Steve Mullen: Keeping Uncle Haley out of the kitchen

November 18, 2009 10:03:00 AM

Steve Mullen - [email protected]


We thought, over the past several years with two elementary-age kids, that we''d seen all the cutesy Thanksgiving-themed things students could possibly produce. Of course, there''s the perennial favorite: Drawings and cutouts of turkeys made by tracing their hands. We''ve seen the Indian feathers and headbands from construction paper, and the Pilgrim hats and buckles. We''ve seen turkeys made out of pine cones and Coke cans. 


This year, a teacher threw us a curve. 


The first-grader came home the other day with a "recipe book" -- a folder full of turkey recipes from each kid in her class, recorded by the teacher exactly as dictated to her. The result is a bunch of those "Kids Say the Darndest Things" moments only parents and grandparents -- and no one else -- can probably appreciate. 


One example:  




2 Bacon Meat 


2 Cups Hot Sauce 


1 White Powder 


Any Kind of Meat 


Mix bacon, powder and hot sauce. Stuff it with any kind if meat. Bake at warm degrees for 30 min. It''s done when the light comes on and it looks just like a turkey! 


Aw. Precious. What pearls fall from the mouths of babes. 


Grown-ups can play this game too, though. Look at all the different recipes out there for the same dish -- a palatable Mississippi University for Women. 


The consensus seems to be that for years, we had a great Thanksgiving feast before us, but what''s sitting on the plate right now isn''t very tasty. Yes, it''s still grandma''s home-cooked Thanksgiving that you''re used to getting. But Grandma is getting up in years now, and she''s losing her touch. She''s putting too much salt in the green beans. She just sneezed in the sweet potatoes. She forgot what time the turkey went in, and at what temperature -- friends, we have a salmonella cocktail on our hands here.  


We know we need to break it to Grandma: Time to get out of the kitchen. 


We know we can''t continue with low enrollment, empty dorms, low impact on the community, a general lack of excitement. Something has to change. 


To her credit, President Claudia Limbert has been in the kitchen with Grandma for many years now. She tried to take charge and add a little spice to Grandma''s cooking, with her drive for a new name. That''s all well and good, but without the unified alumni behind you, you may as well be cooking a turkey in a cold oven, and serving it to a half-empty table. Many continue to force it down, unable or unwilling to face down Grandma. So, Limbert''s Reneau University announcement added no spice to this meal. 


Plenty of armchair chefs are whispering into Limbert''s ear -- those well-meaning uncles who dart in and out of the kitchen with half-brained suggestions on how to get the meal back on track. 


One suggestion: Merge The W and East Mississippi Community College. EMCC, which is looking for room to expand, could close up shop in Scooba, shelve plans to buy land in Maben and build dorms at Mayhew, and instead share the MUW campus.  


And, here comes Uncle Haley, muscling into the kitchen, with his idea: Merge The W and Mississippi State University.  


We don''t think Uncle Haley cares about how the meal tastes, as much as he wants it done. We''re not running back to the store to get any ingredients we might have forgotten. We''re cooking this thing up now, with what we''ve got. In fact, if all we have is White Powder and Any Kind of Meat, let''s do that. 


We all have our ideas. But that doesn''t change the fact that Grandma''s still in the kitchen. Still, most of us, no matter how much we might want to, don''t have the stomach to kick her out. 


Limbert''s our friend in the kitchen. She''s been dealing with Grandma for years now. Grandma''s rearing back to sneeze, and Limbert strategically moves the sweet potatoes away from the spray zone, just in time. She even puts the little marshmallows on top just right. 


Limbert might not be the best chef --she''s no Emeril. But she''s the one in the kitchen. Grandma ain''t letting Uncle Haley or anyone else in, anytime soon.  


The Legislature isn''t going to merge The W with MSU -- they have Grandma''s respect, and dare not face her down. But they should realize Limbert has the key to a better meal. We need to give her recipe for a name change a chance. We need to ease Grandma into the living room, and let Limbert take over.  


Given a chance, Limbert''s Reneau University is going to taste better than what Grandma''s been giving us lately -- and can only be better than Uncle Haley''s recipe. 


Otherwise, we may as well pass around the Any Kind of Meat.

Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.