Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Randy’s Frozen Custard

Oh-so-conveniently located across from our beloved Happy Fisherman, this Osage Beach favorite has been around for decades. Randy’s Frozen Custard is one of those places that drips with cool, sweet happiness every hot summer evening, as folks line up for frozen treats.

Every vacation area has a place like this. In northern Ohio, for instance, up by Cedar Point amusement park, there’s the Pied Piper—been around since the fifties.

At Missouri’s hot and humid Lake of the Ozarks, by evening, most vacationers have already spent hours in the sunshine, boating, fishing, swimming, golfing, jet-skiing, staggering in and out of shops, and all the rest of that tourist stuff. (Don’t forget the skee-ball, go-karts, and bumper cars!) Naturally, you work up an appetite for frozen custard!

And hey, the locals enjoy Randy’s, too—they’ve spent the day taking care of all those tourists, and they need to replenish the nine billion calories they burned up doing that!

Randy’s specialty is the Ozark Turtle—a sundae made with frozen custard, gooey-sweet, warm caramel sauce, hot fudge, and topped with plenty of incredibly well-toasted pecans, that have a superb crunch and just enough salt to balance the sweetness of the rest. Check out the sizes: the “small” one is what I’d call a “regular” serving!

Yes, there are other places to get frozen dairy treats down at the lake, but you should put Randy’s at the top of your list—just for the nostalgia factor, if not for the value and the sheer deliciousness of the Ozark Turtle.

I recently tried to order a mock turtle sundae at our neighborhood soft-serve place, and there was no comparison. The pecans were listless, bland, and lacked crunch. The caramel was more sticky than flavorful. And it was built of that soft-serve stuff, vacant, not like delicious frozen custard. They meant well; they tried. But you get the picture. There, I think I’ll just stick to blueberry milkshakes and chocolate dip cones.

When at the lake, go to Randy’s. (And don’t confuse it with Andy’s, which seems to be an explosively expanding joint from Springdale or Springfield or somewhere, coming soon with four-billion-watt bright lights to a development near you.) Go to Randy’s.

One more thing: If you need a Randy’s fix and you’re stuck in Columbia for some reason, don’t fret—just head to the Hy-Vee shopping area out on West Broadway: There’s a Randy’s outpost there! A bonus of that location is that it’s close to Shakespeare’s Pizza West! So close, in fact, you can smell the pizza while you wait for your concretes and sundaes. (Heaven must be a lot like this, huh?)

“Kid-friendly” is, of course, a given. —So bring the family! Don’t be put off by a long line during peak hours; that just means it’s totally worth it!

One more thing—true story—one night this past week, it was about eight o’clock, and Sue and I drove all the way to Columbia just to get Ozark Turtles. Yes: it’s that good.

Randy's Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

Randy's Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Days

It’s the bookend to Labor Day, and it’s one of the few holidays that don’t involve any specific or mandatory activities. For sure, it’s great to have a day off, and, since it’s the last Monday in May, it serves as the symbolic beginning of summer.

And we remember people who aren’t with us anymore.

Although it apparently started as a day to memorialize the fallen soldiers of both sides of the Civil War, starting in the early 1900s it became a day to decorate the graves of all relatives and loved ones. (Some people even remember this little fact.)

If your focus is purely on military participants, then I guess you must see Memorial Day as a sort of bookend to Veteran’s Day, the latter honoring living veterans, and the former honoring the deceased ones.

Personally, I’ve always viewed it as a day to decorate the graves of one’s relatives, pure and simple, sort of like the Bon festivals in Japan, where families reunite to clean the graves of their ancestors and celebrate their memories. Or, closer to home, the Mexican Día de los Muertos, which is kind of the same thing.

And although I value the sacrifices made by the members of the military as much as anyone else, I have to question how appropriate it is to honor their memories via air shows of fighter jets and parades of tanks and other weapons. Didn’t they give their lives so that we wouldn’t have to even see such dreadful vehicles and instruments of death? Isn’t war hell? I’m not sure it’s a good idea to make war look “cool.”

