Saluting lovers of peanut butter

By Caryl Clem:

Savored American foods have a special recognition day.  I felt guilty about missing one of my favorite all American foods on its special day January 24th.  After reading the holiday list for March, I discovered my chance at redemption.  March 1st is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day.  My favorite 1950’s lunch, a peanut butter and banana sandwich nestled in my brown lunch bag alongside an apple and a homemade cookie. I refused to eat pink, slippery meat or anything that came out of a can. Even when high school offered cafeteria food, I kept a jar of peanut butter in my locker as a backup against hunger. I had learned that during World War I and II, peanut butter sandwiches were a military staple. The icon, Mr. Peanut, was shown wearing a uniform during WWII ads.  Today, Care Package Instructions for our honorable soldiers still suggest a jar of peanut butter.

We peanut butter lovers can claim kinship with Elvis, The King, who would fly a private jet to a restaurant in Colorado that featured his favorite peanut butter sandwich concoction on its menu. Even though the restaurant is closed, our modern social information network offers several how to video’s on YouTube explaining how to create Elvis’s Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon sandwich. Remember the detective Colombo’s trench coat with deep pockets he would slip food into during his scenes?  His snacks included hard boiled eggs, peanut butter with raisins sandwich or chili.  If you are a devoted older fan of peanut butter, join the adult Peanut Butter Lover’s Fan Club, and read posts from celebrities written by Texas hauntings.  Current celebrities range from Tom Selleck , Barbara Walters, Billy Joel, to Madonna.

John Harvey Kellogg (founder of Kellogg cereal) patented the first process for making peanut butter in 1895 by steaming the nuts and served it to his patients at his sanitarium. By 1897, the magazine, Popular Science News did an article covering “Recent inventions” suggesting that peanut butter could be used in cooking just as a shortening replacing butter or lard.  By 1902, a Mrs. Rore in her New Cook Book, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania published a peanut butter cookie recipe.  At the 1904 World’s Fair, D.H. Sumner successfully sold a peanut butter treat at his concession stand. New methods evolve, a Californian patents churning peanut butter and using roasted nuts improves the taste.

As a source of protein that was economical and tasty, in 1927 Peter Pan Peanut Butter was noted as one of the most popular snacks for that year. Are you a crunchy or creamy fan? The West section of the U.S. and males usually favors crunchy style while the Eastern section and females favor creamy.  Peanut butter becomes the new star in a cookie recipe dessert in 1932 published The Schenectady Gazette. A section of the cooking instructions includes the distinctive fork crisscross technique used to flatten the peanut butter cookie mound, to ensure evenly distributing the heat while baking.

Proving the popularity of peanut butter cookies today is the statistic from the National Peanut Board reporting 230,000 pounds of peanut butter are used a week to bake the Girl Scouts Do-si-do’s and Tagalongs.  Pillsbury recommends the best recipes for peanut butter cookies in 1933 and 1936. The Peanut Blossom claims fame in 1999 in the Pillsbury Hall of Fame Bake-Off. This recipe was from Freda Smith of Ohio who had no chocolate chips to add to her peanut butter/chocolate chip cookie recipe so she topped the mound with a Hershey Kiss.

Saving the best for last, Peanut butter (or its taste cousin flavor blending caramel and peanuts) with chocolate lay next to each other in a candy bar. Love and marriage mates in the candy world, ingredients that stick together with ease.  According to current Google statistics, Number 1 candy bar debut in 1930 named after horse-Snickers, closely followed by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup first invented in 1923 by a Hershey employee. To keep his invention from being stolen, Reese first appeared in vending machines. By the 1940’s Reese started commanding the store market. Butterfinger bars were dropped from planes to introduce the new candy. Babe Ruth from the same candy company as Butterfinger comes in last. In an age of changing food tastes, candy bars created nearly 100 years ago are going strong.

