Category Archives: Food for Thought
Just when the partisan spin garbage left me feeling totally disgusted, GWB comes through with the message we all should take to heart:
There were two mass shootings in America within 24 hours, one in El Paso, Texas, yesterday and one in Dayton, OH, in the wee hours of the morning today.
Yesterday, when the El Paso story broke, I was watching a stupid sci-fi movie, Idiocracy, which one of my sons insisted I would love (I didn’t). In that movie, set hundreds of years into the future, America’s gene pool and culture had declined dramatically, where the English language had eroded into gibberish and mindless slogans, education had been demonized and the American system had descended into chaos, and corruption, with a WWF type star running the country.
A male and female from the present were frozen in a top secret military experiment, where they were supposed to be awakened in the near future, but they ended up being frozen for several hundred years. When these two average people awakened they found themselves,literally, the smartest people in the world. The man had been a dud in the Army, who did nothing to distinguish himself as a soldier, while the woman had been a prostitute, who was conned into being a part of the experiment.
The movie Idiocracy was made in 2006 and here we are in 2019 with a WWF type star as president and most days the mindless spin word games leave me wondering what the heck happened to America.
In 2019 America, the media news cycles are largely driven by the blue checkmark crowd of political and thought leaders who drive the media spin cycles on Twitter. President Trump also uses his Twitter account to drive spin cycles. We live, not in an Idiocracy, but a Twitterocracy. News Media people and politicos on Twitter drive the other American news formats, especially the cable TV spin cycles.
Today’s reporting has been a mix of law enforcement reporting updates, reports on the victims, pundits and politicians assigning blame for the shootings (well beyond the two shooters) and as can always be expected massive politicization, before the bodies of the murder victims are even cold. It’s a rather ghoulish national media and political spectacle.
At the end of the day, it appears the El Paso shooter was motivated by white nationalist sentiments and the Dayton. OH shooter was an Elizabeth Warren supporter, Satanist and anti-gun violence advocate (try making sense of that, if you can). My personal opinion is what likely motivates these killers is probably a complex combination of factors, like mental illness, erosion of family, decay of civic culture, social alienation, violent culture, malign online groups that fuel hate. Of course, America’s 24/7 scorched earth spin war, which the media avidly aids and abets, certainly probably could be a contributing factor too.
My point is, it’s doubtful we can pinpoint one specific cause, even though many people want some specific cause, that they can fixate on as the source of the evil, because it’s much easier to believe that, “if we only got rid of that cause, that would fix the problem”. For many on the Left, Trump is the cause and removing Trump from office is the solution. For many others on the Left, the cause is guns and more gun laws will fix the problem.
I’ve never owned a firearm in my life and never want to own one. I understand the strong views of people on both sides of the 2nd Amendment debates and constant battles over gun laws. That said, sure there might be some more gun laws that might keep guns out of mass shooters hands, but at this point enough details aren’t known about these two mass shooting incidents to have a calm debate about whether the law the Democrats are hyping today would have had any impact on either of these two shootings.
The reality that the “causes” are complex and there isn’t some magical, easy-fix political solution to end these mass shootings, particularly those carried out by white nationalists, who are reported to be using online forums to radicalize and spread their racist ideology, ramp up racial fear and incite rage, doesn’t sit well with many Americans. People like believing there are political solutions to slaying violent ideologies (see all the true-believers that American military might could destroy radical Islamist ideology).
This is just my opinion, but positive cultural changes in America begin in the hearts of good citizens, good neighbors, and strong families. We can all work toward that end, in our own small ways. Each tiny effort can begin the change. Of course, having strong leaders in America, from all walks of life, working to spread calm and positive messages, instead of turning everything in America into a vicious political battle, would help a great deal too, but judging from most of the Twitterocracy thought leaders, and partisan political peeps, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening.
And here we come to President Trump and his endless ginning up anger and flirting with white nationalists in his rhetoric. While I don’t believe it’s fair or productive to run around calling him a racist or white nationalist, he has never come out and tried to distance himself from white supremacist or denounced their hate-filled ideology. As the person holding the biggest megaphone in America, it’s way past time for him to strongly denounce white nationalism and white supremacy ideology.
