A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Archive for March, 2014

Doing the Southern Thing

“Savannah is amazing with the town squares and the hanging moss and the French Colonial houses. It’s brutally romantic.” – David Morrissey

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River Street, Savannah, GA

Last summer, I went on vacation to visit friends and family up and down the east coast. My southernmost stop was Savannah, GA, a city that was totally new to me. I fell completely and totally in love with this city, from her oppressively humid nights redolent with the smells of salt marsh and flowers to her gracious inhabitants. I also fell in love with southern food.

A friend called me up one morning at 7:00 and asked me to meet him for breakfast. He was just getting off his shift at the firehouse and wanted to eat before he headed home. So we met at a restaurant on River Street (pictured above) and sat at the worn wooden bar. He ordered a Bloody Mary and we got two plates of shrimp and grits. It was the one dish that I had on my “must try” list, and if breakfast was a good time to have it, I was game. When I put the first forkful of warm, creamy, cheesy grits into my mouth, I thought I might swoon. It was the ultimate comfort food, and exceeded all my expectations. I couldn’t get enough! I remember giving him some of my shrimp, because the meal became all about the grits for me.

Since returning home, I’ve tried recreating that unbelievable plate of grits. I’m not there yet (I suspect they used some shrimp stock in theirs), but this is a passable version. There are a lot of recipes that call for using milk instead of water, but I don’t love it that way – it’s too creamy. If you want to go that route, start with half milk (unsweetened almond milk) and half stock and adjust to taste from there. I’ve added chopped spinach, which is completely optional. Let the grits cool in a mold for slicing and sauteing or add a little extra water for a softer version.

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Cheesy Spinach Grits

serves 4 as a side dish

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. Better than Bouillon vegetable bouillon paste
  • 1/2 cup white grits, not instant
  • 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3/4 – 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (use Daiya if going vegan)
  • a palmful of parmesan or vegan parmesan cheese
  1. In a medium sized saucepan, bring water and bouillon paste to a boil over high heat. Whisk in grits, reduce heat to low, and cover.
  2. Cook 12 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps. Uncover and add cheeses and spinach, stirring to incorporate well.
  3. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if desired (I found the salt in the bouillon was adequate). Pour into molds and chill or eat right away.
  4. To reheat, cut cakes out of the molded cold grits. Melt Earth Balance or butter in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a teaspoon or so of oil. Add grit cakes and fry until golden brown and warm.

These are good any time of day or night.

As always, comments are welcome!

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What Would You Do If…

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”  ― Joseph Campbell

Many years ago I took a course at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. Led by Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of the Omega Institute, it was a course in shedding our fears and embracing Life, in whatever form it takes. Toward the end of the week we were asked the question, “What would you do if you were not afraid?” My answer at the time was “get a divorce.” I was becoming desperately unhappy, but my fear of being destitute, of being alone, kept me locked into a marriage that was not fulfilling.

Fast forward a decade to the summer of 2013. While on vacation visiting friends in Georgia that I hadn’t seen in years, my husband accused me yet again of having an affair, the fourth time in our 25 year marriage. In that moment, I reached into that place in my soul where my self-respect lived, pulled it out and said, “Enough!” Enough of the mistrust and accusations. Enough of being invisible, of always being second in line behind his job, his house, his yard. Enough of the lack of communication, the emotional wasteland. Just … enough.

September and October following last summer were rough. I took my cat and what few possessions I have, moved out of the house into an apartment in November, and we started counseling. While I felt at the time that the marriage was irreparably broken, I was willing to go just in case I was wrong, just in case there was something to be salvaged.

I was right. It was irreparably broken.

I wish I was skilled enough with words to explain how I feel about the loss of my marriage. Having cut my teeth on Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Disney, I bought the whole fairy tale concept with the happy ending. The prince comes riding in and saves the girl and all is well. He loves her with a passionate focus and depth that leaves no room for doubt and they live happily ever after.

Only problem is, that’s bullshit. Marriage is hard. People get hurt. Wedges get driven in between people and cause wounds that grow and fester and make marital limbs gangrenous. Sometimes the problems are fixable with time and energy. In my case, they weren’t. I had been hurt too many times, and we suffered death by a thousand pinpricks. By the time the final accusatory wedge was driven in, we were bleeding from so many holes that it became best to just let it die.

