seem to shrink. Been there, done that, felt like a child among giants.

So I attended virtually, and it turned out to be the right decision. When I heard one minister mention parking difficulties and the senior minister urge the congregation to used the exterior sidewalks to get to the reception and avoid traffic jams, I knew I’d made the right decision. Not only did I avoid what might have ranged from awkward to difficult, but I got full benefit out of the service—and yes, some inspiration. Jordan tells me she and Jean and Jeannie talked about how good it was that I wasn’t there. Sounds funny, but it was true.

And I was still in my pajamas the entire time.

There’s something about intuition, about listening to your gut. I find that more often than not my instincts are right, if I just have the courage to follow them. This was one of those days. To quote one of the ministers out of context, “Thanks be to God.”

And so we begin another week. Pray for peace.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Who needs sleep anyway?

 


I

The Walkathon in an earlier year.

t happens once a year. Today was the day. I was awakened at seven o’clock by the sounds of a marching band, complete with drum rolls. The high school marching band was tuning up or whatever they call it directly across the street from our house. We live across from Lily B. Clayton Elementary School, a historic school with an enthusiastic parent support program. The occasion today was the annual Lily B. Walkathon where all students who are able march a mile through the neighborhood, along with teachers, parents and friends. Neighbors sit on their porches or front lawns to wave and encourage the walkers. The parade is led by mounted police officers, the marching band, and often a city official in the requisite convertible. It’s really a terrific neighborhood occasion. And a fundraiser for the school. This year the kids raised $58,000 by getting people to support them in the walk.

But seven o’clock is awfully early, at least for me. I did doze, and then when they marched away, I fell sound asleep until I heard the drums returning at about nine o’clock. As I lay there listening to them, it occurred to me that it was like having an MRI, where you lie there and try to make sense or a pattern out of the sounds the machine is making. Only in this case there was a pattern. Those high school kids are pretty darn good.

To make it worse, four Amber Alerts about five o’clock in the morning brought me straight up in bed and alarmed Sophie who ran around the cottage barking at an enemy she couldn’t see. I’m not savvy enough on my iPhone that I could find out what child is missing, but I pray safety for them. Jacob tells me I missed a national alert last weekend over the Hamas attack on Israel. Perhaps what I missed this morning was a warning about the predicted Day of Rage. We are all grateful it doesn’t seem to have materialized, though when is at this point always leery of complacency.

All this on Friday the thirteenth. I don’t know about you, but I have never been particularly superstitious. In fact, I think it’s kind of silly that tall buildings never label thirteenth floor. No matter what they call it, that fourteenth floor is really number thirteen. But I read an interesting column this morning. Triskaidekaphobia is the name for extreme superstition of fear of the number thirteen. Writer Kait Carson (Scuba diving mysteries, the newest mystery of which is Deep Dive) points out that you never seat thirteen at a dining table (awkward anyway) and the number 13 is the death card in Tarot. She claims some writers refuse to advertise the thirteenth in a mystery series—how would you get around that?

But according to Kait, in eastern cultures the number is considered lucky, and she herself has had some lucky Fridays the thirteenth. Maybe it’s all in the way you look at it. Me? I think I’ll consider it neutral, just like any other day—almost. Then again maybe that marching band was trying to tell me something. How about you? Are you superstitious?

Meantime, I’m just going to try to learn to pronounce Triskaidekaphobia—I can’t even break it down into component parts that make any sense.

 

 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Another day, another scam

 



I woke up this morning to a text message telling me that USPS was unable to deliver my package and offering me a form to fill out to reschedule delivery. I’m not good at texting on my phone—clumsy old fingers—but I am a rule follower, so I began filling it out. I had to stop and start over once—this was before I had brushed my teeth or had my tea. I finally got a little suspicious when they wanted my credit card—if a package was coming through USPS there should be no charge. So why the credit card?

I checked Amazon and the package I was expecting had indeed been delivered—it was still in the main house and hadn’t made its way to the cottage yet. So when I got myself together for the day and finally settled at my desk, I decided to check out the web link on the computer rather than the phone. Wonder of wonders! That page wasn’t working right now.

