Friday, December 8, 2017

What interests you about this photo, Jaki Jean?

October 29th, 2017

Sometimes my friend Cate Poe, amazing activist & organizer in “retirement,” intrepid traveler, gifted writer, asks me a question.

Most of Cate’s questions send me on a journey, reminding me of journeys I took across space & time in response to a question asked in a classroom.

Cate & her constant companion “Tejano” Jeff are currently traveling & exploring Italy.  Cate posts observations & photos in all their travels & explorations.

Through those observations & photos I, along with many of Cate’s readers, travel vicariously.  Sometimes back to places we have been to, sometimes to places we have on a bucket list, sometimes to places & wonders we never imagined.

Yesterday, Cate posted a series of what she described as random photos from a walk in Genoa, Italy.  But the one I am featuring is the one I told her was my favorite in a group she posted.

And Cate, always curious, asked:

How interesting! What is it you like?

So this is my response.

When I came across this photo, I thought instantly – a gate, a path, steps leading to a door & a threshold.  Possibility for either transformation or transgression.  

Windows, bars on windows, a single piece of cloth hanging, a statement on a wall resembling a hand.  A perspective always leading up & forward – to where?  To what? To whom?

My obsession with thresholds & windows & gates & spaces is a direct result of a course I took because I needed it for my major in English Lit – Renaissance Drama.  The concept of thresholds as a possibility for either transgression or transformation is not mine.

I read it in a book, exploring architectural space & its symbolism in literature & art in the Architectural Library on the University of Houston main campus.

The professor of that Renaissance Drama course, a Shakespeare scholar, was already a bit of a legend in the UH English department.  Not yet tenured, no one took her classes & left quite the same.

I convinced a group of slightly older than the average women at most colleges (who adopted me & allowed me into their worlds), all English majors, to take the class with me. 

Of course, I would like to write that I convinced those talented women to take the course for noble reasons. 

That would be more than disingenuous – it would be a lie.

I needed those talented, gifted women around me to take a course required for my major, for support & to deflect my fear of a not yet tenured but legendary professor.

When I think of who I was then, who we all were, who that amazing instructor was, I find it hard to fear a woman who inspired me to always keep a copy of Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness on the bookshelves in my offices & now next to my bed.

Annie, as my friends & I called that legend when talking about her, was fierce.  My friends & I were equally fierce & Annie dubbed us the “Bombast Queens.”  A term from a Renaissance play. 

We were a thorn in the side of our fellow classmates.  We read, we studied, we voiced our take on the texts.   We were older, we understood the importance of the moment.

Annie met the man she married while jogging in her inner-city neighborhood.  He was an architect.  When Annie spoke about a scene or a staging in a play, the space, the architecture, was essential to an interpretation of the narrative.

And I began to think, much in the same way.  My perception & focus changed when I see a space in a photo or a text & when Cate asks me a question.

I wondered.  Why do so many moments in Jane Eyre happen after or during Jane sitting at a window?  Why does it matter when a character in Faulkner, or any other novel by any other author, stands on a threshold? Why is Michal, King David’s first wife, seen in Biblical narrative looking outside an upper level window, her husband positioned & framed below her view?  David, in charge & chosen.  Michal, gazing from within a frame of the window.  Why?

What does architectural space have to do with literature or interpretation or imagination? 

Everything.  Something I learned in a Renaissance Drama course by way of Dr. Anne Christensen.  

Annie, & that trip to the Architectural Library (a really fine place for quiet studying) on the UH campus to secure a source, are responsible for my obsession with thresholds & other spaces of possibility for transgression or transformation.

I look at Cate’s photo, my mind soars.

I see the gate & ask why it is there – to protect what is within or restrict access to those wanting to enter or to block a feared Other?  I wonder, what if I opened it, what if I walked that path, climbed those steps & knocked at the door?

What if I demanded someone answer my call at the door?

I wonder who is behind those windows?  If they watch my quest past the gate to get to the door, to be allowed access to what is within?

What about what I cannot see in the photo?  What is on either side of the doorway & its threshold?  How far does the building promising that threshold soar beyond the frame?

So, Cate, in answer to your question – that is what I find interesting about your photo.

Possibilities & questions.

And a text someone needs to write.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Jaki Jean on Soap Operas & my Father Jack . . .

