Monday, April 18, 2011
It takes several hours of preparation to leave our farmette overnight. There's the packing, the securing of animal caretakers, the writing of the notes, the arranging of the supplies for easy access and understanding. Yesterday we left behind 99 mouths to be fed in our absence; about 80 of these mouths open no wider than half an inch, but still. That's a lot of hunger.
We went to Lexington to witness the first battle of the Revolutionary War. We rarely travel far as a complete family unit, and we very rarely stay in hotels. It's hard to spend three hours in a car with so many varying tastes in music, jokes, leg positioning and noise level. It's hard to navigate three smallish children through an unknown town, a town with a population nine times that of our rural hamlet. Last night, while waiting for the take-out order to be ready, M and I had to drink in shifts at the bar since they didn't allow kids that close to the alcohol. My margarita moment was lovely, a sweet break from constant questions and immediate decisions. I wrote a few aimless paragraphs on a receipt; I watched sportscasters talk to each other on the big TV above the bar. I sipped frothy sweet alcohol and had to resist the urge to pack the tainted ice cubes away in my purse for later. Then we all ate Mexican food in our room in front of the TV (this is, after all, a vacation) and went to bed at the same time. I didn't sleep much and now my whole body is hungry for a nap.
This morning - early, early - we made the trek to Battle Park, with a stop at Starbucks for necessary caffeine. We marched in regiments with other parents carrying children in footed pajamas. Lots of them also carried buckets and ladders and we discovered why when we got to the park and found the audience about ten feet deep around the perimeter. A kind man with two boys of his own offered my guys a spot on his ladder bench and the battle began with drums and guns and shouts and colonists running and scattered. "Is that man broken?" asked B. "Is he broken? Will he get up?" I tried to explain that it was pretend, he had only pretended to die, but two year olds don't always get the subtlety of living history. "Is that man broken?" I sipped my cooling caramel macchiato and kissed his forehead in answer.
I'm not one for blatant emotion, but watching the redcoats and the minutemen mix it up on the lawn while the wives huddled in a far corner and used their aprons as flimsy shields against the sight of slaughter, it was hard not to well up. These were people so hungry for a new and free identity that they were willing to die on a patch of chilled mud on an April morning. I understand that the road to a democratic nation was a complicated one with many variables, but these men we honor with reenactment every year - there was nothing vain about their sacrifice. I appreciate that my boys get to see that.
Back at the hotel we had our own little skirmish during breakfast. We were hungry, we were tired. But we survived. Unbroken. And returned home to feed those waiting mouths, to settle back into our routines we take for granted with such comfortable disregard for the history that allows our lifestyle. Until next year when we may again bear a kind of witness. Next year, though, we'll eat breakfast before the war.
The scene that sticks with me the most from “In the Language of Love” happens on page two when Joanna is reminiscing about a happier time, when she was a little girl and would pull the cookbooks out from under her bed and make up stories from them. No one ever questioned the rationale behind the cookbooks being stored in a drawer under the daughter's bed. So it is at our house, often times items items grow roots and stay in a certain location irregardless of logic. It is our wrapping paper resides under the bed, in an IKEA box that used to contain the parts of our dresser. Somehow it just works and we always know where to find it when needed.
A few weeks ago we spent a Sunday organizing our books. After a bit of shuffling, all of our cookbooks and food magazines were able to be together on one set of shelves. Less hunting for the book means more time for locating specific recipes. After many years some of them are so beloved the magazine just automatically falls open to the right page. Last night when I couldn't sleep, I decided to come downstairs and find M's favorite bread book in anticipation of making challah today. The book is almost falling apart and when I turned to that page there were stains and marks all over it. And it was like I could suddenly feel him next to me. If it is true that you leave a part of yourself in every book you read, a battered (either covered in, or bruised-- take your pick of definitions they work equally as well here and spattered cookbook will conjure images, tastes and smells faster than any other.
Watching M work with the dough today, braiding the bits into a beautiful loaf; I was in awe. (In fact one of the reasons I married him is because he owned a waffle maker and juicer, two non-essential kitchen items. Or so it has been said.) He cooks for us most every night and tries to be cheerful and appease us when the dreaded phrase “I'm hungry” is uttered, (often at a late or terrifically early hour.) He provides for us in so many ways, and his meals are always nourishing. Some of those recipes I find in the magazines that arrive in our post office box each month like magic. The books, too, with their beautiful photographs and tantalizing recipes are a constant source of inspiration. A current favorite is Heidi Swanson's “Super Natural Cooking.” I visit her blog often and reading the stories behind the recipes makes me feel connected to something larger. I feel the same about Molly Wizenberg. Reading her magazine articles, her cookbook and Orangette blog, is like connecting with a friend. I realize that I've never met these women, but I feel a commonality with them: what we cook, why we cook and what we use. I love that they choose to use accessories and baking dishes that have a history, passed down through the family or found at flea markets and second-hand stores. That the past is valued over some bright and shiny new pan you simply must rush out and by.
Reading these two women satisfies something in me, a hunger I didn't know I had. In some ways they are feeding us with something more than food. It's their stories and personal experiences that elevate their offerings from a mere collection of recipes. Every time I find a new cake/cookie/pastry recipe that appeals to me, I instantly think of who I want to make it for. That's what cooking means to me, taking all of the ingredients and mixing them up in a way that the outcome can be given to someone. It's what M does for us when he cooks, it's what I do when I bake. Pulling out the ingredients and following the recipe calms and soothes me. It's a task that I can see through to the end, unlike so many of my other projects for work. And best of all: you can eat the results.
These blogs have been inspirational in other ways. I'm hoping to grow more of our own herbs and vegetables this year. The few potatoes we produced last year, as well as the mint, the rhubarb, and the chives made me happy beyond measure. I am ready to get started, my fingers are itching to mess about in the dirt. It's an ache, a need, a hunger to be satisfied. Now if only the weather would cooperate.