Hitting the Right Notes

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So excited to have been asked to write an “ode to the Blue Note Grill” for Durham Magazine. Easiest assignment EVER!

Enjoy, y’all!

Winner, Winner. Chicken Dinner + shufflin’ through the past

LeoWagoner_tnCycling through that first year of hallmarks and holidays would be hard. I knew that. You can’t prepare. You can’t practice. Father’s Day and his birthday would be wrenching. He was 90 and lived an enviable life full of family, friends, and faith. I will miss you every single day, Dad, and all the goodness you brought to everyone who knew  you!

~Leo Wayne Wagoner Sr.
August 4, 1924 – December 11, 2014~

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Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner*

*Original NC Food post, March 28, 2014.
Reprinted by permission of the North Carolina Folklife Institute.

Daddy was a traveling salesman. In the late 50’s/early ‘60’s, he drove all over North Carolina as regional sales director for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. He loved that it  put him with new people all the time.

He was gone a lot, and often late for dinner, but he was still the guy who came home every so often with a trunk full of Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, and SnoBalls compliments of a bakery in Winston-Salem. He grew up poor in Brook’s Crossroads, the son of tobacco farmers. Walked five miles in the snow to school (not really, but we heard that a lot). Didn’t have enough money to even join the Boy Scouts. Helped clean the church every Saturday. And from what I can tell, likely lived a hard-scrabble life on the farm. Even while telling us to always do the right thing and reminding us that life wasn’t fair, he was an eternal optimist who never met a stranger.

Brooks Crossroads, NC

Brooks Crossroads, Yadkin County, NC

He spoke proud that he’d been in each of the 100 counties of North Carolina and knew those two-lane roads forward and backward. From BBQ to hot dogs, he knew where to stop when he got hungry. I got to ride along with him sometimes in the summer, though I spent plenty of time waiting and reading in the car while he called on Farm Bureau and other offices, mostly down east. With the windows rolled down in hopes of catching the slightest, often non-existent summer breeze, I’d read a little. Squirm a lot. Read a little, fidget a little more, peeking out the window as if that would hurry him up. All the while sticking to the hot plastic seats as my impatience grew and my tummy rumbled.

We ate at oil cloth or plastic-table-cloth covered tables in Mom and Pop places where the waitresses called you “Hon” whether you’d been there a thousand times, or this was your first. Where they automatically brought you a basket of hush puppies (or cornbread, or biscuits, or slices of soft white sandwich bread.) And where the tea was always sweet and the glasses were always filled without even asking. Sometimes we stood by the car under a tree, or sat with the car doors open leaning over so not to drip on the car seats.

One thing Daddy was, was predictable. That man could simply divine who was serving up chicken pie or chicken & dumplin’s for lunch. I’d even seen him stop on a Sunday or Wednesday afternoon at a country church hosting supper-on-the-grounds just to see if they had any chicken pie.

Long tables, or saw-horses holding up planks, were covered with tablecloths brought from home by God-fearing church women. The spread practically strained from the weight of all the fried chicken, deviled eggs, chicken pie, chicken and dumplings, green beans, cornbread, biscuits, and ham.

He’d hone in on that chicken dish like a dog on a hunt complimenting the maker saying “that was the best chicken pie I ever had.” And he always meant it. While he was helping himself, it was the best he ever ate. By the time we left, often with leftovers tucked between two plates, Daddy had met everyone there, knew their life story and had shaken their hand with a promise to return. And he would. And would remember every single one of them even if it was months, or years later.

Leo Wagoner

It didn’t matter to him whether the chicken pie recipe included peas and carrots, or was topped with pie crust or biscuits, he was an equal opportunity chicken pie lover. He did have one favorite. His Mama’s and it was included in Hugs From The Kitchen, written by Peggy Snow, his first cousin and the daughter of his “Aint” Ollie and is made very much like cobbler. In our own Wagoner Family Cookbook, we’ve updated the recipe to include vegetables and even added, heaven-forbid, some wine to the cream.


