WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? Nemeses – Marty Kafka

NEMESES

By Martin Kafka

It’s been a long time since we were children, and for many of us, including myself, I look back on that part of my life  during the early 1950’s with an unrequited longing and a micro-filtered recall of positive memories. So, from the vantage point of my current moment, it took a while to recall that our generation did face some very serious common nemeses.

Two related nemeses quickly came to mind: Communism and the threat of an atomic bomb.  Communism was an abstract concept for me as a 6-year-old. I was unaware of it as a formidable menace. As for nuclear war, I do remember air raid sirens and bomb shelter drills in school at P.S. 197 In Brooklyn.  I recognized even then, however, that hiding under my kindergarten table was not going to make any difference when the Bomb struck.

There was a third nemesis that I recall more personally, a threat posed by an invisible monstrosity that sought out children. It was a threat we all feared, and it must have been especially terrifying for our parents. It was an invisible menace that lurked amongst us like something out of the Steven King’s horror novel “It.” “It” was mostly dormant, patient, hidden, waiting for the right circumstances to strike. “It” had its preferences for warm weather, crowded spaces, and most especially, for defenseless children. “It” was an amorphous, pervasive, and alien creature that, if it could speak in a single voice, would likely malevolently growl, “Give me your children.”

Think summer camps, for example. When “It” struck, “It” could kill, but “It” was more likely to maim or cripple “Its” victims sadistically, as if “It” were engaged  in a vengeful war with us and wanted to slowly suffocate children to death.

I remember being a kid with my parents at a summer bungalow colony in New Jersey.  “It” struck one of the kids at summer camp. I don’t remember who, as he was not a particular friend of mine, but “It” showed no mercy. After “It” `struck and he died, we cowered in our bungalow, or my brother and I sheepishly played outside on our cabin’s front porch. We didn’t socialize with other kids or adults for several weeks. There was a foreboding silence amongst us, a cloud of fear that crippled our colony’s sense of community. Was there anything we could do? Would “It” strike again? Who might be “Its” next victims?

In 1952, an epidemic year, there were 58,000 new cases of “It” reported in the United States, and more than 3,000 died. It wasn’t until 1955, when I was an eight-year old kid, that I would anxiously look forward to a vaccination shot in my left arm.

Thank God for Jonas Salk.  This time, it was American science beckoning to us “Give me your children”– and we did.

BOLLI Matters contributor and member of the Writers Guild, Marty Kafka
Marty Kafka is a retired psychiatrist whose passions include his wife Karen and their family, international travel, and jazz piano. 
In addition, Marty has found a retirement career taking BOLLI classes, writing memoir, and being active in the Photography special interest group.

FOOD BRIDGE

FOOD BRIDGE

By Barry David

A proper gumbo has to be thick, spicy, and loaded with shrimp, sausage, a particular assortment of sautéed vegetables, and it must include okra.  An article in the Wall Street Journal reviewed four of the best gumbo joints in Louisiana. I tried placing an online order at the top three listed, but their sites were either not user friendly or indicated that they were “out of stock–leave your request and we’ll call ya when we make more to ship.”  This was Mardi Gras time, and gumbo was in high demand down there.

I resorted to the telephone and called the top restaurant.  The WSJ food editor said they made “the best gumbo in the world.”  I strategized and called after the noon rush and spoke to Charlene.  She had a soft, smooth, southern voice and was unbelievably friendly.

I told her about having difficulty ordering online and said I wanted to place my order by telephone. She checked with the chef owner and told me about what they could ship.  I asked about what was in their gumbo–shrimp or crawfish?  Do you use butter in the roux?  Do you put okra in?  What kind of sausage?

“Whoa, there, northern boy.” (The Boston accent had tipped her off.) “How do you know so much about gumbo?”

“Well, Charlene, I happen to make my own gumbo, and it’s terrific,” I said.  “I like to cook, sort of a hobby.”

“You make gumbo up there? Do you have a recipe?”

I couldn’t resist putting her on…“Why, yes.  It’s an old secret family one, and I use lots of butter, shrimp, and okra.”

“Well, by golly, for a Yankee, you do know your gumbo.”

We completed the order, and I gave her my AmEx info.  As soon as a new batch was made and put in quart containers, it would be packed and shipped overnight in a foam cold pack.

All went well.

The “imported” gumbo from Baton Rouge, Louisiana was truly wonderful and almost as delicious as my own thick and spicy version (never the same twice).

More importantly, I made a new friend, sharing recipe secrets and  “breaking bread” in a real sense. I hope Charlene feels the same.

*

So, here’s Barry’s Gumbo—which I started from a basic recipe found on the internet and modified to perfection.  Substitute items depending on your own tastes and what you have available.

Stuff to Get Ready

4 tbsp butter

¼ cup flour

2 onions, diced

2-3 peppers, red, yellow, green, etc. diced, 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces

3 celery rib (skinned), 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped okra (more or less) in ½ inch pieces

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped (more or less, depending on what your crowd likes)

1 pound Cajun sausage (I try to get spicy turkey) cut into ½ inch pieces

1 large 12-15 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes

1 jar spicy chunky salsa

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning–if you want more, add when simmering to taste

4 cups chicken broth (I make from concentrate,  Knoors)

1 pound real good med-large shrimp…shelled, cleaned. Leave tails on.

Bunch of scallions…cut up 3-4 to sprinkle on top if people want

Teaspoon of red pepper flakes (test, add more while simmering to taste)

¼ cup brown rice

White jasmine or basmati rice to serve with gumbo.  Have ready, or just microwave some in those small containers.

Steps
  1. In skillet, brown the sausage pieces. Set aside.
  2. In large pot, medium heat, melt butter and add flour. STIR, STIR, STIR while mixing in flour until mixture (ROUX) darkens…5-10 minutes of STIRRING
  3. Put all vegs in the ROUX and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add in broth, tomatoes, salsa. Bring to boil then to a SIMMER…stirring in cajan spices, the red pepper flakes, brown rice(optional, help to thicken as you like) some salt if you want..go easy on salt, pepper until you check it.
  5.  45-60 minutes of simmering. Check to see if vegs  soft.  NOT MUSHY.
  6. then add in shrimp, sausage..stirring after about 5-10 minutes shrimp will get pink. Can also use cooked/cleaned shrimp but only leave to heat for 1-2 minutes, no need to cook.

     

    DONE!!  Serve over the white rice, sprinkle with scallion pieces and your favorite beer/wine.

BOLLI Matters contributor Barry David

Barry says that he and his wife Liz began taking courses at BOLLI “almost from the beginning while winding down my career in the computer field as GM of ADP.  Love taking subjects that I’ve not had exposure to before.  Being snowbirds, we’re delighted that spring semester has five-week offerings.  BOLLI has been and remains an important part of our life.”