Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kitchen Secret Weapon

Here is a ricer. For mashing turnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes it is non-pareil. The vegetables come out fluffy and light, sans lumps. I intend to try it on some leftover roasted asparagus. I will use the puree in a broth to make cream of asparagus soup. I could put the spears in a food processor, but some of them are tough.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Annals of Nursing-Part 3. The Sixties come to Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital School of Nursing

This antique post card shows the view towards Billings Lee and the School of Nursing from across Occom Pond in Hanover, New Hampshire.

There were many young women at Mary Hitchcock who wanted to be nurses from girlhood.

I was not one of them. I had never thought of being anything other than a writer. But I had procrastinated through my last year in high school. Applying nowhere with plans to do nothing. This dismayed my father . He drove me to Hanover, dropped me off at the hospital, and told me to find a job and a boarding house to live in. I did, and spent the next year as a medical records clerk. At first I filed, then stamped addressograph plates. Eventually I worked evenings, and became an accomplished chart hound. Medical Records were scattered everywhere, and I was good at finding them. My proudest achievement was finding a psych patient's chart in the men's room at the Mental Health Center.

Medical Records was a job, not a future. I had to do something. I applied to nursing school, and they accepted me.

The only time I had ever been in a hospital was the two hours I spent one evening working as a Candy Striper at Claremont Hospital. I was sixteen. I filled water pitchers, and was assigned to feed an old lady.

I remember the sour smell, the horrible green walls, and the contracted, demented, drooling woman I was to feed. She was Shakespeare's last scene-" Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything".

"I'm not going back," I told my mother.

Yet here I was, a victim of wonderful luck, a freshman nursing student. I liked nursing school. I was at home. I had not made a mistake. I would make it through, and never be called in for The Talk. Mrs. Clark would never ask me "Are you sure you want to be a nurse?".

I was standing in anatomy class dissecting a cat carcass when I heard that one of our upper classmen was on probation. Dartmouth students held an antiwar rally at Parkhurst Hall, and this girl ran downtown to see it.

" She thought she was going to see History in The Making," said our housemother (and moral enforcer) Auntie Bea.

Parkhurst Hall was not history in the making, but the November 15 Mobilization in Washington D.C. was. It is a mystery to me still how I decided to cut classes and drive to Washington with four Dartmouth students I did not know and with the minister of the White Church, who was a friend to all the nursing students. I invited myself, not out of conviction, but because this was high adventure. I did not ask my parents for permission. I jumped in the car and left, giving no thought to what might happen when I came back.

It was the longest ride I had ever taken, and by the time we arrived in Washington I was sick with a vicious migraine. We were going to be staying at a AME church. We would sleep in the pews. The next morning we would march. We strayed into the wrong neighborhood. An elderly black man pulled his car in front of us. "You need to get out of here," he said. He led us to the church.

I do not know how I would have gotten through the night with a massive migraine and sleeping on a wood pew. But I was rescued by a professor from Georgetown and his wife. They took me and four students from City College of New York into their home in Hyattsville, Maryland. I slept in a bed, and in the morning my headache was gone.I met up with Harvey, the White Church minister, and the four Dartmouth students and we joined 250,000 people in the largest protest in U.S. history. We were a mass. I remember the street leading to the White House. I remember tanks behind the grates in government buildings. The snipers and soldiers on the roofs. The buses beyond number blocking the White House from us. We marched to the Monument, and listened to Coretta Scott King and Peter, Paul, and Mary. When it was over we went back toward our car only to find that trouble had started and the police were lobbing teargas. I remember a tall, bearded, burly young man in a white lab coat coming toward us. He had an armband that read "Medical Students against the War". His eyes were streaming.

We escaped. We were driving back through the night. But not before we ate at a German restaurant in Dupont Circle. I had schnitzel, and I was feeling more worldly and sophisticated by the minute. We detoured to Providence next morning to drop one of the students at his home. I could not sleep while the boys and Harvey drove, and back in my dorm when I fell asleep I dreamt of cities burning.

No student at Mary Hitchcock School of Nursing had ever left without permission, cut classes, and marched in Washington. What was adventure for me was seen as infamy by the school.

Mrs Clark was waiting for me.

