As I said in my last post, I’ve had a bout in the hospital as has my stepfather, Will, who is still there. Located on the eastern half of the country, their side of the family sent an emissary in the form of Will’s youngest grandson, to monitor his condition. I pick on young people from time to time. This not because I am not fond of them, but conversely because I am so fond of them. All that potential and enthusiasm wrapped up in young responsive bodies. No wrinkles, grey hair, or crow’s feet and a lifetime of living laid out in front of them. What’s not to like?
I do see a trend in kids pushing into adulthood over the past decade which disturbs me. It’s a lack of motivation maybe, or a fear of growing up. No doubt it is a scarier world out there than when I was growing up. I can understand wanting to stay close to home, but whether we like it or not at some point our parents job is to give us a gentle nudge or perhaps a swift kick in the direction of the door. Growing up is an unfortunate side effect of reaching adulthood. Some embrace it, some fight it, some never make it. I’ve dipped my toe in the dating pool often enough over the years to know this to be true in at least a small percentage of the men I have dated and I’m sure men could say the same.
Back in the 90′s I had a girlfriend closing in on forty. Her biological clock, beyond ticking, was actually clanging. Her boyfriend eight years younger than her, was still reliving his frat house days and not overly enthusiastic about committing to a serious relationship. Once I was invited to dinner at his house. Over thirty, he lived with two younger roommates in an eclectic beach apartment. Furniture was scarce, except for three bean bags strategically placed in front of the large screen TV which dominated the room. Their days, outside of the work necessary to sustain them, were spent surfing, playing video games, and seeing who could make the most creative bodily noises. Over a dinner of stuffed pizza and bread sticks, the roomies (I affectionately referred to them as Larry, Moe and Curly Joe) mentioned casually they’d misplaced the cat. Not wanting to delve into the grim possibilities of that statement, I excused myself to use the facilities.
The shower curtain in the loo, colorfully decorated with images of the cast from the Simpsons, was closed. On one end the handle of what appeared to be a pan was sticking out. Curiosity overwhelming me, I peeked. Yes, I did. Stacked high behind the curtain was a huge pile of dirty dishes, so many it surprised me there were any left for dinner. They were balanced precariously on top of what appeared to be three years worth of dirty laundry now coated with dried egg, catsup and pieces of old hamburger buns from the dishes. Several pillows, one with a large wet spot from a dripping faucet were scattered around for good measure. I know! Figuring anything could be lurking in the pile, I poked around a bit in case the missing cat might have inadvertently been buried alive. Nothing furry was to be found other than the bathtub itself which most probably had never been cleaned since, well, most probably had never been cleaned.
A few months later, growing weary of the chase, my girlfriend joined her Peter Pan on a visit to his mother, taking note he’d brought several bags of laundry for mom to attend to. In the kitchen with his mother after dinner helping with the dishes, my girlfriend announced she was returning the woman’s son because he “wasn’t done yet”. I love that line.
Will’s grandson was a refreshing change. He seems to have found the golden ticket, and for someone having lived on this planet a mere twenty-seven years, a tremendous respect for our world coupled with a need to give back to it rather than take from in. I like that. Over the past few years in a national forest somewhere in Indiana this young person built his own home, started an organic farming business or permaculture homestead I believe it’s called, and is presently beginning construction on a second, larger home where he will eventually live. His venture is totally self-sustaining. Chickens run free range, if you will, over the property sustaining themselves on bugs and tidbits they forage in their surroundings. During the winter months his brood provides 1-2 dozen fresh eggs a day, and far more during warmer seasons. Pens border the area where large pink piggies happily wallow and gorge until their time comes to donate to the good of the whole arrives. All meat is cured on the property and all vegetables grown organically. He cooks on a small stove using only fresh ingredients and informed me he is almost never sick, not even so much as a cold. Interesting. I am including his website if you’d be interested in checking out what he’s doing. http://www.breadandrosesgardens.com/index.html
Besides his impressive work ethic, I was equally moved by his demeanor with my mother. Sometimes when young, it is difficult to imagine growing old or to identify with those who have already made the journey. Once when my son was around four I took him to Nova Scotia to visit my maternal grandmother. Most probably it was his first encounter with someone of her advanced age. Finally venturing out from behind my knee he was transfixed. Rarely a quiet child, the relief to my eardrums I found less comforting than I did unnerving. Children at that age tend to be painfully honest and likely to voice any thought, no matter how unpleasant that passes through their little minds. After a lengthy study of her well weathered hands he looked up at my sweet little grandmother and said, “Are you going to die soon?”. Where’s a roll of duct tape when you need it?
At any rate, I’m on the mend here. My voice still comes in and out, but my other half is enjoying the quiet associated with such a phenomena. This soup was so good. I had a couple of packages of chuck eye steak which I used and when done it was so tender it melted in your mouth.
Vegetable Beef Soup
1 1/2 lbs. chuck-eye roast, cubed (or your preference)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
3 carrots, sliced 1/4″
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and large diced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 onion, halved and quartered
1/2 cup frozen peas with pearl onions
2 Tbsp. parsley
3 bay leaves
8 cups water *
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1 oz. pkg. McCormick Au Jus Gravy Mix
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. seasoning salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. celery salt
2 tsp. beef bouillon
Heat oil in large skillet over med.-high heat. Brown cubed beef on all sides.
Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. When meat is browned place on bottom of crockpot.
Distribute vegetables on top of meat. Pour tomatoes with juice on top of vegetables.
Mix together water, Worcestershire, au jus mix, and remaining spices. Pour over all.
Cook on low for 12 hours. Serve with croutons on top.
*Note: With all ingredients in pot the liquid line should be 3/4 full. If not, add slightly more water.
Garlic Parmesan Croutons
6 slices of Beckman’s cheese bread (or any artisan bread you prefer), cubed
2 Tbsp. plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. Lawry’s garlic salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Cover cookie sheet with tin foil. Spray with cooking spray.
Place bread and seasonings in large resealable bag or bowl with lid and toss to cover with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic salt, black pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese. Distribute in single layer on prepared baking sheet. sprinkle additional 1 Tbsp. of oil over top.
Bake for 8 mins. and toss. Continue baking until light golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese.
Turn oven up to broil.
Place croutons back in oven and watch carefully until cheese has melted and is crunchy. Allow to cool. Serve with soup. Refrigerate leftovers for salads. Yum.