Tag Archives: Salad

Fitness House

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There is a kind of health movement going on in my house these days.

I start most mornings with a bit of exercise, and finish my day with a good walk.

I replace one meal on many days with a high protein shake. I’m aiming for healthier meals all around. Salad is my dinner this evening.

The other day, having made a nice, brothy soup with lots of vegetables and some wild rice, I decided to make bread.

Fitness House Bread.

The recipe comes from one of my oldest cookbooks, Home Food Systems. It’s not even really a cookbook, though it does contain some good recipes. It is more a resource for providing your own food, from raising and milling grains to harvesting and putting up vegetables, to raising and butchering farm animals. Or rabbits. Or fish.

There was a time in my life when I looked forward to living a life that close to the land, and that is when I acquired the book.

I keep it now, I guess, for the sentimental memories of that stage in my life. Most of the information does not apply to the way I live or eat. Most of the product reviews are so far outdated as to be useless. Just about the only recipe I ever use is the one for Fitness House Bread.

It’s a good recipe, though. Here it is:

  • Seven and one-half cups of whole wheat flour, warmed
  • Six teaspoons of dry yeast
  • One teaspoon honey
  • Four tablespoons of molasses
  • Four cups of very warm water

Dissolve the yeast in one cup of the water with the honey. Proof until foamy.

Mix the molasses into one cup of the water.

Add the yeast, molasses and the rest of the water to the flour. Mix well. Dough will be very sticky.

Divide in two, roughly shape into loaves and place in two well buttered loaf pans.

Let rise for about an hour. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes, until loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped.

That’s it! Easy!

I always “doctor up” the second loaf. This time I added dried cherries, chopped walnuts, slivered almonds and currants.

My plan was to cut that loaf into thin slices as soon as it was cool, and freeze them, so that I could pull out a slice or two for toast. Unfortunately, it was SO good, i ate four slices warm from the oven.

It really doesn’t matter what the name is, it is not a fitness product if I don’t know when to stop!

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The White Stuff

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Yes, it’s snowing again.

We’ve gotten plenty of snow here on Beaver Island this Winter. The last time I checked, we were at one hundred and thirteen inches (that’s over 287cm!!). And now it’s coming down again.

Our all-time record is 138 inches of snowfall in a season. We’re in position to beat that record this year.

That’s not the “white stuff” I’m talking about here, though.

Potatoes, rice, pasta…that white stuff.

The foods that seem so comforting this time of year.

The foods that are most friendly to my budget.

The foods that – according to the experts – women my age should avoid, for optimum health and weight control.

I’m pretty careful most of the time.

I center my meals around fresh vegetables from my garden in the summertime. Salad bowls are my usual dinner in warm weather, with chickpeas, egg and nuts added for protein and crunch. If I have a bit of meat, I’ll add it for variety.

In the wintertime, soups are the staple of my diet. I use stocks and vegetable purees that I put up in the Fall, from my harvest. Beans and grains give it substance. Meat, when I have it, for flavor. I make a whole-grain bread that’s a nice accompaniment.

Oh, I have my little indulgences: a glass of wine; chocolate in almost any form; coffee; cream; cheese…still, pretty healthy, for the most part.

Not this winter, it seems.

When the first wave of cold came through, I started wanting “comfort” food. The “white stuff.” Macaroni and cheese; tuna casserole; baked potatoes. As layer upon layer of snow came down, the craving continued. Goulash; fried rice; stew. The many (so many!) extremely cold and blustery days where the wind drove the temperature down and my drafty house was in a constant state of refrigeration, I warmed myself around the oven cooking one heavy meal after another.

Last week, I made a nice turkey soup. Broth and diced turkey that I’d put in the freezer after Thanksgiving, fresh celery, onion and carrots. “Substance,” I thought, “It needs some substance in this cold!” Barley was one healthy choice that I had on hand. I could have also chosen brown rice, wild rice, spelt, wheat berries or quinoa. I opted, instead, to make home-made egg noodles. You know, the white flour and egg recipe. That’s substance, all right.

