Goose Tales by George Merrill


Geese, like many boaters and tourists who show up on the Shore, are seasonal visitors. The arrival of geese in the fall is like the invasion of college kids on Maryland beaches during spring break; they’re everywhere. Geese gather in droves in the creeks, golf courses, and weekenders’ lawns, huddling feather to feather. They stay for the winters and then leave.

Whether arriving, taking off, or just floating around, geese make an extraordinary ruckus. One night in the fall some years ago, while anchored on the Wye River near Shaw Bay, a huge colony of geese settled in the water near us. I was unable to hear what my wife was saying across the cockpit for the din that the geese were making. Geese generate a thunderous volume because they all talk at once the way anxious people do. Why so much to say I have no idea, unless, perhaps, as frequent fliers, they’re relieved to be settled in and enjoy telling each other stories of where they’ve been, the ups and downs of their flight south and who they’d bumped into along the way. I heard a lot of stories that night, and although I couldn’t understand a word – a honk, more accurately – I didn’t sleep a wink for the din.

Once, in late spring, I woke in the middle of the night to the honking of a solitary goose in the creek in front of my house. I’m used to sounds that gaggles of geese make. It’s odd hearing only one. I felt melancholy listening to the goose. I couldn’t get back to sleep, but not because of the noise–the honking wasn’t intrusive– but for the suggestion of what this plaintive voice might portend.

In spring, I’m expecting nature’s new arrivals. This goose must have been around the Bay since the fall, anyway. I doubt it was a recent arrival. To hear the honking of only one goose when I know that he or she, only a month ago, was surrounded by the convivial chatter of friends and relatives, inclines me to think the worst: perhaps its spouse died or for health reasons the goose wasn’t up to making the long trip north. For this goose, spring was not a beginning, but an end.

There are gains and losses in the seasons of life. I think of the retirees who come to the Shore to live out their days in the gentle ambience of tidewater country. In my community, most of the people are of riper years, most over fifty-five.   The days of contentment endure for a while but then there’s the inevitable time of illness and death. One survives to live out by themselves the dream they once shared together.

Not far from my home just off the Bozman-Neavitt Road, a couple I knew once named their home, Final Decision. The name was inscribed on a plaque attached to a covered well housing that stood by the road. The home is still there, the well housing too, but the name has disappeared.

Final Decision was a word play on the husband’s profession – he had been a judge – and that this was the last move the couple planned to make. In short, like many here, they came to live out their lives on the Shore. The husband died and the wife stayed on in the house.  After some years she became disabled with age and her family saw the necessity of moving her to a facility providing regular care. After she left, the sign began losing letters, falling off one by one, until, when I last saw the sign, the remaining letters read, ‘indecision.’  Life decisions we make are rarely final; they’re tentative. The final decision is made elsewhere.

I considered another possible scenario to account for the solitary bird’s presence. Indeed, like Henry David Thoreau, the goose may have been making a statement. He’d had it with the noise, the crowded skies, congestion on the creeks, geese everywhere flapping and fussing, and spending long hours in the air. Like Thoreau, the goose found his own Walden Pond, on the creek in front of my house.

For man and goose, alike, there are tradeoffs to be managed. While it’s comforting knowing someone’s nearby it’s also important to have time and space to be still and alone. To be assured of the comforts and safety that companionship and society provide, most species congregate together in one way or another. For our part, we build and inhabit homes around the tranquil coves we love, sail the open waters that beckon us, and drop our hooks in the silent creeks and rivers that promise us a night’s safe anchorage. But we also insist upon having conveniences nearby like shopping malls with big boxes We profane the very pristine nest we sought for refuge, the place where we sought gentle space, where we could engage in the discernment that solitude brings, and where that soft, downy texture of stillness can be heard, the stillness that cradles the soul like soft pillows sooth sleepy heads.

After a month or so I never saw the goose again. Who knows where he’d gone. But I like to think that he went on searching for that perfect time which includes discovering the uncommon place for which many of us longed and found a while we lived on the Shore.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.


Food Friday: Winter Salads


It might be a new year, but that doesn’t mean that I am any less inclined to take the easiest way out in preparing dinner. There is nothing like enjoying a lighter-than-air salad for a summer dinner, though in the winter it needs to be much heartier than our summertime frolics with cool cucumbers, airy vinaigrettes, and artful splashes of lemon juice. We need calories and heft now, so we can go outside and do battle with snowy sidewalks, and scrape the windshield while the wind blows and the snow is still falling.

