TO UBER

TO UBER

Uber is a new verb in the lexicon of Americans.  If you are in a city and you want to get from point A to point B, bring up the Uber app on your smartphone, tap the button and the screen asks where you are going.  You answer, the name of the driver, his/her picture pops up, and a map appears to show you where the driver is and how long it will take him to get to your location.  Amazing huh!

My friend Christine and I went to Baltimore to eat at Bo Brooks Seafood and

Bo Brooks

 

visit the National Aquarium.  Christine had visited Bo Books 45 years ago at around age 25 and remembered the crabs as tasty, bordering on spectacular.  Even though Bo moved the location to the Canton section of the city, the crabs were still good and the mallets were quite useful.

The National Aquarium was outstanding. We spent four hours at this wonderful facility.  We saw many varieties of fish, turtles, frogs, and nettles.  The main tank was so large that it took four scuba divers to feed the fish. We also saw a dolphin show that was very good and we needed a rest.

Dolphin

We stayed at a terrific place called The Hotel Indigo, a smallish boutique in downtown Baltimore.  We left our car in the garage for our entire stay and we ubered around the city.

Our first driver was Muhammed.  He took us on an adventure through several neighborhoods in Baltimore following the instructions of his GPS to Bo Brooks. There was Middle Eastern music playing on the MP3 player and the car was spotless. No money changed hands as everything was handled seamlessly via credit card on the app.

After having a wonderful dinner of fresh crabs seasoned with Old Bay and crab cakes, we left the restaurant and hailed Uber. Our ride was seven minutes away and we watched his route as he wound his way to us.  He called to tell us he had arrived and I told him we were at the other end of the parking area.  He came to us. Our driver’s name was Waqid and he drove a new Toyota mini-van. He talked all the way to our location. Very friendly!

The next morning, we were off to the Aquarium.  Our driver was a local named Gary—native of Baltimore.  He was like a tour director. He was quick to tell us about the good restaurants and local sights. When we arrived at the inner harbor, he pointed out all the good places to eat and shop.  Gary was the best driver of the six we had.

We were tired, the traffic was bad, and our next driver took eight minutes to arrive.  His professional name was Richard, but he preferred to be called Asher. He asked where we were from and Christine told him, Roanoke. He laughed and told us that he grew up in Roanoke. He went to Patrick Henry High where Christine taught.  Serendipity at work!!

About 7pm, we decided to go out to eat. For some unknown reason, we decided on Mexican.  I found a 4-star Taqueria on Eastern Avenue.  Our Uber driver, Raymond, took us to the exact location.  It was in a very seedy neighborhood and the place was closed.  He wouldn’t let us get out of the car. Instead, he took us 7 blocks in the opposite direction to a very trendy area and the James Joyce Pub and Restaurant.  Lamb stew and Shepherd’s Pie were just the thing and delicious. HOORAY for Raymond!

Hafiz took us back to our place. He got a little confused at a split intersection and we had to redirect. But he got us there without any problem.

Both Chris and I loved our Uber experience.  It is the only way to get around a city like Baltimore. We had x rides in total and spent $60.  Because I parked my car, I avoided a $60 valet fee and paid no parking fee. Balance is wonderful.

LIGHTNING ROCKS

Lightning is my granddaughter Emma’s dog, but he truly loves me.  Every time I go to Sarah and Keith’s house, I sit on the leather sofa because it is central, comfortable and I can protect myself as Lightning sprints through the door and takes a giant leap into my lap.  He proceeds to give me sloppy, wet kisses all over my face. And his tail is wagging so fast that it is a blur. He barks incessantly with his shrill tenor voice.  Sometimes he greets me with a little urine drip if he hasn’t been outside lately.  I don’t mind because I love this dog.

Lightning is a dachshund with a very large personality.  He is the larger dog in the picture above. The little fellow looking on is Mr. Jingles, Lightning’s running mate.  He is not as exuberant as Lightning and often seeks a safe haven in Sarah’s lap.  He’s not very fond of men in general.

If you notice in the picture, Lightning has what appears to be a rock in his mouth. It is a rock.  Every time Hattie goes to the trampoline, Lightning tags along.  The very first thing he does on arrival is to look for a mouth size rock.  He digs vigorously around the edges of the rock and uses his paws to dig it out of its resting place.  He then makes sure it is the correct size.  His rock is never just any rock–it has to be just right.