One night I decided I’d just have breakfast for dinner. I mixed up a half-batch of pancakes. I made them in the silver-dollar size. Added blackberries that I’d frozen last Fall. Ate them with just butter. Looking back at the meal, I thought, “Congratulations, Cindy, you have just eaten one cup of white flour…butter added.”

Yesterday I made St. Scholastica’s Soup. It’s a lentil, barley and wild rice soup that’s one of my staple recipes. I usually top a bowl of the thick vegetarian soup with a dollop of sour cream and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Yesterday, because I had the time, and it was cold, I also made two loaves of crusty Italian bread so that I’d have that to go along with the soup.

I also took time yesterday to try on some clothes, in anticipation of a trip to the mainland. The snow is softening the landscape; it seems my shape has shifted and changed as well.

There is no doubt about it, it’s time to give up the white stuff!

Dear Harry…

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Hey, Harry, it’s me, Cindy.

We know each other, though probably not well.

You’ve been coming around to the island for at least ten years, maybe more.

We’ve run into each otherĀ  in several island businesses.

You were always the customer; I was the service person.

I’ve helped you find what you needed at the hardware store; I’ve waited on you many times at the Lodge; I believe I’ve checked out your purchases at the grocery store; I think I served you at the deli, perhaps at the Old Rectory Restaurant, and maybe even at the Shamrock, when I was serving breakfast there.

My point is that we have a bit of history.

From that history, you could gather enough information to know that I work hard at doing a good job, no matter what job I’m doing, and that I always try to keep my customers happy. I’m actually kind of famous for it, on this little island.

Beyond that, you don’t really know me, anymore than I know you.

We know each others names and faces, and say “hello” if we meet on the street.

We’re, I guess, more like long acquaintances, rather than friends.

You probably don’t know, for instance, that I am college-educated, qualified to teach at university level. You may not know that I successfully wrote and then administered a good sized grant for our school here on Beaver Island. Or that I teach art classes at the school.

You may not be aware that I’m an artist but, yes, I am, university-trained in painting, printmaking and ceramics. I have work in a half-dozen permanent collections, and about the same number of galleries.

That’s okay. All of our encounters have been with me serving you. You know what you see.

You may or may not be aware that I am a self-supporting woman, without a partner to help with expenses. Don’t worry; I am proud of my ability to take care of myself.

You probably don’t know that in the last two and a half years, I lost two siblings and a parent and that in many ways I’m still reeling with the sadness. That should not concern you; I manage my grief, continue on through the sorrow, and it doesn’t affect my performance at work.

You are no doubt unaware that in just this last week, my grandson was hospitalized for a serious (thankfully treatable) condition, one island friend died and another was given a dire diagnosis, my aunt continues to fight a lung infection and I got into an argument with a dear friend. These things all weigh on my mind, but they should not bother you.

You probably know I am no longer working at the hardware store, but I doubt you know the details.

I turned sixty a month ago. You may be able to imagine how difficult it is to put one’s self out there in new and unfamiliar jobs…especially at this age. That is my problem, not yours.

One thing you should know – not that it should make a bit of difference to you – is that a server in a restaurant makes $2.75 an hour, plus tips. That’s not a wage we can take home, you understand. Because tips are also income, subject to all the same taxes and with-holdings as the wage, our pay envelopes generally just hold an accounting of which government agencies our money has gone to, but no check.

I know there is debate about tipping in general. Some people insist that the servers should be paid solely by their employers, and not depend on the generosity of their customers. The other side of that debate suggests that if that were the case, food would be so expensive, no one could afford to eat out. I don’t know the answer, but I depend, for my survival, on the system as it is.

“TIP”, I have heard, is an acronym for “To Insure Promptness”. Whether that is true or not, we all understand that good service warrants a good tip, and that sub-standard service can be penalized by withholding part or all of it. As there is also debate about what the correct percentage of the bill a good tip should be, it’s all understandably unpredictable.

Even at that, you surprised me last Saturday night, Harry.

