The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 18, 2012

Appreciating the simple things

By Peggy Goodrich, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Do you appreciate simple things? Think about it.

What grandma or mother doesn’t just love a simple, single dandelion with a quarter- inch stem, picked by a small child and presented like it were a dozen red roses, with all the love and adoration one can muster? Kids don’t realize that dandelions are weeds. To little kids, they are a beautiful flower. In them they see beauty. It is only after we grow up and try to keep our yards presentable do we fail to see them as beautiful. It is the beauty of the presentation too. The first forget-me-nots of spring, when the ground is warming up, are so simple, yet so sweet and pretty.

There is something of beauty in a bird eating at a bird feeder or on the ground. And it is fun to watch them splash around in a mud puddle after a spring shower. It is always fun to watch birds scampering to feed or to gather material for their nests. These joys are free. All we have to do is take the time to watch and enjoy.

There is no natural food in the world better than fresh home-grown tomato slices  right from the garden — without being refrigerated. I think they lose their flavor when they are cold. Or does anything equal the green onions from a spring garden with a bowl of beans? No cook or chef can duplicate the joy and simplicity of such fare. The only taste that can compare to that simple joy of onions or tomatoes is a fresh peach straight out of the orchard or a juicy green pear picked off the tree. As much as I love to cook and try new recipes, I don’t know of any “man-made” food that equals nature’s accomplishments.

Unless it is freshly made bread straight out of the oven, sliced real thick and slathered with homemade butter and apple butter. That was such a treat when I was a kid, when we walked home from school every afternoon. Sometimes we would sprinkle the butter with sugar, if we didn’t have a jar of apple butter opened. That, in my opinion, is food for the gods!

Another food that is simple but absolutely wonderful is watermelon. It never tastes so good as it does when it is thumped in the patch and found ripe. Then it is cut open and it is so ripe it just cracks. Eat the heart out of it (and leave the rest of it in the garden or watermelon patch for the raccoons to enjoy a feast, too.) Watermelon like that, warm and juicy, is matchless in its utter simplicity and tastes of nature’s best.

When I was growing up, we always had a wonderful watermelon patch down near the creek where it was sandy. Maybe it was the timing of the harvest, or maybe it really did taste that great, but nothing we can purchase now has that same simply wonderful flavor.

Was it the era that we were brought up in that made us appreciate simple things? We didn’t have a “purchased” good time, but created our own enjoyment. We didn’t —and couldn’t — go to many movies or anything that cost money. We met at someone’s house and played games or sang or just talked. In the country, we road horseback or fished or hunted for fossils or rocks. We just hung out and had fun without any expense and learned to enjoy simple things. ... and friends. We enjoyed walking to neighbors or in the meadows or woods.

We still enjoy just being with friends. Many times we don’t have to plan things to do or places to go. We simply enjoy their company and visiting. No matter what we talk about, it is interesting and we laugh a lot. Not that we sit around and tell jokes, but just relating things of life are funny and a pleasure — simple pleasures.

Pets bring a lot of gladness to our lives. There is nothing that matches the joy our dog expresses when we come in from errands or physical rehab or a trip. Or, it is the same if we just go to the mailbox for a minute. Our little dog, Richey, shows unconditional love. The love is so simple, yet so rewarding. Isn’t it nice to have someone, or something, that cares, whether pet or friend?

Gifts are nice, but I would rather have a sincere hug from a friend or family than a purchased gift that had little meaning. Knowing someone truly loves us, means more than the fanciest gift in the world. Love cannot be measured in money. I was raised in an era when we had no money, but everything we needed. I am often shocked at what we call “necessities” now, when we could all live without televisions or cell phones or expensive cars or lots of things. We had such a close love of family and friends that nothing else mattered. We had good health, a comfortable, modest home and enough food to eat (even if it wasn’t always just what we wanted, we never went hungry.) Wouldn’t this be a better world if we could have a little more of that attitude now? We are truly missing something in our affluence! Maybe we need to return to the simple ways of life, and make do with a little less and learn to appreciate things more.

We learned early in life that the best things in life are free — kindness, courtesy, smiles, family, friends, kind words, time, rest, peace, good health, nature, love, encouragement, sincere feelings and being appreciated. There are too many of those kinds of things to mention, but all fall under the “simple” category and cost nothing.

Some of the best foods are the simple foods that we take for granted and make for our families. In the fall of the year, we get hungry for pork chops and fried apples. They are great with scalloped potatoes or another potato casserole.

Pork Chops & Fried Apples

Brown seasoned pork chops in a greased, heavy skillet. Remove from pan and drain.

Slice unpeeled apple, like for apple pie (I use Gala apples.) Place in skillet and add a little butter if necessary. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Add a bit of water. Cover tightly and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until almost tender. Add pork chops back in skillet, cover and continue to steam until pork chops are cooked through.

Depending on the thickness, use one or two pork chops per person. Use about one apple for each pork chop, because they will cook down some. Sometimes I cook these, covered, in a slow oven rather than watch them on top of the stove. After all, the oven is going anyway for the scalloped potatoes.

Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food For Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.