From September 2010 through March 2012, Sharon wrote a weekly column entitled Chat n Chew for a local newspaper.
“Let’s go fly a kite, up in the atmosphere, up where the air is clear, let’s go – fly a kite!” What a better thing to do? Spring has sprung, so had all the children from school. The first day of vacation, it rained. Lupe’s children came with her for a visit.
All with sad faces,
they showed up at my back door.
Come into my office and sit on the floor.
I’ll play you a record on an old stereo.
Julie Andrews with Dick Van Dyke.
Laughing, they might like.
Listening, they couldn’t help but snicker.
I told them about Mary Poppins,
flying through the air with an umbrella,
touched down in old London town
and began dancing around.
No one believed it as I leapt and danced.
I spun and stopped to look.
Only Tamara remained and said
That music’s cool.
They went back to watch the TV.
Oh no – wait – there’s still Chim Chiminy!
The record ended and she ran along.
I sat there thinking,
and dramatization already gone?
Another explanation for the kids’ disappearance from my office could be they thought I was too far out there in my own imagination. I loved these musicals growing up and still do as you now know. Maybe I have gotten lost with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews. After listening to this album for the first time in many years, my mind continued to wander into the world and character of Mary Poppins. She was, in her time, similar to the hippies in the sixties and seventies – carefree and spreading love and happiness. Or was she just a visitor from outer space? Remember, she came out of nowhere with only an umbrella and carpetbag.
One of the songs was about a little boy wanting two take two pence to buy bread to feed some birds. But his father took him to the bank instead, insisting that he invest it for his own gain:
When you deposit tuppence in a bank account
Soon you’ll see
That it blooms into credit of a generous amount
And you’ll achieve that sense of stature
As your influence expands
To the high financial strata
That established credit now commands
You can purchase first and second trust deeds
Think of the foreclosures!
Bonds! Chattels! Dividends! Shares!
Bankruptcies! Debtor sales!
All manner of private enterprise!
Shipyards! The mercantile!
Incorporations! Amalgamations! Banks!
Sounds like the grasping for wealth of this generation. There is a connection which caused me to think of my friend Gene Peach in New Mexico. Gene is a brilliant photographer, but he sometimes purposefully leaves his camera at home. He will see some beautiful scenes but not shoot them, preferring, as he says, “This one is for the universe”. He recently was sent to remote areas north of Taos, in the area of the Rio Grande gorge. The people Gene visited prefer to not buy into the “Bonds! Chattels! Dividends! Shares! Bankruptcies! Debtor sales”. They have assets, but choose to invest in other ways, such as charitable causes, earth friendly housing, and helping others.
This community chooses to live simply, happily, and somewhat off the grid in their “Earthships”. Dennis Hopper is one Earthship owner.
The Earthship, as it exists today, began to take shape in the 1970s. Mike Reynolds, founder of Earthship Biotecture, a company that specializes in designing and building Earthships, wanted to create a home that would do three things; first, it would be sustainable, using material indigenous to the entire planet as well as recycled materials wherever possible. Second, the homes would rely on natural energy sources and be independent from the “grid”, therefore being less susceptible to natural disasters and free from the electrical and water lines that Reynolds considered unsightly and wasteful. Finally, it would be economically feasible for the average person with no specialized construction skills to be able to create.
Earthships are made of Earth-rammed tires, bottles and cans. Unlike other materials, rammed-earth tires are more accessible to the average person. Scrap tires are ubiquitous around the world and easy to come by; there are an estimated 2 billion tires throughout the United States. As of 1996, as many as 253 million scrap tires were being generated each year in the United States, with 70% being reclaimed by the scrap tire market (leaving perhaps 75 million scrap tires available for reuse as whole tires). In addition to the availability of scrap tires, the method by which they are converted into usable “bricks”, the ramming of the earth, is simple and affordable.
Many of the Earthships have gardens growing inside year round. The glass windows make a perfect greenhouse. The condensation helps to water the plants in the arid environment. The plants giving off oxygen is healthy for the occupants of the home.
