Lighting the corners of my mind

September 7, 2021

It seems the older I get the more I reminisce. Similar to the lyrics in The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand, my memories are lighting up the corners of my mind–a lot. Sometimes it’s with candle light and other times with strobes! Sometimes they come with the shadow of guilt, others with a great, big smile. According to some, ‘it is a healthy exercise to share thoughts and feelings of one’s experiences to recall and reflect upon important events within one’s life.’ 

A friend of mine on Facebook wrote a post today about her parents’ memories and how she realized the importance of capturing them before they were gone.

My mom passed away four years ago and every single day I regret not filming her when she was with us. I regret not asking her more questions and capturing her answers along with her voice, her smile, and her radiant love for our family. My dad is 79. He spent the year of the pandemic alone with his two dogs (Stewie and Jessica). He’s an amazing man… I wanted to be sure not to miss his stories about growing up, meeting my mom, becoming a dad and a grandpa.

There are many things I wish I had talked about with my parents including their own history. In my defense, they didn’t always make it easy. I recommend making conversation with one’s parents, the best you can, and learning their history. It’s your history as well.

This is a hard post to write. I loved and respected my dad, but I wasn’t particularly good at showing it. I was too busy being the rebel to appreciate my dad until much later in my life, when I began to see the interesting, kind and artistic man he was. The shame is on me. But I stick to saying no regrets, because I am who I am–kind of like Popeye.

My Dad in me in Germany right after WWII.

Albert Victor Kinslow grew up on a farm in a small, central Texas town. The story he told me one time was his father went to his job as postmaster, and when he came home that evening my dad had been born. He exclaimed ” Oh, what do you know, a little jackass” And, that’s why my dad was always called Jack.

He married our mother, Lula Bell McEntire, when in his mid thirties right before being deployed to fight in World War II where he was awarded the Silver Star. He consequently made the US Army his life’s career. My father was a trusted advisor to generals and had earned the rank of Colonel years before he retired in 1966. A man who never drank a drop of alcohol, he made it available at our home when it was his turn to host dinner for his circle of officers and neighbors.

Col. Jack was a gardener. When we lived in Hawaii he was mentored by our Hawaiian landlord/neighbor on growing orchids, plumerias an other tropical plants He had an eye for art and took craft classes. This is where he learned to make these beautiful glass lamps. He’d take long walks nightly to gather sanded glass on the beach. Much of this type of glass can no longer be found–the reds, greens and blues. He also made furniture, and jewelry out of the local seeds and nuts. Later in retirement, he was the neighborhood widows’ favorite person to call for small fix-it jobs.

I saw my father cry when a lot of men wouldn’t. I’ve heard him speak harshly when he lost his temper. Dad was deemed honest, fair and ethical by all his friends, family and colleagues. He loved our mother with a passion and almost always let her have her way. He loved all three of his children, though I’m pretty sure he never really understood us.

When he took the role of granddad/mentor to my the son he was different, but also still the same. My son to this day appreciates what he learned from his granddad. That is the heart of his life he passed on.

My parents’ 47th anniversary. In the corner a pre wedding photo. They were married at Travis Park Methodist, San Antonio.


Healthy Eating Redux

May 29, 2016

First let me say, my mother was a superior cook. Every night she cooked a family meal and we all gathered around the kitchen table eating and talking. Many of our family favorites were from the Southern cooking repertoire she learned from her mother. Cornbread dressing, black eyed peas, pecan pie, tomato aspic, etc. She made the best fried chicken ever. So good that when she included a leftover piece in my lunch box the next day, it still tasted awesome. I remember she had a special container on the stove to strain the drippings from the breakfast bacon with which she used to flavor many of her dishes. What horror that sounds now, right? Her Red Velvet cake recipe is what the hubby uses to great raves.

chinese cook book

Lula Belle’s original Chinese cook book

Mom also made it a point to learn how to cook cultural food dishes from wherever we lived with Dad on his Army assignments. In Hawaii, she learned to cook Asian food including wontons and spring rolls and delicious rice dishes. When my dad was stationed in Pakistan, and we couldn’t go, she still learned how to create Pakistani dishes to serve my father when he got home so we could share the food culture.

Another component of my foodie upbringing was through my dad. Everywhere we lived, he had a garden. He loved tilling the dirt and learning the plants that would grow well in whatever climate we were in.

I specifically remember the garden in Hawaii. It was a rather large garden on a hill on one side of the house in which we lived while waiting for base housing. Much to his chagrin, there were many types of tiny beasties that will infect and eat your produce in that climate. While our native Hawaiian landlord gave him some advice, Dad managed to invent a tomato saver using my mom’s old stockings. The result of all this gardening is that we were privy to fresh seasonal veggies on the table most of our growing-up lives. He continued to garden until his last year on this earth.

When I began my life in Austin as a hippie babe, I too became a darn good gardener. In both homes I had there, I maintained a large, prolific garden. I grew squash, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, beans (scarlet runner were my favorites) melons and more. Our resident neighborhood food guru, Clay, was already a vegan and among other dietary examples, fed his twin baby daughters almond milk after they got too big for nursing. We ate a lot of good fresh produce, turkey eggs, raw milk and other healthy foods. We shopped at Good Foods, the store which was actually the precursor to Whole Foods, and then at Whole Foods original store on Lamar Blvd. I made healthful cookies and other baked goods and stayed away from white sugar.

Somewhere along the way of life, I deterred from this path. Smallish incomes and three kids led the family to make the unhealthy mistakes many people in the same financial situation make—beans, potatoes, bread, pasta are cheap, fresh or organic produce not so much. If your teenager works at Church’s Chicken, you love the free leftovers every night.

Oh and did I mention I married a pastry chef? Most the weight I gained from this era is still with me.

Little by little I got back on the right path. I just started saying “no” to the pastry, cookie, cake stuff. I began eating gluten-free for my intestines’ sake and there went the pasta, crackers etc. The hubby and I shopped at Central Market for the great assortment of fresh and tasty produce.

Delivery produce box

For a year or so we had a weekly box of local, seasonal produce delivered to our door. It stretched our ideas of what exactly is eatable Yes! to beet greens and strange sprouts and big black radishes. We finally cancelled, feeling it was not economically in our favor to continue.

On our back patio, we created a small, but productive, container garden. We’ve had good luck with tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, peppers, chard, herbs and even okra. Plus, the house came with two tangerine trees that keep us in fresh tangerines for about 6 weeks every fall.

tomatoes

Container garden tomatoes

We tried shopping at some of the latest wave in ‘new’ farmer’s market offerings. I confess we slipped some.

What got me back on track is reading a non-fiction book by Barbara Kingsolver, a terrific fiction writer–Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The author and her family enter a life-changing adventure by moving full time to their farm in Virginia. They committed to eating only local, seasonal, organic, homegrown, homespun…well you get the idea. Albeit, they have a large growing area, already producing fruit and nut trees and a farming communityavm icon that grows, raises or makes all products which fit in the parameters of this foodie life. It’s an interesting and inspiring tale.

Granted, our budget is limited, but we are trying to eat better and cook with more healthy ingredients. So, it’s back to the farmers markets for us for fresh, local, seasonal produce, eggs and other products. Last week, I got some wonderful beets and blackberries. This week a sweet, sweet watermelon and a jar of honey. Semi-retirement is a boon for time to search for healthy, economical food options and hubby is excellent at cooking them into delicious, interesting dishes.

Garden eggplant, pepper, herbs stew/sauce

Garden eggplant, pepper, herbs stew/sauce

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A chard frittata with pear from CM