HOT OR SPICY?

BLAND AND SPICY


When I lived in Israel, there were two types of hot sauce on every table: the red one, which was very hot, and the green one which could easily remove your infected tonsils. I was not a big fan of either one, but my son became quite the aficionado of hot sauces, although I think in the many years since, he has modified his position. Age does that to you.

Israel had more than hot spices, too. They had stuff called “Z’atar” which is a combination of various spices that is good on chicken, fish, eggs … and hot, fresh bread. Mmm.

When I got back to Boston, I was happy to discover that people still ate spicy food. I didn’t need it to be hot enough to launch the fire department, but a little spice perks up an otherwise dull bit of cooking. Especially chicken. I’m pretty sure the point of chicken is to have various things done to it to make it worth the effort of chewing it.

Boston was good in the tasty and spicy department, but when we moved out west to Uxbridge, we discovered that herbs and spices we regarded as standard were considered quite … exotic. Spices like garlic. Pepper. Paprika. Chili. Even standards like oregano and thyme were regarded with suspicion. To say that local cooking is bland doesn’t come close to the reality.

I hit the spice department on Amazon, plus the “exotic” aisle of the supermarket. Between the two, I managed to find a variety of spices and sauces that keep meals from becoming too dull to eat. Although super hot food may disagree with aging intestinal tracts, bland foods can make you feel that eating isn’t worth all the effort required to chew it, much less complete the entire digestive process. I’m personally of the opinion that the loss of appetite in older people is sheer boredom. Why eat? Why bother?

We don’t eat out much. This is financial, of course, but if there were places worth the prices, we’d fit in a nice meal here and there. It hardly seems worth the effort these days. Even getting into the car to go somewhere, much less pay them for the privilege? Nah. There were a few decent places locally when we got here, but all of them closed within a year or two. Now, there’s a not-too-bad Asian place in Slatersville (Rhode Island) and a good Japanese restaurant in Milford. Otherwise, you can get a good burger down the road at Hanna’s … and then there’s the Uxbridge version of pizza. I prefer the frozen stuff from the grocery.

Sad, I know.

So the first thing we do when we are somewhere else — anywhere else, local or distant — is check out the eateries. Find out what everyone says is good food. Sometimes, the local diner has the best food in the region.

And I buy spices. Everywhere. It keeps the kitchen from becoming too boring to bother.

DIFFERENT ROLES FOR GRANDPARENTS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My grandparents (my mother’s parents) were always a big part of my life. When I was very young, they moved across the street from me and stayed there for the rest of their lives.

My grandmother and grandfather were very different people. They epitomized two of the roles that grandparents can play in their grandchildrens’ lives. One was the playmate and one was the confidante.

Grandma and Grandpa with me at around two

My grandmother wasn’t great with babies or young children. That’s where my grandfather excelled. I remember him carrying me around on a pillow. And telling me stories. But most of all, my grandpa took me places and did things with me. During the school year, which I spent in New York City, he took me to playgrounds and to Central Park, which had a zoo, a pond, a skating rink and a carousel. Every Sunday we went to the Museum of Natural History, which I love to this day.

In the summers, which we spent in the woods of Connecticut, we did outdoorsy activities. We dug for worms and used them to go fishing on our pond, we picked grapes and berries, we caught frogs, explored the woods, canoed, played with my various pets and did gardening together.

When I got older, he would talk to me about American history. He came from Russia but prided himself in knowing endless trivia about all the presidents of the United States. Fascinating stuff.

My Grandparents when I was around 10

At some point, around nine or 10 years old, I started to outgrow these activities, and grandpa. I was no longer impressed that he could recite all the presidents in order. I began to gravitate to my slightly agorophobic grandmother. I started to spend more time with her. She cooked with me, taught me to knit and crochet and played cards with me. I still have the clothes she made for my dolls.

But mostly we talked. She had been a controlling, sometimes destructive mother to my mom. With me she was wonderful. She was great fun to talk to and she had a wicked sense of humor, including about herself. She was totally involved in every detail of my life. She knew about my friends and teachers and advised me on how to handle difficult situations. She was very wise and gave great advice.It infuriated me, but she was always right about my friends. She always knew which ones I could trust and which ones would screw me. She had an uncanny sense about character. She tried to warn me that my mom was a narcissist but I wasn’t ready to hear that for many years. I didn’t realize she was right until long after she was gone.

