Food for Thought

Plum Crazy

America’s sudden passion for heirloom fruits and vegetables means glorious varieties like Santa Rosa and Mirabelle plums are widely available

By Jane Lear

One of my earliest food memories is of a high-walled garden somewhere along the Cape Fear. It belonged to friends of my parents, and while they sipped long cool drinks in the shade of a venerable live oak, I was allowed to explore and eat pretty much anything I could find. Blueberries, raspberries, the pears reached by shinnying up a knotted rope to a convenient branch. Figs, plump and sweet with ultra-delicate skins.

And there were wonderful plums. I found their thin, taut red skins and gold flesh mesmerizing. Their rich aroma and full-on sweet-tart flavor were a revelation, and their texture — well, after my mother tried one, it was the first time I heard the word “lush.”

Those beauts were worlds apart from the characterless supermarket plums that are so common today. For ages, I thought those plums I enjoyed as an 8-year-old couldn’t possibly have been as magical as I remembered.

Until, that is, about 15 years ago on a visit to northern California, when I first bit into a plum from Frog Hollow Farm. The cultivar was ‘Santa Rosa,’ I discovered, and I felt as though I’d found a long-lost friend.

Santa Rosa has a grand American history. It was bred in 1906 by the celebrated horticulturalist Luther Burbank (1849–1926) at his plant research center. Named for its birthplace, the plum is arguably his crowning achievement. It’s no surprise that our family friends, both enthusiastic home orchardists, would have gotten their hands on some trees. 

The tight skin of a perfectly ripe Santa Rosa pops when you bite into it, and when devouring the flesh (“lush” is exactly what it is), it’s best if you’re leaning over the kitchen sink. I have this image of the modernist poet William Carlos Williams doing so, whisking his tie out of the way at the last second, before turning guilt into art in “This is Just To Say”:

“I have eaten / the plums / that were in / the icebox / and which / you were probably / saving / for breakfast. / Forgive me / they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold.”

Any high school English teacher will tell you that this much-anthologized poem, written in 1934, can have a number of different meanings, including temptation and the triumph of the physical over the spiritual. But it’s also a great example of how to offer a non-apologizing apology after inconveniencing a loved one. The subsequent parodies (the first, by Williams himself) continued for decades and indeed have been given new life as a meme on Twitter:

“I have closed / the tabs / that were in / the browser / and which / you were probably / saving / to read / Forgive me / they hogged memory / and were / so old,” wrote stvnrlly@stvnrlly.

Happily, America’s increasing passion for heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables means a wider array of interesting plum varieties is available, including Santa Rosa and the small ‘Mirabelle,’ which is yellow blushed with crimson and intensely sweet. (In France, it’s used to make plum eau-de-vie.) Keep your eyes open, and if you see juicy looking tree-ripened plums for sale anywhere, snap them up.

The Williamses and their icebox aside, plums won’t continue to ripen if chilled. Keep them at room temperature and out of direct sunlight instead. If you must refrigerate them (they’re a magnet for fruit flies), don’t wash the ripe fruit beforehand, and bring to room temperature before eating. Another tip? Never cluster or stack plums or any stone fruit — that leads to uneven ripening or bruising. So spread out your bounty onto a platter instead of piling it into a bowl.

Whenever I see promising plums, I always buy too many, because I can’t decide what to do with them. A galette is always appealing, as is an upside-down cake. But I often take the path of least resistance and roast them, a technique I picked up from cookbook author and all-around culinary goddess Georgeanne Brennan. She roasts her stone fruit in a wood-fired outdoor oven, but a regular old oven works fine too, even though it isn’t nearly as romantic. And her trick of serving the roasted fruit with crème fraîche worked into fresh ricotta is a keeper: The thickened cream gives the fluffy, uncomplicated ricotta a nutty sweetness, a little tang, and voluptuous body.

I love the rich, faintly spicy flavor of roasted plums all by themselves, but you could easily use peaches or a combination of stone fruits — plums and nectarines, say. And you could substitute a dollop of mascarpone or softly whipped heavy cream for the creamy ricotta.