Anyway, Memorial Day in my family is a time for decorating the graves of relatives—women, men, and even children, whether or not they ever experienced a war directly or indirectly. (I know that the experiences of many soldiers are far beyond what some of us can imagine—but then I think we should recognize the hard work and sacrifices made at the home front, via Civil Defense activities, Red Cross service, rations, scrap-metal drives, deprivations, Victory Gardens, and worry.)

In fact, my parents were recently commenting on how, in both of their families, it was “Decoration Day,” and not particularly associated with the military. Mom described how her family would walk the ten blocks to Woodland Cemetery (they didn’t own a car). Her dad would wheel their push lawnmower, upon which sat a bushel basket holding hand trimmers and other gardening implements, while her mom would carry coffee cans with flowers in water, which would decorate the graves.

Yes, before there were cheap, multicolored fake flowers for sticking out on the graves, people would collect real, beautiful flowers out of their yards, drive or walk them to the cemeteries in galvanized buckets and tin cans of water, and arrange them at the graves, sticking them into position with wire and adding ribbons ad libitum.

One of the first things I wrote about when I started this blog was how moving it is to live in the home of your ancestors, and inherit flowers and trees that were planted by grandparents, great aunts, great-grandparents. For instance, we have a mock orange bush that grows near our back porch steps—I’m pretty sure the same exact shrub appears in a photo of my dad’s family, taken in the backyard around 1941.

And so it happens that Memorial Day, for me, becomes a sort of exercise in phenology, where the flowers for decorating graves on Memorial Day have become, over the years, the same customary types: peonies, mock orange, roses—because that’s what’s always blooming at the end of May. You say “peonies,” and I think “tombstones.”

Memorial Day wasn’t the only time for this activity, of course—there are many other good occasions for decorating graves, such as Christmas, when juniper boughs and red ribbons were de rigueur—but Memorial Day is the time of year to decorate with peonies and mock orange boughs.

And so here they are, these long-lived plants, blooming their little heads off in the backyard, telling me which holiday it is, reminding me of my ancestors, whether or not they, or their loved ones, had fought in the battles of history.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Picnic

What’s to say? A menu will suffice. (Follow links for some suggested recipes!)


Frankfurters, grilled on the Weber

Hot dog buns, and all the fixin’s

Veggie kabobs

Baked (as is doctored-up, glorified, molasses’d and brown-sugared, honest-to-Pete baked) beans

Potato chips

Red cabbage slaw

Potato salad

Red raspberry mold

Corn on the cob


Minted iced tea

. . . And last but not least:

Cake and ice cream


An incredibly pleasant day spent with my mom and dad! I'm so lucky to live so near to my folks! We need more days like these.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Elephant Ears: The Springtime Drill

I’ve told you the story of Grandma’s prizewinning elephant ear plants before—but I didn’t give you pictures yet.

Here’s a brief recap; if you want to read the whole story, click here.

I’m not sure how long Grandma had these elephant ear plants, or how many she started with, but they seem to do very well in this backyard, and with annual regimen of care she gave them, which I continue. (Read that previous post for specifics on the care.)

Since they’re tropical plants, each October we have to dig up their huge, loglike rhizomes and take them inside for the winter. Then in may, once we’re past the danger of frosts, we plant them back outside in the ground.

We’re a bit behind this year—in part because it’s been rather cool and prone to frost, as well as rainy. (Who wants to work in mud?) Not to mention my ankle problems.

Anyway, since we cut grass yesterday and did lots of other stuff, and with rain threatening this afternoon, this morning was our big chance to get them in the ground.

I was still sore from yesterday’s exertions. (Until it happens to you, you don’t really appreciate how a single ankle injury can cause darned near every other joint in your body to ache! Which reminds me, I need to get us another big thing of ibuprofen . . .)

I think we counted fourteen large/original elephant ears, plus about half a dozen younger ones, which had arisen in previous years either as buds or from seed.

Last year, we learned about the importance of sunshine on the growth of elephant ears. Usually, we put them where Grandma usually had them, in a flower bed under a big yew tree—a rather shady location. But since we have “overflow,” last May we decided to put one baby elephant ear in a sunny, blank spot near our privacy fence. (Where Persephone is, now.)

