Enjoy Your Flight

The airlines are the most reliably honest corporations doing business these days. I know what you’re thinking — I’ve done nothing but rant against the airlines for years now. And you’re right. But the fact is the airlines are laughably up-front about their greediness and lack of interest in customer service (exception: if you purchase first-class seats for your flights, you are on their “treat-’em-right” list and should disregard the following).

What prompts this is the news that Delta — the airline I flew all the time since it overwhelmed other carriers at the Atlanta airport near my home — has made a lot of money in 2014. Profits at Delta are up, up and away, driven in part by higher fares, exorbitant fees and lower gas prices.

In fact, Delta reports it saved some $52 billion last year because of lower prices the airline had to pay for gasoline for its planes. So, you wonder, will Delta lower its fares as part of its concern for its passengers? You are surely joking, right? Delta says it will use the money to make its bottom line look better. Listen to Delta’s DEO, Richard Anderson:

“The first order of use is to continue to reduce our net debt, and the second order will be higher cash returns for our owners.” You have to really appreciate that kind of corporate honesty: Screw the customers, we’re looking after our investors. Of course, given Delta’s lack of interest in reducing fees and making seats comfortable — even tolerable — what else should we expect? And, to be honest about it, Delta is not alone; these words could as easily echo from the mouths of the CEO at any other American airline.

With strong demand, packed planes, reduced in-flight services, customers willingly paying outrageous fees and tolerating increasingly uncomfortable flying circumstances, why should Delta or any other airline be worried? Beats me — it seems a near perfect collision of greed and need. Don’t look for any changes anytime soon. Enjoy your next flight.

Looking Ahead with Trepidation

A few thoughts about the American economy c. 2015 …..

Can we please stop with all the caterwauling about how falling oil prices are ruining the economy? They aren’t ruining anything. And they’re helping tens of millions of Americans save millions of dollars, thereby improving the economy. This is not a rant–it’s factual. The federal government estimates that the typical American household is on track to save an average of $750 on fuel bills in 2015. If you’re a billionaire — or a Republican voter — that apparently won’t enter into your thinking. For the rest of us, however, that’s a huge boost, the equivalent of a major tax break for America’s middle class.

So why the whining? Well, stock market investors in oil companies have taken a hit. Big oil companies have slowed their digging. They have warned of job reductions if low prices continue. And you know what? There’s no way in hell or anywhere else that that is more important than the good news for so many Americans. The savings for American families has more than offset — by ten times at least — the gross domestic product represented by oil and gas industry development, according to The New York Times.

Now a lot of people are celebrating this. Republican congressmen seem to be alarmed by it, expressing fear that a shortfall in production will cause prices to jump. Well, prices are going to go back up because oil prices will rise eventually. The rise and fall is part of the capital market. We’ve all suffered when prices were up (and oil companies were making huge profits) — and those same Republican congressmen griped about it — but now that it’s down and the middle class is reaping benefits, the Republicans (John Boehner, Ted Cruz and the rest of you, I’m talking to you) are sounding concerned.

These are the same party which has reduced federal food stamp benefits for millions of poorer Americans. This is the same party that has fought to stop Obamacare, charging that it will drive up costs for everyone when the facts now show it is lowering costs for millions. That’s not a face — that’s what’s happening. This is the party that hurls its utmost energy into battles to keep the wealthy from having to pay any more in taxes while showing scant concern for the middle class.

This is also the party of the climate change deniers. The party whose platform opposes gay marriages. The party that opposes women’s birth rights. This is the party on the wrong side of almost every important social change in the United States in the last 30 years. And this is the party that controls both houses of the U.S. Congress.

That’s the hardest part to explain — why have voters supported politicians whose interests are so aligned against those of the middle class? These congressmen — admittedly like too many of their Democratic counterparts — have shown their only interest lies in getting re-elected. And in condescending to the basest of their constituents. And their constituents have fallen for it. Thinking about it, you have to bemoan the intellectual state of the Republican voter in this country.

There is no way to connect intelligence and thoughtfulness and compassion with people like Congressmen Louis Gohmert, Ted Yoho, Ted Cruz, Steve King and … well, sadly, it’s way too easy to go on with a listing. It makes for a depressing commentary on the state of American politics and the state of American voters. There’s a dumbness about too many of them that is frightening for this country’s future. And that’s not elitism, either. Far from it. It is rather speaking to a narrowness, a callowness, a willingness to place personal interests far above national interests. Our founding fathers would surely find this almost unimaginable and those who perpetrate it — politicians and voters — to be disgraceful and undeserving.