The standard composition for peanut butter requires 90% no matter what your brand choice.  The oldest peanut butter company, Krema Products Company, is still operating in Columbus, Ohio. No matter what you combine peanut butter with; you will never have to worry about biting off more than you can chew.  Holidays celebrating the influence of the peanut include,  National Peanut Butter Day-January 24,Peanut Butter and Jelly Day-April 2  (https://www.thedailymeal.com/eat/pinstripes-peanut-butter-jelly-menu/032718),Peanut Butter Cookie Day-June 12,Mr. Peanut Day-April 20, Peanut Butter Cookie Day-June 12 Peanut Butter Month-November

Celebrating black Chicago style music legends

By Caryl Clem:

Rhythmic music vibrates as Earth, Wind & Fire starts a song and you feel yourself jumping onto the dance floor.   Since the band first played in 1971 under the direction of Maurice White until today currently playing in Las Vegas, their unique blend of funky disco soul creates a sound you never tire of hearing.  Love experiences were featured in popular chart hits such as “Reasons”, “After the Love Has Gone”, and “Got to Get You into My Life.”  EWF music is often positive and inspiring thus giving you a feel good vibe as you is listening.  EWF has won 6 Grammys.

Love songs that last for decades were born in Chicago.  Lou Rawls rich baritone voice croons, “You’ll Never Find another Love like Mine”   a romantic favorite holding couples together on countless dance floors.  A perfect song for gentlemen wishing to win any lady’s heart was Lou Rawls performing, “Lady Love”.  Lou was born on the South Side of Chicago on December 1, 1933. His paternal grandmother was in charge of his upbringing introducing him to church and singing in the choir by the age of seven. Connections made through his church activities led to meeting influential black musicians Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield.  Over 40 million records during 40 years of performances testify to Rawls legendary status.

Curtis Mayfield, a singer born in Cabrini-Green Housing Projects of Chicago born June 3, 1942.   Curtis taught himself to play guitar that he found in a closet when he was about 8 years old and piano at his church. His golden tenor voice was discovered while he sang in his church choir by the founder of the group, The Impressions, Jerry Butler.   He became a song-writer producer with his record label Curtom while performing with this group.

During the 1960’s Curtis advocated civil rights in songs like,” Keep On Pushing”,  and  “ Get Ready”.  By the 1970’s Curtis became a voice to express what black culture felt, personal struggles and successes. He wrote the soundtrack to the 1972 album  “Superfly”. He produced songs with divas Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight and the Pips. “In the 1990s, the musician inspired two different tribute albums (including 1994’s All Men are Brothers: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, featuring Whitney Houston, Elton John, the Isley Brothers and Aretha Franklin)

Over the past several years, his songs have been sampled or covered by a host of performers, from rappers like Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Coolio and Dr. Dre to singers like Herbie Hancock, Deneice Williams, En Vogue and Mary J. Blige.” https://www.biography.com/people/curtis-mayfield-9542244

A featured line dance during the 1950’s was The Stroll.  By the 1970’s “ getting the groove on” transformed into lively adaptions titled, The Hustle, The Bump, YMCA, The Funky Chicken, Disco Finger, The Bus Stop, The Robot, The Lawnmower, The Sprinkler, and The Electric Slide.

The absolute star of the 1970’s was produced by Chicago radio star, Don Cornelius. Showcasing 1970’s era style and flair featuring the rock star groups from coast to coast with spectacular dancers appearing on stage, “Soul Train “aired on WCIU-TV. The dancers became a HOOK for developing loyal followers.  As important as the dancers were, they performed without pay in the beginning.

From 1971 until 2006, youth discovered the latest music sensation from home. Five days a week for an hour, professional and amateurs paraded and sang the latest hits. Barry White with his 42 piece Orchestra, The Jackson Five or James Brown could be watched from the comfort of your living room. The excitement of a theatre showing could be enjoyed without tickets or parking worries. Several books describe the various acts and social impact this show made on America, Questlove culled personal memories and full-color photographs in Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of Generation (HarperDesign).

While Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments (Backbeat Books) Ericka Blount Danois is more of a commentary about what happened on this show.   Reliving this time period is easy with pulling up YouTube on your computer while you travel through time.

As February ends, I am thankful for the contributions from our Chicago born black musicians.