I also like to use up leftovers when I make salad, no matter what time of year it is. This is our new budget in action – less waste! In the summer I will shred leftover chicken and fling it across a bed of crisp iceberg lettuce, with a handful of sunflower seeds and some chunky homegrown tomatoes. This week I warmed up a leftover chicken breast, and sliced it, and nestled it on a bed of spinach leaves. I cooked the last three slices of bacon, and then used the resulting bacon fat for frying the best, and crunchiest, croutons (made from day-old-ish French bread from the weekend). I nestled a couple of still-warm soft-boiled eggs within some of the spinach curls and scattered the bacon over everything. A heavy, homemade vinaigrette, redolent with garlic, was drizzled over the plates. Add candles. Yumsters. A warm, nutritious salad, and an efficient use of leftovers. You could even add a side dish of (canned) soup, if the shoveling has gone into overtime, and you are feeling generous.

Ingredients to keep on hand, in no particular order:
Brussel sprouts
Garlic (always!)
Roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes
Oranges, tangerines, nectarines
Romaine lettuce (wash it first!)
Cheeses: Goat cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, bleu cheese, Cheddar
Leftovers: rice, couscous, quinoa, French bread, chicken, roast beef, steak, shrimp, lobster

Homemade Vinaigrette
6 tablespoons vinegar (use your fancy stuff – the ones you got for Christmas)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove
Pinch of ground black pepper
Pinch of nice sea salt

Bacon-fried Croutons
Bacon makes everything better – and you know it!
Cook 3 or 4 bacon slices in a frying pan. Save the grease. (Sometimes I add a little olive oil to make a deeper puddle of cooking grease – use your judgment.) Add a handful of cubed French bread to the frying pan, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle garlic powder, onion powder and Lawry’s Seasoning Salt over the crotons. (This is going to be my million dollar retirement invention: the tastiest croutons in the whole wide world.) Using Lawry’s is crucial – make no substitute – not even for “Slap Ya Mama”.

More ideas

“I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter’s evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream… I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people’s tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting.”
― Mark Twain

Cecil Circuit Court Judge William Davis Talks Justice on the Eve of MLK Day


If there is a good example of what Martin Luther King Jr. was hoping for in America, it might be found with Cecil County Circuit Court Judge William W. Davis Jr. The product of a mostly white high school in Delaware, followed by a primarily black college experience at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and now as the first elected black judge in a county that is made up of 90% white residents, Davis understands first hand the importance of diversity, as well as how America has changed since Dr. King poetically asked that Americans be judged by the quality of their character and not the color of their skin.

Davis also understands the importance of fair justice.  And while he is the first to admit that the American legal system has a long way to go before “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” he faithfully believes that he and his fellow judges in Cecil County are making that a reality on the Upper Shore.

As the judge prepares his remarks for his keynote address at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast in Rock Hall next week, the Spy ran up to Elkton last week to talk to him between his court cases, about MLK, his thoughts on young people in the African-American community, and the mighty stream of justice in Maryland.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For information on the Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast please go here.



Memoir as Fiction: Vietnam Vet Jim Richardson Remembers a War Through a Novel


Unlike most authors who have been kind enough to sit down for an interview with the Spy to talk about a new book, Mid-Shore artist Jim Richardson’s recently released novel is almost sold out, is not available on Amazon, nor available at local stores. In fact, if you want to buy a copy (only 50 left in inventory), you’ll need to knock on his door in Claiborne with eighteen dollars in cash to get one or borrow it from a friend.

While the popularity of Middle Blue is indeed extremely comforting to Jim, it’s not without the knowledge that he only ordered 200 to be printed in the first place. His pleasure comes from successfully finding a way to tell his family and friends what it was like as a twenty-one year old drafted into the Vietnam War.

Disinclined to use the more traditional format of writing a memoir, Jim took his wartime experience and channeled it through the experience of three fictional characters who find friendship in the midst of the tragic and surreal last years of America’s attempt to win a war that could not win.

