family get-togethers to remember old times … by one o’the nine

Well it’s 2012 already but it feels about the same as the old one what with the Republicans still campaigning since they started around the end of 2008. I don’t make resolutions for the new years. Don’t believe in them. Like dieting, they don’t last long, so I don’t even bother. I did decide to work on a list of things that need doing soon. Like cleaning my half of the office. I’m prompted to do so because I can’t find my plugin for my (old-fashioned, outdated) Ipod. It took me two weeks to remember what the container I hid it in looks like. Now, with any luck, I’ll round it up in a few weeks so I can update and charge it and take it to the gym with me–I NEED the distraction! No matter what they tell me, exercising does NOT make me happy. No resolutions there–just a sincere effort to change lifestyle. That does work. I can tell already. The other big item on my list is to clean up my Wintersong archives–I’m sure there’s a lot in there that would embarrass me now. In fact, I’ve already been rewarded! Back in ’09, before the big C days of 2010, I put in drafts of many one o’the nine posts from my story-telling uncles (now deceased) down in Florida. Lots of people seem to like them, and I thought I’d used them all up and forgot they were there in the drafts. There are very few left now–here’s one I hope you like. With the holidays just past us, I expect some of you have your own stories to tell from your family gatherings. I’d enjoy them if you care to leave a comment.

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Last week I ate supper with all of my brothers who are still living except one. While we were eating, one of them–named “Speckle”–told me he wanted me to write a retraction on something I had written about him. About three weeks ago, I wrote about Speckle sitting in church winding his 75¢ pocket watch. Now the reason he was winding it was so people would know he had a watch. He wanted me to correct a big mistake about him and watch. He informed me that it cost 79¢ and he didn’t want people to get the idea that he was some kind of cheapskate that would buy a 75¢ watch. Well, here is the retraction, Speckle, but it sure looked and sounded just like a 75¢ watch to me. We had a wonderful time together at supper talking about the good old days when we were children growing up on the farm. We only have a chance to get together once in a great while, and when we do you can bet we always have to talk about the good old days.

There were nine of us boys and one girl. The dining room table was a long, homemade table with benches that sat on each side, also homemade. I well remember the good food my mama used to put on that old table for us younguns to eat. There were peas, potatoes, lima beans, cornbread and raw onions. There was all kinds of greens with pot likker. In case you don’t know what pot likker is, it was the juice or liquor that the vegetables cooked in. There is nothing better than a bowl of pot likker and a big chunk of Mama’s cornbread. We also had a big glass or fruit jar full of buttermilk or clabber to go with our meal.

While my brothers and I were together that evening, my brother we call “Goat” asked me to write a story about the times we went chinquapin hunting and also tell about the sassafras tea we used to drink. Well, I would mention it now, but I can’t spell chinquapin or sassafras. I will assure you when I learn to spell them I will tell you all about it.

We had a wonderful time together talking about good times, and may I suggest that you call all of your brothers and sisters and get together again and talk about the good old days. It doesn’t matter if you were raised on the farm or in the city, I’m sure you can find something worthwhile to talk and laugh about. A good laugh will do you more good than a dose of Castor oil.

Postscript: Speckle was my father, although I was not aware at the time that he carried that particular nickname. The reference to “cheapness” is right on. He bought everything according to price tag. My poor mother was never able to just buy something because she liked it even if she could afford it. That explains the plastic panels with garish flowers printed all over that we used on all the windows and called curtains. And the mohair couch we sat on to watch the wonder of the technological age of the times–television! When it was new it scratched your legs (girls were only allowed to wear dresses then) something awful! Does anyone know what Chinquapins are? They seem to grow all over the states, and even in Japan. Some species grow into large trees, but around the swamp land we lived on, they were more like large shrubs and the “fruit” looked very much like chestnuts covered with a protective, prickly bark. I never ate any that I remember because you need special expertise getting them out of the covering. However it’s spelled (Chinquapin seems to be preferred), Chinkapin is the English name. I’ve indulged in a lot of Sassafras tea since it’s something Mama would brew when we were sick and you could still find it in the woods for free, and of course I drank a lot of pot likker in my time. Now if you’re one of the few left who know what clabber is, you get an A and moved to the front of the history class! Cornbread was also legendary in our southern country home. My son-in-law, who grew up in Germany, thinks corn is for pigs, but I don’t care. I’m glad he refuses to touch my melt-in-your-mouth creamed corn, since it leaves more for me to enjoy. But the world, she does keep a-changing, doesn’t she! Don’t forget the family stories!  

