21289 Steps

21289 steps….the average of the number of steps I took yesterday as shown by my Fitbit, an app that came with my iPhone, and an app I downloaded later.  Three ways to count steps!!! That does not include the Runtastic app that analyzes distance, time, pace, average pace, and a dozen other fitness markers. Having four ways to “anal-ize” my steps might be excessive.  I might be more obsessive or anal retentive than I credit myself.  Or maybe, I don’t trust my Fitbit. 

Taking the time to average my number of steps from my three tracking apps might be a symptom of my peculiar brand of insanity.  Even my insanity has insanities.  Taking 21289 steps might be excessive, period.  Some of my steps were not easy.  The morning after my knees are decrying my brutality…and stupidity.  Where did I put my Tylenol?

21289 steps are over twice the recommended number of steps the fitness gods say should be our fitness goal. The fitness “gold” standard, ten thousand steps accompanied by gothic organ music. 

One of the more inquisitive voices in my head asked, “Why is it ten thousand steps…why not 9999 steps or 10001 steps?  Why can’t we be fit eating a slab of bacon?”  The call to wander down a pig trail was strong.  “Indeed, why are ten thousand steps the fitness gold standard?”

“Turns out, it is not based on anything scientific!”…or should I say, it did not start out that way.  Ten thousand steps was nothing more than a marketing ploy.

“There doesn’t appear to be any scientific basis for the idea that 10,000 steps should be everyone’s daily fitness goal”, according to I-Min Lee, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. I quoted Ms. Lee but understand, there are other studies that parrot her.

Ten Thousand steps turns out to be a marketing strategy, propaganda?  Lie?  Shades of the parental phrase I remember, “drink your milk so you’ll have strong bones.” That propaganda certainly sold more milk. No really.  Calcium and Vitamin D are good for you but do not guarantee strong bones.  While we are exploding myths, “Superman couldn’t have turned coal into a diamond either.” What?

In the early 1960s, a Japanese company introduced their pedometer with the interesting name, manpo-kei.  Interesting?  Hell, I can’t even pronounce it.  I can however translate it, “10,000-step meter.” “man” stands for 10,000, “po” for step and “kei” for gauge. “Well, ain’t that the catfish in the trap?” (Southern idiom for surprise)

Okay, before you go out and trash your pedometers and fitness trackers and trade them for a bacon wrapped cheeseburger, do not.  Studies made since the 1960s bear out the science behind ten thousand steps…not as a “gold” standard, but a worthy and attainable goal.

Without boring you anymore than usual, in a 2010 “step” study, it was found, on an average the Japanese walk 7,168 per day and the Swiss at 9,650 per day.  A 2004 study showed Amish men “pickin’ ‘em up” at an average of 18,425 steps a day.  Wow, I outwalked an Amish man yesterday.  All three of these samples are healthier as an overall population than your average American.  And yes, there are other studies from other places and demographics that agree with this.

In the same 2010 study, Americans averaged less than five thousand steps per day, and Americans are getting fatter, and dying sooner than most “advanced” nations.  I know, our diet doesn’t help either.  Bacon, bacon, bacon!!!!  I admit I would rather be sedentary with a BLT in my mouth that going out in the wee morning hours or rain and hoofing it for three or four miles. I do not walk in the rain if I can help it.  There are limits to my obsession.

My 2006 heart attack changed my outlook but not my desires.  There is nothing more sensual than disrobing a wax paper wrapped bacon cheeseburger on a soft sesame seed bun.  The tomato and onion slices, along with lettuce peeking seductively out from the edges of the bun. Tantalizingly and teasingly licking the juices running down my fingers.  Fried onion rings looking on quietly awaiting the orgy. “Was it good for you,” I asked my taste buds…it was until I felt the tightening in my chest.  It was not desire and there was no passionate release…until the four stints were “surfed” into my blocked arteries.   

Ten thousand steps became my daily obsession, but my neurotic fascination with the number did not begin that way.  My first post heart attack walk was one third of a mile, seven or eight hundred steps at best.  My legs felt like over cooked spaghetti, my perspiration resembled Niagara Falls after a hurricane, my respiration sounded like an overworked steam locomotive.  My bride had to walk back and bring the car to get me back home.  She wondered out loud, “Should I take you to the emergency room or the funeral home?”  “Thanks hon, just get me in the house and let me die in peace.”