Enter 2015

What a year 2015 promises to be!

Americans bringing back cigars from Cuba legally. Eating French fries again instead of those “Freedom” fries. A year year free of presidential politics. OK, I may have misstepped with that last one. In fact, since Chris Christie has spent more time in Iowa than New Jersey in the last 12 months suggests I am not just overly optimistic but downright bonkers. We are in full-bore presidential freak-out even though it’s a year before the primaries.

It’s somewhat amusing to think about the possibilities for Democrats, but blessed folly to consider the Republicans. For the Demos, as we know, it will be Hilary against the field, which at the present time includes only Jim Webb (who?). Will a long-shot show up a la Barack Obama in 2008 to take away the Clinton’s marbles? I have no idea.

Nor do I really have an educated guess about the Republicans, but then again who does? It’s just dizzying fun to consider the options: Rick Perry (memory loss?). Rick Santorum (Google him). Scott Walker (who?). Jeb Bush (can’t see the forest for the Bushes). Chris Christie (America needs a bully). Mike Huckabee (good for book sales). Herman Cain (oh please, please yes). Marco Rubio (ready to lead the Roughriders back to Cuba). Ted Cruz (when hell freezes over. And over). Mitt Romney (you’re kidding, right?).

Take a deep breath and look over that field — is there anyone, really anyone, you want to cast a vote for in 2016? My hope is that we’re looking at the wannabes and not someone who may actually run and win. Someone qualified. Someone intelligent, outspoken, progressive, capable, someone with a vision for this country that includes all strata of its citizens, from the poorest to the richest, from the neediest to the least deserving. Someone with passion, compassion, leadership and … oh who am I kidding. Forget that and let’s all just get behind Ted Yoho.

OK, I’m kidding again. I just like writing the name Ted Yoho.

007 Comes to New Hampshire?

The online headline really grabbed my attention last week: “James Bond Sequel To Film in New Hampshire.”

Talk about WOW! The story reported that fans of the Bond movies were having mixed feelings about the surprise change of locations for the upcoming 24th film in the hugely popular series. “A Bond film is known for its exotic locales, so I get a little nervous when I read about director Sam Mendes securing the rights to shoot in downtown Concord and scouting covered bridges for the opening action sequence,” fan Peter Harris said in response to the absolutely astonishing news.

The film, according to the article, will feature Agent 007 tracking a shadowy terrorist organization through conservation centers, hiking trails, maple syrup farms and craft museums throughout the rural state, culminating in a final confrontation at the Franklin Pierce Homestead. Fans were also reportedly divided over the decision to change the name of the film from “Spectre” to “Live Free Or Die.”

OK, by now, even the densest of readers must have realized something is amiss. As indeed it is, since this news report appeared in The Onion, the satiric newspaper that re-imagines the news as sort of a parallel universe. (Other recent headlines: “Elderly Woman Begins Freezing Meals Husband Can Eat While She’s Passed Away” and “Desperate GOP Spotted in South Dakota Trying to Build Keystone Pipeline Themselves.”). You get the idea, I’m sure.

But stop and think about it for a moment. Why shouldn’t 007 traipse around our beloved Granite State disposing of spies and various and assorted bad guys? What better place for the villains to hide than somewhere in the Great North Woods where the lakes are called Connecticut Lake 1 and Connecticut Lake 2? Who but Bond would ever figure out they’re actually in New Hampshire and not The Nutmeg State?

I see a lot of opportunities for James Bond’s escapades in New Hampshire to thrill the most sated of adventure-loving moviegoers.

Can’t you just see the drama and surprise afoot when Bond pursues the evil ones up Mount Washington? They’re all dressed like Palm Beach tourists at the base, but as they proceed upward — using the cog railway would give everyone plenty of time to admire the gorgeous scenery — only 007 understands the temperature will drop by 40 degrees and it will be snowing by the time they get to the top, the villains now helplessly shivering and easy prey for the master spy.

When something as harmless and charming as Keene’s Pumpkin Festival goes awry, who better to resolve all the issues than 007 with his amazing array of gadgets (like a pumpkin device that wraps would-be miscreants harmlessly in an orange, gooey substance that smells a lot like a pie)?