When satisfied, he throws the rock into the air and pounces on it.  He hits the rock with his nose, it rolls a few feet and he pounces on it again.  He then hits the rock with his right paw, then his left and dribbles the rock for 6 feet or so like a soccer player.  As Sarah and I sat watching Hattie do gymnastics on the trampoline, Lightning continued with his rock antics in the same order (mouth, nose, paws) for forty minutes.  AMAZING.  I have had lots of dogs, but never one that plays with rocks.  By the way, he brings his favorites into the house and keeps them in the playroom.

Dogs are wonderful participants in this life.

Shopping at The Mall OR The Delights of Having Granddaughters

I took my 14-year-old granddaughter, my 8-year-old granddaughter, and their 12-year-old cousin shopping.  We went to the mall—the big one.  The one with all the hip stores.

As we were nearing the parking area, I asked a question, “Where are we going first?”

The 12-year-old said, “Park near Macy’s. It’ll be more convenient to start from there.”

“Yeah, we have a list of the stores we want to go to.  They are in order, by location,” the 14-year-old added. “We looked at the mall map online.”

The first store was the “PINK” store or at least that’s what I thought it was called. It was very interesting—virtually every item had “PINK” written somewhere irrespective of the color of the clothing.  The sales clerks seemed more like waitresses. They were all dressed in black and were wearing a large belt with a holster holding an order pad.  A 45-year-old dad walked in and announced that it was his daughter’s birthday the next day.  This smallish girl-in-black pounced on him like a dog on a bone. She had dollar signs in her eyes.  It was expensive. My granddaughters got several items, all with “PINK” emblazoned somewhere. It was expensive.

The young girl at the cash register looked to be about 12.  She handed me the receipt and I was stunned.

“Girls are expensive,” she said. It wasn’t the amount of the bill, it was VICTORIA’S SECRET. I had taken my granddaughters and their cousin to Victoria’s Secret.  This is the store men go shopping for their thin wives or…well you know.  I should hide this receipt from my daughter, but everything has PINK emblazoned on it.

With extra care, we were on to the American Eagle Store. I announced that torn and ripped jeans were not allowed at Brandon Oaks and I was adhering to that policy.  Luckily, skinny jeans without holes were on sale.  Also, Tees were on sale—buy one get 2 free. This selection took 30 minutes and two trips to the dressing room.

A young female sales clerk was lurking nearby because she wanted her name on this sale. She was wearing black ripped jeans. I asked her what was so cool about ripped jeans.  “You noticed them’ didn’t you? I like to be noticed.” I am still thinking about that comment.

With three tees and some blue jeans plus a cute little charm bracelet for my 8-year-old, we set off for the Hollister store.  This store has everything that is current in California.  It used to take several years for fashion trends to move in from the coast, but now it is instantaneous thanks to globalization or something. Interestingly, this store had young guys as sales reps and were they polite. “Hello, sir.” “May I help you, sir.” The 14-year-old found a great pair of skinny jeans, but they had one hole in the knee.  The pleading began, but she had an ally—the guy was telling me how amazing it was that the jeans only had one hole.  I was outplayed and overwhelmed. My 8-year-old was mostly disinterested, but she sighted a shirt that she liked.  She felt like a big girl heading off to the dressing room.

With three stores under our belt, it was time for a break. Universally, it was a vote for Chick-fil-A. It was the smallest check of the day.

Next ONE! Aeropostale! I felt a small surge of energy after some chicken and a restroom break. Basically, it was the same drill. Look at the tees and shirts. Grab two or three and head for the dressing room. It’s two for one so why not get four. While I was waiting one of the clerks gave me a lesson in the proper pronunciation of the store name.  “It is not the postal which means losing it in front of everyone—it’s more like pasta but not quite. You know.” “AEROPASTA!”  “That’s right, now put the L on it.”  She left with a sense of real accomplishment and left me as confused as ever.

My 8-year-old bought fake fingernails in Christy’s. What a store—how do they make it.