I didn’t die and have come a long way since that day.  My screaming knees do not let me run any longer, my dreams of marathons are mute, but I walk twenty to twenty-five miles a week and average ten thousand steps six out of seven days.  Most days Tylenol takes the edge off my efforts and I am marginally productive. 

Whether ten thousand steps was based upon science originally or not does not really matter.  Get up and out, move, stay healthy.  Move, move, move not bacon, bacon, bacon!

***

Don Miller writes on various subjects and has recently released his second “Drunken Irishman Saloon” tale. It can be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Long+ride+to+paradise+Don+Miller&ref=nb_sb_noss

Long Ride to Paradise: Tales of the Drunken Irishman Saloon

To access his authors page go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0podOBekn70hQc7jZnq2H5vZVw-3P7aKLsRI1slX-lVK-vWml-uR2KYJU

Cruel and Unusual

“The children start school now in August. They say it has to do with air-conditioning, but I know sadism when I see it.” ― Rick Bragg, My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South

My soon to be five-year-old boy-child grandbaby sat in the middle of the driveway painting a frog as his father was finishing up mowing grass.  A big grin erupted from his face as we pulled up.  I suspect the grin was more for his life-sized play toy, Grand Momi Linda, than for his Popi. 

Noli, short for Nolan, was barefooted, a perpetual condition regardless of atmospheric temperature.  It was a cool afternoon, but I can hear a soft Southern voice in my head say, “The boy just don’t like to be incumbered by the unnecessary”…and had he been left to his own devises would have been out of most if not all of his clothing.   The big grin on his face made it all okay.  Boy, you are going to be trouble with a capital T. 

As I looked at his water-colored painting, I realized he had been left to his devises as it applied to creativity.  Noli had chosen some interesting color schemes.  The frog he was painting was an escapee from an LSD trip it seemed, or a taco fueled dream. 

During this ten-minute period in his life, the boy is into his painting, but I doubt I have another “Grand Master” on my hands…unless a color-blind Salvador Dali might be a grand master. 

“Noli, that sho is an interesting looking frog.  Pretty!  Never seen one with a blue eye and a purple eye.”  Not to mention multi-colored spots. 

Noli just grinned and continued to add paint. 

“What is that sticking out of his head?  I’ve never seen antennas on a frog.”

Noli got hit by a photon and leaving his artwork on the driveway, ran to get his Spiderman playground ball.  So much for the budding artist.  Now it was superhero time.

Spiderman is a big deal…Noli has all the “Spidee” poses down pat.  I vaguely I remember tying a towel around my neck and flying from one twin bed to the other ala George Reeves as Superman.  That acorn might have landed close when it fell from my tree. Much can be said for imagination.

Both my grandbabies operate at one speed.  Wide open in daredevil mode.  Miller Kate the seven-year-old first grader and Noli the soon to be five-year-old will begin kindergarten in August unless Covid has closed us down again. 

I’m not sure I would want to be the teacher who has to channel their energy into something educational…especially with the siren’s call of warm August sunshine just outside the window.  I agree with Rick Bragg.

It is sadistic for a five-year-old to sit in a desk for long periods of time in August…or mid-January.  I pray for a creative teacher fostering a love for readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmatic.  A teacher who nurtures his or her children’s creative streaks.  A teacher who channels their own inner Peter Pan.

They both love doing.  Not much for sittin’ and their parents have done a good job of limiting their “screen” exposure.  The outdoors is their siren’s call, running, jumping, riding bicycles, splashing in the one mud puddle in their yard. 

I have a picture of a much younger Miller Kate standing in a flooded church parking lot after a drenching thunderstorm.  Barefooted in her new dress, ankle deep in water with her Grand Momi also barefooted in her own dress clothes.  Grand Momi never let Peter Pan die and I’m sure it was her idea to go wading.

Yes, August can be cruel and unusual punishment…as can early April with its seductive spring temperatures calling out for children to run barefooted in the newly immerging grass.  Hard to sit still in a schoolhouse desk with so much fun waiting just outside.

I remember those days when Peter Pan was holding on by his last grasp.  Shut up in a classroom, but at least there were big, tall, open windows to look out of.  Morning recess and what seemed to be a long afternoon lunch period to look forward to.  A brief afternoon recess just to get the kinks out. 