Jim sat down with the Spy to talk about the experience of writing the book (including the book’s illustrations), his goal of sharing his Vietnam experience with loved ones, and the therapeutic value that comes with memories rediscovered and documented.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. As noted, this is book is only available from the author. Jim’s email is


Keep Your Pants On by George Merrill


‘Keep your pants on’ we’re exhorted when we become frantic, impatient and agitated. We’re urged to be cool, stay easy with things. The phrase, in addition to being a metaphor, can now be understood literally. An epidemic has been identified among post-modern men; we see droopy drawers everywhere.

It’s shortly after Christmas and near New Year’s Eve. In those weeks, I’ve eaten more than my share and I Know it. When I overeat, it alarms me. Various parts of my body redistribute themselves. In a word, I add volume while changing shape.

There was a time when all that was required of me to see the tips of my shoes was to cast my glance downward. I can do that, but it’s not my shoes I see, anymore. The space between where my eyes are set and my shoes are planted, a terrain once occupied by a firm torso, has been replaced with a more viscous substance I can only call fat. What had once been concave, is now convex. In order to see my shoes, today, I must bend forward some. My pants that historically belted navel high, given my evolving body shape, must now be buckled well below the navel in order to remain up. In the body, matter is neither created nor destroyed, just increased and moved around.

What offends me about my body’s redistribution of its mass is that I must secure my pants with a belt well below my navel, leaving to my shame, an unsightly mass draping over the belt for which no amount of gerrymandering (or sucking up) is able to alter. My roll of fat is visible to all and my drawers appear perilously close to dropping.

I’ve recently had some workers doing carpentry around the house. These are fit young men, at the top of their game, with lean bodies as straight as ramrods. I notice, however, when any one of them has to bend over, it reveals the upper portion of his butt. This phenomenon is common enough to have earned a diagnostic designation: “builder’s butt.” This describes graphically what happens to a man when his pants sit too low at his hips. Bending over to hammer nails or working on a pipe under a sink, his trousers decidedly fail him. His pants reveal the upper regions of those lower ones that pants were once engineered to conceal.

The corpulent old men of my youth, my grandfather and my great uncle, had significant paunches. I remember distinctly my great uncle’s silver belt buckle sitting prominently across the widest circumference of his girth. I thought it was neat. I recall both men’s large middles fondly, as if this was the distinguishing mark of age and wisdom. I don’t recall seeing an offensive overhang, which is the objection I have to my own paunch. Theirs, as I recall, would make mine look like an anthill. I wonder just how were they were able to wear pants buckled high along the upper waist, leaving no trace of an overhang? I would add that neither of them wore suspenders.

It seems to me that straight lean bodies should allow the belt securing one’s pants to ride just about anywhere up or down the torso. But today, even with young bodies, men’s pants rest precariously below the hip. I have concluded this happens not by the physical vicissitudes of aging men, but by a calculated decision of fashion designers.

I realized this while at the voting booth in Easton. While waiting my turn, I was dreamily people-watching. My glance fell on a tall man around my age. He was thin, rangy and well built. What seemed odd was how low his trousers were riding on his hips. Obviously, this did not result from the inability of his torso to accommodate a belt-tightening just about anywhere he chose to secure it. I can only conclude that fashion designers are flooding the market with slacks tailored to make men appear as if their drawers are dropping.

I can’t imagine why. I see no aesthetic advantages to such a design nor even a hint of erotic allure -which dominates most all products of fashion – except maybe handkerchiefs. To say the least, a man with droopy drawers does not present as someone dignified, a desirable sex object, or as someone having any idea of how to meet the public. He is definitely not cool.

Answers to this strange phenomenon may be found in today’s psycho-social climate. The unstable climate seems to be driving all kinds of aberrations. Truth telling has become a lost art today and we’re hesitant to believe anything we hear or see. The transparency we once valued in our relationships to one another has grown opaque with the incessant allegations of “fake.”

Transparency and openness with one another was once considered a social necessity, even a virtue. I wonder whether, while men’s pants don’t reveal all, they reveal just enough to satisfy us that a man is trustworthy; his pants present him as the kind of guy discreet and tasteful enough not to let everything hang out, but sufficiently transparent to assure us he is not hiding anything.

A bit of a stretch perhaps but there you have it. Nothing else I can think of explains it.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.