The best thing the news media could do for America is abandon their cozy spin nest on Twitter and get back to reporting who, what, when, when, why and how, instead of being major players in the partisan spin wars, which churns out of the Twitterocracy every day in America. Yes, even Trump knows Twitter drives the American news cycles in America and propels the Left’s spin narratives, which is why he clings to his personal Twitter account.
And the best thing each of us average citizens can do is try to take care of our families, our friends, our communities and pray that each small drop of kindness adds up to large enough waves to begin changing the tide in our country.
Finding hope amidst the carnage won’t be easy, but we could each resolve to spread some kind words and work to do some good deeds… that’s a start.
“My advice to law students is very simple: work hard, learn to write and speak effectively, never give up on your passions, treasure your family and friendships, find time to do public service, and learn to win — or lose — graciously.
More than all of that, know that you will have many regrets in life — things said or done, or left unsaid or undone — but the one thing you will never regret is being kind.”
Well, it’s Mother’s Day, so I’ll skip the politics today. I’m going to rerun a blog post from a few years ago, but if some writing inspiration strikes after a couple more cups of coffee, perhaps write something new too. Here’s Hand-me-downs:
A hand-me-down book from my childhood
Fair warning, this is going to be another backwoods PA story from my childhood. Escape while you can:-)
I was born in 1960 and grew-up in a small village in the Pocono Mountains. Our end of the county was and still is called the West End (which is synonymous with hicks). Most of our neighbors were of PA German ancestry, although even in the 1960s, the urban exodus to the Poconos had begun. The Poconos had been a vacation spot for city dwellers since the Civil War era, but during my childhood many of these urban visitors began building homes in the Poconos and staying year-round. Many of the locals hold the urban dwellers moving into their peaceful country neighborhood as loud, boorish, pushy, stupid and very rude.
Back in the 90s, a phone conversation with my mother railing about some “stupid New Yorker” about sums up the sentiment and the disconnect. My mother was complaining about some woman from New York who wanted the township to pay for street lights in her little residential area in the Poconos. The woman also apparently had thought sidewalks would be a good idea. My mother, like most locals, ended her complaints with a statement that went pretty much like, “I wish these damned city people would go back to the city and leave us alone!”
However, that unknown woman from New York got a very different reaction than my mother dealing with our pastor’s wife, who was not only New York City born and bred, but also Jewish. The parsonage was right across the road from our home, so our pastor’s wife was also our neighbor. My mother adored our pastor’s wife, my mother adored her elderly mother too, who would come and visit for several weeks at a time when I was a child.
It’s often interesting how many people will prejudge an entire group of people, but when they are in a situation where they are dealing with an individual from that group and getting to know him or her, all of sudden common ground can be found and friendships blossom.
Spending my adult life around Army communities, I’ve always been very grateful for the experience of being able to meet so many people from so many different countries, backgrounds, and experiences. The thing that binds Army communities is soldiers with a common mission. Their wives, no matter if they are foreign-born or American invariably become friends, share recipes, share in the worries when their spouses deploy, and share in a sense of community.
Finding that common ground in America is an existential crisis, not media hysteria about “fake news” or “Russian influence”.
The partisan political divides, listening to political pundits, reading news from various political stripes and observing comments on Twitter, facebook, etc., make me feel like these groups live on different planets, not in the same country.
So, back to my childhood, in a family with six kids, with widely different opinions. For instance, conservative me, has a far-left brother, who was really into zero population growth as a cause. When he lectured me when I was pregnant with my third child, asking if my husband and I thought our genes were so good that we had to spread them around with so many children, well, I didn’t get angry. I smiled at him and replied, “Well, now that you mention it, yes, we do.” I also told him I wanted 5 or 7 kids, because I like odd numbers (although we stopped “spreading our genes around”, overpopulating the world, at 4 kids).
No matter how angry we were at each other or how vehemently we disagreed, when it was dinner time, we all had to sit at the table and behave civilly. My parents didn’t want to hear how mad we were or how much we disagreed or whether we had been fighting all day about something – we had to sit at the table and eat our dinner. There was no taking your plate to another room or screaming at each other at the table allowed.
Especially with the advent of the internet, the splintering of America has escalated, where there’s really very little discussion in online political discussion forums, only hyper-charged partisan attacks. Each side generates talking points, which the political combatants hurl back and forth non-stop. Poll numbers get tossed in to validate positions, although really polls are meaningless – they’re the opinions of a few people extrapolated to represent the opinions of very large groups of people.
