A few months ago I was walking home from work along a side street of Manhattan. Casually strolling towards me was a distinguished man and woman who looked to be in their mid-seventies.
They were holding hands. I was holding my cell phone.
They were quietly talking to each other through matching warm smiles. I was not-so quietly yelling at my husband through the receiver.
The casual pace with which this couple strolled suggested they had not a care in the world. I, on the other hand, was feeling burdened by every care in the world as I ranted into the phone about whatever debacle had occurred in my life that day.
As the couple drew closer, gradually closing the gap between us, the path became too narrow to accommodate all three of us, and soon we were entangled in that awkward step-to-this-side-step-to-that-side dance New Yorkers get stuck in when trying to politely share a confined space. Toning down my fury long enough to acknowledge present circumstances, I shimmied to the right to give the pleasant couple room to pass. They simultaneously stepped to the same side, indicating I should pass. I waved them on with insistence, as if to say, You seem happy. I’m miserable. Please, go first. The kindly couple, however, remained fixed in place, more than happy to give me first passage. I nodded appreciatively, eager to resume my ranting to my husband on the phone, and moved forward.
In the French family, we sleep under quilts. Even when a duvet is involved, a quilt absolutely must lie atop it. We are used to the weight of them, and among the five of us, own around three dozen. Each one of these was handmade, stitch-by-stitch, by my mother. To get an idea of the scope of this, she quilts daily, and a single quilt takes over a year to complete. She does not believe in idle hands, or more precisely, cannot relate to them. Last year I found a melon-sized rubber band ball sitting on her desk, held it up to my brother and asked, simply, “Why?” “Because,” he said, “It’s what she does. She makes things.”
My whole life I have slept under one or another of my mother’s quilts, some of which were blue ribbon winners in the Bishop County fair. I dragged them to boarding school in Canada, college in Scotland, then Boston, and back to California again. During a Laura Ingalls Wilder phase, I began to pretend I was huddled up beneath one on the back of a covered wagon. I still like to imagine this when I can’t fall asleep.
Last week, on Martha’s Vineyard, while eating lobster on the docks of Menemsha, my 20 year old daughter asked, “Where do lobsters come from?” She always stumps me! I’m still having trouble with chickens and eggs, so I looked it up and what I found was utterly fascinating.
With a characteristic similar to some humans I know, the female lobster is always attracted to the bad, dangerous alpha in the hood. The male lobster is a mean and aggressive beast. Being the most powerful fighter has earned him the respect of the other males and the pick of the females.
When the female lobster is ready to mate, she approaches alpha’s den and secretly squirts a pheromone, subtly mixed with her urine into his lair. Sensing an intruder, the male rushes to his door with his claws raised aggressively, but he is already sufficiently ruffied, and after a brief fight, the female places her claws upon the love drugged male’s head, who then obediently escorts her over the threshold of his cave.
Two years ago I fell madly in love with a fella named Bentley. His
piercing emerald green eyes and perfect shade of thick brown hair melted
my heart those first few moments we met. He makes me laugh everyday,
loves to travel, swim in the ocean with me and he'll go anywhere on a
whim. My perfect day is to stay home, lying on the sofa
with him, cooking him three perfect meals a day. We share a pillow at
night and sometimes I find myself staring at him while he sleeps.
Nothing and no one has ever halted my love to travel as much as him. I find myself completely homesick when I leave him. When I packed my bags to go to Juneau, Alaska last week I promised him I would bring home as many salmon treats that would fit in my bag. But until the airlines come up with a new rule that dogs can sit in a passenger seat, Bentley will have to be left behind at the farm with my Mother.
An age-old motto employed by wise women everywhere when their 60-something husbands return from the work wars to create projects from their home office.
My best friend's grandmother used that ironclad rule for the whole of her fifty-year marriage. Most especially after her adored husband retired from the illustrious law firm that bore his name, took to writing legal thrillers in the den and padding around her kitchen five times a day.
"My darling, let me miss you," she'd purr, as he asked yet again what they were having for lunch." I want to see you at the beginning and end of my day and all weekend long. To renew our otherness and share the excitement of two separate lives made one."
"But I'm hungry, " he said, yanking last night's tuna casserole out of the fridge, "And I don't want to eat alone."
"Then my darling," she implored lovingly, "go out to your club or a cafe or a friends home -- ANYWHERE but here, so that we can keep our love alive!"
You gotta love a guy like my friend Howard. On Memorial Day Monday at 10:30 a.m., I called him in Santa Monica from my bed in Sherman Oaks and said, “Whatcha doing today?”
