Having a designer set of Jane Austen displayed with discreet prominence tags one just as soundly as a bedroom book rack of Louis L’Amour paperbacks.
If you pardon as understandable the inordinate number of books devoted to cooking, my library is eclectic enough to deflect instantaneous psychoanalysis. The glaring exception is my copy of Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary, which labels me as a pseudo-intellectual of the vilest sort.
I met a fellow the other day who told me that he had snagged a first edition of the OED for twenty bucks from a library that was cleaning its shelves, and I felt cheap and disgusted with myself for being jealous.
Rice Krispies Treats are the American version of marzipan, easily molded into such things as teddy bears, clowns, and the inevitable boobs and balls. This clever little innovation is fun to make, just cute as can be, and a great Halloween treat. Please read through this recipe first; you need to know what you’re doing before you make it.
For the outer yellow ring use 5 cups Rice Krispies, 5 cups miniature marshmallows, and a quarter stick butter with yellow food coloring; for the middle orange ring, 3 cups Rice Krispies, 3 cups miniature marshmallows, and a quarter stick of butter, with orange food coloring; and for the white center, 2 cups Rice Krispies, 2 cups miniature marshmallows, and a quarter stick of butter.
For each ring, combine marshmallows and butter, and microwave for about 3 minutes, stirring after a minute or so, until blended. Stir in food coloring; you don’t need much, only a few drops of yellow and a couple of yellow and red for the orange. Pour over the cereal, coat your hands with butter and mix the marshmallows into the cereal with your fingers until the color is uniform.
Working quickly, divide each color batch in two, then beginning on the outside of greased 8 in. cake tins, make your rings: yellow first, then orange, then the white center. Keep them an even width. Press the cereal/marshmallow mixture into the pan to ensure they stick together and make them a consistent thickness. Let the rings set for thirty minutes, then turn out on a cutting board and slice first in half, then into quarters, then into eight even wedges. Store with waxed paper between layers.
What fire of mind or heart feeds the human impulse to mold or mark the fabric and surfaces of the world into a semblance of imagined beauty? We cannot say; it is an indefinable spark, we can but marvel of its being.
These images were captured in 2004, and the work itself couldn’t have been very much over perhaps two years old. As to who painted them, I have no clue. Some seem to be by the same hand or set of hands, others don’t. And while you may find them outlandishly amateurish or puerile, when I first saw them on a lonely New Year’s morning, they brought to life that sad, lonely street.
Cut a chicken into quarters and simmer in a gallon of water with carrots, onion, and celery. When tender, remove and bone chicken. Return bones to the pot and reduce liquid by about a third. Strain and return to pot to simmer.
You want a good, rich broth.
Make a stiff biscuit dough with sweet milk; roll it out to about an eighth of an inch, cut into strips, and drop into boiling broth. As the liquid thickens, add the chicken meat, boil for another minute, then reduce heat and cover.
After five minutes, cut the heat, and salt to taste. I like chicken and dumplings with a stiff dose of black pepper.
Charlotte Capers, long-time director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History was—in stark contrast to her current successor—a woman of considerable integrity, intelligence, and wit. This is an excerpt from a speech given before the Mississippi Historical Society in March 1972.
After its creation in 1902, the Department remained in the basement of the New Capitol until 1940, when more commodious quarters, but not much more, were provided in the War Memorial Building. Since Dr. Rowland’s day, the Department has acted as a clearing-house historical agency, and the Museum function was included in this. However, when the Department moved into the War Memorial Building, the collection housed in the New Capitol was, of necessity, abandoned. Certainly, there was no space in the north wing of the new building for a full-fledged museum. Thus, we left in the basement of the New Capitol, a mysterious and miscellaneous collection including an Egyptian mummy, the hip-bone of a North Dakota dinosaur, a pair of size 20 shoes worn by an Alabama Negro in World War I, and a toy snake from the Philippines.
The star of this collection was the mummy, who had enchanted visitors to Jackson ever since she had been acquired as lagniappe in a collection of Indian artifacts many years ago. A real mummy mystique had developed, and grandfathers brought their toddling grandchildren in to see the mummy that they had seen as boys. When the board of trustees quite properly adopted in the Old Capitol Restoration, the collection was limited to items associated with Mississippi history. The mummy, an Egyptian, was plainly out of place. It fell my lot to separate the little Egyptian, known variously to her public as ‘The Little Gypsy Lady,” or occasionally as ”The Dummy,” from her admirers. I knew that such a move was to court disaster, for my generation, too, had visited the mummy on our way to Central High School, and we considered her as much a part of our American heritage as George Washington, Robert E. Lee, or Theodore G. Bilbo.
