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Sunday, October 14, 2018

What Might Have Been

A vain concept, "what might have been."

Eat yourself up.

Poison your memories with recriminations

of "if only."

Taint every part of your life

with the better version,

the Monday-morning-quarterback view

of what you coulda shoulda woulda done

if only you'd been smarter, richer, wiser,

less this way or more that.

 

Or: let it go.

Those paths untaken might be the subject

of a momentary pity party,

but going to that there shindig will get you

nothing but regrets.

 

Take the sweetness from the past

(those parts of it you can remember)

but don't be pulled into the underworld

of that non-parallel Universe.

There's a reason we call it the past:

It has passed.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Thanksgiving Day

When I was young. we always went to The Farm for Thanksgiving Day. But the preparations started at home for my mother, Eileen. She worked to make all of us presentable, even as she prepared her own contribution to the day's feast (surely the ubiquitous green bean casserole was among her contributions).  What else she carried to The Farm I don't remember, but I'm pretty sure she was responsible for the salad.

 

Erase from your mind the idea of pretty little organically grown leaves sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon juice and sea salt. That hasn't yet become our salad. You have to wait fifty more years for that in Middle America.

 

In the early '50s, a feast-day salad meant not lettuce but the Jello salad I wrote about a couple of months ago: lime Jello, cottage cheese, mayonnaise, canned crushed pineapple, and pecans.

 

Eileen this the night before, letting it gel in a big flat baking dish. To serve it at The Farm, she would place a square of it on top of a chiffonade of iceberg lettuce (that's what made it nutritious).

 

So what else did Eileen prepare as her part of the Thanksgiving dinner? Perhaps the candied sweet potatoes, resting coyly under their puffy white blanket of marshmallows.

 

She might have made the soft dinner-rolls, but they were more likely to have been left to our Aunt Jeannette, The Farm's doyenne, so that they could be served piping hot from the oven.

 

As Eileen struggled to finish up all her preparations—us, the food, her own appearance—Daddy had dressed himself and gone to the car to wait. After one or two of us had straggled out of the house and into the car, he became impatient. (Well, he was always impatient, my father; he was a quick man and expected everyone to be just as quick as he was.) He began honking the horn to alert Eileen to the fact (in case she didn't already know) that it was time to leave. Honk-honk. Pause of a minute or two. Another child pops out of the front door and runs to the car. Honk!

 

"WHAT is she DOing?" Daddy would say in exasperation. He truly had no idea at all why she was running late. How could he know? HE'd never tried to fit in all the things she was supposed to do on this busy morning. Honk!

 

Finally Eileen was ready. Her contributions to the feast were tucked in the back of the station wagon, along with Mike and Jerry ("You boys keep your hands away from the food!").

 

Off we went, over the river and through the woods, to The Farm. "There it is! I see it first!" "No, I saw it first!" "Did not!" "Did too!" Etc. We were at The Farm. We drove up the drive south of the house and parked beside Uncle John T's car. The farm dog was an unfriendly black-and-white border collie mix that hated anyone who didn't actually live there with him. He barked and snarled around the car until John T called him off. Then we piled out and tumbled into the kitchen.

 

The Farm kitchen on Thanksgiving Day! The turkey has been in the oven since eight in the morning and has been regularly and patiently basted by Aunt Jeannette as she sped around the kitchen preparing the rest of the meal. Let's see. If Eileen brought the sweet potatoes, the green bean casserole, the "salad", and pumpkin pie, Jeannette would have been responsible for the mashed potatoes, the dressing, the cranberry relish (two kinds, both homemade), the rolls, the Brussels sprouts, and the creamed onions. Plus additional pies, of course.

 

The really hard part of preparing this meal was peeling enough itty-bitty onions for a crowd. Even using the old trick of parboiling them in their skins for a minute or two, it was still tedious to peel so many tiny onions. So Jeannette always did that job first thing in the morning (right after putting the turkey in the oven). Once they were peeled she simmered them until they were tender and cloaked them with a smooth white sauce made with both milk and cream. By the time we arrived, of course, the onions were ready to be popped into the oven for a final reheating.