I’ve met many wonderful people from New York City and other urban areas. I’ve also met some total assholes right where I grew up, who were locals. And it shouldn’t even have to be said in America, but we’ve got to start talking to each other and move beyond our own little cocoon of people who think just like we do or hold the same political views.
We need to start embracing getting to know people as individuals.
The same goes for considering political viewpoints and here again, my mother taught me that you can’t make anyone believe anything. My oldest sister is 8 years older than me and she had friends in high school, who like her, read a lot. Along with wearing hand-me-down clothes, I became a proud collector of hand-me-down books. Anything my sister or her friends were ready to discard, I was ready to add it to my “collection” of books. I read the entire Warren Commission Report in paperback, I got a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. I still have the Watchwords of Liberty, filled with great American quotes. I also ended up with paperback histories like:
Then somehow I ended up with:
So, while you might expect my conservative, staunch Republican mother to want this book out of her house, you’d be wrong. She told me she didn’t believe in Marxism, but to decide for myself. She gave me a copy of a little booklet (which I gave to someone), called, Good Citizen and she told me this booklet had a lot of interesting information on America. So, I read Marx’s Concept of Man and then I read her Good Citizen booklet and many other books too.
In 1976, the American Bicentennial fueled a bunch of books on the American Revolution and my American love affair with The Constitution and our republic bloomed like cherry blossoms in Washington springtime. I was hooked on American ideals. I had started adding to my hand-me-down book “collection” with books I bought with babysitting money – books like:
I also got enthralled by The Kent Family Chronicles, that John Jakes series commemorating the 200 year anniversary of America. By that point, I was sold on The Constitution, sold on American ideals and Marx sounded like depressing whining about “unfairness”, where there’s never any hope for individuals to aspire to anything… just endless reliance on imposition of command economy enforcers to decide on what’s fair and relentless fueling class warfare. The American Bicentennial fueled a life-long love of reading American history. My short time in the Army expanded that to loving to read military history too.
In life, we all have some really dumb ideas and beliefs. That’s the truth! No one gets through life being perfect and all-knowing. For instance, I abhor violence and had this idea that all behavior is learned, so when I had kids, I didn’t want my kids to be violent. I didn’t want my sons to have any toy guns, because I believed that would encourage violence. I believed this despite the fact that I got into plenty of fistfights as a kid fighting bullies.
My mother and sisters laughed at me and told me I was stupid. My husband just rolled his eyes. My toddler sons, well, they turned everything into a weapon, to include their older sister’s Barbie dolls. They were very destructive and liked to clobber each other, while there I was telling them in this prissy voice, “you’ve got to be nice!” My daughter didn’t take to them wrecking her stuff and she smacked them when they touched her stuff. So much for my toy guns make boys violent belief.
When I told my mother about my sons throwing everything and turning everything into a weapon, which my daughter had never done, my mother said, “welcome to the world of boys.”
Here’s another story on “boys” from a few years later. We were living in Germany and I was throwing a birthday party for one of my sons. My next-door neighbor had a lot of very colorful finches in a cage and she decided to let them fly loose that day. They were getting ready to PCS back to the states. My daughter came running in the house to tell me that all these little boys had sticks and were trying to kill these little finches that were sitting in the bushes around the house. So, I walked outside and there was this group of little boys, bloodlust in their eyes, gleefully trying to kill these tiny birds with big sticks. They were barbarians! In that moment I realized that there is something about males and violence that is probably hard-wired. And I realized that my “be nice” idea had been idiotic all along.
What people believe can’t be forced, so it’s best to try to find that common ground, I keep blabbing on about. Here again, I think my mother had the right idea there too – get people to sit at the same table and share a meal, insisting that everyone be polite.
Simple as it may be, perhaps just getting people to share a meal and talk might work miracles, where all the social programs have failed. Here’s an old LB blog post from 2014:
“I’m always amazed at how when people sit down to share a meal, the petty squabbles subside, conversations almost invariably turn to family and home. A friendly dinner table is the world’s most under-tapped peacemaking tool. The simple act of breaking bread together at a table of brotherhood doesn’t seem all that hard and once people can come together and peacefully share a meal and conversation, then all the other politicized barriers fall to the wayside. Community potlucks could rebuild communities and not cost taxpayers a dime. Believe it, because it’s true and with so much animosity and hatred in America, at the very least neighbors might make new friends, so there’s no downside to the endeavor.”
