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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
Winter is here!

I don’t love it but I don’t hate it either. I enjoy having all the seasons and would not want to live anywhere else in the country but if I were rich I would like to have a home in Maine on the water or the northern California coast or the mountains in Colorado or Montana. I am not picky! I don’t have to have sun and a beach to make me happy.

I am irritated by my last gas bill though. I learned to be frugal with the gas and electric from Hubby and for the two months I have outside holiday lights, which cost upwards of fifty dollars a month, I turn the furnace thermostat down to 68 during the day and 65 at night. If you have ever lived in an old house you know they are drafty and one has to learn to like to be chilly. I was pretty sure my frugality would be rewarded when my bill came but boy was I shocked. The gas alone was fifty dollars higher than I thought it should be so I called the gas company and asked for the cost of the bill from the same period last year. I was politely told that I had, in fact, used much less gas this year than last year but that the cost of gas had risen making my current bill higher.

Sorry, but I don’t think that is fair, especially since we are all staying home more with the pandemic, many people are out of work and I don’t think the gas companies should raise the prices in this time of need. I know all the politically correct reasons for price hikes but there are so many people on fixed incomes and many more struggling with the situation in the country that monthly necessary bill prices should not be raised. I could go on and on but for now, until I call the gas company and complain I will leave it at that.

The Christmas tree is down and waiting on the curb for the city to haul it away. I can’t thank the City of Charleston enough for providing this helpful service. I really lucked out this year. Hager Tree Farm delivered the tree and put it in the stand, my son helped remove it and now the city will haul it away. All I had to do was pay for it and the fun part, decorate it and un-decorate it. The cats already miss lying under the tree and they both were good as gold about not climbing up the tree. I am pretty surprised that they don’t bother the tree except for lying on the tree skirt under the branches and purring loudly. That is such a fun part of Christmas.

So what do we do in January now that the Christmas Hallmark movies are over and all the decorations have been packed away? Research tells me that there are a total of 31 holidays in January which means that we have 20 more days of celebration in store for us. I don’t know if I have enough decorations to delegate to all these important days but you know I just might try! I won’t state all the January holidays listed on “The Spruce” ( web site but here are a couple of the most interesting ones. I don’t know if I can stand this much fun!

· Jan. 13: Make Your Dream Come True Day, National Rubber Ducky Day

· Jan. 14: Dress Up Your Pet Day

· Jan. 16: Appreciate a Dragon Day, National Nothing Day

· Jan. 18: Thesaurus Day, Winnie the Pooh Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday of January)

· Jan. 21: National Hugging Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day

· Jan. 24: Compliment Day, Belly Laugh Day

· Jan. 25: Opposite Day

· Jan. 26: Spouse’s Day

· Jan. 28: National Kazoo Day, Data Privacy Day

· Jan. 31: Backward Day, Inspire Your Heart With Art Day

January also has many National Food days which surprise me since everyone I know is on a diet after the holidays. January 12 is National Doughnut Day and Hubby’s Birthday. My personal favorite is; January 14; National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day –, Russian dressing and pastrami on rye bread, yummy, yummy! January 21’ National Granola Bar Day and National New England Clam Chowder Day (also a favorite) and January 26; Green Juice Day – Grow your own wheatgrass and combine it with juice in the morning to make a green juice smoothie. Sorry healthy people, I will pass on Green Juice Day.

January has always been soup month for my parents. Mom would freeze all the leftovers from both Thanksgiving and Christmas and make soup out of them all through January. You name it and Mom made it. We would have ham and bean soup which was a thinner recipe than when she made ham and beans, turkey soup and Mom had a couple different recipes depending on the other leftovers in the freezer. She made a delicious roast beef, potato and dressing soup if we had roast beef for Christmas instead of ham. Daddy was partial to the roast beef soup with homemade biscuits because his Mom had made it for years when he was a child. They did not call it vegetable beef soup back in the 1920’s and 1930’s, they called it “Bertha’s” (named after his Mom). The original “Bertha” was roast beef on a slice of bread with gravy poured on top but somehow the roast beef soup had the same name and was served with biscuits. The roast beef soup was shredded beef with diced potatoes and lots of celery and onion and was served in a particular way; the biscuit had to be crumbled in large chunks in the bottom of the bowl then the soup was ladled on top of the biscuit and them a huge dollop of butter was plopped on top. The soup was hot enough to burn your mouth and melted the butter quickly so by the time everyone was served the butter in your dish was melted and perfect to eat.

Personally I liked the “Bertha” with gravy better than the “Bertha” soup; it was slices of roast beef with freshly made mashed potatoes and gravy poured over the top. Later in life I would discover that this was traditionally called a “Beef Manhattan”. “Beef Manhattan” is a dish consisting of roast beef and gravy. It is often served with mashed potatoes either on top of the steak or roast beef or on the side of the plate. The term “Manhattan” is a misnomer as the beef and turkey variants are usually referred to as “open-face sandwiches” in New York City and much of the eastern United States and the term “Manhattan” is limited to the Midwest, the South, and parts of the western United States.

The dish was first served in a restaurant under the name “Beef Manhattan” in a now-defunct Indianapolis deli in the late 1940s where it gained traction as a Hoosier staple. The dish was named by Naval Ordnance Plant Indianapolis (NOPI) workers who were trained on a fabrication of the Norden Bombsight in Manhattan during World War II. They enjoyed the open-faced sandwich they had in Manhattan and brought it back to their cafeteria as the “Beef Manhattan”. In Indiana, it is served on bread. The roast beef is sliced and put on the bread like a sandwich, then cut corner to corner and plated in a V shape. Mashed potatoes are served between the two halves, and the whole is covered in gravy”. I am so glad this was invented and has been served in my family home for many years. As soon as I get tired of soup I think I will make a “Bertha”.

Enjoy January!

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