 

The homemade jams and jellies and relishes had already been brought up from the cellar: translucent watermelon pickles, sweet and sour and with a smooth soft-crisp texture like nothing else in this world; corn relish; plum jam, thick and tart; and strawberry preserves fit for a king, a tribe of Johnsons, or a soft doughy homemade roll.

 

How many potatoes did Jeannette have to peel for that crowd? Seven to ten adults and a dozen children, some of them in their I'm-starving teen years? I always allow two potatoes per person when I make mashed potatoes (plus a couple extra for the pot). So that would make 38 potatoes, minimum. I think she started early. Nowadays, I've perfected ways to hold mashed potatoes for an hour or so, but when I was young, you simply didn't "hold" mashed potatoes. Potatoes were to be cooked and mashed at the last minute, no matter how awkward this was for the cook. But at least they would have been peeled and quartered in advance, covered with cold water in their pot, ready to put on the flame. The cream, milk, and butter that would enrich them were gently warming and melting on top of the stove (no need to put them on a burner; the stove-top was well-warmed by the oven's turkey-roasting).

 

By the time we arrived it was nearly time to seat ourselves at the table, which was actually two: the big dining room table for the adults, and a smaller table, half-in and half-out of the dining room, for all the children. The six of us, plus John T and Jeannette's three boys—that's nine around the children's table—though of course older children graduated to the adult table from year to year, crowding that one but depleting the children's group.

 

The groaning board of the table was open for business. The platters of food were passed from person to person, rather than being served by John T or Jeannette. Children's plates were fixed first, so by the time adults had finally put a little bit of everything on their plates, the children had progressed from eating to throwing food and were now dismissed to the upstairs, with a promise that they'd be called back for dessert.

 

We all stuffed ourselves on mashed potatoes, dressing, and turkey covered in mahogany gravy that was salty and smooth. We ate enough to choke a horse.

 

When did this harvest holiday descend from being a day of giving thanks for the harvest into a gluttonous feast? What god were we propitiating by eating more than our share? It was clear from the way the meal was presented that "more than our share" WAS our share, was indeed what we deserved. Do I sense a connection here with the over-consuming sense of entitlement that dogs us today?

 

Well, that was then and this is now. Some of the family traditions have survived. others are long gone. For my part today, I'd cheerfully eat just mashed potatoes and gravy for my meal, with a piece of pecan pie for dessert.

 

And since I've brought the subject up, here are a couple of pecan pie tips. The first I adapted from Paul Prudhomme's family cookbook; the second is my own. Toast a cup of pecans until they are deep, dark brown, then grind them almost to a paste in the food processor. Add that paste to your usual filling of eggs, sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Second secret: replace the corn syrup with an equal amount of sorghum syrup, also called sorghum molasses. Mix in a lot of whole pecans, which will rise to the top and form that nutty crunchy layer. Eat it for breakfast the next day, if there's any left over.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Questions

All the time, questions.

There are days when a little certainty

would help me make it through.

Don't take this complaint too literally, please.

I assure you I'm not looking for the smug certainty

evinced by those who say they have all the answers.

Count on it,

their rigidity will end in tears.

Though I'm tired of my non-stop questions,

I'd rather have them and their provoking curiosity,

their soul-engaging insecurity,

than all the arrogant breast-thumping

of those who have the answers

and who expect us to swallow and follow.

 

No, I take back my initial weariness with questions.

There are worse things for the soul

than a little uncertainty.

 

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Updraft of Light

Your "updraft of light"

is in opposition,

I can only assume,

to the downward pressing

black cloud that is sometimes

my familiar.

 

I used to know, if fleetingly,

this updraft of light,

which suffused the atmosphere

with the possibility of joy.

 

Up is better than down,

they would have us believe.

Yet the pull of gravity

(all downward, as I understand it)

is essential to who we are.

We fasten our feet to earth

with magnets of consciousness,

and it is this awareness that allows us,

in our headier moments,

to follow the updraft of light.

 

My black cloud pressing down, down,

therefore, anchors me

and ultimately allows me

at times

to be carried by the updraft

to a lighter life.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog:
http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Shifting Realities

It's all shifting. Everything I've thought and done, the way I've lived for the last 35 years—all changing. My former concerns no longer concern me. The future is unclear, though one of my shifts has been the realization that the future is actually supposed to be unclear—that's the point. And (another change), I accept now that I may not be part of the future when it arrives.

