Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MARCH!




I don’t like March. First of all, the name.

March.

It’s a one word imperative sentence.
I see a mean sergeant in a field, whistle hanging round his neck. He’s shouting at me, the overweight, winter-worn GI trying to rouse myself from the deep sludge of January and February, my uniform bursting its buttons, my fly stopped halfway in its tracks by flab.

I am not up for Marching. I can’t. In fact, I’ve just been able to start walking without a cane. I’m Persephone, just back from her abduction by a convalescence-comfortable sofa and a wide screen. The trim physical therapist explains that my leg muscle cells aren’t smooth anymore. They are more like a mushed up bowl of spaghetti. 
Along Highway 19, metal beasts have surfaced from the underworld. Uprooted grey trees litter the hillsides with amputated limbs, twisted fingers. A rural two-lane must double its size. Businesses and houses disappear, leaving in their places red mud flats indented with Caterpillar tracks. Traffic backs up for half a mile, from Li’l Smoky’s Barbecue to the junction of 19. Tempers flare.

I am not ready for this. The trees are starting to bud. There is a jar of daffodils on my kitchen sill. Still, I long for the white isolation of winter, for the cold, for the sense that the world can wait, because it has to. Give me some pale green days of April. Don’t push me, and I May. I love the sound of May. Full of possibility, no pressure. Just make a choice or even choose not. May gives you permission, like a door swinging wide.
The dog barks, her beagle-bugle sounding the arrival of a large vibrating truck. The floorboards in the bathroom quake; in the bedroom, the roaring continues followed by monotonous back-up beeping. Then it starts: the drone of power saws, a cartoon dentist drill amplified by a wall of speakers. 
Obviously our neighbors have a Spring project going on. I go to the cupboard for ibuprofen to head off the migraine that’s creeping up my neck like a tight hood. Light hurts my eyes. I wish I were a mole burrowed in the loamy quiet ground, listening to a neighboring flower stretch itself cautiously, patiently toward the sun.




 cathy larson sky    2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CABIN FEVER CASSEROLE




What could be more savory than our warm turkey eggplant casserole on a wintry evening? This family pleaser is only 7 points per serving. Abigail Parsons, of Bewelle, Illinois says:” I make a double portion every Sunday, and freeze servings for meals during the week.”

Ingredients: (makes eight ¾ cup servings)

1 16-oz can of diced tomatoes   
½ onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
¾ cup bread crumbs
1 tsp basil
1 cup grated lo-fat mozzarella
¾ cup bread crumbs
1 medium sized eggplant
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 cup mushrooms

Directions:

1 Sauté the crushed garlic and diced onions in a heavy skillet (in 2 TBSP of olive oil). Be sure to use a low heat and coax rather than bully the onions to turn translucent. That is the secret of using onions to flavor rather than dominate a dish.

2 While the onions are slowly cooking, go ahead and dice eggplant, peppers, and mushrooms. Cut in small pieces or they will not soften enough so you will taste that acidy pepper taste and have trouble digesting the skins and you will have to use some of your husband’s Prilosec after dinner though you’re supposed to take it before you eat but you never know whether a dish is going to cause indigestion or not, depending.

3 Add the ground turkey (I forgot it in the list of ingredients but so what? I can’t do everything around here. I do enough as it is. Anybody should guess from the title you need turkey anyway. I’m so sick of people asking me to think for them.)

4 Add basil, canned tomatoes, diced vegetables, bread crumbs and simmer, stirring often. Be careful not to spill any pieces over the edge of the skillet. For this recipe I use a large sized cast iron frying pan but who knows what size peppers they grow in Illinois, b/c they’re getting larger every year, probably genetically altered. Like every fucking other thing in the store and we wonder why so many people get cancer.

5 If the ingredients are too dry, add a little chicken broth. Whoever recommended that amount of bread crumbs I don’t know if they were kidding. The vegg are going to get onto the stove top, spilling over top of the skillet. If you have just cleaned the mouse turds off the stove top, make sure that you are the one cleaning the kitchen after dinner b/c if your husband does it he will not see the bitty pieces and you’re going to have little black droppings in the morning for sure and that’s a nasty sight, esp when a stove is white like ours.

