Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Life's Lessons Learned from Food and Food Service

Recently, I have been doing more of the cooking at our house and I was ruminating on my fairly long history with food and food service and what are some of the lessons I have learned.  Perhaps you have not thought about it, but let me give six examples: three each from Food and Food Service.

I was a late-bloomer to the food service industry, probably because we had no fast food when I was growing up (my oldest son worked at a McDonalds when he was sixteen).  I found my way when I was in dental school and (finally) twenty-one.  I worked as a bartender in three different venues, each with its own set of life lessons: a summer resort, a Country Club and a Japanese Restaurant owned by a Milwaukee German.  Life’s first lesson was:

·          Communication:  In any service industry the key to success is learning to be a good listener.  It is what gets you tips and promotions.  Most good communicators initiate a conversation, but they do so with a question.  In airports I often use, “Are you going home or away from home?”  That opens up all sorts of topics: what they do, where are their children, vacation plans, etc.  Sometimes it even opens topics I’m more interested in, like “What do I do?”


·         Dependability:  Across generations, one thing has not changed about Food Service.  Employers and fellow-employees appreciate it when they can depend on you showing up on time and ready to work.  That is a life-lesson that is harder to see in the normal workplace and may explain why when I left the Navy as well as when I left the corporate world, there was a hefty check for unused Vacation and Sick Days.


·         Apparel is not a bad word: My younger son used to kid me about my Navy uniform and how I carried that habit along when I joined the Corporate world, but perhaps that is because his uniform is shorts and a collared shirt because he teaches Physical Education to grades 4 through 8 in a warm climate.  But, although what is considered acceptable “business attire” has changed dramatically since I joined the Corporate World, what has not changed is the “branding” of what is acceptable by wearing what the bosses are wearing.  In my case that explains why in my closet I once had five Hawaiian shirts, many Ryne Spooner, because the boss had just purchased a Dental Plan in Hawaii, or why I still have five pair of suspenders, excluding anything formal, because my bosses were visible in demonstrating they were a Union Shop.  Now, working when I do, mostly virtual, I wear Dockers or shorts depending on the weather and a collared sport shirt with a light sweater.  I also take myself out for lunch on Bosses’ Day.

Life’s Lessons learned from Food is a little harder to categorize, but I would choose:

·         Consideration.  I have gravitated into doing most of the cooking, gathering recipes more from Epicurious than from the dozens of cookbooks we have accumulated over the years, but recognizing that when I was out of town Tim and Mary often made a Tuna Casserole, I found a recipe for same and will adapt it to Fresh Ahi-Ahi I can get at the Farmer’s Market and make it tomorrow.  Working with food and food groups like Slow Cooking and The American Institute of Wine and Food, I have learned that we all continue to try new foods as out tastes and incomes change.


·         Experimentation: Building on that thought, I am watching my grandchildren discover new foods and my 15 year-old granddaughter discover food preparation.  Our moist recent sojourn into the different was a trip for Mongolian Barbeque, which we regularly did as a family when I was stationed in the Philippines and the boys were sixteen and twelve.  My 12 year-old grandson, a notoriously picky eater, seemed to enjoy the meal, probably because his dad helped him select the contents of his bowl.  That same dad was a child who ate everything placed in front of him, consuming so many yellow vegetables and fruits as an infant that he developed jaundice.  So, we were surprised when he looked at eggplant Mary prepared and said, “No, thank you.”  We encouraged him to try just a mouthful, stopping short of the Jewish mother’s admonition, “just hold it in your mouth.  It will feel good.” But he remained resolute saying, “I’ll throw up.” We persisted and he did indeed take a mouthful…and proceeded to throw up.


·         Organization:  The most valuable lesson I have learned cooking food is the value of organization.  Tim no longer reminds me that I said we would eat at seven and it is now almost eight. The secret is that not only do I do my chopping before I start to cook, I also do my measuring prior to starting.  I learned this from watching the chefs at cooking demonstrations Mary and I went to for about 1 ½ years.  They were also my inspiration to buy good cutlery and to regularly sharpen the not-so-good paring knives I use.  A fringe benefit of cooking organization is that I find out what ingredients I need to adjust or substitute for before I start to cook.  As a Manager and Director in both the Navy and Corporate worlds I gradually learned the value of organization.  It just took me longer than it would have, had I been more immersed in food preparation at an earlier age.

So, I encourage any of you who are not already active in Food consumption and preparation to adapt the skills I have learned from my experience through the years.  Perhaps, if our society had Universal Conscription into the food industry for a year, we would be more polite and caring, and maybe even better organized.

In my next Post I intend to look at a custom our Presidents have: speaking at Commencements, and what we might learn from that.  I hope you will join me.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Is Competition Dead?

Shamed by my brother-in-law, who was running a mile or so to and from work in Ohio, even in the winter, I finally began jogging and eventually running in 1969.  I continued running three-miles or so, almost every day, for forty years, when my hip forced me into replacement surgery and a position where even regular walking is often a chore.

Although I believe that my efforts were responsible for that hip surgery and aggravating pain in my knees and occasional ankles, I wouldn’t change the routine if I had it to do all over again.

Along the way, in 1977 I discovered the Hash House Harriers, self-described as “a drinking club with a running problem” and now count several dozen Hashers as close friends, even when I don’t know half their real names. Google   for more information on a regional Hash.

I also ran several 6-K and 10-K runs and occasionally placed well in my age group.  I also posted a personal best of 6:55 minutes on the Marine 3-mile track, which I used to run daily when I was the CO of the Dental Company at El Toro.  It was a joke that the new boots assigned to the Dental Company were told they should run with the CO, but not make him feel bad about his time.  Most could hardly carry on a conversation as we ran at my cruising time of 7:35.

What prompts my recollection of my running is an article I saw recently that discussed why registration for 5-K and 10-K runs has dropped precipitously in recent years so there now are fewer runs and 10% fewer runners than there used to be.  Most of these events benefitted charities, although there was a profit motive for those arranging the event.  Also, there are more rather than fewer runners in the more prominent marathons.

The article hypothesized the reason for decline was that the Millennials were not interested in competitive running.  This makes sense to me, since I have personally observed the communal spirit that pervades their culture.  The 19-34 year-olds are much more inclined to work together, leaning on others to be the final problem-solver after background, research, and idea vetting has been a group effort.

Not to imply that this younger group is lazy or doesn’t believe in exerciser.  Quite the contrary.  I have several nieces who practice and teach Yoga.  I know some who practice Tai Chi and some who probably run as regularly as I did.

And I am sure than many were among the thousands who recently participated in the 17th cicLAvia in Los Angeles, where 19 miles of streets were cleared for the day from automobiles, so cyclists, skaters, and walkers could see the city from a more pedestrian view.  There were no ribbons, trophies or plaques awarded; just a feeling of being part of a group that may somehow make a difference in the cleanliness of the environment.

In my next Post, I’ll share a little of what I’ve learned about food, food preparation, and myself since I have started cooking on a more regular basis.  I hope you’ll join me and find the subject interesting.

Monday, May 9, 2016

There'll Always Be a Janesville

Janesville, Wisconsin, my wife’s home town was in the news again this week.  Not too surprising being that her current favorite son, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who chooses to keep his family in Janesville and, when he is home on weekends, which is often goes to the church in which Mary and I were married.

Janesville gained a lot of notoriety when both the Republican and Democratic candidates stumped there during the recent Wisconsin primaries.  This was unusual and hadn’t been seen in the many years since, what was then the oldest continuous G<M assembly plant in the country closed its doors for good, losing, what was the primary revenue source for the city of 30,000 in one fell swoop.

There was a time, some twenty years back, when for some unknown reason, Janesville was in national news on several closely-timed occasions.  First there was the story of the white buffalo, an extremely rare occurrence, felt by the Native American tribes to be a harbinger of the god’s favor as the buffalo ages and eventually loses its white coat.  The farmer who own the young animal rebuilt his farm to handle the huge crowds who came to see the young animal, selling trinket and getting paid for pictures of the rare beast.

About the same time we saw a story about a Ku Klux Klan rally where Geraldo Rivera stood bravely in the path of the white euphemists and defended a rather small minority population against ridicule and scorn.

To me, the ultimate breaking news dealt with picture of the water purification plant, which had somehow been leaked on the internet for any and all to see where and how the water supply to the entire town was cleansed and distributed.  Mary and I felt that perhaps the story was that if the terrorists could defile the water system in Janesville, nowhere in the country was safe, or perhaps there was a plea for national funding to erect a barrier against contamination.  Whatever, the moment passed and once can only feel that the news “stringer” moved from Janesville to other environs, since the stories worthy of national prominence slowed and stopped.

Until Paul Ryan.

Mary’s mother is buried in the Janesville cemetery, and Mary’s sister, who lives in Berlin, Wisconsin planted flowers near the grave, only to run into a new regulation that forbid permanent plantings in favor of cut flowers, which were removed after a short time.  This angered her sister, and we were tasked with checking on the grave when we visited Janesville to ensure her grave was kept up.  On one occasion when we were so doing, we took our grandson, named Ryan Kelley (Mary’s maiden name) FitzGerald with us.  As he wandered through the cemetery he was awestruck with the number of graves that bore is first name: Ryan.  Literally dozens of stone, many large and ornate, rose above ground, demanding attention. Of course that was the Ryan family, the same as now is represented in the House of Representatives, third in line for the Presidency.  To this day we haven’t the heart or inclination to shatter his observation.

Rep. Ryan has said he is not yet on-board to support Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President.  Mary has told me that she, “Couldn’t pull the level for Trump.”  Although we actually use a cursor and enter to vote in California, I am inclined to think that there may be a Janesville mindset that is common to those born and raised there.

Perhaps it is something someone put in the water?

In my next Post, which I hope will be soon, I intend to explore why registration in 5 and 10-k events has fallen off almost 10% in the last year.  Please join me.