 

Is this resignation? Is it the beginning of enlightenment? Or is it something new that I haven't found the words for? And of course I may never find them, since the words that used to be my companions are abandoning me.

 

My taste in reading has changed. I found myself engrossed in a re-reading of Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, her 500+-page history of the fourteenth century. A big change from E-Z-read mysteries.

 

Sometimes I think I've reached a plateau that requires me to retire from the world and spend my time doing only tai-chi and toning. Given my strongly held convictions—which do battle with my reluctance to be an activist—perhaps the greatest help I can give to the world I live in is simply to move the chi—move it, waft it, send it, absorb it, let compassion flow through me and in me and out of me into the wide world. Intend harmony. That's what I can do. I can intend and intone harmony.

 

It is difficult to maintain this intention when I face what we call real life, but I think that difficulty might be the edge against which I must rub in the future. Reconcile the differences. Spread harmony.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Blackberry Picking

In Nova Scotia my daughter and I

went blackberry picking.

We walked a mile into the woods

from our starting point

at the edge of civilization—

far enough in to feel wild,

but not so far that we were competing with

bears

for the berries,

which were thick on the prickly stems,

the thorns catching on long sleeves that

failed to foil

the squadrons of mosquitoes

claiming squatters' rights

to the blackberry tangles.

We were bitten.

 

Berries as big as my first thumb joint were rare.

More common were the tiny wild berries

like the ones my children used to pick in Tennessee

with their grandmother,

who took all three to her favourite patch

where they gathered the makings

for the famous Grandma Harwell Blackberry Cobbler.

But, shades of the Little Red Hen,

two of these children were good

for only five minutes' picking

after which they disappeared in search of shade or sun, whichever they felt was missing,

while only one,

this daughter with me in Nova Scotia,

only one stayed the course

and picked and picked until grandma finally said,

Now we have enough.

 

As we picked

My daughter and I spoke little

except to comment on the abundance of berries

and the nuisance of mosquitoes.

One hand brushed away the silent swarms

while the other dropped berry

after berry

after berry

into the bucket

except for the ones that went

straight into our mouths.

We took care not to

pop

a mosquito in as well.

 

We never did remember

for sure

whether Grandma Harwell's cobbler recipe

had a bottom crust

or only its golden, sugar-sprinkled top.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Magic in the Very Air

The magic of the ordinary captures me every time I allow myself to pay attention. When the subway is crowded I usually pull out my current book and hold it in one hand while strap-hanging with the other, but today I had no desire to do it. I was less interested in the book because I had mistakenly grabbed a book I'd already read. Uncharacteristically I can remember not just the villain of this one but also the exciting, dramatic, near-fatal kidnapping that ends the book, So I wasn't too eager to contort myself to read-while-standing.

 

Instead, I held the strap with one hand and was content to balance, eyes closed, for the length of the journey. It was much more restful than trying to read. At each station I would let my eyes flicker open enough to see the dozens of potential passengers on the platform and to wonder how they would fit into our crowded car.

 

Finally a seat opened up and as I sat I watched the crowd exit through the platform crowd pushing to enter. Clueless passengers sometimes block the area, making the shift even more difficult.

At Bay Street station a young Asian mother entered (with difficulty) pushing a baby carriage with one hand and, with her other, holding the hand of her four-year-old daughter. She left the car a few stations later, and as the train pulled out I saw the young mother and her charges on the platform, standing near the elevator. The four-year-old was intently watching the train leave, one hand raised in a tentative but friendly good-bye. I waved back but she didn't see me. It didn't matter, since she was waving to the train, not to any specific passenger. Bye-bye train.

 

On the same platform ten feet along was a young father with a nine-month-old strapped, facing outward, to his chest. The baby was also waving good-bye. I could hear those two parents engaging the attention of their little ones (say bye-bye to the train) because I remember doing the same thing with Sam and Georgia when they were little. Bye-bye train.

