Long Slow Twilights

So, we are choosing to still avoid public indoor dining.

This has forced us to be a bit creative… where is there outdoor seating, that is open on a given night, that will take us in, that we haven’t already had this week, that has halfway decent and healthful food… Well, sometimes X out of Y ain’t bad. We ended up at Hoagie’s in Essex, of all places. My salad greens were past their prime. The food was really not good, but the overall experience was stellar. We were the only ones out on the patio for some mysterious reason. We had draft beers. Service was quick and the right degree of attentive, unlike our other forays this season to more understaffed locations. And we took a leisurely walk down suburban side roads afterwards, saw new things, with an occasional open field to appreciate.

That was last night; Saturday night was kind of similar. I did something I had been itching to do, which was choose a restaurant out of some 183 different ones in Chittenden county, using a random number generator. It ended up pointing us to takeout Vietnamese in South Burlington. We ate at picnic tables down Community Drive way, and took a leisurely walk, seeing new things we don’t see every day. That food wasn’t the best Vietnamese ever, but it was better than Hoagie’s wilted lettuce.

Essay Corner Addendum

Oh yeah, one other thing she got spot on: “Visiting one another’s homes is akin to food shopping. On your way out the door, you will be interviewed about what groceries you’re lacking at home, and two bags will be filled for you and placed by the door.”

Mom was always trying to foist food upon us upon leaving. Homemade goodies made by her or someone like her – without a doubt, understandable. But also goodies not necessarily homemade, like her leftovers from the restaurant we just visited – yup. “Take it home! Take it home!” But even ordinary run-of-the-mill groceries. An untouched Entenman’s cake – “Want to bring some cake home?” Want this? Want that? Mom, I can buy an Entenm…. oh, never mind. And she always seemed to think that we all had to eat round the clock; we may have just come home stuffed from a four-course meal, and she’d be like, “Want something to snack on later? Here, you can nibble on this later.” Jesus Mom, I may not even be eating tomorrow.

Essay Corner

A special person in my life sent me a copy of Gastropolis: Food & New York City.  I turned immediately to the Italian chapter, entitled “Cosa Mangia Oggi?”  What’d ya eat today?

It’s one of those Italian Grandmother reminiscences, written by an Annie Rachelle Lanzillotto.  Annie was born about a decade earlier than me, and is from the Bronx, not Staten Island; and of course, her grandmother’s southern Italian, like everyone else’s American-emigrating grandma.  Given all those things, it was truly amazing all the parallels that I could relate to.

  • Her Grandma Rose was born in 1900, same as mine.
  • Grandma would embarrass her by picking dandelion greens out in center field during her ball games.  Mine would embarrass us picking them at the cemetery.
  • My grandma made polenta.  Her grandmother called her “polenta” when she was laying around being lazy.  But both hated laziness.
  • “Menza menz” her grandma would say when asked how she was.  My mother said that all the time; sounded like “mizza miz.”  The “z” pronounced American, not Italian.  Means “so-so.”  What a great honest answer to “How ya doing?”
  • “When carrying an Italian bread home in its white paper sleeve from the corner store after Mass, bite off one end of the bread before you make it up the stoop into the house.”  Every single aspect of this sentence is important, not just scarfing the end piece of the bread, the best part.  It has to be in a white paper sleeve.  Has to be after 12:00 mass.  Has to be before reaching the “stoop.”

It was almost too much.

I loved the part where she tried to decipher her grandmother’s written recipes.  Here, her grandma definitely had an edge over mine: Carmela was illiterate and could only sign her name.  Anyway, Grandma Rose’s recipes were part Italian dialect, part phonetic English.  The best was trying to decipher “begn polvere.”  She enlists help from other relatives.  “Polvere” is powder.  But “begn…” she had to pronounce it out loud, various ways, before she stumbled upon it: of course.  Begn powder.  As opposed to begn soda.  Similarly, “1 bottiglia di greppe giuse.”  Just say it out loud.  The accents all come pouring back.

And Annie writes with some phonetic emphasis too.  Ricotta is never spelled as such, but is ‘riGUTH.’  Now, we were northern Italians, so we never ate ricotta OR “riGUTH”, but we did eat “riZUTT.”  And both Annie and we ate “bisCUT.”  That was what my grandmother would have for breakfast, with coffee: Stella D’Oro Biscotti, pronounced strictly as “bisCUT”.

It was all almost too much.