Roasted plums are versatile. They swing homey or haute, and are ideal if you aren’t a baker or need a gluten-free dessert, because there is no crust or crumble topping involved. They cook quietly all by themselves and make the kitchen smell heavenly. And, if you are fortunate, there will be a spoonful or two left for tomorrow morning.

Then again, you could just eat your plums out of hand, leaning over the kitchen sink.

Roasted Plums with Creamy Ricotta and Honey

1 cup fresh ricotta

About 1/4 cup crème fraîche

A dash of pure vanilla extract


6 to 8 plums, depending on size, or a mixture of plums and nectarines and/or peaches

Extra-virgin olive oil

Honey, for drizzling

1. Preheat the oven to 475º. Stir together the ricotta, crème fraîche, vanilla and about 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste, in a bowl. Pop that into the fridge until ready to use.

2. Cut the plums from stem end to bottom, first down one side, then the other. Gently twist the halves together; if they separate from the pit easily, that means they are freestone. Otherwise, they’re clingstone, so cut the flesh away from the pit in largish wedges. Put the plums in a shallow baking dish just large enough to fit them in 1 layer. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon oil and turn them a few times to coat. Generously sprinkle with sugar and turn once or twice more. Roast until the plums have just collapsed and are tender and just caramelized enough, about 20 minutes.

3. Serve the plums in small bowls with the creamy ricotta and honey, for drizzling, on the side.  PS

Jane Lear, formerly of Gourmet magazine and Martha Stewart Living, is the editor of Feed Me, a quarterly magazine for Long Island food lovers.

The Omnivorous Reader

A Tree Grows in Carolina

Two debut novels renew old Brooklyn ties

By D.G. Martin

Some North Carolina literary old-timers remember a special link between North Carolina and Brooklyn.

In 1943 Harper & Brothers published the best-seller, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, one of America’s most-loved novels. The North Carolina connection?

Although its author, Betty Smith, based the novel on her experiences growing up in Brooklyn, she wrote the book in Chapel Hill. As a struggling divorcée with two children, she had moved to North Carolina to work at the University of North Carolina as a part of Paul Green’s writing program. The money she earned kept her going until the success of her book gave stability to her economic life.

This year the literary connection between Brooklyn and North Carolina has been renewed by two debut novelists, each with connections in both places. It happened earlier this year when Smith’s publisher, now HarperCollins, released A Woman Is No Man, the debut novel of Etaf Rum.

Like Smith, Rum based her novel on her life growing up in Brooklyn. Like Smith, the divorced Rum moved to North Carolina. Like Smith, she had two children. Like Smith, she found work in higher education, in Rum’s case, community colleges near where she lives in Rocky Mount.

Rum’s Palestinian immigrant family and neighbors in Brooklyn in the 1990s and 2000s are not the same as Smith’s families, whose roots were in Western Europe. Still, both books deal with women’s struggles to make their way in families and communities dominated by men.

The central character in the first part of Rum’s book is Isra, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl whose family forces her into marriage with an older man, Adam. He owns a deli and lives with his parents and siblings in Brooklyn. Adam and Isra move into his family’s basement. Isra becomes a virtual servant to Adam’s mother, Fareeda. She pushes the couple to have children, males who can make money and build the family’s reputation and influence. When Isra produces only four children, all girls, she is dishonored by Fareeda and by Adam, who begins to beat her regularly.

Isra and Adam’s oldest daughter, Deya, becomes the central character of the second part of the book. Adam and Isra have died, and Fareeda raises their children.

When Deya is a high school senior, Fareeda begins to look for a man in the Palestinian community for her to marry. Deya wants to go to college, but she is afraid to bolt from her family and the community’s customs.

Though fiction, A Woman Is No Man is clearly autobiographical. As such, Rum explains, the book “meant challenging many long-held beliefs in my community and violating our code of silence.”

“Growing up,” she writes, “there were limits to what women could do in society. Whenever I expressed a desire to step outside the prescribed path of marriage and motherhood, I was reminded over and over again: A woman is no man.”

She writes that “what I hope people from both inside and outside my community see when they read this novel are the strength and resiliency of our women.” It will stir readers for other reasons, too. Its themes of conflict between a drive for individual fulfillment and the demands of community and family loyalty are universal.

The author’s well-turned and beautiful writing makes reading this debut novel a pleasure. Finally, her careful, fair-minded, sympathetic descriptions of complicated and interesting characters give the story a classic richness. Whether or not A Woman Is No Man attains the beloved status of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, it will surely be a widely appreciated treasure.

Another debut novel connects Brooklyn and North Carolina. This time it is a North Carolina native who moves to Brooklyn from Elizabeth City. From there, De’Shawn Charles Winslow moved to Harlem, where he wrote In West Mills, a book about African-Americans living and struggling in eastern North Carolina from roughly 1940 to 1987. There are no major white characters, and no focus on Jim Crow racism. There is almost nothing about racial conflict or the civil rights struggle. Putting these themes aside, Winslow shows his characters grappling with universal challenges that people of all races confront as they deal with the human situation.

West Mills is a fictional small town in eastern North Carolina, somewhere between Elizabeth City, where the author grew up, and Ahoskie, where the main character of the novel was born and reared.

That main character, Azalea Centre, or Knot, as she is called by everyone, has moved to West Mills from Ahoskie, where her father is a dentist and a bulwark of the local church. Knot, however, wants to get away from her family and make her own way.

She finds a teaching job in West Mills. Knot loves 19th century English literature. That sounds good for a teacher, but she also loves cheap moonshine and bedding a variety of men. One of them, Pratt Shepherd, wants to marry her. But after a session of enthusiastic lovemaking, she tosses him out of her life.

Soon after Pratt leaves, Knot learns she is pregnant. She does not want to end the pregnancy, but wants nothing to do with the child after its birth. To the rescue comes a dear friend, Otis Lee Loving, and his wife, Penelope, or “Pep.” They find a local couple to adopt Knot’s daughter. Only a few people in the community know that Frances, daughter of Phillip and Lady Waters, is really Knot’s birth child.

Shortly after she recovers from her delivery, Knot becomes pregnant again. Otis Lee comes to the rescue once more. He finds a place for the new baby with local storeowners, Brock and Ayra Manning. They name the baby Eunice.

When they grow up, Frances and Eunice, not knowing about their common origin, come to despise each other and fight for the attention of the same man. On this situation, Winslow builds a series of confrontations and complications that challenge the comfortable order of the West Mills community.

Meanwhile, as time passes, the community seems immune to the racial conflicts developing in other parts of the state. In one of the book’s few mentions of racial conflict, Otis Lee hears stories in 1960 about “the young colored people in Greensboro who had organized a sit-in a couple of months earlier” and pronounced it a terrible thing. Winslow writes, “Greensboro hadn’t come to them yet. And Otis Lee hoped things would get better so that it wouldn’t have to.”

Otis Lee is not only Knot’s loyal friend and rescuer, he becomes a major character. In a flashback to prohibition days he travels to New York City to rescue an older sister who is trying to pass for white. That effort fails, but his relationship with that woman provides a poignant thread that carries the book to one of its surprising endings.

Gathering early praise, Charlotte Observer critic Dannye Powell wrote of In West Mills, “Within its confines lies all you need to know of human nature — its stubbornness and grit, its tenderness and devotion, its longing and its sorrow, and how the best-kept secrets will threaten to take apart the heart, chamber by chamber.”

She concludes, “You’ll be hearing more about Winslow and his stunning debut novel.”

You will be hearing more about Winslow and Etaf Rum. Betty Smith would be amazed and proud. PS

D.G. Martin hosts North Carolina Bookwatch Sunday at 11 a.m. and Tuesday at 5p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesday at 8 p.m. To view prior programs go to

Mom Inc.

A Pinch of Gratitude

Goes a long way on a hot summer day

By Renee Whitmore

I am naturally a see-the-glass-empty type of person. Not half-empty. Death Valley dry. Especially in the summer, when it’s scorching hot and I walk outside for just a minute and by the time I dive back into the AC, I’m stewing in my own juices. Sweaty summers are not on my list of favorite things.

One of my dear friends once told me to make a list of all the things I was grateful for. Think of it as an intervention. I looked at her and thought, “What a silly-Thanksgiving-lunch-elementary-school-pop-psychology-Dr.Phil thing to say.”

“No, really,” she said. “Try it.”

So, I did. I thought I might be able to come up with five things. Max. The usual. Family. Friends. Blah. Blah. But by item 86 (popcorn) and 87 (raspberry white chocolate mochas), I had it going on. That list — it’s 117 things and counting — helped me stay more positive. So, now I practice gratitude. And by practice, I mean, it really takes practice.

It’s not just the good things that are easy to be grateful for. The magical mind shift (now there’s a left-brain term for you) happens when you can take the bad stuff, drop it in the mental lettuce spinner and pump the handle until you see something good inside.

Gratitude works. I’ve seen it in action.

It works when I am overwhelmed with grading papers and final exams and students in sheer panic. Gratitude: I have a job. And I like it.

It works when I forget to make dinner and Chinese food appears on the table. Gratitude: We have food. And a table. And a Chinese take-out place five minutes from the house.

It works when I have gained three pounds this week. Gratitude: Those doughnuts were delicious.

It works when my 15-year-old son, David, needs to be at five different places in the time span of three hours. Gratitude: At least I can still drive him. Next year he will be driving himself. OMG.

It works when my dog wakes me up at 5 a.m. every morning. Every morning. Gratitude: I have a dog that never barks at me in a disrespectful tone of voice; never says things like, “What’s for dinner? Ugh! I hate Chinese food.”

It works when my kids are semi-sick and beg to stay home from school. Gratitude: I give them a dose of Tylenol and a list of chores to complete by the time I get home. Usually that makes them feel much better the next day.

It works in Wal-Mart when that person with 27 items (three of which need price checks) cuts in front of me and my five-item cart in the checkout line. Gratitude: I have more time to catch up on how Oprah Winfrey lost weight — this time — from the magazines in the magic aisle. I call it that because stuff magically appears in my cart: gum, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, nose hair trimmers. The essentials.

It works when the heat index is 101. Gratitude: At least my AC works, even if it wheezes like it’s having an asthma attack. I do need to change the air filter soon.

It works when my credit card bill arrives and I not so subtly notice the interest payment for the month. Gratitude: Um. I’ll get back to you on this one. Still working on it.

I’m sure there’s some Freudian explanation behind all this, or some neuroscientist somewhere who can explain what happens when your dopamine throws a headlock on your endorphins, but all I know is that being grateful works.

If a natural pessimist like me can do it, anyone can.  PS

When Renee is not teaching English or being a professional taxi driver for her two boys, she is working on her first book.

Good Natured


Bring Your Own Bag

By Karen Frye

Forget the bottle, just bring your bag — your reusable shopping bag. It would be a great habit to adopt now if you haven’t already. Let’s do our part to take care of our environment so our families have a safe and less toxic world to live in.

New York was one of the first states to enforce a ban on the use of plastic shopping bags. Other states, maybe even North Carolina, could one day follow that lead. Lawmakers in New York approved the ban on these single-use shopping bags and gave local governments the option to charge extra for paper bags. New York City recently put that into effect, adding a nickel for each paper carry-out bag a customer uses at retail and grocery stores. The goal is not to make money but rather to encourage people to bring their reusable bags. New York City alone collects 30,000 tons of paper bags each year, and more counties are following suit.

Paper bags have their own set of issues. They cost stores quadruple what plastic bags cost, and it takes more energy to make a paper bag. The manufacturing involves the use of chemicals released into the atmosphere at the same rate as plastic bags.

Plastic bags are made from oil and natural gas. It takes 12 million barrels of petroleum to produce the plastic bags that our country uses yearly. The bags have a lifetime of 500 to 1,000 years, slowly breaking down into small toxic particles.

Plastics are collecting in our oceans at an alarming rate. They travel from city storm drains to creeks, rivers and streams and, finally, to the oceans with harmful consequences for our marine and coastal wildlife. It’s estimated that 1 million birds, 100,000 turtles and countless other forms of sea life die each year from ingesting plastic. The animals and birds confuse floating plastic bags (and other pieces of plastic) with plankton or jellyfish. Once ingested, it blocks their digestive tract and they starve to death.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been collecting statistics on plastic bag use for more than a decade. About 2 percent of plastic bags actually get recycled in the U.S. The rest live on for hundreds of years in landfills or the oceans, where they destroy wildlife and leach toxins. Plastic bags have been found as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as the Falkland Islands.

Sustainability starts with each one of us. Get reusable bags and keep them in your car. Make them a staple in your everyday shopping routine. One person using reusable bags over his or her lifetime can remove over 22,000 plastic bags from the environment. What’s a better incentive than that?  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.


Compiled by Haley Ledford

Fine Arts Festival

The Arts Council of Moore County will be featuring artists from all over the country on Friday, Aug. 2, from 6-8 p.m. at the Campbell House Galleries, 482 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. For more information, call (910) 692-2787 or go to

119th United States Amateur Championship

One of the oldest and most prestigious amateur golf championships in the world begins with qualifying on Pinehurst’s No. 2 and No. 4 courses on Aug. 12. After 36 holes the field will be trimmed to 64 players for match play. All matches will be played on Pinehurst No. 2 until the 36-hole final on Aug. 18 that will be contested on both the No. 2 and No. 4 courses, the first time the championship match has ever been played on two golf courses. For more information, go to

Bocce Bash

Watch or play — or both — in the 12th Annual Sandhills Children’s Center Backyard Bocce Bash at the National Athletic Village, 201 Air Tool Road, Southern Pines, on Saturday, Aug. 17, at 9:30 a.m. Each team will play three games in a round-robin format. Teams check in at 8:30 a.m. Donations begin at $25 per player in this Children’s Center benefit. For information and registration, go to

U.S. Kids Come to Town

Beginning in late July and lasting until Aug. 4, more than 1,500 junior golfers from over 50 nations come to Pinehurst and Southern Pines for a weeklong golf experience that includes a Parent/Child Tournament, Team Challenge, Parade of Nations, three rounds of championship play and a closing ceremony. Following the three-day championship, the World Van Horn Cup — a one-day best ball tournament featuring the top 12-year-olds from the United States squaring off against the top 12-year-olds from the rest of the world – is contested on Pinehurst No. 2. For more information, go to

Summer Classic Movies

The Sunrise Theater closes out its Summer Classic Movie Series in August with three titles on consecutive Thursdays, beginning Aug. 1 with Hook, sponsored by The Ice Cream Parlor. On Aug. 8, Southern Whey is sponsoring Goodfellas, and the series concludes with This Is Spinal Tap, sponsored by Murphy Insurance Nationwide. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the movies begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 at the Sunrise Theater, 244 N.W. Broad Street, Southern Pines. For more information, call (910) 692-3611 or go to

Evening with the Authors

Visit the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives, 150 Cherokee Road, Pinehurst, on Monday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. to kick off a new series highlighting Moore County authors. Local authors will be there to speak and answer questions about their books. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, go to

Conversation Cafe

Stop by to listen, reflect and share ideas at the Southern Pines Public Library, 170 W. Connecticut Ave., on Sunday, Aug. 11, at 3 p.m., where the topic will be “When Are We Most Challenged to Find and Show Love.” The event is an open, hosted dialogue lasting about 90 minutes. For more information, call (910) 692-8235 or go to

First Friday

Come out to see the Love Canon at the First Bank Stage on the green space at the Sunrise Theater, 250 N.W. Broad Street, Southern Pines, on Aug. 2, from 5-8 p.m. Admission is free and there will be food and alcohol for sale, but no outside alcohol is permitted. This edition is sponsored by Realty World Properties of the Pines and ritualx CBD. For more information, call (910) 692-8501 or go to

Broadway on Broad

Kinky Boots, a Broadway hit filmed in high definition on the London stage, comes to the Sunrise Theater screen on Sunday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15, and the event is sponsored by Sandhills PRIDE. There will be another showing at the Sunrise Theater, 244 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines, on Monday, Aug. 22, at 10 a.m. For more information, call (910) 692-3611 or go to

Ruth Pauley Lecture Series

Celebrating its 33rd season, the Ruth Pauley Lecture Series at Sandhills Community College presents nationally known, thought-provoking speakers. The lectures, all beginning at 7:30 p.m., are free, open to the public and conclude with a Q&A session. For more information, go to This year’s lineup includes:

Thursday, Oct. 10 — “A Conversation with Diane Rehm.” The longtime radio talk show host and best-selling author has won awards and honors such as The National Humanities Medal and the Peabody Award. Her lecture at Pinecrest High School’s Lee Auditorium is hosted by the American Association of University Women.

