Sunday, November 27, 2022

It took me fifteen years to try it

and the next fifteen years, I couldn't get enough of it. I am talking, of course, about my mother-in-law's famous Dorito Casserole. She calls it her "Chicken Enchiladas." But I call it Dorito Casserole because, as the name implies, it contains Doritos. An entire bag, to be specific. 

So, the backstory here is that every Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law would make the dish, and often, I'd watch her make it (pro tip: do NOT do this) and I'd be... repulsed and have no desire to eat it, but then, the entire casserole would get snarfed down by everyone else, and I'd wonder,

but not wonder too hard, what I was missing. Until one day, there did happen to be a small bit of it remaining, and tired of all of the other leftovers, the mashed potato, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc., I heated up some of the "Chicken Enchiladas," and let's just say, 

a new fan was born. 

(If the Dorito Casserole is wrong
I don't want to be right)

Every year after, and any year my mother-in-law wasn't here, I'd be the one opening the bag of Doritos and mixing up the gloop, the dish by then a family favorite, the first request of the kids when they came home for the holidays, the one recipe Thanksgiving guests would ask me for later, and I would always have to tell them: "Don't think too hard about what's in this." 

Okay, I'll tell you what's in this. * 

But first, let me tell you about the opposite of what's in this. Actual food. I've been thinking about actual food lately because my husband and I have been trying to eat better, and better, in our definition, means eating food. IE: things that aren't processed or are minimally so, things that our grandmothers would have identified as food. Except this isn't entirely true. 

Our grandmothers (and his mother) grew up on farms, and processed food (they would say "store bought") to them meant better. In their opinion, if you could afford to buy a can of tomatoes, why in the world would you spend time growing tomatoes, harvesting tomatoes, canning tomatoes? 

Interestingly enough, the grandchildren are enamored by growing and harvesting and canning. They shop at farmers markets and worry about sustainability and local food chains and food deserts. One set of kids is presently living and working on a farm, something that had many of the farm-raised older relatives shaking their heads in genuine confusion. 

I recently read a book about this present-day farm, a memoir by a woman who left her city-life to follow her husband's dream, a fully sustainable farm that can feed hundreds of people, and I must say I can see the appeal. 

One sticking point though: on Thanksgiving, can I still eat the Dorito Casserole? 

*As promised: Linda's Chicken Enchiladas (affectionately known as The Dorito Casserole)

  • 1 cup cooked and cubed chicken (or turkey)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
  • 1 medium jar of Cheez Whiz
  • 1 bag of Doritos
Mix together everything except Doritos. Pour small amount on bottom of baking dish. Alternate layers of soup mixture and chips. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

This plant opens in the sun

and closes up in the dark. It's very strange, how the fan-like leaves squinch up at night. How when I open the blinds for it in the morning, the leaves spread themselves wide and crowd in the same direction toward the window, the flowers arching toward the glass. 

I don't know what kind of plant it is but I like it. I tote it around the house in search of better sunlight exposure, not wanting to tell it that sunlight is precious this time of year in Central Ohio. I suppose it'll figure it out for itself. Meanwhile, I've turned on my Light Therapy Lamp

and it's sorta helpful, but even with it blazing, I can feel my energy drain drain draining away. The gray cold days around here are so... gray and cold. I want to curl up under the covers and lose myself in a book. I want to snarf down gooey cream soup-based casseroles. I want to squinch up like the leaves on my weirdo plant and go to sleep. How is it nearly winter? How is it that four days from now it's Thanksgiving? Yesterday 

I walked down to the farmer's market at the end of the street to pick up my pre-ordered turkey. I didn't think about how I'd have to heft it home. Twenty-two pounds, which seemed like something I could carry, and it was boxed up and easily carriable, but add a cold wind and the 25 degree temps, and how bundled up I was in my arctic coat, and three minutes into the walk back, the twenty-two pounds was feeling more like fifty. 

After I dumped the turkey off at the house, I trekked back to the market, the last day of the season, and not much left for sale except for random root vegetables. Not that I have anything against root vegetables, but I want the fresh spring kinds of vegetables. 

I want spring. 

I want it to be light in the morning when I wake up and light after dinner when I take the nightly walk with the dog. Instead, we walk

in the dark, past the droopy brown flowers lining the curbs, the icy wind blowing the dog's ears back, an unexpected swirl of snow that takes us both by surprise. Home, and I peel off my many layers of clothes, a toweling off of wet dog, a quick dash upstairs to turn my weird plant away from the window, one purple flower pasting itself defiantly to the glass. 


