” You’ll End Up Eating Beans “

” You’ll end up eating beans ” was always the go-to threat when I was at school – generally uttered by a teacher predicting a sad life of utter failure if I did not take an interest in whatever they were saying. It had the immediate effect of making me lose both  interest in what they were saying, and respect for them.

You see…I knew the Secret Of The Beans.

I had been initiated into the society of bean eaters early in life. Unlike some children, I was not raised on Heinz Baked Beans as a quick sop to just fill a gap. I did get Heinz, but when I got Heinz they had been supercharged, spiced, and done to perfection. My Heinz were superior beans, and they were just the start. You see, my mother was raised in New Mexico in hard times and beans were an art form.

Mexican beans, Texican beans, Boston Baked Beans, green beans, yellow beans, pinto beans, chickpeas…and there were as many variations of sauces and sides as there were beans. Fresh, canned, dried..we had ’em all and we loved ’em all.

The south of the bean border ones were so potent that the Army used them to clean out the receivers on machine guns. The Boston beans were proper. The green beans were always accompanied by bacon and onions. Beans and rice with cornbread filled all the requirements.

Mexican beans were always a meal that drew us home – the other favourites being sauerkraut or fried smelt. We rarely ate out and never missed it.*

And the Secret Of The Beans? The secret was we loved ’em! They nourished us and comforted us and gave us terrible gas. A long drive in a closed car with the Stein family was a risky proposition for the stranger. You could have a lot of fun guessing who dealt it.

But seriously – beans are a family food that scores high on most dietitian charts. Protein, fibre, taste, energy…you never feel like you have to snack halfway through the evening if dinner was a good bowl of beans.

But back to my teacher’s dire prediction. I have arrived at retirement age and am now rich enough to do as he says – I can afford to eat beans every week. I’m grateful to him for his insight.

*  Even now I eat out less often than my friends do. I like home cooking. Invite me to your house.


Fine Dining

The art of fine dining can be explained simply:

A. Eat something that is good for you.

B. Eat something that tastes delicious.

B. Eat enough of it – and at the right time of day.

D. Eat it in clean surroundings.

E. Eat it with family or friends.

F. Eat something that you can afford to pay for.

If you need to make yourself feel superior to others, call it ” fine dining ” instead of just ” eating ” and if you really need an ego boost pretend to be a paid reviewer and bag it unmercifully on Trip Advisor. You may not be qualified yet to award Michelin stars but you can  put on a spare tyre trying for it…

Note: getting a free meal can equal three of the above criteria.

Are There Truly Humourless Societies?

We often think of the Puritans in New England or the mullahs in Persia as sober-minded kill-joys. People who cannot be amused and who would not be happy if their life depended upon it. Perhaps this is so, but I can’t help feeling that there must be a quintessential  Puritan or Persian joke that cracks ’em up regularly. We might never have told it but it exists nevertheless.

How about more primitive groups ( Though there will be a little discussion later amongst the cynical about the Persians and primitive behaviour…)? Do the Hottentot laugh it up? The Orinoco Indians? The Inuit? You bet they do. I’ve seen pictures of them yukking it up over songs, dance, and theatre. The humour might be local and pointed, but it’s there all right.

Are there humourless professions? You’d think the funerary ones would be sober, and they are… mostly whilst working…but I’ve seen ’em off duty and they laugh as well as they weep. My own previous professions had their own forms of humour – in one case involving blood and pain and in the other troublesome customer relations. Occasionally they would cross jurisdictions. It will likely be the same with welders, court process servers and people who stuff sausages. And you don’t want to know what they stuff in there…

I think that any group of people – a nation, a society, a club, or a family – must of necessity have some comedy or humour in their makeup. If they don’t they would go mad – perhaps this explains the ones that have done so in the past. As soon as the fun evaporated, so did they.


Thoughts Upon The Coming Of Age, Yet Again…

I am wondering about the business of becoming old. Starting to suspect that it is a bit of a fraud, and I’m wondering who is running the scam. Let me explain.

I reached 70 years old today – by the simple process of waking up alive instead of dead. I am going to assume that this is a good thing. I have given up regular employment for the misty uncertainty of part-time engagement. I have enough money to eat and drink regularly and enough old clothes to survive the cold. I have a library of books and workshop full of toys. I do not owe money to anyone, and they do not owe it to me – thus leading to a quiet mind. All would appear to be well…

But is it? Am I now officially in Old Coot Land? Can I let out my mental belt and run around hooting? Can I chase youngsters off the lawn with an M1? Can I wear flared trousers and a toupee? Can I put up signs excoriating the local council and get away with it? How far gone am I, and is there any chance that I can go further?

To be honest, I don’t feel much over 35 and I don’t think much past 25. I can still drink, but do not need to do it on the cheap stuff. I can still eat but lately the Kiddy Meal is about all I need. And I have finally decided what I like doing and don’t like doing.  Helluva long time finding it out, but…

Shall I become a Keyboard Troll Social Warrior? Or a Disgruntled Activist? Or just a Menace To Navigation? All three are tempting.

I toyed briefly with the idea of becoming a Benevolent Old Buffer but then I found  out how much benevolence actually costs these days. The kindness that ran to $ 20 in the 1960’s is now up over $ 90 and if you are not careful the recipients will find out where you live. I have nothing against beggars at the gate, but we don’t have a gate. And the doormat is generally occupied by the cat and his latest dead rat – the last thing I want is cat, dead rat, and Lazarus at the same time.