When I was a very young little girl, I watched daytime soap operas with my mother Jean & paternal grandmother Helen.  Always CBS soap operas. 

Search for Tomorrow, The Guiding Light, As the World Turns.

My favorite was As the World Turns.  It moved slowly, like a novel.  Perhaps in many ways those soap operas prepared me for reading Anna Karenina & East of Eden & To Kill a Mockingbird & Their Eyes Were Watching God & A Tale of Two Cities & One Hundred Years of Solitude.

And all those other novels.

I continued to watch soap operas as I grew up.  Eventually, I watched newer soaps that moved at a different kind of pace from those of my childhood. 

Soap operas have all but disappeared from our lives, except in the case of the one playing out on our national stage.

I still watch The Young & the Restless & General Hospital.

I follow Y&R because I have watched since its first episode.  I follow General Hospital because of my father Jack.

During a hunting trip in Colorado in the early eighties, my father was pinned between a pickup truck & the wall of a building that housed a store catering to hunters.  It fractured the cartilage holding his pelvis.

My father’s recovery involved an extended hospital stay in Colorado & surgery & a lot of time away from work when he returned home with my mother.

Much of that recovery he eventually spent on a sheepskin in his recliner in the living room in the house that Jack & Jean built, watching television.

One afternoon, I visited my dad at home.  And found him in the recliner watching television.

Jack was totally involved & invested in General Hospital. 

I was stunned.  My father, the Phi Beta Kappa Aggie engineer, reader, ardent follower of politics, was watching a daytime soap opera. 

And proceeded to explain the saga of Luke & Laura to me.  Jack also introduced me to Hill Street Blues, another soap opera that aired at night.

And explained in detail the history of the relationship between Frank Furillo & Joyce Davenport.

Jack especially liked the scenes on Hill Street when Davenport would put on Furillo's button down shirt after an intense intimate moment.

After both introductions, I started following Hill Street Blues & General Hospital.

Because it was something I could share & talk about with my father.  By then, we had stopped discussing politics with one another – Jack’s reaction to my declaration to vote for George McGovern still rankles.

Throwing a plate of Jean’s spaghetti with meat sauce across the room still seems extreme to me.

Jack was an avid reader, as is my mother Jean.  I saw him with a book in his hands (but never during an Aggie football game) far more often than I saw him watching television (except during an election year.)

I read most of the books I found on bookshelves in the house (including racy ones in Jack & Jean’s closet on the top shelf - David Reuben’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask is how I knew about birth control.  And probably why I drove more than one high school friend into Houston to visit Planned Parenthood.  I was adamant that the withdrawal method was not a reliable choice to prevent pregnancy.  Virgins are often informed about these things.)

One of the books I read was Advise & Consent by Alan Drury.  It was written in 1959 & won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960.  Centered around a sitting President’s controversial nomination for Secretary of State, it was the first of six Drury novels in the series. 

It remains a rather amazing series – including a closet homosexual & a Senator  named Hatch.  Not Orrin & not from Utah.  The Senator from Utah was named Brigham Anderson.  The final two novels in the series are different versions of an assassination involving the President, the VP & their spouses. 

The books were something my father Jack & I talked about.  Because I could not risk his reaction if we discussed something real happening in the political spectrum.

Flying plates of pasta are not amusing except in retrospection.

(And people wonder where I got my penchant for the dramatic . . .}

On the day he died, Jack & Jean drove into the inner city where I lived, to a Half-Price Books & Jack bought the last book in the Drury series.

I re-read the entire series, and then read that last volume, after Jack died.

The difference in the two scenarios of each alternative ending was stark & haunted me for years. 

Given the soap opera circus that currently rules the fate of our country & the free world, I remember the final scenes of each of those last two novels.  Of each alternative ending.

I think it is time to put the ever-expanding titles on post-it notes above my work space on hold & read Alan Drury again.  All six novels.

Given that the current administration & Congressional leadership seems intent on taking the world back to a fictional time in the past.

Perhaps my sanity will be restored with a fictional version from the fifties & early sixties about events to come . . . it may or may not offer insight.

But the novels will bring back treasured memories of talking with my father.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Jaki Jean on Me, too & Why it Matters . . .

As I read about yet another charge of inappropriate behavior in the workplace, I know that we have lost sight about why any of these stories matter.

Because it does matter.

