October 13, 2015
“Ya’at’eeh,” the traditional Navajo greeting actually means “All is well with me.” One reciprocates, if one is indeed well, so the absence of the phrase indicates a problem, meaning that care is needed on the part of the one asking. (No “how ‘ya doin,’bro’” here!)
In introducing one’s self, one gives a 4 part instructive introduction, including where he is from, who his father’s people are, his mother’s, his vocation, and finally his public name. A private name, known only to the “holy ones,” and revealed only at the time of his passing, is also who he is, as is the “familiar” name that one is called by others, based on his actions as observed by others. The Navajo archeologist, speaker at Washington College’s Hotchkiss Hall, gave us this information during his talk last night. He told us that he is known as “the one white men follow” because of his work as a young man as a tour guide.
Greetings are important, as is one’s heritage and place in the world, who he is, what his being is. Hospitality and a blending of identities is key, and was especially important to me as I wondered how to best identify, then appropriately blend our cultures and personas as I became his B&B host the following day. “Hmm. What to do….?” I wondered. So of course it all came down to cookies.
I googled “Navajo Cookies” and a Native American cornmeal cookie seemed like the best bet. It contained maple syrup (which was hailed as being precious to Native Americans) and also pine nuts. Since Will, the speaker and our guest-to-be, was born in “the place under the pinion trees,” that seemed pretty much perfect. So now the house smells like sweet cornmeal and I’m ready for them for whenever they arrive. I’ll greet them with “Ya’at’eeh,” and offer them a blend of cornmeal cookies (which I hope resemble something they know!) and a few chocolate chip cookies of mine. I think it’ll work.
And so another chapter is added to my life’s work of finding out the answer to the question, “What are your favorite cookies???” For when it all boils down, that doesn’t just mean I’m a cook. Cookies are a gateway into all things important. I’m just a facilitator, a spokesman and a person, hopefully, whose arms are open wide – holding cookies and whatever else happens to come along.Tweet
August 2, 2015
Guests just gave me this idea yesterday: of a B&B stay where an individual, couple/s or small group of friends have a good ‘ole-fashioned time making cookies like Ma used to make! And the idea comes just in time for holiday planning - for getting the dates on the calendar and making all the arrangements NOW. Then when holiday happenings are hoppin’, and time is crunched, your plans are done.
Worried that there won’t be enough time to schedule this? Relax: the cookies will keep in the freezer. (Schedule your get-away around Thanksgiving, or just before – or whenever you have a space where it’ll fit.) Then when you get the notice about the office cookie exchange, or the neighborhood goodie swap, your cookies are waiting for you, completely finished.
Are holidays hard? Lonely? It’s fine to come here alone – even a day or two just before December 25. We’ll fill your time away with some warm fun and Christmas cheer, and you can have a holiday that’s maybe like the “old days.”
Do you think your spouse might think this would be fun – to bake together, making some special memories? Some other family members?
Maybe you and another couple might like the adventure! You never know; you might start a new tradition!
How does this sound?…. no mess at home, no shopping for ingredients to do in busy, crowded stores, having a few dozen Christmas cookies in the freezer, ready for guests and giving?
Come any time in November or December, for a night or even two, either through the week or over a weekend:
Weeknight rates / night - $ 149 + 11% tax (1 person) , $ 169 + 11% tax (2 persons, 1 room) (Both rooms, 3 -4 persons – $ 299 + 11% tax)
Weekend rates / night - $ 179 + 11% tax (1 person), $ 209 + 11% tax (2 persons, 1 room) (Both rooms, 3 - 4 persons – $ 349 + 11% tax)
My mother used to begin baking around the first of December, and she’d store her cookies in tins and crocks under the bed in “Aunt Bernice’s room” (the spare bedroom reserved for our mother’s sister who’d visit every other weekend from Baltimore). The collection would grow and I would watch for my opportunity to sneak in and grab a few. I’d have to be very careful and very, very quiet; I never knew what might happen to me, if I was caught, but I never was. (Hehe, maybe that was my mother’s Christmas gift to me: to never “catch” me. I’ll never know, but I just bet ‘cha.) My favorites were the Spritz – vanilla or almond, didn’t matter which – and in the cooler temperatures in the closed-up room, they’d be chilly and the texture was oh-so-just-right. I can “see” myself in that room right now, and it’s been 50 years ago. I guess you could say that cookies really are a part of who I am. So….do you have some of these kinds of memories? Does this sound like fun? What are your favorites? What kinds did your mother (or father, or auntie or grandma) used to make?