WE left the mall to find our car and head to Dick’s Sporting Goods. I had no idea why, but we headed in that direction.  At Dick’s, we ran into Kelli, my son-in-law’s sister. She has this wonderful habit of rescuing me on these adventures with my granddaughters and their cousin, who happens to be Kelli’s daughter.  The first time was at the trampoline park which was very dangerous for an old guy. This time it was exhaustion—we had been shopping for 4 hours. They all disappeared, including Kelli. I sat on a counter for 45 minutes

Kelli looks at me and says, “When are you going to learn?”

With my granddaughters, probably never, but I plan to enjoy it all.  It is so wonderful to love them without condition.

A BUTTERFLY

Yellow Butterfly

A few weeks ago, I encountered a caterpillar crossing a busy intersection at Brandon Oaks.  I remained with him until he made the trip and I talked to some of my neighbors about it.  It was a good experience in being interrelated to another creature in nature.

In mid-August, I went to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. This is the monastery that Thomas Merton entered in 1941.  I wanted to immerse myself in his work.

As I was sitting on a bench in the larger garden, a black and yellow butterfly flew toward me and perched on my hand.  Words can’t come close to describing its beautiful wing span and color. I tried not to breathe or move.

“Hello there, traveler, I AM a butterfly.”

The two days of silence had finally broken me.  “Shhhhhh, this area is to be silent.”

“Not for me, I am a butterfly and a messenger. We talk when there is something to say. You probably didn’t know that.”

“No, I didn’t.  Who is the message for?”

“You, my dear friend.  You see Merton wants you to find your True Self and diminish that False Self.  That unkempt, ugly long hair is part of the mask. Get it cut no later than August 19.  This will keep you on the path. HE will teach you many truths.”

“So, you want me to believe that this message is from Merton or maybe God?”

“It’s from those that love you.”  He flew away.

 

THE CATERPILLAR

THIS CATERPILLAR

This caterpillar was crossing a roadway in my little retirement village.  He was simply beautiful.  I suppose I had always undervalued and underappreciated the caterpillar.  This fellow was yellow and black and was moving at a slow steady pace.  It seemed he had an objective to reach the other side.

I was fearful that he might be squashed by a passing automobile, so I stood around waiting for him to cross over.  Several of my friends came by, stopped their cars to speak, asked if I was okay and then inquired about my purpose in directing the traffic this day.  I told them I was protecting a caterpillar that was moving to the other side of the road.

One of them smiled and inquired, “As in relocating?”

“No,” I said, “He thinks the grass is greener.”  The window went up and a broad smile appeared.  Two bad jokes in a row.

This unusual dude had three pairs of legs and several leg-like appendages. He was also hairy in spots. He will be a butterfly soon.

Caterpillars are the larval stage members of the order Lepidoptera (the insect order comprising butterflies and moths).

As with most common names, the application of the word is arbitrary and the larvae of sawflies commonly are called caterpillars as well.

Caterpillars of most species are herbivorous, but not all; some (about 1%) like insects and may be cannibalistic. Some feed on other animal products; for example, clothes moths feed on wool, and hoof moths feed on the hooves and horns of dead cows, sheep and pigs.

Caterpillars as a rule are voracious feeders and many of them are among the most serious of agricultural pests. Many moths are best known in their caterpillar stages because of the damage they cause to fruits and other agricultural produce, whereas the moths are obscure and do no direct harm. Conversely, various species of caterpillar are valued as sources of silk, as human or animal food, or for biological control of pest plants.

Most likely, this was more than you wanted to know, but the caterpillar is one of God’s interesting and unusual creatures.

ALCOHOLISM SELF-ASSESSMENT

ALCOHOLISM SELF-ASSESSMENT TEST

The following questions have been formulated as a tool for assessing signs of alcoholism.

Want to find out if you are an alcoholic, take the test.

  1. In the last year, have you driven under the influence of alcohol, even just a few drinks?

 

  1. Do you consume more than 7 alcoholic beverages a week?

 

  1. Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?

 

  1. Do you hide your drinking from any friends or family?

 

  1. Have you failed to keep a promise to yourself or a loved one that you would quit drinking?

 

  1. When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it?

 

  1. Are more than 50% of your friends’ drinkers?

 

  1. Do you find it difficult to stop drinking after one or two drinks?

 

  1. In the last year, have you done anything while drinking that you regret?

 

  1. Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be?