We both know how it went down. At table #7, you and your wife were in an ideal location to see all the activity going on in the restaurant. We had quite a few “walk-ins” in addition to the several reserved tables, and two large groups of eight or more diners. There were two servers, BethAnne and myself; we were both obviously busy. Simon was alone in the kitchen, manning the salad station, the saute pans, the grill and – when time allowed – acting as dishwasher. Ray was the host, over-seeing the dining room, but he was also the bartender. He was navigating from one area to the next, assisting and trouble-shooting wherever he could be of the most help and – when time allowed – acting as dishwasher.

I greeted you both, told you about the specials, and took your drink order. I entered it into the computer; Ray prepared the drinks. When he saw that I was tied up with my large table in the back dining room, he delivered the drinks to you, bless his heart. None of us want to watch ice melting while drinks wait at the bar. I went back to your table, acknowledged that you had your drinks, and took your food order. I entered the salads into the computer.

There may appear to be pauses, or lapses in movement,as I relate the story… but you know that’s not the case. I had other diners in various stages of their dinner at tables right in your line of vision. I had a large group in the dining room directly behind you. No-one was pausing for any reason. This time of year, with less staff, we do our own table-clearing; and re-set the tables with linens and silver. With drink in hand, you could easily watch all the activity from your corner table.

I was delivering salads to my large group when your salads came up. Ray delivered them, so that you’d have them in front of you with time to enjoy them before your main dishes arrived. Again, I went to let you know your food order had been placed and that I was glad to see you had your salads. “I certainly hope to see more of you this evening,” you said, “so far we haven’t seen much of you.” I apologized, explained how busy we all were, then teased – as I thought you were teasing – “You’ll have to give Ray the entire tip, if this keeps up!”

Well, I was distributing meals to nine people in the back when your entrees were put up in the window, and out of the goodness of his heart, not wanting your good food to languish under the light for even a couple minutes, Ray delivered them to you.

You were clearly angry then, not wanting to talk to me about whether your meals were done to your liking, not wanting to talk to me at all. You turned away, scowling. Again, I apologized, explaining that our goal was always to get the food out to you as quickly as possible, hot and freshly prepared. You continued to look away, your face set in a frown. I didn’t have time to do more grovelling; I had other customers.

Now, the bottom line is, you were served good food in a timely fashion. Your drinks were cold, salads fresh and entrees hot and good. That is our goal, and what all of us work together to achieve. We were successful, though it perhaps didn’t happen in exactly the way you thought it should.

When I approached you later about dessert, you refused, and curtly demanded the bill, which I provided. You gave me your credit card; I ran it through, and returned with your receipts. You signed, then you and your wife went in and sat at the bar. From that stool, you watched and scowled after me for the next hour.

I cleared your table, and went to the computer to apply the credit card charges. In black lettering under your signature, you had written, “NO SERVICE – NO TIP!!!” Underlined three times. In the line where the tip belonged, you had put -$5.00…and in your total, you hadĀ deducted that five dollars from the cost of your dinner!

I have been waiting tables for over thirty years. I have been over-tipped and under-tipped. I have been “stiffed” on the tip. Never have I been “docked” from my own money until now! This is a new one on me, Harry.

Now I am still learning, every day, new things about myself…but some things I know. In whatever job I am doing, I always strive to do the best job possible. I don’t always succeed, but it is never from lack of effort. If I disappoint anyone, it is an even greater disappointment to me. I truly want to please. Everyone. Always.

When I tell you about my personal difficulties, it is not to gain your sympathy and it is certainly not to provide an excuse for not doing my job well. I still insist that you were given good service! It is only so that perhaps, the next time you choose deliberate and unnecessary meanness, you might stop and think that life itself might already have given that person a beating, and you could save yourself the trouble.

One thing has become very clear in my mind, having experienced so much death in the last couple years: Life is Short.

We all have a very short time on this earth to provide the information that we will be judged by and remembered by forever after.

I hope that you gained enough satisfaction from your treatment of me, Harry, to justify how I will now think of you.

Personally, I want to be known as someone who is thoughtful, generous in spirit and kind-hearted. I try to make sure that my words and actions stay in line with those goals.

I am making an exception to that, Harry, in writing this, because I so badly want you to know that, though we don’t know each other well and have never been friends, I never thought unkindly of you. After your actions of the other night, I will now and forevermore think of you as a big asshole.

I hope it was worth it.