Cooking, Reviews, Vintage chicks lol

Enlightened by “High on the Hog”

I always told people I was raised on southern cooking, meaning the foods cooked by my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I was so wrong. Turns out, I was raised on African food.

Both of my parents were born and raised in Arkansas, but my mom migrated north with her father and siblings to find work in 1950. My Dad — her boyfriend at the time — wasn’t one to give up and soon followed. They married in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and had me, the first of nine, in 1952.

Foods like okra, watermelon, pinto beans, cornbread and fried chicken, as well as all kinds of greens (with just a drizzle of hot pepper juice), were daily fare in our household. My Dad also ate souse and pickled pig’s feet and loved to “ooh” and “ahh” and eat ever-so-slowly while my brothers and I gathered around to stare in disgust at the meats and yell “Eww!” at every bite.

Recently, my sister-in-law told me that I would enjoy a show on Netflix called “High on the Hog,” and that it would change everything I ever thought about so-called “southern foods.” She’s a teacher and her recommendations — books and movies — are always top-notch, so I heeded her advice.

Just minutes into the first of four episodes, I was overcome with emotion and reaching for a tissue.

Sorrow. Injustice. Powerful. Inspiring. Enthralling.

Narrated by chef and writer Stephen Satterfield, the docuseries tells the story of America through delightful and delicious cuisine, starting in Africa and moving on to New York City, Philadelphia, Virginia and Texas. Based on Jessica B. Harris’ award-winning book, “High On The Hog,” it’s a story of the courage, genius, inspiration and resourcefulness of the African American people.

As the “Because of Them We Can” website puts it, “It is a cultural exploration that fuses food, history and travel to explore and celebrate the nuanced history behind African food and its contribution to America.”

One thing’s for sure — our nation would not be near as great as it is without Black culture. Thank you, Jessica B. Harris, Stephen Satterfield and the entire cast for enlightening this aged product of Southerners.

Vintage chicks lol

When It Comes to Passwords, I’ll Pass

When my oldest son — who works in security in Washington, D.C.— comes to visit, he is always completely aghast at my total lack of securing anything.

He runs around the premises every night, locking doors, planning the escape route in case of a fire, terrorist attack or a locust invasion, stocking up on bottled water and 20-pound cans of beans while wearing cammo and SWAT gear to take out my garbage.

This disrupts my normal security routine of waking up in the recliner at 2 a.m. — after I fall asleep watching season 12 of “Hoarders” — and stumbling to the front and back doors to lock up for the night.

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

What drives my son the craziest, though, is a document on my computer desktop appropriately titled “PASSWORDS.”

Actually, there are now two documents — one called “NEW PASSWORDS” and another called “OLD PASSWORDS.”

“Mom,” he admonished, “Tell me you do not put the passwords to every account you have out there for the whole world to see?!”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “The whole world doesn’t use my computer, just you, Stacy, Ben, Chris, the grandkids, my friend, LeeAnn — ’cause her ex took the computer when he left her for his best friend’s much younger sister, you know, the blond masseuse who worked at Tender Touches — or my neighbors when their wireless goes out or they forget to pay the bill.”

Photo by Jamie Haughton on Unsplash

I often forget my password and am forced to come up with a new password. For that reason, I prefer easy-to-remember passwords like “password123,” “vivspassword” or “mypassword.”

But because of security measures, I can spend an entire afternoon on the computer, just trying to come up with an acceptable password.

My son, on the other hand, will change his passwords every five or six days. One week he changed one from “catinhatprobe?/{678}=&!^%@$$wipeDRAG79men2Jail” to “hatincatprobe?/{678}=&!^%@$$wipeDRAG79men2Jail”.

Who’s got that kind of time? I’m not a young woman.

This is how I create a password:

WEBSITE: Please enter your new password.

ME: password

WEBSITE: Sorry, password must have more than 8 characters.

ME: passwords

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password must contain at least one numerical character.

ME: 1password

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password cannot begin with a numerical character.

ME: password1

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password must contain at least one symbol.

ME: password1!

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password must contain at least one upper case character.

Viv: password1DAMMit!

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password cannot use more than one upper case character consecutively.

VIV: WTF!DAMN password1-iH8u!

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password cannot contain blank spaces.

VIV: NOW:Driving2YourCity2leaveU4dead!

