Food for Thought

Last night we watched the movie "The Hundred Foot Journey." I usually don't love a movie unless it involves some kind of spaceship or time machine or military hardware or at least a handgun, but this beautifully shot sleeper won me over. Of course it didn't hurt that one of the main players was food. Spicy, tasty, steaming hot dishes of Indian food, to be more specific. Lines that expressed the main theme were “every bite takes you home” and “food is memories.”

When my wife and I were dating and later, as poor newlyweds, we would go to the Bombay House, still the best Indian restaurants we have ever eaten at. Their Chicken Coconut Kurma is on my list of "if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?” We became so addicted to the amazing flavors at Bombay House that after one splurge the owners had to call us to say, "I am so sorry; your check, it is bouncing."

Years back, when many of the women in my family came down for women’s conference and to visit, we all went to Bombay House and had a great meal. When it came time to pay the bill, we began to hassle my sister Charlotte, who had been designated to cover the large sum, about how long it was taking her to get it paid. My niece Jessie began to be sincerely distressed even to the point of tears, trying to understand why Charlotte had to pay for it all and, especially, why we would be so rude about how long it was taking for her to pay. (She did not realize that Charlotte was just figuring the bill and using our mom’s card to settle accounts.) To this day, the situation and Jessie’s hysterics still makes me smile so hard my face hurts.

Once upon a time, back when I could still write a letter to my dad, I was smart or lucky enough to start collecting family recipes and I even created a cookbook for my siblings. He sent me the recipes and short histories for many family classics including his upside-down cake, Spanish Delight, and pancakes.

I have mastered these and maybe even improved them and, strangely, I feel a certain satisfaction about this. I can make an apple pie that is as good as my mom's. I have been a part of creating and sharing food that spans the decades. It runs in the family. My sister Lissa cooked me her triple berry pie for my 50th birthday. I will now forever associate that delicious flavor with her and that occasion and forever appreciate the time and effort she put into every bite I took in the company of my family. My wife makes bread and scones that I have a really hard time sharing with others; I really only share because I cannot physically eat them all by myself. (I do my best, believe me.)

While I cook mostly to selfishly feed myself and my family, I occasionally will feed others. So I understand what my sister-in-law (and amazing chef) Lin wrote in her blog a few years ago: "Fixing you food is how I tell you that I care for you, that I am sorry you had a bad day, that I’m glad that you had a great day. Food communicates (I hope) what I so often can’t find the words for." My wife cooked a huge batch of Black Eyes of Texas ( and sent them up to her brother who requested them for Christmas. It's like having chips and dip for dinner, a real treat. Anyway, even though I have been dieting the past few months, I still love food... and the memories that come with it. And I'm grateful for those people who have cooked for me over the years. Her blog’s still there if you find yourself wanting a good read or a good cry:

I am slowly but surely putting some Walker family recipes online at If you would like the login information, feel free to contact me.

Neighbors or Family?

So about the time we were looking at this sunset on the Gulf Coast of Florida, my phenomenally good neighbor Greg Clark was holding a shovel and looking at a dead skunk in my backyard. The day he and his wife Linda discovered the
smelly invader, it was impossible to enter the immediate area to attempt to water our lawn, a task they had agreed to undertake while we were gone. The following day Greg buried the offensive creature, then put our fire pit grill lid over the top to mark the spot as well as to prevent the remaining neighborhood wildlife from digging it up.

So, what kind of neighbor does this kind of stuff? Um, the best kind. Other neighbors, Randy and Cathy, were watching our evil black cat, daily giving her food and attention. Randy somehow felt obligated to try to pet the cat. Yeah, the cat that consistently bites you after three strokes of her fur, all while sitting disrespectfully on your thighs, which she considers to be her territory even though they are attached to your body. The text conversation is on the right:

Sometimes folks just do stuff above and behind the call of duty. It doesn’t take long until you realize that these people are no longer just friends, but have become family. Or maybe they are family and you just don’t realize it.

Just last week, our Clark neighbors (yard waterers, buriers of the skunk) were over in the forest which is our front yard picking chokecherries off the trees there. As I chatted with them, they shared that they had gone to a family reunion in Oakley, Idaho and also visited Grantsville, Utah. I was surprised, as my Dad, Hal Wilson Walker, was born in Oakley and, back a ways, in my grandmother’s line, we have a relative with the last name Clark. We also have roots in Grantsville.