Seriously, when we set it out a year ago, this thing was no bigger than about 2 inches in diameter. By August, it looked like this.

That’s a six-foot-high privacy fence behind it! The diameter at the base is about seven inches, now—plus it has two babies sprouting off the sides!

Sunshine + moisture + fertilizer = phenomenal growth!

The largest leaf blades were about a yard long!

Needless to say, this year, we planted a few new babies in that area, plus the one that had been there last year. I suspect they will all be enormous come August.

They’re not much to look at now (we didn’t even water them, since the weather forecasters sound very confident that we’ll have serious rain today)—and we haven’t put down the usual nice big layer of mulch (we didn’t think we had time, since the skies were getting gray and turbulent—but now it’s sunny again . . . Well, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll water them tonight).

Some of the other very small elephant ears have gone into big containers—well, at least until we decide where we might plant them elsewhere.

There is (quite literally) huge potential in these rhizomes; it’s always fun to see which ones develop the biggest leaves, which put their energy into flowers and fruits, and which decide to reproduce by growing new plants off to the side.

Oh, and did I tell you I was sorting through some old papers of Grandma’s a few weeks ago, and I discovered the actual blue ribbon the elephant ears had won? Lookie!

There’s no year on the label, but given the vintage of the various other papers this was shuffled with, I’d say she won it between about 1995 and 1999. Again, for more on the blue ribbon story, look here. It’s pretty funny.

I guess you could say the annual drill of planting these huge “logs” in the ground and then digging them up again five months later is kind of nutty—but if you had bona fide prizewinning plants, wouldn’t you feel compelled to keep them going, too?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Art of the Missouri Capitol

Well, my friends, here is a book you need to have. It’s been years in the making, and it’s hot off the presses! Ta-dahhh!

If you’re a Missourian, this book will make you proud, because its subject is a source of pride: the marvelous paintings, sculptures, stained glass, and other artworks that decorate our capitol in Jefferson City.

I have to admit, because my grandmas lived in Jeff City and we visited the capitol a lot, I grew up with a skewed idea of what a capitol building should be like. Aren’t they all, basically, big, huge, glorious art and history museums, where hot-air politicians happen to meet occasionally for the purposes of legislation? . . . They aren’t?

The Missouri state capitol is often ranked among the most beautiful in the United States. It was built during the end of the American Renaissance architectural era in a classical-inspired style, before Art Deco and other modern, less majestic styles became popular—so the grandeur of the architecture, by itself, inspires awe.

But what really sets the Missouri capitol apart is the “decoration”—truly an understatement for what we have: a collection of works by some of the finest artists and muralists between the two world wars, which has been augmented with more top-rate art ever since.

Around 1917, when it was clear that the special tax to raise funds for the construction of the new capitol would produce surplus income, the state stuck to its plan for allocating that money for the capitol, and channeled the revenue into the artworks that adorn it today. (Folks, think about our state: this would never happen today! How lucky we are that they made that decision when they did.)

Our state owes great thanks to the “Capitol Decoration Commission,” chaired by Dr. John Pickard (of the University of Missouri—Pickard Hall, home of the Museum of Art and Architecture, is named after him). This group of five prominent and well-connected Missouri art connoisseurs were charged with selecting artists--some of the greatest, from American and abroad--and seeking bids for the paintings, sculptures, and other artwork to adorn what were originally blank walls and plain pediments in the state’s newly built capitol.

The Decoration Commission was also, of course, charged with staying within budget and meeting deadlines, and, as you can imagine, they simultaneously had to deal with artists’ idiosyncrasies and the artistic ignorance and short-sightedness of some outspoken, obstinate legislators. They had to play political games that none of them relished at all.

It wasn’t an easy task! But the commission fulfilled its obligation beautifully, and the result is a collection of breathtaking, priceless artworks owned by the people of Missouri and proudly on display at our state capitol.

This year, 2011, marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the destruction of the old capitol building, an event that paved the way for the construction of the present capitol. It’s also the ninetieth anniversary of the unveiling of the first big batch of artworks, as well as the seventieth anniversary of the completion of the famous mural by Thomas Hart Benton in the capitol’s House Lounge.

Thus it’s appropriate that a book like this be published this year—and unlike most “media” flittering around our culture these days, a volume like this isn’t created “overnight,” or even in a month! (Note sarcasm.) It was at least ten years in the making. The authors, Missouri historian Bob Priddy and art historian Jeffrey Ball, have been researching and studying the artworks and the stories behind their creation for well over a decade (actually, more like twenty years).

Click here to read a statement on the book by Bob Priddy, who, gracious as always, puts the emphasis on the greatness of his subject as opposed to himself.

This book’s publication also required persistence, resolve, and serious fund-raising efforts by numerous state leaders, among them Senator Wayne Goode and Kenneth Winn; and the book has been delivered to us in a lovely and substantial form by the talented staff at the University of Missouri Press (check out their catalog; they’re the publisher for Missouri subjects).

In addition to the stories of how the commission chose and worked with the artists, there’s an added layer of history to the project, since most of the works in the capitol depict some historic episode or person in Missouri’s past, either straightforwardly or symbolically. Indeed, if you study the capitol artworks, and read the commentary in this book, you will essentially receive a crash course in the history of Missouri. (And you’ll have a blast in the process!)

When I first heard about this project about ten years ago, I was thrilled with the idea of there being simply a full-color book containing beautiful color pictures of all the capitol’s artworks—not even counting any informative and authoritative text. And this book “delivers” in that sense, too; it’s like an exhibition catalogue—but so much more.

When you’re visiting the capitol, you’re usually on a schedule; the hallways are rather dark; it’s hard to study the paintings. But in this book, you can see entire murals, sculptures, stained-glass windows, for extended contemplation, even though they are a small fraction of their actual size.

The principal photographer for this project was Jefferson City’s incredibly talented Lloyd Grotjan, who owns Full Spectrum Photo and Audio on High Street. In addition to his dozens of technically flawless, sharp reproductions of all the enormous murals, his many architectural photos capture subtle details of our capitol as well the sweeping vistas of rotundas, staircases, and galleries.

The Missouri state capitol—its structure, its artwork, its museum—is a priceless treasure owned by the people of our state. This book tells the story of its beautiful art; and hopefully, it will remind us of how precious our capitol is, and how important it is to maintain it.

Suggested in This Post----

Visit the Missouri State Capitol

Yep, you can just walk right in and start looking around. This isn’t a monarchy, and we don’t have royalty: this breathtaking, majestic building belongs to the citizens of Missouri. The capitol is deservedly Jefferson City’s number-one tourist attraction.

Make sure you visit the Missouri State Museum on the first floor, which on one side highlights Missouri’s natural history, and on the other, the history of Missouri’s people. But don’t forget to go up to the second and third floors to enjoy the paintings, sculpture, views, and architecture.

I recently spoke with a fellow, a grown man and a business owner, here in Jeff City, who admitted he hadn’t been inside the capitol since he was a child. What the—?! Needless to say, he shall remain nameless, since I don’t want to embarrass this fellow.

Take a Guided Tour the Capitol

Guided tours allow you to see some areas normally unavailable to the public, including the incredible Benton paintings in the House Lounge. These free tours are offered Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except during the noon hour); and Sundays at 10:00, 11:00, 2:00, and 3:00. (If you have more than ten in your group, you need reservations. Click here for more information on guided tours).

Buy the Book!

This book belongs in the home of every proud Missourian. Here are some links so you can purchase it; take your pick: the publisher’s site; Downtown Book and Toy; Amazon.

Step right up!

Thank you, Sue, for sharing some of your beautiful photos for this post. You're a really excellent photographer, and I don't know what I'd do without you! You make my blog look far better than it really is!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Here’s What’s Up

I never know how to name or begin these “here is where I am right now” posts. But it’s been a little while since I’ve given you a general update, so I hope you’ll indulge me. If you’re not interested in my personal life, I understand. This is incredibly self-indulgent, I know.

