On Being Vegetarian

Eat VegMy wife and I became vegetarian close to twenty-five years ago. We were living in Alpharetta, Ga. at the time. We were never big meat eaters, though I loved my hamburgers, and good Italian sausage which at the time, this was in the early 1990’s, was hard to find in Georgia, the Italian sausage not the burgers. Anyway, for dinner we generally ate chicken, turkey cutlets, fish and pasta. One day, my wife, Dorothy made the big announcement, “I’m not cooking meat anymore.”  I not sure what reaction she expected, but I said okay, since the chicken, turkey and fish dishes were becoming less and less anyway. Dorothy gave up meat and fish completely, while I hung on to eating hamburgers, chicken burgers and tuna sandwiches for lunch. It wasn’t long before meat burgers of any sort  were gone, though I clung on to eating fish on and off for a period of time.

vegetarian-graphic1These days, and its been twenty years or so, I don’t eat meat or fish. I’m vegetarian. Dorothy has moved on even further becoming vegan. We do it for two reasons, the cruelty, the utter unnecessary killing of animals, and also for our health. Red meat is a killer. Processed meats are a killer. Even if you eat meat, you should never eat processed meats (bacon, corned beef, ham, hot dogs, beef jerky, salami, sausage, and others.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I am not going to preach or try to convert (maybe a little bit on the latter; I am just telling my story and how easy it is these days to eat vegetarian. You can eat excellent, tasty, and  healthy foods without animals having to die.

When we first became vegetarians, the choices were much more limited. Maybe there was one or two companies that made veggie burgers. Honestly, they were okay, but not great. One early experience we had was with vegetarian meatballs. As I mentioned earlier, we were living in Alpharetta, Ga. at the time and we were eating pasta a few  times a week; primavera and with a red non-meat sauce. I am of Italian decent and grew up with the tradition that when you had pasta with red sauce, there were meatballs. Well, we found a company somewhere, I don’t remember where, that made non-meat meatballs. We mailed away for a box. It turned out to be a powdery mix where you had to add water, and shape the ingredients into little balls and then cook them. They were terrible! Bland is being kind. That was the end of the meatball experiment. At least for a while.

Today there are many, many choices like Gardein, a company that makes a wide variety of frozen vegetarian products including meatless meatballs, turkey and chicken cutlets. Gardein has become our go to product for many items. Dr, Prager’s, Field Roast, Tofurky are a few other good brands. Like with any food, you have shop and find what you like best. Today, all these products and more, are found in just about any local supermarket. You don’t have to mail away for anything.

Tuscan Kale

Portobello Mushroom with Tuscan Kale and Sweet Potato

My wife likes to find vegetarian recipes that are not too hard to prepare, and most importantly are delicious. Her most recent examples included portobello mushrooms, one of which is pictured above.

Many people are under the assumption that if you are vegetarian all you eat is salads and tofu. Most good restaurants can and will cater to a vegetarian lifestyle, there are still a few places that sadly do not, and they help perpetuate the notion that its salad or nothing.

If there are any vegetarians out there reading this, I would like to hear from you. Why did you switch? What favorites do you have?

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

Maine’s Pemaquid Point Lighthouse was commissioned by President John Quincy Adams in 1827 and was built that same year. Construction did not go well due to the use of salt water in the mortar mix. In less than ten years the structure began to fall apart and was replaced by a second Lighthouse in 1835.

The lighthouse was voted by the state’s residents to be featured on the Maine quarter as part of the 50 State Quarters Program issued by the U.S. Mint. The program began in 1999. Maine’s quarter was the 23rd in the series, issued in 2003.

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Humpback Whale Taking the Big Dive

Humpback whales are beautiful, graceful and  majestic mammals ranging 40 to 60 feet in length, weighting as much as 44 tons. We were fortunate to catch a couple of Humpbacks on a recent trip to Boothbay Harbor in Maine.