 

Walking east on Dearborn Street I passed a message pinned to a telephone pole. It was an arrow cut from yellow construction paper, and it was taped to the pole with the point of the arrow headed west. Drawn on the arrow in red magic marker were four hearts—three small-ish ones along the tail of the arrow and one large one that filled the point. What was the meaning? My dear love lives this way (west of me)? Go this way to find your (or another's) heart? It wasn't a commercial message, unless it was informing the neighbourhood that delicious, loving, heart-filled lemonade could be found at a stall over there by Broadview.

 

My best guess is this: a little boy/girl was announcing to the world his/her (their, in current parlance) love for the boy/girl who lived one house to the west of the artist. It was a bold and fearless pronouncement of love. If gnomic.

 

These were the magic adventures of that day. How can one fail to be moved by such visible signs of our connection? Perhaps similar moments would be clear to me even if I were driving a car, but I doubt it. Navigating Toronto traffic, I would not be free to notice anything else, no matter how magical.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Be the Sky

Be the sky,

the moon, the sun, the stars.

Be my love beneath the sky,

above the moon.

Travel across space with me.,

Follow the bright sun's path.

Be the air I breathe,

the thoughts I think.

Accompany me on moon trails

and walks through the stars.

Be the sky that guides

and shelters me,

the warm rain of summer,

the reigning ice of winter.

Hold with me the reins of wind

and gallop beside me

on the waves of air.

Be with me as I lift my head.

Be the surrounding sky

and all that is encompassed in it:

sky air sun stars moon light dark

rain snow wind day night.

Be the sky of my life.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Bolt from the Blue

Like any epiphany, this one was unexpected. Well, "epiphany" is probably too strong a word. You decide.

 

It was a sunny July Saturday, early afternoon, and I was in the back yard unpinning dried laundry from my retractable clothesline. I've always known that I like hanging out the clothes (in summer only, mind you). But at that moment I was struck with bliss.

 

In the process of folding a tablecloth I thought "there is nothing on earth I would rather be doing right now than folding and taking in the sweet-smelling, slightly stiff, line-dried laundry." Well, I didn't phrase it quite like that; there were fewer adjectives in the original. But the happiness was unalloyed. "Bliss" is the right word.

 

Then, because this is how my mind works, I noticed the neighbours' house. I was facing their kitchen window and remembered that they were away. Travelling. At their cottage up north. Somewhere. And I couldn't help but make the comparison: me taking clothes off the line, the neighbours frolicking in some Not-Home place. And I was filled with gratitude for the fact that I am allowed (by the world, society, the culture, good luck) to live my life exactly as I want.

 

An experience like this will inevitably lead me to explore my reluctance to travel, which stands in strong relief to the habits of almost every couple we know. Everyone else is always going some place. Off again on an adventure. Off to see a sight (sometimes to re-see a sight they've seen before). Off and running. Off time after time, summer after summer, winter after winter. What keeps us (me) at home?

 

The first issue for me is comfort. Over and over I am made to face the fact that comfort is very important to me. I do not see this as a positive thing. I'll bet the Dalai Lama doesn't fuss about his "comfort." He'll just take wherever he lands and declare it comfortable, rather than having pre-determined ideas of what comfort should be.

 

So I'd probably be a better person if I weren't so hung up on my narrow comfort zone. Not too hot. Not too cold. In familiar surroundings. Food when I'm hungry. Water always available. Shoes that don't pinch. You know: comfort.

 

I can come up with loftier reasons to stay at home. First, it is good for the planet to avoid unnecessary travel.

 

Next, I cannot bear the thought of contributing to the harmful effects of tourism on so many places (Venice, for example, or popular exotic natural phenomena). People seem to feel a god-given right to travel to faraway places so they can gawk (sorry; gaze) at foreign people and sights. And then they come home and say that such-and-such a place was beautiful—but the food was terrible, or too expensive, or the place was overrun with tourists.

 

You get the picture. Maybe I'll make those reasons the real excuse for not wanting to travel, rather than my need for comfort, since that inevitably highlights my shallow nature.

