Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Refined Palate

     I was given some fresh garden squash today by a co-worker, and I must now try to make something edible out of it. Or, more precisely, my lovely wife must try to make something edible. She would say that I'm a picky eater, but she would be wrong.
     As my co-worker and I were discussing today, there are plenty of ways to ruin a perfectly good squash. She, for example, is not a fan of squash casserole, preferring to slice the squash, dip it in milk, and then bread it in flour and meal before plunging it into hot oil and deep frying it.  Frankly, that method of cooking would make virtually anything a tasty treat.
     Sadly, many people in my family are enamored of the casserole-i-zation of food.  I don't know if they liked the convenience or were convinced that putting a bunch of different foods together and baking them actually improved the taste.
     I remember the big hit for years at family get-togethers was something called a garden casserole, which I believe my Aunt Ruth came up with.  As I remember it, you took cooked ground beef and put it into the casserole dish and then added potatoes, beans, peas, carrots, onions and whatever other garden vegetables you could come up with.  I wouldn't be surprised if there was some squash in there, too.  Then the whole think was topped with biscuit dough and baked in the oven.  Everyone in the family thought the resulting dish was great.
      Everyone but me.
     And the thing is, I liked each of the items contained in that casserole, when they were prepared individually and separately and put on a plate in the way God intended them to be.  Mixing them together in a giant glass bowl and baking them was just, as I recall I said at the time, "Yucky."
     Of course, my palate has been refined over the years and, no matter what my wife says,  I'm a far more adventurous eater than I was as a child. That refined palate still doesn't tolerate certain foods -- lima beans, hominy, liver and shellfish to name a few. But maybe if I mixed them together and baked them into a casserole....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Too Much Time On Their Hands

     Many years ago, I caught some flak for saying on the radio that the people who drag out the discussions at city council or other governmental meetings are the ones who don't have full-time jobs. I make the remark after having covered one such meeting that dragged on for hours.  It was taken by some as a criticism of stay-at-home moms. It wasn't. I was including in my commentary retired people, students,  the unemployed, and anyone else who didn't come to the meeting having already worked an eight (or more) hour day. People with jobs, I believed, hated long meetings just as much as I did.
     When you finish your day job (or shift), you are very often tired, either physically or mentally, and you don't have the energy to engage in extended debates over issues on which you have already made up your mind. That's why you won't often see me engaging people in political or other kinds of debate on the Internet. It's not that I don't care. It's that I don't care passionately enough to bring the proper energy to the discussion.
     I can easily post a quick smart aleck remark, but frankly I just don't care about Monsanto, the NSA, Agenda 21, gun control or any of the other things that people argue about online. For the record, I don't like offline arguments about those topics either. What I enjoy is a spirited, civil discussion (not argument) about whatever topics my friends feel passion for. I particularly enjoy playing devil's advocate, pointing out the flaws in their logic and challenging their preconceptions.  That's easier to do in person than it is online, where you can come off looking like a jerk.
    I've often wondered how some people are able to post so very, very much to social networks. And I've concluded that those people are the same ones that I referred to above. They don't work for a living, so they have lots of time on their hands and way more energy than I do. (See, how I sounded like a jerk right there?)
      That lack of energy is the reason (lame excuse) that I haven't been writing as much lately. There's a great episode of The Andy Griffith Show in which Buddy Ebsen plays a character who is, politely speaking, a vagabond. He expresses his philosophy to Opie by saying: "The most perfect day to start any job is tomorrow." That's been my approach to writing lately, and I've got to snap out of it.
     Like those people who hate long-winded meetings, and like many writers,  I have a full-time job. That job helps to pay the bills. It also sometimes just zaps the mental energy right out of me.  What's worse is that I've heard many stories of successful authors who had far more perserverance than I apparently do, as they were able to work full-time "day jobs" while pecking away at the keyboard at night or very early in the morning.  Me? I'd rather do, more or less, nothing.
     But doing nothing won't get me where I hope to be one day. So, even though it's the middle of the year, I hereby resolve to get off the couch and to spend more time "in the chair," as Dean Wesley Smith so eloquently puts it.
     I think the issue for many would-be writers is that full-time employment provides a cushion that allows us to ignore the very hard work of selling enough of our own creations to keep a roof over our head. A regular paycheck for doing someone else's work is more comforting than a less than steady income doing work for yourself. For the time being, I plan on doing both.