By contrast, there are others in the same area living completely “off the grid”, but their way of life, choice of housing, and attitudes are far different from the earthship people. He told us what he of his experience in some emails to us:
“My Taos Magical Mystery Tour continues. I was just at a hippie shantytown on the far side of the gorge northwest of Taos. Some people are living in holes in the ground. Most have fashioned shelters from rusty RVs or old school buses with stovepipe chimneys. Cannibalized cars and campers lay strewn everywhere. Everything looks like a “Road Warrior” movie set, except the roads are too terrible for speed. Everyone I saw is white Anglo, and most are covered in layers of dirt and dust. Many have long Rasta dreadlocks and tattoos. Dogs are everywhere. I can’t imagine what this place is like when it rains. This is the Woodstock Nation Next Generation. There is no water, electricity, or plumbing. Water is hauled in on the backs of trucks. Upscale homes have outhouses. Others don’t bother. Discarded junk and peace signs are everywhere. Some places have generators, but most feed off car batteries for power. A few shacks sprout TV antennas. Wooden skids function as the building blocks of the community. Some shacks are built entirely from skids. They make good fences, too, and gates. A local deputy warned me that The Mesa is filled with heavily armed outlaws and runaways and is the most lawless place in the rural U.S. Local authorities won’t go near it without a SWAT Team backup. Military-style DEA operations sometimes make sweeps through the area. Drugs are the main currency on The Mesa. I stopped to ask directions at one shack because the “roads” have no names or markers and are nearly impassible and I didn’t want to get stranded on sharp rocks and ruts with nowhere to turn. A tarp doorway on the ground beside me flapped open and a man crawled out, squinting in the bright daylight. He was perfectly clean, well groomed, and fresh shaven. I was awe struck. Plenty of kids are around, many looking like the Boomerang Boy in “Road Warrior”, and lots of old geezers with long white beards.
I didn’t get a strong community vibe about the place at all. I think people keep to themselves. The world could end tomorrow and they wouldn’t even notice, because they are already there. The dividing line for me is this: Choosing to live off the grid and self-sufficiently is a virtue. Choosing to live in filth and squalor, behaving like wild drunken and drugged out dangerous maniacs, and living off handouts and government assistance while claiming to be free, is not a virtue. If they grow anything out there, it’s pot. That’s done mostly in makeshift greenhouses. I saw little sign of big gardens, and very, very few people have goats, and probably only a couple have pigs. A handful of people keep chickens, but not many. Rather than living like country folks, most people I saw on The Mesa live like bums”.
The message of Mary Poppins and the simple way that the people of the Earthships live and the separation from the ties of worldly things can lead to a happier life with the Creator. However, there is, as Gene says, a dividing line. We can choose to live to ourselves and just any way we want to, or we can be a part of a larger community of man, and spread joy to others.
Years ago, my mom gave me a little glass bluebird. It has sat on the windowsill of four homes in which I have lived. It now resides in my kitchen window here in Como. My mother called me today telling me she had received my note with a bluebird of happiness on its cover. She had not read the message inside reminding her of her gift. She tearfully told me that she had chosen to wear a little bluebird pin on her lapel today in the spirit of spring. A small coincidence with a significant meaning. The simple pleasures in life are free.
This week’s recipe: Do what Mary Poppins did. Add “just add a spoonful of sugar” to everything!
A deluxe, clean, sustainable, and friendly Earthship.
Last week, I mentioned eating sushi at Sardis Steak-Seafood Restaurant. Another separate menu with many appetizers and entrees make it difficult to decide what to order. I was like a kid in a candy store, hearing the selections – things I hadn’t eaten in a long time, especially within a seven mile radius. I started with the salmon sashimi. This is a quarter inch thick and four inch long delicate piece of raw salmon. It was very high quality and beautifully presented. Some might be skeptical about eating sushi in Sardis, Mississippi, but I wasn’t the only one enjoying it. Two men dressed in camouflage had been hunting that afternoon and decided to stop in for sushi. I asked if they like it. One of them said, “We love it, look forward to coming here and they’re a great addition to Sardis”. We couldn’t agree more. I wish we had our camera with us. What a picture, two big ole boys in camouflage with chopsticks!
