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Tag Archive: January

Jan 06

January thoughts: comfort food is more than just food.

Old Fashioned Mac 'n' Cheese

 From my archived columns, first published in The Examiner on January 1, 2009. The Examiner is a daily newspaper, Tuesday through Saturday, serving Eastern Jackson County, Mo.

 

Food is the most primitive form of comfort. –Sheila Graham, columnist and author

Last January, I wrote my column about comfort food. This January, comfort food is all I am thinking about once again. I remember foods my mother and grandmother made, and that is reason enough to want them.

Cookbook author Molly Wizenberg explains, better than I, why we want comfort foods from our past.

“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else; who we are, who we have been and who we want to be (From “A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, 2009”).

I am not the only one thinking about comfort food. Just this week in fact, some friends invited us to a “comfort food dinner”, and we jumped at the chance. What a great idea, I thought. It is miserably cold outside, the skies are gray, and we are moping around the house with S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder—lack of sunshine). What could be better than comfort food to make us feel better.

Our hosts served a dinner menu that turned out to be exactly what I used to eat when I was a child. Food from the 50s and 60s, and I was in heaven or at the very least in time warp. Our hosts said that they think food is not about impressing people but more about making them feel comfortable, and that is exactly what happened.

Their menu from the past:
Old-fashioned pork roast, just like my grandma’s. Baked apples served on the side, cooked with cinnamon and Red Hots candy, just like they served decades ago at my elementary school cafeteria. Baked macaroni and cheese, all crusty on the top and sides that tasted exactly like my aunt’s. Warm cherry pie with the crumbly top, same as Mom used to make.

What can one do after a meal like that but sit down in an easy chair and sigh.

And dream about walking home from school on Monday (bread baking day) and smelling the waft of my grandmother’s baked bread and cinnamon rolls from as far away as the street corner. I long for my mom’s hot tapioca pudding whipped fluffy with egg whites that she made for Sunday dinner, and my dad’s unique cornbread-sausage stuffing recipe he made on Thanksgiving Day.

“Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort,” said Norman Kolpas, cookbook author and editor.

In a harsh winter and in an unsure world, comfort me with food any old day.

Jan 12

Do we really need new sheets, calendars, housecleaning and new thoughts in January?

“If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it” – Erma Bombeck

Adaptation is what we need in January, we tell ourselves this time of year.

I do not know about you, but the older I become the less adaptive I care to be.

Encarta Encyclopedia describes “alteration” as the state of changing to fit new circumstances or conditions, a revision if you will.

It is curious to me that I used to love change, but now I am not so sure I like it.

Come January most of us resolve to try something new. Buy new sheets. Try to understand a calendar that begins on a Monday. Move the chairs and furniture around, put away Christmas decorations, clean the closets, think new thoughts and look at life differently. And oh yes, if there is time, organize those photographs that reside in boxes in the basement or in files on one’s computer.

I began these January tasks by putting away Christmas decorations and thoroughly cleaning the house. However, I quickly became bored and instead spent the afternoon watching two back-to-back chick flicks, popped popcorn and enjoyed a Root Beer. Don’t tell the spousal unit.

The next day I attempted to take down Christmas decorations again, and this time as I was carrying two many boxes and sacks down the basement steps, twisted my knee and fell on my wrist. No serious damage was done, although I am wearing support braces on both appendages.

So much for housekeeping. You see, as Erma Bombeck once said, “Housework can kill you if done right.”

Then there are the annual January white sales in all my favorite stores, and I am confident this will be the year I replace the sheets. Maybe I will cover the sofa and buy a new bedskirt and comforter set as well. Usually by the time I decide what I want, the sales are over.

New calendars arrive, but some of them begin with Monday instead of Sunday. I cannot fathom these at all, so I probably will not use them. I have to wonder who designed these calendars, some 23-year-old commercial art student fresh out of college? Don’t they know we baby boomers have to have our calendars start on Sunday because that is all we have ever known? Ok, Ok, I suppose they are designed for the business week, but why?

As I was saying, we baby boomers may like to think we are open to new ways, but truth be told, we drag our feet kicking and screaming into the new year and into anything new at all. The old year and our old ways were just fine with us.

Farmers in the Midwest, have a saying for our January conundrum, “Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none,” like last year.

In many ways though, last year did bother us a lot. Every year does.

So, we contemplate change each January and hope that this January change will actually happen, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Although come to think of it, according to Washington Irving, “There is a certain relief in change, even though it may be from bad to worse As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position and be bruised in a new place!”

I think I am ready for February.

Jan 20

Cures for glummest day of the year–Blue Monday

“Blue Monday how I hate Blue Monday…cause Monday is a mess.” – recorded by Fats Domino, 1956; written by Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino

It is that time of year, late January, when many of us are in a funk, especially on Blue Monday.

Going back to work, post-Christmas debts, nasty bad weather, failed New Year’s resolutions and low motivation.

All these dilemmas add up to one sour, dour and miserable bad mood.

I am blaming mine on Blue Monday.

Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year falls in late January, according to Dr. Cliff Arnall. He is the mathematician credited with devising a formula that he says proves this is the most dismal, gloomiest, melancholy and depressing day of the year.

Wonderful news isn’t it.

Don’t get too gleeful, however, if you think that Blue Monday occurred last Monday, Jan. 17th, and is behind you. It may not actually have happened yet, since apparently there is some confusion as to when it falls in 2011, the 17th or 24th of January.

Happily, there may be cures for these Blue Monday blues if you happen to suffer from what is also referred to as “Blue Monday Syndrome”.

Step One.

Listen to an old Fats Domino recording of “Blue Monday”, his top-of-the charts 50s tune (Hint: you can find the recording on YouTube, search Fats Domino – Austin City Limits).

You will feel better right away.

I just played it on my computer and am rocking and rolling right out of that Blue Monday funk even as we speak.

Step Two.

Bean soup. Eat yourself happy because comfort food in the dreads of winter really does help. Bean soup, anyway you want to make it, is my personal comfort food favorite served with cornbread and warm tapioca pudding, dolloped with beaten egg whites. Note: don’t serve the pudding chilled if you want true comfort.

Step Three. Choose from these most-often used suggestions and hopefully you will find one that helps you survive Blue Monday.

Take off your shoes and walk around your home or office barefoot. (Makes sense, unless one happens to have overpowering foot odor. If so, move on to the next suggestion please.)

Drink a hot beverage throughout the day as the act of holding a warm cup in your hand can help. I’ve got that one down.

Sit up straight. Stand up straight. Don’t slouch. (Yes, it is your grandmother’s voice in your head, and she was right.)

According to numerous university studies, I found that the following activities provide some much-needed wintertime TLC. Sing, dance, flirt, give to charity, help others, light floral-scented candles, play board games or watch I Love Lucy. Survey says.

Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our misery that we don’t know how to find our way out. Thus, I direct you back to Step One and Fats Domino, a perfect place to begin.

Turn up the volume and sing:

“Blue Monday, how I hate Blue Monday. Got to work like a slave all day. Here come Tuesday, oh hard Tuesday. I’m so tired got no time to play. Here come Wednesday. I’m beat to my socks…Thursday is a hard-working day, and Friday I get my pay. Saturday mornin’, oh Saturday morning’, all my tiredness has gone away. Sunday morning…I’ve got to get my rest. ‘Cause Monday is a mess!”

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