** We’ll only have a limited number of these packages available during the season, so if you’d like to schedule, call sooner rather than later!Tweet
May 30, 2015
When I found out that one of this weekend’s guests could not have dairy, gluten or sugar, I thought, “Yikes. Wonder if there’s any kind of a biscuit that I can figure out to try?” So I used my normal baking powder biscuit recipe as a base and substituted and added until I thought it might work. I had found a flour blend at the health food store downtown called “Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend” that said on the bag that you could simply use it cup for cup. So that’s what I used. I was experimenting, so I only used 1 cup – (it is very expensive and I’ve tried other things only to have them fail, so I didn’t want to waste more than a cup this time around). And by golly, Miss Molly, it WORKED. I had made 4 regular sized biscuits, along with a very tiny one for me to taste, and they had just come out of the oven as our guests walked back through our front door after their evening activities. I was pumped about my little culinary adventure because I’d just sampled the small one, finding that it was pretty darned amazing, so I told the mom (the guest with the special dietary needs) about how I’d been playing in the kitchen and what had happened – that I’d made her some biscuits. She stared at me with wide eyes and said, “Biscuits? Real biscuits? Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a biscuit?” I asked her if she wanted to try one. “Could I?” she asked. So she followed me into the kitchen, stood right by the stove and bit into the warm biscuit. Her eyes got wide again and she said, “This is delicious.” I asked her if she wanted another one. “Could I?” she said again. “Of course,” I told her. So she ate the second one, told me about how she’d eaten what she could at the event earlier in the evening, but that she’d been limited. She then gave me a big ‘ole hug and went upstairs, with her tummy full, ready to drop into the bed. Gosh, this is an awfully fun job.
1 cup Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend (gluten free, dairy free, sugar free)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly grated ginger root
Bit of nutmeg
Freshly grated lemon zest plus 1 T juice
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 ripe banana
1/4 cup + 2 T coconut milk
Mix all ingredients together except the milk. Cut in coconut oil. Add milk. Shape into biscuits. Grind some sea salt onto the tops of the biscuits. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.Tweet
May 14, 2015
Rufus, the rooster, now lives next door. He came yesterday to Mt. Vernon Avenue. And he was trash – until he was transformed by a local sculptor in Galena. I’ve only just met him, but he’s really quite marvelous. (And just for the record, he’s not even actually the subject of this post; the timing of his placement in our neighbor’s back yard just happened to coincide with the placement of this blog entry on our website. )
Rufus, originally a big oil drum (I think) now stands on his own heavy metal feet with his bright white and royal blue body angled exactly right so you can catch the look in his 8 foot high eye and wonder just a bit at his parted mustard-yellow beak. But not for long, since he’s not ominous at all, in spite of his great height; just fun. Their yard, beautiful with its many plantings and outdoor seating area, is now overseen by their Changed Chicken (although it’s not really a chicken, as Mary Jane pointed out, it’s a real-live-looking rooster.) I love it. And you will, too, if you come to Simply Bed & Bread.
The “transformed trash” that I originally intended to write about is Philadelphia trash, not our local variety.
We were in the city yesterday, visiting our children and picking up our grandson from school, and we had the unexpected privilege of having some extra time with Em, our older daughter, who wasn’t feeling well enough to go to work. (We kept our distance, and exchanged “air hugs,” but were able to enjoy her company from across the room on the couch. We expected our extra treat of being with Erin, since she had planned in advance to treat us for coffee, but the time spent with Emily was more serendipitous. So our day was full, as parents so much enjoy with their grown children.)
As we were sitting in Erin’s living room with Emily, she told us a story about trash. (And I do love her stories.) Our almost-7-year-old grandson has a keen sense of justice roiling around in his young mind, which his parents are always trying to (ahem) straighten out a bit, and this story highlighted this ongoing effort.