 

  1. In the last month, have you had a drink in the morning to help recover from a hangover?

 

  1. Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough?

 

  1. Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking?

 

  1. Have you ever encountered difficulties remembering what happened while you were drinking?

 

  1. Have you ever had a DWI driving while intoxicated or DUI driving under the influence of alcohol violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking?

 

  1. Do you sometimes have the shakes in the morning and find that it helps to have a little drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind?

 

  1. Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking?

 

  1. In the last 3 months, have you continued drinking until you became unconscious?

 

  1. In the last year, have you urinated or soiled the bed or your clothes during or after drinking?

 

  1. Have you ever awakened after drinking in a strange place or at home, without remembering how you got there?

 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be at the start of a problem.

If you answered “yes” to 3 or more questions, you have a problem with alcohol and are most likely an alcoholic.  Spending $9 on the book, NO MATTER WHAT!!, will be the best money spent in the last year. It will provide a way to stop before tragic consequences surface.

If you answered 5 or more questions with “yes” you are an alcoholic and you need help.  It’s not too late.  Read the book NO MATTER WHAT!! and you will get answers.  Next, find an AA meeting and go—save your life!  YOU CAN GET SOBER!!

HELP IS HERE!!!

Order NO MATTER WHAT!! now!

www.tmichaelsmith.com

Speed Bumps

SPEED BUMPS

Speed Bumps are the common name for a family of traffic calming devices that use vertical deflection to slow motor-vehicle traffic in order to improve safety conditions. Variations include the speed hump (or speed ramp), speed cushion, and speed table.

The use of vertical deflection devices is widespread around the world, and they are most commonly found where vehicle speeds are statutorily mandated to be low, say25 mph, or 5 mph in car parking lots.

Although speed bumps are effective in keeping vehicle speeds down, their use is sometimes controversial—as they can increase engine noise and may damage vehicles if traversed at too great a speed. Poorly designed speed bumps that stand too tall or with too-sharp an angle, which is often the case in private automobile parking lots, can be overly disruptive for drivers, and may be difficult to navigate for vehicles with low ground clearance, even at very low speeds. Many sports cars have this problem with speed bumps. Speed bumps can also pose serious hazards to bicyclists if they aren’t clearly visible. Though, in some cases a small cut across the bump allows those vehicles to traverse without impediment. Speed bumps cost between $50–$200 and may need have to be replaced over time due to wear.

Last year, parking lots and driving lanes in our community were re-paved and along with this new pavement came some speed bumps.  If you think the current generation of 70-100 year-olds is complacent you better guess again.  Two large speed bumps were installed in the main driving lanes for access and egress from the main residential parking area.  It became obvious immediately to all of us that these speed bumps posed an immediate hazard.  When you drove across them at 10 mph, you would bounce to the ceiling of your car.  It was impossible to go slow enough to avoid being bumped around. They did not have stripes like the speed bump pictured above.  The speed bumps blended into the pavement and they were upon you before you could react.

Most of us over 70 have enough pain at is and we don’t need a hazard to bring out every pain all at one time.  Naturally, there was a lot of talking in The Grille and the DINING ROOM and no one was defending the administration or the maintenance department.  Who authorized these abominations?  We didn’t have speed bumps before!  It’s only the delivery people and visitors that speed.  I can’t leave the parking lot now.  Speed bumps have to go.  The person who designed these speed bumps is a moron.  It’s obvious to anyone that looks at them that they are too high and steep!!

All of a sudden a petition appeared on the residents’ bulletin board.  In a heartbeat, there were 175 signatures on the thing. It was delivered to Joe, our Executive Director, with the demand that the speed bumps be removed.  He said he would get with maintenance and the contractor to decide the course of action.

At the Town Meeting two weeks later, our chief maintenance guy, Dana, who is a diligent worker and great fellow, came to the podium.  He said, “we are going to lower the speed bumps and paint stripes on them.  That should solve the problem.”   Bedlam ensued with at least 15 people speaking at once decrying that solution.  Our folks are not docile and they are vocal about things that bother them.  Bob stood and said, “These things are poorly constructed and are a driving hazard. The only solution is to remove them.  They do not need to be replaced!”

