Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Robert St. John: The 32nd Anniversary of My 29th Birthday

Yesterday I entered my 62nd year on the planet. The thing about turning 61-years old is that I thought I would feel differently at this point in my life. I imagine— 40 years ago— when I looked at the prospect of hanging around for six decades, I probably thought I would feel like an adult by now. That's not the case. On the inside, and emotionally, I still feel like a 22-year-old. Sure, am I move just a little slower, and have slightly less energy than I did four decades ago, but to be honest with you there was a time back then when I didn't even think I would reach 30.

I spent my birthday doing exactly what I wanted to do. I slept late (6:30 AM) and spend a little time listening to music in my bed before taking a shower. I had breakfast, enjoyed a birthday pancake, dropped some food off on the doorstep of a friend who has Covid, and worked brunch at the new restaurant. Someone asked why I was working on my birthday. I told them, “I'm not working, I'm having fun.” 

The restaurants are never work to me. My mother asks me all the time, “When are you going to retire?” 

I tell her, “Why would I retire? I'm doing what I love to do. This is my fun.” I don't hunt. I don't fish. I don't play golf. I’m a simple man. I love my family, my friends, restaurants, movies, music, and football.  

My wife wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday. I said, “As always, I would just like to have dinner with a small group of our friends and our daughter (my son is away at culinary school).” So that’s what I did, spent the evening surrounded by family and friends at the lake house.

One of the first things I do on most days is check my Facebook memories and look at what I was doing on that exact day for each of the past 11 years. In 2009, I was at my mother's house for a birthday lunch. 

A question I often ask people when we have just met— and are talking about food and cooking— is “If it is your birthday and your parent or spouse asks you what you would like them to cook for the occasion, what is the dish you request?” Sometimes I ask, “What did your mother cook for you on your birthday as a child?” That is always a telling response, because most people request their favorite food that their mother, spouse, or significant other prepares/prepared for them. Mine was stuffed peppers. Nothing fancy, but something that was in my mom’s supper repertoire that, other than her gumbo, was my favorite dish.

I probably ate stuffed peppers 90% of the birthdays in the first half-century of my life. Stuffed peppers, mashed potatoes, and English peas. That photo memory in my Facebook feed took me back to my childhood, and even into adulthood, and meals in my mother’s dining room. Almost all my fondest childhood memories are set around meals in my home or the homes of one of my grandparents. I never gave them much thought back then, but a shared meal is something that I cherish, and never take for granted these days. 

Sharing a meal with family or friends is how I connect. There’s something magical and mystical about sharing a meal. It’s very biblical— loaves and fishes, last suppers, and the like— and it is how many of the most unforgettable memories are made. I am aware of that today, and when giving speeches I often ask the audience to think back to their fondest memories, most of the time food, and/or sharing a meal, was associated with those memories is some way.

That lunch, 13 years ago, ended up being the last time my mother cooked stuffed peppers for my birthday. She moved into an independent living facility the next year, and into an assisted living facility two years ago. She hasn't cooked anything in a long time. But I have the memories, and they are some of my best reminiscences.

Never underestimate the impact you are making when spending time with family and friends. I am a 61-year-old man, sitting at a laptop, still writing about meals I ate 50 years ago. They matter.

 So, as I move on from the 32nd anniversary of my 29th birthday, I am keenly aware that the older I get, the more I appreciate the importance of family and friends. I love all who are in that number. 

My grandfather used to say, “you can judge a man’s wealth not by the size of his pocketbook, but by the depth and breadth of his friendships.” He also used to say “A rich man has his first dollar, but a truly wealthy man has his first friend. “I am blessed beyond belief, and feel so “wealthy,” not because I have a lot of money in the bank (I don’t), but because I have such great friends and a wonderful family. I love, respect, and value them all.

Today I am feeling grateful to all the people who have made a difference to me. There are tons of them, and most probably don't even know the ways they have impacted my life. I value all those friendships and hope all my friends and family know how much I love and appreciate them for being such an integral part of my life.

Again, there was a dark time in my late teens and early twenties when I didn’t expect to make it to 30. I have more than doubled that. I’m living in the bonus. I am a blessed man, not because of material things or circumstances, but because I have a great family and a wonderful group of friends.



My Version of My Mom’s Stuffed Peppers

1 Tbl bacon fat

1 cup yellow onion, small dice

2 tsp steak seasoning

1 tsp kosher salt

2 Tbl sugar

1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

2 tsp fresh garlic, minced fine

1/4 tsp dry basil

1/4 tsp dry oregano

1/8 tsp dry thyme

2 Tbl tomato paste

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained very well

6 bell peppers, tops and seeds removed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a small sauté pan, heat the bacon fat over medium heat. Add onions, steak seasoning, salt, sugar, and pepper and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, basil, oregano and thyme, and cook one more minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove mixture from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool completely. 

Once the mixture has cooled, mix in the egg, ground beef and drained tomatoes. Do not overmix. Fill each pepper with the ground beef mixture.

Place peppers in a casserole dish and bake for 20-25 minutes (cook times will vary depending on the size of the peppers). Baste with juices from the bottom of the casserole twice during the cooking process. Check the center for doneness. Remove and serve

Yield: 6 servings


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Robert.

Anonymous said...

Glad you made it this far. Now.. catch up to the rest of us.

Stuff About ZeroBear PolyBear said...

Good stuff Robert. As an old guy, who worked really hard to get old, I gave up lying about my age a long time ago. No one believed me anyhow.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers:

You may substitute any of the long bulky peppers that are in the grocery now. Itry to stay away from the really hot guys.


3 Poblano peppers
2 cups shredded cooked chicken meat (about 2 breasts)
1 cup onion, diced
1 clove fresh garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1 cup tomato, diced (remove the seeds if you are going fancy)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 cups shredded Cheddar /Monterey Jack cheese blend
2 Tablespoons green onions, chopped (about 2 whole scallions)
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Preheat Oven to 300 degrees F

Cut the poblano peppers in half. Remove the seeds and white membrane which will take away a lot of the heat from these relatively mild peppers. Put the pepper halves on a baking sheet and precook them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes while you complete the filling.

In a sauté pan, add the olive oil and onions and cook over medium heat until they begin to look translucent. Add the garlic and bell pepper to the mix and continue to sauté until everything is soft. Turn the heat all the way down (or off) and add the shredded chicken, tomatoes, corn, green onion, cheese, cilantro, salt, and pepper, and stir it all together. Save 1/2 cup of cheese to top the stuffed peppers after filling.

After about 15 minutes, remove the poblanos from the oven (they should be slightly softened by now) and fill each one with the chicken mixture (mound it up). Top each with a sprinkle of cheese and put them back in the oven until the cheese is melted.

Serve with yellow rice, sliced avocadoes, Pico de Gallo, white corn chips and a simple salad.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Robert. I always wanted mom's spaghetti and homemade chocolate cake with pink cream cheese icing for my birthday when I was growing up.

Your stuffed bell pepper recipe is going to appear on our dinner table tonight. Yum!

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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