February 21, 2009
I''m not a certified empty nester.
Having three kids in college who might return like bad nickels if this economy thing doesn''t turn around, makes me no more than an empty nester-in-training.
For now, however, there is peace in the valley.
Last year I struggled with the silence, though now it seems with every passing day I find that it''s not the worst of circumstances.
The new lifestyle has brought about a reason to change my ways.
Genetically I''m predisposed to living as a pack rat.
From a practical standpoint, I understand "stuff" should sometimes find its way onto the garbage truck. I have a drawer in the kitchen that won''t close. It''s full of plastic grocery bags that I have button''holed to reuse as trash bags, in the interest of saving the planet, of course. My pack rattedness has overtaken my need for trash bags.
After reading self-help book after self-help book, meditating and performing deep breathing exercises, I have found the emotional strength to clean house.
My plan is to start in the kitchen. After all, I have a ready supply of grocery/trash bags strategically located within arm''s length.
One of my mainstays for entertainment, especially on nights when I can''t sleep, is watching the English-accented folks hawk every kitchen gadget imaginable. They must be pretty good marketeers. I have every chopper, sealer and sandwich maker on the market -- some that have never been out of the box, probably because I lost my enthusiasm for slicing and dicing potatoes and cabbage by the time Nancy, the most wonderful of wonderful UPS ladies, knocked on my door.
All of that gear will make good garage-sale fare later on when it warms up; however, in the meantime, it will only make a messy living room even messier.
This afternoon I did an inventory of food on hand in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.
I was amazed to find that I had 10 cans of chicken stock, five cans of mushrooms, six or seven cans of cream of mushroom soup and Lord only knows how many cans of tomatoes, whole and Rotel variety. I guess the Truesdale''s haven''t been enjoying as much Rotel dip as in the past.
Over Christmas I got to hang out with a free-spirited woman who like me is more or less a ''60''s holdover. She shares my likes when it comes to writing, singing and playing guitar; however, unlike me, she is the real deal in that she makes a living doing it. You can on occasion hear one of her songs on the radio.
One night I was having dinner in the home of a friend where she was staying. She was the chef-in-charge for the evening.
As a regular contributor to Public Radio she is in tune with the trends of the day. She told us about a cooking program they air once in awhile on how to prepare meals from what is on hand, nothing more, nothing less.
She prepared our Sunday night dinner from leftovers and such from the weekend meals.
I had a couple of beers before dinner was served, therefore, I''m probably not the most objective food critic: However, for my unsophisticated palette, the meal was downright tasty.
This afternoon, while standing there gazing in my pantry and trying to decide what I was going to do with all of that chicken stock, I remembered my friend preparing the leftover meal.
This was my opportunity to bust out of my comfort zone. I would make a big pot of mystery soup.
Pinch o'' this
Scrounging around in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator I found a pretty firm yellow onion. I gave it a rough chop and sautéed it in a little olive oil. I opened one of the cans of mushrooms and tossed them in.
Now for the seasoning. If I were making a chocolate cake, I would add either garlic salt or Cavender''s Greek Seasoning to the recipe. For my mystery soup I chose Cavender''s.
Like my compulsive late-night shopping, I am also a Sam''s shopaholic. I discovered a whole sealed roll of pre-fab chicken breast packaged like cans of tuna fish that I had bought about a year ago and never used once. I had meat.
Rummaging around in the freezer I found a half-open bag of English peas and carrots that were on the verge of becoming freezer burned. Why not? After all we have to have a little color.
Finally, I shed three cans of chicken stock and about a quarter-pound of spaghetti. For thickening, a can of that mushroom soup.
I let it all simmer for about an hour.
Had Al Purnell dropped in this afternoon, I bet you I would have gotten an, "It''s good," without having offered him a beer.
Not bragging, it was good.
My plan (for now -- got to have an out) is to buy only milk, bread and raisin bran until I -- and whoever else shows up here -- have consumed what is on-hand.
There is one thing bothering me.
I am going to have a heck-of-a-time finding a creative way to use two cans of cranberry sauce between now and the Fourth of July.
Roger Truesdale owns and operates Bayou Management Inc. and is a semi-professional guitar player. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roger owns Bayou Management, Inc. and is also a semi-pro guitar player.
2. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT