Jealousy: A Short Tale

This brief tale illustrates how jealousy can either be a bitter dish or can lead to a tasty reward. It all  depends on how the meal (and the life) is prepared.

 

 

The jealousy started when she was nine years old. She was jealous of the girls who had a different, fantastic dress for every day of school.

So she asked her mother for more dresses.

“Now that is just too much!” her mother replied. “Those girls are spoiled. It is a waste of money for you to have a different dress for every day of the week! Besides, where would we keep all those clothes?”

She instantly became sad. She was sad that her mother was so upset over not being able to give her a dress for every day of the week.

So, she asked her father. Her father told her that it was greedy of her to ask for so many dresses.

“Those girls are either from wealthy families or their mothers are spending money that they can’t afford to spend. You need to learn how to sew. In time, you will have more clothes. But that is not important. Right now, you need to focus on more important things and to get your mind away from keeping up with those girls.”

So, she asked her Aunt. Her Aunt was always good for a bailout or for some sound advice. Her Aunt always took the time to think about things called “alternatives”.

 

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The Strange Theaters of the Old, Old West

This is the tale of two grand theaters in Old Sacramento. The physical theater now lies under Old Sacramento in California’s capitol city. The theater of the bizarre was acted out just before the city of Sacramento was raised a few stories in height to prevent the frequently overflowing Sacramento River from washing over the most important part of town.

The “Excelsior” Theatre was the scene of many a wild penny opera and more than a few murderous brawls. One poor soul was whipped to death in full view of a horrified crowd. The whipping was carried out by an itenerant gold prospector who believed that he had been unfairly divested of his gold coins in one of the rigged poker games that went on in the upper rooms of the Excelsior Hotel.

The poor victim was flayed to the bone, but suffered for days before he expired. It later turned out that he had no part in the purloining of anyone’s gold, so the murderer was hanged a few days later.


PLEASE READ THE REST HERE!!

Souffles Are Not Your Enemy!!!

A delightful tiny souffle is not something that should be feared or reviled. It does not take a hard core cook or very much work to have one of these fluffy delights for your very own!

Once this basic little souffle is mastered, it is not difficult to go on to larger versions in  other flavors, both sweet and savory.


A delightful souffle is a matter of a hot oven, separating the yolk from the egg white, incorporating air into the egg white, making a flavorful base and lightly folding it all together.

This recipe is for a simple cheese souffle that will add luxury to any breakfast, brunch,  dinner or a late night snack!

THE EGG WHITES:

1 giant or 2 small eggs

A clean, stainless steel bowl

A balloon whisk


A metal bowl is best. Wipe the bowl with vinegar. This will kill any oils or grease that might prevent the egg white from frothing up. I’ve never had trouble with cold eggs, but take the egg out of the fridge while you make the base and cool it.

I used a super jumbo large egg from Safeway. I think that they have a Pterodactyl farm or something. It might take two regular eggs to make the two small souffles in this article.

Separate the yolk from the white and do something with the yolk. I mix it into the base.

Just before you are ready to cook the souffle, use a balloon whisk and beat the heck out of those whites until they form fairly stiff, but not too stiff peaks. You are merely incorporating air into the egg white, which makes it frothy. The heat of the oven will expand the whites and almost anything that has been properly mixed with them.

(If you beat the egg whites by hand, you will get some exercise that will allow the eating of more souffle!)

This is just right for a stiff peak and it only took about 3 minutes by hand!


THE BASE

This is made first, then cooled before incorporating the egg white.


This recipe calls for a BECHAMEL SAUCE that is loaded up with white wine, seasonings and extra sharp cheddar cheese.


1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup butter or margarine or Smart Balance

2 cups milk, more if needed

1/8 Tblsp Coleman’s mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Cayenne or paprika to taste

1 cup white wine

2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese


In a medium sized saucepan, on medium low heat, add the flour and  butter.

This is a roux.

Keep stirring the roux until it is barely tan for a whiter sauce or a golden brown for a nuttier flavor.

When the flour is cooked, whisk in two cups of milk.  Add more liquid if needed. For a richer flavor replace one cup of milk with evaporated milk or cream. Or, add a cup of any kind of stock.

Keep stirring until all of the liquid is incorporated into the flour and the sauce is smooth. Stir from time to time.

Add more milk or stock if the sauce becomes too thick. Gently simmer if it is too thin. Bang! This is the easiest sauce of all of them.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add dry Coleman’s mustard.