It is not about Liberal or Conservative or Democrat or Republican.  It is not about media glitz or headlines.  It is so much more.

And it matters.

It matters because it is the same story, again & again & again.

It is about the world & cultural norms that value patriarchy & power & perceive all Others, especially those without the power & value of a penis, as less.
A less & an absence that threatens & subverts & is too risky to embrace.  Except as an object to be conquered.

I write this as the mother of two amazing, loving, wonderful sons.  Neither of whom find that ingrained perception of absence in the Other than phallus threatening or too risky.

That men, in real or perceived positions of power use their position & its influence to feel free to claim any Other, usually a female, is not breaking news.

That Others from every background, socio economic groups, traditions & education, too often young women, still are reluctant to speak out until now, to say no & refuse to be intimidated should be breaking & startling news.

While we spend a great deal of time striving to raise strong, fierce daughters, perhaps we need to spend even more time on how to raise strong, fierce, respectful sons.

Who value difference & Otherness & don’t fall into the patriarchal myth that Adam was seduced into sin by his female Other & that female was responsible for the ultimate demise of mankind’s perfection & position with God.

This conversation is not just about actresses or people who work in the media industry or in the political spectrum.  It is about some who spoke up, some who were paid to be quiet, some who spoke up after others spoke first.  About those who are still speaking up.

It is about the stories that happened before & continue to happen. 

In every industry, in schools, in churches, in families. 

And it is about me.

About a skinny, clueless girl with freckles, without breasts or any fashion sense.  

I remember that little girl & the young woman who grew out of her (also with freckles, still skinny, without breasts but with better teeth thanks to two orthodontists) & I remember why these stories matter.

It was in time when no one spoke of sexual harassment, when the term was virtually unknown, the concept dismissed.

And still being dismissed.

I remember being that young woman at a company party.  I remember exactly what I wore – a fabulous grey silk blouse with pearl buttons in back with a collar up to the base of my neck & skinny black crepe pants & shoes I could not afford but bought anyway at Neiman Marcus. 

I remember the venue – a rooftop club overlooking the still iconic inner-city neighborhood called Montrose, with fabulous food & a jazz band & too much alcohol.

Sitting on the edge of an oversized ottoman, looking at the view, when a VP of the company sat behind me & and whispered an inappropriate suggestion.

While unfastening the pearl shaped buttons on the back of my blouse.

People were all around us.  I froze.  I could not move, could not look for help.  I did not work directly with this company vice-president, I had never shared a lunch with him, I rarely saw him to say hello.  I only knew his secretary & his position.

He was halfway through the pearl buttons when two men I could not face took him away, put him in a cab & sent him home.

Jazz kept playing.  I still held my wine glass.  And someone joined me on the ottoman & said, “I am so sorry.  He is gone.  And now, with your permission, I am going to button up your blouse.  Take a sip of wine.  He’s gone.”

And then the President of the parent company, who always reminded me of a French version of Peter Sellers as Inspector Coustau in the Pink Panther movies , buttoned up my blouse. 

Somehow managing not to touch my skin. 

He asked me if I needed to go to the ladies’ room & when I nodded, he took the wine glass & then walked with me.

He was waiting after I threw up & rinsed my mouth & for the rest of the evening, sat next to me & we talked.

I don’t remember what we talked about.  Except that he told me This should not have happened. 

That night was not the first time a male touched me, assuming that as a female, I was available to him.  It happened to me as a child. 

It happened when I was married & told my husband, who did not intervene or stand by me, but talked to the man who had grabbed my ass, only to come home & tell me his friend denied touching me.

It was not the first failure of his role as husband. I was too young, too inexperienced.  Outraged, but clueless.  I am quite sure I am still not over that betrayal.

Dismissing me, writing it off to my imagination, to my interpretation.

Looking back at that young version of my Self, I still wonder.  That young woman was intelligent. 

I did not understand how this world turns.  I was in college before I first learned that my mind was not necessarily something of value in the interaction between men & women.

When my college roommate told me: You would attract more guys & get more dates if you just pretended not to be so smart.

After the incidents of ass grabbing & public disrobing, I still did not understand.

While I no longer remember what caused me to lose my mind & leave a firm where I felt secure & successful, I do remember myself facing a subsequent supervisor in a computer room, pushing him & his groping hands away.

And trying to leave only to have him block the door, lock it, & remind me he was my boss.

