Ten once-exotic foods that have become commonplace

Americans’ food choices expanded unbelievably in the generation between the events told in Daffodil Uprising and What’s Left. Admittedly, Cassia’s mother had grown up with a wider awareness of dietary options than had her father – her mother’s Greek heritage relied on olive oil rather than Crisco, for starters, and running a restaurant meant keeping an eye open for new options. Roasting a lamb for Easter would have been in her mother’s background but probably made her father’s side cringe. Still, it’s mindboggling to think how exotic some of today’s common dishes were just a half-century ago.

Here are ten:

  1. Broccoli. And zucchini and summer squash, which show up on a lot of national chain restaurant plates. Hey, even fresh parsley.
  2. Yogurt. Seriously, even before you add granola, another upstart.
  3. Tacos. For that matter, anything Mexican like burritos or quesadillas or margaritas. We’ve even added a holiday every May just to celebrate this development.
  4. Salsa. And sriracha and any of those Texas hot sauces. Whatever happened to ketchup?
  5. Sushi. I still can’t believe you can get it at the grocery.
  6. Thai. For that matter, anything Asian. You know, this extends to Vietnamese and Indian and even authentic Chinese. For me as a child, chop suey on top of wormy dried noodles, both out of a can, were as adventurous as it got for miles around.
  7. Pasta. Yes, any of those various Italian noodles. Our spaghetti used to come with sauce in a can. Seriously. And a spaghetti dinner was typically a fundraising event in a church. Oh, and it was still pronounced EYE-talian. Ouch!
  8. Espresso. The word itself conjured up images of beatniks. And now? Just think of all the gourmet coffee storefronts and drive-throughs. Not just Starbucks, either. You no longer have to explain cappuccino or latte or café au lait apologetically, thank goodness. Many of us even make our own.
  9. Flatbreads. As in wraps, especially, though they can be the foundation of a good pizza. Well, speaking of breads, add baguettes and croutons to the list of advances. We’ve really come a long way, baby.
  10. Real cheese. Not the processed stuff. We now have so many glorious choices we could do another Tendril on just this one item. Hallelujah!

History? Pizza had recently entered the mainstream. And wine was still a daunting frontier.

What would you add to the list?

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My existence as an ‘extra’ in the photos

Curious to see if Portsmouth had its Greek festival last year – an event that was cancelled the previous summer – a Google search informed me it had returned but, alas, I had missed out. Besides, the date’s been moved up a few weeks.

So with the web page announcing this year’s event still up before me, what dawned on me that the featured photo was from the previous occasion. While staring idly at the screen, I recalled being at that dance demonstration and, lo and behold, I then noticed an acquaintance watching from one of the tables under the big tent. Finally, in the shadow beside him, there I was, too, quite faintly.

Well, a similar thing happened in the online videos of the Dover festival where I’m moving in a line of dancers. I’m not exactly a standout.

In any number of photos of my choir in performance, the same thing happens. I usually need a magnifying glass – and that’s if the conductor’s head is not in my way. (See that bald spot? The top of my head, the only part visible.)

Makes me feel something like Woody Allen’s Zelig. If only I could intentionally be such a “human chameleon” in so many major events.

Yes, I know a good journalist tries to render himself invisible when covering a story, unless it’s a rowdy news conference, but this is ridiculous. It could lead to an inferiority complex, no?

So how do you think you look in a photo?

Mixmaster? Just look at ‘Daffodil’

What, me as a Mixmaster?

Just look at the topics percolating in my novel Daffodil Uprising.

Anybody got a boxed cake mix? That was a popular use for this kitchen gadget. Here’s an English Sunbeam Mixmaster model A24, circa 1969–72. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Mitch Ames.)

Here are ten:

  1. The Sixties. As the subtitle says, this book is about the making of a hippie. It’s a turbulent time.
  2. The Establishment. The military-industrial complex and its old-boy network hold undue sway on the direction of the university, often at the expense of the students or faculty. How can their power trips be thwarted?
  3. Marijuana and other illicit drugs. Recreational substance use become commonplace, a unifying element for many youths. But it comes at a cost.
  4. Free love. The Pill changes sexual relationships, no doubt about that. But romantic relationships are still tricky.
  5. Antiwar protests and the military draft weigh heavily on young adult American males. It fuels anger, fear, and a sense of helplessness.
  6. Mentors and elders. While Kenzie comes to Daffodil to be nurtured in a fast-track fine arts curriculum, the place he really finds guidance is among his peers – especially the elders in his dorm and his future sister-in-law Nita. They are crucial to his personal growth.
  7. Community and network. Kenzie’s interactions with dormmates and, later, his housemates plus select others are essential for his survival and advancement. It’s not healthy to be alone, no matter how independent you imagine yourself to be.
  8. The practice of an art. Photography is central to Kenzie’s self-identity, but he is still looking to see exactly where that leads. Having a concert pianist as a roommate adds to his comprehension as an artist. And then there’s his dorm’s little literary enterprise, pushing him in an entirely different direction. How far can he bend?
  9. High hopes and broken promises. Kenzie and his circle are so green and full of dreams. The university itself recruits him for an enterprising career track, and then his passionate embrace of the lover who fuels aspirations of soul mate send him even higher. But not everything is rosy, and the disillusionment can be crushing.
  10. The American Midwest. Kenzie’s roots in Iowa and his new surroundings in southern Indiana give a particular flavor to the developments. It’s not as out-of-the-way as they think.

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Why this year is a hippie jubilee

What a pivotal year 1969 would turn out to be. Hard to think that was 50 years ago now – seems so long ago and yet, for those of us who experienced it, still so vivid. The hippie movement spread from a freakish fringe happening and out across the nation. So much of its impact we now take for granted, and so much remains to be accomplished.

Fifty years! That’s the jubilee, if only we’d have the corresponding release promised in Scripture.

Here are ten big things that happened that year.

  1. Richard M. Nixon becomes president of the United States. And we had thought Lyndon Johnson was bad? We were in mourning. January 20.
  2. The Beatles final performance. Where would rock go? January 30.
  3. Chappaquidick Affair. U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy loses control of his car and plunges into a pond. A woman’s body is found later in the vehicle. The Kennedy magic ends. July 25.
  4. First moon landing. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as astronaut Neil Armstrong says as he first walks on the surface. Anything is now thought to be possible. July 29.
  5. Charles Manson cult murders five people, including the Hollywood actress Sharon Tate. Are these villains hippies? August 5.
  6. Not the only big music festival that year, but the most famous. Suddenly, hippies have come out of the woodwork and are visible everywhere. August 15 to 18.
  7. First message sent across Arpanet, precursor to the Internet. Little does anyone know of the life-changes ahead. For me, it’s emblematic of the far-out thinking that accompanied the hippie revolution. October 29.
  8. March on Washington to protest the war attracts 250,000 participants. The largest demonstration to date. November 15.
  9. Draft lottery instituted. Young men now have a clearer idea of their chances of being conscripted for military service. Will this defuse the antiwar fever? Many did utter a big sigh of relief. December 1.
  10. Altamont Speedway Free Festival. Event marred by Hells Angels, violence, and deaths. December 6.

Other significant events include the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Stanley v. Georgia declaring “the State may not prohibit mere possession of obscene materials for personal use” (April 7), the black students’ takeover of Willard Straight Hall at Cornell University (April 19), widespread police crackdowns on student protests elsewhere, and the Stonewall Inn gay club riot in New York City (June 28).

In my novel Daffodil Uprising, similar pressures are building in the hills of southern Indiana. Look how chaotic these events remain when viewed together.

PLAYBOY CENTERFOLDS VERSUS MY OLD GIRLFRIENDS

Like many young males of his generation, Kenzie in my new novel Daffodil Uprising gazes on the Playboy magazine centerfolds as an ideal of feminine form.

In fact, he mysteriously receives a manila envelope containing about two dozen of them, and they wind up being taped to the ceiling of his dorm room. They fit perfectly in the recessed space between the beams.

Never mind that he still didn’t have a real love life. She would be coming along shortly.

Thinking of this while revising the book had me revisiting images of some of those classic “playmates” online. To my surprise, they’re far more ordinary than we guys would have admitted at the time. To be honest, I think of at least ten of my former girlfriends were more attractive.

