Loretta’s marvelous January 5th blog post, “My Seminal Works,” fired my imagination with its broad list of titles. In just a glance, you can tell that this is a woman with a nimble mind.
If you missed it, go back and read it. We’ll wait here for you.
(While we’re waiting for them to get back, here’s a sad story about love and death:
(It’s 2:45 a.m. at an all-night emergency veterinary clinic. The vet is sitting in an exam room reading a medical journal when the receptionist sticks her head in and says, “Doctor, there’s a woman to see you and she’s pretty upset.”
(“Send her in,” he says.
(A minute later a panicked young woman comes in with a picnic basket and says, “Doctor, you’ve got to help me — there’s something wrong with Puddles!”
(She reaches into the basket and pulls out the limp body of a snowy white duck and lays it on the exam table. The duck’s eyes are closed tightly and its little pink tongue is lolling out of its orange bill.
(“Poor Puddles started sneezing this morning and seemed to have a lot of congestion when he went to bed tonight,” the woman explains. “I went to check on him a little while ago and I couldn’t wake him up. Can you help him?”
(The vet pries open Puddles’ eyes and leans in with his otolaryngoscope. He opens Puddles’ bill and peers in. Gently he squeezes the limp body.
(“I’m sorry,” he says. “It looks like Puddles is dead.”
(“What do you mean, ‘dead?’ He can’t be dead! He’s my girls’ pet! They raised him from a duckling — they take baths together. He walks with them to the bus stop every day and is waiting for them when they come home from school. They knew he was under the weather when they went to bed, but they can’t wake up to learn that he died! There has to be something you can do!”
(“No, I’m afraid there isn’t,” says the vet. “But here’s what you can tell your girls, it’s what I told my kids when they were little — tell them that Puddles is no longer suffering and that he’s happy and healthy and waiting in heaven for them to arrive. If that doesn’t correspond to your family’s beliefs, tell them the vet looked at Puddles and could tell that he was well taken care of and obviously enjoyed a lot of love — which is what a duck needs to live a happy life.”
(“What kind of doctor are you? You’re not even trying to save poor Puddles! Can’t you give him a shot or some vitamins or something?”
(“No, I’m really sorry — Puddles is dead,” he says.
(“I’m not going to settle for that! Is there another vet here tonight?” she shouts.
(“OK, wait right here,” the vet says, and he leaves the exam room.
(A minute later he returns with an enormous black Labrador Retriever on a leash. The dog has a solid head as big as a cinder block. She puts her front paws on the exam table and gently grabs Puddles by the neck with her massive jaws. She gets off the table and slowly swings Puddles back and forth. She then carefully places the duck back on the table, looks up at the vet and slowly shakes her head.
(“Good girl, Pluto,” says the vet and he leads her out of the room.
(In a moment he comes back with a tiny black and white kitten resting in his cupped hands. He places her on the table and she carefully walks around Puddles, delicately sniffing and gently batting the duck with her left paw. Once she’s made a complete circle, she sits down, looks up at the vet and shakes her head.
(“Good girl, Pouncer,” the vet says and scoops up the kitten and carries her out of the room.
(He returns to the exam room and says to the woman, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do — Puddles is really dead. Here’s your bill — you can pay the woman at the front desk.”
(He hands her a slip of paper. The woman looks at it.
($1600!” she shrieks. “You didn’t do anything! I’m not paying for this!”
(“I’m sorry, ma’am,” he says. “If you’d gone with my original diagnosis, it would have been $64, but you’re the one who insisted on the Lab Report and the Cat Scan.”)
Welcome back! Wasn’t that an inspiring list of books? When I read it, I resolved to broaden my reading horizons. I’ve already hit Romance, with which I had a brief, unsatisfying flirtation years before.
Why not tackle a subject that, though dear to my heart, I’d managed to avoid — the realm of cookbooks?
For a good portion of my adult life, I relied upon the remarkable culinary skills of the lovely and talented Mrs. Osteen. She had an almost mystical understanding of the intricacies of heat and timing and seasoning.
Life was good, very good.
But with her abrupt departure from my daily existence (Religious Differences: She thought she was God and I disagreed), I found myself struggling to fill my plate.
Like a lot of guys in my situation, I found comfort in the warm embrace of another woman. The lovely and talented Aunt Jemima soothed my troubled spirit and filled my gut with warm, preprocessed love. Some guys waver in their new lifestyle — I waffled, frozen waffled.
It was a relationship built upon pure bliss. Where others turn to eHarmony — I looked to my microwave.
And after 21 years of home cooked meals, I played the field — there were late night trysts with the insouciant Mrs. Paul, last-minute rendezvous with the deeply seductive Betty Crocker (don’t let those staid suburban housewife looks fool you) and her Instant Brownies; and, always, the irresistible charms of Sara Lee.
I reveled in my debauchery, but it was all so very wrong on so many levels. I’d been raised better than that.
Fortunately, I had an angel named Carolyn.
Armed with a smile that can crack ice and a determination born of breaking thoroughbreds, she pulled me back from the Abyss.
Carolyn wasn’t shy about pointing out my self-destructive flirtation with the Dark (and Deep-Fried) Side. All it took was a gimlet-eyed resolution to strip away all the comfy names of the stuff I’d been shoveling in my mouth.
With her no-nonsense approach, the hamburger (“The Bachelor’s Friend”) became “the ground up, decaying body of an abused animal on white flour…with sesame seeds;” the humble biscuit with gravy became a ”pod of white flour and fat, covered with liquified flour and fat, dyed brown;” and the sweet, sweet Oreo was transformed into “a paste of sugar and fat between two crisp pieces of white flour and sugar, colored with dye, flavored with chocolate.”
I couldn’t even wash this unpalatable mess down with a swig of Coke, because the All-American beverage was transmuted into “chemical calcium and rust stripping agent, sweetened.”
I hope you have someone in your life who’ll save you from yourself. Carolyn has shepherded me into green pastures of healthy food and healthy living.
journey, check out The Essential Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi; Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone; and The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally by Ivy Manning. If you’d like a taste of the exciting lifestyle of a freelance writer floundering in a recession, consider Eat Cheap But Eat Well by Charles Mattocks.