Posts from the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

In Praise of Farmers’ Markets:

Farmers market? Farmer’s market? What is the agreed upon grammatical etiquette for that heavenly place where you get fresh produce and support your local economy?

Anyway.  On to the story.

This morning I made my first trip of the summer to the Farmers’ Market which my parents have been taking me to since I was a child.  I love this market.  There are closer markets, now, than this one, but I know the vendors and produce there like they’re family.  My parents used to get up obscenely early (or what seemed obscene when I was young) to go to the market and bring back fresh produce and roasted chilies to be turned into salsa, maybe even some artisan bread.

I have really strong, wonderful memories of the times I went to the Farmers’ Market with my parents, usually my dad.  We’d wander around an extremely congested street and get fresh food, especially green beans, peppers, those roasted chilies, and cherries (definitely cherries if Momma was there).  I forget every year how much I love cherries, so the first one is the best, because my mouth is remembering the flavor it loves so well.  I saw a little girl, she couldn’t have been more than two, with cherry juice all around her mouth and her fingers today.  I felt a fondness for her grandparents, because they carried on a tiny tradition that I held so dear.

There were the Saturdays closest to my birthday when I woke up to fresh peaches for breakfast, snack, and dessert.  Papi and/or Momma would go and get a goodly amount that were ripe enough to eat right away, put some on the counter for when I woke up, and start a couple more macerating for the peach ice cream to go with the cake (and, of course, after the presents).

There were the days when my parents probably would have been better served by a leash than the dog owners.  The dogs were exceptionally well-behaved (because the owners were smart enough to bring the kid-broke pups and not the jumpy ones); I was less so.  I’d run after dog after dog, petting every puppy that would sniff my hand.

Basically, Farmers’ Market days are some of the few days from my childhood that I felt normal.  I learned to love the Farmers’ Market as much for its smell and food as the atmosphere in which I felt good about myself.  I love farmers’ markets.

As an adult, it’s taken on a different meaning.  The Market is still dear to me, of course.  It’s restorative influence is perhaps exactly what I needed given the events of the past forty-eight hours.  However, as a struggling post-college student, I’ve come to appreciate the meaning of supporting local businesses.  I started learning it in college, since I went to college in a small rural town, but something about it clicked the past couple years.  So, last summer, I decided it was time to start supporting local vendors as much as I can.  I went to the Farmer’s Market as often as I could and got good produce for good prices and kept the money in Colorado.  It was all very sensible and responsible.

And I found the most gorgeous pasta and divine cheese in the world. I never would have found them if I hadn’t committed to going to the Market and supporting local farmers.

The pasta company is based in Denver, Colorado.  It’s a relatively small company, started in 1984 and still dedicated to its roots as an operation to make homemade, flavored pastas to be enjoyed.  It’s mostly online and market business.  It takes pride in being a “mom and pop” business that employs a few employees to make GREAT artisan pasta.

The cheese company started in Illinois with a husband and wife team.  Then the wife’s sister and her husband joined in.  Then, a couple they were friends with.  It became a family and friends company that made artisan cheeses and sold at several markets in Illinois.  Then, the friends moved to Colorado Springs.  And perfect cheese (seriously, their Chipotle White Cheddar cheese is THE perfect cheese) came to my home town.

I love supporting independent crafters.  I love Etsy.  I have vendors across the world that I have relationships.  As an adult, I’m proud to establish these relationships with local vendors.

You see, this is the beauty of supporting local vendors: you’re not just giving money to your community.  You’re becoming part of a community in turn.  This is my praise of farmers’ markets and of my Farmers’ Market – they create a community that learns to love each other, help each other, and become part of each other.  So many families are created and maintained around the table.  Is it any surprise that community families find themselves around the food of the farmers’ market?

Sweet Southern Comfort Food

Any one else just feel right at home when they hear that song?

I went to college in rural Missouri.  Anyone who tells you Missouri is not South has never been to places like Marshall, Sedalia, Green Ridge, Cape Girardeau and/or Sikeston (to name a small few).  I’ll admit that it depends on where you are in the state how Mid-Western or Southern it feels, but my small patch was definitively Southern.  And there was nothing more Southern than the food.

