Novel still in rewrite, but this recipe bears repeating.
Another in the sometime series from “Annie Cooper’s Recipe Scrapbook.” The foods are all mentioned in my still-in-heavy-rewrite novel. Claire holds a tender spot in her heart for this recipe and for one particular member of the family it came from. Enjoy!
Butternut Squash with Apples
from the kitchen of Claire Jordan
Auntie Claire isn’t much of a cook and I was surprised when Mom told me this favorite fall recipe was hers. When I asked Auntie Claire about its origin, she got a faraway look in her eyes and said it came from the mother of an old college friend. Somehow I got the feeling that there was more to the story.
- About 1 ½ pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped. About 5 cups. Many produce departments now carry peeled and chopped squash.
- 4 medium tart apples, chopped.
- ½ cup dried cranberries, cherries, raisins, or combination
- ½ cup chopped walnuts or…
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Nearly fifty years ago, as my Darling Husband (DH) and I were planning our wedding and life together, I tried to involve him in many of the details. I didn’t want to cut him out of what at the time was a traditionally female process. But, as a twenty-one-year-old man, he was disinterested to say the least. Go figure. I especially wanted his help in choosing the everyday dishes that he’d be eating from–and washing up–for the foreseeable future. I dragged him to a local department store where we selected a very simple design—ivory, with a thick band of olive green and thin brown stripe. (Earth tones were very big in 1973.) Not my first choice, but in the interest of compromise, we registered our pattern.
Weeks later my mother began displaying wedding gifts on the dining room table, as one does. Or did. Is that still a thing? Anyway, DH remarked that he liked the dishes.
“You should like them. You picked them out,” I said.
“Huh. I don’t remember ever seeing them before.”
Henceforth, I was a little less worried about involving DH in those kinds of decisions. And in the intervening years, as our needs and my tastes evolved, I chose kid-proof Corelle or beautiful Pfaltzgraff dishes with minimal input from him. Over time our earth tones were replaced by blue and white china, white enamelware, and lovely cobalt blue glass. Pretty, right?
Fast-forward forty-six years.
My much-loved Pfaltzgraff collection was showing signs of thirty years everyday use. I mentioned to DH that I might get some new dishes, but not all at once. I’d merely incorporate the new, little by little. DH said he’d always like Fiestaware. Me too. It’s been around since the 1930s and fits right in with our vintage-old-crap-from-every-dead-relative decor. So, I chose a few Fiesta place settings that coordinated beautifully with the remaining unchipped pieces of Pfaltzgraff. Even the transition would look fine. Slowly, I’d add more pieces I found at thrift shops and yard sales. Keyword: Slowly. The hunt would give me pleasure. Not to mention the thrill of serendipitously finding a bargain. Remember, I didn’t really need new dishes.
Conversely, DH is very much an instant gratification sort of guy. Always has been. That hasn’t changed. Hence, he soon became dogged in his search for pieces to replace every single item in the cupboard and others that were somehow iconic to the Fiesta brand. Now. Watch lists on eBay. Wish lists on Amazon. Email alerts when new pieces arrived. He ordered things without telling me until they are on their way. He even bought me a Fiestaware encyclopedia.
All to show he loves me, of course. Bless his heart.
While I am donating my discarded Pfaltzgraff to a local charity that helps needy families furnish their homes, my material footprint has not shrunk in the least. And I’ve lost control over what had been my purview for decades. Granted it’s only the color scheme for our dinnerware–and the pace at which it changes–but still.
Furthermore, we once again needed to have that little chat about how the ways in which he shows his love don’t always match the ways I feel that love.
So, where is that oblivious young man I married? At the other computer, checking to see if the cute miniature pitcher is available in Cobalt. Or maybe Scarlet.