Peggy Snow, Hugs From the Kitchen.

The Lakeland Ledger, Nov. 25, 1993, Lakeland, FL

Best Ever Chicken Pie

2 ½ to 3lb chicken
1 small onion, sliced
1 rib celery, plus some leaves
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup buttermilk
½ stick butter, melted
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans chicken broth (in which the chicken was cooked)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine chicken, onion, celery and celery leaves. Half cover with water. Cook until done. Cool and bone chicken, saving the broth. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Layer in a 9”x13” backing dish or cast iron skillet. Mix together flour, buttermilk, butter, salt and pepper. Spoon batter over chicken.  Stir soup and the equal of 2 cans of broth together. Pour over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Top should be brown.

Note from cookbook:  This is a great chicken pie! You can use chicken breast instead of whole chicken. Don’t think I’ve even made this that someone didn’t ask for the recipe. I believe it came from a family night supper at the First Baptist Church in Elkin, NC. – Peggy Snow
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ViolinNotesShufflin’ through the Past

What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – Katherine Grayson
Stardust – Nat King Cole
I Love You, For Sentimental Reasons – The King Cole Trio

Packin’ Light – Josh Preslar Band

Josh Preslar newI’m confessing right up front that Josh and the band are personal friends and that I worried a little when Josh asked me to write a review. Live, they are as much fun and as tight as any national touring band out there. What if that didn’t translate to a record? What if I didn’t like the album? What would I have to say? Needless worry.

If Josh Preslar can pack the house and have everyone near ‘bout hanging from the rafters song after song, it stands to reason that he can pack an album. He’s done just that with his new CD, and don’t let the title fool you.

Packin’ Light is an eleven-song collection stacked end-to-end with original tunes tastefully played by his “house band,” who just happen to be a handful of Triangle favorites – T.A. James (bass and guitar), Chuck Cotton (drums), Clark Stern (keyboards), and Mike “Howlin’ Wind” Davis (harmonica/vocals). With special guests Tad Walters (harmonica), David Richards (trumpet, Tim Smith (tenor sax), Neal Chapman (guitar) and Chris Bennett (guitar) sitting in, he really did turn the studio into a juke joint. And those of us who are regular fans know exactly what that means.

Preslar, a generous front man with a guitar style and voice as smooth and caressive as a fine bourbon (not to mention an enviable hat collection) lets each of his players shine throughout, often stepping back and sharing guitar space with James, Chapman, and Bennett.  Part of Preslar’s talent, aside from his vocal and guitar playing, is his ability to manage a room full of multi-instrumentalists and still make everything come out sounding spare and full all at the same time. It’s pure musical joy to hear the results when he seamlessly and expertly moves each into the spotlight.

JoshPreslarBandSoDu

Favorite cuts? “Housekeepin’.”  It’s basic relationship truth that gets in a groove you don’t want to leave. Leave that useless stuff behind. As long as it is, at nearly 6 and a half minutes, you don’t really want it end.  “Josh’s Boogie” feels good from the first note to the last. On second thought, don’t make me pick. The CD has been playing in my car and house for 4 solid weeks and, with each listen, my appreciation for the collection grows.

A self-proclaimed road warrior, Preslar’s been playing blues all his life and loves being out with a band. Packin’ Light is a reverent testament to the “grab what you need and it better fit in a matchbox or it’s getting left behind” simplicity of early blues along with the necessity of being able to hit the road traveling light whenever the notion strikes.

The songs on Packin’ Light tell a story. Whether it’s a town or a woman who talks too much or a dusty broom, life is often about what you leave behind in search of what’s in front of you.  Musically, it’s also a serious nod to the often miss-attributed Miles Davis quote “it’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.”

