Nuttin’ but the Best

Most of the recipes I supply are connected to my writing, but this time I’m offering a favorite Gibson Family recipe just because.  Well, that and we’ll be eating it for Hanukkah this year.  This recipe comes highly recommended by my husband and son, and it’s super easy to make.  Factor in the deliciousness, and you’ll want to make it part of your holiday traditions, too.

We’re ice cream freaks at the Gibson household, and nothing makes ice cream a little tastier than a homemade sauce.  With that thought in mind, what could be more American in flavor than peanut butter?  The following recipe is one we enjoy time and again on chocolate or vanilla ice cream.  It’s also good on waffles, pancakes, banana bread, and shortbread cookies.  I’m sure you’ll come up with a few places to try it, too.

Peanut Butter Sauce

1 c smooth peanut butter

⅓ c sugar (I use raw)

¾ c heavy cream

2 T butter

¼ c light corn syrup

1 t vanilla

If using raw sugar, place the heavy cream and sugar in a small saucepan over the lowest heat possible.  Stir constantly but gently until the sugar dissolves.  This step is necessary to melt the larger crystals.

If using regular white sugar or a small-grained, organic sugar, place all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Stir until the ingredients are combined thoroughly.  Do not boil or overcook as this will make the sauce too thick.

Cool the sauce slightly before using.  I’m told you can store it covered in a refrigerator for two weeks, but ours never lasts that long.  You can reheat the chilled sauce in a saucepan on a low heat.  Thin it with 1 – 2 tablespoons of heavy cream if necessary.  Do not microwave the sauce or it will become grainy.

Where Are We Going With This?

The other day I banged out a sentence on the ole laptop and paused when my son interrupted my thought process to ask a question.  When I returned my attention to the sentence, one word in particular caught my attention.  My head tilted as I assessed the word, questioned the spelling.  Strangely enough, the obnoxious red squiggles Microsoft Word is so found of hadn’t appeared, so I assumed I’d spelled it correctly.  Still, something didn’t look quite right.  Or perhaps I should say spot-on.

Perhaps you’ve guessed by now that I spelled the word in question, travelling/traveling, as if I was writing for our friends across the pond.  I mentioned before in How Reading Taught Me to Misspell Words that I’ve been tripped up by the British spelling preferences.  Usually, Word catches them.  Not so this time.

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that travelling and traveling are both verbs meaning to go from one place to another, as on a trip or journeyThis isn’t a case of a second or third definition.  In fact, the two spellings can be used interchangeably.  What’s more, what I’m about to tell you applies to travelled/traveled and traveller/traveler.

So what’s the difference, you ask?  There isn’t one.  Today’s The Weight of Words is another example of British versus American spelling preferences.  British writers employ the double L version of the word and American writers go for the single L spelling.  No big deal if you’re jotting off a note to someone or a private letter.  But if you’re writing a larger work for a particular audience or about Brits or Americans specifically, it might be wise to use a spelling your intended readers will not think is a mistake.

A tidbit of research uncovered the reason behind the differences in spellings:

Each word has its own unique history, but the primary mover and shaker in this transatlantic drama is the nineteenth century American lexicographer Noah Webster, he of dictionary fame.  According to “A History of English Spelling” (Manchester University, 2011) by D.G. Scragg, Webster’s dictionary of 1828 is largely responsible for standardizing the accepted spelling of American English.

Before 1828, many words, such as humor (or humour), defense (or defence) and fiber (or fibre), had two acceptable spellings on both sides of the pond, because they were introduced in England via both Latin and French, which used different spellings.  Webster picked his preferred forms (the former ones in each example above), justifying his choices in various ways, but partly on nationalist grounds:  he wanted American spelling to be distinct from, and (in his opinion) superior to, British spelling.