 

Back to my epiphany. I was struck on that day by the deep joy that came to me while I folded my clean laundry, standing on the wooden deck, unpinning the clothes pins one by one and dropping them into their basket. Then I aligned the top corners of the tablecloth, gave it a good shake, and further folded it into a neat rectangle. I take the laundry off the line slowly, walking from the line to the clothespin basket, folding things and putting them in the laundry basket. I remove items from the line in order: first, all the pieces that need to go upstairs, then all those for the downstairs. This way I can just lift the top items off the pile when I'm in the kitchen, making my upstairs load lighter. My load is light. My light is strong. I smile often.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Portents and Bushel Baskets

It isn't a portent, I'm pretty sure, that the silken grey ribbons pulled out from the spine of my little notebook, leaving it plain and undistinguished. It couldn't be an omen, for what would it be telling me? Don't use the notebook any longer? Don't rely on inanimate objects to mark your place? Pretty things die?

 

You see? You can make anything mean anything if you just set your mind to it. So I'll say this event signals that it is time to break out the glue gun and do some repairs. That's as deep as I want to go.

 

Now imagine a bushel basket. You don't see many of these any longer, unless you buy your tomatoes and peppers in bulk at the farmers' market. I love bushel baskets. My husband, not having grown up in a world that featured them, has trouble with the name and invariably refers to them as "bushels" not realizing that the operative word is baskets. I used to correct him (a bit harshly, sometimes, because surely after all these years with me he should remember this). But now I just let it go. Besides, we're about over our mock-farmer phase where we "put by" the peppers and romano beans and tomatoes for the coming year. So our supply of bushel baskets in the basement is dwindling, thank goodness. We really don't need to keep any on hand.

 

When our Hannah was not quite two (she's 23 now) her favourite game was to sit in a bushel basket, which we would place on a large towel or small rug. Then one of us—whichever adult had the most energy that moment—would grab one end of the towel or rug and pull the Hannah-loaded basket all through the house. We have pictures.

 

For vegetable deliveries from our CSA, Steph uses large plastic tubs with lids, which we return to her at the next delivery. They probably suit her needs much better than bushel baskets would. She can wash them with her power hose to clean them for the next delivery. They are sturdier by far than bushel baskets, whose rough thin slats are minimally held together with interweaving and wire. Plastic tubs don't have splinters, either.

 

But as long as farmers have stands and Dupont Street has Italian greengrocers who sell the tomatoes grown in the family fields, there will still be bushel baskets.

 

Once, when it mattered, I could recite the table of equivalents all the way up to bushel (16 T in a cup, 2 cups in a pint, 2 pints in a quart, 4 quarts in a gallon—and then something makes a peck and X number of pecks makes a bushel). "I love you a bushel and a peck". Take half a peck of small cucumbers . . .  These days if I need that information I just look in Mrs. Rombauer's index (under Table of Equivalents). Someone else might go online, but that wouldn't tap into the nostalgia of finding those words and figures on the printed page of an old cookbook.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Brave and the Others

Beyond the shore lies danger enfolded in mystery.

No.

Beyond the shore lies mystery encased in a shell of danger.

Only a few brave the depths and swells

of the unknown.

Only a few pierce the shell of danger

and approach the mystery,

itself not to be solved but acknowledged.

And what of those who stay on shore?

What of the timid who brave nothing but the struggles

of their own lives?

 

Do the rewards go only to the foolhardy

who actively seek the mysteries

surrounded by danger?

I find it hard to believe

we are stigmatized, favoured or not,

according to the boldness of our thrust through life.

To us all belong the spoils,

just for making it through.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Inner Grace

How can you tell if you have inner grace?

What are its signs?

Oh, I get it. It's one of those things

that you're better off not thinking of.

Striving for it gets you nowhere.

Peering inward to see if it's there

reveals little.

 

Everyone wants it—don't they?—

but I think you can recognize it

only in others.

She has inner grace.

You have it.

But the statement doesn't work

when translated

into the first person singular.

The best we can hope for is, say,

joy.

Perhaps serenity.

Maybe non-fractious relations with others

(with relations, for example).

For the rest, just let it go.

Don't think about it.

Hope that someone notices and will say,

after the fact,

Y'know, I always felt she had an inner grace.

