On My Mind…

The subject has always been an issue, but recently it’s become more of an issue for me.  I’m talking about expiration dates.  I checked and found out that they only started appearing on our food in 1970.  But honestly, I don’t remember my mom ever checking dates when I grew up. 

To be honest, she still doesn’t.  I visited her in California several years ago and was making a sandwich.  When I went to spread the mayonnaise, I noticed it looked funny.  I checked the date and it expired three years ago.  THREE YEARS!!!  

“Are you trying to kill me?” I asked Mom.  I went for the mustard, but it was even older.  As I cleaned out her fridge, I reminded her of all the times she’d called me to say her stomach had been upset.  Then I went through her pantry and wow.  She had cans of food that was old enough to get their driver’s permit. 

She claimed she didn’t even know canned food had expiration dates.  I think the only reason my brothers and I are alive today is because we were a family of five and food didn’t last that long.

When I got back to Texas, I went through my pantry.  Lurking in the dark back corners, I found a can of black beans that should at least have been in kindergarten.

The expiration-date issue is on my mind because I’m doing a lot more cooking.  But mostly because I’m ordering my groceries and having them delivered.  The milk they brought us today has a three-day life expectancy.  The flour tortillas and the dozen eggs has four days.  Something about the whole quarantine dilemma has made me not want to waste food.  So, I’m going to be drinking milk and eating breakfast tacos for the next few days.     

Because my hubby has a compromised immune system due to his transplant drugs, we have to be extra cautious.  But I know a lot of people who treat expiration dates as merely recommendations.  They say, “Oh, those are sell-by dates.”  And yes, I know that’s true, but especially now with the shortage of toilet paper, I’m not taking a chance. Honestly, I’ve always tossed out milk the day before the expiration date. I never was big on the this-tastes-funny-try-it-and-tell-me-if-it’s-bad line.  If I even feel the need to do a sniff test, I usually toss it out.

How about you?  Are you sniff tester? A taste tester?  When’s the last time you checked your pantry for expired food?  Do you abide by the expiration dates or do you treat them like a suggestion?  On what products do you least take the expiration date seriously? 

Oh, Those Titles!

Titles are important. They set the tone of the book.  I’m working on an adult series, a Western Romantic Suspense, and I’m proud of my title:  Secrets of Sweet Mesquite. For C.C. Hunter I have one titled, Sole Survivor. 

But when I started thinking about titles, I couldn’t help but to think about song titles. Being quarantined I had some time on my hands, so I googled a few. And let’s just say I spent about an hour with tears in my eyes.  There are some songs with titles that brought some powerful emotions out of me.

For starters, Johnny Cash sang  a real heart tugger, “Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart.” All I can say is, hmmm. Roger Miller sang one with a title that kind of baffled me, “You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd.” 

Trace Adkins entertained hundreds with one song titled, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”  And the song has some lyrics worth mentioning, “Got it going on like Donkey Kong. Shut my mouth. Slap your grandma.”  Now I’m betting Grandma didn’t appreciate that.  I think I heard that song, but I still don’t know what it’s about.

But that bit of lyrics had me thinking about a Christmas song, “Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer,” sang by Elmo and Patsy. I love that song.  Sorry Grandma.

Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty sang one with a title that really spoke the truth,  “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.”  David Allan Coe harmonized to one clever melody, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” and some of the lyrics are worth mentioning: “Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison, and I went to pick her up in the rain. But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck, she got runned over by a darned old train.”  Yeah, wow! That’s a head scratcher.

Now, Frank Zappa sang one with a title that had some good advice in it that I do follow, “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.”  The Cramps also had one that offered some counsel I try to abide by, “Don’t Eat the Stuff Off the Sidewalk.”

Aaron Wilburn gave meaning to a real love song that every woman would love to hear, “If My Nose was Running Money, I’d Blow it All on You.”  But Ruby Wright made my heart heavy with one titled, “Billy Broke My Heart at Walgreens And I Cried all the Way to Sears.” I’d love to add some lyrics to it, “But I found someone new and was happy as a daisy before I got to Macys.”  (Maybe I’ll stick to writing books and not songs.)  