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password cannot contain punctuation or hyphens.

ME: IH8U!*&%#off-DIEsucker!!

WEBSITE: Sorry, You’ve already used that password in the past.

ME: @#$%!&1*@#$%@&&!DIE!DIE!DIE!

WEBSITE: That password is already taken. Please choose another.

***

Coronavirus, Vintage chicks lol

COVID Crazed

I’ve gotten crazier in the last year. I blame the pandemic.

All of that time I had. Secluded. Social distancing. Avoiding people.

A good time to work on the many projects I hoped to finish: Write a book. Sort through bins of mementos and organize them into scrapbooks. Design and sew a wrap skirt like I had in the 70s. Learn Spanish. Lift weights and sculpt some dope (… working on my Millennial Slang) Baby Boomer biceps and triceps. Take an online woodworking course and build a breakfast nook. Find friends I haven’t seen for decades and reconnect. Read all the classic novels that I have yet to read.

Sigh.

I did none of that. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

What I did do was watch every single season of Schitt’s Creek, Shtisel, Frankie and Grace, RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Handmaid’s Tale. Those titles will tell you, and my therapist, everything you need to know about me.

Oh yes, and I did eat. And eat.

And eat. And eat.

No weight lifting, no working out. My upper arms are still flapping in the wind like an old weathered flag against a osteoporosic pole.

No Spanish. Except nada. And perezoso. (lazy, sluggish, slothful)

I never got through the first of many bins full of old pictures and mementos. Was I ever really that young? OMG, my parents were so young at the exact same time I thought they were so old. A son’s letter to Santa, asking for a mousetrap and a screwdriver. (?) Another son’s handprint turned into a turkey, with the feathers giving thanks for Family, No Homework and Fried Potatoes. A picture of my daughter and her brother in matching outfits I sewed for them with my son sporting a bowl haircut and cute little embroidered shorts (that he would later blame for his career as a Marine Corps Scout sniper). I had to stop. I was dry heaving and nostalgia sobbing. My husband was dialing 911.

Anyway, I did find some old friends and reconnected with them, albeit through the daily newspaper’s obituaries.

And, oh yes, I bought copies of George Orwell’s “1984” and Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.”

They’re both right there, by my bedside, stacked with the others. Waiting.

Coming of Age, Vintage chicks lol

Resolution Execution

As a lark, I wrote this silly ditty about my hideous (to my mind) body. In my younger days it was simply known as “Removing Ribs or Your Skull — Whatever it Takes to Be Slim.” Nowadays they call it Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I sent the ditty to a health magazine that was looking for New Year’s Resolution stories. My take on a lifetime of starving myself was rewarded with a prize of about $400 worth of natural health and food products. I know, I know. The irony. Anyway, if you know a young woman who obsesses about her imperfect body, pass this along. Tell her not to wait until she’s in her sixties, like me, when she’ll no longer care about having the perfect body because she’ll be too busy cramming for her “finals.” Tell her to celebrate her body, pamper it, nourish it and be brutally honest — tell her she will never be perfect because no one is perfect. Well, except Cindy Crawford. She’s perfect. She’s soooo perfect. The Bad Viv wants to force feed her buckets of fudge cheesecake and chocolate eclairs until she breaks out in pimples, cellulite and Type 2 diabetes. But I digress …

Resolution Execution

For 40-plus years on January first

I resolved to lose weight, but my body was cursed

There’s always that 20 I think I must shed

But low and behold, it’s all in my head

It started in high school, no more and no less

No shame of my body, but the mind? What a mess

A skinny teen sneered, pointed and laughed

“Piano legs” she trilled, adding “and a fat ass.”

I reeled, embarrassed and to my dismay 

I saw my reflection — no longer okay 

Lettuce, boiled eggs begat famished, demented

Yet,

I was skinny! 

A lifelong obsession cemented

But no matter how slim, it just didn’t matter

I saw only my belly as my ankles grew fatter

Diet-fatigued, several decades later  

I fired myself as my own body-hater

I resolved to eat whatever I liked

Good fats, avocados, peanut butter delights

Don’t forget the red wine, it’s good for the heart

Dark chocolate, fresh peaches, shrimp cocktail to start

Oh, I lamented, all the years that I squandered

My body was normal

I blinked, quite bewondered

And now, on my walks, I may glimpse the reflection

Of that healthy, old woman who won my affection.

