On January 1, we started receiving the local paper. This marked the first time I’ve regularly read a local paper in over 15 years. It’s partly a fluke — the New York Times delivery person refused to deliver the paper to my porch, which meant that more often than not I’d have to get dressed, go outside in the cold rain BEFORE my coffee, and retrieve the wet, besmirched paper from the muddy grass or behind my car. After repeated calls, I gave up and just stopped reading the paper in the morning.
The Eugene Register-Guard is no New York Times. I feel my IQ dropping each time I read it. Still, it has its charm. I’ve had limited knowledge of local politics for years, since I don’t watch much TV and only occasionally pick up the alternative weekly. Eugene is such a small town, with small-town insular attitudes and chatter, that we really lose an ability to communicate with our neighbors and friends when we don’t have access to news in the vernacular.
All in all, it seems like Eugene is often a chicken running around without a head. To a newbie, the yuppie v. hippie battles are very amusing, the slapstick routines of local government less so. There’s some ridiculous, everchanging plan about a new hospital, and another about wasting a few mill on a new stadium. Meth addicts are stealing copper wire from power stations, so The Man made a plan to start painting wire in identifiable colors. The newspaper editors removed a comic about a black family after segregating it to the classifieds page. Someone’s up at arms about the design for the new pizzeria, complaining that the modern-style architecture (excuse me, “Northwest contemporary with an urban buzz and shadows of ancient Italy”) will fit into the neighborhood less well than its current design (Gay 90s green, red, and white Farrell’s ice cream parlour with encrustations of light bulbs ). A charter has been taken away from a free-for-all alternative school thanks to assessments like No Child Left Behind. No laggards here in Eugene, that’s for sure!
I think I like the obituaries the best. Horrible writing. It’s been a while since I’ve seen formulaic prose done so poorly. Someone who was murdered had an entry last week, as did a grandmother who was known for her baking. Something you’d never seen in the NYT? They published a recipe for her chocolate chip cookies in the death announcement. So I bring you, with all due respect:
Deceased Grandma Chocolate Chip Cookies (edits in brackets are mine)
2/3 c. butter or margarine
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
[1 t. vanilla]
2 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 – 12 oz. package chocolate chips.
[Preheat oven to 350 degrees.] Combine the butter, sugars and eggs. Beat well. [Add the eggs after creaming the butter and sugar and vanilla, and ignore “add vanilla” later.] Add the dry ingredients, beat well. Add the vanilla, nuts and chocolate chips. [And mix with wooden spoon to combine. Drop dough in tablespoon-sized portions on a cookie sheet lined with foil.] Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!
The family obviously loved grandma, and I like the idea of the recipe addition to the obituary very much. I’m pretty sure, though, without checking, that this is a variation of your standard Toll House cookie recipe, which makes the recipe addition even more fascinating. To be remembered most of all for your standard recipe that has been printed on the back of chocolate chip packages for decades? Awful? Or is it the same quest for — and certain achievement of — immortality that grips artists and writers? I can say this: I made the cookies, in memoriam. They are honestly an old-fashioned cookie: a bit cakey and rather plain. I served them to my husband, who said they weren’t anything like my regular chocolate chip cookies. Indeed, quoth he, they reminded him of his (dead) grandma’s cookies.
And that’s why I like reading the local newspaper.