Yup. For the past 8 years, I’ve been living next door to my cousin 
(however distant) and didn’t even know it. And another relative, Jon Clark, had recently moved from a house just up the street. I did a little Web-digging and found some delightful information about the Clarks of Oakley on Jon Clark’s daughter’s blog (including the fact that the Clark’s bought the ZCMI store in Oakley, a location I am certain my father visited often as he referred to the store in number of his stories:

It’s funny, because these are two men, and families, that I really like. I thought they were intelligent, creative, occasionally a little quirky, but always kind and filled with a sense of humor. How pleasant to discover that we share some of the same heritage and bloodlines. Funny how just a little knowledge can tweak your mortal perspective.

Our common ancestor is a guy named Thomas Henry Clark. He was born in Acton, Herefordshire, England in 1805—the same year as Joseph Smith. As a young man he was affiliated with the United Brethren, a religious group who listened to the gospel preached by a missionary named Wilford Woodruff and were baptized into the LDS Church. He sailed from Gloucester and emigrated to America and later led a group of Saints through Canada and down to Nauvoo. One of his descendants, David Mark Smith of Springville, wrote this about Thomas Henry Clark: “He was a great leader, a tough resilient pioneer, dedicated Bishop, zealous missionary and devoted family man. He was a man of many paradoxes, a noted athlete but a humble servant of God, he helped settle and defend a tough Indian territory but became highly respected and loved by the Native Americans, he experienced incredible hardship and tragedy both personally and with those he had stewardship over, yet he maintained a positive outlook and remained faithful in his beliefs and even showed, at times, a sense of humor.” (

Sounds like some people I know, just subtract some Native Americans and add some leather gloves and skunks.

Hitting the MZ Button

Location: Embassy Suites Hotel, San Diego 10th Floor

My wife and I get in the elevator and almost immediately half a dozen bubbly young girls stream in and line the glass walls. One of them holds the door and yells down the hallway, “Kiera, are you coming?... Are you coming or not?!”

“I’m coming!” is the reply and, seconds later, two more girls pop in from the hallway.

As the elevator descends, one of the girls looks down and, grief-stricken, blurts out, “I forgot my socks! I’ve got to go back to 10.” We didn’t yet comprehend why she was so distraught at this discovery.
“Hit the MZ button.” “We’re going to MZ,” one of the girls explains. And, lacking a “the,” we sense that she has no idea what those letters actually mean.

“What’s on MZ?” my wife asks one of them.

“It’s the most slipperiest floor ever!” the girl responds.

No socks. Slippery floor. Now it all made sense.

When we returned to the hotel later that day, we hit the MZ button in the elevator and stopped on the mezzanine level to see if we could discover why it was so magical for those girls. I expected to find some slick, polished marble or ceramic tile section of floor. But we walked the entire thing and it was all carpet. It was, however, smoother carpet than the other, more trafficked floors. The reality was not as thrilling as the imagined destination but, for those girls, killing time between sessions of their cheerleading competition, it was the place to be. But only if you remembered to wear socks.

We went next door to a cool beach-themed shop and I scored some crazy tie-dyed, striped socks (above) that I had passed on earlier because they were pricey and a little outside of my comfort zone. But after discovering MZ, I had to have them. And, well, it’s now gotten worse, or better depending on how you look at it. This is what came in the mail yesterday:

Now, when faced with a rough day, instead of saying, “Go to your happy place,” I now say “Go to MZ.” And I remember my socks.

There’s Always Next Year

Yep. I kept the score book from the tourney.
It was kind of a big deal.
With less than ten seconds left on the game clock, our team was down by one point. But we had the ball and enough time to get at least one shot off. I ran down the court as fast as my 18-year-old legs could carry me, then turned to look for the ball. Our point guard had dribbled the ball past half court and decided that he would take the final shot from well beyond the three-point line. The ball sailed through the air, we looked up, and held our breath. It fell way short... an air ball... and miraculously dropped right into my hands. I turned, there was the rim, so I tossed the ball up and it went right in. The buzzer sounded, and the game was over, 65-64.

We had just squeaked by Blackfoot Post 254, our first opponent in the Explorer Olympics, a multi-day summer league tournament that featured the best high school and Church players in southeast Idaho. And we were ecstatic. We had just stolen a game from basically the same team that had taken state during that year’s high school basketball season.