And for that big finish for the film at the Franklin Pierce Homestead, wouldn’t it be thrilling to have the film’s stars taking time during the derring-do to talk about the accomplishments of the nation’s 14th President, skipping over only those parts about his excuses for slavery, his denunciation of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and his generally high ranking among America’s worst Presidents (talking about you, Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan).

Heck, maybe the fabled secret agent could somehow even manage to penetrate the ultra-secretive offices of FairPoint Communications to bring an end to the onerous strike that has crippled phone service for many Granite Staters. Wouldn’t that be worth at least a standing ovation in the theaters?

Frankly, I can’t wait for the filming to start. I’m already smiling at the prospect of Daniel Craig jostling for space with the likes of Hilary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and everyone else who’s spending some serious quality time in New Hampshire.

I’m not sure we’re big enough for all of them to co-exist. In which case they may spillover to Vermont, which could lead us to a round dairy farms, maple syrup stands, cheese makers and unpaved roads. And — could you imagine the bad guys trying to make a successful getaway anywhere during our mud season?

The Joy of Losing

The start of a new basketball season brings back dismal thoughts of my own hoops career, an experience even shorter than Scott Brown’s New Hampshire political career.

It would have been longer — my career, that is — had I just been a little taller, a tad faster, a better shooter, more energetic, more interested and owned a decent pair of gym shoes. Of course, no one on my team had many of those things either. We were pretty pitiful, really. Even considering all the other junior high school teams.

We went winless for the one season I was on the team. Mercifully, I don’t recall any of the scores — or much of anything else, thank goodness — except that we were, to put it pleasantly, slaughtered every time we ventured on the court.

Recalling those painful memories recently brought up another group of losers: the 1916 Cumberland College football team, a squad I could have played for had I been alive in 1916. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how many of the Cumberland players were alive once their game with Georgia Tech was finished.

If you don’t happen to know, Cumberland College (located in Tennessee) set a record that October day in 1916 that stands unchallenged almost 100 years later and seems certain to remain forever in the record books: they lost to Georgia Tech 220-0.

That’s not a misprint. 220 to zero. And you think you’ve had a bad day? I know all about it because I used to attend some Georgia Tech football games and followed the team’s history. When I came upon the story of that Cumberland game, my jaw dropped in laughter. Moments later, however, I was almost overcome with a rush of sympathy for those Cumberland players, seeing them in the light of my own miserable basketball experience.

How could anyone get beat so badly? Cumberland trailed 126-0 at halftime, so Tech clearly took no pity on its hapless opponent and outscored them 96-0 in the second half. Talk about piling on. So why did Tech go for such a massacre?

I at first assumed it was because Cumberland was so bad And they were, to be sure. The school had given up football the previous year but was obligated by contract to play Tech, so they rounded up 14 players — some of them law students, and any of whom probably would have qualified to be on our junior high hoops team — and went to Atlanta. The odds were obviously against them. But there’s more to the story.

The Georgia Tech coach, John Heisman (for whom the Heisman Trophy is named), was also Tech’s baseball coach, and his team had been clobbered 22-0 by Cumberland earlier in that year. Heisman was angry about that and also believed Cumberland had used a few professional players in its rout. He apparently determined his revenge and got it. His Tech team scored every time they had the ball, and they never threw a pass. The didn’t have to; they ran for an amazing total of 978 yards.

The official records of the game are few, the anecdotes are many. Coach Heisman is reported to have told his team at halftime — leading, you remember, 126-0 — that
“We`ve got to be alert, men . . . you just can`t tell what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. Hit `em clean, but hit `em hard!”

The good news to take away from this absolutely true tale — you can look it up — is that not a single member of the Cumberland team died on the field. In fact, in later years some of those who participated reminisced fondly about their experience. They recalled that as a warmup for Tech a several weeks earlier, the little band of volunteers played Sewanee and lost 107-0. I suppose there’s a moral in there somewhere; you can figure it out.

Anyhow, my basketball team never got embarrassed on that scale. Nope, we just got plain old embarrassed game after game after game. Our player’s parents started finding excuses not to attend the games (“Your sister has to have new ballet shoes; we’ll see you back at home”). I do believe one of our assistant coaches actually faked being sick one afternoon so he didn’t have to show up.

It was, I suppose, on the whole, sort of a learning experience. I learned what it was to be a loser. And to share being part of an entire team full of losers. And please spare me thoughts about “everyone’s a winner” in competing; that’s hooey. We were losers.

