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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hmph! (03/04/10)

TITLE: Pondering Too Long Burns the Stew
By Glenda Lagerstedt


Pondering Too Long Burns the Stew

For more than a day I rolled the word round and round in my head. Hmph. Hmph!?? No inspiration, not a glimmer. Maybe it would be practical to just bow to the procrastination god this week and chase dust bunnies and cobwebs instead.

In a last-ditch effort I plopped at the computer and jotted down random thoughts. I may as well have planted carrot seeds in the sandy Sahara. Nothing grew. The population of dust bunnies probably ate my carrot seeds.

Blank mind, blank page. Both aspiring and seasoned writers know these well. Wandering minds find empty irrelevant thoughts with nothing on which to build.

But other times the focus narrows and the world recedes, as some possible themes beckon and tantalize. I had entered that state when I was jerked back to reality by the smell of burning stew. Roused from my favored literary world to the less favored one of the culinary arts, I dashed to the kitchen. Long story short, I was able to salvage the stew, and the pot is good as new after an over-night soak.

And best of all, I realized that my cooking skills have probably evoked more hmphs than most everyday subjects. Farewell writers’ block.

I come from a very long line of outstanding cooks. I also have siblings and offspring who can whip up a luscious meal from meager leftovers and cream-of-anything soup.

It was different with Mom and me. She was a warm, witty and wonderful woman but I have memories of sitting at the table crying because I had to eat her cooking. (Her recipe for applesauce was “take off some peels, cut whole apple, add water, cook. Oh, and put a little sugar in.”)

My cousin tells of watching her cook spaghetti. Noting that she just dropped a clump into the water, he told her that his mom always separated them so they wouldn’t stick together. Sweetly she told him, “Honey, your mommy has her own way of cooking and I have mine.”

I myself passed the expected age of showing an interest in cooking oblivious to the fact that I was even supposed to have such an interest. Looked like a messy process to me. In fact I think I probably heard my first cooking-related hmph when I explained to an unsmiling relative that I didn’t want to cook because it made a mess that I would have to clean up. (I failed to see what could be illogical about that. After all, wasn’t that why some food (cookies) came in cellophane packages? Great labor savers, them packages.)

Years passed and in due time the unwary hubster-to-be showed up. We made it past the engagement and the wedding before he realized what he’d signed up for.

If I learned nothing else kitchen-worthy growing up in a thrifty family, I did learn that food was not to be wasted. The first time we accumulated leftovers I decided to show him the treasure he got by marrying such a thrifty bride. Everything went into a shiny new frying pan to be reheated. I probably might have done alright if ‘everything’ hadn’t included canned asparagus…with liquid. I don’t remember what he said, but betcha there was a hmph or two.

And there’s the time I set a glass casserole dish fresh from the refrigerator onto the gas flame. ("You mean you can put them in a hot oven, for heaven sakes, and yet you can’t heat them on a stove top?") He didn’t say hmph, being rendered momentarily speechless by the unexpected explosion.

One summer evening we decided to have shrimp. But man, was that stuff horrible! What did people find so great about it? When I told my mother-in-law how horribly crunchy it was, she asked, “Well, did you take the shells off?” (Uh…shells?)

A favorite sister-in-law has provoked a hmph or two in her own cooking career, so I am not alone. Unknowingly she once used powdered sugar in place of flour in macaroni and cheese she made for her grandchildren. Thank you, Ruthie, for not letting me totter in the family hmph spotlight alone.

Thank You, Lord, for the miracle of plants that extract nutrients from the earth (from which we were created), converting them to components our bodies utilize for life and health. Thanks for forgiving the inadvertently-inept who never-the-less lovingly serve.

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Member Comments
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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/11/10
You told an amusing story. I found myself chuckling several times and even asking myself what's wrong with doing that once or twice as well. Good job.