Food Friday: Comfort Foods


We have taken down all of the holiday trappings: stripped the tree, packed away all the fragile paper Christmas decorations the children made in grade school. Strings of lights have been rolled up. Colorful baubles are nestled all snug in their attic boxes. The mistletoe has been scattered into the back yard for the birds to snack on while gliding on their flight paths to and from the dangling bits of suet and peanut butter–slathered pine cones. And the tree has been stashed in a back corner of the garden, turning to mulch and making a little habitat for our visiting critters.

Happy New Year, indeed. It doesn’t feel festive anymore. The fun is over and the Puritans have moved in. Permanently. We are finally (almost) finished with our holiday head colds, but that new-found healthy feeling is most likely enhanced by our adoption of the very smug and annoying Dry January resolution.

For the month of January we plan to eschew alcohol. Which means no cheap white wine during the week. It also means no Prosecco Saturdays. We have turned into the worst kind of boring people. What’s next? Jogging? Journaling? Can kale be far behind?

If this is as good as it gets, it seems like the perfect time to light the stove, and get cooking some warm comfort foods. For his personal railing against the darkness, Mr. Friday made a vat o’spaghetti sauce. He forgot that there are just the two of us now. It was a such a huge, lobster-pot-sized vat, that we had to take a shelf out of the fridge, and re-distribute bottles of milk, pickles, capers, and salad dressing in order to wedge the thing in after dinner. And then we had to get imaginative with that huge amount of red sauce.

Our initial foray into the vat o’sauce was a candlelit dinner of spaghetti with sausage and meatballs (replete with a well-tossed green salad, crusty, butter-dripping garlic toasts, and goblets brimming with conceited domestic tap water). Then we enjoyed a satisfying lunch of leftover spaghetti. Later, a coquette of bubbling baked ziti, and finally a city block of lasagne. Additionally, there are two Tupperware containers of lasagne now residing in the freezer, along with another gallon of sauce and meatballs. This is like money in the bank – emergency meals that are easily re-heated. Bring on the uninvited guests! When Mr. Friday cooks, he wields a force that alters our small universe.

You don’t need to take over the kitchen and cover all the countertops with cooking gear, or use every piece of Tupperware, or grate mounds of mozzarella, or rearrange the entire freezer compartment to make some comfort food. You can roast a chicken, shape a football of meatloaf, make a melt-y croque monsieur. Kraft mac and cheese might fit your bill nicely. Any sort of warm, aromatic or nostalgic food that makes you happy, because winter can be bleak without tinsel and paper chains.

Roast chicken


Croque Monsieur

Mac and cheese


“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell

The Road of Photographer Constance Stuart Larrabee: A Conversation with Author Peter Elliott


For those who remember Constance Stuart Larrabee, particularly those living on the Mid-Shore, it will always be gratifying to know that at the very end of her life Constance knew there was a high degree of attention paid to her photography.

While the native South African had been living on the Mid-Shore for more than forty years, she was intentionally reserved on talking about her work as a documentary photographer in the years before marrying a former military attache, Colonel Sterling Loop Larrabee, in 1949. If locals knew anything about Larrabee, it was for her reputation as a successful breeder of Norwich Terriers, not as South Africa’s first female World War Two correspondent. She clearly preferred it that way for reasons still not entirely known.

It was only when she was seventy that a close friend, Ed Maxcy, convinced her to share her portfolio of images from her visits to rural South African villages, the war, the streets of Johannesburg and, later, Tangier Island on the Chesapeake Bay. She began working with such distinguished institutions such as the Corcoran Gallery, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Yale’s Center for British Art, Washington’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, as well as our own Washington College and Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, through much of the eighties and early nineties on several well received exhibitions. All of which gave Larrabee the certain knowledge that her lifetime contribution to photography had been well-noted before she died in 2000.

But for those who have never heard her name, or seen her stunning images, there is good news to be had. Almost twenty years after her passing, fellow South African and author Peter Elliott has just completed a new biography of Larrabee after two years of extensive research.

Elliott, retiring to the South of France after a distinguished career as a London-based corporate attorney, began his new vocation as a writer on history and art, and had stumbled on Larrabee’s war photography while researching South Africa’s role in World War II.

Awed by their composition and warmth, Peter has meticulously tracked down every one of Constance’s documentary projects as well as applied a critical appraisal of her work, including a few myths she created along the way on her technique, in the newly released Constances: One Road to Take: The Life and Photography of Constance Stuart Larrabee published by Cantaloup Press.