Thus concludes the third part of my nursing school memoir. Since it is a bit of a cliff-hanger, I will not dally with Part 4, which should appear within the next few days.

The Northern Family Cemetery, Percy Warner Park, Nashville

This old cemetery sits on a hill overlooking Chickering Road and the park golf course. It is fenced and chained off now to keep beer-fueled teenagers from breaking what stones are left. To paraphrase Robert Frost, something there is that doesn't love a graveyard-

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cuisine de Can Opener

I posted a photo yesterday of my copies of "Four Great Southern Cooks" and "The Memphis Cookbook". The latter is a spiral bound production of the Memphis Junior League, circa 1952. The contributors, unless they are the rare Miss Mary Robinson, identify themselves as Mrs., followed by their husband's first and last name. Did any of these women work? Possibly. Did any of them cook? Perhaps a few, but I suspect their maids and cooks came every day by bus from lesser parts of town.

The book's Foreword, which the League Ladies say was borrowed from an 1800's cookbook, gets right to the point. And I quote.

" In selecting a husband you should not be guided by the silvery appearance as in buying a mackerel; nor by the golden tint as if you wanted salmon. Do not go to the market for him as the best ones are always brought to the door. Be sure to select him yourself as tastes differ. It is far better to have none unless you will patiently learn how to cook him".

The heart of Memphis Junior League cooking was the can opener. I am no stranger to canned broth, or corn, or tomatoes, but I could not compete with these women and their cooks.

Take Seven Can Soup, for example. I have read the recipe over and over , and only see six cans. No matter. A 3 ounce can of mushrooms, canned tomatoes,canned whole potatoes,canned chicken broth, canned chicken gumbo, canned beef bouillon. I assume the one package of frozen mixed vegetables was considered an honorary can.

There is also the found everywhere recipe for asparagus casserole with "nippy cheese". Made with two Number 2 cans of asparagus.

This begs a question. Was this food good? Someone must have eaten it and passed these recipes from church to church and luncheon to luncheon. No Memphis lady would send in anything other than a crowd pleaser.

Last night at work, one of the men I work with described his mother's cooking.

"It was the best. She used cream of mushroom soup and asparagus soup. I could open a restaurant and make a fortune selling the kind of food I grew up on".

Food snobbery and fashion aside, it must have been tasty. All those Memphis husbands ate it. I should try it. Maybe I will start with Mrs. Edward W. Cook's Boula Soup. All I need is 1 can of green pea soup, one can of green turtle soup,sherry wine to taste, whipped cream , and Parmesan cheese. All I need to do is place the soup mixture in a casserole dish, spread a one inch thick layer of whipped cream over it, sprinkle it with cheese, and bake it for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees "until the whipped cream is crusty".

But where would I buy Turtle soup? I might have to go down to the Little Harpeth River with my long handle net and catch my own soft shell turtles. I know where they are. But I am being facetious. The Park Police would arrest me.

Little Voice of Spring

Two afternoons ago I heard Hyla Crucifer, the spring peeper, calling from some marshy grass on the fringes of the Steeplechase course at Percy Warner Park. I have heard them call to spring since I was a child. I have lived near swamps and rivers and marshes, yet I have never seen a peeper. He is a will-of-the wisp. He will sing until one gets a foot too close, and then there will be only the call of the red-wing blackbird, another haunter of pond edges and river-bottoms.

The naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch said this of Hyla Crucifer. "- the peeper seems to realize, rather better than we, the significance of his resurrection, and I wonder if there is any other phenomenon in the heavens above or in the earth beneath which so simply and so definitely announces that life is resurgent again". ( "The Twelve Seasons". 1949. Joseph Wood Krutch.)

On the same afternoon I heard two Barred Owls calling to each other. Unlike peepers, they are not shy. They sit their ground, or rather their branch, not much bothered by beagles or women in sunhats. They watch and no matter if you are in front, behind, or beside, their head is always turned your way. I have seen them wrestling snakes on a stone wall, carrying off squirrels, and killing a hapless Red-bellied woodpecker.