The biggest news, for me, is that I saw the orthopedic surgeon and got X-rays on Monday, the ninth, and my fibula is now officially healed! There is a possibility that come October or November, the decision might be made to remove the plate and screws, depending on whether they’re bothering me or not. At this point, I have the sense that the screw fixing my fibula and tibia together is inhibiting the range of motion in my ankle (it’s impossible to squat, and hard to descend staircases without walking down them sideways).

Another reason they might want to take out the hardware is that there’s really not much “meat” between one’s lower fibula and that delicate ankle skin, and yes, when I reach down and touch my ankle, I can feel the plate and the lumpy little screw heads through my skin. At this point, that sore lumpiness, combined with the tenderness at the incision (it’s five inches long) (be glad I’m not posting pictures), makes it kind of impossible for me to sit “Indian style.” Not to mention that it’s just creepy. (But I can get over the “creepy” factor.)

Meanwhile, I’m not keen on having to meet the deductible again, which a second surgery could easily require.

There’s still swelling, aches, and pains that are residual from the injury itself, the surgery, and the few months of immobilization. “The body heals itself with collagen,” the doc said. And that ain’t helping the function of tendons, muscles, flexibility, and whatever. Or so I gather. I’ve got to “work out” that excess collagen and swelling-stuff, make my ankle lean and mean again.

Exercise and use should go far to restoring normalcy, the doc says, and he prescribed a few weeks of PT for me. I asked him if I’m to the point of “no restrictions,” and he held back from that, advising me not to jump on it yet.

Hooray! No more thick, clunky “moon boot,” and not a day too soon, ’cause right after I saw the doc, we had some unseasonably warm (and humid) weather. One night, I only got about four hours of sleep, with it so hot and humid, and no breeze.

Since then, we’ve had cooler weather, and rain. This morning (as I write), we’re having gentle showers. It’s the kind of rain that makes the birds happy. I think they view it as a clean, gentle bird-shower, a nice change of pace from the dirty ol’ birdbaths and muddy puddles they sometimes bathe in.

A few nights after I saw the doc, Sue and I celebrated my foot being officially healed by bicycling up to the Missouri River Bridge and riding across it on the new bicycle/pedestrian addition. Very, very nice! The ramp, like a square spiral that rises from river level to the level of the bridge, has a very comfortable grade, whether you’re ascending or descending. It was great to see so many people using the bridge!

Then, we rode northward on the Jeff City Greenway trail spur from the bridge to the connection to the Katy Trail. And, my friends, that’s as far as we got. What can I say? I’ve had my ankle in a vise for about two months, and one of my calves is about half the size of the other one. And we still had to ride back home, a trip that always ends with a “breathtaking” ride up steep little Broadway hill. So I think we did rather well!

This week I started on physical therapy, and all I’ve got to say about it is, “ow.” Nearly every exercise involves me bending my foot upward toward my shin. There’s a squatting exercise, lots of various “lunging” postures/stretches, plus the exercise where I stand facing a wall, touching it lightly with my fingers, and lift myself up on my toes repeatedly (I remember that one from PT a few years ago). And more. It all makes my ankle “sing,” and it’s also working quadriceps on my bad leg to the point where it’s feeling rather Grand-Canyony. (If you’ve hiked the Grand Canyon, you know what I mean!) I’m running out of ibuprofen! (I think I had better not try to push it too hard here at the beginning.)

They know what they’re doing—those docs and physical therapists have seen oodles of people just like me limp through their offices, daily, monthly, yearly. In that respect, they are being remarkably generous when they show the patience to sit and listen to me describe my sensations and concerns, which they must have memorized even before they got out of school.

What else is new? Overall, I’ve been feeling rather positive about things, which is unfamiliar territory for me at this point. Maybe that sounds strange to you, because I make a point of avoiding negativity on this blog. From the outset, the Op Op has been an exercise in looking at the brighter side of life, a way of forcing myself to meditate, on a regular basis, on “things that I like and love.”