The Josh Preslar Band knows exactly which ones those are and the wisdom to know just which to leave behind.
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Catch Josh Preslar Band at one of these upcoming CD release shows
Sat., June 6, 2015 – Walker’s Bar, Greensboro, NC
Sat., June 13, 2015 – Rock Harbor Grill, Apex NC
Fri., June 26, 2015 – Blue Note Grill, Durham, NC

Take a listen on ReverbNation!

A Taste of Home, One Memory at a Time + Mama, Can I Shuffle?

Mother’s Day is bittersweet. For all intents and purposes, I’ve already lost my Mom. She is 6 years into dementia and no longer remembers who I am. She imagines she loves me. She even says so sometimes, just like she tells everyone she encounters from staff to stranger.  She used to hug me back. Now she stands limply in front of me with her arms dangling by her side, this passive yielding a different kind of better than the years of confusion and denial.

Her sense of Southern hospitality has been robbed from her. Rudely snatched a bit at a time while she wasn’t paying attention. A life invasion of the cruelest kind.

Long gone are the cherished possessions that used to define her. Gone is the fashion sense. Gone are the table manners she worked so hard to imprint on us just in case we were invited to dine at the White House. Gone are the family stories and memories. For us kids, ours are riddled with holes. We depended on her, and Dad, to fill in the gaps. I now regularly email my brother and sisters asking “Does anyone remember….?” Or “What year was ….?” I should have been a better keeper of the archives. Written it down. Not relied on my own often, now worrisome, forgetful memory. Grace-Collage2 Only three things make her smile now. Food, singing, and little children. Eating is her happy place, especially when it’s mashed potatoes or baked sweet potatoes. They say it’s because they are soft and easy to swallow, but I’d rather believe her love of sweet potatoes is a hold over from the year she was named the Yadkinville, NC Sweet Potato Queen.

At lunch one day last week, I watched her face soften and her eyes close over a spoonful of strawberry ice cream. For that one bite, she was having a full and meaningful moment. My heart twinged a little and I blinked back tears. The CNA standing beside us placed her hand on my shoulder and gave it a light squeeze. A memory began an instant replay and I burst out laughing, startling all of us in the dining hall.

One spring Chapel Hill evening sometime in the late 50’s (or early 60’s), Mom called us four kids in to supper. It was unlike her, but she placed a pie smack in the center of the round kitchen table without saying a word. None of us can remember what was for dinner, but we knew that we’d never get a bite of that pie unless we cleaned our plates. None of us could take our eyes off the pie. Eat a bite. Stare at the pie. Sneak the dog a bite. Stare at the pie.

As she cut and handed out slices, she reminded us not to take a bite until the hostess, her, had picked up her fork. She had barely lifted the fork before we were shoveling pie in our mouths. She started laughing as she yelled out “April Fools” just as we were realizing she had used salt instead of sugar as a joke. To make up for it, we all drove up to the Dairy Bar on Franklin Street for ice cream. Everybody came home happy and it became an often-told, always laughed-at family story.

Face it, Mom, Home Economics degree aside, you never really were a very good cook, but you could stretch a pound of hamburger into next week and knew that Campell’s Soup was the secret ingredient for every casserole. Feeding a family of 6 in those days meant dinner was routine and predictable. Tuna casserole, hot dogs, chicken casserole, meatloaf, spaghetti, “It Smells to Heaven” (which only smelled heavenly, but tasted terrible), the even-worse Hambolaga,  and a Sunday roast that went in the oven before we left for church that was cooked-to-well-done-sad-shoe-leather by the time we got home. But, we never went hungry and we always had dinner together. It was a family rule. That, and when we had chicken, Daddy always got the breast.

It was a borderline joke the year we compiled a family cookbook. I mean, who really wants the recipe for tuna casserole made with frozen peas, and Saltines? The goal was really to capture the handful of family favorites –Christmas Pie, cobbler, Mudhens, fruit compote, and baked rice – and to showcase how we’d each developed our own culinary skills in spite of, or maybe because of, growing up in a Betty Crocker world.