The best part of the school day.  Tall swings to practice your landings with a tuck and roll, see saws, and a spinning contraption that would send you rolling into next week if you lost your grip.  Playing “crack the whip” and “king of the mountain”, somewhat violent games now banned.  Bumps and bruises we somehow survived, laughing all the way back to the classroom. 

Somehow it prepared us for the afternoon “see Dick run” reading period, cyphering our numbers, or writing with “big, fat” pencils in a wide lined notebook.  Physical stimulation seems to help mental stimulation.

Fear of liability has turned the school day from learning opportunities into cruel and unusual punishments.  That, and the need to “stay on task” so that we look good at test time.  I’ve always believed there was more to schoolin’ than just what comes from a book…now, a Chromebook, and how well you do on a standardized test. 

Miller Kate seems to have weathered the storm and I’m sure Noli will too, especially if he keeps his grin. I’m sure that grin will terrorize all ladies regardless of age and regardless of their occupation.

I hope Peter Pan can find a last gasp and take them to a Wonderland of imagination, away from the cruel and unusual punishment. 

***

Don Miller is a retired History and Science teacher and Coach. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2bHfb3dx-hOqW5DoszodDazv8xJDscd0_mpUS-ary5h6NEk6IOJp5St_g

Image is from Canva

Food Should Taste Like the Past

“Ours is a region whose food carries with it the burdens of our past — a history of slavery and racism, long-lasting, outdated stereotypes of our people, and a tenuous political landscape.” -www.thrilist.com  The New Southern Cuisine: Don’t Call It Fusion

Our past IS fraught with burdens when it comes to race…even our present.  Somehow our food rises above it all.  Don’t believe me? Go to a Baptist Church covered dish dinner or a hole in the wall diner named “Momma Ester’s Café”.  European, West African and Native American foodways merge into a superhighway that became known in the Seventies as soul food…one of the few positives of the Columbian Exchange.  It was Southern fusion before the word was cool. 

Over a year ago, before our lives changed with the “corona”, my bride and I sat down at a restaurant for a Sunday brunch to celebrate our wedding anniversary and contemplated our dish selections.  This was before the need for masks, social distancing or arguments over rights and vaccines.

At the urging of my bride, we decided to sit outside in the shade and enjoy the warm breezes along with a Bloody Mary or two.  It was late June.  Even mountain breezes in late June sometimes feel like the blast from a Bessemer furnace.

This was one of those “sometimes”.  Winter had gone straight to full on summer.  The “bacon infused” Bloody Mary with the okra pod garnish had just enough bite to increase the perspiration forming across my nose and to a greater extent, settling into my underwear.   For some reason the hot wind reminded me of the past before air conditioning was cool, when a window fan was an ineffective defense against the hot and humid air.

The restaurant was one of those neo-Southern cookin’ places boasting traditional Southern dishes with a “twist.”  Judging from the prices I worried it might be a nouveau-riche Southern cookin’ place although no one would accuse me of being a member of the nouveau-riche…not near Beverly Hillbillies nouveau-riche but it was my anniversary, and my bride was worth any price.

I was hopeful as I perused their menu.  There were plenty of selections featuring biscuits and deeply fried anything.  There were collards cooked to death with ham and bacon grease, cornbread battered fried green tomatoes, and dishes featuring cracklins’…bacon bits…not the real ones, pig skin fried crisp.

Fried chicken with an acceptable twist, waffles.  Sounded tasty with maple syrup drizzled over it.  What worried me were dishes including fried cauliflower bites or smashed avocado on toast points.  I don’t remember many dishes from the past including cauliflower in any form but right there in the menu was a picture of a vegan taco with both fried cauliflower and avocado wedges.  I figured it looked better than it might taste. I like cauliflower and avocado but I had decided today was not a day to eat healthy.

I saw one immediate positive. No dishes involving kale.

One appetizer piqued my interest.  Deep fried BBQ stuffed egg rolls.  Recipe must be from Southern China.  Didn’t matter where it came from, it was good, but didn’t speak to the ghosts of my past.  Not sure I ate an egg roll until I was out of college.  Now BBQ? That is something else entirely.

Some of  this neo-Southern cuisine is described as fusion cookin’ but it seems to me, the food I consumed as a child was fusion.  We ate what became known as soul food.  Food heavily seasoned with salt pork and bacon grease, the heavy use of starches and cornmeal. We ate soul food before it was cool and before we could be accused of racial appropriation. We ate soul food until our arteries seized up.

