Sunday, July 25, 2010

Spice, Spice, Baby...

God bless my wife, Mary. When I’ve repeatedly promised and forgotten to do something, she doesn’t yell or nag. She simply gives me a gentle reminder that it needs doing. Such is the case with our ever-expanding spice cabinet. In an effort to broaden our culinary horizons by preparing different cuisines, I’ve been adding to it consistently for some time now. We started off with the spices everyone has in their collection: Thyme, Parsley, Garlic Powder, and the like — what I like to refer to as the khaki slacks of the spice world, meaning they go with most anything.

But when we wanted to make Mexican one night, I bought Cumin. Then there was French night, which meant I needed Tarragon. Then I found an Italian recipe that called for Rosemary. With each new dish came the need for a new spice or two. More and more of them kept creeping into the cabinet. Basil, Curry Powder, Marjoram, Coriander, Garam Masala, Chives, Dill, Turmeric, Celery Seed, Ginger (ground and candied), Onion Powder, Chipotle Powder, Sage, Paprika, Chinese Five Spice, Cardamom ... and that’s only the bottom shelf. Mary asked me to clean it out, organize it, do something with it.

I looked at spice racks at different stores and online, but 1.) they all come with spices. I don’t need more spices. I don’t have room for the spices I have. 2.) The most I’ve ever seen a spice rack hold is 20 jars, and I passed that number long ago. I considered buying individual empty spice jars, but at three to five dollars each I’d have to sell a baby on the black market to collect enough to contain the culinary arsenal spread across my table now. But the other day a wonderful thing happened. Mary sent me a text saying that she had gone out and purchased three different types of spice racks. When I got home from work, she said, I could decide which one I liked, keep all three, get more of one, whatever.

This is what she does. She takes care of me so well and there are no words to tell her how much I appreciate her patience. Maybe I’ll cook her a nice dinner. I have a great recipe for Jamaican Jerk Chicken. I just need to get some Allspice...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Memoir Excerpt - Church

The memoir is coming along, but I'm constantly trying to convince myself that it's not arrogant to think that someone would want to read a book about my life. My real purpose is simply to share the funny things that happened along the way and make people laugh. Here's another chapter excerpt I hope will do just that. I'd love to hear your comments. Enjoy!

Georgian Hills Baptist Church was a decidedly Southern Baptist church. The people who attended there were no-nonsense Christians. No drinking, no dancing, and no smoking—except for Mr. Willis, an older man who was regularly chastised by the several of the old church ladies for setting a bad example by smoking right out in front of the sanctuary where everyone could see him.

The church started small, and I don’t really remember much about the original building except for the small sanctuary that might have seated 100 people. A center aisle stretched from the back doors to the altar. The wooden pews on either side creaked when we sat down or moved. The back of each pew had built-in holders for tithe envelopes and those tiny little pencils that were impossible to write with, holes for your little plastic communion cup, and bookracks that held copies of the Baptist Hymnal. And if it wasn’t in the Baptist Hymnal, we didn’t sing it.

Church was painfully boring for a kindergartener. To pass the time, I doodled on the back of envelopes or on a sheet of paper Mom had been clever enough to tuck into her Bible, but more often than not, I ended up falling asleep. This usually resulted in a subtle nudge from Mom, but one time I woke up as Dad was carrying me out of the sanctuary hissing, “Alan! Wake up, son.” I had seen other children get carried out for misbehaving and knew they got a whipping, but I didn’t know what I had done.

I started to cry about the time we reached the back doors, and as he set me down outside the sanctuary I began apologizing profusely, even though I had no idea why I had been removed. I was expecting Dad to remove his belt and whip me, but instead he sat in one of the wingback chairs in the foyer and laughed, covering his mouth so he wouldn’t be heard. I finally mustered up the courage to ask, “Am I in trouble?”

“No, son, you’re not in trouble,” Dad said, still chuckling. “I had to bring you out here ‘cause you were pootin’ in your sleep so loud everybody could hear it.”

A wave of relief coursed through me, then horror. “I was pooting?” I asked, my face burning from embarrassment. “Everyone heard me pooting?” There was no way I could go back in there now. Even though unintentional, I had passed gas in God’s house, in front of God’s people. Were I to go back in now He would surely smite me. Had I known my body was going to turn on me in the form of audible emissions, I never would have dozed off. I could never fall asleep in church again, that much was clear.