colorful, spicy and healthful indian cooking

Over the years I have prepared Indian (or Indian-style) dishes, even developed a few of my own when I used to cook a lot. The past few years, I’ve been very reluctant and usually leave the Indian meals for Hubby to prepare. He does an admirable job, too, but I still have this innate desire to be able to whip up a fantastic Indian meal myself. I have a few good Indian cookbooks, and I’ve turned out some decent meals with the help of some of them, but what I’m missing in (most of) them, is technique. I didn’t grow up in India learning to cook at the knee of an Indian mother, so I’m short on technique as well as imagination.

So whenever a Wintersong reader (and blogger friend) left a comment suggesting some Indian recipes, I remembered a discovery I made months ago that renewed my hope in learning how to cook Indian dishes seat of the pants style, i.e., without recipes. I’m still working on it, and want to share my discovery with my readers. The video below is one of six of a series called Healthful Indian Cooking by Alamelu Vairavan of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In it, Alamelu will show you how to prepare a typical Indian vegetarian meal of Lemon Rice, Eggplant Masala, and Lima Bean Poriyal. She also takes you shopping in an Indian grocery store to explain how different rices taste.

Here’s my tip of the day for you: don’t worry about trying to jot down the ingredients while you watch. At the end of each dish preparation, the ingredients are listed. Just pause the video and copy them down so you’ll be able to actually read it when you’re ready to try them yourself. Also, I’ve made a list of the other five episodes that I consider eye candy for foodies. If you enjoy #101, you’ll probably want to see the others as well. They’re all on YouTube, and each contains nutritional information and tips in choosing ingredients, and runs about 27 minutes.

#102: features a Raita (Cucumber/Tomato/Yogurt Salad), Garlic & Pepper Chicken, a colorful rice dish featuring vegetables.
#103: featuring Cauliflower Masala, Green Beans Poriyal, Black-eyed Peas Kulambu, plus a visit to a farmer’s market to choose vegetables.
#104: featuring Brussels Sprouts Kulambu, Roasted Potatoes, Turkey Podimas cooked with split peas and coconut, plus a tour of an Indian grocery to learn about spices used in Indian cooking.
#105: features Tuna Masala, a Carrot Sambhar, Chickpea & Mango Soondal, and tips of how to select the right kind of lentils at an Indian grocery.

Finally, I thought you might find this little-known fact–about me–a little interesting. It’s my Indian name. An Indian friend of ours since more than 40 years ago, Gangs, an Indian friend of ours at the time, decided I should have an Indian name. Since my real name was and is considered “old-fashioned” in the U.S., Gangs reasoned that I needed an “old-fashioned Indian” and came up with Alamelu. He claimed it was very old-fashioned. Years later, when Hubby and his three brothers were performing a ceremony of homage at the one-year anniversary of their father’s death, the Brahman priest asked for the names of the son’s wives. When it came time to provide mine, they were at a loss as how to translate Alice into Tamil, so Alamelu was substituted. Thus, my (unofficial) Indian name has been Alamelu for about 45 years. Now you understand how I was attracted to this video when it first came to my attention. Since the video Alamelu is actually younger than me, I surmise the name has enjoyed a resurgence as India, just as mine has (in various spellings) in this country.