The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
Published 8:44 am Thursday, December 28, 2017
By Julie Terry Cartner
Cooking is one of my favorite Christmas activities. I love to bake and make special treats that our family associates with Christmas. The scents of chocolate chip cookies, toffee bars, and plum pudding quickly evoke childhood memories, and I have delighted in passing those memories on to my children as well. The combination of enjoying special treats and getting to help prepare them is part of what makes Christmas goodies so special. As a child, I loved to help my mother make the orange cranberry relish that we had only at Thanksgiving and Christmas. A turkey dinner was not complete without that special delicacy.
In my childhood, the process was a memorable one. Dad would get out the old food grinder and attach it to one of the wooden bar stools at our kitchen island. He’d slide the grinder onto the stool, then adjust the clamp to make a tight fit. Mom would cut an orange into about eight pieces and wash the cranberries, then the fun began! I’d get to feed the fruits into the grinder followed by turning the crank to move them through the machine. First would be a piece of orange, followed by a handful of cranberries, then another orange slice, followed by more cranberries, and so on. I loved the sounds of the fruit squishing through the spiral auger and the pops as the cranberries exploded, then watching the oranges and cranberries as they came through the grinder plates at the end. It amazed me that I would feed the fruits through separately, but by the time they came out the other end, the oranges and cranberries would be mixed together. Looking back, I don’t know why the process so intrigued me, but at the time, it was a source of endless entertainment!
Mom, of course, hated the process because it was messy. The grinder would leak, and juice would run down the leg of the stool. Dad hated it because the clamp of the grinder didn’t work quite right, and it always took several tries to get it clamped down accurately. But they knew how much I enjoyed making the relish and kept their negative thoughts to a minimum. They didn’t want to crush my fun. Besides, they thought the relish was extremely tasty too.
Once the fruit had gone through the grinder, all that was left was to add sugar and mix it in. Then came my second favorite job – official taster! Mom would add sugar and ask me if the relish was sweet enough. Of course, it took several tries to get it just right. Looking back, I’m pretty sure the first try was always intentionally lacking in sugar. Mom would laugh at me when I tasted the sour concoction, and my face would screw up in a grimace from the tart fruit! And always, she would remind me that the relish would get sweeter after it had been in the refrigerator for a day or two. We always had to make this particular dish early because it needed time for the flavors to blend. Once it was just right, we’d seal the container and put it away until it came out for Christmas dinner. At mealtime, when others would cover their turkey with gravy, I covered mine with cranberry relish.
Today I still make cranberry relish, and we all enjoy it with our Christmas dinner. However, it saddens me that modern conveniences have obliterated that particular memory maker. Throwing cranberries and a cut up orange into a food processor and pushing the on button just doesn’t have the same appeal or entertainment value as the multi-step process involving the food grinder. I sometimes wonder if convenience is as great an asset as we think. True, it absolutely saves time; in fact, I only have to allow five minutes or less to get the job done. But there’s no satisfying squish as the oranges go through the processor, nor the pops of the cranberries. There’s just the almost instantaneous change from solid fruit to ground particles. Fortunately, I can always use taste testers, so my children will carry that memory into their adulthood. And just maybe for the first taste, I “forget” to put enough sugar in and get to laugh as my children’s grimaces match those of my childhood! And ultimately, when we sit down to Christmas dinner, we can still enjoy the orange cranberry relish that was my grandmother’s and then my mother’s recipe, and now it’s mine.
“Christmas, Before and After”
By Marie Craig
Getting Christmas Out…
It’s always exciting and fun to pull out all the Christmas decorations and memories.
Handmade ornaments and special items from special people give lots of nostalgia and strong recall.
New hopes and promises come to mind, and optimism is strong.
The house and yard are changed, and so are we.
Family visits are anticipated and planned for.
Diets are forgotten and foods of indulgences are prepared.
What a happy time for us to have a break from cold weather and daily worries.
What a wonderful time of anticipation.
Putting Christmas Away…
It’s always a little sad to put all the decorations and festivities away,
but still, there’s a feeling of “Let’s get back to normal now.”
We’ve had our special times with food, family, music, parties, and house trimming.
We’re cheered and reinvigorated with the joy and good news we’ve
learned that will help us as we finish the winter and look forward to spring.
Now, we can lose some weight, re-organize our lives, and get back to work.
What a satisfying time for us to have a new start and ponder all the good tidings of Christmas.
What a wonderful time of rededication.
“April 14, 2077”
By Kevin F. Wishon
I awoke early to a faint light coming through the soot-covered windows; then I remembered, today is my last day here. Already, I can hear the buses arriving in the street below. As the last of those to remain, I have held out to the end; now, it’s my turn to depart. The writing has been on the wall for years, but I refused to accept the truth. It was easier to watch others leave as it became apparent this place was doomed. They departed this place like sand through an hourglass leaving a few remaining grains clinging. I am one of those few grains.