Jordan came out a bit later, bringing the package, and said oh for sure to ignore such. This afternoon, the scam was confirmed by two more emails exactly like the first. The first came from Audrey—the next two from Margaret and Linda. They are clever, official looking forms, presented with a cheery, “The USPS team wishes you a good day!” So this is my warning to all of you!

I note with sadness the passing of California chef, restaurant owner, and vintner Michael Chiarello at the age of sixty-one from an allergic reaction. I remember watching him when he had a regular TV show. As his last name implies, his focus was Italian food, and he was charming and fun to watch. In my appalling collection of recipes, there is a worn piece of paper with Chiarello’s picture (much younger) and the title, “Mom’s Stuffed Eggplant.” It’s a different kind of recipe for Eggplant Parmesan, calling for hamburger. The eggplant is cut in half, hollowed out, and the eggplant meat, some hamburger, and tomato cooked together with seasonings and Parmesan and then stuffed back into the eggplant shell for baking. Yes, it’s a bit of work, but it’s so worth it. RIP, Mr. Chiarello—you brought joy to my kitchen.

It’s been another intense day for me, past noon before I finished reading new emails and the various news columns I follow, like Heather Cox Richardson. I value my exchange with members of Guppies, the online chapter of Sisters in Crime—today we got going on the pros and cons of Substack, the online platform that combines a blog, newsletter, payment system, and a customer support team. I have not for now considered moving this blog to that system, but I’m curious how many regular readers would follow. Substack offers free and paid content, and I would keep the blog free. At some future date, I might serialize the Food of the Fifties project I’m working on. And I might charge a tiny amount for that. I’ll welcome any comments. Substack seems to encourage back-and-forth conversation more than the blog does. On the other hand, I’m grateful for my blog readers and not anxious to shake up that readership. So I’m on that uncomfortable fence, but it’s not an immediate problem: the Food of the Fifties manuscript, tentatively titled Mom and Me in the Kitchen, is a long way from completion. Indeed, it may be such an ongoing thing that, like my Thursday cooking blog, “Gourmet on a Hot Plate,” will never be finished.

And the horror from the Israel/Hamas War continues to come into our living rooms. Weighty thoughts tonight. Count our blessings and pray for the ordinary people of Israel and Palestine.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Tangled thoughts between war and food

 


Creamed chipped beef on toast.

Tangled and unhappy thoughts tonight, and I know I’m not alone. The barbarity of the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians keeps me awake at night, as I am sure it does you. I simply cannot fathom cold-blooded, mindless killing of innocent strangers. Nor the execution of babies in their cribs. Those men are animals (I have not heard of any women among the Hamas terrorists, and I’m wondering if that’s a cultural thing.) I was glad today to hear President Joe Biden make the strong distinction: we must not confuse Hamas with the Palestinian people who are, perhaps even more than the Israelis, victims of Hamas. Netanyahu’s revenge will be swift and terrible—and that gives me pause, because he too will obliterate innocent civilians.

I did a bit of prowling about the background of the longstanding enmity. Perhaps you’ve done that too. In 1947, I was nine years old, far too young to care about what was happening in some far-away place. But that was when the land was divided into a Jewish state and an Arab one. At that time, the Arabs had most of the land. Over the years, the Israelis have taken over most of the Palestinian land, and they have not been gentle about it. They would establish a kibbutz on Palestinian soil and then react when Palestinians raided that village. Both were guilty; neither tried to find peace.

Today, if I’ve got it right, the tiny remaining Palestinian lands—the Gaza Strip and the West Bank—are occupied territories, occupied and controlled by Israel. And the Israeli military is not gentle, not even humane in their occupation. The only innocent victims in this are the ordinary citizens—particularly women and children—on both sides. And I weep and pray for them.

There’s so much disinformation too. No, the U.S. did not give $6 billion to Iran which Iran in turn used to fund the Hamas attack. That money, held by South Korea, has not been touched and can only be used for humanitarian purposes. The US facilitated the agreement—it never had the money, never gave it to anyone. Shame on Republicans for trying to turn this world tragedy into a political talking point.