6 Put aluminum foil over the whole thing and place in center of oven, bake for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees. I forgot to write down 350 too but anybody who cooks knows  this is standard temperature for a casserole. Abigail Parsons would know, Abigail and her neat preplanning and portions, one of those kinds of people who’s organized every minute thing in her life. Sounds like she’s a career person. If it’s so hard to cook at night after being on her feet all day, why the heck doesn’t her husband pitch and do it once in a while? Too busy vegging out in front of the TV while Abigail heats up one of her frozen casseroles. Or maybe she’s all alone, and lonely, watching the news, eating her casserole portion on a little TV tray. Both scenarios pathetic.

7 After allotted cooking time, take the foil off the pan, and sprinkle the mozzarella over top of the casserole. Dump on the whole package, who cares about points, if it doesn’t get thick and stringy, it’s just not good. Put the skillet back in the oven and bake another fifteen minutes. If the timer on the oven cannot be heard in the den above the sound of the TV, use the clock timer with the broken face from when you dropped it two Christmases ago, you can carry it into the den. It is good and loud. Forget saving the foil to use again, unless you want to spend the time scraping off veggie matter so as not to tear the foil, a task requiring a lot of concentration and patience. And who can recycle everything anyway. The kids used disposable Pampers back in the 70s. I’m already going to consumer hell, and I know it.

8 Once the melted cheese is browned, remove casserole from oven. Let cool for five or ten minutes before eating.

Serve with crispy buttery garlic bread. Try to make this dish last for more than one meal, but nobody’s perfect.  Depending on how cold it is outside or how many days you have been snow bound, this dish is greatly accented by a dessert of hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream, covered with a touch of chocolate sauce and a handful of peanuts.

Note: Don’t forget to turn off the oven. Who can afford to waste Propane?

(copyright Cathy Larson Sky 2/24/2015)
 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

More Blesséd: A Christmas Memory





Instead of a steeple, the roof had a sculpted hand with a finger pointing up to God. That was just one reason I found our church creepy, why I dreaded dressing up to go there that Christmas Eve. The old organ wheezed beyond closed doors, cuffed my ears with fearsome groans when ushers admitted us.

I held on to my mother’s hand. Everything was dim, the red carpet under our feet almost invisible. One wrong step might swallow you. My family eased into a pew, my sister and I last, closest to the aisle. Mom had a paper bag; inside were two wrapped boxes, presents for unnamed poor families.

I had to crane my neck to see down the aisle to the tree standing on the altar. It wasn’t a pretty one. Its colored bulbs were sparse. After the pastor had everybody pray and lit the worship candles, things looked warmer. All the Sunday School classes were going to take turns delivering gifts to the Christ child, a swaddled baby doll in a cradle waiting on the altar steps. 

During the second verse of Silent Night I joined the first graders emanating like ghosts from dark pews. We bumbled to the tree, knocking shoulders, where some helpful Mom with a holly corsage took our gifts and arranged them by the cradle. Most of the presents looked the same, down to the wrapping paper that was on sale at the A&P: poinsettia, candy cane, or reindeer print. Among the modest gifts, though, was a large one with a fancy red bow. Its wrapping glittered like tinsel. All of us saw it and pretended we didn’t.

When it was kindergarteners’ turn to go up, they went one by one. Some had to have a parent go with them, some didn’t. We were on the last verse of Little Town of Bethlehem when Marilyn Lynell started up the aisle on her own. She was a round child, big for her age, with a dumpling face and pale eyes. Her looks mirrored her thin-haired, thick bodied father’s. He sang a sonorous bass in the choir. 

Marilyn’s short pinafores always hiked up in the back, showing the creases of her stout pink knees. That night her sash dangled awry as she made her halting way up to baby Jesus. The box she carried must have held a man’s tie: small, flat, easy to carry. Still, not a mother in the congregation wasn’t holding her breath, watching Marilyn’s unsteady progress. The verse ended, and I saw the corsage mom at the altar kneel down to help Marilyn settle her gift among the others. Then the organist fired up O Holy Night.

Underneath the singing I started to hear a sort of twitter. I strained to see. Marilyn was coming back down the aisle and as she went, the people behind her rustled like a sudden wind. Marilyn was not returning to her seat empty-handed. Cheeks crimson, eyes glazed, she carried, in her passionate, plump embrace, a box big as her head: the glittery, red-bowed present. 

(copyright Cathy Larson Sky 2014)