Code words

About a decade ago, my husband and I used to eat with our preschool aged daughters in our company lunchroom. On occasion, one or more of the girls would misbehave in a manner that demanded immediate correction. Either my husband or I would say something like [name of daughter] needs counseling. At that point one parent would remain in the lunchroom with the other children while the designated disciplinarian would take the child out of the lunch room to a private space where parent and child could discuss her behavior and the consequences.

I never imagined anything wrong with using counseling as a euphemism for discipline, but let’s fast forward a couple of years.

One day several years later, a daughter got into the car after school as mad as a wet setting hen (to use my dad’s expression). She was so angry at us because we had used counseling as a code word. She was upset because she had been embarrassed when her teacher asked if anyone knew what counseling meant and she had raised her hand and answered that counseling was when you had done something wrong and you were in trouble with your parents. Her classmates laughed at her. How could we have been so cruel to humiliate her?

Unintended consequences of words spoken with good intentions.

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Love Triumphs over Loathing

I’ve been thinking about my dad since this weekend is Father’s Day, and I wanted to share a story about him. This story is one of the amusing anecdotes that he used to tell. Of course, my written retelling can’t be as funny as listening to him telling the story himself. But since Dad is no longer here to tell stories, my retelling will have to do.

This event happened when Dad (Eugene Hemphill Marlowe) was courting Mom (Bonnie Lee Lawing). The setting is my grandparents’ house in rural western North Carolina in the community of Sugar Hill.

Gene had been visiting Bonnie for a while and it was supper time. Bonnie’s mom, Anna Lee Barlowe Lawing had invited him to stay to eat with the family. Like a typical young man, Gene was not going to turn down a meal and the chance to visit longer with the girl he was sweet on.

Now anyone who knew Gene remembers that Gene LOVED corn. Corn on the cob, creamed corn, or however the corn was served – he loved it. He was a champion corn eater. I don’t remember ever having leftovers whenever corn on the cob was served. I do remember when I sat next to dad that he would sneak some of his empty cobs onto my plate so that it wouldn’t look as if he had eaten so much. Gene enjoyed creamed corn almost as much as he liked corn on cob.

On the evening in question, my grandmother served stewed yellow squash. Although stewed squash and creamed corn have similar coloring, the taste and consistency are very different. Gene loathed stewed squash, he would never willingly eat it. However, he was paying more attention to Bonnie than to the food that was being passed. When he got the bowl of squash, he was thinking creamed corn and served himself an enormous helping, so large he was almost embarrassed about how much he took.

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Imagine his dismay when he realized that he had piled his plate with loathed stewed squash! What was he to do? Everyone in that day and time believed that it was wrong to waste food. Gene couldn’t just leave the squash on his plate uneaten. Robert and Anna Lee kept their dogs outside, so there was no chance of slipping the squash to a household pet. He didn’t want to insult the cook. And he didn’t want Bonnie to know he hadn’t been paying attention to the food. So what’s a young man to do in this situation? Well, Gene decided that he would eat squash. He did not enjoy it, but he forced himself to eat bite after bite. By the time the meal was over, he had eaten the entire enormous serving of squash.

Squash could not stand in the way of true love. Gene survived eating squash that day and sometime later married Bonnie. Although stewed squash was never his favorite, he would eat it when Bonnie served it. He admitted that the main reason he ate squash was to be an example to his children, so the children would eat their squash.

Gene and Bonnie lived ordinarily ever after (sometimes happy, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, but mostly happy) for over fifty years. They had three children. From the three children came ten grandchildren (eight of whom are in this picture).Image

Happy Father’s Day 2013

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. . . Do You Think You Would Like It Then?

My husband is a wonderful husband and father. He has many skills; unfortunately, cooking isn’t one of them.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that he has a tin tongue and I am a super-taster. Things just taste different to me than they do to him. For example, he looks at meat with freezer burn and thinks YUM. I look at the same package and wonder if it is still good enough to let the dog have it. I can distinguish subtle nuances in seasoning, but he can’t taste it unless it is coated with a spice. However, he can’t stand pepper. No black pepper, no red pepper, no bell peppers, and especially no hot peppers.

Another part of the problem is that he learned to cook as a Boy Scout, and he hated cleanup. Even now he tries to cook as much as he can in one pot or dish.

The other day I noticed store brand crescent rolls in the refrigerator. I queried Scott, and he replied that he bought them for a recipe. Already I was skeptical because I think that the store brand isn’t really even the same product. But he was excited about this recipe that he had picked up at the grocery store.

In an ideal world, I would always feel like cooking and would never give Scott the opportunity to make dinner, but earlier this week he got home before me and had already started cooking. Although his recipe was supposed to be quick and easy, I fixed my own appetizer – a banana frosted with Nutella.  Then since our kitchen is cramped, I stayed out of the kitchen and waited for dinner to be ready. I could hear him chopping and chopping and chopping and chopping. Finally two and a half hours later, he presented the family with turkey pillows.Image

With great reluctance I did eat some of mine. The store brand cresent rolls surrounded minced freezer-burned turkey and minced fresh zucchini. All the contents had been minced so much that the pieces were smaller than a grain of rice. It was almost like baby food in a pastry.

Since I usually like the recipes featured by that grocery store, I glanced at the recipe card to see if I could determine what went wrong. I read it through and realized that out of 10 ingredients, Scott had substituted a different ingredient for every single one.

Scott asked me if I liked the meal. I replied that it was food, and that if I happened to ever be starving, I would eat it again.

Ever the optimist, Scott asked, “What if I used chicken instead of turkey, and if there was no freezer burn, and if I had used the brand name crescent rolls, and if I hadn’t minced the ingredients so fine, and if it hadn’t taken 3 hours to prepare . . . .