Jacob came home today worried that we would be bombed for sheltering refugees. That’s what he heard at school. How to tell him to tell his schoolmates we don’t have many Palestinian or Israeli refugees, though we might get them, and neither Hamas nor Israel has the capability of bombing Fort Worth, Texas. I sympathize with him because I remember the Bay of Pigs crisis—I was not a lot older and was living in Missouri. I begged my parents to leave Chicago, a prime target, but they assured me they had lived through similar crises and would be fine. I suppose that is true today too—we have lived through this, but never untouched emotionally.

A side of this I haven’t heard mentioned in this day of anxious concern about the climate: war with rockets and destruction is bad for the climate. It is another way we do not treat the earth kindly. I’ve been thinking this week about slogans: War is bad for people. War is bad for humans and other living things. War is bad for the earth. Take your pick. There’s bound to be so much pollution of the air from the bombs and explosions.

It all makes me think how shortsighted men of violence are. They cannot see beyond the next battle to the effect on their own people, the earth and the world. I refuse yet to give up hope for mankind, but some days it’s hard to cling to.

I started out to say my thoughts are tangled between war and food, because most of the day food has been on my mind—not to eat but to write about. Tonight I fixed dinner for my friend Mary V. Creamed chipped beef on toast, or, as it is commonly known, SOS. Somehow it came up in conversation a bit ago, and I told Mary she was the only other person I know who would eat it, so I promised to fix it next time we got together. So simple to do, and so very good! All you do is make a white sauce, cut the beef into strips and add it, and serve on toast. With a green salad. Mary tells me she also loves liver, so that’s next on my agenda, but she insists next time she will bring dinner from Eatsi’s, and I’m up for that.

Eating a good dinner in a peaceful cottage it seems impossible that there is such horror half a world away. I often wonder why I am so blessed. You or I could be living in a kibbutz on the West Bank, we could have been at that music festival—and yet here we are, safe. It must mean, to me, that God wants us to do good, to fight for truth and honor, to love our neighbor no matter what.

Sorry, I’m getting sloppily philosophical, but I think it goes with this week.

Monday, October 09, 2023

A bit of writerly excitement

 


Cottage pie
Image courtesy Mary Dulle



For some time now, I’ve been fiddling with a project I tentatively titled, Mom and Me in Kitchen. I want to somehow capture the importance of learning to cook from my mom in the Fifties with all that decade implies about foodways in America. It was a time of vast change—WWII was over, the soldiers were home, the post-war economy was booming. America was optimistic.

Food manufacturers faced a challenge: realign their product from feeding the military to feeding the public. And thus fast food, convenience food, prepared foods—all those were born. The food industry launched a massive advertising campaign based on the premise that housewives did not like to cook. Cooking was a chore they had inherited, because of their gender, and they longed to have it simplified for them. The less time in the kitchen, the better. Advertisements boasted of prepared meals that could be on the table in fifteen minutes or less—think Swanson’s frozen turkey and mashed potatoes dinners.

Not all American housewives bought that fifteen-minute dream. Surveys and polls showed a lot of hold-outs, women who were still scratch cooking for most of their meals. My mom was one of those hold-outs. Oh, sure, she fell for some of the hype—we occasionally ate Spam, and when she and Dad were going out, she satisfied my BFF and me with cans of spinach and Franco-American spaghetti. We thought we were in food heaven. But mom still canned her own tomatoes, made her own applesauce, baked pies and cakes, even angel food, from scratch. And made seven-minute icing, which took patience and dedication. She made her own bread, and today my kids still clamor for her dinner rolls, with a pat of butter hidden inside each.

My cooking today reflects that. I make some of the dishes I learned at her elbow, but more than that, the dishes I make today build on what she taught me in that Chicago kitchen. So that’s what I wanted to write a cookbook about. Easier said than done.

For some time I have floundered trying to explain my culinary interest and to justify my weekly food blog, “Gourmet on a Hot Plate.” I enjoy the occasional challenge of a sophisticated and difficult recipe but mostly I want to cook familiar things, the kind of food I grew up eating. For instance, last night I made a meatloaf just for me—no one else was around for supper, and I figured I’d have leftovers for lunches. Tonight I made a shepherd’s pie—I don’t think my mom ever made that, but it’s in the spirit of the food she cooked. I just wasn’t sure what kind of label to hang on that approach to cooking in the 21st century.