But make no mistake—for the past five years or so, life has offered me trials, and it’s brought me down. I reached the point where I have found it impossible to look at my future with optimism or enthusiasm.

But as I was saying—I’ve been experiencing some days where I’ve felt optimistic and hopeful about certain parts of my life. I feel like there’s a possibility for growth; I’ve even been feeling like my sense of hope is founded on something sort of substantial.

I’ve also been able to shrug off some of the insipid situations that have seemed like irrevocable sentences, insurmountable obstacles to my happiness; recently, I’ve been recognizing them as things I genuinely do not control (so why stress out over them?), and also as things I can simply walk away from, whenever I decide I’ve had enough. And that goes a long way in keeping me from feeling trapped and powerless.

I won’t bore you with all the things that have contributed to my recent depressive mind-set, but trust me, this rise in spirits has been a long time coming; it feels strange, and I honestly don’t have much faith that it will last for very long. I’m skeptical. Naturally, I’m expecting some new calamity to come along and squash me again.

Why are my spirits lifting now? Maybe it’s that it’s springtime, and the days are growing nice and long. Also, it’s a huge relief to be ambulatory again. There’s fresh air, and things are growing. The mock orange, peonies, roses, and irises are blooming. And hell, maybe the human psyche simply can not stay depressed indefinitely in the absence of truly horrible events. . . . I don’t really know what it is. But as long as I’m feeling this way, I’m going to try to fly with it.

This weekend, if the ground dries out enough, we’re planting the elephant ears and hibiscus in the backyard again!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Persephone Sees the Light of Day

After more than a year of living in the Underworld of our basement, and well past the Vernal Equinox, Persephone finally made it into our garden.

I told you about “Persephone,” the large concrete yard statue we bought in Rosebud, Missouri, a while back. We’ve been really slow in preparing her for exposure to the elements.

First, we had a bit of plastic surgery to do—grinding and sanding off the seams from where the two halves of her mold had fit imperfectly together, and adding a bit of concrete-patch to places where she wasn’t quite smooth enough. Then sanding again. Then patching again. (It’s Hades being a perfectionist!)

Then, it took us forever to decide on which shade of “whitish gray” looked enough like marble. Then, lordy, we had to paint it, making sure to work paint into all the little irregularities in the surface. Then paint it again. We don’t want her peeling!

So you get the picture.

We actually got her done before last fall, but we didn’t see any reason to stick her outside before the winter. She’s Persephone, after all.

But then her delivery to the Earth’s surface this spring was delayed by my broken ankle and her tremendous weight. We could put her on a two-wheeler dolly and pull her around, but there’s no way we could lift her, and pulling her up the hump of the driveway seemed iffy for me in a “moon boot.”

So last Friday, my dad was over, and my ankle was feeling pretty good, so we wrapped her up in a blanket, cushioned the hand-cart with cardboard, and wheeled her around the house on the sidewalk and up the hump of the driveway.

And now she graces our backyard with her goddesslike opulence. I’m glad we have a nice big privacy fence, and she’s not visible from the street. We think she’s close enough to a “real” statue that she adds an air of classic beauty to our backyard, like it’s a courtyard at a castle or something.

Or maybe she’s just a tacky concrete yard statue with a paint job.

But we certainly didn’t get her in order to make our yard look “normal.” So whatever anyone else thinks isn’t of great concern to us. We like her a lot!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Op Op Selected Photos

Hi, folks, another quick note about the Op Op's Facebook page--I've recently been posting albums of some of my favorite photos from my blog. They're in categories like "holidays," "places and events," "food and cooking," "restaurants," and so on.

I'm adding links to the individual blog posts, so if a photo sparks interest, you can zap directly to the blog page about that subject.

Those of you who are kind of new to my blog might get a kick out of seeing where we've been; my longtime readers will enjoy the review.

To see the page, click on the link above.