Dan Hicks had a song with great title that would make a good quarantine song, “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away.” Frank Serafino, had a real love ballad titled, “If I’d Shot You When I’d Wanted to, I’d Be Out by Now.” That might be a quarantine song too.

Jimmy Buffett’s song title, “If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, You’ll Know it’s Me,” made me crack a smile.  Bill Anderson sang one with the title, “Walk Out Backwards,” and the lyrics read: “When you leave, walk out backwards, so I’ll think you’re walking in.”  I think she left due to his drinking, don’t you?

How about… “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” by Little Jimmie Dickens,

Last but not least, Billy Walker sang one titled, “I’m so Miserable Without You, It’s Almost Like Having You Here.”  Do you know any funny song titles or lyrics?  Let’s have a chuckle.

Lost My Culinary Mojo

I’m from Alabama, which means by the time I was sink high, I knew how to fry a mean bird, mash a tator, and press a pie crust. I even like to cook. It’s one of those chores that relaxes me.  The hands-are-busy-mind’s-on-a-mini-vacation kind. And not bragging or anything, I’m not bad at it.  But I like to play Martha Stewart when I want to play Martha Stewart. Not because some spiky virus named after a beer takes the dinner-out option off the table. 

And my lack of inspiration has materialized in some of my less-than-glowing meals.  Hubby knows better than to complain—I didn’t marry an idiot—but that doesn’t stop him from snickering. Especially when I set the fire alarm off the second time. Do you know how bad burnt cabbage smells?  And how long that scent hangs on?

I’ve tried getting my culinary mojo back by trying some new recipes. I posted about this on Facebook and got some great recipes.  Below I’m posting a link to one that I tried and enjoyed. It is to Crispy Hasselback Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic. Yummy. (Thank you to authors Laura Drake and Cynthia D’Alba.)

How are you faring in the kitchen?  Any cooking calamities? How about new recipes that might help keep the culinary gods on my side or chase the smell of scorched dog fart out of my house? 

https://tinyurl.com/ybtbe3bh

How will this change us?

My grandmother went through the Great Depression and it left her with a waste-not-want-not mentality.  In addition, her father had died when she was eight and there were six siblings, so I’m pretty sure there were nights she went to bed hungry.  

Even in her eighties, she wouldn’t throw anything away.  I loved that woman, but eating at her house was more dangerous than eating sushi on a clearance rack at a convenience store. You never knew how old something was.  God forbid she cleaned out her fridge the day you came over.  We were taught to never eat her soup.  The family even named it, fridge-clean soup. And it wasn’t just food she fretted over.  She reused aluminum foil, and if someone didn’t dirty up their paper napkin too much, she’d use it again.

When at restaurants, she’d guiltily slip a few packets of sugar in her purse.  And if she had more than a bite of a sandwich left, she’d put that in her purse too.  

I still remember when hubby and I flew to Florida for him to meet her.  Before arriving, we picked up a few groceries and he bought cranberry juice. When he went to get some later, she’d poured half of it into another bottle and added water so the juice would last twice as long.  I told him like I was told growing up, “It’s not really her fault, she went through the Great Depression.”

Now, while I haven’t ever gone to bed hungry—except for nights when I stayed over at Grandma’s house—I’m wondering how the corona virus is going to change me? Already I buy extra when ordering my groceries.  I mean, why not have some extra can tuna or chicken in the pantry?  And when I get an option to buy a larger portion of anything, I go with the large one without even thinking.  My friends are telling me that they too are fighting the compulsion to stock up on things. 

It’s not just the food issues either.  Texas is slowly opening up, but with hubby on immune suppressant drugs, we are still sheltering in place.  And I wonder how long it will be before I’ll really feel safe standing in a crowd.  Others tell me they will forever be aware of handwashing. 

I can’t help but wonder if when I’m in my eighties someone will say, “It’s not really her fault, she went through the corona virus.”

Do you think this time is going to tweak your behavior?  What will you do, or view differently when this has passed? What item will you stock up on after this is over?