I also quoted my mother’s least favorite poet, Maya Angelou in that post. I’m not a fan of Angelou’s poetry either, but she sure nailed a home truth with this quote:
“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” –
Again, finding ways to heal the divides in America is an existential necessity.
An op-ed in the Washington Post a few days ago, The Dalai Lama and Arthur Brooks: All of us can break the cycle of hatred, caught my attention. It was a short piece about the deluge of angry word flying across the internet. The Dalai Lama and Brooks write:
“Human beings have a deep longing to live together in harmony. People only feel completely alive when experiencing loving bonds with one another. Everyone, of all faiths and no faith, knows this truth, and most profess it openly.
And yet people fight incessantly. Even though war is blessedly absent in most countries today, these are deeply polarized times. Words too often are delivered with contempt; philosophical differences are likened to warfare; those who simply disagree with another are deemed “enemies.” Often it is on the Internet — which was launched as a forum for unity — where people attack one another, under the cloak of anonymity.”
Their answer to defeating the growing “war of words”, especially online, is very simple:
“Respond with kindness. Want to say something insulting about people who disagree with you? Take a breath and show generosity, instead.”
As I am typing this, Twitter is aflutter with another Trump-generated outrage spin cycle about Trump’s vicious attack yesterday on the late senator, John McCain, while standing in front of Army tanks and the American flag. This spin cycle will agitate for a few days, but nothing will really change, despite a firestorm of words flying in the media, covering this latest Trump spin blitz.
Our politics very much reflects our culture and despite many anti-Trump politicians and pundits asserting, “This (meaning Trump) is not who we are,” sadly, Trump very much reflects who we are.
The truth is, in an America where good character and being truthful matters, neither of our two thoroughly corrupt 2016 presidential contenders would have been their party’s choice. If either party had any ethical standards, they would have rejected such completely mendacious candidates, who were under so heavy a cloud of corruption, and who both have glaring character flaws. We embrace a culture dominated by social media celebrity, Reality TV stardom and a news media entrenched in promoting political spin cycles. Absent this media dominated culture, neither Trump nor Hillary would have risen to the top and diligent investigative reporting in the news media would have sunk both of them.
You don’t need a degree in psychology or fancy clinical terms to see that both Trump and Hillary lie outrageously and they both have the disturbing habit of doubling down on their lies, even when there’s video of them saying or doing the exact thing they are denying. They launch media spin campaigns to bolster their lies rather than admit they lied.
In real life most people with even a bit of a moral compass, recognize thoroughly mendacious people like Trump and Hillary as people to be wary of and untrustworthy, but in American politics now, most Americans chose one of them to lead America…
That speaks to our American culture, where too many people prefer to jump on the latest popular spin train rather than standing up for any sort of moral principles.
Many conservatives and NeverTrumpers made their peace with Trump as POTUS, happily consoling themselves with “But Gorsuch” type rationalizations and trying to skim past the recurring Trump-instigated outrage spin cycles, like this bizarre spectacle of Trump’s attack on McCain yesterday. Likewise, many Democrats chose to ignore the obvious Clinton corruption.
How many Americans will choose to start being kind and generous when facing hostile attacks? Well, judging from a couple of decades of watching… and experiencing, social media behavior, even a few people beginning to lead this “kill them with kindness” approach, assuredly, is a welcome glimmer of hope.
The Dalai Lama and Brooks “Kill Them With Kindness” plan, naturally, resonated with me, because it’s the only way to defeat the massive SPIN information war that drives, not only American media, but also American culture.
Since 1998, I’ve wished a thousand times, and more, that I had never posted any comments online, but perhaps working toward writing less about politics and more about things that matter much more to me might be a good thing. Sometimes all it takes is a small gesture to change the tone, so I welcome the Dalai Lama and Brooks suggestion and will work to try to change the only person I can control… myself (and the tone of my blog & social media comments).
On YouTube, amidst mountains of rubbish, you can also come across truly excellent historical information presented in a very entertaining video format. The above YouTube channel, Townsends, offers hundreds of videos exploring 18th century American living. Along with fascinating historical information, this channel dishes up some amazing 18th century cooking, prepared as it would have been, back when bison roamed America’s fruited plains. The Pemican video is part of a series of videos on this true early American survival food.