Any day now the meadowlarks will sing in the fields near the Steeplechase stables. "Spring is sweet to me," they say. It is sweet to all of us. How I wish it was not such a laggard.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Four Great Southern Cooks

"Four Great Southern Cooks" was my first southern cookbook. It was published by Dubose Publishing in 1980. The four cooks, all African-American, were old-fashioned cooks. The book's preface has this to say-" Unlike many of their successors, they are not perpetrators of canned soup and cool-whip cuisine, but creators of mouth-watering dishes that are made lovingly from scratch".

I have decided to cook from this book for the next month. Last evening I made Ruth Jenkin's Sweet Potato Casserole. I followed her recipe almost to the letter, leaving out only the marshmallow topping. My sweet potatoes were the purple variety. Purple because of their skin, but white inside. Instead of mashing them I put them through my ricer, one of my favorite kitchen tools. The casserole was easy to make, and was very tasty. Mrs Jenkins was a private cook for an Atlanta family who summered at a North Carolina mountain resort. The cookbook says that guests there stood in line to beg Mrs. Jenkin's recipes.

Sweet Potato Casserole-

3 cups of mashed or riced sweet potatoes- 2 large sweet potatoes should do.
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of butter
3 eggs,beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 cup of sour cream
pinch of salt
pinch of soda (I omitted this.)
Marshmallows,pecans, or raisins for topping. (Optional per Mrs. Jenkins)

Set oven at 350 degrees. Boil the peeled sweet potatoes till soft. Mash or put through a ricer. With a wooden spoon stir in the sugar, butter,eggs, vanilla, and sour cream. Mix well.Stir in salt and soda. Spread the mixture in a casserole or 1 1/2 qt baking dish and bake uncovered 35 to 45 minutes. Serve with toppings. The book suggests this as a holiday dish. How about trying it with baked ham for Easter!

The Old Morse Hill Cemetery

Here are some photos taken by Sam Sprague, my brother, of the old cemetery in North Charlestown, New Hampshire. These graves date from the Revolutionary War.They overlook the hills along the Connecticut River. Wild wintergreen berries grow here among the gravestones. There are messages here on the stones-"As I am now you soon shall be". A Momento Mori. And old men. Jeremiah and Jebediah, old Yankees whose many wives died in childbirth. Women "who orbit in granite around their graves".- my words from an unfinished poem.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eagle at Reelfoot Lake

A National Wildlife Service photo of one of the great, good places on this earth. Haunting, mysterious, and beautiful. Bald eagles winter there in good numbers, and some are nesting residents.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Here are two views of Nashville from a parking garage in the hospital-hotel district I call The Hive. The dominant structures in this part of town are the parking garages. One is hard pressed to ever see anyone randomly walking here. The church is the Cathedral of the Incarnation. The more I look at this photo the more it looks like an urban standoff between the church on one side of Broadway ,and Checkers, Taco Bell, and Jack in the Box on the other. I pulled down my copy of Jane Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" two days ago. I think it is time to read it. I also re-read Robert Lowell's poem " For The Union Dead".-

"Parking spaces luxuriate like civic
sandpiles in the heart of Boston".

And even more apropos-

giant finned cars nose forward like fish,
A savage servility
slides by on grease".

Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Overheard- "Go ahead and take a nap. I'll keep an eye on things".

Two more watercolors from an amateur.

Here are two watercolors by a twenty-six year old amateur, painted in 1976. Alas, it has been years since I picked up a paintbrush. I lived in Woodstock, Vermont when I did these.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Steeplechase course- Percy Warner Park Nashville

This is another view of the Steeplechase course. The Iroquois Steeplechase is held here in May, and around fifty thousand people come out for it. Heavy rain during the races last year turned the field to a bog. I found several pairs of discarded high heels whose tipsy owners had abandoned them after the mud sucked them off their dainty feet. The Iroquois is a Society Event for the infield, and a beer-swilling party for the masses who get to sit on a hill covered with wet grass and ticks. I once met a woman whose wealthy husband merited the infield. "I hate the Steeplechase," she told me," I hate getting dressed up in my little silk dress and sweating like a pig".

Percy Warner Park- Nashville.

This is a view from the steeplechase course at Percy Warner Park , looking across Old Hickory Boulevard into a sea of McMansions and a faux Tuscan villa on the middle hill. Click on the picture to enlarge for a better view.

