Friday, November 28, 2008

How She Cooks

How She Cooks

Food is an important part of a balanced diet. -Fran Lebowitz

This much is true.
Sometimes a meal involves
the popping of box tops,
things prepackaged or
McDonald's drive-through.
Taco Smell.
Buffet diners.
All you can eat.

But sometimes,
long weekends end.
Everyone is depleted.
A kid floats in the tub,
another hovers over homework.

The kid in the tub says,
"Next time you are at the store,
buy ginger snaps and
creamy white frosting.
In Russia,
they call this parenky!?!?
It's very good!" <----[yes, we did buy/make. Yes, they were yummy!
And the child,
leaving homework
to do laundry,
passes the kitchen
and asks,
"Is it time yet?
Are you making dinner now?"

How she cooks.

Removing the plastic
from the cow that once was.
(But long weekends mean,
we need iron.)
Red meat that once roamed free,
now ground round.

She frees it from the plastic,
awakens it with things of the earth.

Fresh spices,
crumbled down her palm,
off her fingertips,
bringing the beast back to life.
Sacred beef;
careful, the pan is hot.

Corn meal melds in a bowl
with milk, eggs and rosemary.
Then into papered tins
set aside.
Oven preheats.

Water set to boil with
seasoned oil.
Pine nuts.
Angel hair pasta waits
standing on end.

Salad bowl is seasoned
with lemon grass vinegar
and paremesan.
Greens torn, not cut.
Tomatoes diced,
everything romping
in the same bowl.

The spices linger
on her fingertips,
pressed now to her nose,
the pot steaming her face
as stiff angel hair relents
to the roiling boil.

Tomato sauce, three cheeses,
marry the beef in a field of thyme.

The cornbread stiffens now,
warming through in the oven.

The salad rests.
The child dries.
The other folds a shirt.

The table is set.
Three become one,
joined by the cornbread,
the salad, the angel hair pasta
and the sauce.
Everyone drops their eyes
to their laps,
taking pause,
ever thankful we are
at our table,
mindful of those seated
in remembrance of those not.

This is how she cooks.
Sometimes from popped box top,
McDonald's drive-through,
Taco Smells
and buffet restaurants.
And sometimes not.

Now, please pass the maple butter.

At the time this originally appeared, it was very close to Thanksgiving. In my family of three "little women" and me (their twice-divorced mom), we always "met" in the kitchen on the norm, but holidays especially. This was true even when there were men in the house those growing up years. It was just the place to gather.

In our latter house, we actually transformed the large dining room, which fed off the kitchen, into a sun room which had seating for everyone and a breakfast nook. It just fit the flow of the house better, since we were always together at dinner and weekend breakfasts. It saved yelling down the hallway into the living room, just to have everyone closer.

When I originally wrote this piece, I had two kids in the house (my second-eldest and my youngest). My eldest was spending a semester with her dad. And my grandmother had passed away that fall. It was a time where there were definite empty spaces in our sun room and at our table. While my grandmother had not officially lived with us, she visited/stayed often and was always somehow "there."

We were definitely re-grouping, something you do a lot over the years in a family, I've learned.

While we do not officially "pray" in any conventional manner, we do drop our eyes, hold our tongues and are forever thankful in our live, as they change and rearrange. This does not just occur at mealtimes, because life has a way of changing and re-arranging constantly, so there are many times to take pause.

Those gone from our table that holiday season, were my daughter and my grandmother (one in Wyoming, and one in Neverland, respectively). However, they were not really gone, but gone deeper into our hearts, is what we like to say.

This year, oh, the changes. My eldest has her own family. My second-eldest is engaged and marrying next year. My youngest was in the Twin Cities with her Dad's family, her stepmom and her baby sister. I have lost yet another grandmother. I live with my best friend. We have a weird-ass little dog!

Our own "official" Thanksgiving day dinner was at Mark's brother's house, and yum! Traditional, yes, but yum! Picture and food perfect. We laughed a lot! We planned Christmas. It spoke to the future. Was definitely good.

Saturday, I'm making a second meal, just for the heck of it, for whoever and come what may.

Yesterday, I spoke to my two oldest by phone. Carol's dinner went off without a hitch. Bekah had some trouble with her deviled eggs which made for an excellent story. Ali I could not reach due to iffy cell service, but I know everyone who she had gathered with, since that is also part of my past, and I knew what a great time she was having. [As I'm writing this, she just texted ... sweet!]

When I got home, I had to pull some reports off a hospital system in New Jersey, and this is when I really stop and think, because holidays are not fun for everyone. Not everyone has that "let a joy keep you, never mind the little deaths" feature in their hard drive.

For some people, holidays suck ass.

It kind of starts at the end of the calendar year, with Thanksgiving, progresses into Christmas and the New Year, and by Easter, I don't have words for how bad it is, or can be for some people.

Over the years, I've never seen it be any different in it's progression, and by Easter people actually are killing themselves and punching each other, stealing each other's meds and over-doing and over-eating knowing full well their body is a time bomb and could kill them at any second.

Last night, and this was five emergency room admission notes into it, there were 4 that were psychosocially and/or suicidal thought related, and one guy had too much on his plate and his diabetes and failed kidneys were kicking his ass (but I bet he had fun!)

But, it only gets worse, which is sad.

Even without that live feed over the years, giving me the true pulse of what people are going through across the country, I think I'm hard-wired with the "let a joy keep you" switch, because I have experienced the little and big deaths that come with a life, fully lived, day in, day out.

And that is my toast for everyone I know, and those I haven't even met ... "let a joy keep you, never mind the little deaths." [sandburg]

Whatever your Turkey Day was, and/or whatever you hope for things to be, off to the side, just be!

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