Add cayenne or other red pepper to taste.

Add white whine.

Add as much cheese as you can stand then add some more.

Don’t get a bowl and eat all of the sauce. Stop tasting. Stop it!

Cool the base. When cool, you can add the beaten yolk if desired.



MAKING THE TINY SOUFFLES:

For two small 3″ souffles, use about 2/3 cup of the cheese sauce base with the yolk mixed in.

Take about 1/3 of the egg white and  LIGHTLY FOLD  into the base until mixed in. This lightens the base.

FOLDING means that you take the spatula and turn it over and over again in order to mix the egg whites  (instead of stirring and beating everything around like it is a rotten step child or something).


Pour the lightened base into the egg whites, then LIGHTLY FOLD until fairly well mixed.


Fill the ramekins, leaving about 1/2 inch from the top. Most of them have a little line just below the rim. Fill to the line. Fill to the top if you want a dramatic, pouffy souffle that rises above the ramekin.


Pop into a 425 to 450 degree (F) oven and do not stomp around or do the happy dance while cooking. Turn the oven down about 25 degrees (F) once the souffle starts to puff.  For a large souffle, follow the recipe instructions. Do not under cook.

They will puff, and yes, I used a tiny electric toaster oven.

10-12 minutes for a dry tiny souffle

7-8 minutes for a looser tiny souffle

MANGE PRONTO! DINE RIGHT AWAY BEFORE THEY FLOP.


MORE ABOUT THE SAUCE


Just use a whisk to smooth it out.

If you leave out the egg yolk, the cheese sauce can be reheated, but should be consumed within a couple of days.

The sauce can be thinned with milk or stock for a soup base. This sauce is also brilliant for broccoli, cauliflower, pasta or as a rarebit with toast! 

A Spooky Tale: The Theater of the Evergreen Stroll

The Theater of the Evergreen Stroll

Every day, the women of Chancellor Orville left their homes to shop and to stroll down Evergreen Street.  The Evergreen Stroll had been going on for a hundred years, and the crowds never ceased to grow large between noon and three PM.  After three PM, the odd, harried singleton would show up on Evergreen Street, do hurried and perfunctory business, then leave.

In the evenings and at night, Evergreen Street came alive with diners, drinkers and revelers who always had the reason or the resources to celebrate the existence of their comfortable lives.

No one knew who really started The Stroll. There was no organized group of high living hausfraus who held a meeting to establish anything. There was no popular community cheerleader who rounded everyone up. There was no campaign put on by some ancient version of a Chamber of Commerce.

But somehow, there was an ever changing array of shops, restaurants and services that had kept Evergreen Street in a state of flourish through three centuries and a change of millennium.

Housebound people could dress up, fix their hair and wear their latest outfits.  Some of them could dress up their smaller children and use them to add interest to the theater of the stroll.

Others could find a source of gossip to supplement the news that was dutifully reported in the Chancellor Orville Chronicle.  Early rising retirees could find their requisite doughnut shop or breakfast joint before they moved on to putter around in their gardens and home workshops.

Some would make their way to the stroll in order to work an agenda or to work a deal. There is always someone available to employ a place like Evergreen Street in order to work a deal or to gratify a need.

After a time, word spread about Evergreen Street. Visitors  showed up to add to the crowd, to broaden the scope and to introduce entire new plot devices. People came from as far away as Sacramento and Reno, towns that were at least an hour and a half away.

Sometimes a famous personage or an entertainment icon would show up and attempt to privately mingle in. Each one would discover that their fame had reached farther than they had imagined.  But celebrities were generally left alone, since it was entirely against the undefined rules of The Stroll to act a fool around a famous person.

Perhaps Evergreen Street was a lasting success because of the town of Chancellor Orville, which nestled next to the vast Tahoe National Forest and was miles from any major freeway.  Most towns of this type would be crumbling and wrecked by the descendants of failed Gold Rush entrepreneurs, Dust Bowl and civil war refugees and other generational losers who were ruled by gaggles of rural feudal overlords.

But Chancellor Orville had grown into a haven for those who did not mind a long commute to Sacramento or to UC Davis in order to maintain their fortunes. There were internet moguls who lived in modest houses and installed enough servers and equipment to run a nation. There were retirees who drew large enough pensions to enjoy the rural and forested life when they were not traveling the world.

