Category Archives: Uncategorized

Thoughts in the Head go Round and Round

I want more from my technology.  In a strange way.  I know.  I, I, I. Me, me, me. 

I want it to do what I want it to do without spying on my every movement, or word, or reporting my latest sidestep in craziness to whoever’s out there taking notes. 

My coffee pot should make noises I choose to let me know it’s done brewing.  Like the first few notes of Day-O, or Good Morning Starshine, rather than an annoying beep-beep-beep-beep-beep. And should politely say “goodbye” when turning itself off. 

Siri or whatever map direction voice telling you how to get from here to there? I want to hear “Oh, girl, you do not want to go that way” -or-  “You better slow your ass down, ’cause you gotta turn in about 500 feet” in Wanda Sykes voice. The voices you hear should be a dialect and cadence like that of riding the back roads with your best friend. 

Am I right?  

SHUFFLE OF VOICES
Speaking in Tongues – Arcade Fire
Other Voices/Other Rooms – Nancy Griffith/Emmy Lou Harris
Banana Boat Song (Day-O) – Harry Belafonte


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

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!

My Back Pages

Roger McGuinn (04/25/13)

Roger McGuinn
Friday, May 3, 2013 $33/$37 day of show
ArtsCenter
300 E. Main St.
Carrboro, NC, 27510
http://www.artscenterlive.org/

http://www.ibiblio.org/jimmy/mcguinn/

I was half kidding when I asked if Roger McGuinn was up for interviews before his show on May 3rd and next thing I knew I was emailing with Camilla, his lovely bride of 35 years (AKA Roger’s manager, road manager, stage manager, roadie, etc.) That was last fall so I had months in which to imagine a conversation AND get really nervous about it.  I was in the music business for years and met hundreds of well-known people, but Roger McGuinn was a Byrd, for cryin’ out loud! If there was a soundtrack to my life, it came from the Byrds.

Aside from defining and inspiring an era while embracing sounds that would become instantly recognizable and positively American, Roger McGuinn was the connector between folk, rock and country.  He was also a constant at the center of one of the most seminal bands of the 60’s and 70’s that would include a revolving door of equally influential cohorts – David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, Clarence White, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, Gene Parsons, and more. I’m not sure I want to even imagine where music would be today without him, but I’m dead certain that man has some amazing stories to tell.

Camilla directed me to the FAQ’s on Roger’s website and while she didn’t exactly say it, what she meant was  – asked and answered thousands of times, find some new questions.But I was going for a local angle.  Roger’s favorite project, The Folk Den is hosted here at UNC –Chapel Hill on Ibibilio.org, a contributor-run, digital library that is a collaborative project of the School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Paul Jones is director of this home to one of the largest “collections of collections” on the Internet.

“I think that the McGuinn’s are a couple that have made some very smart choices doing what they love and sharing that love,” said Jones. “He loves playing but hated the hassles of managing a group as time went on. Now he gives away a song a month, right on time where ever he may be, and plays the shows he cares about going where he and Camilla like to go. He once told me that “touring with Camilla is like a kind of honeymoon at every show” They keep it simple but very high quality. I’m a great fan of both of them. Even someone completely incapable of playing guitar or singing on key (I’m saying me here) can appreciate Roger’s commitment to musicianship and his generous spirit.”

Having heard that Roger had made a guest appearance in his History of Rock class, I reached out to John Covach, rock historian and former Professor of Music Theory at UNC (now Chair of the College of Music at Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester).

“Yes, Roger McGuinn visited my History of Rock at UNC about ten years ago,” said Covach.  “There were 300 or so students in the class at the time and it seemed like they all showed up that day, along with many faculty and staff–the room was filled to capacity.  Roger had two guitars with him; I asked questions, he answered, and then would perform a song or two.  It was a fantastic session and the students demonstrated their appreciation by giving him a standing ovation.  He was overwhelmed by this and I might have even seen a tear in his eye.  It was one of those rare moments in education where everything works out perfectly.  Somebody told me later that he really enjoyed the experience–I know I did!”

Roger and I talked about that visit, along with his collection of transistor radios, visiting the Beatles in LA, folk song collecting, technology, and music. Then he put Camilla on the phone. If you’re still dying to know the answers to all those asked and answered questions like “why did he change his name from Jim to Roger” go to the website.  It’s all there, plus some.