Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Front Porch

The design of modern day homes has become it's very own sociological experiment with their simple front door entry way and sealed from the world garages that allow you to leave the waving neighbor behind as you pull in like Batman.

I grew up in a house with an enormous front porch. In a much older society, the front porch was a neutral place where anyone could come over and visit. They didn't have to come inside and it allowed for a greater reach into your neighbor's life, what they were experiencing and how things were going in the community. It was a communication gateway for one-on-one relationships that very little of us have anymore with our neighbors.

You can say that Facebook has solved some of these issues with staying in touch but who in their right mind will announce to the world when something is challenging for them?
With this loss of community, I humbly believe that it has taken it's toll on our society and largely responsible for the fact that our government will spend more than $700 billion on means-tested welfare programs. To define this: Means-tested welfare programs provide cash, food, housing, free or subsidized medical care, and targeted social services to poor and low income Americans.

So you're saying to yourself what is he talking about. He's lost his mind...right?

I had a great Aunt named Beulah Skinner and she was, in my opinion, a modern day saint. She was a pillar within her community and made sure that no one went hungry. If someone was without, Beulah was there to the rescue with canned food in hand. If someone needed money, she kept dimes rolled up in a drawer. She was a leader in the First Baptist Church in Saratoga, Texas and led the children's sunday school classes while checking up on everyone within the community every Sunday. Oh...and most importantly, she was crippled.

Today, an Aunt Beulah is hard to find. It seems that everyone is much more preoccupied with what they have versus what they can give. And our very own behavior has forced our government to step in and do what we're supposed to be doing ourselves.

I heard a sermon a while back where the topic was about tithing. The point made from the lesson was simply to give of yourself. And if your significant other is the one writing the check and you have no idea what the amount is, it doesn't count for you. You have to be the one giving. You have to be the one that writes the check. You must know and care what you are giving if it is to count.

Not to sound like a preacher but isn't this what we're doing now with our own government programs?

And what becomes of the society that receives all of these benefits from our government? Do they believe that they are entitled to them? Do they become more concerned about what they can get versus what they can give?

There is a big push for entitlement reform within the Republican party at the moment and given the economic state of where we are as a country, who knows what will happen. I would only ask that you consider your fellow man in any decision you make when you begin to hear the arguments of both sides.

What is the right thing to do? Give of yourself or let someone else give for you?

Maybe the answer lies on a front porch somewhere. A front porch where people share of themselves and try to make things better for each other.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Big Mama's Old Black Pot

With all the big "Hoo-Ha" these days on gourmet foods and chef prepared meals on the Food Channel, I thought I might throw some down home summer time on the table. Reaching deep into my back pocket, I've got myself an ace in the hole for soul food and her name is Big Mama.

Big Mama's Old Black Pot Cook Book was written by Ethel Rayson Dixon. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Ethel was one of eight children and learned the art of cooking at a very early age.

The cook book is filled with old south recipes that you simply can't find anymore accompanied by countless stories on how the food was prepared. It might be the only cook book ever printed with specific directions on Poke Salad as well as Hoe Cakes which are baked on the underside of a garden hoe held close to a fire.

My favorite recipe in the whole book is a vegetable soup that calls for fresh vegetables out of a home grown garden. And since most of us don't have room or the time for a garden these days, I would highly recommend finding your local farmers market and bringing home some good fresh vegetables.

Be prepared when cooking this soup as it will fill up every square inch of your whole house with soul. And every home needs some soul.

Big Mama's Vegetable Soup

1 1/2 pounds ham hocks
8 cups of water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons bacon drippings
1/4 cup onion (chopped)
1/2 cup celery (chopped)
4 pods sweet pepper (chopped)
2 pods hot pepper (chopped)
1 1/2 cups corn
1 1/2 cups lima beans
1 1/2 cups field peas
2 cups tomatoes (stewed)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
6 pods okra (chopped)
3 medium potatoes (diced)
1 cup beef stock

Bring 8 cups water to boil in a large soup pot. Add ham hocks, salt and pepper. Boil until tender (approximately 40 minutes). Using a small skillet, add bacon drippings and brown onion, celery and peppers. Add to ham hocks. When meat begins to separate from the bone, add corn, beans, peas, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cook until corn is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add okra, potatoes and beef stock.

Simmer 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Serves 6-8

Friday, April 8, 2011

Feeling Lucky?

Someone ask me the other day when I would be performing next. These days I can't seem to find the time. With four kids and a schedule that keeps thin soles on my shoes I have to remind myself to breathe.

However, not too long ago I had a visitor in my living room and he came with a head full of problems and unloaded them all on my wife's grand piano. I was fortunate enough to be his harmonica side man for the evening as we played for all of my son's friends that came to hear a special private concert. A concert by one of the most talented musicians I've ever had the privilege of knowing. Mr. Lucky Peterson himself.

Lucky, born Judge Kenneth Peterson, was born on December 13, 1964 in Buffalo, New York. The doctor didn't think that either he or his mother would survive during his birth which is where he gets the name Lucky. And yes, they both survived.

Lucky learned to play the B3 organ as a small boy in his father's nightclub. He was given direction on which notes to play by the strategically placed cigarette butts on certain keys.

By the time he was five years old, he had fully mastered the organ and had caught
the attention of Willie Dixon, the bass player that wrote most of the songs for Muddy
Waters and Howlin' Wolf.

Dixon took the child under his wing and cut his first recording which landed him on The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and What's My Line?. From the book The Blues,  Journalist Tony Russell quoted, "he may be the only blues musician to have had national television exposure in short pants."

As a teen, Peterson studied at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts where he played French horn with the school symphony. He would soon leave Buffalo to play guitar and keyboards for Etta James, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and Little Milton touring and traveling all over the world.

Lucky has been around the block more times than you can count. Countless albums. Countless gigs. Countless relationships. His musical career has been hard on him but Lucky has maintained a kind and gentle soul unlike the road that's been a troubling place for him for so many years.

He has struggled with the demons of addiction like a lot of musicians but he continues to travel up mountains and through valleys that all of us are faced with on this journey they call life.

I'm proud to call him my friend and would invite each and every one of you to experience one of the most talented blues musicians this world has ever known.

Here's to you Lucky. May your life always be just that. Lucky.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fishing for Charity

Keeping a kid's attention on a fishing trip can be a challenge. They want to play with the worms or try and catch the minnows in the bucket. "Look at all these little fish. Can we keep them?"

The trick to turning on a little person to fishing is getting them on the fish so try to stick with a species that schools.

White bass fishing is probably the best kind of fishing for little kids. And it's not bad for impatient adults such as myself. Oh I like working for a black bass when I'm by myself but to pull in hundreds of fish in one day with a bunch of kids is as close to Heaven as you're going to get down on this rock.

The white bass, commonly referred to as "sand bass," are migratory open-water fish. Most of their life is spent in the open-water portions of reservoirs chasing schools of shad. In the Texas spring time, schools of white bass migrate to the upper portions of reservoirs to spawn which is when you want to wet that hook and pull them out of the water.

Last year, my boys helped me pull over 80 fish out of Caddo Lake but the best fishing story you'll ever hear will be the one you read today.

As this is a tradition with the Holt boys each year, my oldest was inquiring what we'll do with all the fish we catch. I have so much in my freezer already, we always end up giving it to the locals when we return to the dock. After I told him this, he says to me, " it's like charity." I told him that you could consider it a charity if you wanted to. Feeding folks that live off the lake is a great thing and if one wanted to consider that a charitable contribution, I don't think I could argue with it.

We fished hard all day breaking only an hour for lunch. It was cooler in the morning and we managed to fight off a kamikaze attack of local mosquitos that swarmed us before noon. By the afternoon, the sun had come out full throttle and we were five sweating boys pulling fish out of that water faster than you could pull up your socks.

Five o-clock finally found it's way to our boat and the fish finally stopped biting. The sun was beginning to set and we all sat down to rest from our arm and wrist work-out.

We had pulled in the anchor and our fishing guide, Billy Carter, was just about to crank the boat when my oldest asked him to hold up for just a minute. Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out an orange piece of paper and hands it to Billy. He explains that this is his "All Saints Community Service Form" and he asked that he sign it for all the community work he had done that day.

Well Billy looked at me and I looked back at him as we were both confused. Then it hit me that my boy was thinking since we give all the fish away, we must be doing community service. I explain this to Billy and he just about wets his pants from laughing.

His quote was, "Boy, I've been doing this all my life.  I'm almost 60 years old and I have never had anyone ask me to sign a community service document. But I'll tell you this, if that works out for you, every man in America will be wanting me to take them out for community service work as they will be able to tell their wives that they're really not going fishing."

Peace out. I'm off to Caddo.