But, in what may have been my finest hour, I saw my duty and I did it. And I firmly withdrew ”The Little Gypsy Lady” whose connection with Mississippi history was tenuous at best, from the Museum exhibits. She was relegated to a collection file room in the old Capitol to be seen only on demand by her most avid admirers. Her admirers all turned out to be avid, and they continued to demand her until the day when a staff member, annoyed by constant calls for our most popular tenant, stated in a speech that he would like to bury the mummy.
That blew it. The wire services picked up the story and the shot went round the world. The public from all over arose to defend “The Little Gypsy Lady.” We got insulting mail and insulting telephone calls; and one concerned gentle man wrote from Germany about “das mumi,” calling us bigots for some reason. Offers of adoption for the mummy flowed in. An undertaker from Ohio wanted “‘The Little Gypsy Lady” as an example of his art. An archaeologist said that when he examined her he found her to be a young female offered her a home provided that her esophagus came with her (translate: sarcophagus).
The strife went on, I held my ground, the story of Mississippi, as you will see, is told in thirty-three permanent exhibits in this Old Capitol Museum, and the small foreigner slept on in a collection file room. Way back in Dr. Rowland’s day he had a seal designed for the Department with the motto ‘Veritas,” or “Truth.” Seldom in our lifetime, however, are we justified for taking an unpopular stand on the side of the truth. The mummy proved to be a heartening exception. In the 1960s a young medical student at the University of Mississippi asked for permission to x-ray the mummy. In the interest of truth, permission was granted. The startling results of this scientific investigation were reported in The Mississippi History Newsletter as follows:
“Our mummy, who has been the star of our museum for as long as we can remember, was exposed as a fake when Gentry Yeatman, an enterprising Ole Miss medical student x-rayed the little Egyptian princess and found her heart was full of nails. Further, she had a German language newspaper in her left foot, and her right arm yielded a copy of TheMilwaukee Journal, 1898. Again we note that things are not always what they seem, and the mummy is a dummy after all.”
(The mummy received a proper entombment in the Old Capitol, and comes on display every Halloween.)
Joyce Sexton was proud of her garden. It occupied the edges of her back yard along the fences; broad beds of perennials punctuated by flowering shrubs whose Latin names she had memorized; they sounded like an incantation as she recited them in her mind.
In the southwest corner was a short dead spruce stripped of twigs and leaves whose trimmed branches were adorned with brightly-colored glass bottles. Joyce enjoyed the way the glass caught the morning sun and reflected in the lights from the porch during the evenings. It had taken her months to find just the right bottles for the tree, and this morning she finally found the last one, a bright red bottle on top that seemed to glow from inside. She was admiring its light when she heard the front doorbell. She had invited her friend Sandra over for a drink.
“Well, it is pretty,” Sandra said later as they sat under the porch fans.
“At least you’ve got different bottles. I don’t like those with just one kind, especially those milk of magnesia models. They just send out the wrong signal, if you ask me.”
“I think it’s the best bottle tree in town,” Joyce said. “I know it sounds silly, but a bottle had to really say something to me before I put it on.” Sandra just stared at it with her arms crossed.
“You don’t like it?” Joyce said.
“Oh, like I said, it’s pretty, Joyce. And it looks good right next to the Lady Banks. But do you realize what those things are?’
Joyce laughed and said, “You mean that nonsense about trapping evil spirits? Cassandra June, your fanny hits a pew every time First Prez is open. And besides, you’re over-educated to boot. Surely you don’t believe that voodoo junk. ”
Sandra sipped her gin and tonic and smiled at her old friend. “Oh, you wouldn’t care if I were sacrificing stray cats in my basement, you’d still never get along without me.”
“If you were sacrificing stray cats, I’d bring you a few,” Joyce said.
“They kill the little birds, they yowl all night long and they beat up on poor Lucky.” A little terrier of dubious parentage under the table between them raised his head and thumped a raggedy tail.
“Okay, if you think its all stuff and nonsense, let me break one,” Sandra said. “Oh, don’t look so shocked. Admit you had fun looking for these bottles, and one of them’s bound to break sooner or later.”
Joyce thought about it. “Okay, you old witch,” she said. “But break one of the bottom ones. Use Glen’s putter. It’s over there on the corner.”
Sandra retrieved the putter, walked into the back yard and shattered a small green bottle on a lower branch. At the sound, Lucky jumped up and scrambled under the gate towards the street outside.
Before Joyce could gather the breath to summon her dog, she heard the screech of brakes and a choked, mournful howl.
. . . . . . . . . .
“Mother, it was just an accident,” Rachel said. “Sandra shouldn’t blame herself. That’s just silly.”
Joyce looked at her daughter. She and Glen had been surprised when her infant golden hair had not only remained gold, but had also matured into a mane that Rachel merely pretended to complain about. Today she had wrestled it back into a tawny mass that spilled in a shower over the back of her bright blue scrubs.
“I know,” she said. “But you know how Sandra loved Lucky. She brought him liver snaps every time she came over. I think she did it on purpose; they always gave him gas.”
Rachel brought her coffee to the table and sat next to her mother. “Mom, just ride it out. I know you loved Lucky, too. Hell, we all did; except Richard, of course.” They both made a face at each other and laughed. “Cliff Stevens told me he was still wearing an ankle bracelet in Chattanooga,” Rachel said.
Joyce sipped from her cup and wished Richard were much further away. She still ran into his parents at parties, his father formal, his mother always managing to snag Joyce away from the crowd and update his doleful story. (“He didn’t mean anything, Joyce. You know that.”)
Rachel glanced at her watch. “I’ve got to go, Mom. Joe Wright told me I could scrub in on a valve replacement this morning.”
Joyce kissed her daughter and took her coffee to the patio. She called Glen at his office, forgot he was in court that day and ended up talking to his secretary Cathy about the upcoming office party.
“Glen’s just a mess about it,” Cathy said. “And I do mean a mess. He can’t decide on a damn thing, and that puts me in charge of everything from food to felonies. Would you please try to sit him down for five minutes and nail something down for me?”
“Oh, just do what you did last year, Cathy. It’s not like he’s going to notice.”
“I know,” Cathy said. “He’s such an airhead.”
Joyce laughed and said goodbye, went and poured another cup and settled back on the porch to admire her garden. The azaleas had exhausted themselves long ago, and the Shastas were now coming into their own, as were the hostas she’d planted last October. Lucky’s grave by the holly was marked with a shaggy little stone dog and a weathered scattering of liver snaps.
The bottle tree glistened in the morning sun. One bottle caught the light extremely well, a beer bottle Joyce found behind the back fence that had a white and blue label. The light it caught dazzled. Joyce laughed, picked a hand spade from her garden shelf, walked up to the tree and shattered the bottle into hundreds of pieces. She was still smiling when she heard the phone ring.
. . . . . . . . . .
Glen knocked gently at the barely open door. Joyce lay on the bed, the golden afternoon light pouring onto the floor and casting shadows upon morning windows.
He moved into the room and sat on the edge of the bed. “Honey?”
“How did he get out?”
Glen turned, bowed and rubbed his hands together. “He’s been out.”
Joyce rolled over and looked at her husband’s back.
“It’s been eight years, Joyce. He was convicted as a juvenile. It was not a capital offense. He served five years, and then they put him in a rehabilitation unit. He was clean and sober; he had a job at a Walgreens. He was evaluated twice a month.”
“He just killed our daughter,” Joyce said.
Glen’s shoulders heaved and he began to sob. Joyce reached up and brought him to her and they lay there, crying, while the shadows grew on the wall.
. . . . . . . . . .
The summer office party was never conducted, but as the holidays approached, Glen suggested that the traditional year’s end celebration be held, and to his relief Joyce agreed. The firm had had a very good year, and Glen, as senior partner, always enjoyed giving out bonuses and promotions.
Predictably, it began on a muted note, but as the night progressed, the mood lifted and Joyce found herself enjoying being around friends. As they were driving home, she and Glen found themselves laughing about Cathy’s QVC jewelry and Jerry Wineman’s new toupee.
It was warm for a winter’s evening; wisps of fog were settling into the low places along the road, and the lights from the house glowed as they pulled into their drive.
Glen grabbed Joyce’s hand and said, “Let’s sit out on the back porch and have another drink.”
“No, Glen,” Joyce said, caressing his hand, “I’d rather not. Let’s just sit in the living room.”
Glen looked at her and said, “You used to love the porch. You used to love looking at the garden. What’s the matter?”
Then Joyce told him about the bottle tree, about Lucky, about Rachel. Glen sighed and said, “Oh, honey, you know that’s just ridiculous. What did they call it in college, synchronicity? Come on, let’s build a little fire in the fireplace and huddle up next to it on a blanket with a couple of beers.”
“I’d rather have a martini,” Joyce said.
After they’d changed, Glen settled Joyce in front of the fire with her drink. “Glen, I know it’s just a bunch of nonsense, coincidences, like you said.”
“Of course they were, and I know it, but I don’t believe you believe it.”
“I do,” Joyce said, “And I’ll prove it to you. Is your 12-gage in the hall closet?”
Joyce retrieved the gun from the closet, along with a box of shells. “Show me how to load it again.” Once the gun was loaded, Joyce slung it over her shoulder and headed out the back door.
“If you stand back about ten yards, you ought to be able to get all of ‘em,” Glen shouted. He smiled, took off his shirt and sipped his beer. Then, with a smile, he slicked back his hair and lay down on the couch. A shot echoed from the backyard.
When Joyce came running back in, she said, “Glen, I got them all! And the trunk is in splinters. I’ll have a hell of a time cleaning up all the glass. Glen?”
Ever since the Expulsion man has searched for the Garden of Eden, and we shouldn’t find it at all surprising to know that among the many who claim to have found it, one was a bespectacled, God-fearing lawyer from Weogufka, Alabama, who declared in 1956 that “the Garden was in the Apalachicola Valley of West Florida.”
Elvy Edison Callaway was a man of deep faith who fell under the influence of a Dr. Brown Landone. Among the many books Landone wrote offering advice to ordinary mortals is Prophecies of Melchizedek in the Great Pyramid and the Seven Temples. Callaway describes his meeting with Landone as a “calling,” and promptly abandoned his family.
While surveying his Panhandle land with a tax assessor–with no doubt a divorce looming–Callaway found the inspiration for his mission from Melchizedek: the rare Torreya yew tree, which Callaway, through the teachings of Dr. Landone and his mysterious “Teleois Key”, declared to be the source of “gofer wood” from which Noah built the Ark.
After that revelation, everything fell in place. Abandoning his once ardent faith in Christianity, Callaway, through “teleology”, fused what he knew of evolutionary theory and Scripture and decided that “because all informed geologists admit that it is the oldest land mass on earth”, God created Adam about a mile outside Bristol, Florida. He then created the Garden of Eden along the Apalachicola River there and filled it with citruses, magnolias, hydrangeas, mountain laurel and of course the majestic gopher yew (one of the few trees in North America considered “critically endangered”).
E.E. Callaway’s Garden of Eden is protected today as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. Accessible via Garden of Eden Road, the preserve has a Garden of Eden Trail leading through the site. The scenery is spectacular; clear, bubbling streams flow through the bottoms of the steep ravines, which support rare plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world. Callaway’s southern Eden might not be the original–who are we, or who is anyone for that matter to say so–but it’s still a little bit of paradise in this fallen world; God knows we need more of them.
Ruth Parker owned over two dozen dolls, and she knew them all.
“This is Snagglepants,” she’d say, holding up a Raggedy Andy with a torn pocket. She called her big Raggedy Ann doll Phyllis and the little one she took everywhere Roo-roo.
Ruth and Roo-roo were best friends. They had three tea sets between them, and if the other dolls were nice, Ruth and Roo-roo would have them for milk and cookies. “But you can’t have any peanuts because Roo’s allergic,” Ruth would remind them. Ruth lived with her parents in a big house on a wooded street.
Aside from Roo-roo, her best friend was the housekeeper, Lena. Lena was tall and her cheeks were very full. As she cooked and cleaned, she sang songs and made cookies for Ruth and Roo-roo’s tea parties, but she always told them she wasn’t supposed to. It was Lena who told her about Mr. Lilyfoot.
Mr. Lilyfoot lived under a tree at the end of the path in the garden behind Ruth’s home. He had a green cap, red overalls and a long white beard. He always smiled. On nice spring days, Lena would sit in the swing with something to occupy her hands while she watched Ruth play in the yard. When she had to go inside to answer the phone or change a load of laundry, she’d tell Ruth Mr. Lilyfoot would watch after her.