The owner Doug Mahan stopped by to inquire how everything was. How many times have you been asked this by a host or server and simply answered, “fine thank you”? Although it may not seem it to most, I’m an acutely aware and observant blind. So I told him in detail, my impression. First, it’s a great building; every room is so spacious and accessible and easy to move around in and very clean. The service is friendly and attentive and dinner was excellent. We’ll be back.
Now after having been there several times, I can offer a broader review. The business is owned by the husband and wife team of Darmi and Doug Mahan. Darmi is originally from Jakarta, Indonesia and Doug is from Southaven. They opened in February last year and are located at 105 Main Street in Sardis. They serve dinner from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Tuesday thru Thursday and 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. This is also a cool venue for a friendly game for game of pool and on Saturday nights, a great band.
Recently, they brought in Gabby Johnson band from Horn Lake. We didn’t enter the music hall, but could vaguely hear them playing White Room by Cream: Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce, remember them? What we think is good for diners was that you can barely hear music through the soundproof doors, thus allowing easy conversation in the other rooms. One evening, Darmi came out of her kitchen to say hello. We learned the colorful canvas on the walls of the restaurant is her own artwork. These paintings are reminiscent of the Red and White Flag of Indonesia, called the Sang Saka Merah-Putih: The sacred red and white, though Darmi adds green as well. It’s ironic that the Indonesians originally used palm sugar to dye the red, and rice starch for the white: both of which are food products. I suppose Darmi’s green is from the nari seaweed used in her sushi rolls!
I shared my experience and excitement for all the arts as well as writing Chat ‘N’ Chew for the Southern Reporter. Like most curious cooks, I wanted to see the kitchen. She happily led me into it. I can tell you having cooked on corporate aircraft and instructed by many chefs from around the country, this impromptu invitation is rare. We entered a large space gleaming with stainless steel tables, appliances and countertops. There were several workers at their individual stations. Dharma and Keisha Butts demonstrated and prepared our sushi right before our eyes.
Getting back to the Gabby Johnson band. Playing a song from Cream brought us back to the sixties and seventies. Since then, while writing this column I’ve been spinning my wheels and some thirty- three r.p.m. records from that era. Our friend Brian Rice loaned us a Crosley Hi-Fi and several of my favorite vinyl picks to play. I love this record player because it is so simple to operate. There is only one action to start the turntable, a choice of thirty three or forty five settings, a volume and tone and that’s it. The speakers are incorporated into the unit and you can easily close it and carry it anywhere to another electric outlet. I love the nostalgic sound of the needle and imperfection of a well worn record. My much more complicated stereo sadly only gathers dust these days. Even my sighted friends have a hard time trying to figure how to operate it. What a refreshing rediscovery of flipping large discs that don’t get stuck and not play. Along with my high tech stereo and the new addition of the vintage portable turntable unit, I also often play forty fives on a 1954 AMI jukebox I bought from Sherman Cooper. It has all the bells and whistles and still works pretty well for its age, just like my vintage husband David.
Most of the vinyl I’ve been spinning takes me back, but Johnny Cash’s songwriting and style to me is timeless. The first time I heard him was in the early seventies at my friend Cheryl’s house. Her mom had all of Cash’s albums and played them a lot. I called Barbara Latulip Tuesday, telling her I was writing about him and thinking of her. She laughed and told me once when she was ill with pneumonia she wrote to him. She expressed how much she enjoyed his music and television show and how much they meant to her. One day she received a response back from Johnny along with an autographed photo. One of the albums I have been listening to is The Man in Black. His ballads of God, Jesus, and people during the time in which he wrote them are haunting. He talks and sings about the Vietnam war and how he and his wife June played for patients in hospitals there. Here’s an excerpt from Singin’ in Vietnam Talkin’ Blues. Just replace Vietnam with Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other conflict today:
“Well when the sun came up, the noise died down,
We got a few minutes sleep, an’ we were sleepin’ sound,
When a soldier knocked on our door and said:
“Last night they brought in seven dead, and 14 wounded.”
And would we come down to the base hospital, and see the boys.
So we went to the hospital ward by day,
And every night we were singin’ away.