Lonicera fragrantissima-Sweet Breath of Spring

Here are some sprigs of the Winter-Flowering Honeysuckle I found today at Percy Warner Park. In town the mume trees and flowering apricots are blooming, but here in Bellevue, up Nine Mile Hill,we are still in winter.


Here are three amateur paintings and a primitive . The cabin and the fruit tree watercolors I bought at a yard sale for twenty-five cents for both. I framed them. The dark primitive I believe to be quite old. $90.00 at the Bellevue Antique Mall. The girl at the lake- one dollar at Buried Treasures. Sometimes amateurs paint endearing scenes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Elsa Sciaparelli creations, other than her spaghetti recipe mentioned in my previous post.

Here are two Schiaparelli fashions for those of you who may never have heard of her. Most over a certain age will recognize Zsa Zsa Gabor , as she appeared in 1952's " Moulin Rouge". She is the blonde in the big red dress.

I photograped these pictures from my copy of "Couture",by Caroline Reynolds Milbank. The book was published in 1985.

Found at McKay Books

I found these two charming books yesterday afternoon at McKay. They were a needed antidote for a dreary day. A Taste of Texas is the 1949 Neiman-Marcus cookbook edited by Jane Trahey. There are 300 plus recipes, and all were sent in by the store's customers. And what a surprising group they turn out to be!

Tyrone Power, the actor, sent a recipe for Eggs Benedict. Louella Parsons, the Hollywood gossip columnist, shared her "Spaghetti Roma Deluxe" , a recipe that covers two pages. And earned a pencilled check mark from the person who owned this book.

Not to be outdone by Hollywood, the fashion world sent in their favorites. Miss Parsons was not the only one who liked spaghetti. Elsa Schiaparelli, the flamboyant thirties designer, offered up her "Spaghetti a' la Schiap", which to my eye is simply Spaghetti carbonara by another name. Salvatore Ferragamo, who this book calls a " cobbler couturier", sent a recipe the ladies at Texas State College for Women who tested the recipes for the book could not duplicate because it called for "3 sheets of fish glue". Lily Dache the hat maker, sent "Pate by Dache". The list goes on-Elizabeth Arden, Pauline Trigere, the designer who dressed Patricia Neal in "Breakfast at Tiffany's".

This is the kind of cookbook I love. Antique and annotated by its owner, with recipes on scrap paper and newspaper clippings stuck in among its pages.

The second book, "Alabama, One Big Front Porch," was written by Kathryn Tucker Windham , a story-teller, and a pioneer woman newspaper reporter in Alabama. One story in it is about a custody battle over a meteorite that crashed through a porch and injured Mrs Hewlett Hodges , and then was kidnapped ( the meteorite, not the lady) by either the City Council or the people at Maxwell Air force Base. The Air Force gave the rock back to Mrs Hodges, whose landlady Mrs Guy then claimed it and started more legal wrangling. Back to court, where the law told the Hodges that if and when they sold the meteorite, they had to pay Mrs Guy $500 out of the profit. Mrs Hodges could not dodge the rock, but she did dodge Mrs Guy by giving the meteorite to a museum at the University of Alabama.

Only at McKay Books would I have the luck to find this book. And 8 volumes of Time-Life's The Good Cook, edited by Richard Olney. The Book Fairy must have been whispering in my ear yesterday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dead Time

"Weary,stale,flat,and unprofitable, " said Hamlet, speaking of life-and he did not have to spend time at the Department of Motor Vehicles waiting in line for emissions testing. We all know days when the Universe stops time or gives it back. Days walking in the woods when we almost think we can hear Pan's pipes. An afternoon with a friend or lost in our garden or some other beloved hobby.

And then there are the other days when the world grins like the Cheshire Cat, chewing up and swallowing our precious hours. More time in line getting our driver's license renewed,taking a package to the post office at noon, sitting and sitting until our car's tires are rotated. Other banal horrors: staff meetings; going to the IRS office to ask for a back tax return; sitting through a mandatory teleconference devoted to nothing; and lastly- power point presentations. C.S Lewis once said that Hell would be like a nasty business office. Or like any of the places I mentioned. I am mourning ninety minutes stolen from me this morning.Though how it happened or who did it is best left unsaid. Thoreau would understand- " As if we could kill time without injuring eternity-".