Overwhelmingly, the residents wanted the two on the main drag removed. Dana looked to Joe for help.  Joe was engrossed in his shiny shoes.  To be fair, I believe he was reviewing all of his options.

Finally, he stood, “We’ll take them out!”  Another victory for the grey panthers.  The democratic process at its finest.

 

 

 

SPEED BUMPS

The Balladeers

BALLADEERS

A Balladeer: a singer of ballads.   Or in our case, it is the male chorus made up of residents in our independent living facility. I have not been in a chorus or choir since I was ten, particularly as my voice started changing around fourteen.  But I love singing with The Balladeers.  I avoided the group for the first six months of my residence.  One day I was cornered by U.V. who asked me to join.  I said that I couldn’t sing a lick.  He said not to worry, neither could anyone else and so singing wasn’t required.  Reluctantly, I went to a rehearsal, found there were no auditions and was immediately given a song book.  I was in, just like that. I am about to perform in my third spring concert and am amazed how much my singing has improved.  It’s still not good, but it’s better

We have a conductor/chorus master.  His name is Bob. He is the former Dean of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.  Nationally ranked and internationally renowned, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) is a preeminent institution for the performing and media arts.  CCM’s educational roots date back to 1867, and a solid, visionary instruction has been at its core since that time.

You can readily appreciate that Bob is in over his head. We are sixteen in number.  About half of us can’t read music and don’t know what all the littler signs and signals mean.  Some of us don’t hear very well and a few don’t know where they are.

Bob stands at the front of the practice room behind a podium.  Our pianist is a woman who has played for the Balladeers for 15 years and she knows where we are most of the time.

“Let’s start with the first song in your book.”

From, the second row, “Which one is that?”

BOB, “The first one!!

The enquirer turns to his neighbor, “Is it the first one in the book?”

“Yeah, I think that’s what he said.”

Can you imagine a first year student at CCM under Bob’s tutelage surviving by asking these questions?

“Okay, the next one we need to work on is Let There BE Peace on Earth which is right behind Oh What A Beautiful Mornin. On this one you have to watch out for the Coda.”

“What’s a Coda?” I was, demonstrating my complete ignorance of musical terms.

“See the word Coda on page 2.  It means on the third line of the second verse, you go to the 2nd verse on page 2.”  I drew an arrow to attach the two lines.  It didn’t make any sense to me, but I at least knew what to do when we got to that point.

Again, “Which one are we on?”

In frustration, Bob goes to the back row and finds it in the book.  Three people move closer to see where the song is located.

I love Bob’s facial expressions.  He has a great smile, an even better grimace and a particularly good pained look.   When Bob says, “that’ll work,” it means anymore effort would just be too painful.

Amazingly when we sing in some concert venue (mostly other independent and assisted living places), we sound pretty good, sometimes very good.  It is a testimony to Bob’s patience and skill as well as the number of times we have practiced.  We have at least 12 rehearsals before the first concert, three or four more before the second and at least 4 before the grand finale, when we perform with the Belles, our ladies singing group. We perform with the Belles twice a year at our home auditorium.  It is a 7 pm concert filled with residents, guests, and our loving children and grandchildren.

At the concert, we were lined up in four short rows instead of the normal two longer rows. By the way, we always sit.  If we stand too long, someone will fall out.  If we scare our audiences, we won’t get any new gigs and we love to perform.  The Belles were arranged similarly to us and right next to us.  Each chorus would sing six songs and then we would sing four together.

Our jokester said, “There are lots of airplanes on the ocean floor, but you never see a submarine in the sky.”  He keeps on trying!

There was a conversation behind me between two of our long time members.  I’ll call them Joe and Herb.

BOB: “We are ready for the first number in our book. It’s A Grand Night for Singing.”

Joe: “I don’t seem to have that one.”

Herb: “I think your book is upside down.”

Joe: “O yeah. I still don’t have it.”

Herb. “I think your book is backward.”

In a rather loud voice, Joe  says: “YEAH, there it is, right where Bob said it would be.”