Then the shells and the bombs was goin’ again.
And the helicopters brought in the wounded men.
Night after night; day after day.
Comin’ and a goin’.
So we sadly sang for them our last song,
And reluctantly we said: “So long.”
We did our best to let ’em know that we care,
For every last one of ’em that’s over there.
Whether we belong over there or not.
Somebody over here love’s ’em, and needs ’em
Well now that’s about all that there is to tell,
About that little trip into livin’ hell.
And if I ever go back over there any more,
I hope there’s none of our boys there for me to sing for;
I hope that war is over with,
And they all come back home,
Here is something to do with your leftover or carry-out steak, chicken or shrimp. Just make some fried rice and serve your leftovers with it.
Two green onions.
One carrot, shredded.
One celery sticks, chopped
1 small can bean sprouts
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
6 tablespoons peanut oil for stir-frying
4 cups cold cooked rice.
1 – 2 tablespoons light soy sauce.
Two cloves garlic, minced.
Leftover steak, shrimp, or chicken.
Dice or slice and sauté steak, shrimp, chicken, or whatever you have, and set aside.
Finely chop the green onion, shred carrots, and chop celery.
Heat a wok or frying pan and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add garlic, carrots and celery.
Sauté vegetables about four minutes then add green onions and bean sprouts and heat briefly. Set aside.
Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.
Add 2 tablespoons oil. Add the eggs. Cook, stirring, until they are lightly scrambled but not too dry. Remove the eggs, add to the vegetable mix and clean out the pan.
Add 2 tablespoons oil. Add the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes. Stir in the soy sauce as desired.
When the rice is heated through, add the vegetable and scrambled egg back into the pan. Mix thoroughly.
Serve hot and top with your meat, seafood, or chicken.
Household tip of the week: I was doing laundry today. While reaching up to hang clothes I leaned up against the washer. It began to the spin cycle and it felt pretty good. I thought this motion might help the tight muscles in my back. Well it did. The vibrating action of the spin cycle loosened them up. And it makes doing laundry more fun. Just stretch out across your washer and dryer with your knees up and enjoy your massage. I don’t know how well this would work with the newer front loading washers, so I’ll stick with my old shaky top loader. You see, it all comes back “full cycle” to the vintage machines.
I began writing for the Southern Reporter this past September. I have had many leaps of faith in my life thus far. Writing for them may not be, but using a computer is. You see before becoming blind I had never wanted, needed, nor took the time to learn how to use one. Since then, I have made several attempts and purchased three different systems over the past ten years. The New Mexico Commission for the Blind provided two of the nightmarish machines, each along with private tutors. Both of my teachers, Kelly and Raymond, also blind, became good friends as a result. However the computers did not. The commission wouldn’t approve any more training, gave up and came for the equipment. I didn’t like the idea of giving up, but I did. Looking back now I realize I set myself up for failure. I certainly wasn’t eager to learn, didn’t practice, and I hated computers. So many people were directing me toward learning to use a white cane, computer and Braille in preparation for not a bright, but what they feared, would be a dim future. It would take inspiration and a purpose.
Three strikes and you’re out, or better, three time’s a charm. I accepted defeat, until the Mississippi Department of Vocational Rehabilitation granted me a laptop computer. This time the approach was through my own trial and error process. Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything – it is the only thing”. My computer won me over. It has given me new confidence and I love it.