I can appreciate Mr. Webster’s patriotism, but sometimes I wish he’d chosen another way to express it rather than in different spellings.

~~~~~

Wolchover, Natalie. “Why Do Brits and Americans Spell Words Differently?” LiveScience, Purch, 17 Apr. 2012, http://www.livescience.com/33844-british-american-word-spelling.html.

Operation Hailstone

While my protagonist, Dr. John Welles, and one of his best friends, Dr. Sam Feldman, joined the Army as civilian doctors to participate in the European Theater, his other best friend, Claude Willoughby, joined the Navy as a pilot to serve in the Pacific Theater.

In my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, Claude and his wife, Patsy, move to California after suffering a personal tragedy.  Patsy spends her days volunteering in a pediatric ward to work through her grief, and Claude obtains a pilot license to keep his mind off their loss.

You’ll find previous research I used to create Claude’s experience in the blog post Straighten Up & Fly Right.  Today’s post is in regards to Claude’s involvement as a World War II Navy pilot flying in the battle for the Caroline Islands.

Japanese troops occupied the Caroline Islands in 1914 during World War I.  After the war, Japan received a League of Nations mandate over them.  However, the League of Nations imposed restrictions on Japan between 1914 and 1933.  During this time, Japan was not able to build up the Caroline Islands for military purposes.  In 1933, Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations gave her the freedom to do just that.

Prior to the Pacific War, the atoll of Truk was built as a forward naval base.  It had five airfields, several seaplane and torpedo boat bases, and repair facilities.  During World War II, a radar station was also constructed.  It also served as an anchorage in favor over Ulithi Atoll.

The base at Truk was destroyed in February, 1944, by American airpower in Operation Hailstone, and was cut off for the remainder of the war.  The attack by the United States involved a combination of airstrikes, surface ship actions, and submarine attacks over two days.  The Japanese appeared to be completely taken by surprise.  Operation Hailstone is sometimes called the equivalent to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Several daylight and nighttime airstrikes against the base at Truk employed fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo aircraft in attacks on Japanese airfields, aircraft, shore installations, and ships in and around the Truk anchorage.  American surface ships and submarines guarded potential exit routes from the island’s anchorage with the purpose of preventing any Japanese ships from escaping.

The Caroline Islands became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the United States after the World War II.  The Federated States of Micronesia was formed in 1986 and gained sovereignty over the Caroline Islands.

While You’re At It…

Some days I honestly do not know how foreigners learn English. If I as an English-speaking American (Brits, please hold your snarky comments) find it quirky, what must someone from Pakistan, Thailand, or Ethiopia think?

Take today’s The Weight of Words for example: a while versus awhile. My favorite grammar sources agree with what I’m about to present, however, there are a couple that disagree. I’m siding with the majority on this one because one has to draw the line somewhere, and in most cases, rules really are for the writer’s benefit.

When describing a time, which is a noun, use a while. How do you know it’s a noun? The article a before while is the tip off. Also, if you can replace a while with another article/noun combination such as a week, then you should be using the two-word combo of a and while.

I’ve been here a while

I’ve been here a week.

As for awhile, it’s used as an adverb and means for a time. To know if the single word is the choice for your sentence, try replacing it with another adverb.

Go rest awhile.

Go rest quietly.

Think you got it? Good, let’s make it confusing, because what is English if not confusing? Try rephrasing Go rest awhile by replacing the adverb with a prepositional phrase. Now you need the noun again because an adverb cannot be the object of a preposition.

Go rest awhile. (The adverb modifies the verb.)

Go rest for a while. (The article and noun are the object of the preposition.)

In short, an easy way to remember is to use a while when you need a noun and awhile when you need an adverb. Remember to test your sentence with other nouns (a week, a day) and adverbs (temporarily, silently) to determine which is correct at the moment.

I’ll Drink to That

ill-drink-to-thatWhen you ask people about Prohibition in the United States, the response they most readily provide is that for some strange reason it became illegal to drink alcohol of any kind. This is usually accompanied by mystified looks and slow shakes of the head.