The Townsends YouTube channel offers dozens upon dozens of well-researched videos on 18th century cooking and living, presented in an entertaining and educational format. These videos are like a walk back into early American life and you can almost imagine you’re living in George Washington’s time. With my fascination with the American colonial time period, once I came across the Townsends channel, I wished I still had my cheap felt tricorn hat and quill pen.
In my last blog post, I took a pretty dim view of some of the “homesteading” videos I’ve watched on YouTube. There seems to be a consumerist bent to how many of these people approach their “back-to-nature” lifestyle, being motivated mostly by watching other popular YouTube homesteading “influencers”, then following advice gleaned via social media, embarking on moving into rural settings they are unfamiliar with and lacking financial plans and a means to provide for unexpected expenses.
The ground truth appears to be, their goal seems more to become quickly famous (popular) selling their beliefs about their back-to-nature lifestyle than it does to actually develop good working systems on their homestead and that bothers me. Many of these people seem to spend more time working on their YouTube videos and social media than they do on finding practical ways to make their actual homesteading more productive.
Any home, requires food, water, heating, sheltering, waste disposal/sanitation systems. Those are the basics anywhere humans live. The more effectively and reliably these systems operate in a home, the more enjoyable everyday life becomes. Absent dependable systems in the basics, the more stressful life becomes. That’s just common sense, in colonial American homesteading or modern American homesteading.
Rather than be so negative about so much of the YouTube homesteading fad, here’s, the queen of common sense homesteader, Appalachia’s Homestead with Patara, who offers not only sensible homesteading advice, she offers the real deal homespun common sense advice, to people with no background in gardening or farming, embarking on a homesteading lifestyle. Beyond all of the sensible things Patara says about finances and planning for her homestead, at minute 7:32, in the background is a simple clothesline.
I’ve watched another YouTube channel, of a homesteading couple, with a lot of young children, who have put out several videos where the mother laments about all of her off-the-grid laundry misery. They choose to live with no electricity and this mother uses a ridiculously small, folding, wooden drying rack to try to dry clothes outside.
In a recent video, she praised her husband for helping her out with laundry… by carting some of their laundry to the neighbor’s, to wash and dry there. How on earth this is being self-reliant, I have yet to figure out. In another video, this father also talked about going to part-time hours at his retail job in a home improvement store, in hopes of being able to have more time to work at home… mostly, it seemed, on their social media video “business” ventures.
I kept wondering why on earth, living in the Ozarks and this man working in a home improvement store, he hadn’t put up some real clothesline outside, so his wife could make use of the many days of wonderful breezes there. I lived at Fort Leonard Wood in the early 90s, during my husband’s Army career and I had a clothesline in my backyard of our military housing. On many clear, breezy days, I could fill up my clothesline, sometimes three separate times with loads of laundry. I started laundry as soon as my kids left for school and got the first couple loads hung out. Usually by noon, that was dry and I could hang out some more. And if I had still more, by mid-afternoon, I could hang it out and get it dried.
I had a large capacity electric washer and dryer though, so on rainy days, laundry continued without any interruptions. One time, living in MO, the heating element in my dryer stopped working. My husband went and picked up a new heating element and fixed my dryer when he got home, after working a very long day in the Army.
A clothesline is a common sense thing to have living a rural lifestyle, in most parts of the country. It’s also one of those basics that could make laundry less of a trial with a large family and no electricity. A sturdy clothesline doesn’t cost much to put together and for a family with small children, off-the-grid, it makes no sense to me why this mother spends so much time on YouTube lamenting about her laundry woes.
I kept wondering why her husband, who said he worked at a home improvement store, hadn’t put up some sturdy clotheslines, so she could make use of the great breezes that blow through the Ozarks. Instead, this mother waxes on about amber teething necklaces, pricey amazon health food stuff and the kids, unsupervised, were mixing up batter with almond flour in one video. I had priced almond flour for a recipe that called for it. The Walmart store brand was $10 and some change for a 2 lb. bag. The other brands of almond flour cost more than that. I decided to stick with my all-purpose flour and skip trying this new recipe with almond flour.