Mudhens were Mom’s go-to-to dessert and everybody loved them. A close cousin to Blondies, they didn’t last long in our house. Mine never turned out as good as hers and I teased her about leaving out an ingredient or adding a secret one without telling us. The recipe card is worn and smudged with greasy fingerprints, and I often hold it to my nose as if to recapture her essence.

I’m making her some for Mother’s Day and hope they trigger a memory, but I know not to be disappointed if they don’t. The funny twist on the April Fool’s pie story? Each of us kids remembers a completely different pie and are now laughing at whose memory is correct – chocolate, luscious lemon, lemon chess, or lemon meringue pie.

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Mudhens
1½ cup sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup butter
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar

Sift flour, salt and baking powder. Cream butter and white sugar. Add 1 egg and yolk of other egg. Blend sifted dry ingredients and add to butter and sugar mixture. Add vanilla. Put into baking dish. Mix unbeaten egg white and brown sugar with hands and crumble over mixture in dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until center tests gooey with a broom straw. Let cool completely before cutting.

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Luscious Lemon Pie
1 9″ regular Pet Ritz prepared pie shell -or- homemade pie crust
1 cup sugar
3  tbs corn starch
1/4 cup butter
1 tbs grated lemon rind
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 egg yolks, unbeaten
1 cup Carnation evaporated milk
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp lemon extract

Bake pie crust according to directions.  Combine sugar and corn starch and stir. Add 1/4 cup of butter, lemon rind, juice, egg yolk and stir in milk. Cook in top of double boiler until thick, about 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool. Lightly fold in sour cream and 1/2 tsp of lemon extract. Fold gently into pie crust. Cover with Saran Wrap and chill overnight. Just before serving, top with whipped cream.

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A Taste of Home, One Memory at a Time by Deborah Miller was originally published by NC Food, May 9, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the North Carolina Folklife Institute.
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Shuffle
Mama, Can I Shuffle?
Julia – The Beatles
Please Call Home – Greg Allman
Saint Behind the Glass – Los Lobos
Lullaby – Mandolin Orange
Your Momma Don’t Dance – Loggins & Messina

The Past Becomes a Present + Kitchen Shuffle

by Deborah Miller

I hit my early 30’s with a couple of significant, but soon to be important, strangers in my how-fast-can-I-run life. One was my second husband, who I hadn’t quite met yet, the second was my kitchen where I mostly kept beer or wine cold, the aluminum-drip-pot coffee hot, and take-out stashed as I hurried on the way to somewhere else. Please don’t judge my taste buds. They had no respectable influences back then … Mateus Rosé was my wine of choice because the man I shoulda married always came over with a bottle. You judged the night before by how many empty little Krystal Burger boxes were on the table when you woke up the next day. More than 5 … uh-oh.

Krystalboxes2

But I didn’t hate cooking. In fact, there was something calm and almost Zen-like there that was non-existent in my day-to-day, but I never stopped long enough to appreciate it. My candle stayed lit at both ends in those days. Plus at the time, my kitchen was a converted closet containing a baby 2- gas burner stovetop /oven and the sink was around the corner in my bedroom. Not terribly conducive to culinary expression … not that I’m making excuses because I was, after all, brought up by the “it’s a poor craftsman/woman who blames his/her tools” proverb.

When we (and by we, I mean me, my best friend and our running buddies, who were all either art students, musicians and/ or roadies) would end up in one place long enough, I’d often bake bread and cook a big pot of something. Soup. Stew. Spaghetti … because have you ever seen a boy (or a man) turn down a plate of spaghetti? Hasn’t happened in my life yet and I’m still waiting.

BreadPastaWine

Rarely did I write recipes down, because I was fearless and not afraid to add ingredients with abandon (whether they went together or not). Add enough wine to the pot and the guest(s), and who cares?

