Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vanilla Bean-Pear Jelly. Not pear jam, pear butter, NOR preserves. Jelly...

Ping!  There went the third jar of jelly sealing.  I've made vanilla bean-pear jelly this afternoon.  It's a departure from the normal processing of one of the South's favorite fresh fruits this time of year:  the pear.

 Most folks down here put up pear halves for classic pear salad, pears in light syrup for cobblers and pies, pear butter, and pear preserves.  They're all canning endeavors worthy of the praise they'll reap when the weather gets cold and late-summer days are long forgotten.  But me being me and all, I had to put a spin on normal and went looking for another use for pears.  Pear jelly.  I found several recipes, and along with the one for apples in the Sure-Jell box, kind of developed this one.  If you have this exact recipe and call it yours, rest assured it is a matter of happy coincidence.  You're going to have to kiss my grits share the claim 'cause I've LOOKED for it and couldn't find it anywhere except scrawled on the back of the bank envelope it was written on.

Pear juice?  Did I buy it?  Why no, Silly!  The pears drove up to the back porch last week via a cousin.  I cooked the pear juice from the peels and cores of a grocery bag full of pears.  I didn't weigh them.  I know I should have but winging it aka guesstimation, is one of those things this Southern gurl does best.  I saved the pear flesh for Pineapple Pear Spread (Preserves).

That's the compost bucket in the bottom left hand corner.  And that porcelain on steel pot was too small so I used the canning kettle instead.

Cover the pear peels and cores with water.  Don't ask.  I don't know how much water;  as much water as is necessary to cover the peels and cores by 'bout an inch.  Cooking really isn't rocket science.  If you use lots more water, you'll have lots more juice but it won't be as flavorful.

Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the cores have turned mostly translucent.

Pour off the pear juice.  I didn't put this through the Foley food mill.  Sometimes when seeds aren't involved, I will.  Mashing seeds often releases some kind of bitter something or another.  It'll make the nastiest jelly you've ever wasted sugar on.  Be careful with seeds.

I like jelly to be clear, free of any fruit particulates.  It takes clear juice to do that so I strain it through a double thickness of cheesecloth.  PPppfffft!  Not really.  Cheesecloth is too sophisticated for this kitchen.  I use a doubled over birdseye diaper -- never used on a baby's bottom and perfect for straining!

See... I had enough pears for THREE posts!  Isn't that exciting?  I'll be making Ms. Mona's pear honey and her recipe like Aunt Selma's for Pear Pineapple Spread.  

Put the diaper in another jug or deep dish of some sort and pour the juice in.
I know you're impressed  surprised with the action shot and that I've enough strength in the left hand to hold a gallon of juice while photographing with my right hand.  It's all those fry line maneuvers during WORK work.  I got skills!!  Who knew?

I like to squeeze every last drop of juice out of the diaper.  There wasn't much pulp in it, but it doesn't take much to cloud the jelly.  And it does look like a baby wore the diaper after all, doesn't it?

Finally.  Jelly time.  Split the beans and scrape the seed into the juice.
I made an "M!"  Go ahead and put the beans on in there too, adding the box of Sure-Jell and stirring until it's dissolved.  The vanilla seeds will be kind of clumpy here, but don't worry -- they'll soon cook apart.  Mama tells me I ought not add the pectin until it's in the pot but I've found, using these big measuring cups, that I can see that it's all dissolved and not have any pasty surprises on the bottom of the pot.

Make sure everything else is together:  jars sterilized, bands and lids ready, sugar (7 cups) measured out, canning funnel and everything all in one spot.

I like putting the jars in the microwave with hot water in them, keeping the microwave running on medium power.  It keeps the jars hot and sterilized and right where I need them.  OOOoo... Don't forget the clean damp cloth to wipe the rims of the jars with before sealing either!

Also, don't get so overzealous you forgot you moved the dog's food and water.

From this point on, proceed like any other jelly, bringing the juice with added pectin to a boil.

Add sugar.  Time for one minute after rolling boil has been reached.

Take out vanilla beans and skim foam from jelly, eating foam immediately on the softest white bread with every unhealthy additive imagined available at your local Piggly Wiggly.  There wasn't any foam this time!  How'd that happen??  There's a rule written somewhere stating that no batch of jelly is complete without eating a sampling of it on white sliced bread.  Quality control or something or another.  I ate jelly this evening.

