Monday, December 19, 2011

Love Me. Hate Me. But Please Don't Tolerate Me.

Okay. I know this is a food blog. But we need to talk.

First, let me top off your glass of Merlot. Say "when".

Good. Now, here's the deal.

I lost some followers after my most recent blog posts.

But I find it hard to believe it was because they were offended by my holiday tips. Heck, if it was my left-of-decorum sense of humor that offended them, I'm sure they would've turned heel many blog posts ago.

No. I think it was because in these last couple of posts I alluded to the sports phenomenon called "Tebowing", and cited an oh-so-whimsical quote about Grace from the often left-of-decorum novelist Frederich Buechner, and then there was that Christmas carol penned and sung by Bruce Cockburn with a little help from Lou Reed and Roseanne Cash.

In other words, I dragged God into my blog.

Some folks appreciated it. Some folks were silent. But it appears that some folks were pissed. Why? As one e-mail expressed it, by reflecting on a highly successful quarterback, and quoting a well-respected novelist's musings on Grace, and posting a yuletide tune, I wasn't being, well, very "tolerant".

You've seen the bumper stickers. The ones that proclaim "tolerance" with the stylized letters representing different religious beliefs. I was behind a car sporting one such bumper sticker in the parking lot of Target just this past weekend. But the driver must've used up all of her tolerance at the previous store, cuz when a white Kia Rio with two missing hubcaps scooted into the parking place that she was obviously coveting, she rolled down her window and yelled something that vaguely sounded like "You muffin shucker!"

So much for, um, tolerance.

You see, I don't like the words "tolerance" or even its cousin, "tolerate".

Why do I dislike these seemingly pacifying words? Because tolerance and tolerate seem to infer that you are "putting up with something that you'd rather not have to".

In other words, you don't like something, so, to be a good sport or citizen, you have to just take a deep breath, suck it up, roll your eyes, and tolerate it.

Not me.

I have zero tolerance for "toleration". Or what I would call The Tolerance Principle.

Let me explain. I may like something or dislike something. If I do, I will let you know. And I may agree or disagree with you. But, again, I will let you know.

However, like or dislike, agree or disagree, if what you espouse is held in conviction, I can respect it. But you can bet your $3 bumper sticker I won't simply "tolerate" it.

The Tolerance Principle particularly raises it's ugly head during December when many folks shy away from expressing their deeply held beliefs lest they offend someone. So, whether it's a big wig corporation, the bubbly cashier at the local market, or the guy ensconced on the bar stool next to yours, many feel they have to resort to non-offending euphemisms like "Season's Greetings". (Of course, whenever I hear the words "Seasons Greetings" I immediately think of the salutation one would say to a particularly attractive jar of cumin or nutmeg).

But back to many people's penchant to not offend. Here's my take.

Ditch the euphemisms and wish me whatever is important to you. Christmas? Hannukah? Kwanzaa? Winter Solstice? Hey, I'll respect it. At least you hold onto a conviction.

For nearly a decade I lived in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Throughout the year, I was exposed to examples of that deeply-held tradition as my neighbors celebrated their festivals and faith.

But I tell you what,  I sure as heck didn't role my eyes and "tolerate" those overt religious displays that were so different from my own. Nope. Instead, I respected them. In fact, my neighbor and good friend Neil's love for his sacred tradition inspired me to fully embrace my own.

So...if someone's faith inspires them to do well by their neighbor, I'm not gonna tolerate it. I'm gonna celebrate it.

Okay, there you have it.

And now I'm gonna say it. Again.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Love it. Hate it. But for Christ's sake* please don't tolerate it.

Now...who's up for a little celebrating?


* (I don't mean to say this in a flippant way - He loved us too much to "tolerate" much of anything...)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Something's Cooking. And...If I Listen Closely....Something's Rippling...

How was that turkey you cooked for Thanksgiving? I know your guests loved it. The leftovers? Ditto.

Man...I love this time of year. Cuz I get to wander into the kitchen with those I love and create a feast that will fill the joyful plates of those who sit around our table.

And when all the holiday plates are washed, dried and put away in the cupboards, I'll wish our guests a good night, put the kids to bed, pour a glass of single malt, then I'll switch on the stereo and listen to those who propel me to a new universe.

Especially in these dark, cold, and crisp as bacon winter months.

Tonight it's Bruce Cockburn. Again.

I have this song on CD. Perhaps you don't.  So I'll send it along on YouTube here. Bruce with Lou Reed and Roseanne Cash.

Pour a glass. Settle back. Close your eyes. And listen.

"Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe..."