Photo by Ashley Piszek on Unsplash

Cover photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash “Girl in white holding plate”

Vintage chicks lol

Making Memories I Can’t Remember

Last week, I was enjoying a takeout meal and a glass of wine with my friend, Marcia, at our monthly StayIn Wine & Dine when she suddenly asked how long I’d been married. (She didn’t add “this time” which is why she is my friend.)

I paused for a silent brain debate — was it 13 years? 14? 15?

Gently coaxing, she asked, “OK then, when is your anniversary?”

“Uh, the 30th? 28th? No, wait, I remember — the 29th!”

She glanced at her phone and then at me, “Today is the 29th.”

“What?! Oh, my gosh! I’ve got to go buy a card and some kind of gift!” I jumped up, gulped down my wine, grabbed my things and sprinted out the door.

In a small town at 8 p.m. shopping options are always slim — a grocery store, dollar store, drug store or liquor store. The only other option was a 30-minute drive to the nearest city to find a department store. We hadn’t been married long enough for me to make that kind of sacrifice, especially on a weeknight when I’m normally in my pajamas and wrapped in a furry blanket by 9 p.m.

I masked up, chose the more-expensive dollar store (nothing but the best), grabbed a gift sack, tissue, a package of briefs, some outdoor solar lights, a few energy drinks and a large bag of peanut M & Ms that said, “I’m Not Sick of You Yet.” The rack labeled Anniverary Cards was completely bare, so I made do with a Thinking of You card that said “Let’s Keep in Touch.”

It would have to do. The important thing was that after 15 — no, wait, 13 years — I had finally remembered.

It’s really not my fault. We flew to Vegas to get married, our plane was late on arrival and there was a three hour time difference, so by the time we actually made it to the chapel and got married, it was nearly midnight on our Indiana watches. The entire wedding event transpired over 72 hours at the end of the month, so the exact day was somewhere between the 28th and the 1st.

I walked in the front door, plopped the beautifully bagged underwear and M&Ms on my husband’s lap as he was sitting in the recliner and said, “Happy Anniversary!”

“What?” he frowned quizzically.

“You thought I’d forget, didn’t you? Well, I didn’t,” I said smugly.

He looked at me for several long seconds and said, “Our anniversary is May 29th.”

“I know,” I said, beaming.

“Today is April 29th.”

Damn it.

Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.

—Erma Bombeck
Vintage chicks lol

Getting Down and Dirty

I love the spring. Life anew.

My yard is the size of a postage stamp, but it keeps me busy. My husband and I live in the house my Mom and Dad lived in for more than 40 years. Mom was a nurse and a Master Gardener. I am neither. While I don’t intend to hook up a catheter or assist in a triple cardiac bypass, I do love to putter around in the yard.

Unstoring and cleaning summer furniture and yard equipment; filling pots with composted soil; raking leaves and uncovering the newborn buds and sprouts beneath; pruning overgrowth — nothing relaxes me more. Except maybe the glass of wine I have after working in the yard all day.

By June, the posts will be filled with flowers, the trees will be lush (and me too, if I keep up the gardening/wine combo), baby birds will join their parents at the birdfeeders, along with the neighbor’s quite audacious squirrel and Mamma Rabbit and her babies who live under the bushes in the front of the house and oh yes, the hawk that waits patiently at the top of the tulip tree to dive into a feast of his own making.

Dirty shirt, dirty jeans, dirty nails — these are the dirty things that give me pleasure.

In March, I start getting in shape for my summer gardening hobby by 1.) forgetting I’m not 35; 2.) falling over while putting my pants on and balancing on one foot, and; 3.) throwing my back out after bending over to retrieve my pants.

At left, my Mom’s prized tulip tree; at right, the weeping cherry tree my family gave me on Mothers Day, 2013, just a week after I had The Brain Tumor removed. I give thanks every spring that the Brain Tumor Tree and Me blossomed yet another year.

Vintage chicks lol

Parenting Ability Test For Non-Parents

Shouldn’t there be some kind of licensing system for those who wish to become parents? A license is required to fish, style hair or stuff dead animals, for crying out loud.

This from a woman who probably could not have passed a test to have any of the four children she gave birth to.