At first Ruth didn’t like Mr. Lilyfoot; he was stiff, not soft like her dolls. She’d hold her little Raggedy Ann up to Mr. Lilyfoot’s smiling face and say, “Roo-roo doesn’t like you!” But Ruth was a sweet child, and when she saw that Mr. Lilyfoot’s face was dirty, she asked Lena for a napkin so she could wipe it off because Mr. Lilyfoot’s arms were always behind him.
Lena laughed at her one windy afternoon when Ruth tied one of her father’s socks around Ms. Lilyfoot’s neck and took care to hide the other one.
“Mommie, it’s cold outside. Can Mr. Lilyfoot come sleep in my room?” Janet Parker brushed her daughter’s dark hair. “Sweetie, who is Mr. Lilyfoot?’ “He’s in the garden,” Ruth said. “He’s wearing a hat, but I know he’s cold” “Oh, honey, I don’t want that nasty thing in your room,” Janet said. “He’s not nasty.” “Ruth, he lives outside. He’s an outdoor doll.” “He’s not a doll.” “Well, not like your other dolls, but he’s still a doll.” “Roo-roo says he isn’t. Roo-roo knows everything.” Janet cocked an eyebrow at her petulant daughter. “And what does Mommie know?” “I love you, Mommie!” Ruth launched herself into her mother’s arms and looked into the back yard through the window.
When Ruth awakened that afternoon, Mr. Lilyfoot, scrubbed by the ever-patient Lena and bright as a new penny, was smiling at her from the corner of her room. She and Roo-roo immediately arranged a high tea with hot chocolate and frosted cookies.
When Janet looked in on her later she found that Ruth had arranged her favorite dolls around the little table, with Mr. Lilyfoot at its head.
“Mr. Lilyfoot’s warmer now, Mommie. But Roo-roo’s tired,” she said, holding up the little rag doll. “Well, let’s put her to sleep,” Janet said. She gathered her daughter in her arms, made sure her doll was with her, and put her to bed. She glanced at Mr. Lilyfoot smiling from the corner, lowered the shutters and closed the door. When Janet brought Ruth’s tray upstairs that night, she heard her daughter laughing from the hallway. She found Ruth sitting up in her bed, clutching Roo-roo, and smiling. “What’s so funny?” Janet asked. “Mommie, me and Mr. Lilyfoot took Roo-roo to Magicland, and she had tea with the King!”
Janet tucked a bib under her daughter’s so very thin neck and began feeding her with a spoon. “Did Roo have a good time?” “She was scared at first because the king was so high up and her legs are really short. But then the king asked her to dance, so she didn’t have to go so far up.” “Did you dance?” Janet asked. “No, Mommie,” Ruth said. “I had to help Mr. Lilyfoot make the band play. I’m tired.” Janet tucked her daughter under the covers, kissed her, climbed onto the sagging cot next to Ruth’s bed and closed her sad eyes.
Ruth and Mr. Lilyfoot, with Roo-roo in tow, went everywhere.
The tea parties became a thing of the past. Instead, they took buckets to the beach where they collected shells. Another time they sailed the seas on a boat made of glass and rigged with silver, and once they found a mountain made of chocolate and topped with ice cream. The following morning they went to the moon and found big gold rocks that glittered under the smiling sun. That afternoon Mr. Lilyfoot rearranged the stars, and later they all skated on swirls of light through a sparkling tunnel into a warm, black night.
“Don’t be scared, Roo-roo,” Ruth said. “Mr. Lilyfoot will get us home.”
Ruth’s dreams ended. Lena boxed up the dolls for other little girls, and took Mr. Lilyfoot back under the tree at the end of the path.
What you have here is rather much a sugar cookie made with cornmeal and masa. As with flour cookies, they’re often seasoned with various flavorings, herbs, spices, and/or fruit. This recipe makes a somewhat soft cookie that can be firmed up with the addition of a bit more masa.
Whisk together a quarter cup of yellow cornmeal and a quarter cup of masa harina with a cup and a half of AP flour, a half teaspoon of baking powder, a half teaspoon of baking soda, and a teaspoon of salt. Beat together two sticks softened butter, a cup and a half of sugar, a quarter cup of honey, a large egg, and a teaspoon of vanilla with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy.
Gradually add cornmeal mixture until just combined. Form dough into a ball and refrigerate in plastic wrap for about a half an hour. Roll out to about a quarter inch, cut into rounds and bake on a lightly oiled cookie sheet on the middle rack at 350 until lightly browned.