Bob had been holding his arms in the air while waiting for this conversation to end.   I was about to explode with laughter, which I could no longer hold.  Bob smiled just a bit and off we went.  It was a grand night for singing.  We even did several ballads: Aura Lee and I’ll Be Seeing You. The ladies were excellent and our combined selection of Sentimental Journey was over the top. The concert was absolutely terrific. The 16 of us were dressed in white shirts, black pants and a black bow tie and all of us were beaming except for Bob.  He was simply relieved that another Balladeer season was over and he would have a three-month respite.

Bob graciously accepted kudos from the audience and he reminded us several times that we were going to sing at the NRC with the Belles and we would meet the next day to turn in our music.

“What did he say?”

“We meet tomorrow at 10!!”

“Oh, do we have another concert?”

“Yes. At the NRC.”

“Across the street?”

“yeah!”

Bob: “After we get back from the NRC, we will meet in the community room to turn in the music.”

Another round of “who, what when and where.”

This conversation was repeated at least five times with different people involved each time.

I LOVE THE BALLADEERS!!!

 

 

 

FOOD

 

When you turn 70, food takes on a new meaningin your life.  Old folks like me really look forward to eating! Our ability to lift, run, and jump seems to disappear, but our taste buds remain intact.  Eating gives us something to do three times a day and mealtime, particularly at our independent living center, often involves good conversation or not.  Eating is one joy you sit for and only have to lift a fork a few inches. We are fortunate at our place to have a dedicated and experienced cooking staff as well as a serving staff of mostly young people.

BUT there is controversy.  The quality of the food offerings is debated constantly and with passion.  “The fennel was so hard you couldn’t cut it with a knife.  I like fennel. Why can’t they cook it right?” “The Beef was tough on Sunday.  If that was tenderloin, I’ll sing in the atrium.” “The chocolate silk pie was delicious.”  “My sugar goes through the roof when I eat that.” “Why don’t we have gluten-free cookies?”

Our dining room tables always have a beautiful flower arrangement, a white table cloth and a comment card.  About 90 cards are filled out each month concerning the food and service.  Many offer praise to the wait staff.  Some have a suggestion on how to fix a certain dish or to request an addition to the menu.  Only about five or six have a true complaint.  But those writing these critical comments are quite serious.

Let’s talk green beans.  For some reason our staff doesn.t like to sting beans.  Of course, it is boring and time consuming.  But this is a valid complaint. Beans need to have the strings removed as do snap peas.

Northern versus southern green beans is a new chapter in the Civil War.  I grew up in the south and the green beans were cooked most of the day until my grandmother got a pressure cooker.  But she cooked her green beans often with “fatback” and they were cooked.  Northern green beans are crisp which means they are not cooked long at all. Sides are taken with considerable passion.  The solution was to offer both and keep the count even since there are folks who keep the score.

The most interesting food fight was The Great Spinach War.  The benefits of spinach are many. Leafy greens like spinach provide more nutrients than any other food, when compared calorie for calorie. Here are some spinach facts to consider: Many of us older folks appreciate spinach because it is a very nutrient-dense food. It is low in calories yet very high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. When you consume this healthy food, you don’t need to worry about your weight-loss diet as you take in abundant, valuable nutrients. This leafy green is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, magnesium, folate, manganese, iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B2, potassium, and vitamin B6. It’s a very good source of protein, phosphorus, vitamin E, zinc, dietary fiber, and copper. Plus, it’s a good source of selenium, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acids

We love spinach and other leafy greens on our menu given all of these benefits.  But how do you cook it?  Therein lies the problem. Cooking spinach on the stove top is a fast and easy way to enjoy this dark, leafy green. The recipe can be as simple as sautéing the spinach with garlic in olive oil and topping it with a bit of lemon juice. I always add a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat. A heartier recipe is with the flavors of cumin, cinnamon, chilies, garlic and ginger. To stir-fry, I heat some sliced or slivered garlic in olive oil, throw in a ton of spinach and stir-fry until hot and wilted. Season it with tamari and a garnish of sesame seeds.

To steam, I wash the spinach leaving water clinging to the leaves. I place it in a large pot over high heat and cover. Don’t walk away — the greens get tender and toothsome when just collapsed from the steam. This happens really fast, 3 to 4 minutes. For me, over steaming separates the moisture from the leaves and results in mushy, gloppy spinach.

