Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Eggnog, Mark Twain, and Southern Baptist Women

 I'm looking at eggnog recipes in a cookbook that was a wedding present to Carol and me 51-plus years ago, Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker  There is first a recipe for a punch-glass full of the stuff on page 48 of our 1964 edition (the first edition was in 1931), and then for "Eggnog in Quantity" on page 50.

There are two versions of the "Eggnog in Quantity" recipe, the first, a "rich and extravagant version that is correspondingly good," and the second, "less powerful, less fluffy than the preceding nog, and a boon to a creamless householder."  (It seems odd to think of a "creamless householder."  In the case of the second version, condensed milk is substituted.  But the first seven editions of this book covered the Depression and WW II years.)

The first version of "Eggnog in Quantity," among other ingredients, calls for "2 cups of dark rum, brandy, bourbon or rye." But the writer says this:

Some people like to add a little more spirit to the .  .  .  recipes, remembering Mark Twain's observation that "too much of anything is bad, but too much whiskey is just enough."

Which reminds me of my grandmother, Hettie Louise Johnson Stokes.  She loved my mother's eggnog and each Christmas remarked on how good it was.  A Southern Baptist born in Dade County, GA, in 1884, Grandmother Stokes never realized that Mom's secret ingredient  was dark rum.  (Mom was also a Southern Baptist but from Fulton County, GA. Nita never told Hettie about the rum. Nor did anyone else.) 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Hands On, Even Slightly

 During 2019, we were able to buy our Austin home at a good price, in part because it was not in tip-top shape.  So, along with the house, we acquired a list of things that we needed to do to restore it, among them was to fix the sprinkler system.  We moved in at the end of March 2020 just before the pandemic closed in . 

By about 15 months after our move, we had checked off enough items on the renovation list to reach  the broken sprinkler system.  We located a local expert in residential sprinkler systems, and they did a good job in getting the system going again.  

Unlike the situation in Miami Springs, where the water table is high enough for a lawn sprinkler system to easily reach the water table, here in Austin the water table is very deep in the ground,  No home in our development, as far as I know, has its own well.  So, we must use, as other people do hereabouts for their lawn sprinklers and swimming pools (we don't have a swimming pool),  "city water," as folks from Miami Springs call it.

Our sprinkler-system contractor tested the water pressure from the city water utility in the course of his work.  He found the pressure was low, and well below what it should have been, sprinkler system or no sprinkler system. We contacted a plumber, as suggested by our contractor, to address the pressure matter.  (That's the way it is with an older  home, right? One repair leads to another.  But we knew that.)

The plumber came and examined the arrangement of pipes and gauges that connect our house to the water utility.  That arrangement is mostly accessible via a small man-hole in our side yard, but not completely and required some excavation.  After several hours of hard work, our plumber replaced the entire pipe and pressure regulation system, from the point where the city's pipe ends to the point where our pipe begins.,  I found the plumber's renovation work to be a thing of beauty, before he covered it all up.

Having the water pressure restored to normal limits had several consequences beyond a now robust sprinkler system.  In one of our bath rooms, the one nearest the water pipe that comes into the house, a noisy problem arose.  We found that after we push down the handle to flush the toilet and after its apparatus inside the tank completes the water-refilling cycle, an enormous sound filled that part of the house.  It was a huge groaning sound and it seemed to be coming from the wall behind the tank. I concluded that the increased water pressure had something to do with this.  Google told us we needed to call the plumber again.  And we finally did.  They came this week.

I had visions of our having to tear out the wall to get to the offending pipes, pipes now breaking down from the increased water pressure.  They seemed to groan, "What have  you done to us?!!"

The plumber came again, this time with a  helper, to look at our situation. The plumber lifts the porcelain lid from the top of the tank, just after I push down the handle to flush, and then he waits till the tank fills up.  There is no groaning until the very, very end of the filling process, and the groaning, the awful groaning, begins. 

The plumber takes his index finger and gives the slightest push to the metal rod that connects the ball to the valve, he pushes it up right at the end of the rod where it connects to the valve apparatus.  The sound disappears.  

What?!  That's it?!

I'm pretty embarrassed.  I've fixed toilet apparatus for years, only now and then having to call the plumber for help.  

So, we discuss the question of replacing the apparatus or getting a new, more water efficient toilet. (We'll probably buy a new toilet.)  And I know what the plumber and his helper are thinking as they walk back to their trust:  What an idiot.  The guy must be a retired lawyer or something.

No, guys, I'm really hands-on.  I just got it in my mind that there was something wrong with the pipes.  Else I would have fooled with the tank apparatus.  

After they leave, I fool with the tank apparatus.  I adjust a few screws; I spray the valve hinge with some silicon lubricant.  I bend the metal rod so that the ball, as it floats up on the filling tank, will give that valve just a little more pressure: Slight pressure is all.  Like from a plumber's index finger.

No more groaning.  Except my own.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Feeding the Five Thousand, Walking on Water

 My Sunday School Class (now on-line) last Sunday morning considered verses 1 through 21 of chapter 6 of the Gospel of John.  We covered the Feeding of the Five Thousand (verses 1 through 15) and then, in verses 16 through 21, where Jesus Walks on Water.  (The ESV editors provided those headings.)  How do these two events, one after another, relate to each another?  Was it simply a matter of temporal history?  Or is it God trying to tell us something more, and, if so, what? 

The commentators have been asking these sorts of questions for 2000 years and writing down their answers.  Here is my go at them in a few words.  I'm sure I have nothing new to say.

People have tried to explain away the Feeding of the Five Thousand in naturalistic terms.  For example, when the disciples poll the crowd about the matter of food, only the little boy, in his innocence, discloses what he has - and then offers it.   Other people had brought lunch as well, maybe in abundance, and the child's example led them to disclose and share.  Still others had the resources beforehand to canvass the nearby towns for provisions, anticipating the problem that Jesus described.  No miracle here.  Move along.  

Or maybe there was not such a crowd.  Maybe it was much smaller.  Whatever.

Then there is "Jesus Walks on Water."  I think that's there because of God's grace for those readers who still didn't get it, after reading about the Feeding.  In the Walk, we have Jesus' control over the elements, over physics, if you will, and over time itself.  Is the Feeding not miracle enough for you?  Then the God incarnate, the God of infinite mercy, offers this.

As to meaning, there are layers and layers more to do with both the Feeding (the first "Lord's Supper" or Eucharist for example), and the Walk.  One sees more just in the balance of the chapter and elsewhere in Scripture.  More of that later.