Tuesday, July 26, 2011

High Tea in a Beer Wagon

About a week ago, I was finally able to meet Ronni Bennett, the Grande Dame of Elder Blogging. We’d tried to get together a couple of times previously, but the stars hadn't aligned correctly. Finally, they came together and it happened.

Ronni lives in Lake Oswego, a tony suburb of Portland, OR, while I spend my summers in a small condo in St. Johns, an indubitably untony village just over the St. Johns Bridge in what is known at NOPO or North Portland. Whereas Lake Oswego has bird calls that tell you it’s time to cross the street, St. Johns has its resident schizophrenic who will run you over with his grocery cart if you don’t move fast enough when deciding which way to go at an intersection.

So you might imagine that I was a little nervous meeting The Ronni Bennett, especially when she suggested High Tea for lunch. People who know me well understand that I’m more a Chicken McNuggets kind of girl than one who sips any kind of tea, much less one made of High. 

And then there was the beer wagon. I was able to transport myself from St Johns to Lake Oswego by virtue of the fact that my daughter and her family were on vacation that week, traveling in her mother-mobile and leaving her husband’s car for me to use. Since Trevor works as a rep for a beer distributor, his car carries lots of samples, all rolling around in the back.

But my nervousness disappeared as soon as I heard Ronni laugh.  It was a gritty streets of New York City kind of laugh, a "you ain't showing me anything I haven't seen or smelled before" kind of laugh.  I immediately fell in love.

We did go to High Tea at a place called Lady Di's Tea Shoppe, a sobriquet Ronni made fun of right after she complained about Lake Oswego being just "too damned clean."  We began talking over our little sandwiches and kept on for five straight hours. We talked about the world and politics and aging and death and cats.  Ronni's life could be the basis for at least several pages in a Who's Who of Culture and Counterculture of the Second Half of the 20th Century, and she remembers it all.  I was absolutely enthralled and edified.

And to top it all off, she gave me a pastry blender!  Not because she thought it would save me from Chicken McNuggets, but  because she had promised me her extra one should I ever come to see her.  I'm assuming she already suspected I wasn't much of a cook as she also gave me a packaged Apple Crisp mix.  All I have to do is "add fresh apples and butter."

My new pastry blender (and Apple Crisp mix)

I wonder if I will need to cut up the apples.  I'll ask Ronni the next time I see her.



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Waiting for Dinner

I’m glad my daughter, Melissa, married her husband, Trevor, for quite a few reasons. First and foremost, he's taken her off my hands and generally puts up with her. Second and secondmost, he’s a great father to Miles and Georgia, who, by the way, look alarmingly like him.

But another important reason I’m happy to have Trevor as a son-in-law is that, of everyone in our immediate family, he is the only one, and I do mean only one, who can cook.

The Big Kat, my ex and the father of my children, has vegetable soup as his signature dish. Said soup is made by pouring canned vegetables in a pot with one chicken bouillon cube and boiling it.

Although my son, Billy, purports to excel in All Things Poultry (i.e. an egg or a boneless breast of chicken) using the melting-butter-and-then-putting-the-poultry-item-in-a-pan-and-covering-it method, the only recipe of his I’ve personally experienced is his Flaming Fart Dip. No need to say any more about that.

Molly, my youngest, is a master at Hamburger Helper and frozen dinners. However, during a recent foray into better eating, she called to ask about fresh vegetables. When I inquired as to if she knew how to peel a carrot, she said in a somewhat sad and tremulous, not to mention a tad accusatory, voice that she didn’t know how to peel anything.

Melissa, who doesn’t cook much at all since she snagged Trevor with her womanly charms, still likes to call my Coca Cola ham recipe her own, although she has to phone me on the Wednesday before every Thanksgiving, asking me what the ingredients are. Since there are only four: ham, brown sugar, honey mustard, and yes, a can of Coca Cola, I’m able to help her no matter where I am or what I’m doing. The only problem with my rendition of Coca Cola ham is that its ultimate level of success depends on how long I sleep the night before, as it is meant to be cooked all night. If I undersleep, it’s underdone. If I oversleep, well, you get it.

So, we are left to Trevor and he with us.

Trevor is a very good cook, a gourmet cook.  He loves good food, fine wines, and craft beers (whatever they are).  He actually flips his dough while making the best pizzas in the world. The bad news for Trevor is that we, his adopted family, are, at best, an inadequate group of appreciators.   Remember, we are the Hamburger Helper, Flaming Fart people.

However, a dearth of understanding of the culinary arts and a lack of palate don't stop us from sitting around and waiting for dinner to come to us.  In the summer, we gather in the back yard, eyeing the grill.  In the winter, we decorate the couch, sniffing the air for food-like aromas. At Christmas, we sit under the tree like a biggie-sized nativity scene, looking like we are expecting our entree to arrive with Baby Jesus.

Waiting for dinner, that's what we do.  That's all we contribute.  And, overall, we are pretty good at waiting.  In fact, it seems we will wait forever.

And that's because Trevor, being the artiste he is, can't be hurried.  Dinner, for him, is a journey, not a destination.  Off to Salmon Dan's house across the street for fish so fresh it's straight from Dan's beer cooler still in the back of Dan's boat sitting in Dan's driveway.  Then down the block to Sharon's coop for eggs so new the hens are still checking under their feathered asses. Finally, he comes through the front door as our mouths begin their serious optimistic waterings, but no, out the back door he goes to the garden for salad greens, reds, and yellows.

Back in the kitchen, he opens a bottle of wine, letting it breathe, and then mixes up an exquisite dressing for the salad.  We, on the other hand, share the couch and a mint from the bottom of my purse.

When dinner finally arrives, it's to die for and we are spent, all of our work done.

Trevor thinks one day he'd like to open a small restaurant, a breakfast or lunch place, farm to table, only the freshest ingredients.

But, in case his patrons get tired of waiting for fresh, good, and real food, or if they run out of bottom-of-the-bag mints, maybe he'll want to offer Billy's dip as an appetizer to keep them entertained while they wait.