Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Culinary College and Secret Places


Wednesday I went on an annual day trip offered by the senior hall that involves a ‘mystery tour’ of a downtown building and lunch at the culinary college. Lunch there is like going to a five star, upscale restaurant---waitstaff uniforms and table linens all heavily starched, an entrée menu written with a poet’s flair and artfully plated foods with incredible flavor profiles. The experience began with a demonstration on making flaming Café Brulot and that required a spiral cut orange peel studded with cloves and soaking a silver bowl of rum. The orange peel was held up high and ladles of the flaming liquor was pouted at the top the rind so we could watch blue flames travel down to the bottom. After repeating this process a few times until the alcohol had all burned out of the rum, they added 8-9 parts of coffee to one part orange juice to the bowl before serving it. Was it good? You’d better believe it! The Café Brulot was served with personal setup trays that contained chocolate chips, spiced cream the consistency of whipped butter and candied orange sticks that looked like orange-colored coconut. I had two cups and was surprised that most of ladies on the tour didn’t even try it, opting instead for boring lemonade. I might not be adventurous in a bungee jumping kind of way but exotic coffee? Why not. 

Next came a pass-around tray with giant shrimp on sauce-soaked tiny toast that I couldn’t try because I’m allergic so I ate the decorative trimmings what looked like red sugar cubes but turned out to be yummy beets. The entrée I ordered was and I quote: “Bahia-inspired mignon of beef tenderloin gaucho style scorched with salt and garlic served with parsnip puree, broccolini baby carrot medley, cilantro chimichurri sauce and barbeque drizzle.” There was a half a potato in there, too, cut length-wise and sliced coin thin and used to elevate a stack of the sliced beef. For dessert they rolled out a cart with six choices. I went for a pineapple chocolate thing that was five layers of chocolate on chocolate of different textures. A paper thin fan of dried pineapple stood tall on the top and there were dots of pineapple sauce on the plate. My table of eight ladies all sounded like Meg Ryan faking an organism in a restaurant as we enjoyed our desserts. 

Our culinary students/waitstaff have such wonderful opportunities lined up for summer internships. One will be working in Maui, another in the Caribbean’s and a third in a European place I can’t pronoun or spell. If you’re wondering how much our meal cost we paid $25.00 for lunch, transportation and the mystery building tour. Tips included.

The mystery tour and lecture turned out to be at the Masonic Center, previously known world-wide as Masonic Temples. They’re trying to get away from the misconception that the organization is a religious group and also trying to get away from the reputation that they're a Secret Society. (Though it should be noted that on their altar was a Bible, Koran and Torah.) The Masons have their roots back to Medieval Europe when their membership was comprised of stone workers---freed men who traveled about to work on the great cathedrals and castles. Their secret handshakes were a method for illiterate workers to present their level of skill in masonry to would-be bosses/architects. Being men who traveled widely, they were exposed to different ways of thinking thus they evolved into a group that met in secret to talk about science and other forbidden topics that were punishable crimes to study in certain places. In more recent centuries their goal supposedly switched to teaching leadership qualities and 14 of our 44 U.S. presidents were Masons, the latest one being Gerald R. Ford.

My husband was fascinated by the Secret Society aspect of the Masons. His grandfather was one and Don collected Masonic memorabilia that I might donate to their statewide museum that happens to be in the building we toured. During the hour lecture I took notes until my pen ran out of ink and I asked more questions than the rest of the group put together. I couldn't help it! The opportunity was too serendipitous not to take advantage of it. I asked all the stuff Don would have loved knowing: Why do Masons use three pillars to symbolize the East, West and South but have no forth pillar for the north? How did Masonic symbols get on our money? What are Full Moon Lodges? It was a wonderful lecture for me but several in the group of twenty-five fell asleep. (They should have had the coffee!) 

Today I added orange juice along with cream to my coffee as a way to help extend the memory of an afternoon well spent. And next time I'm in the OJ/coffee mood I hope it reminds me that the magic of serendipity is always around the corner. I just need to keep getting out of the house so it can find me. ©

20 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh that meal sounds heavenly! I'm allergic to shellfish also. I just looked up the recipe for that coffee drink .... MMMMMMmmmmm. And what a deal!

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    1. I know! I can't image what that meal would cost in a "real" restaurant. They also have a bakery at the college that sells to the public but I have never been inside because I'd buy too much. Next year they will be able to make beer. It's a fascinating place with rooms full of microscopes and stoves with overhead cameras. The average age of their students is 27.

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  2. Unbelievable value for you meal and entertainment!

    I only knew of the Masons as a secret society with a slightly sinister reputation, so your comments/queries were new to me, and fascinating, especially that 14 Presidents were Masons. Will google for more information.

    I hate getting out of the house. But once out, usually enjoy myself. ~ Libby

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    1. I'm the same way, Libby. Sometimes the only reason I get out is so I'll have something to write about. (LOL) But once I'm out I do have fun. I don't want to turn into a hermit so I push myself to be social.

      Masons, here where I live, have always had a very secretive reputation but not really sinister. But I always thought of it like a good old boys club. I knew that some of our presidents were Masons before the lecture but was surprised at how many. Their membership is dropping as the population ages which is why they are trying to lift the veil of secrecy. Fascinating that after all the years of wanting to know about the Masons, I got this opportunity on behalf of Don.

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  3. Oh my, that's the key, isn't it; getting out of the house. Sounds so simple, so why isn't it? I do go to school every day, but that doesn't really count, since it is still a safe, controlled environment for me. Sounds like I would have loved going on that trip with you.

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    1. I liken it to being a wounded animal that seeks a secure and quiet place to lick its wounds. In the beginning our emotions are so close to the surface, we never know when they'll chock us up and we don't want to do that in public. But after awhile it becomes a habit we need to break. You'll get there. I'm a lot farther out in my widowhood than you are.

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  4. Another fabulous outing! The restaurant -- omygosh! Heaven! The Masons? We had a huge Masonic Temple in my hometown and it was VERY secretive and yes, seemed a bit sinister. All those symbols and handshakes and funny fez hats. Also, I had a cousin by marriage who's Masonic dealings were later revealed to have some racist overtones (against African-Americans), so I always sort of wondered about that. I'm sure you learned a great deal and with a society with that much history, there will always be the "good intentions gone bad" and the re-organizing and redefining of the mission. I know they do a good job of parade entertainments on those little scooters. :)

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    1. According to what I learned at the lecture, they have a Masonic chapter that is all African-Americans that meets in the same Masonic Center as does the Eastern Stars (women Masons)---both with histories that go way back to past centuries. He said his chapter/group does have black members, too, but women are still not allowed. I imagine any group that old would have been segregated because EVERYTHING was at one point. Don used to buy antique Masonic manuals at estate sales and never found an anything to indicate anything like KKK activities which is what he always wondered. The parades are put on by Shriner's which is like a sub-group within the Masonics as I understand it. They are all Masons but their mission statement is more about charity and fun than the full membership. They do the parades, fund raise for their hospitals, provide transportation for families with someone in their hospitals.

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    2. Oh yes! Shriners. I forgot they are not really the same thing, but related. Thinking Dan Brown has written novels about the Masons, I Googled and found this article of interest: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/09/090915-lost-symbol-dan-brown-freemasons-book.html

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    3. Oh, that sounds like a good article! National Geographics is a great source. Thanks.

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  5. Yup. I would've made a fair imitation of Meg Ryan's scene with a sumptuous meal like that. OMG The spiral cut orange peel Café Brulot was food theatre at its best... I'm curious. I thought that OJ and cream (or milk) would curdle in coffee.

    I know what you mean about solitude becoming a habit hard to break. Tell me about it LOL I love your 'why not?' spirit of adventure, and am so glad you report these details. All these various ways we widows find to float our boats. In a way, life begins in widowhood!

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    1. It didn't seem to curdle either at home with the cheap Coffee-Mate or the whipped stuff at the college. I'm not a foodie enough to have ever heard that, never would have even thought to combine OJ and coffee.

      I don't think most widows would agree that "life begins in widowhood" unless you mean that life ended as we knew it, then we have to rebuild---which now that I think on it is probably exactly what you meant. LOL

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  6. The Masonic Lodge in my hometown is rather small, but nonetheless secretive. The Masons have always been secretive and bias in who they allow to join. No Catholics, Blacks, Jews, etc. You can't just join but have to be invited by another member and there is a "trial" to go through and then an initiation that I've heard, is not very pleasant. My Father wanted nothing to do with them. My Father-In-Law was on as well as my MIL belonging to the Eastern Stars--the ladies side of the Masons. Your adventure sounded lovely. I was so busy for so much of my life that I truly enjoy being home. You, on the other hand, had so many years of having to be home and the care giver, that I am happy that you are enjoying all this activity now.

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    1. The Masons have a long way to go before they shake their reputation of secrecy and exclusivity---at least with our generation. But the very fact that they do tours and have an outreach program/lecture about the place is a sign they are trying to open it up. One of our neighbors 15 years ago joined which seemed strange because he was so much younger than us and we always through of it as an old men's club. LOL The lecturer told us about their initiation and levels of membership including what they do at them and 15 years ago our neighbor couldn't talk about them so the change must have happened in the past decade.

      You have so many friends where you live that you don't need to go anywhere to have companionship and conversation. I envy you for that.

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  7. Fascinating and delicious! And I would like to add that this post is a good example of why I keep reading your blog: interesting, well written and informative!
    Regards,
    Leze

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  8. My BIL is a Mason and we toured the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, VA years ago when he and my sister visited us in MD. It's also a museum. It's strange, but I can hardly remember anything about it. I do remember that my BIL enjoyed it. I also remember our tour guide saying that a lot of presidents had been Masons. I knew about the secret handshake, but I had no idea how that came about. Interesting.

    Your meal sounds scrumptious, and only $25 for the entire day! What a deal. I would have loved that dessert. Just the description made my mouth water.

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    1. We grew up in an era of radio clubs and secret decoder rings, etc. which I think made the grown up version all the more intriguing.

      I don't know how many places have culinary colleges---ours had been there for decades and I didn't know about it until 3 years ago---but I'll bet they all have a similar restaurant open to the public. Reservations are required and menu changes all the time.

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  9. It sounds like an altogether delightful day. I don't go out to eat very often, but when I do, I want extra-delicious food well prepared and beautifully presented. When I was in grad school in Providence, Rhode Island, the Johnson and Wales culinary program ran a cafeteria where I sometimes went for lunch. It wasn't as fancy as what your culinary college does, but it was good food at prices low enough for a grad student to afford. -Jean

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    1. For most of our relationship my husband and I ate out at least once a day---until he got disabled and I had to cook most days. Generally I like to just get in and out of restaurants quickly. But I could sure learn to love the long, leisurely lunches if the food was always that good and cheap.

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