My Grandparents when I was in my late teens, early twenties

From the time I was in grade school, till I went away to law school at 22, I talked to my grandmother every day. After that we still spoke regularly until her death when I was 27 and she was 88.

The sad thing is that as I got closer to me grandmother, I left my grandfather in the dust. We didn’t know how to relate to each other any more. For example, Grandma followed the news religiously and we loved to discuss politics and current events. She was a liberal Democrat, like I was. In contrast, my grandfather had voted for Herbert Hoover and was a life long Republican. He only followed the Jewish newspaper and the Temple newsletter and couldn’t really talk about what was going on in the world.

I wish I had found a way to include him in my life more. That is one of the things I regret most in my life. Grandpa died when I was 22.

Grandma and me after grandpa died. She was around 87.

There’s one story about my mismatched grandparents that I have to tell. As I mentioned, they were at opposite ends of the spectrum politically. They were also miles apart in what they liked to do and what they liked to watch on television. Grandpa was a Lawrence Welch kind of guy. He wanted to watch ladies in feathers dancing while bubbles were blown into the air. Grandma followed all the news and interview shows and liked the equivalent of PBS programming.

One night they were fighting, as usual, over what to watch on TV. I voted with Grandma and Grandpa left the room to go to the other television set. After close to 60 years of marriage, Grandma sighed and said “Oy! He’s just not my type!”

They may not have been good for each other, but they were both wonderful to and for me, each in his or her own way.

TOMBSTONES & CEMETERIES

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Tombstones or Cemeteries


A midsummer day for tombstones? Why not?

Tombstone, the town

As it happens, we have a really interesting local (old) cemetery in which we take many pictures. It’s beautiful in autumn, especially with many mature maple trees that turn gold or red in October.

We enjoy the cemetery. It’s a quiet, peaceful place. Carved stones and autumn trees. A place that waits forever. Nothing says restful better than a cemetery.

SOMEDAY MY PRINTS WILL COME … THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S LAMENT

You know the Disney song, right?

“Someday my prince will come” — Snow White sings it to the seven dwarfs in the Disney animated classic from 1937. It was the beginning of serious animation. Who could forget?

When I was learning photography, back in the early 1970s from a friend with a good education in photography and an odd sense of humor, I learned a different set of lyrics. But first … the back story.

For black and white film (it was all film at that point … digital photography was decades in the future) … we did our own developing and printing. The university I had attended — and for that matter, that my friend had also attended — had a dark room which he ran. Whatever photographic work the school needed, he did it. But it left a lot of time for personal projects and having a spacious, well-equipped dark room and laboratory was a dream come true. All I had to supply was paper and chemicals. I learned a huge amount in those few years during which I had access to the facilities.

One of my last photos developed in the darkroom, the wood-stove from the camp in Maine

Color was different. For color work, we were dependent on a (very) few custom photography labs. You could cheap out and drop your film off at the drug store — if you didn’t mind negatives covered with scratches and bad prints on the cheapest paper. If, however you wanted some quality proofs and prints made by hand from negatives properly developed, you needed a trustworthy (expensive) lab. The equipment to develop and print color was too big and too costly for an individual. Oh how times have changed!

Custom labs took a long time. They called themselves “custom” and they really were. They hand developed the negatives and prints, though proofs were generally done by machine unless you specified otherwise. Usually, we ordered proof sheets and from these, selected the frames we thought were worth blowing up.

Today, you can get amazing, high quality work from laboratories that will take your files over the Internet and mail you prints on paper, wood, canvas, aluminum, or whatever. They will do it quickly and usually at competitive prices. In the old days, custom work was the province of professional photographers. This meant weddings, babies, other events big and small. Also, material for magazines and advertising agencies. Most of the pros used large format cameras which were (still are) so expensive they may cause fainting on the spot.  Like, for example, a Hasselblad, the preferred camera of NASA where the camera body alone costs more than my house …  and don’t even ask about lenses.

Being an amateur, my print orders were never at the head of the queue. So, I’d wait. Sometimes weeks just to get proofs … which would be the first time I even knew if the pictures were good. It was a time of great anxiety.

While we waited, we sang:


“SOMEDAY MY PRINTS WILL COME …
Some DAY, my PRINTS will come …”

Eventually, they did. Have I mentioned how much I love digital cameras?