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ten More Twisted Holiday Tips You Probably Won't Find Anywhere Else

It seems that every holiday season, magazines, newspapers, radio & TV commentators, and even bloggers make it a point to post tips that will save us time and money in the kitchen and beyond. However, I'm finding that many of the holiday tips offered over the years are becoming annoyingly redundant.

I mean, how many times have you read, "Be sure to remove your newly-purchased frozen turkey from the plastic bag before roasting."?

Or "To reduce the chance of a Christmas Eve fire, hang your stockings on the outside of the fireplace."?

And how about "Don't lick frozen flagpoles. Geez, didn't you learn anything from A Christmas Story?"?

I already sense some of you nodding your heads. I rest my case.

That's why last year I determined that I would break free from the mold and offer holiday tips that you probably won't find anywhere else (see: and

And let me tell you, it was a smashing success. Comments ranged from the glowing, "Just two of your tips saved me so much time and money that I was able to take the whole family to Cancun over the holidays" to the semi-glowing "Mr. Caterson, you are one sick puppy. Stay away from my family."

So, in light of this new holiday tradition, I'm more than pleased to offer yet another 10 holiday tips you won't find anywhere else. These are the lessons I've learned. Consider them my gift to you. Enjoy!

1. Do you hate those wire-mesh contraptions that enwrap the plastic "corks" of grocery store champagne bottles? Me, too. But even though many of us would consider it a time saver, opening these bottles with a bolt cutter will deflate any cheer that may be hovering in the yuletide air.

2. Buying someone a gift subscription to a magazine may be a good idea - but only if they have an interest in the theme of the magazine. (I've often ordered gift subscriptions to Saveur or Bon Appetit for my cooking friends.) Just cuz you happen to enjoy bowhunting in the nude or, perhaps, amassing a world class collection of empty toilet paper tubes, does not mean that everyone else on your Christmas list shares the same passion. So it's best not to order subscriptions to Crossbows and Chicks or The Charmin Cardboard Connoisseur for anyone but yourself.

3. My family has always been frugal and "green" so we thought it would be cool to wrap our Christmas gifts with the Sunday comics. Think about it. They're colorful, cheap and they always have the potential to elicit a few laughs before being ripped to shreds. However, using old copies of Crossbows and Chicks in the name of frugality will not win you any green points from your conservation-minded family members. Especially if the kids are young. Say, under 23. Or if any family members have ever exhibited any signs of good taste.

4. Putting out a cold glass of milk along with a plate of Ex-Lax laced chocolate chip cookies seemed like a good idea when your creepy Uncle Larry dressed up to play Santa Claus. (You remember Uncle Larry, he's the guy who, in order to be frugal, wrapped all your gifts in Crossbows and Chicks magazine covers). But it wasn't a good idea to do the same thing when your oh-so-cool Uncle Leland dressed up as Santa that one year. (You remember Uncle Leland. He's the guy who bought you that new XBox 360 wrapped up in the Sunday funnies.)

5. Some leftovers are great to take home when you leave a big holiday feast. I'm thinking turkey, ham, or pumpkin pie. But some leftovers are best just, well, left. I'm thinking of the homemade Fried Baloney Soup and the Pineapple Upside Down Beans that Aunt Frieda and Cousin Elly foisted upon the family last holiday season.

6. And speaking of leftovers, if you really enjoy them (and who doesn't?) perhaps you should forgo roasting another turkey for Christmas and opt, instead, for an emu. The drumsticks alone will feed a family of five for a whole month.

7. And while we're on the topic of holiday food traditions, candied yams are not really made with candy, so you can put away all those bags of candy corn you have left over from Halloween. I know, I know, sticking them all over the sweet potatoes makes them look like a herd of little orange porcupines, but it does not make them candied yams.

8. I love real Christmas trees. I know that they can be a pain with all the sap and falling needles, but you really can't beat the aroma that a real fir brings to the home. However, buying an artificial tree and festooning it with a dozen pine air fresheners from the local car wash won't hold a candle to the real thing. Not even remotely so.

9. Do you want everyone in the family to love you? Find a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies and whip up a huge batch. Just be sure to leave out the Ex-Lax. Even if that creepy Uncle Larry shows up.

10. And while we are talking about Christmas trees, gifts, and glorious chocolate chip cookies, let me leave you with this: things may not be as you wished they were, but the're party...would not be complete without you. This is what folks who are more sagacious than I call Grace. Heck, the great novelist Frederick Buechner said it better than I ever could. So pour a glass of wine and reflect on his words. And in doing so, may this year's Christmas be, oh, so merry!

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you. There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”

Merry Christmas, everyone!