Tag: family

Holiday Survival Guide for Hearthside Political Chats

The holidays bring great tidings of joy, family time and, of course, the dread of painful political discourse. The Sage Leopard too will be traversing the rivers and woods to gather ‘round the table and has no doubt that current events are on the menu.

Before you gnash your teeth in anticipation of a clash over whether the blue wave really occurred in the mid-terms, take a moment to reflect on the meaning of the holidays. The original Thanksgiving was a prayer of thanksgiving to God that the settlers were surviving and thriving in the New World. Wait, that whole narrative is rife with post-Columbus jingoism. OK, never mind.

If you are Christian, please share with me a moment to reflect on some of the lyrics of my favorite Christmas hymn, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which celebrates the birth of our Lord. “What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart.”

Remember the spirit of those lines when you are in the throes of a raging argument with your crazy drunk uncle. What would Jesus do? He probably wouldn’t try to shout down your crazy drunk uncle. And neither should you. A suggestion: offer to refresh his drink.

During political debates around the holiday table, we tend to form teams. For example, during the Christmas of 2004, my Dad and I sat on one side of the dining room table, next to a crackling fire, while my brothers in law sat across from us. Dad and I maintained that Bush was reelected because voters did not want to change presidents after the invasion of Iraq. The brothers in law were equally firm that social conservatism, including opposition to gay marriage, carried the re-election of George W. Bush.

Nowadays, a great conversion has taken hold of our family. Instead of a cadre of Democrats with the rigor of a rugby team vs. a couple of country club Republicans, we are unified with a single, unwavering disdain of The Donald. There is little risk that a Trump supporter could slip into our midst. But, if a MAGA-hat wearing adherent got lost in a blizzard and followed the wrong star to our cabin in the woods, he or she would still be warmed and fed (even if upon seeing the red hat we were tempted to say there is no room at the inn). Once we were assured the guest was comfortable, we’d lay in with concerns about incompetence in dealing with North Korea, disrespect of the military by of all people the president, question the efficacy of trying to unilaterally go after Iran, disregard of the First Amendment protections for freedom of the press, not to mention issues with emoluments and poor management of illegal immigration. And condemn false allegations of election fraud, etc. You know the list goes on.

But then what? This is where we are as a society. The Trump backers are unmoved by any and all criticism. The critics’ concerns are continually mounting. (They are not mad about the election; they are mad about this president’s on-the-job performance, by the way.)

What if we all received a gift to share? It seems elusive, if not impossible now, but what if the gift was agreement on what constitutes the truth? How do we get to the truth?

I previously expressed concern in my communications company blog about whether the truth still matters and how that came up during an alumni weekend gathering. Another alumnus said he thought Trump won because he appealed to people who wanted to be heard. There is certainly truth in that observation.

If you want the world to receive that gift of universally accepted truth, you may have to give a little by listening to the uncle or guest with whom you disagree. Now, I didn’t say capitulate. Listen. Better yet, ask questions such as, why do you think that? How do you know that? How does that make you feel? Why? When did you first notice this? How did this happen? To what do you attribute this change? What does it mean?

These queries are not styled to sound like a therapist. They are the more like reporters’ questions. Oh, and all I want for Christmas is for the president to stop calling the press “the enemy of the people.” Maybe if I had a crazy uncle and he asked me the above questions in this regard, he might come to see why I have a certain opinion. And, maybe I could better understand him. Maybe we could gain each other’s perspectives. And maybe get close to agreeing on what is the truth.

Happy Holidays,

The Sage Leopard

P.S. I rather enjoyed writing this while listening to this Christmas music selection on YouTube.

Why Cookbooks Remind Us of Family, Love & Happiness

Growing up, I liked to flip through my parents’ cookbooks, especially to look for baking recipes. In 8th grade, I crafted a cookbook for a history project, writing out in calligraphy on parchment paper “receipts” from the Colonial Williamsburg era. I even cooked a meal from these 18th century receipts for my English and History teachers. Judging by the looks on their faces around the dining room table, I may have overdone it with the nutmeg and other spices for the meat.

When we would take the long drive from New Jersey to South Carolina to visit my grandparents, my palate opened up to new tastes, including grits. My grandmother, also a native of New Jersey, had a stack of Southern Living annual cookbooks. I would pull them off the shelf and flip through the recipes, admiring the pretty pictures and imagining being a grown-up cooking a roast or baking a Bundt cake.Stack of Southern Living annual cookbooks.

Grandmother took note of how much I liked the cookbooks and told me I could have them someday. Fortunately, she had many more years after that to enjoy her kitchen and home. After she passed, my father related he could not find the cookbooks, but he brought me her colorful mixing bowls, which I cherish and use just about every day.

As a grown-up, I’ve subscribed to different cooking magazines, but my favorite is Southern Living. Maybe because they are accessible recipes for the home cook and for everyday dining rather than elaborate masterpieces for culinary artists. Or maybe because I like to flip through the magazine and see pretty pictures of homes, travels and recipes. Moreover, I love them because they remind me of visiting my grandparents in South Carolina. I was, and am, so taken by cypress trees, Spanish moss, palm trees and alligators.

This Thanksgiving weekend, my eldest sister recalled a family road trip from New Jersey to Texas and back with multiple stops in between. It was summertime and their sedan lacked air conditioning. It turned out my mother realized in Houston that she was pregnant with me. We all think it’s funny that I moved to Houston as an adult.

When I first arrived for business, I saw palm trees, which made me so happy. And, yes, we too have alligators, but fortunately I don’t see them unless I go to a nearby state park. Still, some neighborhood kids claim to have seen one in our subdivision retention pond and they do hang out in our bayou. I let my dog swim in the pond, but not the bayou, and keep a wary eye on the situation.

We just got back from a road trip we now take at least once a year to North Georgia, where my boyfriend’s family is from on both sides. An important errand was to the grist mill to pick up bags of grits and cornmeal. The real deal stone-ground grains cannot be beat.

While in Georgia, we also returned to a cousin’s home. I stood in the kitchen admiring her cookbook collection, including a stack of Southern Living annuals. When I told her about my grandmother’s collection, she immediately said I could have her Southern Living cookbooks.

Stack of Southern Living magazines.I agreed to take them, but said she can have them back anytime. In the meantime, I have a lot of flipping pages to do! I usually let my magazines stack up for a few months and then go through to tear out the pages of recipes I want to keep in a binder. Now, I have the books to read!

I just pulled out the 2000 one and the first page I opened is about “The Fruitcake Tradition.” I’m not so sure I want to try that, but appreciated the introduction to the recipe notes this is in tribute to a grandmother. Ooh, what about prosciutto bruschetta with cantaloupe chutney?

From the 1984 book, there is a basic crepes recipe. I was just telling my sister about my crepe maker! There is also a section on how to use a food processor to save time when slicing vegetables and fruit. If you lived in the 1980s, you’ll reminder how the Cuisinart took American’s kitchens by storm. I actually have my grandmother’s machine and love it.

I may never have to look up another recipe online with this array of cookbooks serving an encyclopedia of making everyday cooking grand. I’m so excited and will likely share some of my discoveries with you on this blog!

The Sage Leopard