Chameleons

horseIn the early 1970s, Bill packed up his family and left the south side of Chicago – where he had lived his entire life, along with bad, bad Leroy Brown – and moved to the Wild, Wild West of Denver, Colorado. I’m pretty sure the engine of his station wagon wasn’t even cool before he went out and bought a pick-up truck, a horse, a trailer, and a pair of cowboy boots. It was Colorado, after all, and that’s how he rolls.

Quite frankly, my dad did the same thing when he moved to Leadville, Colorado, in 1974. While living almost an entire life in Columbus, Nebraska, doesn’t exactly qualify a person to be a city slicker, the reality was that though we lived in a farm community, we weren’t farmers. We didn’t raise crops. We didn’t feed cattle. Mom and Dad were business owners and town folk.

But when Dad bought the bakery in Colorado, the owner also offered to sell him a horse and a horse trailer.

Done.

So we were the proud (?) owners of Mike-the-Horse. None of us rode horses. In fact, horses made me fairly nervous (now that’s a shocker), though it didn’t make much difference since for the time the Gloor family owned a horse, I was still attending the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

I’m pretty sure it was my brother’s responsibility to take care of the horse. Clearly, as the bakery was in the city limits of Leadville, Mike was stabled elsewhere. So my brother – who would have been maybe junior high age – had to somehow get to the stable, feed the horse, and probably give him a bit of exercise as well.

Mike didn’t live with the Gloors for long. I’m not sure what happened to him. I’m hoping he was sold to a nice horse-loving family and not to Purina. Let’s go with that.

For a period of time while still living in Columbus, Mom and Dad bought a cabin at Wagner’s Lake. I believe for the most part, Wagner’s Lake now is mostly the location of permanent residents, but back in the 60s, there were a lot of just rudimentary cabins. We owned one of them.

We actually spent a surprising amount of time at our cabin at Wagner’s Lake, though I have no recollection of ever sleeping there. Since Columbus was fairly small and you could drive anywhere in the town in less than 15 minutes, it likely made no sense to my mom to sleep at the cabin (which might be home to mice or other critters) when in 10 minutes she could be at home sleeping in her own comfortable bed. I’m with you all the way, Mom.

But, like Mike-the-horse in Leadville, this cabin either included or had thrown in at a bargain basement price a small motor boat. I don’t want you to even BEGIN envisioning a fancy boat with which you could water ski or even cruise around the lake drinking beer and eating sandwiches. It was a crappy-looking boat with a small engine that required Dad to pull on a starter rope – over and over again — to get the engine started. It was basically a floating lawn mower.

My cousin John tells a funny story about Dad inviting some of our relatives to the cabin to celebrate some holiday or other. Dad was apparently very excited to take some of the men out on “the boat.” John was envisioning the fancy boat, and it was a surprise that he saw what basically amounted to an aluminum can. When they all got on the boat, it would barely move because of the weight. I’m pretty sure the story includes getting hung up on a sand bar out in the middle of the lake. I’m SURE it includes beer.

The boat – like Mike-the-horse – didn’t last long. The cabin lasted until they moved to Colorado. We learned that a cabin can be fun if you simply suck up to the neighbors and use THEIR boat!

Given my dad’s and my husband’s stories, I guess you can take the man out of the testosterone but you can’t take the testosterone out of the man.

Mom’s Soup

chickpea minestroneAs promised, here is my second meatless meal recipe…..

I’ve talked before about Mom and Dad’s brave move to Leadville, Colorado, from Columbus, Nebraska, in the mid-70s. For as long as I remember, they had wanted to live in the Colorado mountains that they loved so much. The bakery in Leadville is what finally presented itself to them.

It wasn’t a perfect fit by any means. A while back I wrote a blog about our family’s time in Leadville. It was a rough town, largely dependent upon the molybdenum mine. Miners are a unique animal we soon learned.

But in addition to having to get used to the thin air (Leadville sits at an altitude of over 10,000 feet making for difficult breathing and short summers), my parents also had to get used to the fact that along with the bakery, there was a small coffee shop.

I’m not sure what the previous owners offered in the coffee shop. But for Gloor’s Bakery and Coffee Shop, breakfast consisted primarily of coffee and donuts or sweet rolls from the attached bakery and lunch was also simple – a few kinds of sandwiches and homemade soup.

Soup wasn’t a particularly new thing for my mom. As we grew up, she occasionally made us soup for a simple dinner or maybe a lunch treat. I remember she made vegetable beef soup with a beef shank that was absolutely delicious. I don’t think any of us have her recipe for that soup (because frankly she probably never had a recipe), but man I would like to have a bowl of it right this minute.

Anyhoo, under the direction of my mother, the Gloor Bakery Coffee Shop offered homemade soup, each day a different kind. Not endlessly different, but 10 or 12 kinds of soup that she rotated. I remember people stopping by the coffee shop in the morning to see what the soup-of-the-day was for that day, or calling to ask. Everyone had their favorite.

The soups truly were homemade from scratch. Each and every afternoon (except Saturday), Mom would make a big pot of soup for the next day. I’m sure at first this was kind of fun. After all, nothing smells better than soup simmering on the stove.

I’m here to tell you, however, that the fun wore off rather quickly and changed into drudgery. I hope that I don’t shock any of you when I tell you that my mother began referring to her soup as her “f***ing soup” as in “I’ve got to go make my f***ing soup for tomorrow.” Petite and pretty as she was, she could cuss right up there with the best of them!

And man-oh-man, was her soup ever good. She made Cream of Broccoli (which she called Broccoli Soup and I posted her recipe previously – also meatless by the way, which many of her soups were), Cream of Cauliflower, Cream of Asparagus, Clam Chowder, Beef Chili, Green Chili, Vegetable Beef, Potato, Ham-and-Bean, Minestrone, and for those warm summer THREE days or so, Gazpacho. I’m probably forgetting a few, and I’m sure my siblings will remind me.

Even writing about them makes me want to go cook up a pot of soup today. I only have her recipe for a few of them, unfortunately.

Here is a recipe I found for Chickpea Minestrone. As I write this, I’m 900 miles away from my mother’s Minestrone Soup recipe (one of the few soup recipes I have), but as a recall, her minestrone also contained chickpeas, pasta and no meat. However, this was a good version, and it comes from Vegetarian Times….

minestrone