Freshman year of college, the first day, I walked into the wrong class.
Not the wrong room, no.
The wrong class.
I was a freshman in a 200 level English Lit class.
Short stories with Professor Jules Seigel.
Jules didn’t care for large class sizes. He felt the best class size for learning was around a dozen people.
Seated in a close circle.
Close enough to almost poke a finger in the chest of the person you were arguing against.
Oh, there would be arguing.
But yes, a dozen.
The university, and the university’s financial department, disagreed with this number.
They felt the magic number should be a little closer to triple that dozen.
So, every semester, every section, Jules thinned the herd.
I had walked into the wrong class.
I have a crazed and angry foul mouthed old man telling me to get out.
Of course, to be fair, not just me.
We have a crazed and angry foul mouthed old man telling a solid two-thirds of us to leave.
The members of the Greek system.
The members of New Jersey.
Anyone and everyone Jules believed would eventually drop or run anyway.
He just wanted them to do it right away.
Save time. Save him the headache.
Oh the angry grumbling and mumbling.
And those who didn’t hide their displeasure!
Ah, yes, the tenured old man had heard them all before.
Every section. Every semester. Every year.
Of course, there were members of all the previously mentioned degenerates who lingered to be berated.
I stayed. The hockey player stayed. The hard working and friendly tri-something stayed.
Luckily, I stayed.
I went on to take numerous classes with Jules. And even when I wasn’t in his class, I sought his advice.
On bread, gardens, dogs, history, politics, guns…
and english literature.
Jules was a terrifying and mean, miserable old man.
Jules was also the most sincere, helpful, caring and down to earth man I’d ever met.
“I want you to get angry Chris!”
“I want to see you angry, get mad! Get fired up!”
He’d tell me things I wrote deserved A’s but were shit to him. He knew I didn’t mean them. He saw right through my bullshit. And he expected more.
And he gave me more.
I learned to read.
I learned to read great writers.
To see the trees of text and the forest of great historical and political context.
I learned to get angry. To feel great writing.
I learned the importance of home-made bread.
Of working dogs.
Of shooting a gun.
Of growing your own vegetables.
Of being close enough to stick your finger in the chest of your Professor and say “Fuck you, I’m staying put!”
Thank you Jules.
Thank you for waking me up from twelve years of institution in time to enjoy a handful of years of real knowledge and a new appreciation for learning.
Thank you for teaching me how to see the world differently and live a more informed life.
Of course, I’m a miserable old shit now who reads too much and won’t be satisfied no matter where I am.
But I’m good at Jeopardy and I bake a damn good loaf of bread.
So, in honor of Jules and in honor of the cold winter months, a quick and easy bread recipe:
Buttermilk Molasses Whole Wheat Quick Bread
2 c whole wheat flour
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoon butter
1/4 c molasses or sorghum
1 1/3 c buttermilk
Combine dry ingredients. Stir in wet. Mix well.
Place in well buttered loaf pan. Bake at 350*F for 35 minutes or until done.
Eat. Be warm. Be healthy. Be informed.