As a result, there were streets in Chancellor Orville that Hollywood site surveyors lusted after. Some streets were models of 1940s era architecture, with their craftsmen and mock Tudor delights. Other streets looked like the Deep South in the 1950s with their shaggy boundaries, water runoff ditches, and lack of anything resembling a sidewalk.

There were a couple of trailer parks that once hosted no end of troubles until they were bought out by retirees and turned into overly landscaped havens for somewhat moneyed senior citizens.

The fringes of the town had become a curdled mix of over sized luxury homes and two or five acre historical ranchettes. The ranchettes had been passed down from generation to generation and never made the MLS because they only sold through word of mouth.

Perhaps it was the nature of the city fathers of Chancellor Orville. The current Mayor was a multimillionaire who once served as an adviser to a President of the United States. He and his wife had interesting hobbies.

The city council was populated by retired doctors, lawyers, chemists, law enforcement leaders and educators, several of whom had even more interesting hobbies than the Mayor and his wife.  It is not difficult to think of such people as a “dream team” of small town leadership.

Perhaps Chancellor Orville could be so far off the beaten path, yet host a booming, active downtown on Evergreen Street for other reasons.

Like the Mayor’s hobby, human taxidermy.

No, no! Come back! Don’t leave!

The Mayor was a forensic pathologist who prepared technical samples and bodies for scientific research.  All on the up and up, his business was.  He did this most of the time, with a few diversions to complete “special projects”.

Or perhaps the town thrived because of the City Council President’s post retirement gig as an “expert witness”.  He was a top expert in the field of missing persons. He busily worked both ends of the field of missing persons.  He was highly sought after as a consultant in court cases, investigations and “special projects”.

It could have been the internet entrepreneur, who always wore a strange, slightly distracted smile when having conversation. He collected ancient torture devices and kept them in his attic.  He loved to talk about his ancient torture devices, especially the replica of the Brazen Bull that, with cunningly designed tubes and pipes, would convert the screams of the person being roasted inside the hollow, metal animal into the melodic braying of a live bull.

Despite the harmless hobbies and vocations of prominent residents, most newcomers would still leave after a few weeks, made uneasy by some inexplicably disturbing vibe to the place.  Most of those newcomers were quite mentally ill and left in the middle of the night, leaving most of their possessions behind.

Even the drug cartels stayed outside of a ten mile unofficial “perimeter” around Chancellor Orville.

Perhaps it was the absence of crime, the serene and satisfied people and all of that regularity of life on Evergreen Street.  Maybe that is what drove newcomers away from Chancellor Orville.

Some speculated that the newcomers fled because there was none of the intermittent murder, psychopathic crime, weapons abuse, or other chaos that happens in less wonderful places these days.

Others claimed that it was the nature of The Stroll itself, but they could not nail down a particular problem. People just could not figure out what was wrong with that Stroll.

Perhaps the newcomers were uncomfortable with the “totems” that were always being nailed to doors or handed around without any explanation.  Some joker had been telling the newcomers that the “totems” were the shiny bones of people who had been roasted to death in the internet entrepreneur’s Brazen Bull and the rumor lingered, even after the joker got lost while hiking through the Tahoe National Forest and was never found.

At any rate, Chancellor Orville thrives to this day and the Evergreen Street Stroll is alive and well.

Come and visit sometime!

Jealousy

The jealousy started when she was nine years old. She was jealous of the girls who had a different, fantastic dress for every day of school.

So she asked her mother for more dresses.

“Now that is just too much!” her mother replied. “Those girls are spoiled. It is a waste of money for you to have a different dress for every day of the week! Besides, where would we keep all those clothes?”

She instantly became sad. She was sad that her mother was so upset over not being able to give her a dress for every day of the week.

So, she asked her father. Her father told her that it was greedy of her to ask for so many dresses.

“Those girls are either from wealthy families or their mothers are spending money that they can’t afford to spend. You need to learn how to sew. In time, you will have more clothes. But that is not important. Right now, you need to focus on more important things and to get your mind away from keeping up with those girls.”

So, she asked her Aunt. Her Aunt was always good for a bailout or for some sound advice. Her Aunt always took the time to think about things called “alternatives”.

“You need to learn how to sew!” Her Aunt yelled. She loved to yell when she had an “epiphany”.

