AGED TO PERFECTION

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

John Goodenough

There’s been a lot written lately about the age of our President.  “Too old to run” is the prevailing theme. They are wrong – age has less to do with it than cognitive ability.  I have some insight and experience with this issue and what I’ve learned is that age cannot be generalized.  I’m tired of hearing age 81 referred to as “elderly”, as if that means that all people of that age are ready for “the home”.  There are people in their 80’s and 90’s who can run circles around people of any age.  And generally, they possess common sense – something that is a rare commodity these days.   As recently as 2019 the Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to John B. Goodenough, (who certainly was) for his work on lithium batteries.  He was 97! Is he an outlier?  Of course.  But then again, so are most Nobel Prize winners. He died last year at age 100, still working to improve the all-solid-state battery.

Over the next few weeks the Olympics will showcase young people at the peak of their physical strength and endurance.  They are the very antithesis of “too old”, although Simone Biles, at age 27, is jokingly referred to as the “grandma” on the gymnastics team.  But to prove that age is just a number, I went in search of octogenarians who exhibit that same Olympian standard of excellence. I didn’t have to look far.  Here are just a few:

        David Blaylock

David Blaylock – age 80 – won the USA Track and Field 100-mile Championships in his age group in a time of in a time of 29 hours, 47 minutes and 29 seconds.  I’m assuming that did not include any time for a nap.  His closest competitor, “Fast Eddie” Rousseau, of Minnesota, is 83.  Blaylock attributes his endurance to mental toughness.

Flo Meiler

Florence “Flo” Meiler – in 2022, at the age of 87, Meiler broke two American records in the High Jump and the Hurdles events at the USA Track and Field Masters Indoor Championships.  Meiler was not always an athlete, in fact, she admits that she used to indulge in French fries on a regular basis.  But at age 60 she began to work out and found her passion.  When asked how she works out six days a week and competes in events, she says, “You can do whatever you set your mind to.”

 

Johanna Quaas

Johana Quaas – has been certified as the world’s oldest gymnast.  Born in 1925, Johanna started in gymnastics at the age of 9, but then quit after WWII. She picked up gymnastics again at the age of 57. At the young age of 91, she impressed the crowds at Berlin with a stunning performance and flawless moves. In her words, “If you’re fit, it is easier to master life.” I think she’s right.

The Over-80 US Hockey Team – The U.S. men’s team won the Canada 150 Cup tournament in February of this year.  The team, led by 84-year-old coach Ken McKinnon only came together in the fall of 2023.  McKinnon loves to compete and encourages other older athletes to get in the game.  He says, “You can challenge yourself to get better and keep up for a number of years. It takes effort to go out there and do it, but once you get out there, you’ll have fun.”

Gladys Burrill

Gladys Burrill is sadly no longer with us.  She died in 2019 at the age of 100, but she is worth mentioning because she ran her first marathon at the age of 86 and then went on to complete 5 more marathons. At the young age of 92, she became the oldest woman to run the Honolulu Marathon. She credited her success to eating healthy and exercising.  Shoot – I’m out of breath walking from the bedroom to the kitchen!

There are many more examples I could cite, but you get the point.  In reading about these master athletes I noticed one common trait – mental toughness.  I think all of them believe that despite their age, they can do anything.  The narrative about age needs to shift, so we assess cognitive ability and dispose of the age-old canard that someone is “too old” to be successful in their endeavors. As for me, I plan on eating cake until a ripe old age.

Hawaiian Cruising & Golf Adventure

by Bob Sparrow

View from our room at Hylton Hawaiian Village Hotel

I’m coming to you this week from Hawaii.  Linda and I, along with long-time friends and neighbors, Mark & Kathy Johnson, departed for our 50th state on July 4th.  We are on a ‘golf cruise’, called Golf Ahoy on Norwegian Cruise Line; the cruise includes time in Waikiki and golf on Maui, The Big Island and Kauai.

We arrived on Oahu on the afternoon of July 4th, and headed to the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach, where we caught some Independence Day fireworks.  It was the first time Linda and I had spent any time on Oahu since our honeymoon nearly 45 years ago.  We enjoyed a great 4th of July dinner at Aoki Teppanyaki, with a most talented and humorous chef, then stopped at the Tapa Bar for a night cap, which is conveniently located crawling distance to the elevator to our room on the 14th floor.

Friday morning Linda and I were picked up for our tour of Pearl Habor (the Johnson had already been there, done that).  As expected, it was an informative and moving experience, starting with our bus driver/tour guide, who was full of amazing facts surrounding the events leading up to the Japanese surprise attack.  Once on-site, we saw a short movie on Pearl Harbor, toured the museum, and then I went on a separate tour on site (Linda’s claustrophobia prevented her from joining me) that was of the USS Bowfin, a submarine stationed in the Pacific during WW II that sunk 44 enemy vessels – amazing how tight those quarters were!  We then got on a boat and went out to the Arizona Memorial.  You only get to spend about 15 minutes at the memorial, where 1,177 men are interned in the Arizona, where you can still see oil leaking up to the surface.  An interesting fact is that 25 crew members of the Arizona that survived the war and have since died, asked that their remains be taken back to the USS Arizona, where they can join their fellow crew members.