So I was reading Laura Shapiro’s Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, a wonderful resource, and I came across this line: “In culinary history, the ordinary food of ordinary people is the great unknown.” For me, it was an Aha! moment. That’s what I’m trying to talk about. Menus from upscale restaurants and magazine articles about the rich and famous tell us about gourmet food, but peoplelike my mom didn’t write about their dinner. So far in research about the Fifties, I find only the upscale or the bizarre, but not the ordinary—no tuna casserole, not chicken tetrazzini, no meatloaf. And that’s my niche.

I can bypass the bizarre—all those jellied salads and sandwich loaves iced with cream cheese and most of the convenience recipes. To James Beard’s horror, Poppy Cannon, author of The Can-Opener Cookbook, once made vichyssoise with frozen mashed potatoes, one leek, and a can of Campbell’s cream of chicken soup.

The more I read today and took notes, the more I realized that this was going to be a memoir about my mom. That’s okay. She’s a good role model. And I’ll have to delve into that. Born in 1900 (we could always figure out how old she was), she lived through two world wars, the Depression (and oh my, did the effects linger). She was widowed at thirty-four with a young son. I won’t put her on a pedestal, but I will say despite all she had a terrific sense of humor, and our kitchen episodes often involved laughter, if not the outright giggles.

So that’s where memory and Mom are taking me, and I’m having a good time with it. Writing can be fun.

I want to end tonight, though, with a hope that we all pray for both the Israeli and Palestinian people. Most of them are innocent pawns caught in a war fomented by men with power who court violence. It’s not a question of right or wrong—it’s a question of human lives and unbelievable suffering and grief. Pray for peace.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Fall temperatures—and influencers

 


A picture for the algorithms.
Jacob, much younger, and Sophie (pink collar).
What you do when there's no school and you're bored.
One of my favorite pictures.

These nice, lower temperatures we’re having the last few days seem to energize people. I’ve heard from several who are rejoicing in how refreshed they fell, celebrating because it’s finally soup weather, anticipating fall after the horrendous summer we have. Somehow though, it has the opposite effect on me. All I want to do is curl up in my bed and doze. I even turned on the heat, but shhh! Don’t tell Jordan.

Yesterday I took two naps—long ones, one in the afternoon and another for almost two hours after supper. Each time I slept heavily, and when I woke, I had to force myself to get out of bed. Once up and about I was fine, though aware that I was tired. Longtime friends came for happy hour, and I was energized by their company. But after they left, I kept thinking about a nap—ate leftovers, wrote my blog, and went back to bed. Somehow, I stayed up from ten to midnight, and then slept soundly until Soph wakened me at seven this morning.

Today I didn’t feel as tired, but I still didn’t want to leave my bed. I fed Sophie at seven, went back to bed, fed her again at her insistence at 8:45 (she usually gets a two-stage breakfast so we can time her insulin shot), and went back to bed for an unprecedented third time. After about half an hour, my old-fashioned work ethic dragged me out of bed, and I got going for the day. But by two o’clock I was back in bed for another nap.  Surely by now I’m caught up on sleep, but I can’t guarantee it.

What a quandary! I really don’t like summer’s high temperatures, but I perhaps dislike even more the extreme cold we’ve been getting in winter the last few years—I think that’s my Chicago background showing. But I do like the “in-between” seasons, so I hope I adjust soon so I can enjoy these balmy days.