That's your validation,

though you may have to be dead

to receive it.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Hot, Hotter, Hottest

This heat. This heat. You'd think a child of the Midwest would understand it. Would welcome, even, the opportunity to re-experience the discomforts of childhood.

 

On hot, humid days like this, the five of us children (long before the sixth was born) would wander along the short, untraveled asphalt road beside our house. At the edges of the road, where the tar was thinnest, it would blister into black bubbles that we popped with our toes. Could we have popped them with our fingers? Or a stick? In my mind it is eternally our toes that do the popping, and the soles of our summer feet were black with tar. This was before I was six, for when I was six we moved to the house on Wilson Street where we lived (always renting, never buying) until after I had married and moved to—talk about heat—the Southern U.S.

 

 When I was a teenager I enrolled in the 4-H Club for its summer workshops that taught farm boys how to raise livestock and farm girls how to cook and sew. The programs were open to the town kids as well (there were no "cities" in our county), since the same futures (farming and "homemaking") were in the cards for most townies as well.

 

Each year the projects became more difficult, with the idea that during five years of 4-H you would progress from muffins to biscuits and on to three-layer cakes. The boys would start with a shoe-box of baby chicks and in five years would be raising calves for the market. What the organizers failed to take into consideration in their programming—or maybe they knew it all along—was adolescent laziness. How many projects were handed over to the mothers the day before, say, that finished garment was due?

 

For my final year of 4-H sewing I made a slim lilac linen dress, sleeveless, with a mandarin collar. Instead of a back zipper or a front closure, the pattern I chose called for a row of one-inch buttons that ran from the left armpit to the hem. Probably a dozen buttons in all. It was not the best pattern for many reasons, but I'm sure I picked it out myself, probably against my smart mother's wise advice. Buttonholes were, of course, to be hand-made. You slit the fabric precisely (twelve times) and covered the raw edges using the aptly named buttonhole stitch. Twelve times. Twelve times faultlessly.

 

I have no idea how many buttonholes I actually completed on my own. Two, maybe? But the deadline was near. My mother, a skilled seamstress who dressed her three daughters until we went off to college, was torn between the horror of watching my clumsiness, my grubby fingers (it was hot, remember, summertime in Indiana), my lack of patience and my waning interest in the task—torn between that horror and the shaming possibility of cheating by helping me out. Faced with hand-finishing ten more buttonholes in one evening, I was all for the cheating.

 

The buttonholes got finished and the dress was submitted. I doubt very much whether I was sufficiently grateful for Eileen's work. It would take a lot of gratitude to compensate for the hours (on deadline, remember?) she spent finishing those stupid buttonholes.

 

On the other hand, who knows how much truth there is to this version of the story? It's how I remember it, but as you age, memories become nothing but anecdotes carved in granite; the actual memories are gone. So maybe I finished all twelve of those buttonholes by myself and my present self-flagellation is pointless.

 

What I do remember fully is how we dressed in the summer heat. This was the late 40s and early 50s. Dresses were what we wore, of course, not pants, for school and for all kinds of public gatherings (church, bridal or baby showers, parties). Stylish crinolines poufed out our full skirts, which fell from tight bodices.

 

So here you are. You're wearing a bra, a full-length nylon slip, a dress with a tight-fitting bodice and a full swing-y skirt held out by a scratchy, highly starched crinoline of tiered stiff muslin. You are wearing stockings (hosiery) that will be ruined above the knee by the rubbing of the starched crinoline. The stockings are held up by a garter belt or, more likely, are attached to the four rubber-and-metal fasteners dangling from your girdle, which is rubbery and not made for breathing in any sense of the word.

 

You are wearing dressy shoes. And just before you leave the house, you slip onto your already sweating hands a pair of thick white cotton gloves, which you will of course wash immediately once you get home so they will dry in time for your next outing. For true elegance you might prefer to wear your lacy white crocheted gloves, which will leave patterned indentations on your hands when you remove them.

 

The weather, just so you know, is in the high 90s, and the humidity is such that after you take a shower (in our house a bath, since we had no shower) you might as well save yourself the effort of drying off, because you won't be able to tell the difference between wet-from-the-bath and wet-from-the-weather.