“Don’t have anything until 4 o’clock,” he said.
“I don’t have anything till 6 – wanna go to Artesia and check out some of the Indian restaurants?”
“Oh yeah,” he said, “meet ya at the corner of Artesia and Pioneer Boulevards at noon.”
“Fab, see you there.” Jumped out of bed and hit the shower.
Next to the joy of eating a long, festive meal at a giant table surrounded by family and friends, my favorite culinary ritual is the food safari, an expedition off the beaten track in search of something new and delicious. My sister Jo will drive to the four corners of the earth with me to try a new pizza joint that we’ve heard is good. There was the 2-hour car trip up to Hartford with the old boyfriend, because we’d read great things about an old diner. And my very busy bud Peter managed to keep a lunch open last week so that we could go sample the hot dogs (five different ones!) at the new Papaya King in Hollywood.
Remember how umami always told you that the way to a man’s heart is
through his stomach? Well girls, this is How to Keep it Fraiche with
Rosemary Garden and I’m here to reassure you that if you work with the
ripe ingredients (all of which are outlined below), you will never have
to play ketchup in your relationship again. The key is to learn how to
sift your mindset.
Rule #1: Keep it spicy
Take a lesson from Cayenne; even though she's a bit of a bitch sometimes, she always knows how to kick it up a notch. I often tell students at my seminars that if we let our relationships go bland, it's
hard to go back cold turkey.
Rule #2: Don’t make a main out of a starter
Remember ladies, don’t wine and always keep it cool. It’s just not worth it to get nuts over the small things. If you find yourself in a pickle, butter up your lover and tenderize him with a meaty rub down.
I have a complicated relationship with my Keurig. It was given to us at Christmas by my husband’s children. It was an amazing gift, thoughtful, inventive, and big. It is big. It is also streamlined and beautiful. I’d never seen anything like it before, which made them laugh hysterically (as it did half my friends). Confession: I don’t work in an office and when I do go to offices, they don’t usually invite me into the kitchen. The fact that I’d never seen anything like it before made me feel a little bit like Abe Simpson.
I also felt a little bit the way someone probably felt in the ‘50s when they got their first blender. “Wow, I can actually make a margarita at home. I can make a milkshake. I wonder if I can make gazpacho?” The Waring blender was probably invented in the ‘30s and someone is probably about to correct me. Yep. I just looked it up, the blender was invented in the ‘30s and the waring blender was named after Fred Waring, a musician who financed the fine tuning of the Hamilton Beach invention. (Don’t ask me about the patent rights.) But I wonder if my Grandmother wanted to buy stock in the Waring company. (My Grandmother bought stock in Campbells’ Soup when they invented Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup – I don’t know how she did with that, but there was no way you could get her to sell that stock.)
I have a friend who wanted to buy stock in Keurig and is mad at her husband because they didn’t. Apparently it was a good stock buy. I’m not sure I would want to buy stock in Keurig because I’m not sure it’s ecological and I have an issue with that. Also, I missed the boat. The time to buy the stock was when the Keurig came out, not when it arrived in my kitchen last December.
Things I will not argue about nor generally discuss in mixed company:
Since you're already reading, my answer for this is simple: What is the point? I cannot change minds and sometimes it's really pointless to enter debate on such things. But if you ask I'll tell you 1) I'm pretty much in the middle (and you thought I was some crazy left-leaning liberal?), 2) my grandfather was a Presbyterian minister and the church was a big part of my world and 3) tacos are quite possible one of the world's most perfect foods ever created, hands down. You can't tell me any differently.
I can't say I'm a taco expert but I'm pretty sure if you were to sample some of my DNA you'd find a few strands of taco on those little ladder wrungs.
My food store in Maine is overflowing with locally raised vegetables, but the small half bushels of yellow bean always stops me right in my tracks. The sight of freshly picked, ultra-thin, bright yellow beans always brings to mind memories of my dear sweet Mother. When we were kids we visited a farm market on the way home every day to get vegetables for dinner and fruit for the 3 mile ride home. Our parents loved fresh vegetables, but my Mother's face would light up at the first appearance of yellow beans and we ate them every day until the last bean was picked for the season.
Yellow beans make me sad, make me happy and make me miss her again and again, year after year. The first thing that she would cook was yellow beans with pork chops, small white potatoes, oregano and tomatoes. The whole house was filled with the smell of garlic and oregano, filling us with anticipation. We stayed close to the stove talking about our day and snipping the beans. Sneaking small spoonfuls of juice out of the simmer pot to taste without ever being scolded because she always made extra. Being her daughter was as sweet as it gets.
by Nancy Ellison