Unfortunately, what many don’t know is why this occurred and that it was actually part of our Constitution at one time. So, here’s a little history lesson born of my own need to understand Prohibition more thoroughly for the sake of my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles.

By definition, Prohibition was the legal prevention of the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States from 1920 to 1933 under the terms of the Eighteenth Amendment. Note that the consumption and private possession of alcohol was not illegal, so what a person already owned could be enjoyed in his or her own home. Just drink responsibly and sparingly as it was now tougher to resupply one’s stash.

The National Prohibition Act, known informally as the Volstead Act, set down methods for enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, and defined which intoxicating liquors were prohibited, and which were excluded from Prohibition (e.g., for medical and religious purposes). The Amendment was the first to set a time delay before it would take effect following ratification, and the first to set a time limit for its ratification by the states. Its ratification was certified on January 16, 1919, with the amendment taking effect on January 16, 1920. For the following 13 years Prohibition was officially in effect, though the ability to enforce it was limited by the Volstead Act and by corrupt and complacent politicians who overlooked illicit manufacturing and smuggling.

The Anti-Saloon League’s Wayne Wheeler conceived and drafted the bill, which was named for Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who managed the legislation. The Anti-Saloon League was the leading organization lobbying for Prohibition in the United States in the early 20th century.

So, why all this hatred toward alcohol? The Eighteenth Amendment was the result of decades of effort by the Temperance Movement in the United States and at the time was generally considered a progressive amendment. The Temperance Movement, which went back as far as the late eighteenth century, was born of the concern for alcoholism and how it played into spousal abuse, family neglect, and chronic unemployment. However, the desire for cheap, plentiful alcohol led to relaxed ordinances on alcohol sales, and the problem persisted.

A tract published in 1784 by Benjamin Rush detailing how excessive use of alcohol was harmful to one’s physical and psychological health. Many people got on board with the idea, initially proposing temperance rather than abstinence, but like most well-meaning organizations, political in-fighting stalled the group.

Throughout the decades, the Temperance Movement received support from various religious denominations and temperance groups, but it also took a back seat to issues such as slavery during the Civil War. It wasn’t until the third wave of temperance that any movement achieved success. With the formation of The Anti-Saloon League by Rev. Howard Hyde Russell in 1893, the Temperance Movement found footing not by demanding that politicians change their drinking habits, only their votes in the legislature. Under the leadership of Wayne Wheeler, the Anti-Saloon League stressed political results and perfected the art of pressure politics. The Anti-Saloon League’s motto was “the Church in action against the saloon,” and it mobilized its religious coalition to pass state and local legislation, establishing dry states and dry counties.

By the late nineteenth century, most Protestant denominations and the American wing of the Catholic Church supported the movement to legally restrict the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. These groups believed that alcohol consumption led to corruption, prostitution, spousal abuse, and other criminal activities. Brewers and distillers resisted the reform movement, which threatened to ruin their livelihood, and also feared women having the vote, because they expected women to vote for Prohibition. The Anti-Saloon League achieved its main goal of passage of the Eighteenth Amendment on December 18, 1917.

Just after the Eighteenth Amendment’s adoption, there was a significant reduction in alcohol consumption among the general public and particularly among low-income groups. Consumption soon climbed as underworld entrepreneurs began producing rotgut alcohol, and the speakeasy quickly replaced the saloon. Likewise, there was a general reduction in overall crime, mainly in the types of crimes associated with the effects of alcohol consumption, though there were significant increases in crimes involved in the production and distribution of illegal alcohol.

Those who continued to use alcohol tended to turn to organized criminal syndicates, who were able to take advantage of uneven enforcement, suddenly overwhelmed police forces, and corruptible public officials to establish powerful, murderous smuggling networks. Anti-prohibition groups arose and worked to have the Amendment repealed once it became apparent that Prohibition was an unprecedented catastrophe.

The Amendment was repealed in 1933 by ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, the only instance in United States history that a constitutional amendment was repealed in its entirety.

