As I mentioned in a recent post, I am not a cook. I do not have the patience or the desire to devote a significant part of each day to preparing food. If it comes in a box or a can with a “Healthy Choice” label on it, it’s good enough for me. I’ll steam some vegetables and cut up some fruit and be good to go.
My mother was a good cook, a trained home economist, who I now believe had about as much interest in cooking as I do. She prepared meals out of obligation. Somehow I never even gave in to the guilt.
My sister is a superb cook, particularly of ethnic foods. She bakes her own bread and makes her own pasta. My maternal grandmother was a regionally renown cook.
I did not inherit any of those genes.
At this time of year, many of you are dusting off family recipes and preparing those traditional dishes that make the holidays special. Good for you. I’m cloistered comfortably in my home accepting Christmas goodies from kind-hearted neighbors. It works beautifully. I have no problem being their charity case.
But I’ve been paying attention to what my family and friends are preparing for the holiday. Let’s start right here at my house. Many of you know that my husband, Rick, is a master bourbon ball maker. He revels in crafting visually perfect bourbon balls from a pleasing blend of butter, sugar, chocolate, and a wide variety of bourbons. (He’ll trade you a box of confections for an unusual bourbon, if you’re curious about how it will hold up against the other competing flavors.)
I had never known Rick to spend any time in the kitchen until after his mother died in 2012. She had been the family purveyor of traditional Kentucky bourbon balls, and they needed to make an appearance at family gatherings. So Rick started working with her recipe, recalling the time he had served as her hands in the kitchen while she gave him instructions when she wasn’t well enough to do the physical labor herself.
This year, it seems, Rick has spent ten to twelve hours a day in the kitchen for weeks on end making his mother’s bourbon balls. People all across central Kentucky are happier because of it.
I have written about my dear friend Philip who passed away in May. His sister Joan recently shared a story of Philip trying valiantly to reproduce his mum’s traditional Irish mincemeat pies after her death in 2018. Joan described his first attempt as “pretty awful,” but said he was improving. As youngsters, they had failed to relay to their brother Brendan that the pies were deliciously sweet, so he wouldn’t eat them for years, leaving more for Philip and Joan. Brendan didn’t learn what he had been missing until he was in his 20s.
This year Joan is baking her mother’s Christmas cookies. She plans to pick up the mincemeat pies next year—in memory of both Philip and their mum.
My friend Kristi, who lives in Minnesota, couldn’t believe that I had never heard of potato sausage. That is her family’s Christmas tradition, along with oyster soup. As a child, neither looked appealing to her. She got a hot dog instead. As an adult, she has decided there is nothing better than a spicy potato sausage with a little ketchup. She will serve it for her holiday meal.
Kristi’s grandfather made potato sausage at the meat market he owned in Maiden Rock, Wisc. Her grandmother later worked at the Red Owl grocery in Red Wing, Minn. Today, Koplin's Village Market in Red Wing still uses her grandfather’s recipe to make their potato sausage. It’s a family Christmas tradition that has been extended to many in the Red Wing community.
Jacalyn Carfagno, a longtime Lexington Herald-Leader writer and editor, recently wrote about learning to make biscotti from her dad after he retired and “returned to the Italian-American foods that had nourished him as a child.” Carfagno has continued the tradition of holiday biscotti baking every year since. In her article, she describes her vigilant pursuit of new biscotti recipes to add to her regular rotation of hazelnut, chocolate, pistachio, and fig/walnut. And she references a common factor in holiday food preparation: “Like many holiday traditions, the way I make them is highly ritualized.”
These rituals bring us comfort. They connect us to family and friends who can no longer gather with us around the table. They tie us to each other and cement the bonds that make family—however you define it—special. And they present the rest of us some pretty darn good eating.
Whatever your family food traditions, whether you’re cooking or not, here’s wishing you a a warm and memorable and delectable holiday.
Cathy Eads, of Atlanta, surveys Georgia’s political landscape. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
Once again, it appears the state of Georgia will be the center of the political campaigning universe in the United States during 2022.
With David Perdue’s entry into the gubernatorial race, the plot thickens. Months ago, when Herschel Walker announced his candidacy as a Republican opponent to Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, I started writing a post entitled “Run, Herschel, Run (right back to Texas).” Now his campaign is just one ingredient in the Georgia political stew.
I still think it’s unethical for Herschel Walker to “move back” to Georgia two weeks before filing as a candidate to represent the people in a state he left in 2011. Walker also has a history of mental illness and alleged domestic violence. But this is politics, folks. Laws and ethics don’t seem to influence (or apply to) the behavior of many political figures. While some of us may believe it’s unethical, under the Constitution it is perfectly legal for him to run. Of course, University of Georgia football is a religion all its own, so Walker is like a god to many Dawgs fans. Plus, he may get the endorsement of 45, which will garner him much favor with the far-right crowd.