But more importantly, I learned from that awful season that I really wanted to be the sports editor of the high school newspaper. It is, I found out, a lot more fun to write about losers than to be one. Not much of a moral there, I guess, but it worked out pretty decently.

A Welcome Decison

In a decision ending decades of irrationality and brining the United States squarely into the 21st century, President Obama has wisely decided to recognize Cuba. The fact that Cuba is a mere 90 miles from the U.S. mainland attests to how silly this non-recognition policy has been ever since the 1960s. Of course, we had to punish Fidel Castro for his rebel-led rebellion that thwarted the best efforts of the CIA back in the ’50s, when that agency was overthrowing legitimately elected governments all over Latin America. Surely you didn’t think CIA torture program was the agency’s only mishap, did you? Try reading “The Brothers” by New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer for a grim and revealing look at the CIA’s work with the enthusiastic backing of the government back in the ’50s and early ’60s.

But back to Cuba. The President’s action is being hailed by everyone with some common sense, which of course excludes the anti-Castro community in South florida, Which has held this country’s policy hostage for five depressing decades. Representative of that is Florida Rep. Marco Rubio, who, sounding like a Cold War relic, warns of how this decision will threaten America’s national security (a Cuban military invasion of Key West?). Rubio, naturally, is just spouting politics; he wants to secure the electoral votes of Florida for his 2016 presidential bid. Ironically and entertainingly, incoming Senate President Mitch McConnell says his thoughts about Cuba are whatever Marco Rubio thinks “because he’s the expert.” So much for Mitch’s intellectual chops; whatever someone else thinks works fine for him. Keeps him from having to think very much, which apparently is both painful and too often comes up empty.

Anyhow, re-establishing relations with Cuba will prove a boon to the Cuban people our policy has professed to help but which has in actuality only hurt economically. Of course Cubans are happy about it along with the prospect of an end of lessening of the fault-ridden and unsuccessful boycott. It will ultimately prove good for U.S. businesses and tourists. It already is having a positive impact on U.S. relations with the rest of the continent. Think about that, Mitch.

Of course a lot of Republicans will oppose this. After all, it comes from President Obama, who is the Satan of America. Maybe, just maybe, common sense will win out. It’s long overdue.

One Christmas at a Time, Santa Belichick

Imagine the scene. It’s almost Christmas at the North Pole. The elves are scrambling here and there on their many tasks, and ‘ol Santa Claus himself is overseeing the blur of activities. During a break in the afternoon, Santa agrees to hold a press conference to answer questions about the holiday preparations from eager members of the media.

Here’s a transcript of that press conference between media members and Santa, who is disguised as Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, wearing a Christmas hoodie and an impatient scowl.

Santa (Belichick): OK, let’s go.

Media: Santa, how are the preparations coming?

Santa: Everything is fine. We’re taking it one toy at a time.

Media: How would you characterize your mood Santa?

Santa: I’m not interested in moods, only in the job we have to do.

Media: Oh come on, Santa, how is your mood on this eve of the big holiday.

Santa: (unsmiling) Jolly.

Media: What special things are your elves up to today?

Santa: We want to keep everyone focused on getting ready.

Media: Are some toys in demand this season?

Santa: I’m just focused on getting ready.

Media: We notice one of the elves appears to be hurt. Will he miss out on the fun?

Santa: I’m not going to talk about that.

Media: Why not?

Santa: We are focusing on the upcoming holiday.

Media: How is Mrs. Claus doing this year?

Santa: (extra scowling) No comment.

Media: Will Mrs. Claus be making you some cookies and cakes for your long journey?

Santa: We are taking it one toy at a time.

Media: How is Rudolf? Will he join the other reindeers this season?

Santa: I’m not going to talk about personnel.

Media: What are you willing to talk about Santa?

Santa: Staying focused on the job we have to do.

Media: Could you tell us how you plan to get down all those chimneys in one night?

Santa: I’m not going to say anything that might give away our game plan. Are there any more questions?

Media: How do you manage to get everything done year after year Santa?

Santa: We’re making one toy at a time.

Santa: Is everything alright here Santa?

Santa: Next question?

Media: Santa, how come you’re wearing a hoodie and not that red suit.

Santa: (Silence) (Serious scowling)

Media: Is there anything else you want to say, Santa?

Santa: No.