Sweet History Lesson

sweet-history-lessonI researched the history of sweet tea for my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, because I used it in a scene involving John and his two classmates at the University of Maryland, Sam Feldman and Claude Willoughby. As I’ve mentioned previous blog post (Who is in Your Details, No Bad Apples), it’s important to check your facts, and I honestly didn’t know how far back recipes for sweet tea went. Thankfully, the time period in which I wrote the scene was well after the first documented evidence of sweet tea in American culinary history.  So, without further ado, I present to you the History of Sweet Tea as gleaned from the What’s Cooking in America website.  I credit them and their sources with all of the history presented in this post.  It’s a bit of a lengthy read, but that’s what makes a great Research Road post.

History of Iced Tea and Sweet Tea

There are two traditional iced teas in the United States – Iced Tea and Sweet Tea.  The only variation between them is sugar.  Southerners swear by their traditional sweet iced tea and drink it by the gallons.  In the South, iced tea is not just a summertime drink, and it is served year round with most meals.  When people order tea in a Southern restaurant, chances are they will get sweet iced tea.  Outside of the southern states, iced tea is served unsweetened or “black,” and most people have never even heard of sweet tea.

18th Century

1795 – South Carolina is the first place in the United States where tea was grown and is the only state to ever have produced tea commercially.  Most historians agree that the first tea plant arrived in this country in the late 1700s when French explorer and botanist, Andre Michaux (1746-1802), imported it as well as other beautiful and showy varieties of camellias, gardenias, and azaleas to suit the aesthetic and acquisitive desires of wealthy Charleston planters.  He planted tea near Charleston at Middleton Barony, now known as Middleton Place Gardens.

19th Century

1800s – English and American cookbooks shows us that tea has been served cold at least since the early nineteenth century when cold green tea punches, that were heavily spiked with liquor, were popularized.  The oldest recipes in print are made with green tea and not black tea and were called punches.  The tea punches went by names such as Regent’s Punch, named after George IV, the English prince regent between 1811 until 1820 and king from 1820 to 1830.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, American versions of this punch begin to acquire regional and even patriotic names, such as Charleston’s St. Cecilia Punch (named for the musical society whose annual ball it graced), and Savannah’s potent version, Chatham Artillery Punch.

Iced tea’s popularity parallels the development of refrigeration:  The ice house, the icebox (refrigerator), and the commercial manufacture of pure ice, which were in place by the middle of the nineteenth century.  The term refrigerator was used for the first patented ice box in 1803 and were common in the mid-19th century in the United States.

1839 – The 1839 cookbook, The Kentucky Housewife, by Mrs. Lettice Bryanon, was typical of the American tea punch recipes:

“Tea Punch – Make a pint and a half of very strong tea in the usual manner; strain it, and pour it boiling (hot) on one pound and a quarter of loaf sugar. (That’s 2 1/2 cups white sugar) Add half a pint of rich sweet cream, and then stir in gradually a bottle of claret or of champaign (sic). You may heat it to the boiling point, and serve it so, or you may send it round entirely cold, in glass cups.”

1879 – The oldest sweet tea recipe (iced tea) in print comes from a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia, by Marion Cabell Tyree, published in 1879:

“Ice Tea – After scalding the teapot, put into it one quart of boiling water and two teaspoonfuls green tea.  If wanted for supper, do this at breakfast.  At dinner time, strain, without stirring, through a tea strainer into a pitcher.  Let it stand till tea time and pour into decanters, leaving the sediment in the bottom of the pitcher.  Fill the goblets with ice, put two teaspoonfuls granulated sugar in each, and pour the tea over the ice and sugar.  A squeeze of lemon will make this delicious and healthful, as it will correct the astringent tendency.”

1884 – This may be the first printed recipe using black tea, which has become so universal today, and could also be the earliest version of pre-sweetened iced tea, the usual way of making it in the South today.  Mrs. D. A. (Mary) Lincoln, director of the Boston Cooking School, published Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking in 1884.  On page 112, there it is: iced tea, proving that the drink was not just a Southern drink.

“Ice Tea or Russian Tea – Make the tea by the first receipt, strain it from the grounds, and keep it cool. When ready to serve, put two cubes of block sugar in a glass, half fill with broken ice, add a slice of lemon, and fill the glass with cold tea.”

