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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Questioning Character Flaws

Can I describe to you a few of my own character flaws? You have time for this, do you? You have enough interest? Shall I report major flaws only or a mix of major and minor (memo to self: remember Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye": how strange the change from major to minor)? Or shall I dwell on the minor ones, the peccadillos? (Would little ones be peccaritos? Or peccarinos? Would big ones be peccarones? And where does pecorino romano fit into this?)


Shall we return to character flaws, subhead "mine"? To begin my list, can I say that I'm very self-centered? Would you say that's a major flaw? In fact, wouldn't you agree that being self-centered might be the ultimate flaw? The mother of all flaws, even?


Do I have others? Are character flaws related to the Seven Deadly Sins? Am I greedy? Am I envious? Do I get angry? Am I slothful? Am I Grumpy? Sleepy? Bashful? Hungry? (Is this a critical breakthrough? Were the Seven Dwarves actually embodiments of the Seven Deadly Sins? And if so, what does that make Snow White?)


And why are we talking about MY character flaws, eh? Do you have none of your own? Shall we just turn the tables here and interrogate you?


Just asking.



Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, October 21, 2012

On Being Set in Stone

I have spent my life in resistance to being pinned down. Whatever the question—whether it's "what's for dinner?" or "what are your views on life after death?"—I can't give a definitive answer, because whatever I come up with will change. The leftovers I'm combining on the fly might very well morph into a different dish entirely between the time I answer your question and the time I call you to dinner. Similarly, a careful exposition of my view on the afterlife can take a 180 if I read a well-turned sentence presenting a contrary idea. I'm exquisitely sway-able.


So you see why I am reluctant to be pinned down. Whatever I say is liable to be turned into a lie. Better to say nothing.


Which makes it pretty surprising that I agreed to be videotaped for a website called "The Wisdom Speakers." At first I agreed because I was flattered and I'm a sucker for flattery. And then our conversation, held a few weeks before taping, was great fun: two charming young things, Nicole and Gilles, asking me questions and actually hearing my answers! It doesn't get much better than that.


The videotaping itself, during which I answered question after question about aging, seemed like just as much fun as that earlier conversation. A few hours after they had left, however, I began revisiting some of my answers and became aware that there was more to say about this question, or   that I should have put in a few qualifiers to balance some of the definite-sounding answers. I panicked. I had gone on record. I had let myself be pinned down—and I'd gone into it with my eyes open.


When I emailed Gilles and Nicole about my post-taping panic, Gilles assured me that they wouldn't make me look foolish (or, more to the point, they wouldn't let ME make myself look foolish).


But there I am now, pinned like a butterfly to a board, on record for global viewing. I've gone on record. Is this the same person who won't even announce the evening's menu at five o'clock because it may change by six?


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stirring It Up

Slosh the liquid of life

up to the rim of your cup,

then let it overflow in a riot of shaking.

The singing bowl's vibrations

create agitated waters

that dance to the rhythm of sound.


Water sways from side to side.

First, rippling eddies.

But as vibration continues,

waves climb the sides of the cup,

reach the rim, and slip over the top,

tasting freedom.


Faster! Higher!

Water, uncontrolled, explodes in turmoil,

growing more joyous

and spinning its energy

into the frothy ocean of the Universe.

Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Monday, October 8, 2012

October Already?

It's October. I always say that September, the back-to-school month, is the start of my year, but it's really October, when the garden gets dryer and more straggly, the leaves drift down onto the just and the unjust alike, and the morning air nips at my nose, turning the tip bright red.


In our family, October means the beginning of the birthday season (dark January and February nights lead inevitably to October and November birthdays): six at last count. A friend recently described her family's fall birthday parade as a time to celebrate all these wonderful people. I'd never thought of it that way. To me, this string of birthdays means I have to think of and find gifts, wrap and mail them (and I never do it enough in advance, so my gifts are always late), then remember to make a birthday phone call on The Day. Perhaps if I re-frame all this along the lines of my friend's comment, I can improve my attitude toward birthdays. I'll think of celebrating the presence of all these people in my life. But I'll still have to get the packages in the mail.


This year our son's birthday falls on Canadian Thanksgiving Day, which is on the Monday after the first Tuesday of October. Some Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving with a big meal on Sunday, because it's more convenient, but I can't bear celebrating Thanksgiving on any day but the actual Monday. Last year we had dinner for nine. Because I'm so very bored with the traditional feast, after fifty years of making Thanksgiving dinners, I decided to make a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Lots of trimmings, but no turkey. Any dinner that ends with three kinds of pie is hunky-dory with me: pumpkin, pecan, and an apple-prune tart. I love little mincemeat tarts, but no one else in the family likes them much, and even I, the consummate devourer of pie, can't eat more than one or two mince tarts a season. Maybe three.  


So let's go into the eternal pie question: if you can't use vegetable shortening (and I haven't for 30 years) then how do you make pie crust? Lard is the answer, of course—half-and-half lard and butter, to be precise. I used to buy quarts of homemade lard and quarts of goose fat from Elizabeth's, the Hungarian deli on Bloor near Spadina, until Elizabeth up and left in a huff one night, abandoning the deli. No more goose fat. No more lard. I had to learn to make my own lard.


To make lard, simply dice white pork fat, add a little water, and put it in a low-moderate oven until the fat renders out. Cool it and strain it into sterile pint jars or freezer containers; store it in the refrigerator or freezer. The cracklings that float on top of the rendered fat are the cook's bonus. Skim them off the top of the melted lard, drain them on brown paper, and freeze to chop and add to your next batch of cornbread. (I must confess that whenever I make lard, I treat myself to a sandwich, just one, of cracklings and homemade bread and a little sea salt. Heaven.)


Can you call it a vegetarian Thanksgiving if all the pie crusts are made of lard? Probably not.


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor