Pumpkin Pie and the Future of America

When pumpkin pie was invented it was more like apple pie. The pumpkin was peeled, sliced and baked in a crust and eaten not for its palatability but largely as a prevention for scurvy. Later in history it was stewed, pureed and spiced to give it the modern flavor. In the last 100 years things have changed for pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie used to be hard work, growing, harvesting, peeling, seeding, cooking pureeing. Making the crust out of lard and flour (I would guess a large number of you reading this have no idea how a pie crust is made)

When I was a kid the high point of Thanksgiving sadly was not dinner with the relatives, it was the tablespoon of real whipped cream centered perfectly on the one slice of pumpkin pie you were going to get to eat. You carefully ate around the little dab of whipped cream saving it for several tiny bites at the end when you could savor it fully. Pumpkin pie is not sweet by today’s standards and most kids today will only eat it because it comes covered with sweetened fully hydrogenated coconut and palm kernel oil , commonly called cool whip. Often times kids are observed today eating only the Cool Whip garnish and leaving the pie abandoned on the plate awaiting the whirling knives of the garbage disposal. Perhaps my appreciation of pumpkin pie is a result of the totally unfair sugar deprivation I suffered in childhood due to my parents. Deserts just didn’t happen except for occasional ice cream in the summer, pie at thanksgiving and Christmas cookies. It may indeed be true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

The downfall of pumpkin pie as a tradition started with frozen pie crusts and Reddi-whip. I am sure that many of you have never made a pie crust and in fact would have no idea how to do so. Indeed there is an art to making a good crust. Foremost , a good crust is made using lard ( another thing many of you have never seen) but it takes a special tool, time, and a good feel as well. I can make a passable crust but my mother-in -law had the skill which reached its pinnacle in her rhubarb pies. Sadly, even she at the end found that buying the crust was a lot easier than spending ½ an hour making it.
Many years ago pumpkin pie flavor was not as uniform as it is today each cook bought canned pumpkin or stewed and pureed their own and added the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, sugar, ginger, eggs, milk or cream, and cloves to their own taste so every pie was a new savory ( at times unsavory) surprise based on the cook. Later the stores started making pumpkin spice and allspice and the flavor of the pies began to become the same ol same ol.

Now to that hydrogenated coconut and palm kernel oil. Cream doesn’t come as a solid it must be made into one by the application of force. Now an electric mixer is used but some years ago the cream was whipped using an egg beater by hand. Not too stiff and not to liquid, supervision was required while forced labor (the kids) whipped the cream. Too much and you ended up with butter, too little and you ended up with a watery mess.
So you were wondering when I was going to get to the point? Pumpkin pie was valued for its scarcity and the hard work that was put into it, but the final reward for eating the pie was that you worked your way through the pretty good stuff on the outside to get to real good stuff, the tablespoon full of whipped cream in the very center savoring that magically flavored moment that made the rest of the pie worthwhile.

Today we seem to start to often at the good end and quit before we work our way all the way through. In short we want the topping but not the pie. We used to make our own pumpkin pie, now we only use it. Libby makes the pumpkin, Pillsbury makes the Crust, Kraft makes the topping and Alcoa makes the pan so we don’t even have to clean up our own mess. The foundation, the soul of the pie, the love and work that went into it, is often forgotten as consuming the fluff on top becomes the most important thing, consumption that too often leaves the reality and value of pie making behind.

This entire piece was hypocritically written while eating the next to the last piece of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie made from store bought pumpkin pie mix resting in a Pillsbury crust entombed in Cool Whip. But even so I long for the joy and anticipation that the little dab of whipped cream in the middle of a piece of pumpkin pie used to give me. Evidence that little things were very important before we had so much, I wish it could be so again.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Let Slip The Dogs of War

Shakespeare once again proves his prescience. I saw the phrase , “ Cry Havoc,” and let slip the dogs of war” on facebook referring to the rightfully celebrated American Veterans Day tomorrow and was refreshing my memory of the context when I found that I was familiar with the Shakespearian phrase, “ Cry Havoc” and let slip the dogs of war” but that I had lost the context This phrase is often used to praise or urge war. In Julius Caesar some of the lines immediately preceding “ Cry Havoc,” are:
“Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds”……

And the lines following:

…….“That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial”

I am aware he was speaking of the death of Caesar and its after affects but the lines preceding, Cry Havoc” seem to me to describe our world of virtual reality and too often real war and the lines following the results we to often seem to not see or hear.

Ironically the ultimate purpose of war is peace, Lincoln understood that, I am not sure any president or government since Lincoln has understood that simple goal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Election Reform

Rich’s ideas for reforming the election system in the United States, some whimsical, some impractical, some deadly serious.