My recipes back then, if you can even call them that, were haphazard concoctions based on 1) how my mother made it, 2) how my grandmother made it, and 3) what I could afford. I’ve already proven in earlier blog posts that my siblings and I have varying colorful and wildly different memories of the exact same thing.

There was one family recipe I started doctoring just as soon as I was far enough away from home not to get caught. Bless her heart, my mother’s spaghetti sauce was just plain weird and not like anything I’d ever had before or since. She used to say that’s the way my Dad’s mother made it, that it was German-inspired. German spaghetti sauce? Really? They were from Yadkinville via the Alsace region, but that could hardly account for this particular and peculiar combination of ingredients. And there was nothing North Carolina about this sauce except for the woman opening the bottles. She’d saute onions and celery, maybe some dried garlic, brown some ground beef, then add a couple of bottles of Heinz Chili Sauce. I loved it until I tried “real red sauce” at a real Italian restaurant.

In an attempt to impress when I finally met the man I would marry, born story-embellisher that I am, my kitchen skills took on grand proportions as if I didn’t know, or care, that it would catch up with me sooner or later. We ate out a lot at first, and grilled almost every weekend, so coming up with sides for whatever hunk of meat was charring away outside was easy. There was foolhardiness as I threw elaborate dinner parties and tried out new dishes without even a rehearsal. One dinner, everything was held-up waiting for the rice to bake, a recipe my mother often made for fancy dinners. After 30 extra minutes and finally pulling the bubbling beef broth out of the oven, it was only to discover I’d never added the rice. Fortunately, there was wine a’plenty and if I know nothing else, it’s how to laugh long and hard at myself. For reasons that now escape me we ended up dancing around the dining room table singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of our lungs. It became an after dinner tradition.

cooking

Still, the kitchen didn’t scare me. Our circle of friends became fooled into thinking I knew what I was doing back there in that room with the pots and pans. I’ve lost count of the times I’d just go back in there and rattle things around a little just for their benefit.

Once married, and without even consciously trying, we began to start our own food traditions. One that included having all our favorites on one plate for a birthday, which in my case meant lobster, crab cakes and ribeye’s all in one meal. The holidays would roll around and I’d find myself homesick for a specific dish from my own childhood – breakfast strata, Christmas pie, baked fruit compote, or Mud Hens.

We honestly thought Mom created them until I pulled out my old dog-eared 2nd edition copy of Charleston Receipts to search for a dessert to take to a cookout and there big-as-life was her recipe. Exactly the same. They were such a hit, I promised myself I’d never forget about them again, though I’d smile coyly about our “secret family recipe” every time after.

WagonerFamilyCookbook1The Family Cookbook
Sometime during the summer of 1990, as I began to collect all those family recipes, including those that my brother and sisters had reworked and adapted to our adult tastes, it morphed into a family cookbook project. Everyone would send me their recipes, I’d re-type them all, make copies, and gather them in a ring binder. Sounded simple enough. I was either crazy or didn’t already have enough to do, so I also volunteered to design and cross stitch enough covers for each family to have their own book, plus an extra one each for the two 10-year old nieces who I named as my assistant editors. It became the big shared family Christmas gift that year and took its rightful place next to the old Joy of Cooking and Ladies Home Companion.

My copy is a treasure and is one of those things I’d grab if the house were on fire. It’s outgrown the binder in a good way, with other favorite recipes added through the years. Even after graduating from culinary school, I still go for the family cookbook nine times out of ten. Ever year, usually sometime in November and way too late to have it ready in time for Christmas, there are talks of doing a long overdue update. Bring it on, y’all. It’s about time.
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Kitchen Shuffle
Shuffle
RC Cola & a Moon Pie (NRBQ)
Maximum Consumption (the Kinks)
Alice’s Restaurant (Arlo)
Sweet Potato Pie (James Taylor)
Cheeseburger in Paradise (Jimmy Buffett)

R.E.M. BY MTV at Cat’s Cradle a special film screening and PopUp Chorus benefiting the Public Justice Foundation

There’s this.  It’s important. It’s fun. And it’s a damn good cause.