Returning to the present time and finally, trying to score my point: All of you that I have met and yet to meet, along with family and other friends far away, are what inspire me to write. My memory of the keyboard is improving but to type and edit what is an average of only 1400 words takes this snail three days. I love and look forward to what now is a budding appreciation for my computer. It is through writing for the Southern Reporter that I have come to realize the great effort of so many people who are necessary to bring it to us. Our local may be small but it is rare and so is Como. Every week the printed pages are hand delivered to our mailboxes, available in newsstands, and sent subscribers. One Mississippi lady receives my column electronically every week in Abu Dhabi. Many of the small town newspapers have disappeared all over the country. I think we take these special things from the past still alive in our community for granted. I have even heard the paper referred to as “The Southern Repeater”. Even friends and I would joke and call it “The Sharon Reporter”, because I had appeared in it often. Fact is, all of us guilty ones would be the first ones to miss it or complain if it didn’t show up in our mailbox on Thursday morning. I asked David Howell, owner-editor, about the status of the paper. He said, “It’s tough, somehow we just keep going along. However it’s always in danger of folding. We need more content, more subscribers and paid advertisements to keep going”. Call David with what’s going on out there if you think it newsworthy. A year’s subscription is only twenty eight dollars, and out of town is a little more, and delivered to you weekly. Advertising space is also very reasonable. I know I’m doing the hard sell here. I feel it is a small token of appreciation for the news and entertainment all year long. If you want to support this effort but don’t want to, or have the time to read it, use it to line the cat box or dog kennel. I myself like to use them to protect my dining table from messy meals. Just think, you could eat and catch up on what’s going on in town simultaneously.
And now something completely different: One would think I might run out of material to write about, living in such a small town in Mississippi. On the contrary, there are so many happenings I have difficulty choosing one subject, so here are a few from this past week.
Here’s news of live entertainment by local folk happening in Senatobia every other Saturday night. I received the information from my husband David. He stopped at Five Star Carpets and Flooring in Senatobia to return some sample materials. He heard some great sounding folk music coming from a room behind their showroom. He discovered owner Bill Thomas with his sister-in-law and brother-in-law jamming in Bill’s office. Bill was playing a Dobro with a slide on his lap. Betty was on vocals and guitar. Her brother Robert plays the banjo that day. Later, when I spoke with Bill’s wife Elizabeth, she said this is not unusual. When they are not busy they’ll play back there. The group along with others from the area, host a jam night at the Buchanan Moore community center in Senatobia. The next gathering is March fifth 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Anyone is welcomed to participate or just come and listen to some good music. It’s good, clean fun and free of charge.
Kevin’s dad, Bobby Stewart, is one of the guitar slingers and has Johnny Cash like vocals. Bobby has played and recorded with some of the most famous artists known to perform in Memphis, such as Ace Cannon, Bill Black, and Willie Mitchell. He also played bass for the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis. Talking with Mr. Stewart was both delightful and eerie because his speaking sounds like Johnny Cash too. He was also a friendly acquaintance of Elvis. He was invited to intimate parties, movie shoots and would play music with him at his Graceland home. In addition, he is the song leader at the church of Christ in Crockett and often plays for residents at Senatobia convalescent Center.
Last Friday evening we attended a beauty review of thirty- five young ladies in the gymnasium at Strayhorn School. We were excited to cheer on our favorite contestant, Yamarachi Calderon. She is thirteen and in the eighth grade. She wore a very simple but elegant one shouldered black gown with delicate beading circling the fitted waist. Her dazzling earrings of matching jet were from the art deco period. With soft natural wavy hair, with ease she seemed to float about the stage and down the runway. The crowded gymnasium applauded. Ya-Ya placed first runner-up! Her parents, sisters, brother, aunt and all of us jumped up and down. I can’t remember the last time I did that.
I couldn’t avoid ending this week on a sorrowful yet, surprisingly sweet note. Saturday, I attended the funeral and celebration of Padres (Pay) Finley at the Cistern Hill church in Como. Many memorials that I have attended have acknowledged the grief of family, and friends, but try to encourage celebrating the life of the departed. The brothers and sisters of Cistern Hill church did both in the most beautiful way I have ever experienced. There was a large choir of nearly forty anointed voices, and testimonies of several members of clergy, family and friends. All gave heartfelt accounts to Padres’ devotion to God, family and friends and his active service to the community. There was a common thread in all of their messages: Remember, and praise God for his short, but long living legacy.