Media: Well then, Merry Christmas, Santa.

Santa: We’ll see.

(End of Transcript)

Helping the Few

The Manchester (NH) Union Leader, our state’s comically Republican newspaper, is on a mission. Fix the economy. Fix it while there’s still time before the Granite state becomes a New England economic afterthought. Bring back the heady days of the 1980s and 1990s when we were a leader among our neighbors.

That’s the clarion call, urged in a front-page editorial by the newspaper’s publisher in support of an interesting Republican/Libertarian column written by Charles Arlinghaus, who is identified as associated with a free-market (surprise!) think tank in Concord. His column contrasts the days of yore when the state’s economy surged to the last 10 years when it has lagged. Let’s see now — does that reflect economic trends at any other state in the Union? Well, generally speaking, about 38 of them, nearly all outside the South and Southwest.

The column by a no doubt well-intentioned and intelligent man — and the publisher’s declaration — pinpoint New Hampshire’s high business tax rate as the prime mover in the state’s “disintegrating” business economy. And the solution, they write in phrases that could easily have come from any chamber of commerce manifesto — is to lower the tax rates so more businesses will come here, more jobs will be created, high energy costs will evaporate and everyone will be happier. It’s a win-=win proposition if you don’t involve the people of New Hampshire who aren’t well-off Republicans (or like-minded) like the newspaper publisher and his columnist.

How will cutting the tax rates for business help maintain the expanded Medicaid program that provides at least some health coverage for 50,000 or so Granite Staters? How will be pay for getting our roads and bridges — indeed, our entire infrastructure — repaired and maintained? And where’s the evidence that the number of these new high-paying jobs to be created will amount to anything meaningful for the unemployed, minimally employed or elderly population? Wouldn’t it be more helpful to talk about minimum wage increases to help New Hampshire’s most needy get by a little easier?

Actually, no, not in the plans espoused in the Union Leader. Theirs is a simple Republican agenda that hasn’t worked in the past: help those so-called “job creators” make work for others. There’s been precious little work as a result of these efforts, and no one in the white, well-off, entitled community of Republicans and their sympathizers has shown that these job creators do anything other than improve their own situations.

Wouldn’t it be nice to read a front-page editorial that called for anything — anything — that would actually help the profound majority of Granite Staters and not just the privileged few? It won’t be coming anytime soon from the editorial pages of the Union Leader.

Handicapping the handicapped (politically speaking)

Now that the 2014 mid-terms are over, who can resist launching the conversation about the 2016 presidential hopefuls? Actually I can, but I choose not to — it’s much more fun to handicap the potential Republican candidates for the White House, even if at this point they are lacking a bit in the glorious wackiness of the 2012 wannabes. Who can forget Michele Bachman? Or Herman Cain? Or Rick Santorum? Or Rick Perry? Wait a minute — Rick Perry may be back in 2016 — so let’s get on with the preview.

Listed in no particular order of success, mostly because it is doubtful any of them will be the party’s candidate much less the nation’s President:

Rand Paul: Appealing looking guy who says interesting things. Interestingly, most of them will assure he doesn’t win the nomination, notably his dovish, neo-isolationist foreign policy ideas in a party dominated by war hawks. Odds of success: 500-1.

Mitt Romney: Honestly, in hindsight absolutely EVERYONE seems better. Look at George Bush. Odds: 1,000-1.

Rick Perry: Oh please, please, let him run again. Perry was an amusing lightweight on the national stage in 2012, and there’s no evidence he’s gotten brighter. He apparently appeals mostly to Texans. Odds :200-1.

Ted Cruz: Speaking of Texans, here the over-educated, unprincipled Tex Party delight, lusting for another government shutdown. Given the Tea Party’s lack of influence in the 2014 Republican races, his fate in 2016 would seem dashed. But count on him to make a lot of noise — and weirder things have happened (remember Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate)? Odds: 500-1.

Marco Rubio: A hot commodity for a lot of GOPers. He’s a smart and appealing guy with some centrist positions that may deny him the nomination if Tea Party types control the ballots. Odds: 50-1.

Jeb Bush: Another Bush offers about the same appeal for many people as another Clinton. Surely our political dynasties can do better? Bush has been out of office for a few years now and his enthusiasm for a race would seem limited. If he gets in, he’ll have his brother’s aide to help. I just don;t think it will help that much. Odds: 50-1.

