Thursday, January 25, 2007

Knocking on Doors

I opened the door to some woman I'd never seen before. She was in her late twenties, with shoulder-length dark hair that almost looked fashionable. Her button-down coat was fastened all the way even though it wasn't that cold outside. She held something in her hands but I didn't notice right away what it was.

"May I help you?" I asked.

She smiled at me, the way someone does when they do it all day long and can't even tell you when they're smiling because they don't hardly know anymore. She asked if I'd like to discuss Bible-based liturgy, but I thought she said, "bowel-removal surgery."

I gave her a look. "What kind of surgery???"

She looked away and tried to hold back a grin. It made her seem more human and down-to-Earth than any other door-knocking Jesus recruiters I'd ever met.

But it wasn't enough. Even a conversation about bowel-removal surgery would have been preferable.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Recipe: West Indian Curried Chicken

My late stepmother Audrey was a wonderful woman and a marvelous cook. A Grenadian, Audrey entered my life with a long list of traditional West Indian recipes. I never questioned what she cooked because everything tasted delicious. It wasn't until later I found out what I'd been eating. One favorite turned out to be oxtail soup made with real ox tails. Another was a little something called Blood Pudding. It's spicy meat stuffed into empty pig's intestines. Before you gross out, consider how many hot-dogs you've eaten. Same thing, minus the spices.

Audrey whipped these meals up without using recipes and I never thought to ask how she made them. Unfortunately, she died young and the least of the tragedy was that I never found out how to imitate her cooking. Thelma, Audrey's mom, shared the following curried chicken recipe with me when I visited her in Grenada several years ago. When you hear Thelma say it, with her lovely West Indian accent it sounds like, "Curry Chicken," not "Curried Chicken."

Traditionally, West Indian men prefer their food spicy hot, whereas the women like it milder. Me, too. What I love about this recipe is you get the curry taste without the burning tongue sensation. If you prefer it spicy hot, add more curry and marinate it overnight.

Gen-u-ine West Indian Curried Chicken
Four servings of rice prepared separately
1 chicken or equivalent number of pieces
1 large onion, chopped
Clove or two of garlic, minced
Enough soy sauce to cover chicken when marinating
2 large potatoes, peeled then diced
3 Tablespoons of curry powder (to taste)
1 teaspoon of thyme
2 Tablespoons of oil (vegetable or olive)

Wash the chicken and cut into pieces if not already done. You can remove the skin, though traditionally it's left on. Marinate the chicken in the thyme and soy sauce for at least 20 minutes but not more than overnight. (If you like it spicy, throw in some curry powder right now and marinate it overnight.)

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and garlic. Heat on low until onion is slightly brown. Don't overcook. Add the chicken and brown. Stir in the curry and a little water to coat the chicken. Turn the heat up slightly and cook for three to five minutes.

Add the potatoes and enough water to cover everything. Boil until the chicken is soft.

Serves 4.

Serve the chicken and potatoes on a bed of rice. Though a traditional side dish is plantains fried in butter, I find almost anything works, even toasted garlic bread.

Note: This is a recipe where the leftovers taste even better. I've found that if I store it in the refrigerator, the chicken has time to absorb the curry. It's good the first night, better the second, delicious the third, and outstanding on the fourth.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cheating at Solitaire

Some believe that if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, then it doesn't make a sound.

Well then, if you cheat at Solitaire, is it really cheating?

How about those gray areas? Like say you want to add that five of diamonds to the Ace's suit stack, but there's a black four on top of it preventing you. So, you move the four over to an empty red five. A parallel move, if you will. Then you take that five of diamonds and move it up to the Ace's suit stack, gaining a point. Is that cheating?

What about temporarily taking a card off an Ace's suit stack to set up a chain reaction so you can access cards in other stacks? Is that cheating?

And, if you are cheating in Solitaire, who are you cheating?

This all reminds me of that recurring question posed in Stand By Me. Is Pluto a boy, or a girl?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Flight Instructors

Choosing a Flight Instructor

I always wanted to be a pilot. I didn't necessarily want to do it for a living; I just wanted to fly airplanes.

It wasn't until my early 30's that I went for my private pilot's license. First, I attended ground school where I studied all kinds of stuff, even things I never associated with flying (like math). It felt like graduate school (I guess it kind of is grad school) with subjects like navigation, meteorology, aviation weather, aviation law, etc. etc. There was some hard stuff in there! (like math)

Anyway, after 10 weeks of ground school, I graduated and was ready for flight lessons. My ground school instructor owned a flight school so instead of checking around, I hired one of his instructors. Mistake!

I never asked the guy a single question about his experience, goals, teaching techniques, number of flight hours logged, nada! I didn't find out until I'd strapped myself into the pilot's seat (already a nervous wreck) that my instructor had never instructed before. I was his first student! Yikes! He was more nervous than I was. And the more nervous he got, the thicker his accent got. Sometimes I couldn't understand a word he said. (That can be a problem when you want to avoid crashing the plane.) Then, because I couldn't follow his instructions, he'd start yelling, which of course made me more nervous, and, well, you get the idea.

My first flight experience was a nightmare. I was scared and overwhelmed. I also had no confidence in my flight instructor. I just knew I was going to crash and kill us and everyone on the ground.

I understand that every instructor has to start somewhere and that somebody has to be the guinea pig. I get that. But if you take the time to interview a prospective instructor, you can decide if that new or experienced instructor will suit your personal learning style.

It took more than 10 years for me to get the courage to try again. This time I asked the instructor lots of questions and expressed my concerns. I interviewed her boss, too. Lastly, she promised not to yell at me!

Before I knew it, I had my pilot's license. You can too, just don't make the same mistake I did. Choose the right flight instructor!