I kicked him in the cojones & found the key he dropped on the floor & let myself out of a locked room.

And went home, downed several shots of tequila & took out the typewriter my parents had given me to take to college.

I didn’t call a friend.  I didn’t call my parents.  I called an older, seasoned woman, a principle player in the firm I had left in anger.

A woman who drank too much scotch, was lined with too much sun exposure, who had a married lover, who raised two children by two different men & who once leant me so many diamonds for a New Year’s Eve party that I hid them in lettuce leaves in the fridge after the party & could not sleep until after I had returned them to her the next morning.

My older friend laughed. 

Darlin’, you never accept diamonds from a man unless he tells you he has insured them.

When I called my friend Betty, I truly did not know what I would say.  She began the conversation, asking me if I would come back to the firm.

And the rest spilled out.

The next morning, I followed every instruction Betty gave me.  I went to work with two letters, one a complaint against my supervisor about sexual harassment & inappropriate behavior, addressed to the company’s CEO.

The other, my resignation.  Because Betty warned me:

The men will not believe you.  Stand your ground.  You are strong.  Stronger than you know.
As Betty predicted, the powers that be that were in charge, all male, did not believe me.

The CEO directed the meeting & began with,

This is a serious allegation you have made.  An aggressive allegation.  Why. are you so aggressive?

They had numerous excuses, you misunderstood, you are confused, you were tired & did not understand after a long day . . . it was a harmless . . .  a joke . . . you are too aggressive.

In other words, it was a good ole’ boy engaging in locked room banter.

I listened.  I heard the words.  I watched the male faces surrounding me & felt the same fear I always felt on stage in a play in my childhood.

I stood up, looked each of those men in the eye & said:

I did not misunderstand what happened.  What happened was not a joke.  I was locked in a room & groped & told by my supervisor that he was in charge.   This is not about my aggression.  It is about sexual harassment & it is against the law

I handed the CEO my resignation & the next Monday morning, I returned to a place where no one groped me or unbuttoned my blouse or locked me in a room.

I stood up because I had a seasoned, experienced older friend who told me I was stronger than I knew & believed I would rise to that strength.

A man called me aggressive. 

As if that was a bad trait in a woman.

Because I am sure, he admired aggression in the men he hired to support him.

I always want to believe myself as fierce & stronger than I know.  I do not apologize for being what Others see as aggressive.

I remember a day, the last time I spent time on a boat with my father as captain.  My sister & a few of her friends were with us. 

I was unmarried & pregnant & had not shared that information with anyone but my youngest brother.  My main focus was about the speed at which my father was driving & would it cause a miscarriage.

One of my sister’s friends began to flirt with me.  I was not amused.  When I did not respond, my sister leaned in & advised her friend,

She will chew you up & spit you out.

I once sat in a meeting with my boss of many years & our client & a consultant the client hired.  Both my boss & I thought the consultant was not a good idea or in the best interests of our client.  And a pompous ass.

And we made an agreement, initiated by my boss:

If that idiot says anything offensive to either of us, we both get up & leave together.

And that idiot began his presentation, by announcing:

The only difference between rape & rapture is in the presentation.

I was speechless, immobile & never heard another word he said. 

If I had moved, my boss would have followed me.  But I truly could not think, much less move.

I don’t remember at what point later that my boss & I asked each other why neither of us moved.  We were just each waiting for the Other to stand up.

But eventually we did talk & the next day, I skipped an English class ( Jaki Jean skipped an English class ! ) & went to the office, not in my Accountant clothes, but in my school clothes & wrote a letter to the idiot consultant.

Explaining the difference between rape & rapture.  Explaining the toxic environment, he created.  Explaining the legal definition of sexual harassment. 

I wrote it on my own letterhead & took it to my boss.

Who told me to have it delivered, with a carbon copy to our client & himself.

The aftermath was fierce & instant.  The idiot was furious, calling for me to be fired.  The client called me.  Furious.

I stood my ground, I went over the fact that the idiot consultant had no idea if any woman or man at the table had been raped, or any member of our families had been raped.  I kept telling her that it was an inappropriate beginning for what he was there to suggest & recommend.

It was a two-hour conversation.

At the end of several hours of conversations, she told me her husband had weighed in, explaining that he worked for a large, successful company & every month was required to attend meetings about sexual harassment.  He told her I was right.