“Now let’s see, you will begin with simple things, so you will have to mix them in with clothes that you already have. Those rich girls have dresses with details that will take a long time to learn, so don’t look for a quick way to keep up with the Joneses, girl! Let’s see if your Mom will help…”

On the first day of school, she had an excellent wardrobe of mix and match clothes. She even received compliments from the rich girls. A couple of the rich girls wanted to pay her to make blouses for them.

But then she noticed that most of the kids had money for school lunches. What a cool thing it would be to sail into the cafeteria without a lunch box,  to step up to the counter and to wave a hand around and order food!

Her Mother told her that school lunches were nasty and expensive. Her Father told her that she should be glad that she had a Mother to make lunches for her.

“Some kids don’t even get to eat lunch. A lot of them have to get the free lunch programs.”

Then she asked Auntie. Auntie came up with the idea of selling some of her creations. That would give her money to buy school lunches. So, she went to the rich girls, started making little detailed blouses and skirts of her own design, and soon had money for cafeteria lunches.

Mom was right, though. The cafeteria lunches were nasty, so she stopped buying them and started appreciating the beautiful lunches that her mother packed for her.

In High School, she became jealous of the kids who had time to hang out after school and go to dances. So she started hanging out after school and going to dances. But it was too much to study and sew and hang out and dance. She cut back to studying, sewing, and hanging out with her good friends. That was far more profitable than mindless hanging out with stupid kids and boys who just wanted to get in her pants.

Then, she became jealous of the glamorous kids who modeled and acted and traveled. She was a good actor and she learned some things. She learned that she was a brilliant seamstress and that she could make good costumes. Her greatest accomplishments included a complicated dress for the “Queen of England”. It was a stupid play and the language made no sense at all, but it was fun and the actors were cool kids.

Her school counselor recommended that she go to design school and become a fashion designer. The counselor gave her some books about the fashion industry. She started reading biographies, watching movies and soaking up all that she could soak from the fashion magazines.

She asked her Auntie about fashion as a career. Auntie said “Don’t you ever take drugs. Ever! That industry is the worst for starting people onto drug addictions. And they will lie through their teeth to get you to try drugs! The very first drug that you take could get you addicted for life!” She yelled.

“And don’t get overly concerned about your weight, either. Just watch your diet and exercise. They’re all starving themselves in the fashion industry, and those New York women are completely neurotic about weight!”. Auntie was passionate about this topic. But Auntie soldiered on and delivered some goods.

“Let me see who has been able to do well in that industry without going crazy or doing drugs….”

So she graduated High School and went to the graduation parties wearing fabulous outfits that had all of those “Rich Girl” details. She spent the Summer sewing and selling clothes and went to Design School on scholarship.

And she promptly became jealous of the people who spent their lives designing and modeling and traveling and going to parties without becoming drunks and doing drugs. She graduated at the top of her class and went out into the world in order to design, travel and avoid drugs.

Today she sits by her pool, watching her grandchildren cavort. She is waiting for her husband to come home for dinner. They will have a traditional “Pre Oscar” quickie after their son had picked up the kids. Then they will get dressed.

She wonders if she will win another Oscar tonight, this time for her costume work on the most nominated film. Her husband has two films up for Oscar nods. They are “A” listed for the red carpet, so they will have to deal with the coked up, yakking interviewers. Her phone is ringing off the hook. It’s only the press. She ignores the calls and watches her grandchildren cavort in the pool.

She reflects upon her life and is amazed at how jealousy, a negative emotion, could have been such a positive and motivating factor in her life. She is thankful for the people who made her work that jealousy and do the right things about it. She has lived long enough to know how it could have all gone wrong.

She has witnessed the ways in which mishandling jealousy went so wrong for so many. The emotion slowly destroyed bodies, hearts, careers and minds.

She shuts down the internal dialogue about jealousy. She watches her grandchildren cavort in the pool.

The truth is that she hasn’t been jealous of anyone or anything for decades.

A Spooky Tale: The Dead Ringers

She danced to the music of off-the-wall songs, such as “Express Yourself” and “Another One Bites The Dust”. She was a dancing star who had developed a loyal following that included mayors, A-list celebrities and godfathers. There was no personal or physical contact with the followers. There was no buying and selling of any more of her time or services. There was nothing but the dance and there was no one who could perform the dance but her.

But on one fateful, dark and stormy night, her heart was ransacked and the contents stolen by a man who was so smooth, so worldly, and so urbane that she would dance her last dance (in public, anyway).