Sunday, November 13, 2022

Hello I am very loud

maybe it's the blaring music I listened to as a teenager, the concerts where you walk out of the stadium with your ears ringing, and now, the hearing loss is finally catching up with me. And/or maybe it's an old habit left over from being a teacher and public speaker. Also, my aversion to holding a microphone (I don't like how my hand shakes when I'm holding one), but no big deal because I CAN PROJECT MY VOICE. 

The problem is sometimes I do that, even when the situation does not call for it. A quiet restaurant. A conversation in someone's living room with family or friends. One of them shushes me, and I immediately vault back to being a child, the keeper of secrets who told, and 

was told: You have a big mouth. In my defense, the earlier times I told, and told quietly, no one seemed to hear me. 

This is all to say that Me and Being Loud go way back. But I wasn't thinking of any of this the other day at the library. I was at the help desk, greeting patrons as they came in to pick up their holds, scurrying over to the fax machine to help someone fax a document, helping someone else at the printer,

having a long, very loud (I'll admit it) conversation with Mr. W., one of our regular patrons, someone I adore and know is hard of hearing so we all have to shout when we speak to him. 

It's my day today! he said. 

and I said, OH YOU'RE RIGHT, VETERAN'S DAY (because I know he is a proud veteran) THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SERVICE! 

A short pause after he left to catch my breath, another patron heading over to the desk from the computer area, and what might he need help with? 

I have a complaint, he said, and I was all serious and ready to hear it. Trouble with the printer? A problem locating materials? An issue with our catalog, our magazine selection, a missing newspaper? 

You are very loud, he said, pointing at me. 


I stammered an apology and he went on. How he was trying to read and how very loud I was, over by the printer and at the computers and having very loud conversations with people at the desk. 

Oh, that. I started to explain about sweet Mr. W and how he is a regular patron and we know that he is hard of hearing. 

The man cut me off. Well, he should get his hearing problems taken care of! There was more grouching about how libraries have changed and not in a good way and aren't they supposed to be quiet and what was it with all of these people talking, all of these mothers and their crying babies and why couldn't they control their crying babies--

My ears were ringing at this point, worse than those blaringly loud concert nights, and now I was sputtering defenses of the people who needed help with the printer, the mothers with the crying babies (not that there were any around at the moment) but they were welcome in the library too, 

and Maybe, I said, gently, quietly, You would be happier at the main library, where there is a quiet room? Because this library, our library, doesn't have a quiet room. 

The manager came out then to resolve the situation, not that it could really be resolved. The man wanted quiet, wanted shushing, but the world has changed. Sometimes the library is loud. Some of our patrons are loud. I am loud. 

Or I guess I should say, I AM LOUD. 

I promise I'll try to keep my voice down in your living room or at a quiet restaurant, but when I am chatting with Mr. W, at the help desk, PLEASE DON'T SHUSH ME. 

Sunday, November 6, 2022

First, there was a wedding

and then there was a funeral. The wedding, we planned for over a year. The funeral, we took care of in less than an hour. 

And how efficient it was and easy, the funeral director so calm and gentle in his suit. The box of tissues on the table, an offer of bottled water. He opened his laptop and pulled up what I realized must be a fill-in-the-blank form. He called my father-in-law by his first name, but added a mister. And where was Mr. Richard born? And what brought y’all down here? And was Mr. Richard in the service? And what branch of the service was Mr. Richard in? 

And kindly to my mother-in-law: How long were you and Mr. Richard married? Fifty-eight years? Hmm. He was typing on his laptop and looking over the top of it, stopping every now and then to let us all collect our thoughts. 

I don’t know what all of our thoughts were. I know mine were a mixture of all the words for stunned. The loss of my father-in-law and how his kind face kept floating up in my mind. The time my college boyfriend took me home to meet his dad and mom, how kind they both were and welcoming, taking us out to a show at the Grand Ole Opry and then to dance at country and western bar. Me, a manic Yankee girl from Connecticut, doing some kind of country western showdown whirl around the dance floor with my soon-to-be father-in-law. 

He was a good person. I know everyone says this when someone dies, but in his case it is all true. A good husband. A good father and grandfather. A good friend. 

But back in the funeral director’s office, I was amazed at how smoothly and quickly the process was going. Putting the finishing touches on the obituary and the service, selecting the coffin. And why wouldn’t it all be smooth and quick with this clean-cut man in his suit? He must’ve done this thing a thousand times. 

And that had clearly been enough times to know that it was the very first time for us. 

A week ago we were at a wedding and now we were going to a funeral. The planned for a year wedding. The planned for an hour funeral. Both had the food, the flowers, the music. The loved ones gathering. The laughing and crying together.