1890 – Professor Lyndon N. Irwin, of Southwest Missouri State University and a member of the St. Louis World’s Fair Society, found an article from the September 28, 1890, issue of the Nevada Noticer newspaper regarding the 1890 Missouri State Reunion of Ex-Confederate Veterans.  This article clearly states that iced tea had been around prior to1890.  The article states the following:

“The following figures will convey some idea of the amount of provision used at Camp Jackson during the recent encampment. There were 4,800 pounds of bread, 11,705 pounds of beef, 407 pounds of ham, 21 sheep, 600 pounds of sugar, 6 bushels of beans, 60 gallon of pickles, and a wagonload of potatoes. It was all washed down with 2,220 gallons of coffee and 880 gallons of iced tea. The committee expended $3,000, a little in excess of the amount subscribed, for the entertainment of the old soldiers.”

1893 – The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, also called the Columbian Exposition, had a concessionaire that grossed over $2,000 selling iced tea and lemonade.

The Home Queen World’s Fair Souvenir Cookbook – Two Thousand Valuable Recipes on Cookery and Household Economy, Menus, Table Etiquette, Toilet, Etc.  Contributed by Two Hundred World’s Fair Lady Managers, Wives of Governors, and Other Ladies of Position and Influence, compiled by Miss Juliet Corson includes a recipe for variations on serving iced tea.

1895 – The Enterprising Manufacturing Co. of Pennsylvania distributed its popular recipe booklet called The Enterprising Housekeeper by Helen Louise Johnson. In the recipe booklet, they advertise their popular ice shredders and its many uses. One use was “for your iced tea.”

20th Century

1900s – After 1900, iced tea became commonplace in cookbooks, and black tea began replacing green as the preferred tea for serving cold.  The preference for black over green tea in an iced beverage came with of import of inexpensive black tea exports from India, Ceylon, South America, and Africa.

1904 – It was at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis that iced tea was popularized and commercialized (not invented).  Due to the hot summer of 1904, people ignored any hot drinks and went in search of cold drinks, including iced tea.  Because of this, it changed the way the rest of Americans thought of tea, thus popularizing iced tea.

Most historians mistakenly give credit to Richard Blechynden, India Tea Commissioner and Director of the East Indian Pavilion, as being the creator of ice tea at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.  In the East Indian Pavilion at the Fair, Blechynden was offering free hot tea to everyone.  Because of the intense heat, it was soon realized that the heat prevented the crowd from drinking his hot tea.  Blechynden and his team took the brewed India tea, filled several large bottles, and placed them on stands upside down – thus allowing the tea to flow through iced lead pipes.  This free iced tea was very much welcomed by the thirsty fair goers.  After the fair, Blechynden took his lead pipe apparatus to New York City, offering free iced tea to shoppers at Bloomingdale Brothers Department Store, demonstrating iced tea is a desirable summertime drink.

According to the book Beyond The Ice Cream Cone – The Whole Scoop on Food at the 1904 World’s Fair by Pamela J. Vaccaro:

“Both hot tea and iced tea appeared on most restaurant menus at the Fair – at the Barbecue, Fair Japan, the Old Irish Parliament House, the Louisiana and Texas Rice Kitchen, Mrs. Rorer’s East Pavilioin Cafe, and so on. It is highly unlikely that all these restaurants jumped on the bandwagon of Blechynden’s “new idea,” and scurried to the print shops to have their menus reprinted!

What really “stirs the pot” is that “Richard Blechynden” was listed as an official concessionaire (No. 325) “to serve tea in cups and packages” at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 – 11 years before the one in St. Louis. The financial records from the exposition do not list any ledger entries for Blechynden – which raises the question of whether he actually showed up or was just late with his report. But, if he had been there, it would have been odd that he would not have realized that his product was already being sold in hot and cold versions. It would likewise be odd that, in the 11 intervening years, he would have been totally oblivious to the drink’s inclusion in cookbooks and on menus.”

1917 – By World War I, Americans were buying special tall iced tea glasses, long spoons, and lemon forks.  By the 1930s, people were commonly referring to the tall goblet in crystal sets as an “iced tea” glass.

1920 to 1933 – The American Prohibition (1920-1933) helped boost the popularity of iced tea because average Americans were forced to find alternatives to illegal beer, wine, and alcohol.  Iced tea recipes begin appearing routinely in most southern cookbooks during this time.