As irksome as I found this couple’s laundry decision-making, it’s nothing compared to some of the YouTube preppers, like a lady waxing on about “dry canning” store bought rice and beans and claiming they have a shelf life of 30 years. I wondered who on earth tested this “dry canning” method as a safe 30-year food storage method… She did motivate me to go through my cupboards and discard some food that had long passed the expiration date, lol. I have a bad habit of stockpiling store-bought canned goods and packaged food. “Dry canning” store-bought beans and rice is advice, I’ll take a pass on, thank-you very much.
I suppose this sounds like my Three Little Pigs YouTube homesteading saga, so here’s another couple at Living Traditions Homestead (also in the Ozarks), who offer really solid, practical advice on planning and operating a family homestead business. This couple planned for 7 years before moving to a homestead in the country. They paid off all of their debt and appear to do their homework before making big decisions and changes. They offer many interesting cooking and canning videos too.
My dream isn’t a family homestead, but to be completely debt-free and to eventually have a big backyard vegetable garden again and plant lots of flowers. Whenever I browse seed company sites or walk into stores with gardening supplies and plants, my heart longs to buy, buy, buy, but I’m going to just grow some herbs and veggies in containers this year. It’s the same response when I watch many homesteading and gardening videos, my eyes are bigger than my physical energy level and time.
For inspiration on container gardening, here’s another YouTube channel, a very nice couple at, Hollis and Nancy’s Homestead, who offer very clear how-to videos on container gardening methods.
You can learn many positive things from YouTube and social media, but often the “most popular” people or the videos with the most likes aren’t the ones offering the most sensible advice. It’s best to take the time to wander through several YouTube channels when looking for “how-to” videos and think about what that channel is really selling before buying into magical “healthy” products or lifestyles.
As the Appalachia Homestead lady, Patara, advises constantly, “Slow down and think before rushing into things!” That’s sound advice on just about all aspects of life.
“In the military, and in a military family, you learn to do something very hard and not of your own choosing, for a cause bigger than yourself. You’re working for a cause determined by the mechanisms of democracy, standing side by side with others who are fully committed. Current U.S. civilian life has a striking absence of “common causes”—tasks that remind us that there is more that unites us than divide us.”
– Kathy Roth-Douquet
I’ve had this link saved for over a week, intending to use it in a blog post, but really there’s not much I can add to this excellent piece written by Kathy Roth-Douquet.
In many past blog posts, I’ve mentioned my PA Dutch (not Amish, but PA Germans) heritage. My father’s family settled in northeastern PA, before the Revolutionary War, making my family tree’s roots in the Pocono Mountain soil very deep. While many of these PA Dutch relatives and neighbors greatly influenced my life, I have always felt truly fortunate that God blessed me with what I have always considered a wise, Jewish grandmother figure too (mentioned in previous blog posts: here, here, here, here). My childhood UCC Reformed pastor was married to a lovely Jewish lady from New York City, who was educated at Teachers College Columbia University.
The parsonage for St. Matthew’s UCC Church in Kunkletown was not next-door to the church, but was on the edge of the village (yes, Kunkletown was officially designated a “village” in PA):
Hamlets and Villages
Villages in Pennsylvania are often small communities within a township that chose not to incorporate into a borough. Many villages are identified by the familiar PennDOT sign along a state highway. Lahaska is an example of typical village in suburbanPennsylvania.
The parsonage was directly across the road from my childhood home.
Our pastor and his wife. Rev. and Mrs. Boehner, had collected a very nice home library, which Mrs. Boehner kept meticulously organized and maintained. They also subscribed to several magazines, some of which their subscription went back to the 1920s. When Rev. Boehner retired in 1969, he turned a building next to the parsonage, which he had built for his woodworking, into a small retirement home. In this small open floor plan design, with a small kitchen area, dining area, and living room area, they designed a long wall of floor-to-ceiling bookcases, with a built-in desk area centered along the wall, to showcase their home library. Mrs. Boehner had her piano on one end of the living room too, which added to the air of culture, when you walked into their home.
Mrs. Boehner dedicated her life to doing good works, in a tradition long familiar in pastors’ wives. She also became neighborhood children’s go-to source when writing school reports or needing information. Kunkletown did not have a public library and I believe the nearest public library, when I was a kid, was in Stroudsburg, PA. (half-hour drive away) Later there was a local branch in Brodheadsville, PA (10 miles away). Mrs. Boehner allowed us to use their home library like our own personal library and she graciously served as our volunteer librarian, project advisor and mentor with teaching us how to research topics.