I grew up in an area where no one of any race really ate “high on the hog.”  We didn’t know we were poor, and in most ways that counted, we weren’t.  Money was not one of the ways that counted.  Even the “landed rich” didn’t have an extra two nickels to rub together until after harvest season, so most of us ate like we were poor.  Sometimes the poor knew better how to eat than the rich.

Chicken, pork, and fresh caught fish seemed to be staples.  Not much expensive beef unless it was from the “butt end of the cow”, cubed round steak dusted with flour and fried crisp or chicken fried and smothered in milk gravy.  I didn’t know you could order steak anyway but done to death until I graduated from college. That doesn’t mean we didn’t eat well; we just didn’t eat a lot of steak.  Catfish fried with a cornbread batter heavy with black pepper, chicken battered and fried in lard.  The skin crisp and the inside moist and tender. Pork chops fried and smothered with milk gravy, the renderings spooned over biscuits.

Green beans, butter beans, peas, and collard greens cooked forever plus one day, cooked with fat back or bacon  Maybe some unrecognizable pork bits in and amongst it.  Seasoned with a bit of salt and sugar, a finely chopped hot pepper to add a bit of heat and cider vinegar for a little tartness.   Pinto beans simmered all day with hog jowls, ham hocks or neck bones until the meat fell off the bone. Chopped onion and a pone of cornbread to go with it.  Sweet potatoes made sweeter with butter and sugar or syrup. All seasoning guided by the hands of the ghosts of women long dead. 

Simple food seasoned well and prepared in cast iron pots and pans dating from before the First World War and cut up with a knife that had to be seventy years old.  Soul food can’t help but taste of the past.

My grandmother and mother were not known for their culinary abilities.  They did okay, I didn’t starve. My grandmother was more concerned about the great outdoors and growing the food although there were memorable dishes. Her creamed corn, chicken pot pie, “cooter” soup and peanut butter cookies.  

My mother was a textile shift worker and I remember dining on Birdseye TV Dinners and fried bologna sandwiches often.  Mom did cook on weekends, spaghetti on Saturday nights and her own trinity, BBQ chicken, pot roast, or fried chicken on Sunday. 

My grandmother’s sisters and my mother’s sister can put on a spread.  So could their in-laws.

I am reminded of a late summer feast put on by my Uncle James’ wife, Aunt Mary Hannah and their two daughters. She was a slight woman crippled by polio. Braces and crutches did not affect her abilities in her kitchen.  It always amazed me how happy she could be.  Her freckled face always had a smile.

The summer season was drawing to an end, the hayin’ was done and in the barn, corn pulled and stored in the cribs, the tomatoes, squash, and beans almost played out.  Those huge John Deere tractors safely tucked and serviced in their garage.  I was headed back to school and football practice as were my cousins who, with me, provided the summer labor.  We sat under a shade tree in slat backed chairs we moved from her dining room and ate off rough boards set on sawhorses covered with linen tablecloths.

Part of my daily pay was a midday meal which usually consisted of Vienna sausages or deviled ham, maybe sardines and saltine crackers, a “dope”, and a Moon Pie.  But one late summer day, the midday meal was worth the hell of those hay and corn fields.

Pan fried chicken, butter beans cooked with chopped up ham, creamed corn running with home churned butter, corn bread battered okra fried crisp, squash casserole, deviled eggs to die for, potato salad, and biscuits.  All seasoned well, with a smidge of this, a pinch of that, a tad of something else, until it tasted right and the voices from our past whispered, “That will do.”

Every vegetable or starch grown in their garden. The chicken, ham, and eggs from their coop or sty.  The only dishes or ingredients foreign were the sweet tea we washed it down with and the bananas and vanilla wafers in the banana pudding we finished it with.  We could have stayed local and washed it down with buttermilk from their cow and eaten watermelon from their field. It was food fit for fieldworkers or a king. That one meal encompassing all of the different foodways.

Soul food…food with a soul.  Food with a past going back centuries brought from lands far away and land close by, somehow merged in a way the people who brought them should fuse. 

Food should unite us all. Food prepared by hands who were taught by ghostly hands from the past in implements passed down by generations.  Food should taste like the past.

May be an image of text that says 'DON'S DAILY DOSE CONO "Neither sugar nor salt tastes particularly good by itself. Each is at its best when used to season other things. Love is the same way. Use it to "season" people." Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration'

***

For more Musings, https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B018IT38GM