Chicken, trimmed , and some of the finished stock.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Homemade Chicken Stock

The first photograph is of chicken backs that I bought for a $1.78. There were five of them. Three went to the freezer. Two went into a stockpot with six quarts of water, four celery sticks cut in half, a peeled onion, and three peeled carrots. I cut the excess fat off the backs, and you can see what the trimmed chicken looks like.

I used the technique of an on-line cooking school I subscribe to. The chicken and vegetables are put in a stockpot with six quarts of cold water. Turn the heat to medium. When small bubbles begin to parade to the surface, lower the heat a bit and simmer for at least four hours. There are two rules. Do not boil the stock. Do not stir it. When you see small rafts of gray bubbly scum ( Sorry- that is the only thing one can call it.) clinging to the sides of the pot and any floating vegetables, take a spoon and gently skim it out. At the end of the four hours take a slotted spoon and remove the solids and throw them away. Then strain the stock through a sieve lined with cheese cloth or a clean, plain kitchen towel. Put the stockpot on a bed of ice from your ice maker. You can do this in the sink. When the pot is cool, refrigerate it overnight, and the next morning skim out any fat on the surface. Now you can make some soup or freeze your five quarts. James Peterson's directions for stock are more casual. He skips the ice bath, and lets the stock cool on its own before he puts it in the refrigerator. I opted to bow to the scruples of my on-line school, which is obsessive about safety.

Making this stock is about economy. I can make another 5 or 6 quarts with the chicken backs in the freezer. That means 12 quarts of stock for $ 1.78 and the cost of 2 onions, 6 carrots and eight stalks of celery. Canned stock costs from 68 cents to $1.20 a can. Think of the savings. And your stock tastes better. One note- I do not add salt until I use the stock. This is a good weekend project.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital School of Nursing - Part Two

This old photo shows the original Nurses' Home of the Mary Hitchcock Hospital School of Nursing. This was Billings Lee, and from 1969 to 1972 it was my home.

To walk into Billings Lee in the fall of 1969 was to enter a world of housemothers, of permission slips from parents, of parietals, of lights off by 9pm. Rules and more rules.The Sixties were almost over, and it seemed they had never touched Billings Lee or my school of nursing. Auntie Bea, the head housemother ,sat every day at her desk,and watched us sign out and in. One had to have permission from parents to walk to downtown Hanover. She also passed out our mail, and kept her eye on a small room off the lobby- the "Beau Parlor" , the only place at our school where men were allowed.

There were other dorms behind Billings Lee, but they were bunker-like and without charm. Underneath them- our classrooms and the tunnels that went to the hospital and the Dartmouth Infirmary. The Infirmary was next to Billings Lee. One rowdy night my friends and I kicked 100 empty soda cans down 4 flights of stairs, and our housemother took an outraged phone call from the Infirmary nurse about our loud, obnoxious behavior.

The school television was just off the tunnel to the main hospital. I remember Wednesday nights at 8pm when "Medical Center" and its Dr. Joe Gannon came on. It was the "E.R." and "Grey's Anatomy" of its time, and we never missed it, though nothing we saw on it resembled the hospital world we knew.

Sometimes at night if anyone is interested I tell young nurses about the days before the C.T. Scanner and the M.R.I. The days before men became nurses. The first ward I worked on as a student was an open pavilion with curtains between the beds and a fireplace in the center. Hospitals were quieter then.There were fewer machines with alarms screeching and dinging and buzzing. I do not remember the desperate sense of hurry and no time that pervades hospitals now.

Our first classes were Anatomy and Physiology and Fundamentals of Nursing. We worked on the wards as well, though not far from our instructors. I can say that I learned more from working as a nurse's aide on my days off than I did in freshman clinicals. One of my instructors was a Mrs. Clark. By the holidays I knew that she was the designated spy and enforcer who singled out girls the school wanted culled. These were the girls called in for the dreaded Talk. "Are you sure you have what it takes to be a nurse?," the instructors would ask, implying that the girl would be better off not coming back after Christmas break.

I remember a tall redhead named Marsha. When she went to clinicals she stood idle in the halls, her arms crossed, looking bored. She was gone by spring, invited to take her lack of initiative elsewhere.