Most of my memories at school surrounded performances and department drama, as comes with a small school.  There were the flowering trees in Spring and those weird winter storms in the winter that somehow felt like home, despite the annoyances of pollen and snow.  It wasn’t until I got home that I realized how attached I had become to the food.

One of the great things about Southern food is how homey it is.  Something about chicken and dumplings always feels right.  Even my mother, who I would never accuse of being a Southern girl, adores pecan pie.  And no one does pecan pie like they do in the South.  Southern food is the food I instinctively crave when I’m feeling a bit lonely or ill.

Like a couple months ago, I was feeling low. So, I headed to a steak house–not because I was craving steak, but because I was craving Southern-style green beans.  When I went home with my roommates on the weekends, we would make dinner.  More often than not, she would pull out a mason jar of green beans that someone in her family had put up and make us Southern-style green beans.  Eating those is like curling up in front of a James Bond marathon with Auddie’s dad or a girls’ night with Auddie and Tink or a card night with twenty people from Auddie’s family making the stranger welcome.

Or last November, when I drove out to Missouri and quite literally cried when I bit into my first hush puppy in over a year.  There’s one (inconvenient) place to get hush puppies where I live, so that’s something I always make a point to consume while I’m visiting family and friends in the area.  Hush puppies are a reminder I’m going to a place where I am loved.  Eating hush puppies means that even the worst of roommates can get along and that the best of roommates will still fight over who gets the last one.  Hush puppies mean late night speed-walking two blocks so you can get that well-deserved snack after a horrific amount of studying.  Hush puppies mean home.

Or the never-ending quest to find a Mediterranean restaurant that is comparable to the jewel that was a teeny brick building in Sedalia.  Not exactly Southern food, but the best Greek food will always be Southern in my head.  It will be special and celebratory, because that’s where my best friend and I went to eat when she came to visit and where I had my graduation lunch with my parents.  Greek food means to me what it does because I discovered it during my time in the South.

It’s been a few years since I left Missouri, good years, even.  I still ache for the friends from school, the flowering trees, and snow in December instead of May.  And I can go visit the people, plants, and places that I miss, but not without great cost and that heartbreaking moment I remember I have to say goodbye.  Again.

Not so with Southern food.  Whether it’s Greek food that almost measures up, or going out of my way to get hush puppies, or heading to the steak house for Southern-style green beans, or a plateful of chicken and dumplings, these are things I can access with relative ease.  Yes, the food will be gone sooner rather than later, but there’s always another plate or bowl waiting to fill the hole in my heart that was left by those people, places, and plants . . . at least for the time being.  This is what comfort food is – the food that eases the aches and pangs of life while reminding us that the things and people we love are never too far away.  Maybe even only as far away as a bite.

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So what are your comfort foods?  And when did you find them?  And how do they comfort you?

In defense of Disney’s faults:

The other day I got into a convo with a friend of a sibling (my family is very share and share alike with friends, which is awesome) about Disney (follow the link to see some snippets).  It was fun.  I mean, I am absolutely a member of the Disney generation (My first movie memory? Grabbing my dad’s hand at Beauty and the Beast because the Beast frightened me SO MUCH.  My dad’s favorite Disney movie?  The Little Mermaid because it was the first movie his daughters could really sit through and enjoy.), so I kind of love Disney no matter what . . . almost Stockholm-esque love, really.  Because, as you can see, I KNOW they are flawed.  I so know it.  Furthermore, I don’t like it.  I don’t like seeing my friends who bought into that schtick, who are waiting for some Prince Charming or Handsome Stranger or Magical Deus ex Machina to come and save their life from loneliness, boredom, or meaninglessness.  I don’t like that Disney managed to convince practically a whole generation of women that love and life are these kind, sanitized faerie tales that make it all better.  Because we all know faerie tales are creepy and wrong and that’s why we love them.  I don’t like that it took nearly sixty years to have a Princess of Color (and even then, Pocahontas was NOT a thrill).  I don’t like that they sold love as the meaning to life, the universe, and everything (FORTY-TWO!) .  I don’t like a lot about Disney.

But that’s kind of why I love Disney.

Bear with me for a minute.  All will be revealed.

