Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Eating: The Good Life

Year round, Saturday mornings bring tennis, one of the ultimate joys in my life. In late March these mornings move into joy explosion as the Columbia Farmer’s Market opens the outdoor season at its quarters in central city. The scheduling of tennis and shopping for scrumptious foods becomes a juggling act that has me bouncing from bed to merge two of my life’s great passions.
For many years, I’ve pursued good eating often to more success than others. In college, I waitressed at Alfalfa Restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky, where I learned about wholegrain foods and the simplicity of good eating. I credit many meals there and incorporating what I attempted to replicate in my kitchen to countering weight that would surely have packed on by beer and the inevitable late night pizzas ordered to satisfy the “munchies.”
My post college decade brought a more intellectual approach to good eating, driven in part by my readings of the books by Helen and Scott Nearing, considered the grandparents of the “back to the land” movement. Part fascination of a lifestyle I knew little about (google their names if interested) and a dash of incorporation of their practices, the marriage of lessons learned at Alfalfa and their example of unattainable but noble ideals moved me forward in my good eating goals. Still, my love for beer and the lifestyle of an on-the-go career woman led to lots of eating out--a killer for positive food choices. My eating habits ran the spectrum and I had little middle ground. On a regular basis I either ate with conviction or moved to the other end of eating with convenience and lack of care. 

By my late 30s into my 40s, I found myself acutely aware of what goes in and what comes out is a matter of life and death. Like most indulgent Americans, my choices continued to dance across the spectrum but my inner voice spoke louder than ever. Good eating led to many rewards: beautiful skin; a figure that is long, muscular, and lean; and support of local establishments and farmers that matches my ethos in both eating and consumerism. Coupled with my joy of hitting the little yellow ball across the tennis court and fresh, unprocessed foods, my life and health maintains a balance that honors both body and spirit.
Each year the Farmer’s Market season escalates both opportunity and unbridled enthusiasm for good eating. It is also a social experience that I anticipate each week as other like-minded friends can be found among the crowd. Additionally, friendships gained with my favorite vendors add grist for my mill of obtaining ideas to incorporate and the example of a lifestyle I will never have but admire and support with joy. By peppering the farmers with questions, I learn even more that adds sparkle to my Saturday morning ritual.
Below I relay this year’s food passion that finally finds a delicious use for the wonder food kale and some tips for storing market food that brings out the best taste possible and prolongs the life of the produce. A few weeks ago, visiting with a friend prior to a Summerfest concert, I shared the recipe for this merging of nutrition and awesome taste with my friend Susan. Though interested, Susan admitted with a scrunched nose that she couldn’t hide, that “kale can be very scary.” Rest assured, my readers, the kale can only be seen in the color and the health benefits of my new breakfast are both vitamin loaded and full of taste.

Annie’s Green Goddess Smoothie
In blender, combine coconut milk, flax seed (for protein), a handful of kale (ribs removed), several chunks of fresh pineapple (this is what I taste the most), a banana and blend. Then add ice. The proper amount of each ingredient is trial and error to refine the consistency of the drink that suits individual taste. I prefer plenty of ice so I can drink it while others like a less watered down version to be eaten with a spoon.  The smoothie can also be modified by adding fruits or vegetables (peaches, blueberries, cucumber, and spinach so far) that are nearing the end of their fresh lives to avoid any waste in my kitchen. This treat jumpstarts my day and gives me a power on the tennis courts that I frequent on a summer schedule that is hard to beat. And, like most women, I have a bit of vanity running through my blood. I love all the compliments that come from having the best physique of my life--thin but not too thin and the glow of good living.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about food storage of fresh produce.
Some foods are best not refrigerated until they become very ripe and life extension prevails over optimum taste. These include tomatoes, fresh peaches, and apples, which are best stored on the counter out of direct sunlight. On the flip side, berries should be stored in the refrigerator from the onset. Fresh greens, squash, asparagus, and cucumbers also benefit from the refrigerator though best practice in storing varies. I refer you to a web link that offers some valuable tips that, if followed, will minimize waste and maximize both taste and life of the produce.
Summer: Tennis and the Farmer’s Market equates pure joy for this tall blonde in mid-Missouri. Toss in summer concerts, a little air conditioning when needed, and the blooms of my flower garden and I find the heat a small price to pay for my heaven on earth.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Super Sunday