Bobby Jindal: Really? He comes from Louisiana, and while he’s smarter than the average bear, he evokes little national interest. Still, he’s a bona fide conservative with some ethnic appeal, so it’s hard to rule him out completely. Odds 200-1.

Rick Santorum: Really? The odds are better that we’ll elect our first four-leged President. Odds: Seriously.

Scott Walker: As Wisconsin goes, so goes the nation? Walked alienated liberals and union backers in his home state, meaning he is a favorite of a lot of Republicans. Does he have enough name recognition or enough knowledge about anything outside of Madison? Odds: 700-1

It’s Grits

We were in Vermont recently for a visit to the factory where they make Ben and Jerry’s ice cream — it’s among the most popular tourist destinations in New England — and decided to stop for dinner at a restaurant a few miles away in Waterbury. When we opened the menu, we were surprised — ok, jaw-dropping astonished — to discover the presence of grits in the listings!

Now, you have to bear in mind Waterbury VT is just a little over an hour driving time away from Canada. Nine hours north of the Mason-Dixon line. Eleven hours south of the Arctic Circle (you do have to fly). And almost 16 hours north of Columbia, SC, where Anson Mills produces authentic stone-ground grits.
Which brings up the question: what the heck was on that menu in Waterbury?
And the answer is: grits from Anson Mills. “That’s where we’ve always gotten our grits,” said a young woman behind the hostess desk at the Prohibition Pig restaurant, which also specializes in North Carolina pulled pork barbecue and varieties of another southern favorite, mac and cheese.

Is this a wonderful world or what?

We’ve missed grits since moving to New Hampshire from South Carolina and Georgia not long ago. We’ve ordered from Anson for our own use from time to time, to be sure. But finding restaurants that serve them has been difficult. And we’ve been reassuring some New Englanders that the use of “grits” is both singular and plural, as acknowledged by the authority of no less than The New York Times.

The word “grit,” however, can be a piece of sand or stone, a country bumpkin, a grinding of teeth, a statement of character or several other things. And “True Grit” was a movie. But they have nothing to do with corn and are not something you smear with butter or salt and pepper and whisk down your grateful gullet.

As native-born Southerners who took grits for granted along with okra, humidity and bourbon, we knew there would be some cultural challenges living in New England: snow, dirt roads, lobster, baked beans, snow, the E-Z Pass, no Civil war battlefields, maple syrup, snow and ice. And did I mention it gets pretty cold, too?
Anyhow, for many southerners, eating grits is one of those things you just did, like going to church, turning on the air conditioner or watching college football. And most committed grits eaters want only the long-cooked, stone-ground grits. Around New Hampshire, though, we’ve encountered people who assume the instant things like cream of wheat are the equivalent of grits. We have not laughed at those people — and it’s been hard sometimes — but we have pitied them.

The history of grits, I reminded anyone I could get to listen, goes back to the first discoveries of our country, in the late 16th century when Sir Walter Raleigh arrived in Virginia, and when the Mayflower Pilgrims landed at Plymouth a few years later. The Europeans found the Native Americans making several foods from corn, among them a boiled corn which became hominy grits.

The rest is history, albeit rather tangled, except that the Pilgrims apparently failed to get hooked on grits while the tasty dish spread like slavery in the South. Fortunately, the South eventually figured out that slavery was very bad, even though it took a war to finally convince everyone, and grits were very good. I can only assume now that New Englanders are envious that their ancestors never got the grits part right.
South Carolina recognized what a good thing it had in 1976 when legislators passed a bill that named grits as the official state food and declared that “given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of grits is a man of peace.” South Carolina may have shed slavery, but it has not been able to do much about hyperbole.

These days, of course, you can find shrimp and grits — a creation of distinctly southern origins — on menus even in some New England restaurants. Sadly, the establishments serving it don’t always have the right sort of grits. And occasionally they give the dish a uniquely New England flavor that seems about as misplaced and welcome as an ice storm in Key West.

In a magazine aimed at New Englanders recently, we came across a recipe for grits and homemade sausages — something we’d be prepared to indulge — but then found the author added this: “Let’s put those sausages with a traditional southern dish, made my way! With good ol’ cheddar cheese and apples, not to mention maple syrup, this is a great way to taste your first grits.”

Yep, you read that correctly. Maple syrup in the grits.

I’m afraid we may have more cultural challenges facing us than I had ever imagined.