Sunday, June 11, 2006


It all started with a giving church member and his mother. The mother seems to buy more food than she needs, so she passes the rest on to the church member and his family -- and that church member sometimes passes food on to me. It's like playing "hot potato," only these are more like canned goods.

I've received all sorts of free food from this church member in recent years, without even asking. But a few months ago, he gave me something challenging -- a can of Libby's pumpkin. It's probably challenging for a lot of single guys, because you're not supposed to simply open it and gulp it.

The label on the can of pumpkin showed its typical "serving suggestion" -- made into a pumpkin pie. But turn the can around, and you learn it's not as simple as spooning the can's contents into a pie shell. You need several other ingredients -- and in several months, my friend hasn't given me any of them.

A few weeks ago, I decided enough was enough. This can of pumpkin HAD to be used, so I decided to assemble the ingredients for the "Famous Pumpkin Pie" recipe on the label. But I was lacking several of them - and who knows how many roaches were stuck, inside my boxes of sugar.

Have you ever tried to follow those directions on the pumpkin can labels? These days, preparing a pumpkin pie is a pricy proposition. I'll stop there for a moment, and let you try to read that last sentence aloud....

I needed several extra ingredients, which I've never bought before in my life. The least of my worries was 59 cents, for a can of evaporated milk - but if it's evaporated already, why do I hear something sloshing around inside?

But the big shock came when I shopped for a few extra spices which the "Famous Pumpkin Pie" recipe requires. All I need is a half-teaspoon of ground ginger - but a tiny 0.8-ounce jar of that costs almost four dollars at Piggly Wiggly! You'd think Ginger of "Gilligan's Island" was exporting it from that desert island....

Such a tiny jar of ground ginger almost blew up my grocery budget for the week, so I wanted until the next trip to buy another necessary spice. That's because a small jar of ground cloves at Piggly Wiggly cost more than six dollars. Which big-money perfume is using these things, anyway?

All I need for the "Famous Pumpkin Pie" is a quarter-teaspoon of ground cloves - but last Thursday night at Wal-Mart, a 0.9-ounce jar of that cost almost four dollars again. I changed stores and saved money. But I could have used that four dollars to buy six two-liters bottles of diet cola, and drown my thirst for dessert.

As I write this, the thought occurs that I could have bought whole ginger and cloves and ground them down myself. I suppose my metal grater for shredding cheese would have worked for that - because the alternative of using a hammer seemed rather unsanitary.

(Some chefs reading this may wonder why I didn't buy pumpkin pie spice, instead of the expensive alternatives. I didn't know I had that option until I read the fine print on the label Saturday night. Maybe Libby's has an outsourcing deal with India or the Caribbean.)

While the can of pumpkin was a free gift, I'm guessing this "Famous Pumpkin Pie" has cost me about ten dollars for all the ingredients. No wonder they call it famous - you'll remember it, staring at the unused jars of spices for years to come.

I should note I have NOT prepared the "Famous Pumpkin Pie" yet. My schedule's been a bit too busy lately to do that. When I do, I'll let you know how it turns out -- and whether I should stick with Famous Amos cookies in a bag.

E-MAIL UPDATE: A reader asks some good questions about the outlook for Muscogee County schools....

How is MCSD suppose to stay within the law of the ratio of teacher / student set by Gov.Perdue when all the army families arrive..They are now operating with enough portable classrooms to house a city and can't find more teachers. How can the federal gov't say,"sorry,you are on your own?" Yet it was the gov't who is sending more troops to Benning..

There's an easy answer for getting around the teacher-student ratio - but how many people are in favor of sending all the army families to Iran right now?

Muscogee County schools certainly will need more teachers, if more army families are coming. In fact, this could be the best time ever to be a Columbus Police officer - because a local bidding war could be brewing for your skills....

There's someone available in Alabama, who made it a goal to get rid of portable classrooms. Don Siegelman rode that issue to the Governor's mansion in 1999 - and he somehow found a way to do it, without the lottery he wanted so much. Maybe he can run a consulting business from federal prison, after his trial.

How, you ask, can the federal government tell Muscogee County schools they're on their own? Conservatives would say it's really simple. The word is spelled N-O.

There's another way to handle this looming problem of surplus students and tight budgets - but we'll hold that e-mail for another day. Let's check some weekend news headlines now:

+ The high temperature in Columbus was 95 degrees F. - yet I was able to go outside at 9:00 p.m. and run more than three miles nonstop. It's not the heat, it's the sun reminding you of it....

+ The Talbot County town of Woodland was without running water for the second day in a row. If this keeps up, PBS will send a crew to turn it into a reality series - something like "This Old Southern House."

+ The Fuller Center held a fundraising event in Americus, and director Millard Fuller told WRBL some people donated their wedding rings to his cause. Wasn't this part of Fuller's problem in the first place - accusations that he was a bit too magnetic with the ladies?

+ Auburn University won the NCAA women's track title. One Auburn runner won a hurdle race when the first-place finisher was disqualified for "foot-dragging." Did that runner's mother do what my mother would have done for foot-dragging - and spank her when they got home?

+ Georgia Tech conquered College of Charleston, to advance to baseball's College World Series. But Georgia lost 15-6 in the super-regionals, as South Carolina hit five home runs in a row. Where's Kirsten Olesen when we need her - to proclaim "back to back to back to back to back jacks" ?!

+ Instant Message to all losing candidates in Russell County: If you don't pick up your road signs soon, I'll do it for you. Power Frisbee will need every bit of free publicity it can get....

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.65 a gallon at Spectrum on U.S. 80 in west Phenix City....Oreo cookies two-for-one at Publix.... and Alabama Democrats offering prayers of thanksgiving, that atheist Jerry Darby lost the primary for Attorney General....

SCHEDULED MONDAY: You can't spell "pastored" without PTSD.... and more grumbling about Smiths Station voting....

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