So, as some of you may or may not know, faerie tales and mythology is my chosen field of study.  That’s where I’ve been headed since basically the third or fourth grade.  Seriously, ask my poor beleaguered parents and local library staff.  And, as some of you may or may not have seen my note just above, faerie tales are creepy and wrong.  Sorry, people who bought into the princess hype.  It’s true.  And they’re so much better for it!

So why do I love sanitized Disney?

Because it’s reflective.  Yeah, it’s racist and misogynist and riddled with inaccuracies and pro-colonial and anthropomorphic and pretty much any accusation you want to lay at their feet.  It’s true.  And it’s true of us.  And it’s true of our faerie tales and folklore and mythologies, even if Disney did do it’s best to ruin them.  I apologize if I offended anyone with that last assertion or this coming one, but we are no better than Disney.  We like to think we are, but we aren’t.  We are why Disney is all those things because we are the market they cater, very specifically, to.  We pretend it’s because Disney is run by persons who are a, b, c, or d.  We pretend that Disney is hopelessly backward.  We pretend we are not the reason Disney has been so successful.  But we are just pretending.  The culture Disney serves is as broken as the company.

But you know what’s wonderful about that sad fact?

WE ARE GETTING BETTER.  And so is Disney.

It’s taking more time than it should.  It’s taking decades and generations and major paradigm shifts to something that should have been blatantly obvious in the first place.  But we, as a populace, and they, as a company, are improving.  They are reflecting our improvement.

It gives me hope.  It allows me to see dreams slowly come true.

Isn’t that kind of what Disney was all about in the first place?

So yeah.  I love Disney.  And I think the more of us who are willing to encourage Disney to be better, whether it’s from the advocate or antagonist’s side, the more we’ll see true and reflective improvement.  We’ll see that acceptance and wonder that Disney’s words, if not images, preached.  We’ll be the reason Disney changes, grows, and teaches good things.

Go us.  We’re the ones that make the Magical Kingdom truly magic.

Good times.

Today I’m going to talk about the light of memory.

I have one of those brains that gloms (glomms?) on to trivium.  I completely come by it honestly.  My genetic heritage is a long line of “mush-brains.”  This is what my family calls people who can store tons and tons of seemingly non-pertinent information until that one perfect moment when the trivia is perfectly pertinent.  (Ken Jennings is THE mush-brain.) Spend one game night with my family and you will understand what I mean.  It must be experienced to truly be understood.

Thankfully, this mental capacity to latch onto something has made my memory recall a really interesting thing.  I don’t know how YOUR memory recall works, but I do know that I have more than once been informed that mine is different.  It’s this super-associative, super-weird combination between photographic memory, situational memory, and sensory memory.  I’m going to attempt to explain it, but this is MY brain we’re talking about so do not blame me if it sounds like a jumbled mess.

My brain flashes freeze scenes from the particular day, kind of like NCIS:LA does that picture overlap thing (tried to find an example, but couldn’t–it’s sort of a collage-y thing and yet not . . .).  Much of the time this is triggered by being in a similar situation or similar place.  I swear, I get brain ambushed at the weirdest times, often because I am facing the same direction that I was when a particular memory was made.  It’s weird and I have no idea why my mental camera depends so much on my visual perspective to recreate memories.  But it’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life and learned to use.  When I have trouble recalling conversations or events, I will actually turn around until I am facing the same way I was at the time, which almost always allows me to bring up the information I’m searching for.*  And as for the sensory, once my brain has flashed those pictures at me, often there are sensory bites (like sound bites, you know) that play out in conjunction with the flashy picture collage-y thing.  Smells, sounds, physical sensations–all these things are so firmly entrenched in these memories that they cannot be separated.

I love it.  It’s super weird and totally odd.  But it allows me to REALLY remember–there’s an insane clarity to my memories.  I have memories from so young I don’t know when they were, I can still feel Best Jess (a roommate from my Freshman year of college) pressing a kiss to the top of my head on her way out the door–just because, and every time my stomach lurches in anticipation I can still smell the light cherry blossom scent of the lotion that I used for the duration of my first serious relationship.

Super crazy, huh?

So, as you might be able to tell, memory is a really interactive and reactive thing for me.  Some days, it’s really intense.  But every day, it’s illuminating.  I’m constantly surprised by my own brain when a memory re-surfaces–what I remember best, what sounds and scents really impressed themselves upon me, the direction I was facing.

