Real Cooking

“I’m with the band,” I heard myself say and in that moment my mind flashed back to another place and time when saying that same phrase meant something altogether different.

I wasn’t 20 years old anymore and I wasn’t following some longhaired young man into the backstage area of a smoke-filled nightclub.

But the thought was fleeting because I needed to pay attention to the more than 60 seventh and eighth graders going through the turnstiles at the front entrance of Worlds of Fun.

After an afternoon on roller coasters and water rides, the band from Hillsboro Middle School was ready to perform for the judges during the park’s Festival of Bands contest.

I and the other parents who were acting as sponsors for the trip stood at the gate and counted heads. We tried to keep everyone moving and help to get the more cumbersome instruments over the barriers and through the turnstiles.

When it was time for me to go through the gate, I looked at the attendant and said, “I’m with the band.”

“Yeah, I thought so,” said the good-natured young man guarding the gate. “I kind of caught on to that.”

That’s when the thought hit me. I was a roadie for the Hillsboro Middle School band. Not the band most roadies aspire to. Instead of setting up elaborate stage and lighting displays, I was making sure everyone stayed safe and with their group.

Instead of tuning up guitars and positioning drum kits, I was schlepping cups of ice water into the tent where the kids were warming up (literally) before their performance.

I didn’t have to deal with temperamental rock musicians, but I did have to listen to a little whining about “why do we have to stand here and wait so long for our picture to be taken?”

I felt like whining, too, but instead I summoned up enough maturity to reply: “It’s part of the process, guys. Just hold on for a few minutes. And, hey you… put your dress shirt back on, young man, you aren’t getting your picture taken in just your T-shirt.”

But other than looking at a bee sting and finding some paper towels for a bloody nose, the day went by without incident. I have to admit the kids really were very responsible and pleasant to be around.

Yet interesting, very interesting.

For 17 hours I had the privilege of witnessing every behavior attributed to an adolescent population. There were those who were into appearing very cool and there were those who marched to the beat of their own, very individual, drum.

Some of the kids were into the whole “couple” thing while most of the others wandered around the park in packs. But there were still others who were content to spend the day with one good buddy.

And I watched, mostly from a distance, at how they interacted, how they carried themselves, and how they behaved. What struck me the most was how telling body language is in this age group. Just by looking at them, I think I could tell who was comfortable in their own skin and who was either trying to draw attention to themselves or trying to divert attention away.

Of course, if asked I’m sure they would all say they were “just fine, thank you very much,” but all of us who have lived through the junior high years-and lived-know we all had our share of insecurities.

Oh, the drama.

But they’ll survive. Just like Keith and I survived riding in the back of the bus all the way to Kansas City and then all the way back again. And even though we got jostled and jolted, and even though we didn’t get home until two in the morning, we were glad we went.

Not only did we both enjoy spending time with the kids, but we were also able to witness a magnificent performance by our middle school band. They were nothing short of awesome, and I say that not because our son and daughter took part, but because of the merit of the musicians.

Credit certainly has to go to our band director, Gregg Walker. He has taught them well. And the students deserve a lot of credit, too, as their hard work and practice have certainly paid off.

What a terrific bunch of kids. Even though they are going through one of the toughest stages of life, I was impressed.

* * *

If you have some leftover ham from your Easter dinner, you might want to try this dish for brunch or a light supper.

Warm Maple, Ham and Apple Coffeecake Bake

1 (12 oz.) can flaky biscuit dough

2 cups chopped cooked ham

2 cups chopped apples, peeled and cored

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. apple pie spice

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

For spiced, spiked glaze

1/3 cup powdered sugar

2 tbs. bourbon

1/4 tsp. apple pie spice

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Cut each biscuit into four equal pieces, set aside. Sprinkle one cup of the ham, one cup of the apples and all of the raisins into the bottom of a greased 9-inch square-baking pan. Spread evenly over bottom of the pan. Arrange biscuit pieces over the top, pointed ends up if you like that effect. Sprinkle with remaining ham and apples.

In a small mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, 1/2-tsp. apple pie spice, maple syrup and egg, blending thoroughly. Stir in nuts, then spoon evenly over biscuit pieces and ham/apple mixture.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool for five minutes and then drizzle with glaze. Serve warm.

For glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients until smooth.

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