In the end she did not insist I be removed from her account or be fired.  Because a male told her I was right.

The idiot consultant truly imploded, accusing my boss of grabbing the client’s ass after the meeting ended.  And was recorded making his rant & accusation.
As his wife pointed out, my boss was not an ass man.  Boobs, yes.

For years, at my boss’s request, I kept that recording in a drawer in my bedroom. 

Our client fired the idiot & we continued to represent her.

The “Me,Too” stories are about me & too many Others.  

It is about how we raise our sons & daughters.

It is about men & women supporting one another.

It is about change, about refusing to be silent or compliant.  It is about speaking out & empowering other victims to speak out.

And posting “Me Too” to emphasize the magnitude of this problem.

Me, too.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

In Defense of Parsnips . . .

The first time I ate parsnips was over thirty years ago in a recipe I had to ask my supervisor & friend, Louise Talley Richman, to translate from French.

We were working for an offshore company owned by a parent company in France.  Created to move money out of France in reaction to the perceived threat of radical socialism.  

The parent company was involved in the North Sea, South America, eventually Russia.  The Gulf of Mexico & Texas looked promising for a profit & safe haven from a socialist takeover.

I got the job in ETPM’s accounting department through a woman named Faith a former co-worker of my then spouse.  Faith left the retail company where all three of us worked for ETPM, kept in touch with us, & provided a reference for my interview.

(Faith & I once shared a dream on the same night.  But that is another story.)

The job led me to finally, after five years, leaving a man who would never be the husband I once thought I needed & wanted.  It led to a lifetime of connections, to two trips to Paris, several amazing relationships & the birth of my Alpha Son Nicholas Jordan Ettinger-Ravel. 

And an appreciation of parsnips.

Each week, crew & management arrived to replace exiting ETPM crew & management & there was always an exchange of mail bags.  Included in the bags from Paris were magazines.  One of which always had recipe cards with beautiful photos.

When I left my husband, my friend & supervisor Louise gave me a lot advice – but the best thing she gave me was given to her by her mother when Louise & her first husband divorced.

At least one day a week, take out the china & crystal & cloth napkins.  Prepare a meal, a fine meal, for yourself.  Light candlesticks & put on music you love.  Indulge.

I followed a great deal of Louise’s advice – but a meal for myself once a week became a ritual.

One week, the recipe cards with beautiful photos included a recipe for a soup.  That required parsnips.

I had no idea what parsnips were.  In the days without Google or the Internet, I looked them up in the dictionary.

In those days without Google or the Internet, vegetables & fruits were strictly seasonal – not readily available year-round.  For parsnips, I had to go to a luxury grocery store located inside the Loop - Jamail’s.

In the days before Whole Foods or Central Market or Trader Joe’s, Jamail’s was THE Houston premier grocery store.

Founded in 1946 by Nageeb “Jim” Jamil, a native of Lebanon, Jamail’s served those who could afford its quality or dared to enter it until 1988.

Previous to my pursuit of parsnips & my weekly ritual to cook for myself, I had only been to Jamil’s to buy Science Diet cat food for my felines (no Petsmarts in those days) & Shiner beer (the only place I knew of to buy it except by the mug at the Hobbit Hole).

Wandering around Jamail’s gave me valuable information.  First, I was woefully ignorant of so many culinary wonders.  And second, it was really important to get to know the men behind the butcher counter.

I learned to take a number & wait patiently in line behind women & men who knew the behind the butcher counter guys.  And listen to their question & answer exchanges.

At Jamail’s, no one rushed anyone.  Eventually, I learned to recognize the butchers behind the counter & greet them by name.  I would come in with my translated recipes reduced to a recipe for two. 

During those years, when no one rushed a customer, I stood in line to ask for enough cuts of different meats for two.  I bought my first prosciutto & pancetta outside Italy at Jamail’s.  Eventually, I bought lamb & veal.

I once was invited to eat Beef Wellington with a friend & his fellow Rice graduate student house mates.  Prepared with truffles from Jamail’s. 

And then I bought parsnips.

The translated soup recipe called for more vegetables than parsnips.  Carrots, potatoes, leeks, turnips, tomatoes, green beans, ingredients I have forgotten except for chicken stock & cream  & white wine.  And the participation of a blender, which left a thick, rich soup best served with a simple salad & a baguette of bread.