August 23, 2016 update:  Our beautiful and remarkable Vivian left us yesterday – peacefully, quietly in the comfort of family and friends.  We knew this day would come. Lauren Bromley Hodge said it way better than I ever could:

Yesterday, Vivian Connell joined the man in the moon, went to Heaven, became part of the universal flow of all things, Honestly, I do not know where she has gone, but I do know that she has left a hole in our world, and that I have lost a friend. A mother supreme, a ferocious fighter for justice, an advocate for public education, a towering intellect and force of nature like no other, Vivian loved music right up there with all else that she loved with such passion. Just over a year ago, Bernard Downing, Conductor Seamus Kenney, David Klein, Deborah Pardee Miller, Frank Heath and her husband, Paul Connell, worked together with many others, on an event to honor her, that benefited Public Justice, a cause that she held so close to her heart. We sang R.E.M. songs, screened their documentary, and watched her son,Hagan Connell join this kick ass band with Alex Maiolo on stage. Of course, he held his own, because he is a Connell, and they always hold their own. Re-watching this video and seeing her sing, laugh and love R.E.M., her family, friends and her community reminds me that life is precious, fleeting and beautiful. She made more of it that most. RIP beautiful woman, and may the community that you served with such passion bring peace and comfort to your grieving family. So proud to have known you. -LBH

R.E.M. BY MTV at Cat’s Cradle
a special film screening and PopUp Chorus benefiting the Public Justice Foundation

REMbyMTV

Carrboro, NC – A special musical benefit featuring the music of R.E.M. takes place at Cat’s Cradle, Friday, April 10, 2015 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in support of the Public Justice Foundation. The evening includes a screening of the documentary R.E.M. by MTV, a film about the life and times of R.E.M., and a PopUp Chorus of the audience singing R.E.M. favorites, “Man in the Moon” and “Losing My Religion.” The event honors Chapel Hill teacher and policy advocate, Vivian Connell. Advance tickets for the seated show are $15 and are available online now at http://www.catscradle.com. All proceeds benefit the Public Justice Foundation.*

The event springs from years of shared friendships and shared passion for social justice. Vivian Connell, an undergraduate in Athens, Georgia in the early 80’s, grew up in the burgeoning local music scene with the young R.E.M. As an emerging band,, R.E.M. performed their first benefit in 1984 for the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (L.E.A.F.). The young Connell, then Vi Riner, photographed this 1984 performance for The Red & Black, the University of Georgia, Athens student newspaper.

Thirty years later, after a two-decade teaching career, Connell graduated from UNC Law, passed the North Carolina Bar and was engaged in education policy advocacy, often working with long-time R.E.M. advisor Bertis Downs. But in March 2014, soon after embarking on her career in public interest law, Connell was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Following her diagnosis and despite physical limitations, Connell, a teacher, attorney, and policy advocate, continued to pursue public service, raising over $30,000 to lead a group of immigrant and marginalized students on a social justice trip to DC. On the importance of music, Connell observed, “Music has the power to unite people and to compel us toward a higher purpose,” adding, “R.E.M.’s music and politics have elevated our best ideals and inspired many, including me, to question the status quo and to pursue an authentic life of substance.”

Says Bertis Downs, R.E.M. advisor and co-producer of the documentary, “we are thrilled to have a screening of R.E.M. by MTV at Cat’s Cradle and to have it benefit The Public Justice Foundation, which does such vital work and is meaningful to our friend Vivian Connell. It is sort of a perfect circle; the Chapel Hill area has always been a special place for R.E.M. since their earliest days, and screening the film here gives us an opportunity to support and honor Vivian. The documentary has been well received by fans all over– and having PopUp Chorus join the event is a unique bonus.”

Click here to view Trailer for R.E.M. by MTV.

