Monday, December 23, 2013

MaMa's "Corn Oysters"


Now almost 10 years ago I put together a “cookbook” for my family made up of recipes from old notes, handwritten letters, recipe cards, photos and stories that had been collected from my grandmothers, my Aunt Lorraine, my mother, and a number of other family members. With most of them now having passed, it’s a real treasure for me to take a few minutes and read their handwriting, remember the photos, and recall the delicious meals that we as a family had shared together.  It’s amazing to read old letters, one notably from my paternal grandmother (“MaMa”) that recounts her trip home after coming to visit my parents on the birth of yours truly!!  While it included a recipe for “Damson Plum Jelly” (we will keep that one for a future essay), the letter recounts the details of her train trip from Cleveland Ohio to White Sulphur Springs in the fall of 1961.  A glimpse of a time gone by for sure!


As I picked up the cookbook today, my eye was caught by the recipe for “Corn Oysters” and the stories that Mama used to tell about them on a holiday table.  My father (recently passed), and his father Loche Andrew Livesay (yes, that’s not a mis-spelling of the last name, again a topic for a future essay) loved this dish, and Mama would describe how my grandfather would silently dive into a plate of “Corn Oysters” with such fervor and intensity that he would break out into a sweat right there at the dining room table.  While I can “neither confirm nor deny” that I have followed in my grandfather’s footprints over a delicious meal, my grandmother’s story still rings in my ears now over 15 years since her passing.


Give the recipe a try; I plan to as part of a Christmas meal featuring a baked Ham and Mama’s “One Hour Buttermilk Rolls”.  The holidays are a special time to enjoy with families and friends, and to remember those who have passed and celebrate their lives with memories, stories and maybe a few recipes!  I hope you and your family will enjoy these “Corn Oysters” as much as my family has over the years, and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!



Monday, December 9, 2013

A Hero, an Inspiration, and an Optimist

With the passing of Nelson Mandela late last week, it is more than appropriate to take a moment and reflect on and celebrate the impact of this unique man. In previous essays, I have highlighted the inspiration and impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the struggle and the impact of Aung San Suu Kyi. Here, once again, we have an individual who has fought against injustice, faced amazing personal and physical persecution, and ultimately has played a huge personal role in changing our world.

Over the weekend I was talking to some old friends who reflected on those days in early 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of prison and vowed that Apartheid had no future and that “It has to be ended by our mass action. We have waited too long for our freedom.” Well, end it certainly did in a flood of changes that swept the world after the fall of the Berlin wall, the ending of South Africa’s policy of Apartheid, along with a boggling array of change over the past 25 – 30 years. While a lot clearly “has” actually changed over the past decade, we must be careful to not stand back, assessing or watching the world in the third person almost as a passive spectator! We need to be reminded that these changes have ALL come about by the beliefs, actions, and sacrifices of individuals and groups of people, all over the world, inspired by the spark of heroes like Nelson Mandela.

It was over 30 years ago, when my wife Jennie and I were students at college (The College of Wooster, class of ’83) that the issue of South African apartheid and the “divestiture “ campaign was sweeping across campuses coast to coast. Jen received a message this past weekend from a fellow classmate now living in India reflecting on how a group of students our senior year at Wooster met with the board of Trustees to call for the College to divest all investments in corporations doing business in South Africa. It was hugely controversial at the time in the fall of 1982, with the board of trustees pushing back hard on the students asking for change, unsure at that time whether Nelson Mandela was an inspiration or a terrorist. Jen is now a trustee herself, and once again it’s amazing to reflect just how much has changed in 30 years. Not passively like spectators, but inspired anew by the same individual, Nelson Mandela.

As I close today’s essay with the thoughts of Mandela’s impact on OUR world today, I want to share one trait of Mandela’s that truly seems beyond the potential of most of us…. that is his unending optimism. Think about it, he spent 27 years in prison, many in solitary confinement on Robbens Island, the Alcatraz of South Africa. Many years spent doing hard labor in the prison quarry, all for his vocal leadership of the ANC and his fight against the ruthless system of Apartheid in South Africa. He exits prison in early 1990 and begins a process with the leaders of South Africa, some of whom were his former jailors, to begin “truth and reconciliation” hearings to prepare the nation of South Africa for elections. No bloody retribution. No trials of individuals for “crimes against humanity.” He and then President de Klerk working together to frame a new “post-Apartheid” South Africa; absolutely amazing and hugely fueled by his unending optimism for the future. Mandela is quoted as saying that,

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

May we all be inspired today to keep our “head pointed toward the sun” and to keep our “feet moving forward” as we face the challenges in our world today. Injustice, poverty, and inequality are not realities of the past, but are real challenges that WE face today across the world and in our neighborhoods closer to home. Let us continue to take inspiration from Nelson Mandela to take an active part in creating a future that he would be proud of!