In the early 1970s I had my first child in southern California while married to her Marine Corps dad, who was stationed at Camp Pendleton. An officer’s wife, who ran a women’s group for the Marine infantry wives, told me the average age of the female spouses in the group was 15. I was 19, old and wise and almost AARP material in their eyes.

I got my first glimpse into the world of Lil’ Miss Moms when one cute, but ditsy, young newlywed and mother (the two were sometimes synonymous) showed me a large knife placed under her baby’s crib. She said her infant son had an earache and the knife would “cut his pain.”

Honest. To. God.

Raising children, especially teenagers, may cause sudden bursts of craziness.

Anyway, here’s an easy Parental Ability Test. Be honest. And, if you have more than four affirmative answers … well, can you spell c-o-n-d-o-m?

You should rethink having a child if:

• You think the birth canal is in South America.

• You have ever uttered the phrase: “My kid will never do that.”

• You would put a knife under your baby’s crib to cut the pain.

• You get gaggy at the sight of vomit, phlegm, blood, boogers or runny, greenish-yellow poo.

• You were never a teenager.

• You were a teenager, but can’t remember it because you were stoned out of your mind.

• You are now an adult and still stoned out of your mind.

• You think you will look like Pregnant Barbie and have your child effortlessly by pulling it from a plastic flap in your belly.

• You think that children will bring you and your mate “closer together.”

Babies are ferocious little beasts and will devour anything and anybody who gets in their way, especially their parents.

• You think children, adolescents and teenagers have a natural, instinctive ability to apply reason and common sense. (or you think you can “train” them to do so.)

• You currently reside in a dumpster by night and a public library by day.

• You know that if you were in charge of your friends’ children, you could straighten those brats out.

• You want to wait to bring any children into the world until: 1.) You and your partner are financial stable; 2.) Congress actually works together for the good of the people, or; 3.) There is peace on Earth. 

• You have ever thought about naming a child after the sponsor of your favorite NASCAR driver — including Prilosec, Viagra, Dasani, Dupont Tyvek, Sprint Nextel, Wishbone, Bud Lite, Bud Weiser, Ann Heuser, Pabst (do not even think about Smirr for a middle name!), Corona, Heine Ken or Red Bull (exceptions on Red Bull: a Sioux Indian or Spanish matador).

• You ever again expect to go to the bathroom by yourself or sleep eight consecutive hours.

• You occasionally smoke crack to “energize.”

• You have ever said “Bubbah and I are going to a Proud Boys kegger after we bet on the cock fights over at Thugger Joe’s.”

• You plan to train your child to perform on stage, dance provocatively, apply garish makeup and win the USA Jr. Miss Potty-Trained Tiara Toddler crown by the time she’s 12 months old.

• You want to have a litter of kids so you can make lots of money with your own reality show.

Do not make your children wear matching outfits that make them look like yodeling goat herders in the Swiss Alps. This adorable little girl never again wore a neck bow and became a surgical nurse who prefers anesthetized patients. Her sweet, little brother grew up to be a Marine Corps Scout sniper.
Coronavirus, Vintage chicks lol

Bricked in the Pandemic

Twelve months seclusion, walled in, shut off, isolated
And now, a ray of light, a gust of hope
Life as we know it
and need it
and must have it
is there, just on the horizon.
Achingly close, yet still out of reach
We wait. It will come.
It must.
Coronavirus, Vintage chicks lol

Pandemic Incognito Brings Out Superpowers

The Cher-Wanna-Be

I procrastinate. The day my hairdresser, Miriam, left for a 2-week vacation in Utah is the day I noticed I had rapidly gone from Honey Blond to Gluttonous Gray.

The Activist

I could not afford to fly to Salt Lake City for a root job and I could not go to another hairdresser because Miriam is also a longtime, close friend and it would have been like committing adultery. As it says in the Bible, getting it on with another beautician is a grievous sin.

So, I dug through the back of my closet and found the wigs that I bought long ago and have never worn because, well, because I’m paranoid that everyone is staring at me because they know I’m wearing a wig.

The Aunt Myrtle

Wearing a wig, face mask and sunglasses comes in handy when running errands in flannel pajama bottoms and an old, paint-stained T-shirt. That’s when I always run into the immaculately-dressed and exquisitely made-up former co-worker who wants to stop and chat about her very accomplished children and her very accomplished life. As. Opposed. To. My. Very. Unaccomplished. And. Dreary. Life.

