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Comfort Food for Traffic Jams and Drum Major Camp

Have we lost Graham Road and Old State Road forever?

For the past few weeks I've been all about summer foods. or are what I do this time of year and I think it's what most people are interested in.

But sometimes you've got to have comfort food, even if that means turning up the air conditioning and turning on the oven. 

You see, my son went to drum major camp this week. Let me preface that by saying that he is not a "camper" in any sense of the word. Like me, he doesn’t even really like being away from home, especially not in an ancient dorm room with no air conditioning. They also served pizza and French fries for every meal, and his only water bottle sprung a leak on day one.

Worst of all, instead of learning to conduct -- something he was looking forward to -- the camp students actually spent most of their time doing complex cheers, complete with dances and intricate hand slaps, for everything from waking up in the morning to breaking for meals.

We parents got a full blast of those cheers when we attended the awards show on the last day. It was like watching a camp run by the demented Spartan cheerleaders from Saturday Night Live. I kept expecting Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri to come running out and scream, "WHO'S THAT SPARTAN IN MY TEEPEE?" It was extremely weird.

I was grumpy anyway because of and its helpful motto: "You can't get there from here." The trip to and from the camp at Edinboro University, which should take about 90 minutes, actually takes around three hours because everything is under construction everywhere.

It started when I picked up one of his fellow drum majors in Treesdale, then set off to tack south to pick up the other. Graham Road would have been my logical route, but, remembering it was closed, I kept heading down Pearce Mill.

"Oh Mrs. Burgess," drum major #2 piped up. ". You'll need to turn around."

Seriously? Graham Road has been closed for something like three years and they can't open it wh-n they close Pearce Mill? How long could it possibly take to fix whatever it is they're fixing? And has anyone noticed that Old State Road has had a detour for several years? What are they doing that takes years and years and years -- having third-graders build with Legos?

Will these roads every actually open again, or have we lost them forever?

Then, Interstate 79 South was under construction in three different places on the way back home. Well, "under construction" in that 10 miles of one lane of the freeway was closed, even though there was no visible construction going on anywhere. 

And, while PennDOT seems to randomly close roads just for fun, it's definitely not its fault that people don't know how to merge. Instead of going to the merge point and taking turns, the people in the lane that's closing will just suddenly realize, "I NEED TO BE OVER THERE!" and then stop and sit until someone decides to let them in. Meanwhile, traffic is backed up to a standstill behind them for miles.

Forget parallel parking, young drivers should be required to learn to merge. That's a more useful skill.

While I was still recovering from my drives to and from Edinboro -- and the pitiful "rescue me" texts I'd been receiving from drum major camp all week -- I read that in Lagos, Nigeria, wealthy drivers bribe police to ride shotgun for them -- complete with actual guns -- so that other drivers will get out of their way. In China, a 60-mile-long traffic jam lasted for days. In Ethiopia, herds of cattle and sheep have the right-of-way.

It made me realize that it could be worse, I could live in a place where they'll shoot me if I don't yield whether I'm supposed to or not. And Jeff survived the perkiness of camp, and I know that he'll be an amazing drum major if I can ever persuade him to leave the house again. Just don't expect the band to start doing cheers.

Recipe: Overnight Chicken Mac

I have no idea where I got this recipe, but I've been making it since before my drum major son was even born. When he sent me a text on day two of camp lamenting his imminent death from malnutrition, I knew this had to be his first meal at home.

The kids love it because it's creamy and tastes good. I like it because, while it's not the healthiest dish ever, it is convenient. If you know you're going to be held up by traffic, or anything else, you just assemble it the night before and have dad, an older child or the babysitter pop it in the oven when you're on your way home. Zap a vegetable to go with it, and you have a dinner that is a classic comfort dish.

This is the original recipe. I always double it and cook it 5 or 10 minutes longer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup pre-cooked chicken, cut into chunks [use leftover chicken or store-bought pre-cooked, diced chicken]
  • 1 can cream of celery soup [can use cream of broccoli as well]
  • ½ soup can of milk
  • ½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine [I do not double this ingredient and I use butter]

 Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a 2-quart casserole [larger if you double the recipe].
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Next evening, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Remove plastic wrap and bake for 30 to 40 minutes [40 if it's doubled].

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