Pour hot jelly into jars, wipe rims, put on lids and seal!  Tadadaaaaa!

That's eight, almost nine, half pints.  Or four and a half pints.  That jelly in the pint jar is mine.

So there you have it, Ms. Mary!  Vanilla Bean-Pear Jelly.  If you're a jelly maker you'll want to do this.  If you're NOT a jelly maker,  you'll want to do this.  It is the star of the gift basket.  Unless crabapple jelly is your favorite.  And then you'd have to talk to Mama...

Those ingredients again for Vanilla Bean-Pear Jelly are:
5 cups of pear juice
7 cups of granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans
1 box of Sure-Jell.

Y'all saw it getting put together so carry the laptop to the kitchen and try it yourself.  You'll be glad you did!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stopping By the Road on a Late-Summer Day: Picking Crabapples With Mama

Mama has crabapples to process tonight.  We stopped out on Highway 57 close to the Neely Road, where the wonderfully tart small fruit were spotted yesterday on our way to Hattiesburg.  Mama is 82.  She will be 83 in December.  She's at that age that every day she's a little slower, a little more stooped, slightly more forgetful (but don't tell her I said this) and older.  She's old.  

I think I see age settling exponentially upon her but she always manages to find the strength and ability to do what she wants, when she wants, in the manner she wishes.  She wanted to stop yesterday to pick crabapples but the dermatology appointment was waiting and she also had new lenses to be fitted in her glasses from the optometry appointment last week.  

We left Hattiesburg and drove to Lucedale to WalMart, bypassing 57 and the trees.  This morning, grumbling from the stiffness yesterday's doctor's visits had left her with, she rode with me out to Neely to pick up our Angel Food boxes at the little church there.  We discussed the crabapples again.  Rather, she discussed the fact that it would be another year without crabapple jelly because she doubted we would get back over that way.  Actually, we didn't discuss anything; she was, in her perfect passive-aggressive manner, stating that there would be no crabapple jelly this year because she wasn't going to get anywhere to pick them that I would carry her to.  Thinking about this a moment, I suggested we make the loop back through Neely and out to Highway 57.  Mama looked at me and started digging plastic grocery sacks out of the glove compartment.  Thoughts of being Favorite Child for one more day before summer ended quickly entered my mind.

This is the third time we've stopped at these same trees.  The first time was 1992.  Mama had had outpatient knee surgery at Methodist Hospital in Hattiesburg.  I didn't know about the knee surgery until a few days before it was scheduled.  I knew Mama had been having pain and problems with her knee, but she hadn't told me she had been to a doctor OR a surgeon.  Not a peep.  My brother, Joe, called on Sunday before the surgery on Thursday to see who was going to take her to the hospital and be with her for the following days after.  Whhhhat?  I called Mama.  She said she didn't want to be a bother and that someone would carry her.  Mmhhhmmmm...I quickly made arrangements for Michael's care and John Robert and I drove to Leakesville on Wednesday.  John Robert and Mama's relationship is quite another story for another day.  

He never wanted to come back to Grenada or Oxford from his MawMaw's house in Leakesville.  At the tender age of two he wanted to take care of her and there was no leaving him behind.  We left him with Mrs. Janet the morning of the surgery and Mama spotted those crabapple trees on the way to Hattiesburg.  

Her endoscopic surgery, to repair torn ligaments, was uneventful.  Three hours after arriving at the hospital, she'd forfeited the ice chips for a cup of coffee and was awake, although still a little groggy, and ready to go home.  There's a mandatory time period a patient is required to spend in post operative recovery.  Mama asked for and got her clothes and was sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed, waiting to be released well before her time there was up.  

They gave her a pain pill to keep her comfortable on the ride home:  Vicodin.  She was expediently released and made comfortable on the back seat of the car, her knee bandaged, braced, and elevated.  She was still thirsty and we stopped on Hardy Street for a cola - and then she started talking.  She talked.  And she talked. And at the point I thought she might drift off to sleep she started talking again.  The vicodin had completely wired her!  We turned on to Highway 57 toward Leakesville and she became animated with talk of the crabapples.  Jabber jabber jabber jabber jabber!!!! 