1. National elections will be spread over two days and every employee in America will receive one shift off during one of those days as a paid holiday.
2. All national offices will be for one 6 year term with one third of the offices being filled every two years. This would not preclude running for a different political office but would not allow more than one term in any particular office.
3. Every statewide/national race will include the option to vote for, “ none of the above” if none of the above receives at least 33% of the votes neither of the candidates may run again for that office and a special election will be held within 45 days with new candidates.
4. Every state will have one state supported debate (state will pay costs and for air time on all public broadcast stations) where the candidates must answer the question asked as judged by a panel of moderators before they may speak again during the debate. Yes and no questions will not be allowed to avoid questions such as , “ have you stopped beating your wife?”
5. Each political ad must identify a website that explains the methodology of any numbers or statistics used and/or the complete context of any opposing candidates quotations used including the paragraph preceding and following that from which the quote was taken
6 Each political ad run by any organization not directly controlled and funded by a candidates election committee would be required to donate an amount equal to the cost of the advertising to a state or federal pool to be divided equally amongst any other certified candidates running for that same office.
7. Any one organization, corporate, union or individual would be limited to one million dollars worth of “ free speech” donations
8. A viable third party would be created in each state funded by 10 million federal dollars for the first 5 years of existence and will be called, “The Third Party.”
9. All primary elections /etc. would be held on the same day or during the same week nation-wide.
10. All political advertising outside of the 90 days before any election would be subject to the same rules as # 6 above.
11. Political parties may be placed on the , “ do not call “ list by concerned citizens. All unsolicited political flyers may be returned, postage due to the originating party.
12. All political ads must include full disclosure of risks of voting for that candidate, just like drug ads.
13. Any elected official traveling to a state other than their home state would be required to reimburse any travel expenses if any fund raising activities take place on that trip.
14. All candidates would be required by federal and state law to divulge where the income on their federal return came from but not the amount.
15. Adopt a parliamentary political system in lieu of all of the above.

Posted in Electionss | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Teen-age Girls and What They Wear to School

#1 I agree that teen-age girls should be able to wear anything that reasonably covers their body to our schools and that they should be able to do so safely and without fear of harassment (although I have taught in schools were uniforms were required and found that it has a positive and calming effect on the whole student body – pun not intended but a nice one all the same)

#2 The modern media, psychologists and university professors have made a point of emphasizing that teenagers, particularly teen-age boys, do not always make good choices, lack impulse control and that we must cut them some slack (although it seems to me that 40 years ago they were capable of making good choices, perhaps because back then we did not cut them very much slack)

#3 Teenagers with an overabundance of estrogen/testosterone/ and curiosity, are often found in close proximity to each other (sometimes in the dark), are constantly exposed to a world where sexual activity is promoted, accepted, and used to sell all ideas and items. Hormones, Curiosity, proximity,  and no impulse control can be a truly deadly triumvirate for teen-agers sometimes requiring great vigilance of, and intervention by, adults.

#4 Finally, few of us would rub raw meat all over ourselves or  our children  and then walk or send them  into a cage with a hungry notably impulsive grizzly bear.

#5 Review #2 through #4 and then see # 1

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Agression in Football… You’re surprised?

We pay college professors for their intelligence and for many ( certainly not all) they remain intelligent even when they are not in the classroom. We pay teachers to teach and many teachers (certainly not all ) teach 24 hours a day. We pay construction workers to work hard and get dirty and even after the day’s work is done many (certainly not all) will have dirt under their fingernails. How is it then when we reward pro football players with outrageously large sums of money and public adulation for being violently aggressive on the field, we then act surprised and outraged when some (certainly not all ) remain violent and aggressive after the game is over?

The idea of unbridled aggression making you unfit for football seems sort of counter intuitive to me. Perhaps a better punishment rather than banishment from football would be to force them to play but without pads and helmet.

Galatians: “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Perhaps not a good analogy, but it captures the idea for me.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Appreciating What You Have

When you are young and you leave a good friend, things or places that you love, I believe that you leave with the anticipation or feeling that you will experience that feeling, people or place again. When you are older and more experienced in the reality of life you may begin to understand that when you leave a place, friend, or walk away from something you love, you have to savor it, because like it or not the reality is that it could be the last time you have the chance. This thought came to me when I shook the hand of a good friend that was returning to Arizona for the winter earlier this year and the handshake just seemed to have a different feel to it, not a complimentary social grace but a heartfelt understanding on his part that it could be the last time we shook hands. That idea was refreshed in my mind when I watched the last sunset over the lake for the year at our Mn. cabin. I think I finally realized why my father-in-law, later in life, used to sit in the chair by the front windows at the cabin every evening and raptly watch the sunset. He knew that you should truly appreciate every moment of what you have and I find that I am still learning that virtue

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

It’s The School’s fault that My Child Is Tired

I find it interesting that the American Academy of Pediatrics finds that school start times ( have we heard this, it’s the schools fault theme before) are unhealthy without noting that parents used to nag their children to go to bed and strangely when they stopped enforcing a reasonable bedtime found that they had to start nagging them to get out of bed. The schools did not reset the circadian rhythms of these chlldren, the home did! These are the same parents who swig 5 shot espressos themselves on the way to work or down two Monster energy drinks at lunch because they themselves stayed up too late the previous night doing such important things as Facebook, Clash of Clans, late night TV, or socializing in a bar thus providing an important visible role modeling for many students who the next morning walk into, in some cases elementary schools, with a Venti Starbucks or a can of Jolt in their hand complaining about how unfair it is for them to have to be awake. Both the AMAP and the Students themselves failing to note that eventually they will have a job and they will be required to sleep on their own time. It should also be noted that a sleep period has both a beginning and ending time and although you may not be able to control the ending you most certainly can control the beginning to guarantee adequate sleep. Besides I have since childhood regularly awakened between 4 and 5 AM every morning no matter when I go to bed and I find no one suggesting that has harmed my health or that school’s alter their schedule to allow me to take advantage of my peculiar situation.

Posted in education, Education Reform, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments