Currently viewing the tag: "aging"

by Valerie Nusbaum

I’m back. My apologies for missing last month. We had a family emergency, and I wasn’t finding any humor in that situation. I’ll fill you in on that in a bit, but I want to start out by wishing my mother a very happy birthday. Miss Wanda turned 90 years old on January 19. I won’t dismiss Mom’s accomplishment by saying she’s “90 years young.”  That’s just silly. Mom would tell you that she feels every day of her 90 years, and it was an effort for her to get to this point. True, she’s perky and feisty when it suits her, but she’s seen a lot of heartache and hardship in her life. Aging is not for the faint of heart, even though it’s also true that until recently, Miss Wanda was walking nearly an hour a day on her treadmill, driving a car, cooking meals for the neighborhood, and generally taking care of herself.

On December 12, 2021, Mom had a bad fall. She broke her wrist and hip, endured surgery to repair the hip, spent a long time in the hospital, and an even longer time in a rehab center. As of this writing, I’m not sure whether Mom will come home with us for more recovery and rehab or if she’ll transition to another facility for her care. Either way, we’re grateful and blessed that she’s still with us, but also sad that her life as she knew it has had to change. I can’t say it strongly enough to all of you: Keep the people you love close (as close as possible in these COVID times) and plan for the future. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, but it’s a safe bet that it won’t all be good. There.  Didn’t I just brighten your day?

It’s not my intention to preach this month, but I’ve been doing a whole lot of thinking while I’m lying awake worrying, and some things have come to mind. One of those things is portion control.

Don’t get excited. I’m not calling anyone overweight. It’s just that we’re in the early part of a brand new year, and it’s natural for us to think about losing a few pounds and getting in shape. I know that some people have gained weight during the pandemic, and there is always overeating during the holiday season, so it’s only human that we’d be feeling bloated as we start thinking about wearing shorts and bathing suits in a few months. I don’t have to worry about that so much because I no longer wear either of those things.  And, I hate capri pants. Yes, I said it, but I digress.

My thought on losing weight is simply to cut back on portions. We all know that restaurants give us too much food for one meal. Make two meals out of it, and since leftovers are yucky, you may end up not eating the second half of your burrito. Eat what you enjoy. Just don’t eat as much of it. Life is way too hard for us to deprive ourselves of a donut…or half of it, anyway.

It also occurred to me late one night that in this age of appropriate behavior, a lot of women are missing out on compliments being bestowed by nice men. I don’t mean the kind of sleazy stuff that some guys think is acceptable. I’m talking about sincere compliments, such as “You look nice,” or “You’re beautiful.” In today’s world, we aren’t supposed to focus on a woman’s appearance, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m simply saying that a well-placed compliment can brighten a woman’s day, particularly if it comes from a man she’s interested in.  Unfortunately, these poor men don’t know whether they’ll get hugged or slapped with a lawsuit for saying something. I’m lucky that I’m not out there trying to date or looking for someone special. My special someone just told me that I was pretty while I was wearing a ratty blue bathrobe.  Granted, he knows who feeds him, but it’s still nice to hear.

And, lastly, I’d like to touch on the fact that all of my medical professionals are twelve years old.  Not really, but you know where I’m going with this. As we continue to grow older, so do our health care providers. We’re retiring and so are they. So, we’re forced to find new caregivers, and they’re all fresh out of school. Again, that’s not a bad thing.  The young people are strong and sharp of mind, and they’ve learned new technologies and procedures. I do, however, occasionally have the urge to ask my ophthalmologist to send in his father.

My mom’s ordeal of late has had me thinking of all these things because the food at the rehab center was not a diet she was used to eating, and I was kept busy taking food to her so that she’d eat and get stronger.  One of her nurses was a man looking for a good woman, and he told us he was clueless about how to date. And, all the therapists and nursing staff were young. We adjust and adapt.

So, once again, I’m saying “Happy Birthday, Mom.” There will be cake. You’ve earned it.

I’m sending special thanks to our dear friends Loberta and Harold Staley, Barb Barbe, and Susie and Paul Gaither. You helped so much.

Seasoning Meats

Buck Reed

When we are talking about seasoning meats, I do not mean salt and peppering a steak before putting it on a grill. For the record, by all means, do that. Seasoning meats are a class of ingredients that, when incorporated into a dish, add a distinct flavor to it. These are usually meats that are processed by curing, aging, or smoking, or a combination of two or even three of them. Before refrigeration, these processes were necessary to extend the shelf-life of these products. As these processes became more refined, and even elevated into an art, these ingredients became an important part of our cooking tradition.

Curing is the method used to draw out the moisture of a meat or fish with a mixture of salt, sugar, spices, and other chemicals. The curing process adds a unique flavor to the meat, depending on what it is cured with, as well as how long it is cured. Smoked meat is preserved in two ways: by dehydration and by the chemicals (phenols) in the smoke that are imparted to the product. The type of wood used, as well as temperature and time, all effect the finished product. Aging is generally done to beef to tenderize it, and is done under very controlled conditions. All these processes take time, not only for the process themselves, but the commitment to master these procedures as well. Many of these products are elevated to delicacies in their respective cuisines. Using these products in our cooking can not only connect us to our culinary traditions, but also add a flare of creativity to your table.

Chowder was the first dish that came to my mind when I was articulating this article. Salt pork or bacon is an essential and traditional ingredient in this dish, that adds sweetness to enhance whatever the main ingredient is. Unless you want a smoky flavor, smoked meats should be avoided. Soups, in general, are a great vehicle for getting rid of food product that might go bad. So, why not try a bit of chopped pastrami or corned beef in your vegetable beef soups or stews? Unless you’re afraid of being called a “culinary genius,” you really have nothing to lose.

Ham is another fantastic ingredient. Whatever flavor the ham owns, it very easily transfers to your dish. Beans simmered with ham bones or a ham hock make flavorful soups or side dishes. When it comes to prosciutto or serrano ham, stick to a good, flavorful cheaper product, as these “Cadillac” hams do not really hold up to a longer cooking process. When prosciutto is added to pastas or pizzas, it is usually added just before it is served. If you cook them into the dish, the other chefs will call you names.

Are you in a rut with your usual breakfast of bacon and eggs? Try switching out the bacon for a couple of slices of corned beef or pastrami. Or, for a healthy choice, a nice slice of well smoked turkey breast beats turkey bacon any day. I know switching out your loved one’s bacon for anything else might cause some strife in your household, but you can always claim temporary insanity.

When it comes right down to it, the production of these foods is more art than science, so taking a bit of time to find the right ones is time well spent. And learning how to cook with them could elevate your game in the kitchen and at the dining room table.