Something that’s been on my mind lately: how do you get to be an influencer? I’m not even sure what an influencer is, but I think they are mostly on TikTok, with maybe some on Substack, Patreon, and other online subscription newsletter services. I have friends on Substack and a couple of columns I follow though I don’t know the writers—are they influencers? I’m not sure. Heather Cox Richardson is a columnist whose newsletter, Letters from an American, I read every day, but I wouldn’t call her an influencer. To me, she’s giving us history lessons that help us understand today’s political turmoil. And my friend Susan Wittig Albert writes about life in the Hill Country, nature, herbs, and aging—what she does not do, and I’m thankful, is try to influence you to buy her books (I’ll put in a plug—her China Bayles mysteries, now up to #27, are terrific reading). I also follow Ruth Reichl, the food writer, who offers recipes, memories of meals, old menus—all good fun, but I’m not sure she influences people as much as she interests and entertains them—and makes me want to be a better cook. Stephanie Raffelock also writes about aging and women’s issues and finding your core—good stuff, but it doesn’t influence me to rush out and do something dramatic.

I think true influencers mention, even push brand names. They have sponsors—I’m not understanding this enough even to cite an example. But I did read today about an influencer who did a heinous thing—she adopted an Asian child with special needs and then decided, two or three year later, to re-home him, as you should not do even to a puppy, let alone a child. The influencer part of that horrible story that interests me is that she lost all of her sponsors and her income dropped dramatically. But what did she, an apparently quite shallow person, do to get to that high-income pinnacle and to have those sponsors in the first place?

I gather it’s a bit more complicated than saying one day, “I want to be an influencer.” You have to have a field where you have some kind of expertise. That’s a stumbling block—I have a bit of skill at cooking and a lot of political opinions, but I don’t think either of those qualify me to be an influencer. I probably know some more than most about women in the literature of the nineteenth-century American West, but who would I influence? Three or four interested readers—among other things, I don’t see any income in that, not that income is my major goal at this point.

Maybe because I post on my blog more nights than not, I am already an influencer and just need to flaunt the title. But what am I influencing readers about? Sophie’s latest antics? What I’m cooking and eating? What I’m reading. I find this entire online world confusing to say the least, and for the time being I have decided to stay where I am: a non-influencer blogging most nights about some of life’s significant moments and a lot more about the trivia. Seems where I belong.

Now, I feel another nap coming on.

Friday, October 06, 2023

Busy days at the cottage

 


Kristine Hall, me, and Stephanie Raffelock

It’s been wonderfully busy around here the last couple of days. Today I had the fun of serving lunch to Austin author Stephanie Raffelock (Creatix Rising: Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women and A Delightful Little Book on Aging) and Kristine Hall, publisher of the online weekly newsletter all about Texas books, authors, and writing, “Lone Star Literary Life.” I had met both before, briefly and one time each, but we have ongoing email relationships. And I knew all along that Stephanie and Kristine also had an online relationship. So while Stephanie was in the Metroplex, it only seemed logical to get us together.

Besides, it gave me a nice opportunity to cook for guests. I had explained to Stephanie that no, I did not want her to take me to lunch. It’s easier for me to stay in the cottage and cook. So I fixed Coronation Chicken Salad—you can pretty much figure that one out. Developed in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, it reflects the heavy influence of the flavors of India on British cooking: curry, mango chutney, dried fruit, and sliced almonds. There is debate over whether it should have diced, dried apricots or raisins—I went with raisins, because cutting up dried fruit is a pain. Watch for the recipe on next week’s Gourmet on a Hot Plate (Thursday). I admit it was a bit of work: I cooked chicken breasts on Wednesday and cooled and diced them; Thursday I made the salad, so today all that remained was to serve it in lettuce cups, with a side of mixed berries. It was a hit—well, at least they cleaned their plates.

Coronation chicken salad

We talked of books and politics and food and aging and books again and Substack and it was all wonderful. We laughed a lot, were serious at times, and Sophie was in heaven because Stephanie played with her. Lunch went by way too quickly, and I’m wishing they’d come back once a week.

Last night I had dinner with long time friends Subie, Carol, and Kathie. We were celebrating two birthdays but more than that we were relishing the opportunity to be together. Like lunch today, it was laughter and stories, a bit of politics, a bit of life in the residential community where two of them live and the third spends a lot of time with her special friend. Our waiter, Matt, was young but patient with four old ladies who changed their minds a lot, tried to joke with him, and dropped things on the floor. I noticed that when we first were seated, there was so much background noise I resigned myself to missing much of the conversation. But I played with the settings on my hearing aids and ended up hearing everything perfectly and being able to participate easily in the conversation.

We had a good laugh over one of our number who asked the waiter what Dukes was—we three immediately, said, “Mayonnaise!” and she said, “I hate mayonnaise.” She ended up with the lobster roll which had medium mayo and loved it. I had oysters Rockefeller, which were really good. I longed for the half dozen oysters on the half shell, but I heard they were $25 and yet not enough sustenance for an entrĂ©e, so I resisted. A lovely evening, and we resolved to do it more often. And sometime I’m going to go back and have those raw oysters. For some reason, the oysters at this restaurant are all tiny and delicate, perhaps more palatable than big fat ones.

So tonight Soph and I are being lazy. I’m going to relish the last couple of days and sink into some pleasure reading. Looking forward to a long weekend.

Obedient Sophie when Stephanie said, "Sit."


Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Sophie gives me a scare

 


Sophie and Christian in happier days. 

Last night, writing about three-o’clock-in-the-morning thoughts, I confessed to my superstitious nature. Now, here’s another superstition: bad things come in threes. I’m holding my breath, waiting for the third.

Actually, the first wasn’t bad, except it was medical confusion for all but me—Jordan with her rash, Jacob with his swollen hand, and me with a sore arm from a flu shot and, during the night, a headache. But last night, a major bad thing: Sophie gave us a bad scare.

Now that she’s older and calmer, she mostly spends her evenings sleeping by the couch while I’m at my desk. But last night, when I was ready to lock up for the night, I checked on her—and she wasn’t there. I searched the cottage, but she was nowhere—the cottage is small enough I was not likely to miss a small black dog. Convinced she was outside, I armed myself with a piece of cheese and went to the door—she never fails to respond to the bribe of cheese. But this time she did, and I could not see her anywhere in the dark. I called Christian (my solution to so many problems).

He came out and wisely checked the cottage again. Nothing, so he started out the door, but said, “Here she comes.” Sophie came in, tripped over the threshold she’s crossed a hundred times a day, and went down flat. Her back legs were not holding her up, and she was stumbling. This had happened once before, and I thought I remembered the immediate solution was food. So we fed her a cup of kibble, some of that cheese I’d promised, and a lot of water, all of which she consumed. By the time I went to bed, she seemed better if not perfect. During the night I checked and was reassured that, as usual, she moved from favorite spot to favorite spot.

This morning, she let me sleep unbelievably late, but she did eat her breakfast and seemed fine. I called the vet nonetheless to report. About noon, she began to stumble, and I called in an update to the vet. They called back promptly, thought she was getting too much insulin, and advised me to feed her right away. I did, and once again she seemed to improve.

The culprit? The wrong size needles. Somehow, the vet had prescribed some needles I didn’t need (I usually order them online) and they were different from what we’d been using. The vet tech asked to see a picture of the box of new (isn’t email wonderful?)  and said “Yep, they’re wrong.” So tonight we’re skipping the shot and tomorrow beginning a reduced dosage.

But it’s never easy. Sophie, who is always ravenous, is not interested at all in her dinner. Maybe she’s full from having a dinner-size serving at lunch. I am leaving the food out, but I am also uneasy.

This world consists of dog people, cat people, and non-pet people. The former two, to me, lump together in one category. They understand that our pets have feelings and fears and aches and pains, that they are part of family, precious and beloved. Non-pet people probably can’t fathom the depth of my concern for Sophie. But for twelve years now, she’s been my best friend, my companion, my goofy pal who makes me feel loved and appreciated and often makes me laugh—and I try my best to return that feeling. She has taught me a lot about compassion and patience and love, not that I hadn’t learned from a string of probably more than twenty special dogs during my life. (I keep thinking I’ll write a book titled Dogs I Have Loved—so many books, so little time.)

So tonight I’m walking that thin line between being a hysterical dog parent and a responsible, concerned pet owner. I am playing the wait-and-see game, but I am worried. I would love it if she would pop up from the spot on the floor near me where she is lying and go eat her supper. And for her, the evening will only get worse—thunderstorms predicted.

Prayers appreciated.