I had the pleasure of meeting him on a few occasions. We were part of a volunteer staff for the new center for learning in Como called E.D.U.C.A.T.E. Upon first meeting him, I felt a warm sincerity that I thought rare of youth today. A huge procession of people silently left the church, making our way through the cemetery to his final resting place. We were close to the site. It was sunny and warm with a strong wind. I could smell the flowers and the fresh earth that would cover his grave. I heard the winding and creaking of his casket being lowered into the black granite vault and the cover placed upon it. I had never witnessed this before. Donna and I left after that. One would expect us to arrive home feeling terribly sad. On the way home, we shared how uplifted we felt even before going to the service. Don’t misunderstand us. We mean no disrespect, only the love for her friend Pay could uplift anyone that day. I think it was the joyous spirit of this young man who wouldn’t have it any other way.
This past week was also the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. Marie Arvill Soule McConnell was lovingly remembered with heartfelt prose and jokes from our family and friends. Her legacy still lives in all of us who loved her. It was the suggestion of my dearest departed aunt Shirley that I name my column after Nana’s restaurant: the Chat ‘n’ Chew. Nana being a great cook and entertainer and Aunt Shirley a writer, I think they would be pleased with my stories and recipes. Doesn’t a great dinner go along with a good story?
Every artist, alone in their studio or office longs for a response to their work. I would like to welcome your comments, stories, and recipes. Let me tell your story or secret recipe. If you have enjoyed anything I have written this week, remember you read it in the Southern Reporter. If you would like to become a fan of our local blog, call (662) 487-1551. Don’t miss out; call now and you’ll receive…. Call before midnight and you’ll receive….
Next week. Eating the best Sushi in Sardis, Mississippi at the Sardis Steak-Seafood? No kidding!
Another big and beautiful snowstorm fell upon Como last Wednesday, bringing eight inches with a deafening silence. That afternoon, Kay King brought Cole for our now regular doggie date with Avatar. “What a sight – two black Labs against the bright white snow”, she said. Her cell phone rang. It was her husband Rick. He was trying to decide whether to open the steakhouse that night or not. Rick and Kay decided to go for it and serve their hopeful guests together, along with Donnell on the grill.
David, Kevin and I went for an early dinner to join them. We shuffled our way through the deep, dense snow. There is something different about a group of diners that gather during a storm. It’s seems there is a camaraderie among those who brave the elements. Everyone is dressed in bulky layers, stomping snow off boots in the entrance. It felt like après ski, without the ski. We all had a hearty meal of one of their fabulous steaks, of course.
Did you know that they prepare five hundred potatoes per night on the weekend evenings? But my favorite is their steak fries. They are made to order, according to Rick. He said they are cut fresh and immediately fried. That’s why they’re so good. Pre-cutting and putting them in water allows them to take in too much moisture. It their method and may take longer, but it’s worth it. The said fries are seven inches long. If you don’t believe me the proof is in the picture shown.
I normally don’t even think of ordering desert after a meal there. However, the cheesecake with praline tempted me. Kay told me it was made by Baker Patton from Batesville. Curious about this confection, I ordered it. A perfect thin slice of cheesecake glazed with praline arrived. The guys claimed to want no desert earlier, but decided they would have a taste. We all agree this is now a must have. Maybe next time I’ll get one… to go.
The Como steakhouse opened in 1988. Rick King and Gary May took ownership in 2000. I have always been an admirer of what is called the Magnolia Room, referring to the strong southern ladies in the film “Steel Magnolias”. The space features portraits in matching gilded frames of women from Como dating back to the late eighteen hundreds. Kay had all of them archived and protected behind glass, along with plaques with their names. She said there is only one unknown portrait. No one has been able to identify her. I thought someone out there must. Please, study the photo shown and tell us who she is. Whoever offers this information will be guests, dinner for two at the steakhouse and seated near her picture, and an article written about her in the Southern Reporter.
On Thursday of last week, I received the nicest phone call. It was Mrs. Carolyn Jube from Sardis. She told me how she enjoyed reading Chat ‘N’ Chew every week in the paper and thought to call me sometime to introduce herself. Mrs. Jube remembered having spent much time in our home as a child with her friend Callie Swango. Callie’s mother Kate Taylor Swango would later make sure the young women were invited to all the right dances and had proper dates. The girls were Carolyn (Causey) Jube, Callie Swango, Bettie Jean Orr and Margaret Taylor. I have now had the pleasure of meeting all but one of these special Como ladies. She recalled that Kate also hosted socials for all the young ladies and gentlemen. She also remembered the room in which they gathered. It is the very room in which I am now writing.