The former president could be a significant problem for Brian Kemp in his campaign for re-election as Governor. If you recall, Kemp refused to help “find votes” to reverse Biden’s win in the Georgia presidential election. Now David Perdue presents a challenge as well. Democrats are quietly celebrating the entry of Perdue, as his candidacy will likely force a Republican run-off election. That makes three Republican gubernatorial candidates, including Big Lie supporter Vernon Jones. I’m sure there are bookies taking bets on who 45 will back: Perdue or Jones? What might he say or do to retaliate against Kemp’s disloyal behavior? Stay tuned for what is bound to be the worst kind of reality TV.
Just a few years ago, the idea that Georgia would elect two Democratic U.S. Senators, and that we were a swing state that could win Democratic control of the Senate, would have been laughable. In many Georgia communities, the Democratic party did not field candidates in local and state legislative races for roughly 20 years.
I have no doubt that voter registration and GOTV efforts for 2022 will be extraordinary. Stacey Abrams, her supporters, and the Fair Fight* organization excel at both. I believe electing Stacey Abrams Governor of Georgia will bring joy, hope, and continued motivation to Democrats, most African Americans, and many women. It will also represent a monumental achievement in a deep south state steeped in racism since colonial times.
Sixteen miles east of Atlanta lies Stone Mountain Park, where the largest bas-relief artwork in the world—featuring three Confederate leaders—was completed in 1972. The 90-foot-tall engraving looms over the patrons of the public park from the façade of Stone Mountain. A portion of funds for the Confederate memorial project came from the federal government’s 1925 issuance of fifty-cent commemorative coins featuring two Confederate generals. (Yes, that’s right. The federal government issued coins to commemorate traitors, and to help fund a monument to them.) The Ku Klux Klan held a revival during a 1915 cross burning atop Stone Mountain. According to an article by Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Joshua Sharpe, the most recent KKK permit request to burn a cross atop Stone Mountain was in August 2017, the same month as the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. That permit was denied.
In 2022, Georgians can elect Stacey Abrams as Governor and choose Renitta Shannon as Lieutenant Governor. Electing two African American women to top leadership in a state with such a sordid history around race and white supremacy will be a colossal achievement. In addition, we can select Georgia State House member, and daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Bee Nguyen as our next Secretary of State. And we can also choose gay State House member Matthew Wilson as our next Insurance Commissioner.
I look forward to the day when electing someone of a particular gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation doesn’t signify a great advancement in our society. Until then, I’ll mark these candidacies and their political wins as monuments—monuments that signify progress for the entire human race.
*Fair Fight works to register voters and protect voting rights across the United States. To learn more or get involved, visit https://fairfight.com/
The piercing shriek launched me from my position reclining on the sofa. I had landed there moments before after relinquishing my spot in the bed to my elderly dog, her whole body shaking in distress from the thunder and lightning and pounding rain. Was it the smoke alarm? I sniffed. No detectable smoke. I stumbled toward the sound. My cell phone was on the kitchen table, practically bouncing from the urgency of its alert. “Tornado Warning,” I saw on the screen. The phone rang—an old-fashioned ring from a land line—and when I picked up the receiver, I heard this simple message: “Tornado warning. Take cover.” I raced back to the living room, just as the siren near the front of our neighborhood began to wail. I turned on the TV to a local channel and heard, “The possible tornado is directly over the city of Frankfort heading toward northern Scott County.” That’s where I live.
I called out to Rick that we had to go to the basement. I dragged Lucy down the stairs and into the interior bathroom, grabbing my cell phone and a flashlight as I went. I turned up the TV in the basement to hear the reports and kept the bathroom door ajar. I heard Chris Bailey of WKYT say, “If you have a helmet—a batting helmet, a bicycle helmet, anything—put it on. Protect your head.” I made a mental note to store those old bike helmets in the bathroom. Then, “The suspected tornado is moving toward Peak’s Mill on its way toward Stamping Ground and Sadieville.” We were directly in its path.
I watched the radar on my cell phone. The storm was moving fast. In a matter of minutes, it appeared the worst of it was skirting the northern edge of our neighborhood. And then it was gone.
We escaped again. Although Stamping Ground, a small community in western Scott County, had suffered extensive damage from a smaller EF1 tornado just five days earlier, no other nearby areas were significantly affected by this storm. It was not until early Saturday morning, when I turned on the news, that I had any idea of the extent of the devastation to Kentucky and surrounding states.
It’s almost a cliché, but tornadoes in particular make you wonder why you, your loved ones, your home were spared when others lost everything. In communities like Bowling Green, where the tornado made a more traditional swath of destruction, news images show one house demolished and the one across the street still standing, relatively unharmed. In Mayfield, unfortunately, there seem to be few random “lucky ones.” The storm appears to have annihilated most of the town.
Many lives have been lost. As I type this, families are still searching. The grief and horror are immeasurable. The trauma to these communities will endure. The costs to rebuild will swell.
Yet back in Scott County, the sun is shining and the sky is a brilliant blue. The crisp air invites you outdoors. The winds are finally calm. It’s hard to reconcile this pristine day with what I know has happened a couple hundred miles west.
I’ll save my screed on climate change for another day. Today we are all thinking of those affected by these storms. Today, once again, I am wondering why my life has been left intact, as the wheel of fate continues to turn.