He was not a handsome man, but he radiated heat like an acute back injury. It was obvious that he came from a good background. because his top and bottom teeth lined up perfectly with each other when he smiled. His smile was actually a frightening smile, since very few people knew the details of what he did for a living. Whenever a person became too persistent in their inquiries, he simply would flash that smile and his eyes would go very still. No one would persist after receiving such a disturbing, yet genial signal that no more information would be provided.

She danced deep into the night and studied Law during the day. Not one person who knew her could ever have put the two parts of her life together. She had been that discreet and effective in hiding one disgraceful world from the other, respectable world.  Even law enforcement could not have put her in both places on the same day. That is, no one would be able to piece it all together unless she died under suspicious circumstances and the contents of her safe deposit boxes were released.

She did not die under suspicious circumstances, though. She was just a dancer who retired early and who had a splashing success in marriage, in her law career and as a mother. Over the years, she came to be regarded as a perfect example of a woman who could balance marriage, child rearing, and a career with no failure in any part of her overall life program. She worked for a law firm that handled legal matters so esoteric and ethereal that no one could understand it all if they studied for a thousand years.

He came and went.  (It was the nature of his work, you know). He was a doting husband who never complained about the kids, the cost of this, or the interest on that. He just came and went for about a week at a time. One day, he would be gone. A few days later, he would return, behaving as if nothing special or momentous had happened while he was away.

Their lives went swimmingly and without turmoil until that dark and stormy night when a low level mob wannabe decided to track down his favorite dancer who, back in the day, would never so much as waste any spit on him. The woman danced, then she was always hustled back stage, protected by the club owner’s goons. No one got close to her if she did not want them to. The mob low life never explained how he came to believe that America was ancient Rome, where women of low standing could just be snatched and forced into a life of servitude to men.

The low life was never allowed to explain much, having died after hours of torture and in a horrible way.

After breaking into the couple’s home and attempting to have his way with the helpless woman and her children, the mob wannabe discovered his mistake. He had figured that the husband would not be part of the equation, since all of the neighbors and other locals had volunteered the information that the man wasn’t expected to be home for another three days. After suffering the consequences of such a mistake, the low life’s body was tossed into a raging wash of flood water and was not whole when it was found.

The problem with the low life’s plan was that the husband had canceled his trip. He was a contract worker who was employed by a shadowy organization. He carried out missions and worked for higher powers than anyone could comprehend or know of.  Raging storms had caused all flights to everywhere to be canceled and there was no rescheduling going on. As a result, the husband decided not to rearrange the weather, but rearranged his travel projects instead.

Thus, he happened to be at home, rewiring a new home theater system by flashlight on that night.

The mob wannabe’s subsequent “disappearance” did not bring the expected response of “who cares?”  Instead, the disappearance became the ignition source for a mob war that was destined to happen if anything happened to him. As low as he was, he was the son of a major player. The battles spread to15 cities and then infected the gangs. The battles went on for weeks, with neither side ever gaining a clear understanding of what could have possibly triggered such a war.

With the mob wars, no one was as concerned that it stayed dark or that it stayed stormy for two whole weeks.

Amazing. It was the most catastrophic weather event in a hundred and thirty five years, yet  there were so many murders and gun battles going on all over the nation that the weather was the least of the nation’s problems.

What happened to the man and the woman? They lived together for another fifty years then “moved on”.  Both of them treated the catastrophic storm as if it never happened. Both of them remembered the previous storm of its type, 135 years earlier. Those two had either experienced or created all forms of natural disasters, including the separation of the continents. They “reproduced” by stealing and rearing other people’s children.

When one body wears out, they carefully choose new bodies. They thrive in countries where people go missing by the thousands every year. Whenever they grow too old to live convincingly in one community, they move on and start new lives. In such form, they have developed the patience of the centuries, the wisdom of the very old, and the gifts of being able to “do it all over again”.

Some times, they grow tired of starting over and spend some time in the form of pure energy for a while. We call them ghosts when they are on vacation.

Once every ten years, they attend a vast reunion and meet with the millions of others like them who live among us and who have always lived among us. We know when we have encountered one of them and we never realize it. We call such encounters “mistaken identity” and move on.

The Dead Ringers are the reason behind our lingering doubt and unsettling thoughts when we think that we have seen someone who we know.