Mary Bogue

Mary Bogue is always wondering about how we walk through life, and sees it as a dance; sometimes we're wearing high heels and doing the tango backwards in a man's arms, other times we're line dancing in flats while picking up after kids, and when we're lucky, we're barefootin' it freestyle.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Off The Chain Valentine's Day

Ever since I've either been listening to or singing love songs, it always comes down to the lyrics and finding your own truth in them. If you're just listening, perhaps on the way to work while you're thinking of the day's agenda, or picking up your daughter from softball, chances are your mind is elsewhere. If you're a singer, you strive to find the emotion that best tells your own story in those finely crafted words.

Recently, I have turned my attention to the song, "Unchain My Heart," written by Bobby Sharp and you'll no doubt remember Ray Charles singing the hell out of this in 1961. Some have heard that it was written by Teddy Powell. Well, let's just say that Sharp, was using drugs at the time, and for a mere fifty bucks sold it to him. Powell bought it on the condition that he get half the songwriting credit. I mention this because I'm sure that before researching the song, I never heard the lyrics as those from the heart of an addict. Never.

This year, I had wanted to produce an un-Valentine's Day show called Unchained Hearts, aimed at celebrating we women who aren't married or otherwise "engaged" in a relationship with a man, or a woman for that matter. I had talked to the folks at a specialty tea room in Pasadena, and they were on board. Well, with conditions. It couldn't actually be on Valentine's Day because that was reserved for "the real Valentine's Day dinner crowd;" so it would be two days early, and they wanted to "upgrade" the menu. This had been done once before at one of my dinner show's there and I was mortified to find what they could actually charge for a veggie burger. How could I ask my friends or fans to pay a cover charge and then buy a veggie burger the equivalent in cost to a half a tank of gas in my VW?  With a sigh, I declined.

I know I could have looked at other places to do this show, but this was the perfect venue that would have wrapped my women friends in shades of red and gold, showed them their reflections in beveled glass mirrors and warmed them with hot teas, red roses, sweet desserts and their house champagne. There, they would have heard every woman's stories in song and the spoken word, culminating in a ceremony of self-love.

Though the tea room would have proven to be a smash hit with every chair filled, I'm sure of it, I passed. I just couldn't bring myself to encourage an over-priced meal two nights before Valentines Day. In other words, while they feel sorry you won't be with the love of your life on Valentine's Day, they just couldn't wrap their minds around a matinee/lunch/tea of your own on this day and keep the fully loaded dinner in place for the "couples." It saddened me, so I relinquished the thought. Maybe next year.

I've decided instead to focus on five women specifically. First, I have a girl friend who just confided that her still fresh marriage is on the rocks, and upon further exploration that there was a pattern - a history, if you will, of regretful choices. We dug deep in the conversation and she revealed that when she was a little girl, her mother committed suicide on Valentine's Day.  My second friend-girl also lost her mother at the age of three to the murdering hands of her father in plain sight. Woman friend number three lost her husband of almost 50 years not so long ago. And the fourth gal lives faraway, and lost her daughter in a tragic accident soon after I lost my husband, her uncle. Number five is me. I have had my own share of grief and loss of love, both in losing Rob and the grief I feel in my daughter's self-imposed exile.

My daughter's dad. Now, he was something! Every year on Valentine's Day, Rob would "kidnap" me for what he coined an "Urban Adventure." It was the one time of the year he pulled out all the stops. He never told me where we were going, only to pack for three days and the anticiapted weather. There was a surprise trip to New York City, one to Manhattan Beach to a Victorian hotel where all the help knew I was coming and pampered me all the way. God only knowS how much he had pre-tipped everyone to be so gracious. One year, Valentine's found us at a posh Arizona resort, and "I Love You" spelled out in chocolates on the bedspread, a bubbling hot tub, warm fireplace and icy champagne.

Sometimes the ties that bind are ephemeral. My first marriage only lasted until he raised his hand to me; and then while I was at work, he emptied the house and my jewelry box - including my grandmothers plain gold band. Other times, we are bound for what seems like until the end of time, only to find that the expectations and the realities are two different things.

We women roll with the punches and instead of red silk lingerie with our guys, we channel the love to our kids and add red food coloring to make milk pink, cook strawberry pancakes in the shapes of hearts and make an all-pink or red meal for their lunchboxes. And if you asked my daughter, she most assuredly remembers begging me to show up at her school in an over-sized red satin heart costume - a relic from my singing telegram days. Fast forward: Gone is the little girl who marveled at pink milk and swore it tasted sweeter, and in her place stands a woman of 19 years, married and expecting. She unchained a chunk of her family's heart by discarding the gold heart-shaped locket sent to her to wear at her wedding reception; a tiny necklace with a picture of her father. Truly, an unchained heart. Maybe there will be a red satin heart costume in her future. I wonder would she wear it for her child in years to come.

And now that I think of it, I remember Rob begging me to bring that red heart costume on board the cruise ship to Mexico. I protested, "It's so bulky. It's too much. Honey, it would take another suitcase."  He insisted, "Then I'll carry it. Please."  I did, of course, and he in his dark pinstripe suit and red silk tie, accompanied me down to the dining room where he had tipped the maitre'd to set up a tiny table for two. This was right after HE set it up for us to re-take our wedding vows onboard with a beautiful Mexican sunset as our backdrop. 