1928 – In the southern cookbook, Southern Cooking, by Henrietta Stanley Dull (Mrs. S.R. Dull), Home Ecomonics Editor for the Atlanta Journal, gives the recipe that remained standard in the South for decades thereafter.  It is a regional book that very much resembles the many “church” or “ladies society” cookbooks of that era.

“TEA – Freshly brewed tea, after three to five minutes infusion, is essential if a good quality is desired. The water, as for coffee, should be freshly boiled and poured over the tea for this short time . . . The tea leaves may be removed when the desired strength is obtained . . . Tea, when it is to be iced, should be made much stronger, to allow for the ice used in chilling. A medium strength tea is usually liked. A good blend and grade of black tea is most popular for iced tea, while green and black are used for hot . . . To sweeten tea for an iced drink, less sugar is required if put in while tea is hot, but often too much is made and sweetened, so in the end there is more often a waste than saving . . . Iced tea should be served with or without lemon, with a sprig of mint, a strawberry, a cherry, a slice of orange, or pineapple. This may be fresh or canned fruit. Milk is not used in iced tea.”

1941 – During World War II, the major sources of green tea were cut off from the United States, leaving us with tea almost exclusively from British-controlled India, which produces black tea. Americans came out of the war drinking nearly 99 percent black tea.

1995 – South Carolina’s grown tea was officially adopted as the Official Hospitality Beverage by State Bill 3487, Act No. 31 of the 111th Session of the South Carolina General Assembly on April 10, 1995.

21st Century

2003 – Georgia State Representative, John Noel, and four co-sponsors, apparently as an April Fools’ Day joke, introduced House Bill 819, proposing to require all Georgia restaurants that serve tea to serve sweet tea.  Representative John Noel, one of the sponsors, is said to have acknowledged that the bill was an attempt to bring humor to the Legislature, but wouldn’t mind if it became law. The text of the bill proposes:

(a)  As used in this Code section, the term ‘sweet tea’ means iced tea which is sweetened with sugar at the time that it is brewed.

(b)  Any food service establishment which served iced tea must serve sweet tea. Such an establishment may serve unsweetened tea but in such case must also serve sweet tea.

(c)  Any person who violates this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.

SOURCES:

1904 St. Louis World’s Fair – The Iced Tea Question, by Lyndon N. Irwin.

Beyond the Ice Cream Cone – The Whole Scoop on food at the 1904 World’s Fair, by Pamela J. Vaccaro, Enid Press, St. Louis, 2004.

Boston Cooking School Cook Book, by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1996 Reprint.

GA: Food Establishments Must Serve Sweet Tea!, Political State Report, Tuesday, April 1, 2003.

Georgia General Assembly, House Bill 819.

I’ll Have What They’re Having – Legendary Local Cuisine, by Linda Stradley, Globe Pequot Press, 2002.

Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, NC, Features Works by Pierre-Joseph Redout April Issue 2002, from Carolina Arts Magazine, by Shoestring Publishing Company, Bonneau, SC.

South Carolina General Assembly, 111th Session, 1995-1996.

Steeped in Tradition – Sweetened or Not, Iced tea is Southerners’ drink of choice, by Linda Dailey Paulson, writer for Atlanta-Journal Constitution newspaper.

Taste of Luzianne, Luzianne Tea.

What I Like About Being an American

What I Like About Being an AmericanI developed an interest in Indian cooking after watching the movie The Lunchbox. The main character, Ila, infused her cooking with beautiful, artistic expression in the form of spices. I enjoyed watching her hands move as she seasoned her culinary creations without the benefit of measuring spoons. Her spice box caught my attention and held my interest.

I mentioned this to a former co-worker, Bina, who is Indian. She was surprised that I enjoyed the movie, and we had a lovely discussion on Indian food. She suggested the movie The Hundred Foot Journey which further fueled my desire to learn Indian cooking. Bina invited me and three co-workers to her home for an introduction to the world of Indian cuisine.

One of the first things she explained was masala. I assumed masala was a set combination of spices used in a particular recipe. I had seen garam masala and madras masala in markets selling exotic foods. However, like curry, masala changes depending on the country and regions within said country. Bina didn’t own anything among her spices bottled and labeled masala. What she had were individual spices that she knew how to blend perfectly without measuring to create the flavor the recipe required.

Still, I didn’t quite understand masala, but I kept Bina’s comments and instructions in mind, specifically when she said she has a dessert masala, a chicken masala, and a vegetable masala. I Googled a few Indian recipes and tried them. They were good, and many of the spices Bina owns and uses were featured, but something was missing. My desire to cook Indian food was stifled by a concept I wasn’t grasping. I took a break from pursuing it and kept making recipes with which I am familiar.

