I made hummus over the weekend and was having some for lunch and remembered the column I wrote Sunday but didn’t publish. It was about making hummus, and other Sunday activities.
I decided to write a blog post about making hummus and call it “Joe Hummus,” but then I started thinking about the challenge of writing a weekly column.
I went home Friday with no column written for this week’s paper, which went to press on Monday, so Sunday afternoon I sat down to write. I wrote two columns, both of which sucked, so I got up early on Monday and wrote a third, which is in the Sept. 12 paper.
Not one of my best, but so it goes. It was relevant and timely and dealt with a significant local topic.
When you write every week, it’s tough coming up with ideas, which is why most writers, after a few weeks, or months, or years, eventually write the “I don’t have anything to write” column. It usually begins, “As I was trying to come up with something to write about this week,” which is where any self-respecting reader should quit reading, because the writer obviously has nothing to say.
I did one of those after my first year or so at the Messenger, prompting editor Jim Baden to say, “Oh, you finally got to the ‘I don’t have anything to write about’ column.”
I started seeing other examples of the art form in other small-town papers and will be forever embarrassed that I resorted to such a hackneyed lead.
To my credit, I’ve cranked out a lot more column inches (miles) than most people who hit the wall.
In spite of the fact that I’ve been pumping this well for 15 years, I’m proud to say I’ve rarely come up empty. The reality, though, is that you often have to take what you can get, which means I end up writing way too much about myself, because as a narcissist, that’s what I’m usually thinking about.
It’s an awkward feeling to be the person who has bared more of his soul to the community than anyone in a 50-mile radius, but that’s my lot in life.
I started writing columns every other week in about 1998, and it was good practice, to have to come up with an idea and see it through with some regularity.
That was my routine until I came back as editor in 2007. Former owner Dick Norlander and his partner Kevin Anderson were each writing once a month, so I still only had two a month (three if there were five Wednesdays). But Kevin got busy with other things, and Dick retired, so now readers are stuck with me every week.
Believe me, I’ve tried to give my valuable real estate to other writers on the staff, but no one else seems to be able to come up with more than one column a month.
So it goes.
I don’t have the option of letting the well run dry. If it does, I’ll have to dig a new well.
Anyway, back to the hummus.
I like to cook beans from scratch, rather than using the canned kind. Garbanzos (chick peas) cook up pretty quickly after soaking overnight or using the quick soak method (bring to a boil, then let sit for two hours).
I was out of tahini, so I googled hummus recipes and found that peanut butter is a good substitute. I add lots of garlic, a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and some of the liquid from cooking the beans. Put it in the blender, and voila, it’s tasty, smooth, nutritious hummus with no preservatives or additives.
I’ve got several containers in the freezer to last me a couple months.
Here’s my rejected column:
Another perfect day in Minnesota
If I want to get smacked by my wife, I can just start singing that song from ‘Fiddler on the Roof” — “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I can’t remember growing older, when did they?” Never fails to make her cry — and make her mad at me for making her cry.
We’re at the age when we spend more and more time at funerals of friends’ parents and parents’ friends. At a funeral over the weekend, old friends and I kept coming back to the old cliche’: It goes so fast, and the older we get, the faster it goes.
What’s rarely recognized is the opposite fact: That life slows down.
From the time I was a kid all the way through the first 20 years of adulthood, the days sped by. I could spend a whole day doing nothing but reading a book, watching TV, or hanging out with friends. No matter how late I stayed up, the day wasn’t long enough to finish a conversation.
When I hit the real world, days were over as soon as they began — especially weekends. By the time Friday rolled around, Monday was knocking on the door.
But something happened a few years ago, for which I am forever grateful: Call it a paradox, a contradiction, or a conundrum, but as the years sped up, the days slowed down.
Such was the case on Sunday, when I fit more life into one day than I could fit into a month in the old days.
It began with coffee in bed, and when the conversation lagged, we warmed up our cups and watched the sun come over the trees from lawn chairs on the porch.
By 9 a.m., we’d put in a full day of directionless conversation.
While Diane made banana pancakes, I cleaned the last of the plums, which sprouted from my tree by the thousands this year. I’ve made a couple dozen jars of sauce (enough for several years), and I’ve eaten a couple handfuls a day for a month now. I took what was left and sorted them into three piles: the good (for eating fresh), the bad (for the chickens) and the ugly (for the dehydrator).
I also put some garbanzo beans on for a quick soak, planning to make some hummus later in the day.
After breakfast with the kids, Diane organized a game of whiffle ball with the neighbors, which five kids won 11-10 over six grownups.
The beans were done soaking, so I set them to boil and went out to clean the chicken coop, which I’ve been putting off. By the time I was done with that, the Vikings game still hadn’t started, so I made a fried egg sandwich and sat down to wait for the kickoff.
We watched the first quarter or two, then decided to take a bike ride around the block, which is five miles or so. No wind, perfect temperature, and clouds that looked like they’d been painted on a sky too blue to be real.
By the time we got back, the beans were done and it was the second half of the football game, so I made hummus while keeping one eye on the game.
I played catch with Leif, rode horses with Diane, made pizza for the family, shared a glass of wine with my sister-in-law, played another game of catch, watched another game.
After a long, slow day, all that was left was to write this column: Another perfect day in Minnesota.