beer, biscuits and butter

9 09 2008

This is a schedule that seems vaguely familiar.  It’s 2 o’clock and the kitchen is all cleaned up and I’m on the couch in the afternoon sun ready for a nap.  It all started quite by accident some four hours ago making my second latte of the morning.  Noticing that the fridge was housing three separate jars of kosher dills – one full, one empty except for the brine, and one with a lone quarter dill swimming solo in the brine.  A sure sign that I am neglecting my family.  Now there is one jar of pickles with brine and two empty jars in the recycle bin.  Various and sundry other items got moved around and combined when I noticed one of my favorite things.  The grease tub.  Yes, today I would throw the Dr. a bone and make a real meal.  Fried chicken, homemade mashed potatoes and green beans.  

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect  – it was 10:30 a.m. when I went to the store.  That felt right.  The radio was telling me that we may have temps in the 40’s tonight – even that felt right.  And to add one more dab of perfection – there was a speciality beer in the fridge that had been there for months that a friend had given me as a treat – bottled in 2006 and $5 a bottle.  

I need to explain how to make perfect fried chicken.  My mom taught me.  It’s all about the cast iron skillet and reusing the grease with all the crispies carried over time after time.  Oh the salty delicious goodness of artery clogging food.  The potatoes, hand mashed I might add, take more butter than I dare tell my sister-in-law Amy (love you Amy!) lest she die of fright before tasting the reason the Irish are still on the planet.  I also found a can of biscuits with an expiration date of months ago in that excavation this morning. “What can be wrong with those?,” I ask myself, “if they don’t cook up right, Bella will get a treat.”  They came out golden and flaky and begging for more butter.  

After the chicken is fried in the skillet for a while, it is mandatory that it go into the oven for about a half hour to “crisp up”.  Rosemary always did the frying part before church on Sunday morning and the re-warm/crisp up after we got home while she finished her mashed potatoes.  As I took the chicken out of the oven I noticed something on the bottom of the oven – hummm, a tag from a pair of jeans, one of those long ones they run down the leg…all the more reason to use the oven – it looks like it’s been neglected a while.  Don’t even ask me how I think that got inside – I will probably blame psycho cat.  

All the while I was sipping said speciality beer since it was the ideal post-latte drink.  By 1 p.m. the Dr. was served and by 2 p.m. with an errand run on the side, the stove top had been dismantled, throughly cleaned, jeans label thrown away – pots, skillets, dishes done and I’m on the couch.  This is the vaguely familar part.

Twelve of the most important years of my life were lived in another culture.  One that took me years to adjust to and now that I’ve been back here for longer than I was there – I still find traces of it deeply ingrained in my soul.  Most of it has to do with food and the pace of life in general.  

The rug rats would start school at around 9 a.m. and come home for lunch at 1 p.m. for a two hour break.  They’d go to school at 3 p.m. until just before 5 p.m.  My mornings would revolve around the kitchen – going to the different markets I’d have to go to, gathering the ingredients for the day’s main meal of the day.  One market for meat, another market for fruits and vegetables and another for bread – and still yet another for the “normal” things you’d find at a grocery store – unless it was cheese or deli meats or fish or certain cleaning supplies.  Needless to say, it’d take up the entire morning waiting in line with every other mother in our barrio on the outskirts of Madrid.

I’d get home by 11 or so and get started with the prep so that when the kids walked in all famished at 1 – we’d be ready to eat.  Our routine was was that we’d use that time together to read aloud in English.  Oh the books we read together over those meals.  I’d read, they’d eat – and when it was time for them to go back to school – I’d eat, clean the kitchen and enjoy a snooze on the couch.  

I’ve always loved knowing the seasons of the year by how the sun plays through the windows of my living space.  Winter’s low angles – summer’s scourching blaze.  And in one of my favorite living spaces with the exception of the one we presently inhabit – the Fall angles were just perfectly suited to that afternoon nap – knowing I’d done and completed the biggest chore of the day yet one of the most rewarding – providing my family with homemade goodnesses to charge them up to meet their worlds head on.  My reward for a job well done to curl up on the couch with a blanket to snooze in the soft sunlight.

Like I said, we’ve been back here longer than we were ever gone but I have never been able to get into the American schedule of dinner at five.  It has never felt right – not from the cooking side or the eating side or the how to enjoy life side.  One of the biggest blows of culture shock was hearing the horror in my kids’ voices when they told me that they were given 20 minutes to eat lunch at school and that lunch “hour” was at 10:30 in the morning.  

I’ve often felt in the insuing years that much of my disfunction has to do with not being able to follow this foodie timetable that established us as a family.  I feel that we lost much of what we’d gained by having that two hours together to talk about life in the middle of our days.  Life in America hurt us that way but to be honest – helped us in others.  But in the food department I’ve never been able to get it together on this side of the Big Pond.  So if someone would just pay me for making my fingers move over my computer keyboard – I might have it made.  The Dr. would get his main meal of the day around 1 p.m. and I’d get my nap.