With all the advertising and meetings, I’ve heard the truth and refused to accept it. I’m aware of the reality of why this must occur; still, it doesn’t take away the heartache. I grew up here, and I admit, it is a mess. However, more than concrete and metal, this building is my home. They tell us the days of above-ground superstructure buildings must end. I don’t want to accept it, but now, I hear the last of my neighbors answering the calls to vacate their apartments.
Sure, the structure of this building is old, failing, and in need of repair. The floor dust, in hallways and stairwells, is so thick it rolls like tumbleweed with the slightest of gusts. Filthy air deposits accumulate on the exterior window glass, making it difficult to see anything outside. No one dares use the elevators unless they no longer value their life. Water and power are subject to weather conditions. With almost all floor levels emptied of residents, apartments are stripped of recyclable materials as the demolition crews prepare the building for its eventual destruction. Gutted and stripped of value, I know that feeling all too well.
Assured of improved living conditions, we will no doubt love our new modern underground apartments; or at least that is what they tell us. With surfaces so clean we could eat off them and processed air, cleared of pollution, pumped into each apartment, we have no reason to doubt. Below ground, the temperatures will remain comfortable. With the land unobstructed of tall structures, open to farming and natural areas, it reduces costs and impacts benefiting everyone long term. It’s hard to argue with promises like that.
They are knocking on the door next to mine, calling my neighbor by name; she is elderly like myself. Many are taking bags of belongings to their new apartments. I am taking nothing; it’s all I can do to carry my body out of this apartment, so this stuff will have to remain. I’m dressed and waiting for the knock that will change the remainder of my life. No doubt, they will strip this apartment of its recyclables as they have the other floor levels. Despite what they may remove from this place, we are the last of the fixtures. Only when our dreams and memories pass away with us, will this place be truly gone.
“A Memorable Vacation”
By Gaye Hoots
When my girls were five and seven years old a friend invited us to accompany her on a trip to Florida to visit her in-laws. Ellen’s husband was hesitant to have her make the drive, but she assured him she would be safe with me. The girls were excited to be going on a road trip, and I always enjoyed Ellen’s company. What could go wrong?
Ellen’s car broke down shortly after we departed. We got as far as Salisbury and had to stop for repairs. Walt, Ellen’s husband had the repairs put on his credit card, and we were off again. The car was used only for work and around town, not road trips. I told the girls it should be smooth sailing after this.
The pattern of a daily breakdown continued. Traveling through South Carolina the car began to overheat. We agreed to stop at the first available place. The place was a roadside beer joint. It was about four thirty on a Friday evening. This was in the seventies, and everything closed for the weekend. There was no phone in the beer joint, and driving an overheated car was risky.
A young man told us there was a phone about three miles down the road and offered to drive me. His truck had only one passenger seat. I saw a truck stop within walking distance and stated I would walk there. The female cashier told me there was no phone there, and the young man added that “ladies were not allowed there”.
I told Ellen I would be back as soon as I made the call and left in the truck. Ellen said that as we pulled out of sight the cashier said to her and my girls, “I hope she will be all right. I don’t know that man, and they found a body in the trunk of a car near here last week.”
Ellen was petrified. The place we stopped had a phone, but the nearest town had only one dealership, and it was closing time. The only person still at work was the owner. He offered to come pick us up and tow the car in. He dropped us at a motel, fixed the car himself Saturday morning, and we were on our way again.
This was a stroke of luck for us. The previous day was spent sitting on buckets while a shade tree mechanic installed a radiator for us. The car got us safely to Florida. When we neared her in-laws home, Ellen stopped for food and a talk. She admitted she had not told them she was bringing us. Ellen had no doubt we would be welcome, but I did. Her in-laws had moved from Germany to the US and socialized with family only.
Ellen went in while we unloaded our bags. We were welcomed into their home which was comfortable. Ellen’s mother-in-law was a great cook. Her father-in-law was very kind to my girls. We spent most of our days out on the beach with the kids and tried not to be a bother.
One of the beaches has several surf fishers. Kendra, my five- year- old, approached the older men and asked them if they were catching anything. You could see fairly large fish near them in the clear water, but they were not biting. Kendra waded into the surf and grabbed a large fish with both hands. I yelled for her to drop it as I feared it would cut her with its fins or bite her. The fishermen shook their heads at her catch.
We stopped at another beach to go into the water. There was a roped area indicating where the deep water began. A young man with long hair swam in the deep water. When we had been in the water an hour, a cloud rolled in. The lifeguard yelled for everyone to get out of the water. We started out when the lone swimmer asked if we had seen his swim trunks which he had tied to the rope.
There was an old hippie van on the beach that belonged to him. I volunteered to get a pair of shorts from it. Searching for the shorts was worse than dumpster diving, but I found a pair and gave them to him so he could get out of the water. It had started to rain and thunder.
We really enjoyed the trip and were sad to leave. They had been so kind and generous to us.The trip home was uneventful. The owner of the car dealership had cured all the car’s woes.