I wrote this column eighteen years ago. It was originally published in The Nevada Appeal on September 26, 2001
My Own Battlefields in This New War
“It’s awful here. BUT I’M ALIVE,” our older daughter finally wrote in response to one of my frantic emails. She had moved to New York City just six days before the attack. Phone calls, even cell-phones were useless as all the other worried mothers around the world tried to get through. The entire morning I anxiously imagined her protected in large God-like hands. All the while, she slumbered in the arms of Morpheus, asleep 150 blocks away from the World Trade Center.
Maybe I had neglected that piece of her training: In case of national disaster, call your mother. But what precedent did I have? Who could have imagined this?
And a week later, as I listened to President Bush tell us about this new kind of war, to be fought on different kinds of battlefields, my imagination ran to the places where we might have to fight. I know he meant military actions, but what battles will we here at home fight? Where will I, a middle-aged, married, teacher, and mother in Carson City, Nevada, be asked to fight?
I will fight to keep my awareness of world events and this war in its proper place, in balance with my real, everyday life. While I want to learn as much as I can about the situation and the sacrifices being made, I don’t want to become so paralyzed by fear and worry that my real life can’t go on. I’ll need to turn away from the TV now and then so that the images will not continue to flood my psyche, desensitizing—or re-sensitizing—me to the horror. People on every continent have endured horrific acts of terrorism. We can survive. Our lives, although forever changed, will go on. Must go on.
As citizens, I’m sure you’ll agree that we will struggle to focus on what is really important. We have been jolted from our complacency and have learned that there are some things worth fighting for. Right now, that thing is to make our world safe again. What happened to us was a shameful act. I hope that our response will not make us ashamed but will prove us worthy of our place in the world.
My larger battle however, will be to simply feel normal again. I’ll go through the motions of whatever “normal” is, hoping that soon my feelings will catch up to my actions. I’ll attend meetings, make appointments, plan birthday celebrations, and go shopping for the perfect shade of lipstick. I’ll admire the fall colors. We’ll take that raft trip through the Grand Canyon next summer. However, the first big test of my trying to be normal will be to travel to the reading conference in Las Vegas this weekend.
“Not on a plane!” My good friend in California seemed incredulous.
“Yes, a plane.”
“Can’t you drive?”
“Drive eight hours each way for a two day conference? I don’t think so. I’m not giving in to fear. I’m flying.” We’ll see how I brave this citizen-soldier feels tomorrow night as she boards the plane.
As a teacher, I will strive to keep focused on my goals and objectives as well as to use this teachable moment to explore geography, history, and tolerance. I will also work to counteract the violence and fear my students may have seen on television or the hatred they may have heard expressed. In addition, I must be vigilant and protect my young students from ignorant, misdirected anger and hatred. I’ll do what I can to prevent that bit of collateral damage.
The battle with my emotions will be a small, very private struggle. I merely want to be able to say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” without the tears and without the catch in my throat. That California friend says she hasn’t dared wear mascara since that awful day. “What’s the use?” I imagine her with those black streaks running down her sweet, sad face. The vision makes me smile. I’ll need to laugh again too, out loud, with my friends.
We will all need to prepare ourselves for our own private battles in this war. We’ll all need to find ways to keep ourselves focused, grounded and sane. But how do we do that?
We can begin by doing what soldiers throughout history have done before going into battle: Count your blessings; remember you’re not alone; gather your loved ones close; tell them you love them.
And remember to call your mother.
I listened to the brilliant reading by Cathleen McCarron of this brilliant book during walks and car rides this summer. (Thank you, Overdrive!) I found the damaged, habit-driven Eleanor utterly charming. Her very literal view of the world makes for some very humorous moments. Eleanor’s not crazy but the world certainly is. Besides, her strict adherence to routine has allowed her to keep memories of a horrendous childhood trauma at bay. However Raymond, her company’s nerdy IT guy, starts chipping away at those defenses and opens her to new experiences. Slowly. Gently.
Honeyman drops hints to Eleanor’s past throughout, but the whole truth isn’t revealed to the reader until it’s revealed to Eleanor. Perfection on a page. A lovely read and a reminder that everyday kindnesses can go a long way. Recommend.
I saw the very funny David Sedaris this week. So here.