Gimbling in the Wabe – Adding Hominy to That

by Sharon Browning
coffee and newspapers

Yesterday, I had to do something that was quite sad – I had to call and cancel our subscription to the local newspaper.  Due to unexpected financial stresses, we simply can’t afford to have the daily paper delivered any longer.  I thought about keeping the Sunday paper, because I do enjoy the largess of the Sunday edition, but honestly, it’s the weekday papers that have given me the most pleasure over the last few idle years.

There’s something to be said for reading a print newspaper in the morning, before the day has truly begun, with a nice hot cup of coffee steaming nearby.  Even in the summer months -but especially in the spring – I enjoyed this morning ritual, often taken on the porch, watching people passing through the neighborhood as well as reading the news articles.  Zephyrus breezes, bright and winsome birdsong, the wondrous smell of savory soup being prepared at the restaurant less than a block away, the transversing of clouds overhead – the light and the dark, all accompanied stories of amazing medical discoveries, political infighting and gridlock, lost dogs traveling long distances to return home or municipal spats over services and functions, student athletes who had overcome major obstacles to excel, break out local musical groups or an outbreak of algae on a local lake, and always, always, who had done what to whom (and less often, why).

It’s not really a question of being informed.  I’ve been getting most of my news information – world, national and local – off the internet anyway these days, from various sites and platforms (even the website of the local newspaper, actually), from agencies, watchdogs, newsies and individuals.  It’s more about the rituals, the cadence of the experience:  front section with world and national news first, scan but don’t necessarily read the opinion pages, on to the local news, sports before business, entertainment last.  Then there’s the convenient surety of placement:  the scant bit of pop culture on the inside front page, the broadcast sports listings on the inside back page of the sports section, the daily TV listings (including evening cable schedules) on the inside back page of the entertainment section, movie theaters and show times on the page before that.  On Wednesdays, gardening.  On Thursdays, fashion.  On Fridays, movie reviews.

The singular best is on Sundays, though.  Book reviews get a full 2-page spread.  Sometimes they are disappointing – full of self-help or non-fictions books, which certainly have their merit, but not my attention.  Travel books, cook books, books on fine wine or famous battles, colorful criminals or finding yourself or nirvana or financial security or living with grief – worthy books, all, I’m sure, but not my cup of tea.  Now, fiction, great stories – there’s what I want to read about.  Story outlines, plots, settings, characters – are they worth a trip to the library?  Often I go straight to the library website with the newspaper still open to the book reviews, and whip off one or two (or more) requests every Sunday.  I realize that those books will be popular, and it will be weeks before my name comes up in the queue (I’m hardly the only one who uses the Sunday reviews for my literary excursions), but that’s okay.  Sometimes I’ve even forgotten what a book is about when I get the notice from the library that I have something to pick up, and there’s a bit of excitement in that – whatever the book is, something intrigued me enough to request it, so its rediscovery becomes part of the adventure!

But like I said before, it’s not that I can’t get these things online, I realize that.  The news, the reviews, the TV lineups, the game times.  But there’s something about the layout, the typography, the size of the field, that makes the eye more capable of picking out stories and glossing over advertisements in newsprint than with the truncated, flashing, often invasive techniques used on websites.  Pictures and captions, headlines and sub-headings, give more of an indication of the subject of the story in a newspaper than you find online.  After all, once you’ve read a headline in a newspaper, you only have one more level to delve into – the story itself.  A heading on a website, though, is not only meant to draw you into the story, but into the site itself, that story and the next one, and the next one, and the subscription and the adverts and the related stories and the sign ups and the donations and the blinking and pop up boxes and auto scrolls and self-playing videos…. websites, especially news websites, are just a damned cacophony on what the content editors want you to see as much as what you want to determine to see on your own.  Not to mention you don’t need electricity to read the newspaper, or a connection to the internet.  And if you put your newspaper down and someone else takes it, it only costs about a quarter to replace.

Go ahead, call me old fashioned.  I’m okay with that.  I’m not saying newspapers are better – just easier.   Simpler.   And I’m going to miss mine.

I thought yesterday was going to be our last newspaper delivery.  When I was making the phone call to stop service, I realized that my timing was disappointing, because there had been nothing really special in the news that day, no special feature to mark the passing of a tradition (even if a personal one).  Nothing really monumental had happened.  There was no need to check the sports news, as we are in that dark zone for me, when football (for Vikings fans) is pretty much over and the baseball opener is still months away.  There wasn’t even anything good on TV.  But I had to make the call before I talked myself out of it – again.

That was yesterday.  I got up this morning, and didn’t even check by the door when I went to turn the porch light off.  So imagine my surprise when I left the house to take the Mighty Belle to the dog park, and found a folded, bindered newspaper nestled against my front door!  Maybe this is only for one day, it’s probably just due to a gap in the processing of paperwork, but for at least one day, I got a reprieve.  I got one more morning to enjoy reading the newspaper while sipping a steaming hot cup of coffee.

There wasn’t any really momentous news in today’s paper, either.  Warmer weather from the far side of the polar vortex is wonderful, and noteworthy, but not exactly stop-the-presses material.  Local news was surprisingly positive, which is nice more than amazing.  The MLB Hall of Fame balloting was interesting, but not totally unexpected, and the one twist with Deadspin was anticlimactic.  But I really luxuriated in reading from the front page of the headline news to the back page of the entertainment   section.

And you know what?  Today, there was a bonus in the newspaper.  Once a month (I think, I’ve never been able to figure out a predictable schedule) there is a little cooking supplement to the newspaper, entitled Dash.  I really like opening the paper and seeing Dash mixed in with the ads.  I don’t care that half the recipes reflect the ingredients being sold by the advertisers, or that a quarter of the recipes are either ridiculously simple or utilizing items that can only be found at a gourmet specialty import supplier.  I still like looking through the colorfully stylish pages, thinking that maybe I’ll find a really fun or really interesting or really successful recipe – poof!  Right there!

And you know what else?  I think I may have found one.  Chipotle Chicken Pozole.  And you know what the coolest, the absolute coolest thing about it is?  It uses hominy.  Hominy? you might say:  what’s so cool about hominy?  Well, the really fantastic thing about hominy is…. that I didn’t know what it was.  I think I had heard of it before (hominy and grits comes to mind) , but I didn’t know what it was.  So I did a little bit of research, and learned that hominy was corn.  Naturally processed field corn, a basis for masa (which I did know about), and also having Native American applications.  And guess what?  Hominy is available locally!  It’s not some kind of obtuse or obscure ingredient – it simply was one of which I was not aware.  I can do this.  I can make Chipotle Chicken Pozole.  This might – just might – become a recipe that will linger in my family’s repertoire of go-to meals.  And I learned something new.  I learned something new!

So there you have it.  A one day reprieve.  A new discovery.  Knowledge.  Unexpected boons.  Potential.  Promise.  And nothing to lose.

Even when hard decisions have to be made, even when it looks like the world is shrinking, or that who you are or who you want to be is dancing on the edge of constant compromise, there is the possibility of the unlooked for positive.  Even if your options seem to be shrinking, there are discoveries yet to be made.  Even one day can make a difference.  Every time you open the door and go out into the world, there is a chance for something really fun, or really interesting, or really successful to happen.

And maybe, just maybe, it will go really well with hominy.

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