I haven't asked my gal pals yet if they will join me. I'm just thinking out the details now. But I'm pretty sure it will be passionate in a whole other way. I want to celebrate love where it finds me, not necessarily where it has always been before. But maybe that red heart costume has one last apperance in it...maybe. And maybe the unchained love will find a new way to define itself as off the chain.

Just in case you're still wondering, for the record, Buddy Sharp cleaned himself up and  fought successfully to retain the rights to his song. His song had been chained to someone for fifty dollars and in 1987, Sharp was miraculously able to through his own publishing company renew the copyright. The company's name was B. Sharp Music. 

I wish anyone and everyone who comes across this post to find a way to celebrate the day of romance with a day of love in service to someone else. Pay it forward, model love, do a kind deed. Buy a rose bush and plant it for someone or in someone's memory. And maybe, just maybe a 19 year old young woman will read this one day and ask if that ol' red heart costume is still around because one day her five year old daughter would love seeing her mommy in it. And if that day comes, I'll unhook it from the closet pole and send it away.  Love is never wasted. Never.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Albondigas Soup - A Recipe for Love

When my daughter was little, and came to us at the age of four, she was obsessed with food, and yet couldn't identify more than two fruits or one vegetable. And though we didn't go out often to eat, all the way home this kid would open and close the white to-go container, making sure the food was still there as we listened with disbelief to that unique crunchy sound that only styrofoam containers can make. Having lived with cocaine addicted parents, food wasn't a priority they shared and as told to me, it was mostly purchased from the driver-through of the golden arches.

Children teach you many things, and foster children in particular teach you lessons you might never have learned from your natural born. I'll never forget one of our little girls who was astonished to learn that the food hydrator section of the refrigerator was not a toolbox, or the other who found it almost impossible to beleive that she didn't have to steal food and hide it, because there would be more, really.

I quickly learned that what we smell is critical to how we feel. Can you imagine being sent to a new home to live - one in which you were not a part of the decision making? Each house has its own smells, and as its owners and tenants, we can no longer smell it, but a stranger can tell if you cooked cabbage last week, have two too many cats, or cook with garlic on a regular basis.

Yet these children came bravely to the front door. My kitchen, and more importantly, my oven  is located directly next to my front door;  and these children taught me the power of chocolate chip cookies slipped into the oven when the social worker was ten minutes out from arriving. It's a little more difficult to think about all the scary unknowns when a warm kitchen promises plates of security, comfort and love. And that is exactly what a warm chocolate chip cookie is. It mattered not if the cookies were cut from a store-bought log, or mixed in the bowl and scooped onto the cookie sheets. A warm chocolate chip cookie melting in your mouth is love.

In fact, food is love. When my teenaged daughter ran away for about the fifth time (I lost track after she ran away from the runway shelter), she landed with a family who apparently didn't share our particular love for all things culinary. Finally, she couldn't take it and asked if one day I would share my recipe for homemade albondigas soup so that she could make it for the " who treats me better than you ever did." Is it just me gagging on this memory, or are you finding it a little distatsteful too?

Nonetheless, I sat down to the computer and typed out the recipe, remembering all the times I made it and how that simple bowl of meatball soup could encourage conversations about her day at school, my husband's stressful day at work or my own interpretation of the events as mother and wife, caretaker, ... and, well, you get it. So, here's that recipe:

Mom's Easy Homemade Albondigas Soup

Turkey Meatballs: Mix in a bowl:
1 pound package of ground turkey (the pre-seasoned kind works great too,
 1/4 cup long grain uncooked rice
 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
 1 tsp. Mrs. Dash (spicy)
 1 beaten egg
 1/2 tsp. dried oregano- crushed
 1/8 tsp. pepper

The Other Good Stuff
1 fresh, medium onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. cooking oil
4 cups water
2 10-1/2 ounce cans chicken broth
1 6 ounce can of tomate paste
2 medium potatoes cubed OR 2 zucchinis chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced (1 cup)
1 can refried beans (great thickener)

In a big saucepan, heat the oil and toss in the onion, garlic and carrots. Cook until the onion turns golden and add the zukes.
Cook for another five minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the water, broth and tomato paste and bring to boil. (IF you're using the potatoes, add them now and simmer for five minutes.)

While this is happening, mix the meat ingredients all together. I use a small ice cream scoop to divide the meat and make the meatballs uniform in size. Roll them in your hand if necessary and drop them into the simmering soup. Return to boiling: reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes or until meatballs float to the top and potatoes are cooked through.

I like to add fresh lime for garnish, or squeezed individually into the bowls of soup. On the table I add red pepper flakes, dried oregano and a stack of hot corn tortillas with pats of butter available. 

Makes 8-10 servings.

Well, there you have it. It's my recipe for a big ol' bowl of love. After you've made it once, you'll realize just how easy this is, and what a crowd pleaser it always turns out to be. And just so ya know, it's heart-healthy in all ways, shapes and forms.

Follow this later with a hot chocolate chip cookie and see if your family doesn't look like all the cares in the world have fallen away. That's what love does - heats you from the inside, brings a rosy glow to your face and makes you always remember it fondly.  Ya gotta love LOVE.