Tuesday, March 31, 2009

heaven in a mason jar

It's warm outside today. In fact, it's one of the first warm days we've had recently. I've also been really busy over the past few days, so I made the executive decision to give myself the day off. Being self-employed does have its perks. With the extra time on my hands, I was liberated to cook a leisurely meal that can only be prepared when one is unfettered by the usual time constraints of daily life. It wasn't a t-bone steak that I endeavored to serve, nor did I apply my culinary expertise to attain the unapproachable heights of steamed asparagus or grilled tuna. No, mine is a meal devoid of pretension, and its perfection lies within the reach of any who are willing to learn. It is known in the common vernacular as fried bologna and sweet tea. For all of its familiarity, it is a meal that deserves our utmost respect. One must never think he has mastered it, for it is as we approach it with humility that it will yield its inherent beauty.

We begin with the bologna. I prefer Oscar Meyer, but other brands may produce similar results. The key is to stay away from anything that boasts of being organic or all-natural. Such arrogance can never survive the heat of a well greased frying pan. Second, the bologna must be cut on both sides to avoid the infamous "bubble-effect." The slits should be equadistant from the center of the cold-cut, and must be procured by means of a butter knife, or a sanitized pair of scissors. When the bologna commences its distinctive popping sound, it's time to flip. Remember, the second side will blacken sooner than the first, so remain vigilant. Add two slabs of bread and a slice of cheese. Again, no organic or fancy cheeses. The package should read..."pasteurized cheese product."

Now to the sweet tea. The preparation of genuine southern sweet tea is a sacred act that requires a spirit of reverence. Their should be no background noise, unless you have a small TV in your kitchen and are watching reruns of In the Heat Of The Night. The TV cannot exceed twelve inches, and the reception must be via rabbit ears. During a commercial break, bring water to a boil. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, proceed to add four family sized tea bags. I swear by Lipton, but other brands could conceivably be tolerated. Once the water has reached a boil, and has had time to darken, add your sugar. Key: sugar should always compliment the tea, but never overwhelm it. Tea is the star, sugar plays a supporting role. If you cannot taste the tea, you have added too much sugar. You have hence wasted your afternoon, and should begin penance immediately. A note for all of you yankees.....sugar must be added when the water is boiling hot. Adding the sugar after the tea has cooled will prohibit the sugar crystals from being properly diluted, thus compromising the taste. The tea bags should remain in the water for a minimum of one hour. Take heart. Your patience will be rewarded.

Monday, March 2, 2009


As part of my work with the Bridge Project, I have the distinct honor, and enormous challenge of coaching a group of 16-18 year old boys as part of a program called Hoops and Hope. These are young black men with whom I share little in common beyond a love of basketball, and a compulsive need for a weekly haircut. As the title suggests, we have won nary a game over the past month. After blowing out our first opponent, we've embarked upon a losing streak that currently stands at three games. It's not that we lack talent or athletic ability. We have yet to gel as a team, and we don't play defense. What's worse, even if we had all fifteen players on the court, I'm still convinced we couldn't break a full court press. One act I'm encouraging among the guys is the act of introspection. It's easy to point fingers when you're in the middle of a losing streak, but until each individual has the guts to take personal responsibility, we will continue to have our collective rear flogged in the public square.

The responsibility of course, begins with me. I wasn't supposed to be the coach. My job last year was to essentially serve as team chaplain. Unfortunately, no one stepped up to take the clipboard this season, and I got an unsolicited promotion. Now I'm chaplain and coach. Honestly, it's a very delicate balancing act that I'm still struggling to perfect. Last year as chaplain, I was detached from the concern over wins and losses. I was there to be a spiritual leader. I had the luxury of relating to the young men as people rather than players. How well they performed on the court was of little or no consequence to me. I liked it better that way, especially now that we're losing. As a coach, I have had to surrender my capacity for objectivity. The kid with the better character gets benched for the kid with the better jump shot. That bothers me. On top of all this, I've been pondering Paul's instruction to Timothy to maintain a singleness of purpose. "A good soldier does not get entangled in the affairs of the world," is how he puts it. Have I surrendered my singleness of purpose, or am I just tired of losing?