Watermelon Redemption

One of the best, most delicious things about summer is watermelon. I have yet to find the perfect 2010 watermelon, but it’s out there…somewhere…

I ate half a watermelon tonight, in spite of its inferiority. Better than pretzels, a substitute for dinner.

Summer food makes me happy. Squash and zucchini and berries, fresh tomatoes.

I was raised in a farming community. The reality of my Food Lion shopping life is so very far from the days of my childhood, when we always had something growing in the garden and would fill our freezer with the meat of the cows that roamed the pastures for a year or so before they “disappeared”. One of my sweetest memories is digging potatoes out of the ground, rubbing off the dirt and eating them raw. My mom canned tomatoes and green beans every year. We ate from our garden, and from my grandparents’ and other relatives’ bounty as well.

My kids have hardly experienced this reality, knowing the backstory of the food that finds its way to their plates. However, we have grown a handful of things in accidental gardens. Several years ago, while living in Ohio, we made jack o’ lanterns, carving fat pumpkins on the front stoop and tossing the slimy, seed-filled innards into the 4′ by 4′ patch of soil by the front door. The next summer, we had huge, healthy pumpkins filling our “garden” – a springtime surprise from October.  When they were younger, the Easter bunny would often bring the kids seed packets (along with the requisite candy basket). We’d grow flowers, mostly.  We’d decorate the small terra cotta pots, fill them with rich, dark soil and each kid would plan their own seeds. Set out on the front steps of our suburban Ohio home, we’d hope for the best – but, in truth, we’d forget about them, ignore them and move on to other projects.

One year, when David was just beginning to toddle throughout the house and find interesting ways to amuse himself, he found the five little pots filled with dirt. Like any two-year old, he only had one reaction: dump the dirt. Come spring time, we had a crazy but fruitful patch of dirt by the front door. That was the year that tomatoes grew up in the cracks of the driveway pavement. Later that summer, David hid my cell phone out in the flower garden.

My kids know what it’s like to bring in our own watermelon or pumpkins, to eat the bounty of fresh tomatoes growing (in the driveway, of all places). But we live like we have no idea – or interest – in the origin of our food.

One of my summer reads is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (one of my favorite authors). The book is well-written, a good read, but it is messing me up. I guess that’s an expected outcome of good literature or truth – it worms its way into your soul, twists in like a fish hook and doesn’t let go. This book disturbs me, because it illustrates how far we are from the honesty of knowing where our food comes from. It convicts me because I generally – to this point – don’t think twice about simply driving to Food Lion to buy, and then eat, anything I crave. It bothers me because it makes me think about what I crave, and how far those cravings often are from “real” food.

I love that summer brings with it an opportunity to buy onions and squash with dirt still on them, to pick out the oddly misshapen squash from a bushel basket by the side of the road. Exchanging currency for the fruit of a local farmer’s labor tastes good. It feels good. But it’s not enough, not for the long term.

I see a patch of land in the place that we hope to call home in another year or so. I’d like to think that I would have the discipline and the passion for a garden in our future. Perhaps my kids don’t know much more than driveway tomatoes, but there is a possibility of grandchildren somewhere down the road. Therein might lie my redemption.

Good Times

This week has been entirely too much good stuff.

Good conversation.
Good sleep.
Good laughter.
Good movie (well…maybe. Have you seen Hamlet 2?)
Good weather.
Good sun (meaning NO SUNBURNS).
Good games – hello, Bananagrams! I love you!
Good coffee.
Good morning conversations.
Good homemade ice cream.
Good walks – four miles every day with my sister-in-law.
Good meals – again, my sister-in-law, who has created some memorable meals. Vegetarian enchiladas. Rice bowls. Grilled tilapia. And, of course, my mom’s famous ribs. I haven’t done much cooking, but I made this cake…

This has been a wonderful vacation.

On Biscuits and Leadership

I love fall.  Now that we’re somewhat settled into the routine of school, I’m slipping back into a rhythm of life that feels very familiar.  For some reason, fall brings out the ‘mom’ in me just a bit stronger than usual.  Or perhaps it’s more that I return to some habits that resonate with my maternal side.

I cooked this week.  A lot.  When the kids were younger and I considered myself a stay-at-home-mom, I was usually fairly focused on meal preparation.  I grew up in a house where we ate a ‘real dinner’ almost every night of the week – usually meat, a carb and a vegetable.  There were exceptions:  when Dad was traveling out of town, we got to have salmon patties, spaghetti, fishsticks or chicken and rice – all stuff my dad wouldn’t eat.  And now, I realize, all stuff that was a heck of a lot easier to prepare for my mom!
I digress.  
It’s interesting that I cooked this week, because now that I work full-time, there are too many nights when dinner is on the run, thrown together – anything but thought out.  There’s pizza, usually once a week.  Sometimes we fend for ourselves and have sandwiches.  I don’t always feel good about what’s on the table – especially compared to my own childhood.
But fall is here, they’re back in school, and I’m getting back in touch with the ‘mom’ deep inside.  And so, I have cooked.
We had steak.  We had grilled chicken.  We had brisket and pinto beans.  And we had stew and biscuits.  All home-cooked, no pre-cooked sauces or spice mixes or anything.  And I feel like a bona fide mom.  (Just don’t ask me about the laundry…or the baseboards…or the windows…or the bathrooms…or anything else that requires cleaning…)
Sydni was born in July of 1994, and not long afterwards I started work as a consultant for Pampered Chef.  Lonnie stayed home with the kids one or two nights a week while I did shows.  I liked it; I loved the products, loved getting out with adults and really loved being able to contribute to the family by making the van payment while Lonnie was working and going through grad school.  I was good at what I did – I was passionate and excited, and it translated to good sales and a ‘promotion’ into leadership as I started to build a sales team.
I worked for a year or two and then got tired.  Leadership was hard.  I had another baby.  Life got a little more demanding.  I gave it up.
But I loved Pampered Chef and I loved the stuff I learned and the products that I still have, to this day.  And I learned a lot about leadership, never realizing that over a decade later, those lessons would impact my life so greatly.
The point of this story?  I’m not sure, except to say that I cooked homemade biscuits this week – from scratch – and I used Pampered Chef tools.  I think my baking powder needs to be replaced, because my biscuits ended up more like fat saltine crackers than biscuits.  But as I cooked, I felt nostalgic.  I thought back at where I’d been and where I was now, and what I have carried with me.

There are things that you get to keep, no matter what your losses might be along the way.  And some of those things – like leadership skills, loving what you do and cooking for your family – last for a lifetime.

In fact, they become a lifetime.  
Even if they don’t turn out quite right every time, I still know how to make biscuits.  And I get to keep that.