USS Arizona

In the afternoon Linda and I went to the Hale Koa Hotel, a military hotel right on the beach where I could show my Veterans ID card and get a discount on our lunch and drinks.

Friday night we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Bali Oceanfront restaurant, noted for it’s great steak and seafood, where, during the middle of our dinner, we left our table and went outside on the beach to watch the five minute ‘Every Friday Night Fireworks’ on Waikiki.  Awesome!!!

Yes, Waikiki was a little crowded on this holiday weekend, maybe a lot crowded, but it’s easy to see why, it’s amazing!!  I don’t know how many times I said, “I love Hawaii’, but I love the people, I love the vegetation, I love the weather, I love the sunsets, I love the tropical drinks, I love the feel, I just love Hawaii.  I know Linda gets tired of hearing it, but . . . it just gets me!  And I get it!

Saturday morning, we had time for a nice breakfast, I had to haave the macadamia nut/banana pancakes; we were then picked up and taken to the ship, the Norwegian Cruise Lines’ ‘Pride of America’ to start our Hawaii-Golf adventure – and with my game, it’s always an adventure!  All Aboard and stay tuned!!

Bali Oceanfront Restaurant – Waikiki

Waikiki Beach fireworks

NCL Pride of America

 

 

HAMBURGERS, HOT DOGS AND SHOOFLY PIE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Here we are…the week of the 4th of July where thoughts turn to our country’s independence.  Right about now I’m guessing most people desire some independence from our politicians, but this being an election year I think we’re stuck with four more months of campaign ads and robo calls.  Hopefully no more debates.  But that’s a subject for another week.  This week I want to focus on an important part of any July 4th celebration – the dessert.  Last week I was looking for some ideas for a 4th of July cake and found most every food site suggests a cake with fruit on it – ideally in the shape of the American flag.  Fruit on cake???  Pies or tarts, yes, but not cake!  Cake and frosting should contain sufficient amounts of sugar and butter that you stay just this side of diabetes and clogged arteries.  I went down a rabbit hole looking for unique dessert ideas and discovered that people are quite weird – or desperate – when coming up with a proper dessert.  Here’s just a sampling of what I found:

              Shoofly pie

The Shoofly Pie – this cake actually has a tie to the 4th of July.  Shoofly pie is a molasses-based pie with a crumbly, streusel-like topping. No one knows for sure how the pie got its name, but it might be from the fact that its sweet and sticky surface tends to attract flies.  Now there’s an appetizing thought.  It might also, and more likely, be named after an early brand of molasses called Shoofly Molasses. According to some sources, the recipe for shoofly pie dates to 1876, originating with a crust-free molasses cake called centennial cake that was served to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Other sources attribute the recipe to the German immigrants of Pennsylvania Dutch country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who may have used molasses in a variation of an older British recipe known as a treacle tart. This sweet and crumbly pie is still popular among the Amish and Mennonite communities of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Well, I say let them have it.

The Tomato Soup Cake – this is wrong on so many levels.  The recipe dates back to 1922, and some accounts say the dessert was popular among Irish immigrants in New England. Personally, I think they should have stuck with Guinness. It is said that the tomato soup produces a moist red-orange cake that doesn’t taste like tomatoes at all, thanks to the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in the mix. I’ll take their word for it.  The cake was popular through the 1930s and 1940s, when Depression-era and wartime shortages called for culinary creativity. People sought out affordable substitutes that could stand in for pricier ingredients (such as tomatoes) without sacrificing flavor. In the 1940s, the Campbell Soup Company began experimenting with variations on the tomato soup cake recipe and, in 1960, printed a version on its tomato soup label — the first recipe to appear on a soup can. I don’t know who thought of putting tomatoes, fresh or in soup form, in a cake, but I would venture it was someone who never had a slice of Death by Chocolate.

Carrot Pudding – first, the word pudding is used in the British sense, loosely meaning dessert.  Carrot cake has been around for a while and in a pinch, it isn’t bad (especially if there is pineapple rather than raisins).  But before there was carrot cake, there was carrot pudding. A recipe in the 1591 English cookbook describes carrot pudding as a savory pudding made of chopped liver, breadcrumbs, spices, dates, and sugar that is then stuffed inside a hollow carrot. By the 18th century, carrot pudding had evolved into a sweet dessert baked in a pastry shell, similar to pumpkin pie. Another variation, called steamed carrot pudding, was made with shredded carrots and potatoes and steamed in a gelatin mold. In my opinion no good dessert contains the words “gelatin mold”. Regardless of its preparation, carrot pudding sounds like something you might serve to people you never want to come to dinner again.

After reading about these odd alternatives to cake, I decided that fruit in a cake might not be such a bad alternative.  Still, as it turns out I’ll be going to our club’s BBQ on Thursday and we have an awesome pastry chef.  While he may get cute with a berry 4th of July cake, I can guarantee he won’t be slipping any chopped liver into the mix.

Happy 4th of July to everyone!