There was another talk all freshmen had to hear. The instructors gave it to prepare us for the shock of going home over the holidays. We would, they told us, find our high school friends naive and immature. They would not understand our nursing world-its feel, its sights, and its smells. We were growing up faster than our old friends.

Our school was an insular place. During the week we put our uniforms on in early morning, and we did not take them off till day's end. We wore them to every meal in the hospital cafeteria, and to every class. We were being indoctrinated as well as educated, for nursing was not what we did, but who we were.

The weekends gave us freedom. Some girls went home, some tried to find Dartmouth students to take them out. This was not easy. During the week we were the only young women in town, since Dartmouth was a year or so away from allowing women in its classes. Student nurses were used as weekday dates. We were someone to meet at a coffee house. We could not compete with the weekend girls who came in on buses from women's colleges. They could not compete with the women who came in for Winter Carnival- the sleek well-heeled from the Seven Sisters.

One place we were welcomed was the "White Church". The minister and the staff were no snobs. They let us use the church kitchen for our spaghetti dinner fund-raisers. Even the Dartmouth students there seemed egalitarian.

I was never a haunter of fraternity houses . I worked evenings baby-sitting, and I worked as a nurses' aide on weekends. I rarely went home.

My father was upset that I chose nursing. " I wanted better things for you," he said. " I wanted you to be a pharmacist, or a teacher , or a librarian". Now I look back over the last forty years, and see that my father was wrong. I could not have spent my life a better way . I am the one who cares for your sick mother. The one you trust when your father comes out from heart surgery. You see my face, not the doctor's. I am the vigilant one.

This was the sense of duty nursing school instilled in us. We learned we would sacrifice our weekends, our nights, our holidays, our sleep. Our instructors would be heart sick to see nurses of today baring their midriffs and dancing at the nurses' station, beaming it to another hospital over a camera phone, or talking to their boyfriend on a cell-phone in their patients' rooms.

O Tempora! O Mores!

This ends the second part of my Annals of Nursing. In the third installment, the Sixties arrive at last at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital School of Nursing.

Shepherd's Pie

One 16 oz can of corn kernels

3 Yukon Gold potatoes

One large yellow onion, diced and sauteed in olive oil till soft, sweet, and golden brown.

One pound of ground lamb

2 cloves of garlic, minced or sent through a garlic press.

1/2 stick of butter

Sea salt to taste and 1/2 to 1 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese

Boil the peeled Yukon Gold potatoes, then mash them or put them through a ricer(my choice). Add the butter and cream it into the potatoes. Add sea salt to taste, and set aside.
Next saute the diced onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with a touch of sea salt. When the onions are golden add the ground lamb and saute it, allowing it to brown a little. Add the garlic to the lamb and mix well.

In a bowl mix the corn kernels and the lamb-onion mixture and then spoon it into a medium sized casserole dish like the one pictured. Then spoon the riced potato mixture on top of the lamb and corn, and spread it as though putting icing on a cake. Then sprinkle the Gruyere onto the mashed potatoes.

You are not so much cooking this as re-heating it. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until heated through. Now turn on the broiler, and allow the potato crust to gently brown. Be vigilant and keep a close watch for a few minutes . This is not the time to change the TV channel or take the dogs out.

I feel it is important to keep tasting as you are cooking. Add more garlic, less salt, more butter. So much of cooking is done by sight, taste, and feel.I looked at Craig Claiborne's recipe for Shepherd's Pie in the 1990 edition of the New York Times Cookbook but decided against it. I am sure it would be delicious, but I wanted something simpler, with fewer steps. I trusted my instincts. Ironic, that the more cookbooks I own, the more I cook by the seat of my pants.

Tornado Watch- Poetry Friday

This is a photo of the Great Nashville Tornado of 1998. We are into tornado season now, and it will last through June. For years after moving to Nashville I had tornado nightmares. I worked the day of the Great Tornado. No one at the hospital I then worked at was allowed to leave until midnight. No one knew how many injured there might be. I wrote this that year.