Part of the controversy seems to be that some like their spinach mushy.  This is not a large crowd, but they are vocal.  They also want to forego all of the aforementioned spices.  Just pass the vinegar and leave me to my wonderfully cooked mush spinach.

I happen to like my spinach sautéed with olive oil and garlic.  This tastes great to me and I can eat a lot of it.  But there are some that are concerned about the amount of oil used in the cooking process.  One of our residents attended a food committee meeting with a Ziploc container holding something liquid.  Turns out it was oil that she had drained from her sautéed spinach.  I had to admit that it was a healthy amount.  She thought it was vegetable oil, but the chef assured her that it was olive oil.  She was happy about that, but still thought the volume was too high.  She preferred steamed spinach or a more modest amount of oil.

There are those who claim that that the steamed spinach has not been cooked enough.  They contend that it is akin to eating raw spinach.  Of course, many of us like raw spinach, particularly in our salads. It is also very good with a little olive oil drizzled over it.

Olive oil is a great oil for cooking.  Strong flavored olive oils can be used for frying fish or other strong flavored ingredients. Olive oil has a high smoke point, 410 degrees F, and doesn’t degrade as quickly as many other oils do with repeated high heating.  Our chefs use an extra virgin olive oil that has health benefits and wonderful Mediterranean flavor.

 

There are some myths which have recently circulated about olive oil. Olive oil has been used for thousands of years and is one of the cornerstones of the healthy Mediterranean diet. As far as making a saturated fat, all oil repeatedly heated to very high temperatures such as is done in commercial frying operations will oxidize and hydrogenate to a degree. Virgin olive oil is a highly monounsaturated oil and therefore resistant to oxidation and hydrogenation. Studies have shown oxidation and hydrogenation occurs to a lesser degree in olive oil than in other oils. But in any case, the amount of hydrogenation is miniscule and our chefs would never experience this problem.

Compromise is the name of the game when you’re trying to satisfy two hundred sets of taste buds.  The sautéed and steamed are offered on the buffet on alternative dates, but steamed spinach is always available from the kitchen.

Pinto beans are good. Pinto beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans. In addition to lowering cholesterol, pinto beans’ high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as brown rice, pinto beans provide virtually fat-free, high quality protein. But this is far from all pinto beans have to offer. Pinto beans are also an excellent source of molybdenum, a very good source of folate, and a good source of protein, vitamin B1, and vitamin B6 as well as the minerals copper, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.  BUT PINTO BEANS SHOULD NEVER BE SERVED WITHOUT CORNBREAD AND VICE- VERSA.

Corn meal, the basic ingredient of corn bread, is a whole grain. Whole-grain foods contain the bran as well as the germ and endosperm of the fruited grain — and all of the nutrients they contain. Whole-grain foods provide needed fiber for the diet, which not only help regulate bowel movements but also absorb cholesterol and lower blood sugars as they move through the digestive system. A 1-oz. serving of cornbread contains 1.8 g of fiber. And because fiber is not digested, but simply passes through the digestive system, it is filling without adding any calories of its own. Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folic acid, folates and vitamins A, B-6 and B-12 are found in corn bread. A generous piece of cornbread has about 150 calories.

Our pintos are always accompanied by cornbread.

I admit that I live to eat. It’s the organizing principal of my days: At any given moment, it’s likely that I have already decided what my next meal will be, and often, even the meal after that. When I look back on a life that has taken some sharp turns here and there, I remember the food that accompanied those new directions, whetting my appetite for change. Other people take photographs, make scrapbooks or remember life’s big moments by what they were wearing. I remember what I ate.

It’s not that I’m a foodie, although I’ve been blessed with some of them in my life—true epicures who can differentiate between merely excellent gazpacho and soup that is out of this world. Nor am I a connoisseur, like the people who can taste the difference between grass-fed and conventional beef with a single bite, or sniff out the difference between Jamaican or Ethiopian coffee beans. I’m just a hungry man who will eat just about anything.

At this point, I’ve stopped judging myself for my food-focus, just as I’ve backed off (at least a little) from my worries about being on the pudgy side. Food, I’ve accepted, is just one way I connect with and orient myself to life. When I get hungry for something new, I indulge. It means I’m ready for a change, looking to add new flavors, textures and experiences to a life that might be feeling a little