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Sunday, March 27, 2011



I had such a good time walking this morning. I was not in a hurry, so instead of walking briskly I was able to—well, not to dawdle but to go at a walking pace, the pace the Italians call andante. It's not a pace that I'm really familiar with, since my usual walk is a brisk full stride.


This morning my walking pace felt to me like the universal pace of those who walk. At that pace you are making progress, you are moving to where you want to go, but you have time to see and absorb everything around you. You are with the countryside, with the front yards. That pace felt comfortable within my body. I felt connected to the inhabitants of Hardy's English villages, in those days when visiting the next village involved a walk of four or seven or ten miles. I can feel myself moving along the dusty path between villages and I know that my pace is the natural pace of man. At such a pace, even a bicycle seems much too fast.


This must be the pace that God had in mind when She created Adam and Eve. "Walk around this place," She said, "but slowly, not too fast. You aren't doing this for the aerobic value of the walk. You're doing it because I asked you to look around. See the flowers. Hear the birds." And so forth, She said to them, including a little speech about fruits and trees.


So the first thing they did, after a gentle amble over the grounds, was to use the roundness of the apple as their inspiration for putting wheels on things.


And here we are—suffocated by wheeled things and too numb to know that on some cosmic level the wheels have fallen off.


Will God even consider starting over with a new Adam, a new Eve? Maybe She'll tempt them with square tomatoes rather than round apples, thus completely avoiding the wheels business.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor   

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rice Pudding Memories

My mother never made rice pudding. This, of course, could be a lie, but it may also be true. It feels true to me. She also never made bread pudding—which suited me fine. The sliminess of pieces of Wonder Bread in bread pudding echoed the sliminess of Wonder Bread in the Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. I didn't like either one.


When my children were small, I made rice pudding often. If you use milk instead of cream, and not too much sugar, rice pudding is a relatively healthy dessert.


Ernest and Abigail had their daughter baptized to please Ernest's Catholic parents; and I, a lapsed Catholic, was the token godmother for this token baptism. I am ashamed to confess that I have long since forgotten the child's name.


The christening was followed by a classic French baptismal celebration. Both Ernest and Abigail had doctorates in French literature, and they were frank Francophiles.


The christening brunch, for twenty guests, took place at their house in Tuscaloosa. The tables were beautifully appointed with starched cloths and napkins, flowers in antique crystal vases, their bought-in-Paris antique silverware, and the pastel, candy-coated almonds that typify the French christening brunch. Ernest had done all the decorating for the day. He had also previously designed the entire the house, re-upholstering antique chairs with beautiful French tapestry, refinishing end tables and buffets. Ernest could do anything.


Ernest also cooked the meal for the celebration. I don't remember what he served for this spring-time brunch, but I know it was elegant, simple, and expensive. And for dessert, he made riz a l'imperatrice, the apotheosis of rice pudding. Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, was all the rage among junior faculty members, and Ernest used Julia's recipe. It is to rice pudding what the Taj Mahal is to a sod house on the Prairies. It is complicated and time-consuming to make and is studded with candied fruit and made voluminous with whipped cream. Before serving it, Ernest turned it out onto a beautiful antique porcelain platter and decorated it with candied violets and fruits.


I've never forgotten it, never made it myself, and never eaten it since. Ernest's was enough for a lifetime.


Ernest was a wonderful, doting father who took excellent care of baby Sophie. Yes, perhaps she was a Sophie. Abigail was left, as she often was in that ménage, with very little to do. Ernest cooked, decorated, entertained, and cared for Sophie. Abigail breast-fed the baby for over a year—probably because this was the only thing she did that Ernest couldn't do better.


We left town the following year on our own perilous journey into life. Ernest and Abigail became part of my past, and Sophie, if that is her name, is now in her early forties and has had to navigate the rapids of life without the guidance of her missing godmother.


Now where was I? Rice pudding.


There are so many recipes for rice pudding. I make a quick one from leftover rice, but the best ones are made by simmering a small amount of raw rice for several hours in sweetened milk, so that the rice is very, very soft and swollen. When I crave rice pudding, however, I usually want an instant gratification of my desire. So I add leftover cooked rice to milk, put in a little sugar and a few raisins, and cook it until I say it's finished, at which point I might add some vanilla. Then I put my rice pudding into a dish and eat it while I sit alone in a friendly room with my feet up and a book on my lap. No matter what ails me, rice pudding is bound to make me feel better.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor   

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Twin Peaks

The privacy of our bodies is an important public concern these days. Children are taught that their bodies are not to be touched by others, and that they have the right to say "no". When I began studying Therapeutic Touch years ago, the teachers emphasized that we should ask permission, before beginning a session, to touch the client. It was a formality, but one that gave appropriate power to the client. Here are two stories about touching.