Mrs. Jube explained that after seeing the Southern Reporter that morning, she had to call. She had read about our Mexican Fiesta and the Pasole. She not only knew what Pasole was, but in fact had made a pot of it the night before! Mrs. Carolyn even had the precious New Mexico red chile. How she came about acquiring the chile was actually back in 1953 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when she and her husband were stationed there in the service. I’m ordering her some fresh chile for her this week! After church I began writing about Mrs. Carolyn’s call. It was a beautiful spring day. I decided to get out and enjoy it. I ended up at Wal-Mart, searching for a card for my Valentine. Later, in the checkout line, a woman behind me extended her hand and introduced herself. It was Carolyn Jube and her husband Don! We both could hardly believe it. We hugged and laughed. I praise God for these moments. It’s like He’s knocking on the door to my heart and saying, “Hello, Sharon. It’s me, God.”
Springing ahead, it was a lovely week. I’m feeling more pep in my step. I concur with the ground hog that we will have an early spring. Many of the signs have recently happened. I hear more birds, the light is different, David saw a honey bee and Mary a mosquito: It bit me. Also, I have organized the cluttered drawers and clothes in my dressing room earlier than last year and moved some furniture.
A memory from childhood is the distribution of Girl Scout cookies in February. Alice Kent sent me a happy of a box of thin mints: my favorite. This inspired me to bring out my Girl Scout sash with all my badges on it. Someone pointed out the various badges and pins’, testing my memory of what each one was for. I asked them to turn the sash over and try to distinguish which ones I had sewn on, and which ones my Mother had sewn. Then I felt my large stitches as compared to mom’s neat tiny stitches. Thanks to her safekeeping, this piece of memory is still around. This is a great club for girls. Support it by buying a box of cookies when you pass by them at your local Wal-Mart.
Who is this Magnolia?
“On my honor I will try to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people every day, and to obey the Girl Scout rules.”
Ya’ll look at the size of these fries!!!
This little Chile has had time to cool off from her recent refusal for a table and service at the Café Ole in Batesville. There’s only one problem: I still wanted a Mexican dinner. In fact, more things would point toward the southwest this week. First Karen Ott Meyer’s call from my last home town: Santa Fe, New Mexico. She was there for a week long ski trip with a group of colleagues. I reflected back to wintering in what they refer to as the “city different” and “land of enchantment”. I imagined the kiva fireplaces burning wood of pinon pine and cedar, all over town, filling the air with smoky spice. Most every day is sunny and the sky a clear intense hue of blue. The surrounding mountains are capped with dazzling white snow. I think lovingly of the beautiful faces of my New Mexican friends and their traditional meals they taught me to cook.
That special time in my life inspired me to prepare such a menu for a very intimate few last Friday night. My friend Guadalupe Calderon and I along with her girls, Yamarachi, Ureli, and Tamara started cooking the Posole around 10:30 a.m. The fiesta menu: Posole, Roasted chicken and three Mexican cheese enchiladas with roasted green Chile sauce, Calamasitas, Guacamole and fresh Salsa made by Doug Gordon. Everything was homemade with happy hands. The dessert, Bizcochito, a traditional Mexican cookie, was made by Lupe’s daughter Yamarachi. By the way, in 1989, the Biscochito or Bizcochito became the official New Mexico state cookie! We played Spanish music and laughed. We left our labor of love in the kitchen around 4:30. Later, David and I greeted our amigas and amigos. The table was set for eight upon the old mesquite wood church door from Mexico. Tall hand forged iron candlesticks sat on a colorful antique weaving. Some wore costumes including cowboy hats, sombreros, fiesta skirts, and Spanish and Indian jewelry. The scene was both festive and jovial.