So, cosa mangia oggi?  I can hear one of my own relatives asking this with kind of a singsong lilt.  Or my mom, no trace of accent on her except for New York; she’d have phrased it, “What’ya makin tonight, something good?”  I’m gonna make a big salad, ma, with asparagus and spinach, in a vinaigrette.  “Mmm!” she’d hum approvingly.  And I made cornbread to go with it.  I thought of a nice crusty Italian bread, but Xopher likes cornbread, plus that will go good with chili I’m gonna make later this week.  “Nice!”  She’d approve.  Sorry Mom.  Sorry we didn’t get to have more of those conversations.

Book Corner 2021.26-29

These were not rereads for me, unlike Ramona the Brave. These started coming out in 1981, when I’d aged out of Ramona.

Now that I’ve aged back in, I can say they were wonderful.

Ramona and her Mother: Ramona just wants to be loved.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8: Poor Ramona! She overhears her teacher call her a “show-off” and a “nuisance!” From then on, she tries to cause as little trouble as possible. When she comes to school feeling sick, then sicker, and sicker, she is afraid to say anything. Then – she throws up on the floor! She goes to the nurse’s office and cries. She goes home and cries. I could have cried myself.

Ramona Forever: I didn’t think I’d much like the plotlines of being in Aunt Bea’s wedding, or the Quimby’s having a third (!) child. But while Ramona may no longer be the baby of the family, she is still absolutely darling (see below).

Ramona’s World: Ramona makes a new best friend and turns 10 at the end, or “zero-teen.” She takes care of her baby sister and doesn’t throw tantrums anymore. We knew she had to grow up sooner or later. Oh how I love to think she kept her spunk all the way through adulthood, became a great artist, and lived to 105 like Beverly Cleary.

On the Missisquoi

This weekend inaugurated biking, dining outdoors, washing mohair, and, perhaps my favorite, sitting in the lawn chair on the screen porch. Above some moo-cattle look on from a little hilltop farm along the Missisquoi Rail Trail. I’m so happy lately I think I may have popped a funny fuse.

It’s My Blog And I’ll Risk Sounding Braggy If I Want

Today has turned out to be probably the best day I’ve had all year!

I’ve had up days and down days at work, but lately more down days. I get so little guidance, especially compared to what I’m used to. The lead on my little project is at best no help at all, at worst a nutjob who keeps distracting me with digressions. I’ve been starting to feel that what I’ve been working on the past two months is just totally the wrong thing.

Today I had a one-on-one with the lead of the TechLab. I tried to convey these issues professionally (i.e. without throwing the nutjob under the bus) and express my doubts about my project and my work, and he started shaking his head. Then he said, “Let me be honest with you. I wish you had the confidence of the guys – the male members – on the team. Because you are so much smarter than them.”

I started to protest this ludicrous statement (there are damn sharp cookies on the team). He held up one guy as an example of someone really confident – I started to say how smart this guy was and how much infrastructure knowledge he had, and he said, “You are so much smarter than him.”

When I told my friend K about this exchange, K said, “You are smart. You are one of the smartest people I know. And I know smart people.” Now I’m more bewildered than ever to be ranked so highly, because K does indeed know smart people, himself not the least among them – K is one of the smartest people *I* know.

Finally I told my husband. At first his response to the whole thing was tepid and non-committal because Xopher would never stake an opinion on anything inconclusive or subjective if his life depended on it. But then he clarified that while he didn’t know if I was in fact “smart,” he could definitely say that I am smarter than him. Now the ludicrous had entered the realm of insanity. Xopher is the smartest person who has ever entered my orbit (that’s an expression). “No, I just know a lot of shit, it’s different,” he said. I said, name one smart thing I’ve done. He said, “You got that mudroom added onto the house, which has greatly improved our lives.” I’ll admit I run a good life. Then he mentioned other things… Xopher never says nice things to me or about me. Having several nice things said about me by Xopher in one night, that alone would be the highlight of a day. But all of this consensus that, of course, yeah, I’m freaking smart, well! I’ve never felt so appreciated in my life.

I’m clicking on all cylinders, and tomorrow is my V-Day!

Book Corner 2021.25

by Mark Kurlansky

Fact after fact, oftentimes feeling randomly assorted and repetitive. Also, I found it strange how much space he devoted to human breastfeeding. I mean, yeah, I know it’s milk, but it felt very incongruous in what was otherwise a food book. I mean, yeah, I know it’s food, but… I just didn’t like it, OK?

What I did like was the author’s dry sense of humor and low profile. (  )