Saturday, October 31, 2009
For lunch on our spring break Syracuse lacrosse team trips in Hunt Valley, Maryland, Coach Roy Simmons Jr. would sometime give us per diem food money. Across the street from the hotel there was and is a mall with a food court with a ton of food options. We would wonder through the mall in search of the best tasting deals all wearing matching sweats and side line jackets with Syracuse Lacrosse plastered on them. Unlike 1980s Westchester County, where I am from, the folks in Baltimore County followed the game of lacrosse closely. This was and still is a hotbed region for lacrosse and Baltimore kids in the suburban mall spotted us right away. They treated us like professional athletes. What a contrast from my high school and junior college days when the teams I played for looked more like wondering gypsies with different colored and styles of athletic gear some even committing the carnal sin of wearing shorts over sweats. When I am trying to eat healthy as a student athlete in a mall in the early 80s, I sought out baked potatoes, pasta with red gravy/sauce, and the biggest salad I could purchase which I ate with a light non-dairy dressing. I started the gradual phasing out of fast foods (with the exception of whole wheat pizza now); dishes cooked with lots of fat, salt, red meat, artificial coloring and additives, white rice, white flour products, and highly processed sweeteners like corn syrup. As a person with a bachelor's degree in physical education, I call these—empty calories. They taste great but provide little to no nutritional value. In my junior year I began seeking out foods that tasted great and were loaded with nutritional benefits that would improve my performance on the fields. I found over time that I felt much better during practice when I drink water and 100% juices, ate baked goods made with whole grains, and increased my consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables high in fiber. Fried foods I ate in moderation and on special occasions like a road trip to Baltimore instead of everyday. That’s my mantra today, the rich foods that are not adding to your health on special occasions only.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Eli, the Iroquois sage, who I wrote about yesterday, represented Simme’s way of staying spiritually connected with the game started by native people. Coach was like that, a Renaissance man interested in art, history and culture as much as the game of lacrosse. I maintain that this part of his persona came from growing up around the Onondaga Reservation, playing games there as a youth, and being teammates at SU with many of the best players from there. If one looks at the Syracuse University Lacrosse rosters over the years you will notice that most of them have at least one Native player on them. Our team included the very talented attackman, with a gun for a shot, Emmett Printup (Niagara Wheatfield) and midfielder and martial arts bad boy Mark Burnham (Henninger). By the way, Simmie played on the 1957 undefeated SU team that included All-Americans and Hall of Famers Jim Brown (Manhasset) and Oren Lyons (Lafayette), traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Iroquois Confederacy. When I think of Native American culinary culture I think of corn, which historically represented their staple grain. They would steam, ground, roast, bake, soak, pound, and ferment it. Each of these methods changed the flavor, texture, and nutritional value of the corn. They also used it in one of my favorite ways, to bake bread. Below is a sweet corn bread recipe that’s easy to make and great on cool fall mornings like we've had lately here in the gorgeous Hudson Valley.
Sweet corn bread recipe:
3/4 self-rising cornmeal
1 cup Spelt flour (it’s better tasting and healthier than white or wheat flour)
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup vanilla soymilk, (a fortified soy milk is a very good tasting healthy choice, I suggest the Vitasoy brand for newbies)
1 egg or egg substitute (beaten)
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp butter (Try I Can’t Believe It’s not Butter available at most supermarkets and Costco)
Preheat oven to 400; Combine dry ingredients. Add milk, egg and oil. Mix well. Spray a large cast iron skillet like the one in the photo or a 9 inch pie pan with Pam. Bake until tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean (about 25 minutes). Melt butter and brush over the top of the bread when it comes fresh out the oven; serves 8.
Tomorrow I will return to traveling to Baltimore and eating Crab Cakes and other special foods from the Chesapeake region.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Here is the 84 team photo courtesy of teammate Dave Desko. Click it and it will enlarge. I am # 2 in the photo.
So here I am excited about playing UNC at Loyola College in Baltimore, my first Division I lacrosse game against a team I grew up watching. In fact I patterned the stick I played with my freshmen year at Herk (white STX Sam Head, traditional pocket, and wooden shaft) after what UNC defensemen used during their back to back NCAA Championships in 81 and 82. I saw UNC play in the lacrosse day of champions at Manhasset High School on Long Island my first season at Herk in 82. Now here I was 48 hours before the game backing my gear to travel and actually suit up against the Tar Heels; I felt both excited and intimidated wondering if I had gotten in over my head. Back in those days, Syracuse Lacrosse traveled to away games on a chartered bus. Now I understand that it has become standard practice for the team to fly to games. Still the chartered bus represented a radical change for me after two years of travel to away games at Herk in 16 passenger vans that the coaches drove. Away games at SU my first season meant traveling with what coach Roy Simmons Jr. (Simmie) called his “Iroquois medicine man” Eli. Eli lived on the Onondaga Reservation about 30 minutes from campus right off of US 81. He had to be in his late 70s early 80s when I met him. Eli, as we all called him, was a soft spoken dignified man who loved the game. The guys on the team treated him like the team’s elder and sage making sure he was comfortable and had everything he needed for the long trip down 81 south to Baltimore. I believe the story goes that coach grew up watching his Dad’s SU teams play against a team of Iroquois that included Eli. In his day Eli was both a terrific player and stick maker. He may have been the person that made the old wooden sticks for SU players before the introduction of plastic heads like the players use when I played and now. Eli traveled to every game my junior year; his failing health prevented him from doing so my senior year. For more on history of the Iroquois and lacrosse, see: http://www.uslacrosse.org/museum/history.phtml
Monday, October 26, 2009
Photo of the 85 SU Team, still looking for a copy of the 84 team photo.
At the beginning of spring 1984 semester I came to faith in Jesus Christ and became a regular at the Friday night Campus Bible Fellowship and a member of “the God squad,” as SU football players called us. Most of us at the fellowship were student athletes who wanted to study the bible, pray, and move beyond religion to a practical application of trusting God’s word on daily basis. And we all had hardy appetites and southern roots. I will have to share the first time I had a taste of Mrs. King’s and Bellamy’s cooking. I credit the members of the God squad with mentoring me culturally and spiritually during my two years at SU. In reflection, I patterned my black cool after them because I saw that teammates, coaches, and women respected them. Over my two years at SU I grew to hold their friendship in high regard. I don’t know what the coaches or my teammates made out of so much cultural and spiritual change in my life. I stopped going to the team parties and except for Badman and Matt Holman, my lax roommates, I did not see them much off the field. All this happened as the team was gearing up for our season opener against perennial power house UNC down in Baltimore. I enjoyed competing with my teammates on the field and liked them, but I spent my time off the field with the “God squad,” my girl friend, and the black cool scene on campus. I got along with my lacrosse teammates but I no longer sought their social acceptance. As we prepared for UNC my game improved and I still loved the game of lacrosse, but it was no longer my raison d'être.