PopUp Chorus founder Lauren Bromley Hodge, a NC based arts entrepreneur, met Connell through Downs in 2011 after founding the Community Chorus Project, whose mission is to create community and positive social impact through music. In 2014, Hodge introduced PopUp Chorus, conducted by Seamus Kenney, as a program of Community Chorus Project, run in collaboration with the Department of Music at UNC, Chapel Hill. Hodge and Kenney are thrilled that PopUp Chorus can help celebrate Vivian Connell’s work and passion, while allowing them to turn the audience into a PopUp Chorus singing two iconic R.E.M. songs.

Like R.E.M.’s first benefit, this event will support public interest law. A perfect circle, indeed.

* Public Justice fights for consumer and victims’ rights, environmental protection and safety, civil rights and civil liberties, workers’ rights, America’s civil justice system, and the wronged, the poor and the powerless. The Public Justice Foundation is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable membership organization that supports cutting-edge litigation, advocacy, and education around these issues.

Those unable to attend may make a tax deduction donation by clicking here! 

Learn more about Vivian Connell –read her story on her blog, finALS: My Closing Arguments.

Advance tickets – BUY NOW!

# # #

Contacts:
Vivian Connell, Advisory Board, Public Schools First, North Carolina Certified Teacher, English 6-12, ESL K-12, 704-995-2222,vivcon@gmail.com
Lauren B. Hodge, Community Chorus Project LLC, 919-428-1597, lauren.b.hodge@gmail.com

For more information or to arrange an interview:
Deborah Miller, 919.219.6877, dpmiller@bellsouth.net

Ho-Ho-Ho-lidays

The holidays – Thanksgiving through New Year’s – seem to turn the nostalgia dial up to eleven for many of us, especially when it comes to what you put in your mouth.  We find comfort in the familiarity of the menu and we want them prepared the exact same way we had them at our table.  I certainly wouldn’t put my mother’s green bean casserole up against anyone else’s because it was just green beans, cream of mushroom soup topped with fried onions, but it somehow tasted better when she made it.

That was never more evident to me than the year a former boyfriend painstakingly removed all the fried onions from the top of my casserole and placed them back one by one in the exact same pattern his mother had used. And yes, I stood nearby rolling my glazed-over been-in-the-kitchen-for-hours brown eyes the whole time. Gives whole new meaning to Brown Eyed Girl.  Or the year one of my best friends insisted on big marshmallows instead of tiny ones on top of the sweet potatoes. I got it. Finally. As progressive as we are, there are some things you just don’t mess with.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The expectations are relatively low in comparison to Christmas. It’s mostly about the food, the wine, the pie, and being together. Yeah, yeah, yeah … it’s about football too.

My family usually watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while making final preparations. We ate mid-day with everyone going around the table speaking out what we were grateful for, and we were done in time to watch football.  The non-footballers (ie. the girls) would pull out an old movie, usually a musical, sing along, cry a little, and laugh a lot. Almost everybody took a nap.

Christmas Eve we went to church, held candles, sang carols, and imagined that there was a Santa Claus. One year my brother and I sat (ok, we slept a little) at the top of the stairs in hopes of catching Santa. Never gonna happen.

I’m naturally, and often obnoxiously, curious. Translation: that makes me an obsessive Googler. Don’t challenge me to challenge. I can out-google you.

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An interesting representation of cultural foodways. What does your state say about you, your food traditions, and your recipe googling activities?
Just in case you’re one of those obsessive googlers (I confess, I am), check out this map of the Thanksgiving recipes googled in every state. North Carolina’s is Pig Pickin’ Cake with not a piece of pork anywhere close by.

pig-pickin-cake-600………………………………………………

Whatever the dish, the timing of the dinner, or the traditions surrounding the way each holiday is spent in your family, we’re all just wishing for a connection …whether it’s creating new traditions for our  future or simply longing for the warm ones in our past.

I wish you the happiest of coming days in hopes that they are filled with warmth, family, friends and food!