Tornado Watch

Into this still warm

Subtle winter of the south

Comes a hard wind,

Born of warm day and wide Gulf

And all the pines and sloughs and mud of Alabama

Comes a hard wind

Savaging the shingles. Playing pizzacato

On the nerves behind the trembling window pane.

"North and East!", it calls

To great conquering lows of splintering and wildness.

Spent in after whimper

Of aimless flakes and crows subdued among the trees.

Among the split trees, scattered garbage bins,

Nerves unnerved behind the trembling window pane.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Edwin Warner Park in Nashville March 8, 2010

Here are some views of Edwin Warner Park I took this morning. Even though it is March 8 it looks like January 8. Our spring has been delayed. Edwin Warner is 13 miles from downtown. It is the smaller of the two Warner parks.

The trash scattered about in the last photo is the work of four-footed night marauders. Coyotes, raccoons, skunks , and opossums. Just before I took this shot a squirrel ran out of the trash bin with a Colonel Sanders chicken leg in its mouth.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Annals of Nursing- The old Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital School of Nursing

This picture is fit for a time capsule , for it is of a moment that has passed and will never come again. I graduated from this school in 1972, and only two classes followed before the school was closed. There was no place for "Nurses' Training" anymore. By 1985 all nurses were supposed to graduate from universities and have bachelor's degrees. ( This did not happen. Community colleges began to graduate large numbers of nurses with associates degrees).

The young women who entered the class that graduated in 1972 came from all over New Hampshire. There were young women from Vermont as well, for the hospital schools of nursing at Mary Fletcher and Degosbrian Hospitals in Burlington had closed. We were the daughters of small town business men, of farmers, of loggers. The state and the Federal government gave us loans, and some of us agreed to stay at Mary Hitchcock for two years after we graduated so the hospital would pay our tuition.

We lived in the Billings Lee Nurses' Home and the dormitories behind it. We were across Rope Ferry Road from Occum Pond and next to Dick Hall's House, which was the Dartmouth Infirmary. We were mere blocks away from the Hanover Green and Dartmouth College. We were an underground tunnel away from the hospital wards where we trained and the cafeteria where we took our meals.

My class was a happy class, and I remember this as one of the finest times of my life. There were fifty or so of us, and most of us graduated. Not so, for the class before us. They were bitter and shell-shocked , for fifty of them started, and twenty-five graduated.

Nursing was once a calling, not a job. My instructors believed this , and they were relentless in weeding out the lazy and the indifferent. There was no place for young women who lacked altruism, who had no capacity for self-sacrifice. This was a profession conservative to its core. This would change, for it was later than we thought.

Sometimes the girls in my freshman class saw the truth before the instructors did. I remember sitting in Fundamentals of Nursing. We opened our hefty new textbook to a page with a photo of a grossly obese woman with an enormous bedsore on her buttocks. A girl in the row in front of me looked, closed her book, stood up, and walked out of the class. She called her father, who came and took her home. Some girls did not come back from Christmas break. I was almost one of them, but that is a story for another day.

I remember being treated graciously by Dartmouth College, if not by the town of Hanover. The college let us use its libraries, and we were welcome at its White Church, where we had chaste parties and held spaghetti supper fundraisers. When we were sick, the Dartmouth Infirmary took care of us.

The town was not as liberal. To paraphrase P.G. Wodehouse, we were not ordinary townies, we were baby-sitters. Our status was not much higher than a maid's. One of Hanover's foremost landladies of that era once told a young doctor I knew that she never rented to young nurses looking for their first apartments because "all nurses are either whores or lousy housekeepers". I remember seeing an ad in Lebanon, New Hampshire's newspaper for an apartment in Hanover. "No dogs and no nurses", it read.

Two years after I graduated I heard from Dr. Sandra McKay, one of my former teachers, that Mary Hitchcock had tried to convince Dartmouth College to incorporate my nursing school into a degree program. Here the civility and noblesse oblige ran dry. Dr. McKay told me that the college was horrified at the thought. "They said Dartmouth wasn't interested in a 'training school' ".

