Recently, I had the pleasant but slightly surreal experience of a Zoom meeting with my class from Ottawa Hills High School. The event was organized by a woman who married (later in life) a fellow classmate. More than 25 of our class of 96 people participated, which was a great turnout. Twenty-one of our classmates have already passed on, some in the prime of life.
Of course, all of us remaining are now around 75 years old. I had not seen many of them since graduation in 1963, so I found myself searching for facial features that would help me visualize what they looked like back then. Who is behind those glasses and grey hair? The women were somewhat easier to recognize, probably because I knew them better. I found myself wondering what everyone had done with their lives. I know there are two physicians, a couple of authors and one who has lived on Channel Islands, UK for most of her life and another who lives in British Columbia. Only one is a fellow Texan and he lives near Houston.
The Village of Ottawa Hills is completely surrounded by the City of Toledo. It has its own police department and school system with an elementary school and middle school connected to the high school building. It is a rather affluent community, although the neighborhood our family lived in was not that upscale. All five kids in our family attended Ottawa Hills schools from kindergarten through high school and got an excellent education.
What do I remember about high school? I recall many of my teachers, who gave me such a good grounding before college. In the center hall, outside the gym, a green arrowhead was imbedded in the mosaic floor. Only seniors were allow to tread there and if an underclassman was caught stepping on it, they had to scrub the arrowhead with a toothbrush. One of my classmates, now gone, regularly flouted the rules by wearing jeans to school. After being disciplined a number of times, he showed up in a tuxedo. The boys in our class then wore suits and ties to school in a show of solidarity.
I had attended our 25th class reunion and then our 43rd. The odd year was because the football stadium was being dedicated to a beloved football coach. Crowds of his former players, including my three brothers, came out to honor him wearing their jerseys. Although I had not kept in close touch with many of my classmates, I know there is a group of alums still living in the Toledo vicinity who get together frequently. Some people have kindly responded to this blog or to my Facebook posts.
Life goes on, and I suppose our numbers will dwindle in the coming years, but it was lovely to see those I passed in the hall each day, the guys from the football and basketball teams and girls on the field hockey team. I wish all of them continued good health and happiness in the coming years.
As I've worked my way through piles of reading material during the quarantine, I found Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl, the former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, especially enjoyable. It encompasses her ten years of ups and downs at the magazine and includes several favorite recipes.
Andy and I have always loved everything about cooking and entertaining, so the magazine was a special favorite. The articles about food, travel, wine and other topics were fun and stimulating to read. I kept every issue and stored them in cardboard magazine holders in our basement office, even pulling out Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter issues in a separate box for easy access - obviously well before the advent of the internet. When we moved into a small condo years ago, I had to pitch them all, which broke my heart.
Gourmet used to feature one or two complete meals, including wine selections and all the recipes. On many occasions, we would duplicate the entire thing for dinner party guests. Shopping for ingredients, planning for the preparation of each dish, cooking, serving and even cleaning up were all part of the fun. (I confess we usually cleaned up the next morning, which would have horrified my neat-as-a-pin mother.) The magazine was a source of recipes for our annual blow-out Christmas party, to which a combination of neighbors, work colleagues, families of our children's school friends, etc. came, often about 80 people. We cooked and froze for weeks ahead of time. The menu always included lots of appetizers, a roast turkey guests could slice with tiny rolls and mustards, a big wheel of baked brie and a sumptuous dessert table. The party was always held the first Sunday in December, so the house would be clean and decorated for the holiday.
We were headed back to Pennsylvania after a family visit when the sad news came on the radio that Gourmet, published since 1941, would be no more. Their parent company, Conde Nast, had eliminated several of their magazines to cut costs after the 2008 recession. Both of us were devastated. Something we loved had died. It was the end of an era of elegance, sometimes extravagance, and fine dining you could duplicate at home.
Although we don't entertain like that anymore and the monster Christmas party is a thing of the past, I still retrieve Gourmet recipes from Epicurious.com and remember the fun we had producing exceptional meals for our family and friends.
Although the temptation to continue kvetching about the inconvenience and outright boredom of being quarantined is strong, I thought might offer something everyone can enjoy. Lots more people are cooking at home these days, often preparing three meals a day for themselves or their families. There's been a shortage of flour since more and more people are baking bread, including some folks who have never attempted to turn out a loaf.
I've never had the patience for yeast breads. The only exception is a stollen I make every Christmas. It's loaded with butter, dried fruits and nuts and dusted with powdered sugar. A thin slice with coffee is heaven. My baking output tends toward scones, muffins, quick breads and pancakes. Years ago, I found this gem on the back of an oatmeal box. It's amazingly quick, takes only one bowl and contains no butter or oil, so they're good for you. The ingredients are mostly things you will find in your pantry and fridge. My grandchildren, especially Noah, love them and my husband enjoys them too. I hope you'll give these a try.
Two eggs, beaten
! cup plain yogurt
1 cup low-fat milk
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 T honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl and add the yogurt and milk, stirring to combine. Add all the dry ingredients to the milk mixture and stir to combine, then add the honey and cinnamon. Heat an electric griddle to 375 degrees. Depending on your griddle, you may need to grease or use non-stick spray. Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour the batter for each pancake onto the griddle. When the surface is covered with small bubbles and the edges look a little dry, flip the pancakes and cook for a few minutes more until the underside is light brown. Serve with butter, maple syrup or put a little jam in the center and roll up. Makes about 16 pancakes. Any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator or freeze and microwave later.
P.S. If you want to accomplish this quickly, place all the dry ingredients in a ziplock bag the night before. Stay well, my friends.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.