I was NOT stopping, trying to get her home and all I heard was "Slow down!  I want to see if they're still there!"  "How do you expect me to see them in the back seat with you going so fast?"  "We need to stop so you can pick some!" "I'll show you how to make the jelly, but we need to stop first and get crabapples."  Mama will wear you slap down when you least expect it.  I slowed down and the trees were still there, each branch loaded with the small fruit, hanging in clusters like little yellow Christmas balls on Charlie Brown's sincere tree.  

 I stopped and got out to scramble up the bluff to shake the trees.  Turning around, there's Mama:  out of the car with a peppermint candy bag, book store bag, and the convenience store bag all in hand, headed toward the little embankment the trees are growing on!  There's no stopping her.  The Vicodin not only made her oblivious to pain, it also created a level of energized euphoria only dreamt of by drug addicts! 

 I kept trying to get her off the bluff but she continued to tell me she felt fine, she was fine, she wasn't putting any weight on her freshly operated-on knee, she just wanted those few more crabapples right over there.  

It takes me a lot of talking to convince Mama of anything, but I finally convinced her to get off the shaved side of the hill and let me shake the trees.  She could pick up the ones on the ground.  

And she did.  Enough of them that my hands became stiff and store from slicing the firm flesh off the core to make the precious jelly with.  Mama really was fine, too.  She didn't take any of the pain medications sent home with her,  preferring her old standard, Bayer Aspirin.  Two days post-surgery she wasn't even taking those.  Her knee healed without any complications and is still fine.

Mama and I giggle a lot about her crabapple picking that day.  We laughed about it yesterday and snickered about it this morning as she was again, half way up the little embankment, picking crabapples...

Today's post was written exactly a year and a day ago.  I thought of it this morning, as we stopped to pick crab apples by the side of the road coming back from the opthamologist office.   Mama has crab apples, again, to process tonight.  And I get to be Favorite Child again for at least the rest of the day...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pan Fried Bananas? In the Deep South? Introducing Southern Pan Fried Bananas

Oh yeah!  Pan fried bananas.  And not just in any pan and certainly not with just any ol' oil either.  A little cast iron griddle, bacon grease, and bananas have made an incredible side dish for a seared steak today.  Well.  It was actually a couple of weeks ago, but I took photos so we can pretend it was today.

**Tangent warning:  I'm about to get side-tracked for a paragraph.**

I knew from the get-go that I wouldn't be a daily blogger:  responsibilities and time limitations won't allow for it.  I also seldom cook for myself any more.  Sometimes I have a twinge of  something or another when other foodies ask "What's for dinner/supper/tapas?" and I haven't any response.  I'd as soon eat a fried egg sandwich noon and night as cook a meal just for me, washed down with a pot of coffee in the morning and a quart of iced tea or ice water in the evening.  Let the holidays get cranked up and I'll try my best to post a few favorite recipes in the making -- keyword there is try.  Truth be told (don't you LOVE when folks say that as if every other thing said weren't the truth?) I'm really not that much of a food blogger but for the fact that I can cook, turn a decent phrase, and I bake a bunch of cakes over the course of a year's time.

All that to say, I was excited to find a whole bag of bananas for $1.00 at the Pig a couple of weeks ago.  They're normally $.79 a pound.  A frazzling pound!!!  I like bananas.  I think they're one of the most perfect fruits ever, being easy to get into, consume, and dispose of the peeling.  I can almost do it one handed and certainly need no equipment to eat one.  Aside from their high glycemic index value, they're full of potassium and fiber and are yellow, a primary color (and who doesn't like primary colors?).  These are freckled with ripeness.  I like them this way (perfect for mushing into peanut butter).

I also purchased a package of thin sirloin steaks.  They were in the green meats, also know as "reduced for quick sale."  I'll buy beef that way, the bit of discoloration caused by oxidization of iron in the beef blood.  Tastes great!  I like to season it or put it in marinade and put it in on in the freezer.  I don't know why I picked up the thin sirloin -- it's hardly steak by our inch-and-a-quarter-thick definition, guess the price was right.

ANNNnnnnnyways.  Three or four bananas went into a batch of spiced banana nut bread.  Three or four bananas went into an easy banana cobbler that I had seen the recipe for on someone's blog.  I'd encourage you to try it.  It's that easy peach cobbler only made with bananas:  a cup of sugar, a cup of margarine (or butter) melted in the pan, a cup of flour and a cup of milk.  I put three bananas in the freezer for a later batch of nut bread and had four left.  And thin sirloin steaks.

I got to wondering how pan fried bananas would be as a side dish.  Lots of cuisines have fried bananas.  Could I make a Deep South fried banana?  Why, yes!  Yes I could.  Bacon grease is necessary so if you've been looking for a reason to buy bacon and cook and consume it, a driving desire for Southern Pan Fried Bananas is your excuse.

You'll need a skillet or a good heavy frying pan that holds and distributes heat well.  This is the cast iron griddle Mama gave me for a birthday.  I think she's given new cast iron pots and frying pans over the years to keep me from sneaking taking hers that have the seasoning of time firmly coated in them.

That's a good blop of bacon grease on the griddle.  How much is a blop?  It's enough to coat the skillet and both sides of a cut ripe banana with a little left over to cook a steak -- probably two tablespoons.

It's not rocket science, folks, although there is some science to it.  You need a good pan with excellent heat distribution attributes 'cause the bananas are going to be seared and pan fried in the same moment using a medium high temperature. The bananas are already ripe and soft but not mushy.  I don't want mushy bananas as a side dish.  A nice firm caramelized crust with the same texture as an uncooked banana is desired here.  A low heat cooking temperature will make for a goopy nasal-mucous-y looking banana.  Seriously!  How do I know what a lower temperature cooked banana looks like?  Shall I answer that with another question (Hhhhha!  I just did {I really do slay me sometimes})??  How do you think I know to use a higher temperature? I didn't even save the photo from the first batch.  We eat our mistakes in this kitchen so if you like baby-food consistency adult foods go ahead and cook it slow and low; it tastes fine but the texture is unpleasant.

Peel, slice and quarter the bananas.  Mine quartered themselves as I was flipping them so if you do it in this step you'll save fetching the split banana from the edge of the pan and the fire.

The griddle has been heated to a medium-high temperature where a drop of water dances and sizzles across it, evaporating within seconds.  The bacon grease is added after the griddle is hot.  It isn't smoking but it's pretty close to it.

Add the sliced bananas.  Within a few seconds the edges will be fried and you can see the natural sugars beginning to caramelize.  Make yourself count to ten slowly and flip the bananas.

The aroma here was a most pleasant surprise.  It reminded me very much of Bananas Foster with the added element of the smoky bacon smell.  I had to try out a few bites and discovered a slight sprinkle of coarse salt completed all the flavors.

Pan frying a thin steak to rare is impossible.  For me.  Two minutes on one side and a minute on the other was still too long.

I had to settle for medium for the green sirloin steaks but they were tasty and the side of pan fried bananas was delightful, the previously unthought of marriage of flavors between the two a sensory discovery.

A young friend was over the next morning and I again pan fried bananas and served on top of the spiced banana nut bread that had been sliced and toasted (in bacon grease) on the griddle.  It. Was. Awesome!

Make it healthier if you must, with vegetable oils.  It's not my business what you do once you make it your own (as long as you're not plagiarizing).  Try it with bacon grease just once, though.  It'll be worth every artery-clogging molecule of plaque.  I promise....

Those ingredients again are:
2 to 4 tablespoons bacon grease
multiple bananas
light sprinkle of coarse salt

Heat griddle or pan to medium high temperature.  I could go on a google search to tell you what this will be but instead, I'll tell you to have a cup of water ready to drip a drop of water in the pan.  When the water dances and sizzles and dissipates in a matter of ten to fifteen seconds the pan is hot enough.

Add the blop of bacon grease, swirling it to quickly melt and coat the pan.   When it's hot and almost smoking (perhaps a minute at this point) add the bananas.  Let cook on one side, watching for coloration to begin on the edge of the banana.  Flip and cook another few moments.

Serve with a light sprinkle of coarse salt.  I like coarse salt to finish a dish.  I like the way there's a bite and explosion of salt in my mouth that quickly spreads across the palate to season the food.  Coarse salt is the ONLY way to go with these pan fried bananas.

Y'all enjoy!

And here's a cake made for a young fellow that's frequented this front porch.  He's a Reese's Peanut Butter cup fanatic.  The cake is chocolate, the filling is fluffernutter and cream filling, with fudge icing.  Peanut butter cups and kit kat bars complete the decoration.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Exactly what IS the Blog on Fire Award???

I'm sorry.  I've not actually procrastinated getting a post done on who to pass the Blog on Fire Award to.  I know who my favorite bloggers are.  It's taken a little bit of time to look at what the award actually means and how it's transferred (or more like snowballed) forward.  It's a cool looking photo award and as quick as I can figure out how to get it on the blog and FB fan page, I'll sure stick it on there:

My friend, Chris, passed the award to me, along with nine other foodies here:   http://cookingwithkick.blogspot.com/2011/07/mud-pie-aka-chocolate-cobbler-and-award.html.  I was tickled!  It was a first.  At my age, a first anything is cause for celebration.

I went looking for Blog on Fire rules.   A google search revealed several thousand hits for the research.   Is it just a foodie award?  Is there an official award clearing house?  Are there other stipulations that go with receiving it?  It seems to be a Facebook Award folks, the excitement of receiving it from a peer (a Southern gurl like me, too!) as great as if I had received it from the President.  Or the pope.  Or even Walter Cronkite.

Some of the google search results showed a revealing "seven things:"  seven previously undisclosed bits of information about the recipient.  Some of those bloggers' information was in question and answer form.  I thought that was a bit odd as I read through them.  I kept expecting to hear Alex Trebek saying "Personal Trivia for 1,000 Mayree."  I also thought the seven things was fun, too, so here are seven little-known facts and photos about yours truly and then I'll pass on the Blog on Fire Awards:

1.  I have a dog.  He's a Labradoodle, five years old now, and his name is Beaudeux.  He's quite a clown and loves having his picture taken.

2.  Green is my favorite color.  I love it.

3.  I play the piano.  I began taking lessons when I was six years old and continued through three years of college.  I canNOT play worth a flip by ear but put a piece of music in front of me and I'll make a pretty decent show of playing/faking/getting to the end of it.

4.  I play the piano for Sunday Morning Worship Service at the church that's been a part of my life ever since I was born.  Yep.  You read right, was BORN:  Leakesville Presbyterian Church PCA.

5.  I'm an NRA certified pistol instructor (this is not a pistol, by the way). The Fellows and I participated in sport shooting for many years through the 4H Field and Stream program.  This was many years ago. I'm VERY good.  Not just for a woman, either.  This was enjoyable stuff, being able to compete in a historically male sport and best them at it.  It comes from growing up with those four brothers and doing (almost) everything they did.

6.  Most of the cheek bone and upper mandible in the left side of my face is missing, a result of the removal of several lesions caused by the rare orphan disease called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis.  When I tell you I'm warped I'm serious.  I am.  Literally...

7.  One of my favorite sounds in the whole wide world is the rain coming down on the tin roof of this old house.  I don't like rain for days and days on end the way it is in the spring but I love these afternoon summer showers.. 

Blog on Fire Awards.  I've not checked to see if these folks have been tagged with it yet or not.  If you don't know these bloggers, they're all very different from each other and entirely enjoyable in their own right.  Y'all go check them out:

Ohhhh yeah!  It's Sue Ann Gleason's Chocolate for Breakfast blog.  Are you surprised?  You shouldn't have been.  Ohhhh my!  The photos she posts!  The recipes!!!  And I actually read the articles, too!    http://www.chocolateforbreakfast.com/madeleines-au-chocolat/

Picky Palate.  I can't remember what recipe I first found on her blog, using a google search but I bookmarked the blog and keep going back to it.  This is a favorite recipe of hers that I like:

Rich and Sweet.  When I started the FB fan page hers was one of the first I visited.  I fell in love with the elegant but simple packaging of her food stuffs and the recipes???  She's a gourmet cook but makes it easy for even a Southern gurl like me to make, bake, and enjoy:

She's not a food blogger, but neither am I and I love her just the same.  Some of the things she gets into makes me feel like she might be a long lost twin. Go check out the often misadventures of Chris at the MN Farm Woman:

Krysta cracks me up ALL the time.  I pulled an awesome recipe off her site a couple of years ago.  I can't remember if it was the miniature oreo cookie cheesecakes or the chocolate chip cookie dough dip but it was one of those two.  