One day I decided to make chili for dinner. When it came time to season the chili, jars were opened and contents sprinkled over the simmering pot until the quantity on the surface looked right and I stirred them in. A little tasting, a few more dashes of this or that, and I allowed the chili to simmer for a while. I always taste again before it’s completely cooked just to see if the flavors are balanced and add anything as needed. That’s when it hit me: the combination of spices I used was my chili masala which I return to every time I make it. I know how chili should taste to me, but I’m sure if I visited Texas or other chili-making regions of America, I’d experience other spice combinations.

I laughed to myself as my favorite seasoning combination for chicken came to mind. Then I realized I had been on the cusp of understanding the beautiful concept of masala several years ago when I attempted to swap ground ginger for fresh. The ground variety tastes savory and what I describe as classically American. Think Thanksgiving. But the recipe I was making needed the lemony zestiness of fresh ginger, that classically Asian flavor, because I was cooking a Chinese dish. Herbs de Provence is another example of a spice combination that will reflect the nuances of the person cooking with it. Just like masala, there are some spices that will always appear in the mix, but people love to alter it based on their preferences or just to add a dash of mystery.

What I Like About Being an American 2What I learned about masala, about seasoning food in general, is why I like being an American. Where else can you experience a merging of cultures that bring amazing culinary skills from their own countries so that everyone can enjoy them in one place? The great American melting pot starts in our kitchens and ends with the united flavors of America. I have returned to Indian cooking, and while I use the spices to which Bina introduced me, I suspect that my masala may not taste exactly like what she would expect. But that’s okay.

Farm Implements Useful to Writing

Sometimes, writing a blog post to share with all the world is like tap dancing on the stage alone when you took piano lessons: your mistakes will be obvious and glaring. Thankfully, Word catches the majority of them, but there are days when almighty Word isn’t enough. That’s when we turn to our Google search bar, right?

I’m going to extend myself some grace here and admit that I’ve gone back to correct mistakes I spotted after major editing, proofreading, and posting. With all that being said, what tripped me up most recently was another dual spelling. Word didn’t issue the customary red squiggles when I typed it, but I kept staring at my laptop because something didn’t look quite right. You have to love the contrary English language.

Farm Implements Useful for WritingToday’s The Weight of Words focuses on plow vs. plough. Locale factors in to this one with American and Canadian speakers of English preferring plow as the spelling for the farm implement and the related verbs. Our British and Australian neighbors prefer plough. In either case, the word is pronounced the same. Although I do think it would be hilarious if plough was pronounced the same as rough.

How Reading Taught Me to Misspell Words

How Reading Taught Me To Misspell WordsI’ve read so many books during my life that I’ve started to misspell words. I’ll give you a minute to think about that.

I didn’t pay attention to which books were written by English authors and which by American authors. There must have been a time when my selections were top heavy with Brits because I started dropping a U into words that Microsoft Word kept underling, claiming that a U didn’t belong in said word. When it happened with the word color, well, that one seemed rather obvious.

Then came a day when Word underlined realise. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I kept re-reading the sentence for grammar and content to make sure it wasn’t a fragment, etc., etc. But wait, the underline was red, squiggly, and mocking. What in the world was wrong with this word?

I deleted it, retyped it, and again the ugly red squiggles popped up. It was time to resort to the good ole Google search bar. When the first article to pop up was titled Realise vs. Realize, I had a sneaky suspicion of the mistake I’d made. I was having my own private British Invasion.

According to Grammarist.com:

Realise and realize are different spellings of the same word, and both are used to varying degrees throughout the English-speaking world. Realize is the preferred spelling in American and Canadian English, and realise is preferred outside North America. The spelling distinction extends to all derivatives of the verb, including realised/realized, realising/realizing, and realisation/realization.