Soon, an update on how I am right now.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Springtime Migration

For those of you on Facebook, you’ve probably been seeing my little posts regarding Facebook’s recent decision to force many “group” pages to become just “pages.” Apparently FB has determined that lots of their “groups” don’t have enough “interactivity” to be considered “groups.” So I’ve created a new Facebook page for the Op Op.

So my current task is to encourage everyone to “friend” the new Op Op Facebook page—that is, to migrate from the old to the new. (Kinda fitting, to migrate in spring, no?)

You can reach the new Op Op page on Facebook by clicking on the little FB "badge" on the right side of this blog.

The old Facebook page was called “The Opulent Opossum for Facebook,” and the new one is called just “The Opulent Opossum.” The former, supposedly, will be “archived” at some point in the next few months, and all members of it will apparently be dropped. That’s why I’ve started the new Op Op page for Facebook—so all you friends can “friend” it (or “like” it, or whatever), and we can continue our merry Op Op Facebooking.

For those of you who don’t do FB, or who do but just haven’t “friended” the Op Op’s FB page, here’s what’s in it for you: Each time I do a new post, I create a link to it on the Op Op’s Facebook page. Then, if you’re a “friend” (or “liker,” or whatever), you’ll receive the notice in your “news feed.” It saves you from the grueling, off-putting task of actually navigating to the Opulent Opossum blog to see if there’s a new post.

Now that I’ve written that, it doesn’t sound like much, does it.

It's also another way to comment on posts and communicate with me, should you so desire. (Some people have complained about the "comments" feature on this actual blog page; using the Op Op's Facebook page circumvents that.)

Anyway, I do get a huge charge out of seeing my Facebook “friends” and Blogger “followers” lists grow, and I love it when I get lots of hits. I suppose, at its roots, this is a self-esteem thing; but whatever.

I do try to provide good information here, honest reflection, authenticity. I really do love cheering for the things I like—whether it’s restaurants, old recipe books, stuff from the attic, or undersung critters that trundle, flutter, or slither through our backyard.

I also work hard to “break up” my wordy text with decent pictures. Indeed: I’d never taken pictures much before I started blogging, and if I’ve improved since March 2009, it’s because of you.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m an inveterate journaler (I’ve kept journals/diaries since 1981), and I’ll keep on writing and reflecting, whether anyone else reads it or not.

But I have to admit—it is incredibly cool to know that y’all are reading.

And so I’m saying something, just this once, that I haven’t said before: Help me out. Spread the word. “Share” a post or two—ones that you thought were pretty good. And “friend” the Op Op’s new Facebook page, and encourage your pals to do so, too. Let’s add some new folks to the lists.

I do genuinely appreciate it.

And now, back to the blogging . . .

Monday, May 9, 2011

Arkansauce: Check It Out!

Okay, now, what do the following all have in common:

—Mammy Hannah’s Fried Chicken


—Pan-fried squirrel

—A hundred pounds of pickled beef

—Fried green tomatoes

—Purple hull peas

—“Grape acid”

—Butchering a hog

—Blackberry cobbler

—Green beans

—Fried crappie

—Barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches wrapped in wax paper

—Turnip greens

—Beans and cornbread

—Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales


—Sweet potato pie.

I know: You’re thinking, “southern food” and “Ozarks food,” right? Well, sure, but we should be more precise: these are all mentioned in the premier issue of Arkansauce: The Journal of Arkansas Foodways, a new (currently annual) publication of the University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections department!

The journal is a forum showcasing the university libraries’ wonderful collection of elderly cookbooks, old menus, and other printed culinary materials, but it’s also a place for reflection on Arkansas food history, traditions, and folklore, as well as the current status of food and cooking in that state.

The inaugural issue is online and can be read right here.

Note that it’s a pdf file, and with all the nifty pictures and graphics on twenty-four pages, it will take a while to load. Don’t worry: it’s worth the wait.

Or, you can receive the publication in the mail for free (yes!) by contacting Diane F. Worrell (dfworrell@uark.edu) or by calling her at 479-575-5577. (Naturally, she’ll need your mailing address.)

I hope you’ll check it out!

Special thanks to Op Op friend Michael Saar for telling me about this fun new journal!