If you went here you might not know her:
But if you try Deep South dish, you'd recognize the 'nother Mary of the REAL Mississippi Gulf Coast (not the  almost Gulf Coast, like me).  Her blog about being 50 and more is amusing and fun, especially when her neighbors are burning leaves, but her FOOD blog is all Mississippi all the time -- even when the Cajun's influence comes in like THIS recipe, which is one of my favorites from her:

Christy Jordan doesn't need my Blog on Fire Award, won't know I was in the first two dozen 'likes' on Facebook, or even remember I brought her fried pickles when she was in Mobile signing her cookbook.  I'm proud of her and the way she's representing the South.  Along with the Deep South Dish, hers was the ONLY food blog I followed for several years.  This IS my all-time favorite of hers (and it's her mom's!):

You'll love Aimee at Shugary Sweets. I think she gets in the kitchen like I do lots of times, sees ALMOST all the stuff to make a single dish with but not ALL of it -- and comes up with something entirely different and tasty every day.  I've not made this yet but I know it's going to be awesome when I do:

I'm enjoying living and eating vicariously with Chef in Disguise.  Who knew an orthodontist could cook so frazzling well?  

ANNNND lastly, but certainly not the least, Syrup and Biscuits, another Southern gurl that doesn't need another award for kitchen skills passed down from one generation of good cooks to another.  But I do love her and when she comes home for a visit, I hope she'll give a call and we'll get together in person.  

I can't help that most of the recipes here tonight are chocolate, that's just the way it is.  Peruse their websites, check out the recipes and stories.  I know you're going to enjoy them!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ask Not for whom the cast ballot polls. It polls for thee!!

Pffft!  It must have been a long day indeed to butcher John Donne's meditation!  I've worked the polls today in Beat one, Leakesville precinct.  It was a grand day.  I was initially cold in the polling place but got hot walking around the courthouse lawn, visiting and whooping and hollering with others as a few surprising upsets occurred. Here's my day:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm cool, unusual for August.  The thermostat in here reads 72 degrees, a temperature unknown in my house or in close proximity to the fry line.  I'm also sleepy, the four hours of restless sleep not nearly long enough for today's WORK work:  certified poll worker.

There are eleven, sometimes twelve of us working the Leakesville voting precinct in the metal building that is the town's Community Center.  It smells strongly of Tidy Bowl, the blocks of crystalline aromatic odor eliminator an assault on the olfactory senses.  Nannie had us here at 5:30 this morning to plug up and load the machines, post posters, give an accounting for encoders and paper ballots.  There are PINs to be officially logged in, oaths taken, coffee consumed, pecking orders established.  Seals are broken.  Ballot boxes are locked.

Voters arrive.  A grandmother has been asked to turn her grandson-candidate's campaign T-shirt she's worn in inside out. No campaigning or campaign materials withing 150 feet of the polling place.  It's a rule.  Husbands and wives mind each other's votes in this small rural town in the Deep South.  They're within the confines of the law.  Barely.  A large city polling place would have been spastic from the behavior but not us.  We know them all personally.

The lone Board of Aldermen man asks each registered and unregistered voter, "Republican?  or Democrat?"  It's not rocket science.  For this election and the next one there is NO crossover voting - you MUST vote the party of the candidate you most greatly desire in office.  The Alderman and the precinct supervisor point simultaneously at one table or the other.  Any bystander would swear their movements were rehearsed, the timing reminscent of synchronized swimming.  I expect to see Ethel Merman and a panel of Olympic judges walk through with cards numbered from 1 to 10 with tenth increments in between to judge each pointing - voter by voter.

The Alderman says "Republicans to the right;  Democrats to the left."  That's just the way it is here.

There have been a few affidavit votes - folks swearing they were voters in this precinct but aren't on the rolls for some reason.  The cast paper ballots are put in the affidavit envelope - the vote contained within valid only if both voter and witness sign across the flap of the envelope on pre-appointed lines.  It's a rule.

It's a paying position, the day's wages sufficiently covering the loss of the two declined cake orders.  My position today is the Voter Card Coder ENcoder - Republican ballot.  Local Democrat candidates well out-number Republicans in today's vote.  I've coded less than 100 cards to Mack's 400-something-ish.  That's alright, too.  I've had time to blog, in longhand nonetheless, the day as it's unfolded.

It's voter versus card versus voting machine:  a three way round robin tournament won individually and collectively -- technology often tag-teaming against the human competitor.  The deer-in-the-headlights looks are humorously effusive.  I can almost predict from the bewildered searching for the card slot who is going to raise their head, looking for the certified voter's assistant:  looking for help.  Eye contact prompts a gray-matter-taxed raised beckoning finger.  Computerized voting machines are still a novelty in Greene County, Mississippi.

The long Democratic ticket slows the human element of the voting process.  The average registered voting citizen with a working understanding of the written language and unafraid of newfangled-ness takes approximately four minutes to vote.  Our community voters are hardly average.  It's taking them six and seven and eight minutes to cast the ballot.  Four machines share both party's votes.  The waiting time to vote is 28 minutes during the evening rush.

Friends and family, significant others and enemies are turning out to vote today.  They've come in from the periphery of the precinct to support their candidates or cancel out someone else's vote.  The characters have come out of the woodwork, so to speak.  I've seen more hot pink adorning much more heifer flesh and body than it needs to today.  Self-ascribed studs strut their camouflage-bound beer bellies across the tiled floors.  I'm not a skinny Minnie.  Hardly.  But I know what NOT to wear when.

It's been a constant day broken by a few trips to the toilette - the stalls constructed of c-grade rough plywood provided by a community block grant from your government.  The lack of wood primer is evident, knot holes and bark blims make obscure stained patterns on the enclosure walls because the pine tar has bled through.  There is no decorative trim in the building, the closest thing to it being the wood veneer-encased metal girders, no mitering on the corners.  The Town fulfilled the expectation of accepting the lowest bid for the construction.  It's a project where the walls barely meet the ceilings flush and most of the toilets don't either.  The whole place smells of Tidy Bowl.

In true Presbyterian predestined, predetermined, preordained style the voting machine paper, the very necessary thing logging each person's vote, needs to be changed during the peak post-work-hours balloting time.  I should've started that pool on when all four rolls would have run out - I'd be at least a Coca Cola richer now.

Seven o'clock.  The polls close.  The absentee votes are checked for proper signatures, deciding the fate of rejection or acceptance based on the continuity of a person's mark while also getting checked off today's live vote register, right?  You vote absentee, your vote gets counted the day of the election as an actual vote (although it might be a day or so afterward). A few of them aren't adequate and are rejected, that word written in red and the total of them put into an official envelope printed with "REJECTED ABSENTEE BALLOTS" in  bold black lettering on a dark manila envelope made just 'specially for this day.

The two managers feed code into the voting machines, causing instantaneous whirring and clicking and printing to occur.  I've officially checked in the eight memory cards and four encoders.  Dismissed of further continuing duties this day, I've run home to put the voting vittles in the fridge, let the dog out, let the dog in, and come to the courthouse.

People, hundreds of people, have descended upon the courthouse grounds and steps and benches to watch the vote come in.  Young'uns are playing in the backs of parked trucks while parents prop or sit on tailgates, heads cocked to the side for one ear to hear the vote tallies being broadcast from the courtroom.

I've come upstairs to the balcony to watch it myself, declining a dozen offers to join friends under tents and in lawn chairs, coolers of sandwich fixings and drinks making the improvised obstacle course a delight to navigate.  Pimento and cheese?  Why yes!  I believe I will...

I'm struck with watery leaky eyes and a lumpy throat sitting here listening to Cecilia, incumbent chancery clerk, read off each precinct's results.  The little community I call home gets it.  They don't forsake their right to vote by dismissing it as an unimportant or trivial thing.  They embrace it.  Today their voice is important  and they know it.  The odoriferous community center; the lines; the parade of original homespun folk trusting enough to accept a coded card and figure out how to use it -- they're proud to be here wearing their hot pinks or camouflages badly.  Thank you for turning out and casting your vote today,  Leakesville, Greene County, Mississippi.  I'm so glad you're my home.....