Now I am faced with a new sunrise at age 50. A chance to succeed or fail based on my own merits. A chance to tackle and understand money and investing. A chance to live fully, healing a little more each day with new friends and coworkers in a new city. A chance to be passionate about Life and people again. It is daunting to be facing an empty slate at my age. It is frightening, but no longer paralyzing. I know deep inside that I will be OK. I’ve taken the first step and have the support of my daughter and my friends. I’m strong, determined and willing to embrace whatever comes my way. The future is mine to create again.

Dr. Brene Brown said, “When you own your story, you get to write the ending.” I own my decision to ask for a divorce. It did not come easily, but it is the right decision for me.

I still believe in fairy tales. It might just be, though, that in this one the princess saves herself and lives happily ever after.

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My Worst Harry Potter Impression

I hate being invisible.

The sort of invisible where you state your wishes or opinions and nobody hears and no response is forthcoming. Or maybe nobody listens because you aren’t deemed important enough to listen to in the first place. Or maybe what you say is counter to the opinions of the people you are talking to and they wouldn’t hear you even if you sat on their chest and yelled in their face. That sort of invisible.

“Please don’t walk up behind me and arbitrarily grab my breast, especially if I have a knife in my hand. That is SO not a turn on.”

“I’m thinking of getting a tattoo. It’s going to say, ‘Under Heaven all are equal.’ What do you think?”

“I really like the light gold stain.”

“I don’t like Florida. I never want to live there.”

“Please don’t tease me about that.”

Invisible. “Did you say something?”

Last summer, I was spouting my opinion on a topic to a friend, then I apologized. Twice! He told me never to apologize for talking to him. Not long after, while Skyping with my daughter, I found myself apologizing for being happy. I was on a road trip by myself, visiting friends and family around the country. I was meeting new people, seeing new things, tasting, touching, reaching for new experiences. I was SO thrilled to be doing this! Louise chastised me and told me to never apologize for being happy. “Why are you doing that, Mom?” Why, indeed! Some massive self-reflection was called for.

Years ago, I thought that I had to deny my needs and desires to keep the peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers” was the topic of the sermon at my wedding. So, whenever I felt slighted, or ignored, or played second fiddle to a job, or money, or a movie, or a news broadcast, I retreated into a shell where I would be safe and my heart wouldn’t hurt. I was half me and half my mother, who gave up her dreams to raise a family. (God love her; I hope she gets to paint in heaven.)

I learned long ago that I would never be the most important thing in my husband’s life. I learned that money and job and house would always be more important. If I wanted the marriage to survive (which I did because I had a small child and felt strongly that she should grow up in a two parent household), I would have to disappear and become the 20th century Donna Reed, because I realized the only thing I could change was me. His expectations seemed set in stone, so I tried to become what I wasn’t. I should love to cook and keep the house in fairly good shape, spread my legs when asked, be devoted and not express my opinions, because they rarely agree with my husband’s opinions. Only thing is, sometimes the thought of cooking bores me, I hate cleaning, sex is only good when both people are fully invested, and I have VERY strong opinions on certain topics.

To be fair, I should state that I am a passionate person. I can rage with the best of them. Perhaps it is because of my Irish and Italian heritage, or perhaps it is because I grew up with and learned from an explosive father. Who cares what the reasons are; I am stubborn and do not suffer fools gladly.

I also love with my whole heart. I give everything I have and everything I am to  friends and family and students and even strangers. Buy a complete set of winter clothes for a homeless man in White Plains, making me short on my rent? Yup. Give up a sizeable chunk of my income to make sure my students have food in their bellies? Yup. Cheerfully greet and chat with an Alzheimer’s patient who “recognized” me, allowing her to feel good, if only for a moment? Yup. Use my voice to raise support for marriage equality, women’s reproductive rights, a clean food supply, veteran’s benefits, etc., although to do so rarely gets me invited to parties? Yup. Buy a few weeks worth of groceries for a family because I had and they didn’t? Yup. Lay flat on the floor with a student who is having a crappy day and just wants to talk about his or her life? Yup. I know no other way to live but fully. I’m a registered marrow donor. I will give my organs if possible when I die. Burn the rest and sprinkle me on a body of water so I will be part of the web of life even after I’m gone. I give all of me.

I’m a good person. I’m an interesting person. I’m a loving person. I live large and love large. I shouldn’t be invisible.

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