My, have times changed! Just think of all the selfies floating around on the Net or all of the plastic surgery enhancements now considered routine. Baring skin no longer has the risqué air it carried back then, either.

Me? I still prefer a natural look. As did Hef back then, when the mansion was still in Chicago.

Note the space between the beams in the ceiling. Perfect for displaying Playboy centerfolds, back in the day. By the way, we never had bookcases as standard furniture. Had to make our own with boards and concrete blocks.

TEN THINGS I’D DO IF I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS

Admittedly, a million ain’t what it used to be, and at this point in my life, I’m looking at it quite differently than I might have a while back. For one thing, I’m more cognizant of the security of my wife and family, now that they’re part of my life. That said, here goes.

  1. Invest the initial sum and live off the income. Just a 5% return would be an additional $50,000 a year income. That would be a huge change in our lives. (A prudent strategy would also require ways of protecting the capital, should I be afflicted with a long-term illness.)
  2. Can some of this be applied as angel investing for startups without involving great risk? Or low-interest loans to worthy individuals? This could be fun and satisfying.
  3. Increase our charitable donations. We do have many causes we passionately endorse.
  4. Contribute to political candidates. Relatively small amounts still add up, especially at a local level.
  5. Travel. Even getting away for a few days can be great fun and refreshment.
  6. Home renovations and repairs. A three-season porch with hot tub would be at the top of our list, but there’s plenty of upkeep needed in an old house like ours – energy-efficient windows on the second and third floors, painting inside and out, tree-trimming … oh, it’s a very long list, believe me.
  7. New wheels. Nothing fancy, mind you. But I’m really pushing the limits on my Camry.
  8. Attend more concerts and theater. We really enjoy going when we can.
  9. Quality of life gifts for others. These don’t have to be big or splashy – just little things that can make a difference. A class for a child, for instance, or a pound of good coffee.
  10. Support for my own writing. It would be wonderful to hire an editor for the revisions, artists for new covers, or move into paper editions for my lifetime of creative output. (Oh, dream on!)

~*~

Things would get really interesting if we raised the amount to $10 million. So what would you do with that first million? Or the next nine?

~*~

Brussels sprouts get sweeter after they’re hit with frost. We harvest ours for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners the day the cook’s ready. The biggest, tastiest ones are no doubt buried in the snow.

Of course, this is totally unrelated to the theme. Just another thing on my mind.

I REALLY WELCOMED THE OPPORTUNITY TO RECAST MY NOVELS

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.com, is a refreshing breeze in the publishing world. With his ebook empire, he’s allowed countless authors and aspirants to put their work in front of the public at no cost. And, unlike Amazon, he’s made these works available across a range of digital retailers and their platforms. That in itself is amazing.

I find his reflections on the publishing industry refreshing. For one, he’s noted that one of the advantages of ebooks is that they can be updated and revised easily and inexpensively. A new cover, for example, can work wonders. When it comes to paper publishing, this would cost thousands and is almost unthinkable.

Well, that got me thinking about my earlier novels once I had finished polishing What’s Left, which begins a generation later. Looking at those events from the perspective of the central hippie boy’s daughter, I realized crucial changes were due. I just had no idea how thorough they’d be.

For one thing, I found myself renaming many of the characters and giving each one more of a backstory and motivation. In Daffodil Uprising, the dorm residents no longer run as a pack, and I’m especially fond of three who end up functioning as elders.

I also added a weekly peace vigil and a clandestine bomber, even before getting to the university president and his conniving wife. I’m still not sure which one is more of a vampire.

Now that the entire Hippie Trails series has been recast into a Freakin’ Free Spirits cycle, I’m quite happy that the books form a more coherent whole. Being away from the newsroom for the past several years has allowed me to look more closely at the fictional scene I create. The journalist would see mostly action but not much of the characters’ differing psychologies. Just the facts, ma’am. This time around, I’m hooked on their quirks – especially their irrational feelings.

And as for the dreaded editorializing? Not me, oh no. But Cassia’s presence freely unleashes an opinionated viewpoint that I find most refreshing. That daughter can have quite a tongue.