Monday I called some of my old friends in Santa Fe town. I wanted to connect and include them in this week’s story. I called my favorite restaurant in Santa Fe. Katherine Kagel, Andy and the others were glad to hear from me. Katherine was so cool. Café Pasqual’s is one of the “city different’s” landmarks, located on the corner of Don Gaspar and Water Street. I was a regular there while living in New Mexico. I would meet friends and eat there several times a week. Katherine opened the café in 1979 by and was inspired by her many journeys to Mexico. She, along with her staff, local die hard patrons like me, and visitors from all the world all meld together, creating a warm, lively and always bustling place. I received a care package from Katherine today. She sent some special items of merchandise, offered both at the restaurant and on line at www.cafepasquals.com. There were T-shirts, bags of red and green chile, a calendar and her two cookbooks.
Her generous gift not only made my day, but will become part of my kitchen library and pantry; except the chile, which I already have plans for soon. Her first book features artwork throughout by painter Leoviguildo Martinez, from Oaxaca, Mexico. A huge mural by Martinez covers one wall in the restaurant. There is an art gallery on the second floor featuring some of his work. Katherine is the only one in the states to represent his art. You can also view it on Pasqual’s website. I have admired his work and wanted to own one for a long time. But for the time being, I will enjoy the image on the back of the shirt my friend sent to me. Order some of their chile for this week’s recipe, either on line or by calling the café at 505.983.9340. It is affordable and rich with flavor you could never produce nor buy here locally.
I wanted a photograph of a chile ristra; just like the one I had hanging on my door and later in the kitchen when the peppers were dried by the sun. Some know it is not unusual to see weathered doors painted turquoise blue with ristra of fresh garlic and chile attached on top of the door. I have heard some believe not only the color of blue, but also the ristra keeps away evil spirits. Others, myself included, were either decorating or simply drying the chile outside in the sun. My dear friend Gene Peach, whom some Como folks will remember meeting, sent a photo of the door. More of his work can be seen on his web site www.genepeach.com and also at www.santafe.com/photographers/gene-peach
Speaking of my friends in Santa Fe, I also called Joanne Sena, who taught me the most about cooking New Mexico style. I remember chile roasting time which starts in late August. People at every major intersection along Cerillos Avenue roast the chile in large barrels. I can’t even begin to describe the smell. We would purchase several bushels still warm in the brown paper bags. Then after roasting and peeling, we would sit on her patio watching the sun set over the mountains, eating the fresh roasted chiles wrapped in warm tortilla shells.
My thanks go out to my friends Lupe, Joanne, Peach and Katherine for sharing their work and recipes to allow us to create our own Mexican cuisine in kitchens far away from their homes in New Mexico and Mexico. If you would like Lupe and the Chat ‘N’ Chew crew to come cater for you, contact the Southern Reporter for more information.
Like many conversations, my talk with Katherine seemed to make a full circle. She and her friend are coming to Tennessee in April. Amanda is a singer, and her genre is traditional blues. Enough said; they’ll be stopping in Como to visit.
The arrow was still pointing toward a Mexican cuisine theme. My husband David arrived home from his job at Camp McCain near Grenada. On the way home from work, he stopped at Ken and Lea’s Home Decorating Center located in Senatobia. This is a mom and pop run shop. They may cost a little more than larger chains, but worth it. They carry top quality products and are always so friendly and helpful. Besides, there are no long checkout lines. If they don’t have what you need or if you need other building materials and/or specialty items, head to Veazey’s nearby on highway 51 South. The funny thing that happened when David was reviewing the paint chips on Lowe’s website earlier: One color, close to the desired shade, was called “Café Ole”! Those of you out there who read my letter to the editor recently should find this pretty funny too. By the way, we went with the Benjamin Moore’s Wethersfield Moss instead.
Lupe’s recipe for Posole
Serves eight to ten
Three lbs. pork shoulder
Four cans hominy
One large onion
Four cloves garlic
One tbs. Dried oregano
One cup dried red chile pepper
Fresh Green Cabbage
Fresh Red Radish
Cut pork into bite size pieces and put into a large stock pot. Add water about four inches over meat. Put the whole onion and whole garlic cloves, I love this part because you don’t chop them. Next, add the oregano, salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer low for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. During this time, measure chile in three cups water. Mix together in a blender. Add chile and hominy, cover and simmer low again for another one hour. Top with a little green cabbage and thinly sliced radish.