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The Puffins of Eastern Egg Rock Island

A recent trip to Boothbay Harbor in Maine provided my wife and me with the opportunity for a boat trip to Eastern Egg Rock Island, an Audubon Society run sanctuary for Atlantic Puffins. The day was beautiful, a little cool out in the ocean, but more important was the number of Puffins that made themselves available to us to photograph.  They are uniquely colorful looking creatures, only about ten inches in length.

No one is allowed to land on the island, except for Audubon employees and volunteers, so we had to shoot from the boat. Subsequently, the distance and the rocking of the boat made photographing a bit challenging at times. Still, with a little bit of luck and assistance from the Puffins, we got the shots.

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Devious Tales

My thanks to author Carol Balawyder for the wonderful review of DEVIOUS TALES, my short story collection.

Carol Balawyder

There’s a saying in writing: make every word count or at the very least have every paragraph/scene be relevant. This can be argued, especially for the novel where there is room for sub-plots and leisure strolls through gardens and having tea with a favorite aunt. Not so for the short story. Short stories are (generally) tight, concentrated and condensed.

John Greco’s latest collection of short stories, Devious Tales has all the technical markings of this form and Greco skillfully merges his skill as writer and photographer in these twelve snapshots of life.

His stories are also highly influenced by his passion for noir film and fiction. His short story Late Night Diner reminded me of the rural diner in James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and I immediately associated his story The Organic Garden to one Stephen King could have written because of its macabre and conniving ending.


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Book Review – Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

JacksonWhen the 2016 best books of the year lists were compiled, Ruth Franklin’s biography of author Shirley Jackson was conspicuously listed on many of those lists; you couldn’t help but take notice. Jackson, if you are unaware, is best known for her novel The Haunting of Hill House, and her short story The Lottery. The book is extremely well researched with Ms. Franklin given access to many of Jackson’s journals, drafts, notes, letters, and more than 50 unpublished works as well as interviews that she did during her career.

At the time Jackson was growing up, and later as an adult, she lived in a world where men were the dominant force. She came from a prominent family living in the San Francisco area. Her father was an upwardly mobile businessman who rose to CEO in his company. This eventually led to relocating him and his family to Rochester, New York. At the  time, Shirley was still in her teens. Her parents travelled in the upper class circles of the community. Unfortunately, for Shirley, she was not born the petite feminine debuntant her mother’s world encompassed. Shirley was high-strung, creative and untidy. She would spend much time alone, with books, and her thoughts.  Her relationship with he mother was a lifetime of emotional abuse even after she became a successful author. Shirley would forever be the outsider no matter where she lived. She married Stanley Hyman, a brash professor, noted literary critic, writer for The New Yorker, and serial philanderer who like her mother emotionally abused his wife. He also taught, encouraged, dominated and infuriated her.

Unlike many women from her time, Jackson had to manage both a family life; husband, a house full of kids, and a professional career, in this case as a writer. This duel existence was still a rarity and was frowned upon by many who believed a woman’s place should only be in the home. Franklin examines both sides of Jackson’s life, and how each of these separate worlds would influence the other. Jackson would extract many incidents  from her private life finding both the humorous and darker side of what a women’s world was like in mid-20th Century America. Many  would make their way into her novels. It was not always a pretty picture. This is understandable considering her rocky relationship with her own mother, the fact that she was married to a serial philander, and the problems she sometimes faced in the various communities where they lived with neighbors, especially after the publication of The Lottery. In Bennington, Vermont where they moved after Stanley accepted a teaching position at Bennington College, they were met with suspicion by the residents whose families went back generations. Going to the grocery store  or gas station  was an ordeal as neighbors viewed them with  distrust and misgivings.

While Jackson is best remembered for her psychological horror tales, I was surprised by her range when I discovered she had many jobs writing humorous semi-autobiographical family stories for women’s magazines.  These stories were eventually compiled in two books, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons.

Like most people, Shirley Jackson was a multi-layered individual, and Ruth Franklin’s book digs deep into many of these layers; her loneliness, dispair, successes, humor,   disappointments, and her demons which would eventually catch up with her.