Sunday, September 23, 2012

BIG WEEK Coming Up

The passage of time is an awesome event. I was getting ready this morning when I stepped back and looked, really looked, at our bathroom. I had employed several special craft men, 3 1/2 years ago, to make the room more invalid-accessible. At the time, we believed that Mike would need those adjustments, sooner than later.

One man, a master carpenter, helped me sketch the floor plan and purchase fixtures, flooring, and so forth. Another man, a master painter, had finished the walls and then painted perfectly. At the time, they both believed that this was their gift to their dying friend.

The painter, a young man, passed away this summer in a drowning accident. The carpenter just stepped into eternity this week.

"You never know." Trite but true.

We just returned home from Oakbrook Church where Mike played acoustic and electric guitars with the worship band. We're learning about becoming fully committed followers of Christ. Our church's small groups are meeting weekly to continue the study.Tomorrow, while I return to my classroom and more of the travails of Hester and Dimmsdale, Mike will be out at the oncology center for a CT scan and some blood work. He meets later this week to discuss the results.

Wednesday, Mike will be speaking, once again, at The Kokomo Huddle, which meets every Wednesday noon at the YMCA. Our friend, Dick Vega, will have his life celebrated after that, with a Memorial Mass.

Thursday, Mike will meet with Dr. Moore to discuss the progress of his disease, the effectiveness of his pain medications, and other treatment options.

Friday, we hope to find our way to The Brick, a monthly get together at our friends' home. Then, Saturday, instead of driving to the cottage, we will celebrate the wedding of two very special people, Erin Shultz and Drew Larison.

Within the joy of weddings, we also tread on sad ground. And, as Mike's pain needs sometimes exceed his current medications, we expect to hear some news about his disease.

We know that you pray for us. And, unless we give you specifics, you ask God to meet our needs. And He does.

For this week, we list some specifics for your prayers.  Thank you, our friends.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What's important: My FAVORITE Soup

 It is not widely known, but I am the world’s foremost authority on French onion soup.  I am a connoisseur of this soup, which I consider to be the food of the gods.  Put me in a new restaurant and I will scan the menu instantly and hopefully for French onion, which I will invariably order.  Put a steaming bowl of French onion soup in front of me and my day has been made, no matter what has gone wrong.  For me, tasting French onion soup is a lot like having sex: it is always good, it is just better sometimes than at other times.

I have kept track of my French onion soup obsession for at least thirty years.  I have had this soup in South America, North America (U.S. and Canada), Europe (England and France), the Caribbean, on ships at sea, including an aircraft carrier (U.S. S. Stennis),  and on an airplane traversing the Atlantic.  I have had it prepared by my mom, my wife, countless chefs (including several fancy cooking school graduates), and made it myself (not bad, but not great).  I have had it out of a can (yuck) and had it scratch made in front of me.  I have watched Julia Child prepare it on her TV cooking program, as well as virtually every TV chef you can think of.  Everyone who cooks seems to have their own recipe, which they claim is the best.  Certainly some are very good, but the best?  Only I can be the judge of the best.

The best French onion soup I have ever had was in Bayeaux, France.  I had employed a professor of history who had written his PhD dissertation of the D-Day invasion to give me a personal guided tour of the invasion beaches.  One evening he asked if I was hungry for any particular food.  I, of course, said that I would like French onion soup.  He made us a reservation at a tiny restaurant that had only six tables.  The restaurant had been in the family for five generations.  It had a floor of solid stone that had grooves in it from the scraping of the table legs.   

At one end of the dining area was a large stone fireplace where the chef cooked in plain view of the patrons.  I was mesmerized watching him make several different meals for the customers all at the same time.  Of course, the ambiance of the restaurant was not hurt by the waitresses.  They were both very slender and tall.  Each wore a very short black skirt with an almost translucent white blouse with a bra matching the skirt.  They also wore a small white apron and three inch black heels.  A living fantasy!

Back to the soup.  I asked the professor to ask the chef how he 
made his soup stock.  The chef said it was never actually made; he just kept putting left over beef drippings in the pot and would occasionally add some salt.  I would not be surprised if the pot was original and that the beef stock dated back to 1600.  At any rate, the soup was quite thick.  It was not runny at all, but it was not like peanut butter, either.  You could take a spoonful and turn the spoon sideways and the soup would run off, but just barely.  The onions had caramelized perfectly.  The bread was stale from the day before, when it was freshly made by the baker next door.  Consequently, it was a bit crunchy, even when soaked in the beef broth.  The gr Gruyère cheese which had melted into the solid piece of bread floating on top of the soup, hiding the small bits of bread and onions below, had melted all over the outside of the large bowl. The soup was quite salty with a dash of pepper and a scoop of whipped butter on top of the bread. Despite the salt and pepper, the soup tasted sweet with a little tang to it. The soup was presented on a plate covered with a white napkin under the bowl.  On the side was a warm croissant with homemade butter.  I am not sure French onion soup gets better than that.  Even without the waitresses.