Hula hoops and jump ropes

I sit and watch the kindergarten boys and girls compete to see how long they can keep those plastic circles twirling around their waist. Two can go almost a minute without dropping the hoops. And it takes intense practice outside of P.E class to become accomplished at hula hoop proficiency. I never could hula hoop. I never understood why people wanted to hula hoop. It still ceases to amaze me but I will most certainly cheer on the little ones as they try.

The modern hula hoop was invented in 1958 by Arthur K. “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr, but children and adults around the world have played with hoops throughout history. And the hula hoops for children are smaller in size.The hula hoop craze swept the world, dying out again in the 1980s, but not in China and Russia, where hula hooping and hoop manipulation were adopted by traditional circuses and rhythmic gymnasts. There has been a re-emergence of hula hooping, generally referred to as either “hoopdance” or simply “hooping” to distinguish it from the children’s play form and of course, have become popular in school gyms as a form of fitness exercise.

Another form of fitness exercise in school gyms across America is jump roping.  As a child I enjoyed, jumping on two feet, skip jumping, or even double dutch. The P.E teacher gives his students different options to learn how to jump rope; learning how to jump in place, skip in place and swinging the rope from front to back. He knows exactly the correct verbage to help them succeed. And they practice and practice and practice. It is hard to jump continuously….they are not there yet. Maybe, some can get five jumps in a row! However, if it is only one skip, Mr. K generously praises, guiding them on to keep trying.

There are multiple subsets of skipping/jump rope including: single freestyle, single speed, pairs, three person speed (double dutch), and three person freestyle. There are hundreds of competitive teams all around the world but schools rarely have jump rope teams.

I loved to jump rope, by myself or with friends when I was a child. But with back issues, I am afraid to JUMP. However, with hope, courage and admiration for the children who keep going,  I found a student who was having a rough time. I actually did one skip jump for her and she followed with the same.

For me, a small tinge of back pain and personal development happened. I dropped the rope to the floor while moving on….not getting too carried away with myself.

My work here was done!

 

 

 

Honoring black history

By Caryl Clem:

Chicago has been the front stage for introducing life changing famous black trail blazers. The first street in a major city to be named after a black women civil rights activist and journalist, Ida B. Wells was dedicated on February 11, 2019.  The last street change was done in 1968 to honor Martin Luther King.  In the magazine, “ Make It Better” February 2019 edition, on the list of what to do in Chicago is the new exhibit at the Museum entitled, “Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade 1808-1865 featuring free Saturdays February 9.16, and 23.  Celebrating Black History Month includes recognizing the dynamic black women leaders who make a difference in Chicago. Last year, this magazine did a feature article describing 42 influential black women in Chicago in all career fields.

Since artistic expression is a major tourist attraction for Chicago, several noteworthy black women are leading the way.  Currently, the Deputy Director of Development at Chicago’s Contemporary Art Museum is Gwendolyn Perry Davis. Last year, she promoted an exhibit of Howardena  Pindell, a black women pioneer in abstract art. Ms. Pindell is famous for her techniques working with circles. The interview begins with this quote, “All the pieces … are an attempt to unite my mind again, to mend the rupture.”—Howardena Pindell.  She was troubled as a child to notice the  red circles drawn beneath the dishes her family ate on when dining out on vacation trips. During this interview, titled Controlled Chaos by Jessica Lanay, Ms. Pindell explains why she wanted to change how circles influenced her life.

Perri L. Irmer is the President  & CEO of DuSable Museum of African-American History, a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. Ms.Irmer stated in the magazine article, “The DuSable Museum is elevating the often hidden histories of Chicagoans such as Jean Baptiste Point DuSable — the Haitian immigrant who founded our city — military leaders, educators, and other black Chicagoan’s whose contributions are illustrative of black accomplishment throughout society.”

The political landscape of Chicago has been shaped by twenty famous black women and men. A comprehensive description covering their various contributions from Jesse White, Chief Jude Timothy Evana, Barrack Obama and Emil Jones, Jr. a Kimberly Foxx, Toni Preckwinkle to name a few examples in Chicago Defender’s Top 20 Most Influential Political Figures by Mary L. Datcher, Managing Editor for Chicago Defender.