This morning, went into the restroom to do my hair (which hates me) and found myself ambushed by one of these memories: I heard Pookie (my other roommate Freshman year of college) cry, “Look at your cute Dorothy Hamill hair!”  The winter static has worked it’s magic in a GOOD way.  When I was a Freshman in California, this happened all the time.  Pookie was the first person to point it out, but there was a vendor on campus who nicknamed me Dorothy because of the feathery hair phenomenon.  Hearing him say, “Hello, Dorothy!” every day in his thick Asian accent was the next memory that came rolling in, and yes, I saw a picture of him in my head standing behind his booth, smiling at insecure, Freshman Joie.  All because my hair looked similar to those days back in California.

The wonderful thing about this is, I hadn’t thought of that cute little vendor in forever.  I certainly hadn’t thought about the joy that came from having Dorothy Hamill hair.  That first time my roommate complimented it was pretty funny (when I’m confused, I am often unintentionally hilarious) and it’s a beautiful memory.  The joy of having a stranger remember me and make a point of saying hello to me every day was a pleasure to recall.  This is why I love my weird, wacky memory.  One memory, something so insignificant as Dorothy Hamill hair, can make my day light.

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*For those of you who never knew why I spin around when I’m trying to remember things, now you know.  Thanks for just rolling with it.

Pay it forward: There is nothing random about kindness.

I have a lot of inspiring friends (as you might have noticed).  One of them, at the end of September, invited me to the ongoing  “Pay it forward” event on Facebook.  It’s a gentle reminder every day to find a way to help someone else.  A lot of people do this fiscally, which is GREAT, except that I am a poor (recovering from) college studebtdent.  Most of my meals are either small portions of a batch of something easy to make cheaply in bulk (stews, soups, casseroles), reheated frozen items, or ninety-nine cent heart attacks.

This is the life I live, which is fine by me, but it’s hard to go to the grocery store and offer to buy someone’s $70 worth of groceries, not because I don’t want to, but because I just can’t afford it.

But, thankfully, I have an equally inspiring family.  When we lived in California and had to cross toll bridges, my family would pay for the car behind us and tell the teller to pass along the message, “Have a good day.”  It’s one of my FAVORITE traditions ever, one that we repeat every time we can (not a whole lot of toll bridges in Colorado, and it’s much harder to pay for the person behind you on toll roads).  So, I resolved that the next time I had someone behind me in line at a fast food joint, I would buy them their food.  It wasn’t much, but it was within my budget.  And, it was something.  Something that recalled formative childhood memories, that I knew would make someone else and my soul happy.

Unfortunately, over the month of October, when I was in the line of a given restaurant, it was mostly with a limited amount of cash or during really SLOW times.  And there were just the times I forgot.  I looked for other chances to pay it forward in less fiscal ways, but I did want to do this.

It finally happened, today!  I was in line, with my card, there was a person behind me, and I remembered.

I watched out of the back window as the poor gentleman was given the message of, “Have a good day.”  I watched him make confused faces and chat with the window operator, trying to understand.  My food came out, I went to leave and couldn’t resist one last look in my mirror.  This young man had his hand held up in acknowledgement and a HUGE smile on his face.  For less than $2 of food.  I held my thumb up to him and went on my way with a fool’s grin of my own.

I don’t know why it made him so happy.  I do know it did.  And I know that it made the heart of the four year-old child that lives in me dance.  I remembered why my parents taught me to help others in such a small way, and I remembered why this tradition had imprinted on my heart so deeply.  There is nothing random about kindness.  It is a choice.  And it is a choice that brings an inimitable happiness, a truly pure happiness, in its wake.

Even if that wake consists of a mere two dollars of crappy fast food.

Guest post: a Precious memory

South Africa. Growing up, the evening before my family’s annual two week summer holiday was more exciting to me than if Christmas eve, the night before my birthday and a visit from the tooth fairy was all going to happen at the same time. My little Mum would stay up late making sandwiches and coffee for our long roadtrip the next day, my Dad would spend hours packing the car trunk and trailer for our two weeks of camping, and sister and I would try to stay out of everyone’s way and make mix tapes for our Walkmans (yes, this was back in the day). I would wake up more than once during the night, in anticipation for the day, and weeks, ahead.