I am also troubled by the Hefner phenomenon – I don’t know whether to be a randy maniac in a dressing gown or a figure of staunch moral fibre in a black Puritan suit. The dressing gown would be comfy but the knee breeches and severe black costume would allow me to burn people at the stake. Decisions, decisions…

The Untouchable List – Part Three – One From Column A and One From Column B…

If you are going to make up a menu of displeasure for yourself you need to actually understand what it is that makes you happy/unhappy. If you make that list unbeknownst to others you have a better chance of making an honest one – you are not trying to impress the crowd. If you are strong-minded you will not try to impress yourself.

Is there an underlying theme to your aversions? There are a number of classic ones:

a. Disgust. You might have had a childhood experience that has left you with a horror of something. It could be as simple as illness, saliva, regurgitation, noise, etc. Others may not notice it at all – if it is real to you, however, it is real and you are wise to honestly admit it to yourself.

b. Disdain. You might have experienced it from both sides – given or received. Contempt is one of the most powerful distresses one can experience and one that lasts the longest. It can engender the most inveterate hate.

c. Fear. Mostly physical, as in the fear that has been associated with bullying. Sometimes psychological, as in the fear of rejection or betrayal. It also drives a hatred that can last a long time. In some cases it also drives a desire for revenge.

d. Loss. Have you been robbed? Cheated? Underpaid? Swindled?  You’d be a fortunate person who never had any of this happen to you. Most people can recall monetary loss and it is something that can generally be sheeted home accurately. Many times it is irrecoverable.

Note that in all these there is no mention specifically of jealousy – you might have thought of it yourself, but then jealousy is so often an incomplete emotion – we never know the sorrows of the person whose joys we envy. Were we required to shoulder their burdens as well as share their rewards, they might never make it to any list at all.

Note as well that there is no mention of politics or religion. You can hate someone’s choice or avowal as much as you like, but it is rarely a thing for a personal list. Disapproval can safely be left to journalists and other commentators, and the consequences of anyone’s choices are generally on their own heads. Just stand clear and wipe your clothing down with a damp cloth…

The Untouchable List – Part One – Opening The Jar

Glory be! I’m getting smarter in my old age!

I’ve finally realised that there are some things that are untouchable – and for darned good reason. I’ve compiled a list of them for myself and will be adding to it as time goes on. Currently the divisions include discussion topics and people, but I will be expanding it to include places, things, and experiences.

It’s a totally subjective list – I would advocate that other people also make lists, but they are free to put whatever they want on theirs – and I think it might do them a world of good to do so…as it has done for me. But it must be deliberate.

You see, until you actually think long about this sort of idea, you are unlikely to benefit from it. You’ll have aversions that come up quickly and then go away just as fast. You’ll have momentary hates without keeping them long enough to make pets of them – and nowhere near long enough to benefit from them. You need to consider the business soberly.

” Soberly ” can also include thinking outside of a stiff drink of rye whiskey. If you are one of the people whom it takes favourably, it may strip just enough of your inhibitions to allow you to see what you really do feel and think. Just make sure that when you do cocktail meditation that you do it alone, and that you write your conclusions in secret. You may need to revise them and you do not need everyone to see what your original thoughts were.

The list should be drawn in such a way that it can be altered easily as new aversions make themselves known or as old ones are discovered to be harmless. I’ve removed a person from the list after realising that there was no need for them to be there. It was not that they did not deserve to be on it to start with, but they have since ceased to be objectionable. No point in bearing a grudge if it has no substance.

In the next part, we examine what the list does for and to you…


Use Before January, 2018

Or freeze and use before the turn of the 21st century.

Nearly everything can be frozen. Milk, bread, bank accounts. You can freeze lots of stuff that would otherwise go rotten and extend the period of time in which it can go rotten. Time shift your smelly garbage bin, if you will. This is not as sad as it seems.

Before Christmas, we bought two cooked chickens from Woolies for use in a party dish – the meat was picked off the bones and the carcasses put back into the heavy plastic bags in which they had been supplied by the store. That went into the freezer – which might seem a little odd. Freezing garbage?

No, freezing carcasses that will be rendered for soup a little while down the track. It’s all a matter of timing. Garbage collection is Thursday morning, no good tossing chicken bodies out on Monday in a hot climate – by Thursday morning the place would smell like State Parliament. So they will be defrosted and boiled one Wednesday afternoon, then the stock frozen in turn for use in winter soups. Then they go into the organic bin.

It becomes a case of frozen Tetris sometimes as one cycles the various components through the freezer in time for disposal or storage, but the actual effect is pretty good – the amount of waste that the family produces is slightly less, and we get home-made soup for our troubles. And soup is a variable equation – nearly anything can be factored in. The only no-no is poultry and split peas – there is a chemical reaction in there that makes the entire house smell like cat pee.

Do we deserve the contempt of gastronomic nations for our freezer habits? Well, if you want to go down to the open air when it is 42º in the water bag and buy a half cup of organic kale for your masterpiece, don’t let me stop you. We’ll take bets amongst us here on whether you’ll make it to the end of the street before slumping over…while we sit in the A/C and wait for dinner to defrost. Off you toddle.