Real Cooking

I don’t envy Gordon Mohn these days. With the district facing deep cuts in the budget, our superintendent of schools must be experiencing the anxious pressure that every responsible leader feels when having to make challenging, even painful, decisions that will effect many lives.

This is only speculation, of course, but I’ve been wondering if Mr. Mohn of late has ever considered going into another line of work. One with less tension, fewer headaches-one that could even be more beneficial to his health.

Like choreography.

Now, if you think about it, that’s not such a farfetched idea. After all, Vicky Mohn is none other than the Vicky of Vicky’s School of Dance.

I could see it now. Miss Vicky could continue to teach the nuances of ballet and tap while Mr. Gordon mapped out the steps for each performance and designed the sets for the yearly recital.

OK, that’s probably not realistic, but I’m only trying to help.

According to the Jobs Rated Almanac, the job of choreographer comes in as the nation’s third-healthiest occupation.

Here is a listing of the entire top 10: activity specialist, chiropractor, choreographer, florist, massage therapist, nutritionist, personal trainer, professor, running coach, yoga instructor.

Most of these occupations include some form of exercise, but if you look closely, you might notice that each job deals with helping others and that many focus on the pursuit of intellectual, artistic and spiritual growth.

In contrast to, say, a yoga instructor, a corporate executive has a tremendous stress load. The chief executive officer has to please everyone from the stockholder to the board member to the employee to the customer. And all while maintaining a healthy bottom line.

Sounds a lot like the job of superintendent of schools.

But that job isn’t listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ top 10 of the most stressful jobs in America.

Here’s that list: U.S. president, firefighter, chief executive officer, race car driver, taxi driver, surgeon, astronaut, police officer, pro football player, air traffic controller.

Quite a mixed bag. But even though these professions are laden with anxiety, fear and stress, they aren’t the most dangerous.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most dangerous professions are:

Timber cutter-falling trees and chainsaws;

Fisher-of the deep-sea variety. I refer you to George Clooney in “The Perfect Storm;”

Airplane pilot-“747 falling out of the sky, oh won’t you take me down to Memphis on a midnight ride…;”

Structural metal worker-Have you ever seen those guys walk the girders?

Extractive occupation-TNT, need I say more?

Roofer-Is it falling off of roofs or the harmful UV rays?

Construction worker-Power tools, large machinery, ladders.

Truck driver-Too much time on the road.

Drivers/sales representative-Ditto.

Farmer-Coming home late one too many times.

That last comment is supposed to be a joke. We all know farming is dangerous because of the exposure to chemicals, heavy machinery and large, angry animals.

I’ve seen my husband run from an enraged, charging bull. It’s amazing how high and fast Keith can leap over a fence when the adrenaline is pumping. So graceful, so agile.

Maybe he should take up choreography.

I don’t see that happening any time soon, but I’m sure to remind Keith to be careful every time he goes off to work with the machinery or decides he needs to climb the towering walls of the silo. It makes me feel better, but realistically we know the hazards.

We accept the perils of farming because the benefits-wholesome living, family time, exercise and the freedom to be your own boss-outweigh the dangers.

And I think I know a superintendent of schools who, despite of the stress he now faces, finds deep fulfillment in watching a small school district grow into one of the finest in the state.

As a community, it’s time for us to work together to keep our schools strong. But at the same time we need to take a hard, realistic look at the numbers involving both budget and student enrollment. I encourage you to be a part of the solution to this challenge that our public schools face.

(And no, I didn’t write this to ensure my position at the school. So there.)

* * *

This delectable pastry comes from the American Pie Council’s collection of prize-winning recipes. Use a light hand when making the crust and be sure to chill the dough before rolling.

Honey Crunch Pecan Pie

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup shortening

6 tbs. cold water

1 tsp. white vinegar

4 large eggs, beaten

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup light corn syrup

2 tbs. butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tbs. bourbon, optional

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

3 tbs. butter

3 tbs. honey

11/2 cups pecan halves

To make crust: In a medium bowl, mix together flour and 1 tsp. salt. Cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Gradually add water and vinegar. Cut together until mixture will hold together. Press dough into a ball and lightly flour each side. Wrap in plastic and chill for 20 minutes. Roll out into a 1/8-inch thick circle and press into a 9-inch pie plate.

To make filling: In a large bowl, combine eggs, 1/4 cup brown sugar, white sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla and chopped pecans. Add bourbon if desired. Mix very well. Spoon mixture into unbaked pie shell. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove and cover edges of pastry with foil. Return to oven for 20 minutes.

To make topping Combine 1/3-cup brown sugar, butter and honey in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves-about 2 minutes. Add pecans. Stir until just coated. Spoon topping evenly over pie.

Keep foil on edges of pastry and return pie to oven for an additional 10 to 20 minutes or until topping is bubbly and golden brown. Cool before serving.

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