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East Coast USA, United States
Lowcountry porch sitter. Appalachian Mountain lover. Finger Lakes dreamer.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ketchup covers everything, but we cook just the same

I marvel at the metamorphosis that I go through when my elderly father plans an extended stay in South Carolina. His company in later life is one I relish and know won't last forever.  What amazes me is how dramatically he shifts the consumption and preparation of food in our household during his visits.

Though I characterize myself as a home cook, I  average about three home cooked meals a week when not entertaining my father (can you say eat out often 3 times fast?).  That changes radically when my father is visiting the Palmetto State. My grocery experience slides into a daily routine and my kitchen time transitions to preparing three square meals a day. I don't get near the amount of work done when he's here that I'd like, but then work will always be there, my dad will not.

I've documented the routine staple foods his visits generate in this blog recently, click here.  But the humor is in the cooking.  Cooking three meals for a senior whose palate has withered away, whose diet lacks raw or anything remotely healthy, whose dark chocolate obsession rivals any woman I know and whose penchant for covering everything (and I mean everything) in ketchup brings horror to many onlookers.  Sidebar1: Ages ago I put away my horror of a delicate entree at a fine dining establishment embellished by my father with the red sauce.  In fact, I actually now order the bottle as a matter of routine before the meal arrives knowing it will make the entire experience far more smooth for staff as well as myself. Sidebar2: Food eccentricities are minor  compared to what dementia has robbed of the person I use to know.

Many times I try to take the occasion of dining with dad to introduce him to something new that he might enjoy even on his own.  There's been great success with hummus in the last several years thanks to his 80 year old Lebanese girlfriend. I don't even have to suggest it when we pass by the deli counter, he picks the container right up (always the original, no flavored version). And though I wouldn't consider it healthy, compared to the number of dark chocolate candy bars he was known for consuming in the past, a simple 1.25 oz portion of Philadelphia's Dark Chocolate Indulgence provides as much pleasure as the pudding cups I remember enjoying as a kid.

The ground rules for cooking for my father are pretty simple:  1) There can't be a great many ingredients in preparing a dish; 2) It has to be something he's agreed to try (mushrooms are always off limits); 3) Hot or cold if it can't be delivered in 30 minutes to the table we approach major break down mode (sound familiar to another stage in life?).  So we always have a starter of hummus (safe) and an adult beverage~his preferred drink: a single bottle of Miller High Life, mine a bourbon on the rocks~ both set the stage for some light conversation before the meal and to give the main course the time it needs beyond 30 minutes if necessary.

Sweet potato fries and salmon are now pushing up the list of simplistic dishes we can count on making two or three times during a visit. Thanks to Ina Garten and her Baked Sweet Potato Fries and Kraft for its Parmesan Baked Salmon recipe using crackers~crackers are always a big hit as long as it's not my gluten free variety, that's a bridge we haven't crossed successfully.  And neither, sweet potato and salmon, require a bath of ketchup to make the meal complete.

So when the electric bill arrives later next month and it's nearly doubled due to the increased use of  kitchen appliances (did I mention he never uses the same glass, plate, bowl or utensil twice?), I just smile knowing that all the while I've captured time with my dad that will remain forever memorable and will most certainly expand my horizons on eating.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What's in a Name?

There's comfort in familiarity and a town where your name even in absence is not lost in the shuffle of time and place.

At one point in my Lowcountry life my occupation necessitated spending a great deal of time on Hilton Head Island and in that same period my name would have been characterized as recognizable by many.  It's been several years now.  My career as well as my name operate remotely and for the most part outside the spectrum of local pervue.  A radical shift from before but a profession possessing many of the appealing attributes found in self employment. The only drawback~a feeling of being disconnected to what transpires South of the Broad River Bridge. (Port Royal and Beaufort, SC are referred to as North of the Broad, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island as South of the Broad).