Until recently, second place was held by a small restaurant at the Culver Military Academy on Lake Maxintuckee.  While I could not see the soup being prepared, it was very similar to the Bayeaux soup, but differed in that the soup was served with a baked crust completely over the top of the bowl, much like a chicken pot pie.  Gruyère cheese was melted on top of the crust which had been slathered in butter.  The usual cheese was under the crust, also.  Like the soup in Bayeaux, it was thick, just short of being paste-like.  Just the soup makes a meal. 

 Like I said, it was second, until recently.
I took a short get away trip to New York City two weeks ago.  I spent all of the trip in Manhattan, watching people, while I ate at several of the many sidewalk cafes.  At the corner of Broadway and 47th is a restaurant called Le Maisson.  It is never closed and has French onion soup.  It is not cheap.  $8.50 for the soup and $3.00 for a freshly made, warm croissant with whipped butter and apricot jam (my favorite) or a small saucer of honey with part of the honeycomb present.  Your choice.
The New York soup was superbly made.  Like in Bayeaux, it was served on a plate with a white cloth napkin separating the bowl from the plate.   

A separate soup spoon was provided, as well as a butter knife.  The soup was piping hot with the Gruyère cheese melted all over the top of the bowl.  There was enough cheese in the soup that any attempt to get to the onions also netted the cheese, which drug along the thoroughly soaked pieces of bread.  It was very salty, evened out with at least a tablespoon of butter melted into the soup.  The cheese was excellent as it passed my homemade test.  If you take a spoonful of soup, the cheese should stretch out of the bowl at least a foot, while still sticking to the spoon.  This makes eating it fun and challenging.

 I think that French onion soup is good date food for couples.  If you are in Manhattan and the weather is warm, order two bowls of French onion soup at Le Maisson.  Watch the Manhattanites from a sidewalk table for two.  It isn’t cheap, but the best rarely is.
For those of you readers who live in Kokomo and share my obsession for French onion soup, I am afraid I have only bad news for you.  Soup, which masquerades as French onion soup, can be had at Whiskey Creek and Panera.  Don’t bother with either.  It is poorly made in both places with inferior ingredients.  The inadequacies are many.  Both managements insult the consumer by offering such swill.

So there you have it.  A complete description of where the best French onion soup is.  Go get it.
Mike out.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rambling Thoughts

We're getting the first promises of autumn days with cool nights. After a long, hot, tree-through-roof summer, I'm ready for the change of seasons.

Fall is my favorite. Of course, there are all the colors and that crisp, fresh air. Neighbors greet each other throughout the rituals of leaf raking, landscape chopping, and that final mow. Kiddies are settling into school; parents are trying to keep up with them. And here, at the cottage (both locations) the Bolingers continue to live life.

I'm back, once again, surrounded by 17-year-olds, leading them through the wonders of our American culture through literature. Here at the beginning, some of my brighter kids are figuring out that they must DO something like, oh, homework, if they are to earn the grades they want. Sometimes, I'd swear that before my class, they earned their high grades on their abilities to be charming. They ARE charming. Some are downright flirty..."I like your shoes, Mrs. B."...I take it in stride, grimace and say, "Well, fine. Now do your homework."

Mike is teaching a new class, TORTS, to paralegal hopefuls. He came home the first day and said, "I wouldn't hire any of them." I asked him why. "Because of how they dress."

Ah yes.  I reminded him that this is college; also many kids have not been told how to dress. By anyone. "But, they might come in for an interview and never know why they didn't get the job," he said.

So, we joined forces...I created a POWERPOINT on how to dress for an office. What was I thinking? That the hub would plug in a flash drive and show this on a screen? The man who will not, WILL NOT, learn to use Blackboard.....I had to promise his boss that I would post on the platform.  No, the only way these students would benefit from my work was to make hard copies and pass them out.
So that's what happened.

We just keep moving on, working, playing, 'staying vertical' as Mike likes to say. The cancer thing is present, like an unwelcome guest. We can't ignore it but we can try to shove it into the shadows. Out and about, people ask me how my husband is doing. I tell them he's vertical. I hope that works.

But I must confess that this chronic disease is wearing on both of us. When we are tired or discouraged by something else, that guest in the corner steps forward to show its ugly face. And even as this is a beautiful time of the year, cancer won't be ignored.

How many times has some well wisher passed judgment? "Mike's got such a great positive attitude. I'm sure that's why he's still around."

They mean well. Actually, anyone who knows Mike knows that he comes from a long line of pessimists, folks who by practice, prepare for the worst. So he does not have a positive attitude. What he has, we have determined, is some work still to do.

And as those opportunities present themselves, we smile and move ahead.

Coming up in September, once again, Mike gets to play with the band at Oakbrook. He's really excited about this. Also, once again, he will be speaking at The Kokomo Huddle, a midweek meeting at the YMCA.

Ah, the Y. For years, the hub had a standing date at noon to swim with buddies. This after years of competitive swimming. When the cancer recurred (2/11), and treatment commenced, Mike decided that he must stop his swimming. And he did. But he missed it.

So, starting this week, he's back swimming laps. It feels so good. He's smiling.

We are so blessed with our many friends, folks praying for our specific needs and whatever general needs we have. We continue to live within this prayer bubble. So, thank you.

I see that it's late, for those of us who get up early. So, for now, I'll sign off.