Over subsequent decades, I lost that recipe card, but continued to use the basics of the recipe.  Always with parsnips.

I have served grilled & roasted root vegetable medleys at family meals.  No one ate around the parsnips.  Of course, I did not tell my guests that they were eating parsnips.

Just as I did not tell my sons that the lovely Lasagne Pasticciate they ate included a Ragú Bolognese involving liver.  Just as I waited tell my sons, nieces & nephews that the secret ingredient in the chocolate garden cake they devoured on Easter Sundays was grated zucchini.

In my defense, I learned this approach to introducing scary foods from my sweet, slightly devious, mother Jean.  I would not know the wonders of zucchini if she had not told me I was eating sautéed cucumbers.  I would not know how very fine venison tastes had she not told me I was just eating the stew she always made. 

(I broke a year of protest against consuming meat after my father killed a Bambi.  All for Jean’s stew . . . only to learn after devouring two bowls of stew that I ate Bambi).

So, imagine my dismay & horror when my sweet, kind, compassionate friend Juan Rangel posted about his treasured wife Denice’s lovingly prepared meal that included parsnips.

If somebody cooks you dinner & the dinner has parsnips make sure you have a barf bag next to you.

Apparently, from the lively discussion that ensued in response to Juan’s insistence that a root vegetable I really like be renamed barfsnips, my compassionate friend is not alone in his rejection of parsnips as a desired staple.

No matter.  I stand by the humble & maligned wonder called a parsnip.  Just as I stand by that lasagna with meat & cream sauces, just as I still think grating zucchini in chocolate cake & cupcakes & banana bread is cool & tasty.

Of course, I stand by liver & onions, but that is another story.

Today, I came to understand how Juan Rangel feels about parsnips.

Because, during my adventure today, traveling to my eye doctor’s office to pick up a refill on my contacts, I found two bizarre & inexplicable items.

Not at my favorite Indian grocery store, which is the same plaza along the Southwest Freeway that hosts my eye doctor’s practice.  I left later than I usually make this journey & the plaza, full of Indian restaurants & sari & jewelry shops, was a happening place on steroids.

Parking was limited – access to the Indian grocery store daunting.  I needed to finish my other Saturday morning errands & could not take time to explore the wonders of my favorite place to buy cinnamon sticks, cloves, turmeric & chutneys.

I found the two bizarre & inexplicable culinary items that ignited my understanding of barfships at a Dollar Tree & my local Randall’s grocery store.

I went to the nearest Dollar Tree to my home for a very specific item (an item not available at my current favorite Dollar Tree, which is on the way to the library).  I found the needed item & other treasures.  Including some really cool Christmas ribbon.

It was at the checkout counter that I spotted something I never envisioned or anticipated.

All I could think was, seriously?

When was candy corn not enough on its own?  When & why did Hershey’s create this abomination of a Hershey’s bar that does not involve chocolate?

I don’t even like Hershey’s bars that involve cookies & cream & white chocolate.  Except to use as windows or sidewalks on my annual gingerbread house.

Then, at my neighborhood grocery store, there was this:  Organic Pumpkin Pasta.

I love pumpkin.  I love pasta.

But I cannot imagine that I will ever love pumpkin pasta, organic or otherwise.  I cannot imagine a recipe that would require pasta made with pumpkin.

What kind of sauce does one serve on organic pumpkin pasta? 

Somehow the idea of pumpkin pasta with parsnip sauce & basil does not appeal even to Jaki Jean.

Alliteration, yes.  But even the noble & much maligned parsnip is not equal to the task of adorning pumpkin pasta.

So, my amazing friend Juan Rangel, a gift from Andres M. Dominguez, who is a gift from Rachel Halperin Plotkin, who is a gift I found in the breezeways of Coronado High School in El Paso, I write with humility & understanding.

You, Juan, tried & tasted the noble parsnips.  I cannot fathom tasting a candy corn Hershey’s bar or organic pumpkin pasta.  You are a good & brave man.

Sometimes parsnips, or candy corn Hershey bars, or organic pumpkin pasta, are not culinary marvels.  It is all about perspective.

As is everything.

PS:  I still think my friend Douglas the Purple Mouse, a gift from Sue Ann McLauchlan Faulkner, is responsible for this particular thread of friends. But that is a story I have shared before.