One of the tales we were told when I was growing up in an Irish Catholic family is that nuns were not allowed to bathe naked. Whether this is/was true, I have no idea. But the way I heard it is that a nun covered her body with a thin muslin garment while bathing, so as not to be disturbed by (excited by? amazed at? curious about?) the sight of her naked body exposed to her own private gaze as she lay in the warm waters of her bath (cold waters, more likely). She soaped herself through muslin. Or so we were told. And you can just imagine the prurience such ultra-chaste bathing provoked in an impressionable child's mind.


But to return to my moutons. That was my background. Added to this were all the other societal prohibitions about touching a stranger without prior approval.


I went to a lingerie store looking for new bras. I was dissatisfied with the brand I had been wearing and felt I needed some help in finding a bra that fit well. Though the store was a large discount lingerie store, service was available for those who needed it. A young saleswoman helped me to choose several possible styles and I retired to the dressing room. Curtain pulled shut, I tried on one of the bras.


"How's it going?" called the saleswoman from the other side of the curtain. Then she peeked her head in. "No," she said, "that style does nothing for you. Try this other one." She ducked out of the space again, which I appreciated. I needed a little privacy.


So I took off one and put on the other.


"How's it going?" she called.


"Well," said I, "I think I like this one." She stepped around the curtain and looked at my bosoms critically. "Yes, that's better," she said.


And then, before I even was aware of what was happening, she inserted one small warm hand into the bra, cupped my breast, and moved everything around until, I guess, she felt I was properly filling the space available.


I was shocked. Not so much as a "by your leave" before she invaded what had heretofore been a fairly private space. She obviously gave it no thought at all. I assume that she actually spent her day adjusting soft breast tissue to fit its surrounding fabric. Her little hand was in and out in seconds. I bought four of the bras.


My second breast story demonstrates how extraordinarily naive I was even as recently as ten years ago.


It was a warm, muggy summer day, threatening rain. I walked to the Village to shop, but I took an umbrella, not wanting to be caught unprepared.


And a downpour indeed arrived as I marched up the final hill on the way home. I always walk briskly, and even more briskly when I'm being pelted by hard raindrops. It was cozy but noisy under the umbrella.


Being a fast walker, I overtook an older man going my way. He had no rain protection, and I couldn't bear the thought of his being soaked while I breezed by him, umbrella'd. I slowed to his pace and said, "Can I offer you some shelter?"


He smiled a little and accepted. He was about my size, small for a man. I said, "Hello." He said nothing but gestured as if he didn't understand English.


"Parlez-vous francais?" I asked, thinking that Canada's other official language was the next best choice.




"Ukrainski?" I queried, ungrammatically I'm sure. Our Village is a hotbed of Ukrainians.


Still no response.


I paused, stuck with my grand gesture and just seeking to make conversation as we plugged along in the rain.


"Sprechen sie deutsch?"


No response. I imagined him as the aging father of some youngish couple in the neighbourhood, brought to Canada to be with family, but too old to begin to learn the language.


He had reached over at some point and was helping me to carry the umbrella, which I didn't mind, because an umbrella gets heavy to hold when you can't switch hands.


I was racking my brain for additional languages ("Pa russki?", "Hablo usted espagnol?"), still intent on being a companionable neighbour, when all of a sudden his hand left the umbrella and circled my breast.


I was in shock. Had he mistaken me for someone who might enjoy being fondled by a stranger? Or was he just curious as to what this idiot Canadian thought she was doing, offering to share the intimacy of an umbrella during a rainstorm?


I was incensed and speechless. In what language could I chastise him? None, obviously. My legs shifted gears and I motored away from him, hugging my umbrella handle to my bosom. I was moving so fast my legs must have looked like a running cartoon figure whose legs become wheels.


"Monsieur!" I sputtered as I pulled away from him. "Monsieur, vous etes . . . vous etes . . ."


I couldn't think of a word, but it was all right because by then I'd left him in the dust (or a puddle) and he could no longer hear me.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor