Engaging Language

It’s time to be schooled.

Not schooled like those little boys and girls whose bounding steps on the way to school make their big-kid backpacks jump with every step. Those young ones are just beginning their scholastic careers and they know they’ve got a lot to learn.

Not schooled like those graduate students with their just-so outfits and charged career plans. Those adults know where they want to go, and have charted a plan to accomplish their dream.

No, it’s time to be schooled in the use of wedding-language. That does not mean a term like “accent color” or “bridal party” – both of which are amorphous and occasionally interchangeable. Further education is not needed for a word designed for brides, but in the plain English common to us all. The term is “engaged.”  Engagement, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is  something that engages; emotional involvement or commitment;  hostile encounter between military forces; etc. Now, those who plan to marry their significant other can be termed emotionally involved or committed; on this we can all agree. The qualms seem to begin when the term that describes that commitment is used for those who are engaged to be married.

As demonstrated, once a person is committed to marrying another, they are engaged to be married. Nowhere in this definition is there mention of a diamond ring, a party, or even a marriage proposal. According to experts of the English language, an engagement can take place with or without aerial photography or a classical music quartet. Actually, I think everyone can agree on that. Regardless, an engagement takes place once an agreement has been reached between interested parties, without any further accouterments. It may be a secret engagement, but once you’ve committed to marrying someone, you’re engaged to them.

If you have booked a wedding hall, you’re engaged. If you’re shopping for a wedding dress, you’re engaged. If you and another plan to marry, you’re engaged.  No need to tell friends the time and date you’ll be getting engaged so that they can plan a party. You’ve already gotten engaged.

Such lessons in the English language are engaging, but not nearly as much as those learned at school.

Best wishes to Ariella, Amira, and Gabriella on their first week of school

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Fudge: Roadway to Respect

I never respected Mamie Eisenhower. As the wife of President Dwight D. Eisenhower Mamie was bound to be overshadowed by her husband. However, Mamie could have used her husband’s power to create a platform or position of her own. Instead, she claimed her only position as that of wife and used it to promote the color pink. Today her love of pink is the only legacy left to her by the history books.

The color choice is immaterial, but the fact that this is all that is remembered about a woman who had the power to influence the known world is sorrowful. Wasting such an opportunity does not commend a person to the masses, nor to me. So, I had no respect for First Lady Eisenhower. Then Special Correspondent Perel told me that Mamie Eisenhower composed the best recipe for fudge.

Fudge is really hard work; it requires patience, timing, and a trained eye. It seems that Mamie had all three. These are not fly-by-night attributes and any person who can accomplish them deserves my admiration and respect. Once, long ago, I tried to make fudge. There are two things I remember from the experience: 1. there is a difference between ‘hard ball stage’ and ‘soft ball stage,’ which I could not see 2. My mother assured me that the substance I’d made, once heated up in the microwave, tasted just like fudge. I’ve never considered making fudge again.

But Mamie Eisenhower made fudge. She made fudge so well that – Perel assures me – it’s the most common recipe for fudge available. The woman who championed no cause, and attested to no far-ranging interests, had the skills to succeed in an area which foils most people. She was not a woman of great ambition, but she was a woman who knew herself, her favorite color, and how to make fudge. I respect that.

Mamie Eisenhower’s Fudge

1 1/2 cups  sugar
2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) evaporated milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour into 8″ square baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

Mazal tov to Special Correspondent Perel and many thanks for the recipe.

Believe You Me: The Way to a Blessed Day

“Believe you me,” she starts the conversation, propping her purple-framed purple-tinted sunglasses into her curly hair, “you got to relax.” We arrived at the subway platform at the same time, she happily talking about the need for patience and me wondering if I packed enough snacks. She hasn’t seemed to be referring to me, as she’d been addressing the general company. I must have looked approachable, or in need of some verbal sunshine, as she moved in closer. “You come out of the elevator, and you missed the train,” she continues. “So what? Another train is coming. And it’s a beautiful day.” In reflecting on the beautiful day – which it is – I smile. My new guru, who has now moved to stand next to me, is smiling from ear to ear; “You should be happy,” she cheers.

“This man, he was on the bus with me,” she says, gesticulating toward her herself and then out into the whole wide world. By now we look like old friends, as she smiles glowingly and I nod haltingly though somewhat nervously. “He was on the bus, and the light over the door didn’t go on,” she continues with Spanish-accented concern, even in the retelling. “He’s pushing the door, and getting angry, but don’t say anything to the driver. I say to the driver, ‘The door’s not open.’ The light goes on, and he’s so angry.” She shakes her head with deep sorrow. “It’s a beautiful day. I tell him, he needs to be patient. He wants to stay young inside, he wants to stay strong -” she taps her acrylic nails on her purple shirt right over her heart, ” he can’t be like that. He’d missed the train – they’ll be another train.”

Without a pause, she adds “You’ve got eyes – you can see. You’ve got ears – you can smell. The world is good. What do you want to be upset for?” I must not look convinced yet, though I’ve looked nothing but agreeable, as she continues the soliliquy of happiness. “Believe you me, it’s better to let it go. Be Happy. It’s raining? You can feel the rain.” She’s now beaming with joy, just as our train does indeed arrive. We turn to our respective entrances with smiles. She forgot to say it, but believe you me, she wished me a blessed day.

Wedding Report: Where Have All the Cookies Gone?

First they took the cookie out of Cookie Monster. Then they took the cookies out of weddings.

I understand that Cookie Monster became Vegetable Monster to teach children healthy eating habits. That was a misguided move, but with an honorable aim. However, what possessed people to take the cookies out of weddings? Growing up in Pittsburgh, I knew that all weddings came with cookies. They were served at the reception, which doubled as a  meet and greet of everyone you’d ever known.  You would have some raw veggies while chatting with your principal, a cracker as your mother introduced you to your first babysitter, and as the reception ran late, you’d have a cookie as you chatted with your friends. By the time the chuppah started you would be fortified; when the glass was broken you’d be hungry, but not ravenous. The cookies acted as a light and sweet start to a positively sweet and homey affair. Or as homey an affair as you can have at a 250-person wedding in an impersonal hotel ballroom.

Then I grew older, left behind my principal and first babysitter, and the cookies disappeared. Sure, there were carving stations and sushi rolls at these New York weddings, but there was not a single cookie.The light reciption grew into a meal which left people groaning. This was no light affair; it was a serious business of gorging on food and expense. What had happened?

Nothing had happened, is what I was told. the error was mine; New York weddings don’t come with cookies. Occasionally crackers and cut vegetables  make an appearance, but they are not required fare. Cakes were acceptable, though mainly in the outskirts of Brooklyn. I don’t know why.

New York wasn’t the problem, I was told – it was Pittsburgh. Somehow that small town in the foothills of the Alleghenies had developed a serious cookie problem. At every wedding in the district, there is a cornucopia of cookies. I know this is true, beyond my experience, because the New York Times says so. And if you don’t believe those big town papers, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette backs it up.

Yet I must disagree – a reception without cookies, but including a full-blown meal, is a piteous waste. It is time for all of us to stand up, refuse the meal, and claim a cookie heritage as our own. Do away with the reception meal; serve fruit, vegetables – and throw in some cookies. Your guests will do justice to the sit-down meal you’ve paid for, but none will faint from hunger or low blood sugar in the interum.

Weddings should be like cookies: sweet, short, and enjoyable. Be reasonable: bring back the cookies.