But true to the nature of the region's Southern hospitality any feeling of disconnection changed last week.  I had a meeting on Hilton Head Island and stopped to purchase gasoline at Island Tire (South End).  I prefer to use this location for gasoline for several reasons.  One, they are about the only location that maintains a full service as well as a self service option at the pumps.  (Face it, there are just some days, rainy ones included, when you just don't want to pump your own gas). Two, they have on more than one occasion provided superb service in the tire life of my 2004 vehicle. What made this particular stop significant was the simple act of inadvertently dropping a credit card after my purchase in the self service lane. But I'm getting ahead of the story because what really transpires is that I purchase gasoline, grab my receipt and proceed on to my next destination unaware that I'm missing anything.

Several hours beyond my gasoline purchase at Island Tire: I've eaten lunch at Plums in Bluffton, attended two meetings and find myself on the short drive to Savannah, Georgia to pick up my elderly father when I get a voice mail message from Debi Lynes of Lynes on Design and WHHI-TV's Girl Talk (a local HHI celeb and outstanding individual). "Ann Marie, it's Debi Lynes did you get gas at Island Tire today?" and in the same instant I get an inbox message from Debi via FaceBook (the beauty of social media) "Ann-Marie they have your credit card at Island Tire."  Naturally, my initial reaction is appreciation that a good Samartin found my credit card and turned it in and that I'd not fallen victim to some malcontent.  I do wonder at this point how Debi Lynes factors into the equation of finding my card, but thankful she offered her assistance.  I call Island Tire, confirm that my credit card is there and thank the other person on the line (Jackie) for holding it until I can return to pick it up several hours later.

So here's what happened in the several hours after I had dropped my credit card: Jackie, the bookeeper at Island Tire pulls up to the self service pump and finds the card, the name on the card is recognized in terms of my former role with a nonprofit organization on the island, Jackie calls the nonprofit, doesn't find me there nor is provided information helpful to locating me.  In the mean time, Debi Lynes pulls into the station to purchase gasoline and the attendant thinks to himself (on a lark) maybe Debi knows how to find this person for Jackie and proceeds to ask if Debi knows the owner of the credit card (me) to which she replies "I do and I have her number in my cell phone!"

Just when you think you've lost connectivity the universe creates ways to link you in meaningful ways.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Devoted to a Box of Shredded Wheat

When an elder parent lives with or spends a good portion of time in your household there are some grocery items one must stock in the pantry despite the fact one may never personally consume these products.

In my case that's a bottle of prune juice, a box of Zesta Originals (never a knock off version of saltines) and a big box of Post Shredded Wheat Bicuits (not Wheaties).  And when the visitation is over there's the "remainder effect"~the product either takes up space and goes out of date in the pantry or refrigerator. I've spent a good portion of the last three years re-configuring these three products (prune juice, saltines, and biscuits) using recipes found on the internet or via Pinterest.  The saltines are a staple I allow to linger in the sundry cabinet as they possess a great many redeeming attributes for conversion into other recipes.  The prune juice usually becomes a spiked alcoholic beverage for inclusion in other concoctions or used Polly Anna style to sweeten smoothies or made into plumy ice cubes for future use. The  biscuits, however, are a wholly different scenario.   I'm not a cereal eater at any hour of the day...breakfast, lunch or dinner. Conversion is the only option.

For the conversion I utilize a recipe from Nigella Lawson for a Lazy Loaf that I featured on this blog in 2011, replace the muesli that is called for in this recipe with two shredded wheat biscuits crumbled and add four tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce.  I've also converted the biscuits using the Kansas Wheat Commission's version of Shredded Wheat Bread that adds an egg and brown sugar.  Either loaf is worth a slice.

Favorite foods, we stock them, prepare them, drive out of our way for them and shower our loved ones with them. Devoted from start (stocking) to finish (reconfiguring).
Life Enrichment is like a travel and learn program...offering infusions that make every day life thereafter far more interesting! ~ Ann-Marie Adams, Reflections on a Meaningful Life