They live in a Center City neighborhood next to a bus stop. And Emily and her husband are glad that their outside steps going up to their front door provide a place for weary people to rest. In inclement weather the small canopy over their front door offers a small bit of protection that makes their wait a little better, too. Emily, like my own friendly father, greets them all and gives them a wonderful welcome. It’s a good, safe spot in which to be. And some might say it’s a small thing, but I call it big. Well, Adrian, our grandson, cannot understand why sometimes some of these guests on their steps leave coffee cups and other trash behind. Or why they also use their window well as a trash receptacle. “It’s not right!” he insists. And he’s correct. It’s not. But his gentle-hearted mom is teaching him that the trash isn’t the point. That being “right” isn’t the point. But that being kind is. And that giving a welcome is. So she and her husband try to explain. And Adrian doesn’t get it. Not yet. But every day he sees his mom pick up the trash – she says it takes just a couple of minutes out of her day – so that one day it’ll pay off. He’ll get it. And he’ll see that it never was about the trash. He’ll hopefully be transformed in that way-down-deep-inside-place that understands, and starts to pick up trash, too. At least, that’s the plan. I cried, listening to her story. Guess you could say that I was a tiny bit transformed, too.Tweet
February 23, 2015
The book club that I’m in meets once each month at The Lemon Leaf Café. We call it a “slacker book club” because although there are no slackers in it, we’re not there to prove anything or to go down in history as the most profound thinkers in the town. It’s just a way to be encouraged to read books that we might not read otherwise, then meet together with women who are fun and nice. Pretty simple, right? (And the Lemon Leaf management has made it so easy for our group; they couldn’t have been any more welcoming! I can say with authority that they’re really doing more right there at the restaurant than just the food, which we locals really appreciate!)
Tonight’s selection is our second Fannie Flagg book, with the first being Redbird Christmas in December. Since it was the holidays, those attending the December meeting decided to make things easy and so just chose another Fannie Flagg for January, which was just fine by me. I like her. Only problem was that they chose a recent publication not yet available at the library, and I was too busy to request in time, so I just went to KCPL a couple of days ago and took one of her earlier books from the shelf. Not so hard getting a book written in 1987: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.
The book is the story of lots of people in Whistle Stop, Alabama, in the 20′s, mostly, told in the 80′s by an elderly woman in a nursing home to another resident’s visitor. (Getting to know Smokey in the story was where the ukulele – in the blog title – came in; I’ve come across several Woodie Guthrie songs with my uke and could picture Smokey and his buddies pretty easily). But playing a uke isn’t a prerequisite to reading this book. It’s an easy read, but is not fluff:
This morning, Smokey Phillips was on a mixed train from Georgia, headed for Florida. He had not eaten anything for two days and remembered that his friend Elmo Williams had told him that there were two women running a place right outside of Birmingham who were always good for a meal or two….
…’Excuse me, ma’am, I was wondering if you had an odd job, or something I might do. I’ve had a run of some bad luck, lately.’
Idgie looked at the man in the worn-out dirty jacket, frayed brown shirt, and cracked leather laceless shoes and knew he wasn’t lying.
She opened the door and said, ‘Come on in, fella. I think we can find something for you.’
…Idgie pointed to the men’s room. ‘Why don’t you go in there and freshen up, and then come have a bite to eat.’….
The bathroom was big and had a light bulb hanging down from the ceiling, and when he pulled it he saw that there was a big stand-up claw-foot tub over in the corner, with a black rubber stopper on a chain. On the sink, already laid out, was a razor and a dish of shaving soap with a brush.
As he looked at himself in the mirror, he felt ashamed that they had seen him so dirty, but he had not had more than a speaking acquaintance with soap for quite a while now….He had not had a drink in twenty-four hours, and his hands shook so bad he was not able to get a clean shave, but he did the best he could….
He sat down to a plate of fried chicken, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes, cornbread, and iced tea.
He picked up his fork and tried to eat. His hands were still shaking and he was not able to get the food to his mouth. He spilled his tea all over his shirt.
He had been hoping they were not watching, but in a minute the blond woman said, ‘Smokey, come on, let’s take a walk outside.’
He got his hat and used his napkin, thinking he was being thrown out. ‘Yes’m.’
She walked him out behind the café, where there was a field.
‘You’re a pretty nervous fella, aren’t you?’
‘I’m sorry about spilling my food in there, ma’am, but to tell you the honest to God truth…well…I’ll just head on, but thank you anyway…’
Idgie reached in her apron pocket and pulled out a half-pint bottle of Old Joe Whiskey and handed it to him.
He was a mighty appreciative man. He said, ‘God bless you for a saint, ma’am.’ and they sat down on a log out by the shed…..
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Fannie Flagg, 1987,The Random House Publishing Group, pp. 17 – 19.
Told you it wasn’t fluff.Tweet