Home   |   LCS Prints Store   |   About Me   |   FAQ   

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Call me a Chicken

Confession.  For the most part, if it isn’t human and it moves, I’m scared of it.  Even our cat, who left us for the great litter box in the sky last March, exploited this cowardice.  For ten years she dove, claws extended, for my legs.  When I sat, she aimed for my neck.  “She’s fresh,” the vet said.  You think?  After our Winkie succumbed to kitty diabetes last March, I vowed I’d never own another pet.

Consider that, as I tell you that over the weekend, I interviewed a woman who raises backyard chickens, leaving with a dozen fresh eggs on the seat beside me and a smile stretched across my face. 
I always say yes when an editor reaches out to me, even though most times, I hiccup and think, but I don’t know anything about…fill in the blank.  This time—the topic was chickens.  The story is about a garden designer who purchased her first chicks for the sh—ah, fertilizer, and fell in love with the birds.

It’s the latest feature article I’ll get credit for writing, though in truth this one wrote itself.  How could it not, when a woman wearing a chicken T-shirt and a rooster belt-buckle, serves me warm-from-the-oven cookies, baked with fresh eggs?  Or when she describes riding around town on her bike, delivering eggs from a basket over her handlebars?  Or on witnessing her crow of delight when she discovers her favorite six-year-old hen has produced its first sage-green egg in two months, in time for me to hold it—warm. 
Her “girls” became creatures with personality.  Petunia, of the green egg, who comes when she is called, and follows her mistress around the yard.  Another, who’s name I forget, who gets “broody” and sits on her eggs for days, unaware interaction with a rooster is required if she's going to hatch them.  For the first time in my life, I stroked a chicken’s soft feathers, admiring Buff Orpintons, a Speckled Succex, and Brahmas with fluffy, feathered legs.

Interview over, I made omelets for my daughter and me for lunch, both of us stunned by the mouth feel of hours-old eggs—a creamy richness that spoiled me for supermarket eggs in one go.  All afternoon, I couldn’t stop thinking about everything chicken, sitting down to pound out the story with the joy that comes from writing about someone who communicates passion.
After a fried egg sandwich Sunday morning, I even spent a minute or two daydreaming about whether it might ever be possible for me to cope with a coop.

Monday, February 10, 2014

On Wonder and Fried Dill Pickles

For health reasons, I’m not huge on fried food.  Oh, I love it all right.  But mostly I try to stay away, except when it comes to fried dill pickles.  They are on the trendiest restaurant menus up here these days, though the Deep South discovered them first.  When I first heard of them, the idea horrified me.  Pickles are supposed to be sprinkled on top of a sandwich, not battered and tossed into hot oil.   Bletch.  But a couple of years ago, at a diner across the border in New Hampshire (a state often referred to as the south of the north), three fried pickle chips arrived beside our sandwich orders, and we nibbled.  Edit that.  We nibbled the first one and fought over the rest.  Now, we order them where ever we can. (Cholesterol check, please!)
The thing is, this post isn’t supposed to be about fried pickles per se.  It’s supposed to be about wonder, and creativity and who the heck was the smarty pants who first thought to coat a pickle and drop it into the deep fat fryer?  Once, I heard an Au Jus sandwich was invented when a server accidentally dropped a roast beef sandwich into meat juices and the patron was in too much of a rush to wait for a replacement.  Are all good things accidents, or calculated experiments by people smarter than me?

I mean, I love to cook.  But, tell me.  Who discovered baking soda makes cakes rise?  According to my Google research, it’s been used since ancient times, but in the form of Bicarbonate of Soda since the eighteenth century. Before that, Potassium Carbonate (today, the main component of fertilizer) was made by leaching wood ashes and then evaporating the solution in iron pots, leaving a white alkaline residue called "pearl ash," a refined form of "pot ash." (Mmm.  How tasty.  If I do more research am I going to find out they made soap out of this stuff, too?)   What possessed some entrepreneurial pioneer to collect the deposits, add some to a batter, mix in sour milk for the acid, and expect to come out with a leavened cake?  

Ah, yum? 

For that matter, who imagined wheat seeds could be ground down to flour, mixed with wet ingredients and baked?  Or, take it further.  A kajillion years ago, hunter gatherers ate their prey. Which caveman discovered it tasted better roasted? Oh dear. I Googled that one.  Probably Homo Erectus after a forest fire killed animals and man decided they tasted better charred.  (The world's first barbeque. Suddenly, I’m contemplating vegetarianism.) 

There's a history class here, I know.  I can look up bread or baking or cakes and find out about everything I need to know.  Including fried pickles.   

Oh heck.  It's snowing today and I've got nothing better to do.  Hey, Wikipedia?

“Fried Dill Pickles were popularized by Bernell "Fatman" Austin in 1963 at the Duchess Drive In located in Atkins, Arkansas.  The Fatman's Recipe is only known to his family and used once each year at the annual Picklefest in Atkins, held each May.”  

At least pickles come from vegetables.  Oh, rats!  Google again.  I just learned a cucumber is a fruit. 

Whatever.  Thanks, Mr. Austin.  I owe you one.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Doing it Write

This is February's installment of Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.  To read more posts in this monthly blog hop through which writers help other writers, click here.

Last week, in the freelance-writing side of my life, a finance professional contacted me to revise a resume.  Sigh.  For those who don’t know me, a long time ago I worked as an HR/recruitment manager.  If you stacked all the resumes I read over the course of my career and plopped a stepladder on the pile, you could touch the moon.  (Trust me I understand, really, what agents go through.) 
Now, writing resumes provides bread and butter for me, and while I’m grateful for the work, it’s not what you’d call inspiring.  Besides, when the job came in, I was in a funk.  I’d picked up my current WIP after a two-month break and realized the first chapter resembled a pile you’d find steaming in a farmer’s paddock.  It didn’t help that the day I was scheduled to conduct a phone interview with the resume client, my cold evolved into a hacking, up from the knees cough, and I felt, well… pretty much like I'd waded through the pile mentioned above.  As I picked up the phone, I pictured Darrin Stevens, the ad executive on the old show Bewitched, tap dancing in his quest to come up with the right tag line for his ad agency boss.  All my grandiose dreams of writing a successful novel, and instead, like Darrin, I was writing buzz words for a resume. 
But when I made the call, the client, an analytical, accounting-oriented consultant, tripped over words in her enthusiasm and her voice bubbled as she described her accomplishments.  My job was to represent her zeal and successes on two pages of paper and suddenly, my mission seemed more important.  Her passion reminded me that all successful writing has one goal in common, to elicit a favorable response.  Her resume needs to hook a hiring professional, the same way my first chapter needs to hook a reader.   Page by page, no matter what the product, every single word and sentence matters.  

A week later the cold lingers and I'm chopping my first chapter to bits.  But I wrote a good resume.  And that reminded me that all writing has value, as long as it's my best.

Hey, guess what?  Eight hours after I posted this, I realized Middle Passages is five years old today.  Happy birthday to my blog, which has been my writing guru, and at points, my salvation! Thanks to all of you for keeping me going!