Author's Note: Sometimes, for many of us, the smell or taste of a specific food can instantly take us back to another time and place, as in “7/19/19."
My wife makes sure to meditate each day. My mind’s eye can focus only for a bit, as on a single lotus, white in quiet water before I picture gaps in lakeshore lily pads, perfect spots to cast, like Dad, a Bass-Oreno plug, red and white on braided nylon line or I row a wooden skiff alone and gather flowers to flood Mother’s kitchen overnight with perfume sweet and thick as Karo Syrup or I swim the perfect blossom back to our Potato Lake honeymoon canoe, my lovely bride not about to skinny dip in sunshine or I drive our little Datsun from Eau Claire to Chicago for Grandmama’s arrival via Greyhound but first allow for time to linger at the Art Institute and be embraced by water lilies floating on a wall.
Cookbooks for Carol
On most visits, I choose a couple James Lee Burke or Michael Connolly detective novels then peruse the cookbook shelves for Carol. I am amused by titles like Praise the Lard, Herbivoracious, or down-home tomes like Cornbread Nation and Magnolia Table but I select books she might want to try from hunger-churning glossies like Maple Bacon Biscuits, Pan-Roasted Salmon or Apple Pie Bars. Carol’s food is legend, as in her chicken & wild rice soup or homemade sourdough dipped in her signature take on Julia’s beef bourguignon. On occasion she offers slabs of decadence with a flaky crust, like rhubarb custard pie, but sometimes she neglects her great old standards like meaty tomato sauce on pasta that always left me toasting her with my merlot, screeching to reach “O Sole Mio” notes with Pavarotti. That’s why, even though she favors recipes from Cooking with Master Chefs, sometimes I bring home Rustic Italian or Meatloaf in Every Oven.
Another winter morning drizzles past the window. Fallen black branches etch at random the brown hillside grass, flat and dull as a worn straw welcome mat. Some years snow blows into this part of Virginia, but no matter how the sky retains its grey, such somber days call for toasting Carol’s sourdough bread, cracking farmer’s-market eggs while coffee brews, and opening another jar put up by Sue from the raspberry patch out behind her house way Up North. One quick knife-back tap and a twisting grip release the ring. The lid marked 7/19/19 pries up with a little pop, then crushed red fruit gets spread across a crispy, buttered slice. A savored tang brings back the scent of spruce, infinite blue summer sky beyond the lake, cool air breezing in through cabin screens, and poplar trees rattling tiny tambourines.
©2020 Raymond Byrnes
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