Friday, December 28, 2012

Holiday Recipe Redux

As we close out 2012 I have one more family treasure to pass along. Yes, I promise to get back to the more pressing issues of leadership, performance management & execution in 2013 but for now, my focus remains on family and thoughts of holidays past present and future.

In my last essay I shared Jane’s now famous “Yum Yum Yam’s” recipe and indeed it graced our holiday table again this year. One additional holiday recipe tradition of my mother-in-law Jane (who passed away early in 2011) was her Turkey Stuffing casserole which was made every year a few days after Christmas to use up the leftovers. Earlier today I made that delicious dish, and we will enjoy it tonight for our dinner, with memories flooding back from casseroles made years gone by. The idea of being frugal enough not only to save the leftovers from a big family meal but to have “special” recipes for those leftovers seems a bit old fashioned in these days of excess. Well for my mother-in-law and certainly for yours truly and my family, this tradition while maybe a bit old fashioned is a sensible and delicious way for us to honor and celebrate the memory of a cherished family member. I hope that you have a chance to try this recipe either this year or after some holiday meal in your future, remember leftovers required!

Jane’s Turkey Stuffing Casserole

4-5 cups leftover turkey white and dark meat (mixed or to taste) chopped
4-5 cups leftover stuffing
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 tsp season salt (Jane always used Lawry’s)
¼ cup sherry
Melt butter in a pot and add flour to make a paste. Add milk over medium heat and add seasoned salt and sherry and let simmer until thick. Add turkey to sauce mix and put aside. Butter a casserole dish and layer leftover stuffing first, then the turkey mix, then stuffing again using all of your ingredients and finishing with a layer of stuffing on top. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jane's "Yum Yum Yams"

Holidays are often times that bring us closer to not only to those closest to us today, family & friends, children & spouses, but at least for me, the holiday season also brings back the memories of those close to us that have passed away over the years. Each Christmas I cherish the chance to put two small, tarnished metal ornaments on our Christmas tree, two ornaments made by my mother in 1946. These two small cherished items have been passed down in our family; and as my mom died when I was 13, they mean the world to me, and I always look forward to putting them hanging them on the tree each year. Also I think back to my wife Jennie’s sister Carrie who passed away in early 1999. Her last Christmas was actually our son Bryson’s first, and we have a wonderful photo of her holding Bryson as a baby up in Vermont from that Christmas. I miss both Carrie and my mom deeply and am thankful that the holidays bring them back to me with unique images, poignant mementos, and cherished memories.

Jennie’s mom, Jane Saliers, passed in March of 2011 and as I come towards this holiday season, my thoughts have turned strongly to her. Over the years, we made it a family tradition to spend each Christmas with Jennie’s extended family, often in Atlanta and at times in Vermont. Regardless of location, Jane and I made it a tradition to cook the Christmas meal together. While I certainly enjoyed our time on Christmas day in the kitchen, stuffing the bird, cooking the beans, helping Jane mash the potatoes, etc., my favorite memories are from our shopping prep sessions.

Before heading out for the big holiday grocery shopping experience, we would sit down together and make our plan. I can vividly remember the aluminum drip coffee pot being filled, Jane and I sitting at the Saliers little kitchen table piled with holiday cards and Christmas catalogs, and me writing out our Christmas menu and shopping list. Well before I-Pads and smart-phones, I would take my little “Franklin Planner” and write out our lists in the back of my “little black book”, ha! Over the years I actually kept a number of our annual lists in the back of my day timer, now lost in the history of moves and technology. While we would always get the menu and the list completed, those “Coffee Klatch” moments were our way of catching up; comparing notes and Christmas gift ideas, hearing about the latest stories from the library (Jane was a children’s librarian for years, learn more about her in the earlier essay “To my friend Jane”) and all in all just slowing down for a few moments to truly enjoy each other’s company. I deeply miss Jane and those little times together, and as I plan out the menu this year, I will have my friend Jane close at my side!

One of the traditional menu items that Jane made EVERY year was her “Yum Yum Yams.” While we often split the duties on most of the dishes for the meal, one year she would mash the potatoes, the next year I would, …, the “Yum Yum Yams” were her solitary domain. Even for this upcoming Christmas dinner, Jennie’s father Don has the sole responsibility to prepare and bring the “Yum Yum Yams.” I was thrilled when Jennie found Jane’s well used, highly stained, recipe card (above), and since it’s a bit hard to read over the years of use, the following is the re-printing of the recipe, Enjoy!

Yum Yum Yam Recipe

1 1/2 cup Sweet Potatoes
1 cup sugar
2 eggs scrambled
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup scalded milk

1 cup broken pecans
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 stick oleo (butter works as well)
1/3 cup flour (preferably self-rising)

Mix well with electric mixer. Pour unto buttered baking dish. Mix topping ingredients well
and spread over the potato mixture, bake @325 degrees for 35 minutes

I hope as you gather this year with your family and friends over the holidays that you can both enjoy the company of those around you AND find special ways to remember the cherished ones that have passed; whether found in an ornament, a photo, or a delicious recipe.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ode to a "Shunpiker"

The airport was busy this morning, well before my 7:40 am flight. I was heading out to Bakersfield, then down to LA and back to Atlanta this week. That’s my itinerary after a week that included Bentonville Arkansas, Lakeland Florida, and Edina Minnesota; preceding a week that will include Boise, Idaho and San Francisco California. Wow, I get tired just writing those two sentences! Well it is in this context that I share this story. When I travel, Mondays being no exception, I try to pick up the N.Y. Times not only to catch up on the news and read the editorial pages (which I so love to do,) but to keep the art section and bring them home to my wife Jennie for the crossword puzzles. As I was reading the paper this morning, I spent a few extra moments on the obituary page for no specific reason. There were three large and very interesting obituaries that dominated the page, but one of the smaller obituaries caught my eye; in the first column there was a notice that included the word “shunpiker” in quotes. Well I needed to learn more!

The notice is on the passing of Mrs. Mary Pratt Barringer who had obviously lived a long, poignant, and significant life. Halfway through the obituary, the writer talks about her zest for life,

“Her zest for life was infectious. For her 50th college reunion she wrote: “It’s been
wonderful – aided and abetted by a husband whose curiosity is boundless and who
shares the non-directed way of life. We are “shunpikers”: we follow small roads in the
general direction of our desired destination. We frequently do not know precisely where
we are, and the time is usually longer than necessary, but enroute we see the wonders
on our way. We are not going too fast to miss the beauties of the roadside or the far
horizon, and the time spent covering the road has been worthwhile in itself.”

Powerful and beautiful prose, caught from a much unexpected source!

The combination of my ridiculous travel schedule and the normal frenetic tone of the holiday season has lead me to a funk this year, having a very short-term focus and possibly an even shorter fuse than normal. I certainly feel a long way from Mrs. Barringer’s “shunpiker,” losing track of time and intentionally taking the slower route on the intended journey. Indeed the final sentence of her quote feels like a challenge not only in this holiday season but in this phase of life. When she writes that “We are not going too fast to miss the beauties of the road or the far horizon,” I can almost read the unwritten challenge for all of us, “are you?”

As I head into the weeks ahead, still filled with numerous meetings, contracts, cities and obligations to accomplish before Christmas Eve, I am going to endeavor to keep Mrs. Barringer’s words close to mind. Join with me in the days ahead and find some ways, small or large, personal or professional, to be a bit more of a “shunpiker”