Through the wonders of technology, the Spy interviewed Peter via Skype from his home in Languedoc, France to talk about Constance, her photography, and the lasting legacy of her work.

This video is approximately twenty-eight minutes in length. Constance: One Road to Take: The Life and Photography of Constance Stuart Larrabee can be purchased at the Book Plate in Chestertown or on Amazon here.



A Hole In The Ground by George Merrill


If the New Years’ experience is nothing else, it’s our collective indulgence in nostalgia.

We all know that feeling of sweet aching, a yearning for some aspects of our past, however we interpreted them. The word nostalgia means coming home. And of course, ‘home’ begs the question: just where is home? Is home somewhere way back there that I’ve left behind, or is it located up ahead of me where I have not yet arrived? Is a homecoming a retreat? An advance? Or might it be just standing where I am and really know the place.

I suspect it’s all of the above. Home is wherever the heart is.

When I was a boy, I wrote a message on a piece of yellow lined paper and placed it in a can that once held tennis balls. I dug a hole in the ground and buried it in the hayfields behind our house. I cannot remember what I wrote although I remember the yellow lined paper. I wanted the finder to know something, but for the life of me I cannot recall what it was. I do recall feeling powerfully driven to leave a message hidden for someone one day to discover. I would describe the feeling as one of nostalgia and a fleeting sense of life’s hidden connections that emerge to surprise me. Creating my time capsule was inspired perhaps by stories I’d read about people finding bottles on beaches, set adrift by someone unknown far away. I’ve wondered whether it was my way of leaving a piece of me behind that would outlast my days, a primal yearning perhaps for immortality, a statement across time that bears witness to the fact that I had once been here.

I recently retrieved copies of old newspapers I saved from New Year’s Day, Y2K; specifically, the Washington Post and The Staten Island Advance. They represented the worlds of my past on the Island, and my present home in St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore. I saved them thinking the millennium was an epic event and it might be interesting years later to see what our concerns were when it first came.

It turned out it wasn’t how we would fare in the new millennium, but how our electronics would. The bogey man then was the fear of the Millennium Bug, a problem in the coding of computerized systems that was projected to create havoc in computers and computer networks around the world at the beginning of the year.

The evolution of our computerized systems has in fact created havoc, not coding issues as such, but the impact electronics have brought to every conceivable aspect of modern life. Few would consider leaving their homes today without taking their cell phones than they’d consider leaving the house without clothes.

I saw in that edition of the Post that I was not alone in my desire to put time capsules in the earth. One headline read: “A time capsule from the people of the year 2000 to those of the year 3000.” The national millennial time capsule in D.C. contained among other things, a piece of the Berlin Wall, a Hostess Twinkie, a WWII helmet and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet.” How the contents for time capsules were chosen is not clear. The contents of some raise the question in my mind of just what were they thinking.

Take for example the Billings Montana Campfire Girls Adventure Group 33; they sealed a time capsule in l976 to be opened 2076 Tercentennial. That they included a Princess telephone, a digital watch seems understandable, but a box of bullets was odd. Was it something like squirrels who bury acorns to be retrieved when the going gets tough? Maybe the bullets have something to do with the girls being called “Adventure Group 33,” or do the bullets suggest the incipient stages of the #metoo movement.

In 1976, a time capsule was buried at the Los Angeles Bicentennial to be opened in 2076. The contents included one of Cher’s dresses, a pet rock, a skateboard and Laker Jerry West’s No. 44 basketball jersey.” Mostly Frippery in my opinion.

A Time Capsule commemorating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. was sealed in 1988 and slated to be opened in 2088. Here the contents seem appropriate; personal possessions of a great man, audio cassettes of the 80’s and recordings of the significant speeches of the civil rights era.

The Westinghouse time capsule sealed at the 1939 World’s Fare (I was there), was slated to be opened in 6939. Why so far into the future I can’t imagine. It contained no remarkable items or any whimsical material, but microfilm, news reels, fabrics and, presciently, seeds.
Since science is creating hybrids all the time, studying the characteristics of the original seeds might teach us how life mutates over time, perhaps like preserving the bones of a pre-historic man.

Most American time capsules from the 19th and 20th centuries contained a Bible, stamps, coins, newspapers and an American flag. Some offer predictions about how life will be when they are opened.