None of this may seem relevant to a writer, but on the off chance your writing includes a letter composed by someone born and raised outside of North America, think how smart you’ll look to your editor when you spell realize with an S.

Looking Through the Long Lens of History

Glimpses of understanding are all many of us will ever have for what the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy experienced on June 6, 1944. I have looked at it from several different sources, and still, my knowledge is mere shadow when compared to the memories of the men and women who served during World War II.

Conneaut 2

As heart wrenching as Band of Brothers was to watch, I didn’t have a true understanding of the ordeals faced by the American and Allied soldiers and medical staff until I began researching my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles. Per my husband’s suggestion, I attended the Conneaut D-day Reenactment. I assumed I’d find some hobbyists with a useful amount of knowledge. I am not ashamed to admit that the whole event was incredibly humbling, and what I discovered far surpassed my expectations.

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My journey began when three nurse reenactors graciously granted me an interview and patiently answered all my questions. They directed me to And If I Perish and Heroes From the Attic as additional resources where I would find the specific details needed to create believable scenes in my novel. Both books provided the information I desired, but more importantly, they supplied a sense of approachable familiarity that my research had been lacking. Long before I finished reading, I felt as if I knew the people about whom the books had been written. They became friends with whom I experienced fear, anxiety, sympathy, joy, loss, relief, and a whole host of other emotions. I developed an even deeper respect for them, and I wish I’d had the pleasure of meeting and knowing them.

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Another valuable perspective of World War II was the autobiography of Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier’s Story. General Bradley’s account supplied information from the other end of the spectrum, bridging the gap between those in charge and those under orders. As inscribed in the front of the book, General Bradley hoped to help soldiers “understand why they were going where they did.” I believe his memoir answers anyone’s questions if only they are willing to look. While many would criticize those in charge without offering alternatives and/or solutions, I know that I would never want to shoulder the burden that Omar Bradley and others like him did during World War II. To simply say they did the best they could would be insulting. From the lowest private to the highest ranking general, and everyone in between, they all served bravely and selflessly.

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This post would be incomplete without attempting to describe the D-day battle portrayed at Conneaut. My emotions get the better of me every time I think about it. It all seems to happen at once.

Landing craft full of American and Allied soldiers about to crash onto the beaches.

The thrill of the B-17 Flying Fortress flying over so close I swear you could reach up and touch it.

The B-25 Mitchell banking in the brilliant blue sky.

P-51 Mustangs crisscrossing the air like darting swallows.

Excitement and tension mounting, trying to remember it’s a reenactment.

The ground vibrating with the boom of the German 88, the shock traveling up through your body.

Black clouds billowing upward from the flame thrower.

Soldiers storming the beach and falling, the dull ache in your chest every time that soldier is American or Allied.

Inch by grueling inch they gain ground.

The Germans relentless, the Americans resilient.

Again the planes, again the 88, the sound of bullets ripping the air.

And then, a small cheer is heard in the distance, rippling through the crowd, swelling.

Clapping and people jumping to their feet.

Tears in your eyes.

The American and Allied soldiers have gained their objective.

Breathing a sigh of relief.

It’s over. For us, right now, D-day is over.

Locking eyes with those around you as your remember that in 1944, it was just a beginning.

I cannot thank the reenactors enough for keeping alive the memory of what brave American and Allied men and women did. Their selfless sacrifice must never be forgotten or rewritten. The sad fact remains that much of this history is not being taught to upcoming generations. Worse, there are those who wish to revise it as something undesirable or reprehensible. As much as this grieves me, it is not enough for me to want this for future generations. They must desire the knowledge of history for themselves.

Until then, I will carry on remembering for every person who served long after the last one is gone.

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Thank you to HBSmithPhotography for the wonderful pictures from the 2015 Conneaut D-day Reenactment

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