Often, if we told Mrs. Boehner our report topic, she would search her home library and magazine collection, which she had organized on small bookcases in their attic, and she would have the stack of books and magazines, with article pages bookmarked, waiting for us. If we wanted to do some sleuthing ourselves, she allowed us to scamper up their attic ladder and spend hours up there looking through her magazine collection. She often would climb up to check on us or join us in our efforts. She was a great teacher.
By the time I was a teenager, she had singled me out as her favorite pupil and I am thankful everyday for the efforts she put into teaching me to think about many things larger than my little village. She would often have books and magazines, neatly stacked, waiting for me, where she would smile and say, “Susie, I thought of you when I read this.”, then she’d proceed to explain an article or a book or often a quote she had jotted down, which she thought was memorable or important to what she believed was the best education – a classic liberal arts education.
She allowed me to borrow her Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and of course, I have a copy of my own now. She told me that it would be a good idea if I started a notebook to keep my favorite quotations all in one place. I immediately got a Mead spiral organizer notebook, with pockets to serve as my very own quote notebook. I still have it:
Mrs. Boehner subscribed to Yankee Magazine, often having articles marked, in the latest one, waiting for me to read. I developed a soft spot in my heart for that Yankee Magazine and later their books. Even though Yankee Magazine is about New England, I felt a deep connection to much of the homespun advice and stories. Her love of Yankee Magazine led to my love of it too, but also my interest in learning how “everything” was done in the “olden days”. I acquire books like:
And, another fascination of mine is what nowadays they call “repurposing”. That is the process of taking old junk and turning it into some sort of other usable item. I think this book title is more honest:
However, you might find real gems, so a book like this is handy too:
All of this brings me to the one thing that I laid claim to as a definitive PA Dutch habit – one I grew up embracing wholeheartedly and one my husband never understood, no matter how often I told him, “Pie is the best thing to eat for breakfast. PERIOD!” I grew up eating pie for breakfast, even though my mother cooked traditional breakfast spreads and we had plenty of cold cereal, oatmeal and even Cream of Wheat options to choose from.
My favorite pies for breakfast were shoofly pie, which is the PA Dutch molasses crumb pie and funny cake, which only the PA Dutch would embrace, with its total disregard for piling in as many extra calories and fat into one dessert as possible. Funny cake is yellow cake, marbled with chocolate syrup, which pools in a nice gooey layer on the bottom, inside a flaky pie shell – yes, it’s a cake baked in a pie shell. I used to bake both often when my kids were little.
2 1/4 c. flour
1 2/3 c. sugar
3/4 c. milk
2/3 c. Crisco vegetable shortening
1 tsp. salt
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Beat, then add:
1/2 c. milk
3 unbeaten eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Pour batter into 2 – 9″ pie plates lined with unbaked pie shells. Pour funny cake liquid over each pie and bake at 375 degrees or 30-35 minutes.
Funny Cake Liquid:
1/2 c. cocoa
1 c. sugar
1 c. boiling water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
(Do not cool before pouring over batter)
Then I realized that eating pie for breakfast wasn’t really just a PA Dutch thing…
“A Yankee, to a European, is any American. To a Southerner, it’s a Northerner; to Northerner it’s a New Englander; to a New Englander, a resident of Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont. But to those of us who are still not excluded by other definition, it’s someone who eats pie for breakfast.
The breed is getting rarer, since most people don’t eat anything for breakfast anymore — or not so’s you’d notice. Pie for breakfast is a custom from the days when breakfast was a full and hearty meal eaten after a couple of hours of pre-dawn work had already taken place.”
Pie For Breakfast by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers, p. 168, The Yankee Magazine Cookbook
Well, even if eating pie for breakfast isn’t just a PA Dutch thing, let me assure you that shoofly pie or funny cake are way better with a cup of hot coffee in the morning than apple pie or some other not-PA Dutch pie selection;-)
Failing that, my mother baked homemade cinnamon rolls that were to die for…
Have a nice day:-)
Looking through quotes this morning. Here’s one I like:
“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters; you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny'”
— Carl Schurz