On the front page of The Washington Post’s millennial edition I read; “Yeltsin Resigns: Premier Putin Assumes Power Pending Election. He’s here to stay.

What became of my own time capsule that I sealed and placed in the ground in 1944? In 1945, the field was bull dozed for a housing development. No doubt my statement to the world was lost to development. As silly as it may sound, although I have no idea what I wanted to tell the world in my time capsule, I felt a twinge of nostalgia when I remembered placing it in the ground while I entertained the hope that one day it would be found and my words would become a part of someone else’s story.

That kind of moment is more than just a hole in the ground.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Sick as a Dog


I guess we partied a little too hearty. Mr. Friday came home with a cold just as the Christmas holidays began. And being ever so thoughtful and caring, he shared the germs with me. The cold has mushroomed into massive congestion, sneezing and coughing. There are multiple Kleenex boxes in every room of the house.

Imagine what the holiday was like for poor Luke the wonder dog, as he tied the apron bow, and got out the cookbooks so he could make some chicken soup to hurry our healing process. He’s such a good dog. This is a reminder to be kind to our faithful companions! And since we can’t teach an old dog new tricks, luckily for us, Luke knows his way around the kitchen. These are the words that he dictated to me, as he stood on the stool, chopping vegetables and measuring out cups of rice.

“A word to the wise: you are going to need chicken soup sooner or later this winter. And, no, it will never taste as good as your mother’s. It will ward off the flu, and will ease the aches and pains of that miserable head cold. And soon, you will feel right as rain.” (I wonder if it is only Luke who is partial to clichés or if all dogs are prone, like food writers?)

I can see Maurice Sendak will hovering behind Luke, proudly, as he measures out the rice. And soon we will be slipping on the sliding ice, sipping our own chicken soup with rice. Maybe Luke will end up with Max and the wild things, stirring soup on a well-drawn pen and ink stove.

Luke recommends:

Homemade Chicken Stock

1 deboned chicken carcass, including skin
OR 1 whole chicken (do not give the poor dog a bone, no matter how eloquent he is, or how mournfully he looks at you)
6 quarts water
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 carrots, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

1. Use a large stock pot, and add butter and chicken over medium heat. Brown them a little bit.
2. Add all the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil.
3. Boil for 3 minutes, then turn heat down to low.
4. Cover, and simmer for about 3-4 hours, stirring every once in a while.
5. Once it’s a golden color, strain and let cool. Put in the refrigerator overnight, then skim the fat off the top.
6. I am a big believer in Baggies for storage – none of the lid issues that are inherent in Tupperware, and certainly easily dealt with – out they go! Place in the freezer until ready for use.

Chicken Soup (not completely homemade – but sometimes a dog is on deadline and life has to go on)

Olive oil
Half an onion, minced
2 carrots, finely diced
Bay leaf
A sprig of fresh thyme, or a few shakes of dried
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup uncooked, long grain rice (or, if you are a noodle family, have your wicked way with them)
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken

1. Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.
2. Add onion and carrot, and sauté till soft, 5-7 minutes.
3. Add bay leaf, thyme, and chicken broth, and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce to a simmer and add rice and chicken.
5. Let soup bubble, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

Note from Luke:
This will be much better than Lipton’s Chicken Noodle dried-powder and freeze-dried chicken bits! And certainly better than Campbell’s. Have you ever looked at those pinkish chicken nubbins? Well, you were probably feverish and anything warm was going to do the trick.

And now, thanks to Luke, you have a nice, comforting stash of stock in your freezer, and you are ready for that rainy, sneezy, sniffling, no-good, terrible day. I remember the glory days, back in elementary school, when I could stay home, bundled up on the sofa with a blanket, a pillow, a box of Kleenex and jelly glass of ginger ale with a bent paper straw. I reveled in spending a feverish day napping in front of the black and white TV. If you are lucky when you succumb to this year’s stay-home-from-school cold maybe Bewitched and The Dick Van Dyke Show will be on the internets!

Luke has taken good care of us. Mr. Friday has almost stopped sneezing and gone back to the office, and I am tottering around the house starting to take the Christmas decorations down. But later this afternoon, Luke and I are going to curl up on the sofa, catching up on the Christmas movies we were too miserable to watch last week. Happy New Year!

“If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater suggest that he wear a tail.”
Fran Lebowitz