This will be the first in a series of posts about my education as a nurse. It will not be as much about me as it will be about a time and a place and a profession that have changed beyond recognizing, and which I feel are worthy of remembering.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Roasted Golden Beets with Cumin

I thought beets and cumin might be happy together, and I was right. I had three golden beets the size of softballs that I bought at Whole Foods a week ago. I used their greens in a bean and garlic soup, then peeled the beetroots and sliced them into rounds. I put them in a bowl, then added olive oil and tossed the beets in it until they were coated. I added a teaspoon of sea salt and a 2 teaspoons of cumin and tossed the beets again. I put foil down in a 9x9 Pyrex baking dish and layered the beet slices. I put another piece of foil over the beets , and tucked them in. I roasted them for 90 minutes at 375 degrees. As the photo shows, some browned and caramelized. This was all to the good, though I would advise vigilance in the last 30 minutes to make sure the beets do not turn to charcoal. This would be a side dish for grilled lamb chops or roast chicken.

Serrano ham

Serrano Ham,Tangerine, and Bermuda Onion Salad

Serrano ham is one of my few luxuries now. Boars Head imports it from Spain , and I buy mine at a Publix a block away from Belle Meade Boulevard . The people with houses on the Boulevard can afford to buy a whole pound for $28.00, but I buy a half pound at a time. It is sliced paper-thin, and has the salty nuttiness one might expect from Spanish pigs fed on acorns.

The tangerine I peeled ,then cut up is a Murcotte, a variety new to me. I bought it at Whole Foods. It reminds me of a clementine. I also added pine nuts, a grated carrot, and some dried cranberries.

I like my recipes alive. I do not believe they should stay fossilized- turned into artifacts on a page. I made this one up , but I can see a dozen variations. I could add dried chopped apricots instead of cranberries. No Serrano ham? How about crispy bacon or prosciutto? How about a few olives or some toasted almonds. Sliced pears would work, or fresh peaches. It is your salad. Be brave.

This is one portion, and if you can multiply you can impress someone else with it.

One Murcotte tangerine. (Or substitute a clementine or a basic tangerine).

1/4 Bermuda onion- diced.

One thin slice of Serrano ham-. torn to little pieces

2 tablespoons of pine nuts.

1/2 carrot- grated.

2 tablespoons of dried cranberries ( or dried apricots).

Toss everything into a bowl ,then decide what you want to dress it with. I made a dressing combining the juice from half an orange, a teaspoon of spicy Dijon mustard, and a teaspoon of olive oil. I added a dash of sea salt, whisked the emulsion and poured it over my salad. Its accompaniment for dinner was a home-made corn and potato chowder with Creole seasoning.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ten Minute Meal

I had a bowl of left over spaghetti, and I needed a condiment to turn it into a quick lunch.

2 cups of cooked spinach spaghetti

1 tablespoon of olive oil

3 rounds of pancetta, diced

3/4 cup of heavy cream

Pinch of Italian seasoning

Sea salt to taste (Be careful. Pancetta and Parmesan are salty).

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/2 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar

Put the olive oil, cream , pancetta, parmesan, and pine nuts in a sauce pan. Bring to a brief boil, then lower heat and let the mixture thicken and reduce while stirring. Add the vinegar and Italian seasoning. Taste before adding sea salt. When the mixture has thickened enough toss the spaghetti in the sauce pan and coat with the sauce. Heat through.

If you have no cold or frozen cooked spaghetti you can add ten minutes to this recipe by cooking up a 1 lb package. Freeze the leftover pasta , and this will be a ten minute recipe again.

This serves the lone diner. Double everything if you are feeding a husband or a friend. This is a rich dish. You can use plain spaghetti, but why would you when spinach spaghetti has more character and taste.

* A note on pancetta. Boar's Head brand sells pancetta slices in a 4 oz package. The slices are thin 3 inch rounds.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

General John Bell Hood

This is John Bell Hood, a very brave man and a disastrous general. He wrecked his army at the Battle Of Franklin and at the Battle of Nashville. I mentioned him in my last February post, where I described how Nashville buried a great battlefield under shopping centers. General Hood lost the use of his left arm and had his right leg amputated. He was a ladies' man , despite his injuries. Civil war diarist Mary Chesnut wrote that her friend Henry Brewster said of Hood, when the General was between battles, " How I want him to go back to the army. Those girls are making a fool of him".

No more, we might add, than the Union army was to do when it defeated Hood in Middle Tennessee.