Wednesday, Oct. 30 — “A Crazy Little Thing Called OCD.” Barbara Claypole White presents the second lecture in the series, also at the Sunrise Theater, hosted by the League of Women Voters. White’s son was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder as a child, and she has since published five books on the subject, the last of which, The Promise Between Us, won the Nautilus award, given to books that foster positive change in the world.

Thursday, Dec. 5 — “Leaving the Madhouse: The Path to Climate Change.” The series returns to Owens Auditorium at SCC for a lecture by Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and head of their Earth System Science Center. He has received numerous awards on climate science communication and is the author of over 200 peer-reviewed publications and four books on climate change.

Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 — “Conserving the Southeast’s Amazing Natural Resources in an Era of Climate Change.” Hosted by SCC at Owens Auditorium, Mark Anderson, who was awarded the Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Achievement Award in 2017, will showcase his research with the Eastern Conservation Science team.


By Ash Alder

“Every apple orchard is haunted,” a friend recently offered. “Have you ever noticed? All of them. Day or night.”

I considered the statement, the labyrinths of gnarled trees echoing with distant thuds of falling fruit,
autumn’s electric whisper . . . 

“I could see that,” I replied.

And yet, having never experienced an orchard in August, when the skin of the earliest apples turns from yellow to green, green to red, the flesh inside from green to white, I wouldn’t know for sure. Could only speculate that the ripening of such autumnal offerings in the sweltering heat of late summer is some kind of omen.

Yes, summer is here. Yet the tangles of wild blackberries will vanish in an instant.

There is movement in the periphery. Always. Perhaps there is something haunting about that.

It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man. — Henry David Thoreau

Flower Mandala

In August, when roadside ditches brim with late summer wildflowers — sweet pea and yarrow and swamp milkweed — pull over. 

If you travel with water and a makeshift vase for occasions such as this, handpick a small arrangement for an instant boost in spirit.

And if you’re feeling inspired, dream bigger.

Last year, an hour before sunset, a gardener friend and I met at a favorite climbing tree by a nearby lake to design a flower mandala for the simple joy of creation. I brought a modest handful of black-eyed Susans, some amethyst, a single sunflower. She brought a garden: purple clover, coleus, woolflower, Queen Anne’s lace, fern, walnut, sycamore leaves, and at least a handful of miscellaneous beauties rich in color and texture.

Ancient tools for meditation, mandalas are believed to represent the cosmos, radial designs that guide the creator toward a sense of inner harmony and the essence of his or her own soul.

Ours led us to a space of absolute wonder, and as the final fireflies of summer began dancing among the boughs of our beloved tree, we noticed a small group of passersby that had quietly gathered to enjoy our nature installation — two spirals joined by an unbroken thread of leaves and petals.

We are all so intricately connected. When you follow the simple callings of your heart, no telling how you will color the world.

Bring on the Magic

Among our late summer bloomers: bee balm, a showy yet rugged perennial that blossoms red, pink or lavender. Also called horsemint, Oswego tea and bergamot, its fragrant leaves add notes of citrus and spice to any garden. What’s best? Hummers, bees and butterflies find the flower simply irresistible.

A member of the mint family, bee balm grows best (and spreads!) in full sun. Add its colorful flowers to your summer salad, dry its leaves for tea, and above all, know that your balm is a sweet, tasty tonic for a band of local pollinators.

Spoonful of Sugar Water

A friend recently shared with me a Newsroom 24 article from 2018 that states that without bees, we wouldn’t be alive. “If bees were to disappear from the face of the Earth, says David Attenborough, voice of The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, humans would have just four years to live. He suggests leaving a teaspoon of sugar water in your garden to help energy-depleted bees make it back to the hive. “Simply mix two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water, and place on a spoon for the bee to reach,” says Attenborough. In so many words: Save the bees, save humanity.

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. — Sam Keen

The Night Sky

This year, our beloved Perseid meteor shower occurs just two days before the full Sturgeon Moon, creating less than optimal viewing conditions for the annual display of up to 90 shooting stars per hour.

That said, just before dawn on Tuesday, Aug. 13, the moon will set, gifting us with an hour of darkness — a blessed chance to catch a glimpse of the magic.  PS

True South

Climbing the Ladder

Summer jobs are the bottom rung

By Susan S. Kelly

It’s August. How’s that summer job going for your prodigal son and daughter? You know, the fancy-pants NYC internship that you’re heavily subsidizing. Or are your offspring going to one day say accusingly, as mine have, “Why didn’t you make me get an internship?”

The short answer is that we were clueless, and, more accurately, didn’t know anyone higher up the career-boosting food chain. Your father and I just figured everyone had the same kind of summer jobs we did, i.e., menial. Because the true purpose of summer jobs is to show you what you don’t want to be when you grow up. My husband: delivering Cokes from a flatbed truck all over Fayetteville in 100-degree heat; me, hustling quahog jewelry and fake scrimshaw in a tourist joint on Nantucket, where I was hired solely on the basis of my built-in “pleases” and “ma’ams.”

Ergo, my children had glam jobs as caddies, counselors, ground trash collectors at apartment complexes (think candy wrappers and condoms; they came home with bloody knuckles from working the parking lot), and as stockroom employees packaging bolts of fabric in a warehouse for UPS pickup. Still, everyone should have to work in what’s known as the “service industry” at some time in their life: retail clerk, waitress, lifeguard, etc. If you know an adult who’s a jerk, I bet he/she never had to wait tables or take orders as a teenager.

And if you have a college grad on the professional prowl, whatever you do, guide him or her away from the three jobs that nobody, nobody in their sane mind, wants: minister, head of a private school, and the manager of a country club. Constituents — congregations, parents and members — of those occupations believe themselves entitled. In other words, they own you. And I have proof, with the following true-to-life examples.


My aunt and uncle’s son, William, went away to boarding school. Before Thanksgiving had even arrived, the headmaster called my aunt to say that William just wasn’t going to cut it. He couldn’t conform to the rules, couldn’t toe the various lines, and William was just going to have to come home. My aunt wasn’t fazed. “Oh no, he is not,” she informed the headmaster. “I sent a perfectly good child to you in September. Whatever’s happened since then is your fault, and you’re going to keep him.”

Country Club Manager

Frank was an incorrigible charmer who basically lived at the country club. In the dining room, on the golf course, in the card room, but mostly in the bar. Your classic handsome bad boy, who was also drunk, demanding, misbehaving and embarrassing. One morning when the club manager found Frank sleeping under a table in the bar, glasses and cigarettes strewn around him, he called Frank’s mother. “Mrs. Simpson,” he said politely, “your son has become a real problem. I’m going to have to ask you to do something about his behavior at the club.” There was a pause over the line. “And you, sir,” Mrs. Simpson replied, “serve very ordinary chicken salad.”


My great-uncle Bill in Walnut Cove had a dog he loved better than life, named John G. But John G kept getting into Lou Petrie’s garden. Lou told Bill that if John G got into his garden one more time, he was going to shoot him. Bill paid no attention. One Sunday in church, where my grandmother played the organ, word got ‘round the congregation that John G had gotten into the garden again and Lou Petrie had flat-out shot him. Church stopped then and there, and everyone went to the Petries’ where, sure enough, John G was lying dead between the tomato vines. The minister’s wife dropped to her knees beside the lifeless animal. “Do not worry,” she said. “I’ll bring John G back to life,” and praying loudly, began massaging his bloody body. My grandmother looked on, horrified, then headed straight for the house, and the telephone. She dialed the operator and put in a long-distance call to the bishop of the North Carolina Diocese of the Episcopal Church on a Sunday morning. “Bishop,” she said, “you have a minister’s wife down here trying to raise a dog from the dead. What are you going to do about it?”

My advice? Steer clear of a career that involves dues, tuition or tithing.  PS

Susan S. Kelly is a blithe spirit, author of several novels, and a proud grandmother.