On the first day of our journey my sister and I would be woken by Mum at 4 in the morning, while the stars were still shining, and get bundled in to the car in our pyjamas carrying our pillows, sleepily waving goodbye to our dogs. We’d quickly fall asleep again, and stay in dreamland until the Transkei border post, where we would be woken up to show our passports and have our cars searched (this was during apartheid in South Africa, when the Transkei was a separate homeland – imagine a country, within a country).

I remember those roadtrips well – fights between me and sister over who got to use the fold-down arm rest that separated us in the back-seat of the car. Threats from Dad to pull over and leave us on the side of the road. Stopping for bathroom breaks on the side of the road and lunches in the middle of nowhere. Mum trying to tell us educational facts about the countryside as we watched the world speed by in a blur.

About 10 to 12 hours after we set out, we’d arrive at our final destination. This area was made famous by Bruce Brown’s first Endless Summer movie, made in the 1960s. Not a bad view, hey? 

You see, although I spent 18 years of my life falling asleep at night listening to waves crashing against the shore, my summer vacations still (for the most part) involved camping at the beach. My Dad, was (and still is, at 60) an avid surfer. Surfing has been a part of my life since before I could talk – even guest starring in a video my Dad’s movie-maker friend made about surfing when I was 18 months old (I assume they bribed me with sugar. And lots of it). Growing up, I read ZigZag (a South African surfer magazine) long before I read any teen girlie magazines. Jeffreys Bay (pictured above) is known around the world as one of the best places to surf. During our two week holiday here we’d watch my Dad surf, collect shells on the beach with my Mum, swim in the sea, tan on the shore, play board games and card games, climb trees around the campsite and pretend we were in The Magic Faraway Tree, eat hot dogs and drink warm coca-cola from plastic cups. Never dressed in more than a swimsuit and a tee. Always barefoot. Always getting moaned at for getting sand in the tent!

Packing the car up to go home was never as hotly anticipated as the night before we left for our holidays. As a kid, two weeks felt like a lifetime of adventures. I am still never as relaxed as when I am taking an early morning walk along the shore, smelling the salty smell of the ocean and realising how small I am. And to this day, if you ask me my favourite smell, I will say it is the smell of sunscreen. That, to me, will forever remind me of perfect summers at the beach growing up.

Here’s hoping I get to give my kids the kind of childhood memories I got to share with my folks. Someday.

x Precious

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This post brought to you by the 2012 20-Something Bloggers Blog Swap.  Theme: Childhood Summer Vacations.  Don’t forget to check out the awesome Precious and her blog partner Jemily on their blog (my post is over there today). 

“We asked Shakespeare and Francis Bacon would they declare…

… which one wrote this, and they both said, ‘Get outta here!'”

If you have never watched The Court Jester with Danny Kaye, I am so very sorry.  The opening song, “Life Could Not Better Be,” ends with the line “What starts like a scary tale, ends like a fairy tale and life couldn’t possibly better be!”

Isn’t that just the perfect description of life?  Or, at least, life as it should be.  Fairy tales, in their original forms were dark, dreary, and–frankly–not for children.  The happy endings only came at great cost.  Minus the magic, that sounds a lot like reality to me.

I remember the first time we watched this brilliant movie and I heard that last line.  I turned to my father (who was the one who had picked the film for family movie night) and said, with wide eyes I’m sure, “Starts like a scary tale and ends like a fairy tale?  What does that mean?”  He wisely said, “You’ll see.”

What a fun experience the ‘You’ll see’s of my life have turned out to be.  My father, who has provided so many of them, gave me the gift of adventure and wonder, of waiting until the end.  I’m sure this wasn’t the first (I seem to remember birthdays having similar attributes), but this one stands out.

Last night, my father returned home from a trip to DC with my brother.  He always gets gifts on his trips away, even now that I’m far too old for that.  His gift was a finger puppet of William Shakespeare (who looks like a Muppet).  It was perfect.  It was a reminder of my father’s love, but also of all the “You’ll see” moments in my life.

Shakespeare’s sitting at my desk now, smirking at whatever brilliant line is in his stuffed head.  He’s a wonderful reminder of what’s past and, better yet, what’s to come.