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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bean Soup

My wife is hard working teacher/administrator and mother of three who still manages to prepare some excellent sit-down dinners each week. Last week we had a delicious spiral-sliced ham from Sam’s Club. It was succulently glazed and a big hit with our girls. When we were cleaning up after the meal, there was a huge ham bone on the carving plate which prompted an unusually nostalgic announcement from my wife. “I think I’ll save this bone and make some bean soup next week.”

Now I know this is a perfectly normal thing to do with a good bone, but it was a notion the girls had never heard of—much less coming from their mother who has stuck closely to a repertoire of “family requested” meals for twenty years. Bean soup has never been attempted and is not on the list. (Though it is was part of my childhood menu along with Spanish Rice, Goulash, and a dozen things my Mom made with hamburger before “Hamburger Helper” was invented.)

So the bone and its clinging meat was picked up by two fingers, dropped in a Ziploc bag, and placed on a shelf in the fridge. To be honest, I thought it would stay there until the next “cleansing” (Julie's weekend ritual of purging left-overs from our foraging eyes). But to my surprise, a few days later, she came home with three bags (six pounds) of Northern beans and her mind made up to use that bone. I cautioned her that that was A LOT of beans, but what do I know?

A brief call to her mother (who is a true veteran of the country kitchen) confirmed that one bag of beans per pot of soup would be plenty. Julie forgot that cooked beans more than quadruple in size—good thing she called Mom or we would have had steaming beans oozing like lava through the night all over the kitchen.

This morning being a holiday, we woke late to a wonderful aroma of marrow and bone and meat and beans in an unseen simmering pot. It's the kind of smell that has drawn mankind to the cottage stove through the centuries. Kim was the last to rise, and she sauntered to the breakfast table rubbing sleep from her eyes as Julie stirred the soup with satisfaction.

“Want a taste of what’s for lunch?” she asked, extending a wooden spoon.

Kim looked over the counter and blinked twice into the pot.
“It looks like something from Oliver.” She said with a smile.

“It’s ‘food glorious food,’” Julie sang, but Kim did not look convinced.

Personally, I can’t wait 'til noon to have a bowl, but something tells me that the girls will not be saying in their best cockney dialects, “Please, Sir, I want some... more.” We'll see...
P.S. Same day:3:30PM: The soup was delicious. Julie and I enjoyed it and a pleasant conversation at our table for two. Somehow the girls managed to be at the mall over lunch. We set some aside for supper, but I suspect these "meat and potato" girls will not help the cause and there will be plenty of bean soup in next week's "cleansing."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Geography and Me

Like lots of "Michigander" kids born and raised in a giant mitten, I became a visual learner at a young age.

When I first became familiar with the globe, I was amazed that it was mostly blue and the land forms took on shapes like clouds in the summer sky. (Click on "land forms" for a map if you doubt me.) Australia was the alert head of a Terrier keeping a watchful eye on Madagascar, which was right beside a gigantic flashlight, the continent of Africa. Long before I learned of South Africa, I knew it as “where the batteries went in,” and regardless of whatever we all should know of Somalia, to me it will forever be a thumb switch—right there next to the big Eskimo boot (AKA the Arabian Peninsula) kicking Iran to the east (not to be confused with Italy, which I suppose everyone remembers as a wrinkly lady’s boot kicking Sicily between Morocco and Spain—Goooooooooooooal!)

Much further west, I imagined South America to be a melting ice cream cone with a scoop of Venezuela-Columbia-Peru on top like a chunk of Neapolitan about to drop off and fall down to Antarctica. (Ecuador had been the cherry on top before the scoop slid off center.) Chile (though it was phonetically ironic) was a thick melting drip running down the west side of Argentina, the cone.

I’d had an ice-cream cone like this once and knew that a skillful lick of the drip from the bottom up toward the falling scoop would put it right back onto Brazil where it belonged.

I’m not sure how many other kids learned geography this way, but I suspect the numbers were higher in places like Michigan where people often describe where they live or where they’re going by pointing to parts of their hand. For instance, I was born in Port Huron, the east bend of the thumb, but now I live by Muskegon, the west side of the little finger’s first knuckle. Such talk is common in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. I’m not sure if “Yupers” do it. ( For you non-Michiganders…Yupers are folks in the U.P., Upper Peninsula.)

I’ll bet this visual geography is more common than we know. Maybe kids in Chile say things like, “I was born up north at the soggy brim of the cone, but now I live way down in the drip.”

Okay. Maybe not, but it works in Michigan.

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