 

I try to remain aware of the cultural requirements of my past as I complain crankily about this summer's heat waves in Toronto. Even when I am dressed for an outing, my clothing does not include a girdle, stockings, or white gloves--for which I am most grateful.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca

Musings blog: http://www.scenesfromthejourney.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/InfallibleNana

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Mucus Factory

For 48 hours my sinuses were a mucus factory. Had they been part of the Great Leap Forward in China (or was that the USSR?), they would have been awarded a gold star for efficiency.

 

I blew my nose every three minutes, quite productively, if you will excuse my saying so. In fact, I ask you to excuse this whole essay. Lady-like it is not. And yes, this very phrase is part of where I am going: "It is not."

 

In our house, Eileen, my mother, was a stickler for respectability. Being Irish, she knew the distinction between lace-curtain Irish and shanty Irish, and it was clear that of the two she preferred the former. Certain words were forbidden to us because of perceived vulgarity. One of these was "liar." We were forbidden to call each other liars—even when the evidence was clear that one of those three brothers was not telling the truth. Was prevaricating, in fact. Which in my book made him a liar. But I couldn't call him a liar without getting into even bigger trouble myself.

 

"Fool" was another one. I have been told that a passage in the New Testament cautions us against calling anyone a fool. By extension, I assume it also means don't aim critical words at others. But our Eileen settled for a literal interpretation: we could call each other stupid, or an idiot, or a moron—but not a fool.

 

With regard to respectability and decorum, one of Eileen's forbidden words was snot. Now, I understand her aversion. Snot has to be one of the ugliest words in the language—both the word itself and what it describes. Well, tell six raucous, word-happy kids that they can't use the word snot, and immediately the contraction "isn't" leaves the room. In its place is the other contraction: "It's not!" "Eileen, he said snot!" "No, I didn't, I said 'It's not!'" Dozens of times a week we would flout her rule, all while remaining within the bounds of good grammar. What thorns we were in her side.

 

To return to my own over-productive mucus membranes, as I lay on my sick-bed (sat, actually, since I had to remain upright or the mucus--it's not snot, surely--would drip down the back of my throat and make me cough), as I say, I sat in bed as the symptoms flew by: now a fever! Now chills! But never a respite from the mucus factory's production.

 

I often refer to my husband as a hoarder—mainly because I like to call a spade a spade. But during the course of that cold I forgave him his hoarding instincts because we never came close to running out of tissues. Every three minutes I filled another one. And then another. Thanks to his foresight, an empty tissue box was immediately replaced by a full one.

 

I have a friend who has tissue issues, seeing them as an assault on trees. In her house she provides handkerchiefs for those who might otherwise reach for a tissue. That's all well and good. But I remember the days of handkerchiefs, those days before tissues were available. I remember the importance of carrying a clean one, and I remember washing and ironing them. Let me tell you that when one is attacked by a vicious virus, one is overjoyed to be able to throw away the evidence, bagful after bagful.

 

Which leads me to the very strange fact that in Toronto's recycling program tissues are collected as compost, not as paper. The compost the city collects is piled high and composted for a year or two before it is distributed to city gardeners. Are you comfortable knowing that my week's worth of exceedingly germ-y tissues are now in the city's compost pile?

 

This was a virulent virus. On the Monday night I took a Sudafed to dry up the mucus factory temporarily so I could get some sleep. It's been a long time since I took a Sudafed. Either I've forgotten, or they've changed the formula. But it is now a mucus-dryer AND a stimulant. I took one tablet at eight in the evening and was wide awake (and sitting up, remember) for the whole night. I spent the next day, Tuesday, still sitting in bed in a haze of pain (overstuffed sinuses and nasal passages) and fatigue. I couldn't sleep for long because I would wake myself by coughing or sneezing. But I did sleep a little, overwhelmed by boredom. Next day, headache. Fuzzy and weak vision. Cotton brain. Where did this wicked virus come from?

 

And then it went away—not as quickly as it came, but I'm not going to complain. I began sleeping all night, the mucus factory closed down, and gradually my energy returned. It's not over (it isn't over) till it's over—but right now I'll settle for almost-over.

 
 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
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