The Badass

But, she passed by the wiggy-me without a hint of recognition. Hallelujah! Why have I been wasting my life wearing my own hair and exposing my lips and eyes?

When I donned the auburn, long-haired wig and ventured into the city to shop, I was Venturous Viv and a completely different person from Virtuous Viv, the highlighted brunette who browsed the non-fiction section in my small town library.

I discovered I was more suited to work in a soup kitchen as a brunette, but as a curly-headed blond, I was more likely to lead a protest against the state legislators’ attempt to eliminate Indiana’s wetlands.

The
Sleeps-in-Coffin-By-Day

The inky, black bob with fringed bangs gave me absolute super powers. I became Vamp Viv. My husband ran into my bad self in the frozen food section of a local supermarket and was especially attentive before I hit him over the head with a 10-pound bag of rock-solid chicken legs.

The Marie Antoinette

Wearing that same wig, I was able to morph into Vindictive Viv and deal with a jerk behind me at the stoplight who always hauls a gigantic confederate flag in the bed of his truck. You know the type — the guy who starts yelling obscenities at the car in front of him because that driver doesn’t rev the engine and take off the second the light turns green. So, with a flip of my dark locks and fringed bangs — and my middle finger — I exerted my extraordinary powers, locked the doors, turned up the radio and calmly sat through the light one more time. I peeled out just as he was preparing to stab me with the Rebel flagpole.

Maybe you’re thinking “mental illness,” but except for the Yankee-Wanna-Be-Confederate guy, I’ve had nothing but good experiences. And — bonus!— these six new, enthusiastic women in my life have expressed an interest in joining my Prosaic Procrastinators writer’s group.

Scribbles by Viv, Vintage chicks lol

Tumorous Humorous: Goes Well With Pita Chips

I used to hate the way my face was falling to the earth, outpaced only by my thighs.

Once a lady asked the name of the chubby dog that was wrapped around my feet. I had to tell her it was my ankles.

The problem with growing old is that even though you still feel young in your mind, your body begins to crack and disintegrate like a human pork rind.

A few years ago, when I was 60, doctors discovered a tumor the size of Rhode Island growing between my brain and my ear canal.

“It’s an Acoustic Neuroma,” the doctor said.

I was pretty sure I bought that album in 1979.

Anyway, after a 13- or 14-hour brain surgery, I was as good as new.

That’s a lie.

I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t drink. I couldn’t sit. Heck, I couldn’t even roll over.  Half of my face was frozen and numb because the tumor had wrapped around my right facial nerve. Someone had fashioned a turban out of barbed wire and attached it to my head with steel beams and iron spikes which were driven into my skull and all tangled in my bloody hair. Wires and tubes were attached to my arms and other body parts. Had I been crucified?

On the upside, I was on some pretty mind-blowing narcotics so I was waaaay down the rabbit hole having tea and crumpets with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Mother Teresa.

One thing I could do was laugh — albeit out of the side of my mouth with a gurgling sound and one wide-open, freaky eye that refused to close. I didn’t care. Did I mention the drugs?

Every few minutes a staff member would come to my bedside, ask me to squeeze her fingers and ask the same questions: “What’s your name?” “What day is it?” “Who is president?”

I had married twice, taken both husbands’ names, then reverted to my maiden name, then married again and did not take his name.

My mom had to down several 5-Hour Energy drinks just to write my names in the family Bible.

The first time the nurse asked me if I knew my name, my youngest brother quipped, “Oh sure, start with the hard questions.”

I liked to mess with them when asked the president question: “Taft?” “Weird Al Yankovic?” “Grant? Did the North win?”

Accomplishing one goal at a time — walking up and down stairs, gardening, driving, hiking up a Virginia mountain, making Fruit Loops for dinner — I recovered.

5 weeks post-op with my crooked face and my beautiful niece, Chandler.

For the most part, my face came back, my wrinkles returned, and I no longer looked like I got Botox injections from a one-eyed physician.

I was so happy to see the deep lines return to my face that I made them a welcome home casserole with extra Oil of Olay.

Growing old never had looked more appealing.