Super Sunday Guys
John Rogers and David Rogers

Super Sunday
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The term Super Sunday may refer to the following
  • Super Sunday (TV series), a 1980s American cartoon multicharacter series from Sunbow and Marvel Productions, all featuring Hasbro characters.
  • Super Sunday (phone-a-thon), the annual phone-a-thon fundraising drives held by Jewish federations throughout North America, on various Sundays of the year
  • Super Sunday or "Super Bowl Sunday", the Sunday of the National Football League's championship game, the Super Bowl
  • Ford Super Sunday, the live Sunday afternoon Premiership football broadcast on Sky Sports in the UK
  • Super Sunday, a popular Taiwanese TV show, hosted by Harlem Yu among others
  • Super Sunday (computer game), a 1986 video game published by Avalon Hill for the Apple II and Commodore 64[citation needed]
  • "Super Sunday", in New Orleans, refers to one of the annual celebrations staged by Mardi Gras Indian tribes, and held in Uptown, Downtown, or the west bank of New Orleans
**Wikipedia please take note**
  • A day in June when Father’s Day and a man’s birthday occur on the same Sunday. This phenomenon can only occur for males with children whose birthday fall between June 15-June 21.  
Super Sunday a la Father’s Day and Dad’s birthday (June 21) required a full-blown celebration in the Rogers household. Realistically the two days coincided once every six years but memory is a funny thing and with the sixth Father’s Day without Dad to celebrate, this is what I remember each year. 
“There’s only two days a year that my kids are nice to me and they fall on the same damn day,” he would playfully declare each year when Father’s Day and his birthday coincided. Dad loved getting presents and wanted to be doted on by his family. He much preferred multiple small gifts to unwrap rather than a more significant joint gift. In fact, he perceived one of the true injustices of his lifetime to be the Father’s Day that we all went together and presented him with a pair of expensive running shoes called “The Beast.” My sister-in-law knew he needed to exercise and found a shoe designed for the bigger man. The lone box that stared at him went from insult to injury when he unwrapped only to discover running shoes. Jill took the heat that year.
Super Sunday thus presented a unique challenge. He guided the rules--no church and Father’s Day would be celebrated with a full spread breakfast of bacon, eggs, sweet rolls, fresh fruit, and coffee followed by the opening of presents. This man loved to unwrap gifts, if he liked the item, all the better but the ritual of pulling off the colorful paper and ribbon in anticipation pleased him the most. At noon Father’s Day would end. Then around 5:00 in the afternoon on Super Sunday, the family would gather again to celebrate Dad’s birthday with a dinner of his choice followed by birthday cake and candles, singing, and of course, another round of presents.
And we would hear the refrain “There’s only two days a year that my kids are nice to me and they fall on the same damn day,” sprinkled throughout the day. Of course Dad loved every aspect of the holiday he created for himself.
As life would have it, my brother John’s birthday is June 19th, with last year being his Super Sunday. I called him last night to ask if he continues the tradition with his children and he immediately said: “of course I do. I milk it. My kids know the Super Sunday tradition.” Then John added that he even uses the same line and without missing a beat we both chimed in unison “There’s only two days a year that my kids are nice to me and they fall on the same damn day.” 
As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it Goes.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones

The Face of Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones

I’d like to introduce you to an imaginary childhood friend, Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones. Perched just over Stadium Boulevard, a bit north of College Park in Columbia, Mo., her hard, stone stare watched the ground below for perhaps hundreds of years, maybe longer. No one, not even my grandmother Dee Dee who created the character, knew how long she sat there but Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones channeled the stories of my grandmother’s youth on the family farm.
A group of local citizens tried to save the
formation known to others simply as
"The Rock Face."
My paternal grandmother, Edna Baskett Rogers, was born in the small rural community of McFall located in northwest Missouri. Her family farm, now just an open field with a highway passing through, sat on the east edge of an almost extinct town (population now 93). The nature-chiseled face of stone met a similar fate as the farm when the Missouri Department of Transportation blasted the rock to expand Stadium Boulevard in 1989. Mom alerted me in college about the construction that destroyed the rock face from Columbia’s landscape. Even from Kentucky-land, my home at the time and also where Dee Dee’s ancestors migrated from to settle in Missouri, I grieved a piece of my childhood that I would never see again.
Only Dee Dee herself would know how she discovered Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones or where the whimsical name derived. My guess is one day when she picked up her grandchildren in her little green Maverick she glanced at the rock face and questioned “do you know about Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones?” My grandmother was the kind of storyteller that invented names and tales as she talked. Dee Dee told stories that begged repeating, many that made my green eyes brim as round as my little blonde head.
Edna Baskett Rogers (1901-1986)
Dee Dee, like her granddaughter, was an outdoors girl--playful, imaginative, sometimes mischievous, and always full of stories. Through the eyes of the imaginary Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones I learned about my grandmother’s childhood in the frank manner that matched her personality. Without these tales, I would have never known to ask about what it meant to have the first indoor privy in the area or how a young woman handled menstruation prior to paper products. Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones recalled with sadness when her brother, known as “Little Dick” was scalded to death by a bucket of boiling water along with other hardships of early twentieth century farm life such as fire and an ill-tempered father. Florence also created a lot of fun--picking berries, pulling outrageous pranks on her siblings, wading in the creeks, and recounting the tales of the generations before her. Florence even helped a child move through the underground railroad system during the Civil War. Of course, the line between family history and pure storytelling was blurry but that is part of the magic and legacy of Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones.
The Next Incarnation of Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones
For my 40th birthday in May 2006 and the first birthday after my father died, Mom gave me a stone statue for my garden. When I saw it, without hesitation, I blurted out “that’s Florence Clementine Ezekiel Jones!” Since then, she has guarded the flower bed in front of my home as the purple coneflower, my favorite of Missouri’s many native flowers, has multiplied by the year and now surrounds her with a natural beauty that befits her namesake. 
Dee Dee is surrounded by four of her twelve grandchildren on her birthday
in the early 1980s. From left to right, John Rogers, Hartley Rogers, Annie
Rogers, and Jim Rogers. Not pictured are Mary Gordon, Donna
Vokish, Laurie Fausnaugh, Jimmy Rogers, Rusty Patton, Judy Patton,
Trudis Ann Patton, and Mark Patton. We all loved her very much.