At the time I was working a night shift at a potato processing plant. And these “olympic” games ran all day. So I would get home from my shift, change into my basketball clothes, plop into the back of the Weaver’s brown van and drift in and out of sleep as we travelled the 45 miles from Roosevelt Street in American Falls to Blackfoot High School. Often waves of music from the cassette deck would splash in and then retreat from my dreams, usually Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” or Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Starting Something.”

The cycle repeatedtrim potatoes, change into gym shorts, sleep in the van—another day, another game. In the semi-final, we played with more consistency and we pulled off a 57-45 win over a Pocatello team (basically the Highland high school squad), qualifying us for the championship.

Potatoes, gym clothes, nap in van. We played Unit 536 (Orofino) in the final game. We led by 6 to 8 points at each break but they made a big push at the end and we only won by 4 points in the end: 79-75. I had 20 points and only 2 fouls. It is rare that I score that many but all of our starters had double figures.

My lucky 80s wristband.
I can still picture the gym in Blackfoot where we celebrated, the weight of the “gold” medal around my neck, and the feeling of playing hard, leaving it all on the floor, and winning a championship. Not having been chosen to play high school ball, it was the closest I ever came to “taking state.” Well there was that one time when I was part of a choral quartet and we were awarded a superior but that was a subjective win… you couldn’t see the points on the scoreboard. Anyway, I digress.

Having won our region, we qualified to go back to the national playoffs. As I recall, that competition fell smack dab in the middle of potato harvest and most of our team could not be spared. As consolation, we played another qualifying team from Idaho and beat them by 10 points. That team went back east, made it to the championship, and lost to a New York team by 10 points… oh, what could have been. But there are worse things than having your season end on  a win… that kind of finish is so rare—63 of 64 teams in the NCAA tourney will be going home on a loss.

I keep looking to recapture that post-season feeling by recruiting a group to play BYU intramurals. But when the median age of our team is 47 and we are playing kids half our age, we usually fall out in round 2 or 3 of the tourney. Last night, it was a second round loss. But there’s always next year and the hope of ending the season on a win.

There’s always kickball this summer or maybe innertube water polo next winter… that BYU intramural championship t-shirt still eludes me. And if that doesn’t work, well, this is the year I will finally be old enough to qualify for the Huntsman World Senior Games. I hear they have some pretty competitive teams down in St. George each October.

If I listen real carefully I think I can hear a ball bouncing and soles squeaking on some hardwood right now... just sayin’.

Boing Boing

This animated loop shows how some of my favorite players react to a shot bouncing on the rim. The free throw shooter gives a little lean, hoping the shot will spin and go in. Three hopeful rebounders jockey for position, readying for the impact of the fight for possession. Another player, well, it seems like a perfect time to adjust his jersey. (I miss you guys.) Have a great Thanksgiving. (And a shout out to Andrew who provided video.)

If you click on this, I think it will expand to a larger image.

Hearing My Dad Laugh

So back in the mid-90s, Julie and I sat down with Mom and Dad and chatted about their early life, from Dad's work on the railroad, on through the war years, and up to the time when my oldest brother was born. This is how I learned that Lorin was a "persnickety" kid among other things.

Our intent was to do more interviews but we pretty much wore them out with this session and never really got back to it. I am just grateful we got what we did. Fair warning: The video quality is not great. I am going to try to import it again later and get a cleaner picture but I was able to improve the audio quite a bit so you can hear the voices a lot better than in the original.

So here is 38+ minutes for you to watch when you have the time. I think you'll agree that there really is nothing better than hearing my dad tell a story and laugh at his own jokes on Father's Day. Except maybe for mom laughing at everything but his jokes. :)

Here you go.

Of This and a Lexus

Out of every family trip comes at least one phrase or moment that forever lives in infamy. We were heading to Boise this past weekend when a white Lexus sedan starts honking at the car in the left turn lane in front of it, trying to get it to proceed even when it was obvious that there was not space or time to do so safely. So, in response, Austen says, "What the heck?, white Lexus." So we instantly adopt this as our family's catch phrase. 

Feeling the need to document this gem before it was lost, I attempt to use my voice-activated smartphone. "Siri, make a note of this . . . " The phone cuts me off, and before I can say the words, "What the heck?, white Lexus," this comes up on the screen:

The universe (and its many smartphones) do indeed make fun of us all.