If you want to explore a well-known black neighborhood gathering place, take a trip to a non-profit café with a welcoming atmosphere that encourages conversation and friendship, Kusanya Café 825 W. 69th Street  Chicago  773-675-4758.  In Englewood, a rustic chic coffee shop nestled inside a 100 year old building, surrounded by the art work of local artists, it is a haven offering a safe place to meet and enjoy life.

As described in an article describing the café,” Kusanya is home to a variety of free, community-driven arts, culture, and educational events, including Saturday morning yoga, a farmers market on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from 4-6 p.m., and an open mic on second Saturdays featuring storytellers from around the neighborhood and across the city.”

The tapestry of Chicago life has been made richer in texture by its black men and women. Chicago offers many opportunities to celebrate Black History in Chicago.

My Valentine

By Caryl Clem: (Wedding photo 70 years ago)

Sharing life with you carries no expiration date

To the contrary, time spent deepens how we relate

Your smile, your laugh, company and loving embrace

Bring me into a new realm, boundary free space

 

Life is a daily adventure to explore

With you, feeling stronger, secure

Ready to discover a rewarding future.

Beside you, positive feelings magnify

Enjoying life with you regains intensity

Rewarding moments too many to measure.

 

You listen when I need your silence

When I can’t speak, you’re my voice

In any weather, you’re my constant choice

To uncover with my lover, reasons to rejoice.

 

You’re a mix of mystery and stability

Companion, partner, we share cajolery

As we hold hands and shoot for the stars

Renewing zest for life by creating loving memoirs.

Food for thought

For Baby Boomers and their parents, the kitchen was the most visited room in the house. At the kitchen table, everyone gathered most evenings from 5-7 to have dinner together and it wasn’t a holiday either.

Dinner time could be the only time of day the entire family could discuss daily events and it was not just an extra-curricular activity, it was a required family moment. This was a sacred time and missing it was not an option. My dinner time was always 6pm; not a minute before or after. If I was blocks away from my home, a cell phone alarm was not available to remind me when to return for dinner.  On a warm summers evening or cold day in winter, my mother’s outdoor voice could be heard for blocks announcing that the dinner hour was approaching. A few children would hear the distant sounds of a dinner bell and you had better run in its direction.

Some were not reminded by their Mom or Dad screaming from the household porch or clanging the bell but were to show up at exactly the designated hour because that hour never changed regardless of illness or circumstances beyond control. There were serious consequences if arriving late or not at all.

Since most Moms were home, dinner time was their shining moment; one of Mom’s many talents along with organizing their children’s day and housekeeping. This was where they excelled at preparing mouthwatering recipes. Many meals followed a weekly plan that included special dinners on specific nights like Spagetti Tuesday and Meatloaf Thursday.

Meals were not popped in the microwave with help from Stouffers family size box. Jack’s Frozen Pizza and Swansons TV  Dinners was an exception only if Mom was bedridden. Then the crock pot started to make its appearance.

Making homemade dinners in the 1980’s/ 1990’s, for a short time I was home making an historic meat loaf, pork chops with mushroom and cheddar cheese sauce and all day long spaghetti sauce but then I turned to the crockpot. Crockpot dinners included a variety of stews along with a few Hamburger helper meals thrown in.

Today it is the Instant Pot. My 31 year old son bought me one last year for Mothers Day making all day stews and even desserts in less than an hour. I must say it is the best

But why not relive family mealtime memories together by pulling out the oil-stained metal recipe box and leaf through the crinkled notecards along with yellowed newspaper articles of recipes long ago.

You may even find the recipe you were so proud when you asked Mom to contribute her best creation to be published in the PTA recipe book along with your friends. That contribution had made you a star and if she had won any ribbons, it would be a wonderful story to share with each other as you prepare. If you look closely behind the recipe box on the shelf, the book will be there, I guarantee it.