Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mom's Cooking

She's six feet tall. Large for an fiftyish woman with gray hair. Her husband is shorter than she, quiet and unassuming. They're simple people with simple lives. They get up at 5 am and take a walk around the neighborhood. After a sparse breakfast of organic cereal and raw milk, they both go to work. They've lived in the same neighborhood for twenty years, renting an apartment. The first apartment was on the ground floor. The landlord lived in the upstairs flat. He was elderly and German. They nicknamed him The Kaiser for infrequent outbursts of temper over small things : leaving the front lawn grass grow too tall or not shoveling the sidewalk immediately after a snowstorm. These people need names. Let's call her, Angela. Her husband is Mick. Angela has a multitude of food allergies. This leads to a life long interest in organic food. She's worked at a variety of menial jobs but cooks organic meals on the side as a specialty for selected customers. Angela prints up a business card. She names the business, Mostly Organic Meals giving it the acronym of Mom's cooking. I've known them for years. Living three hours away limits our contact. Being frugal and unassuming, the variety of electronic gadgets available to consumers are as foreign to them as a Cuisinart to the Amish. They watch only one TV program a week, more if there is something interesting on public television. They have a phone and an answering machine which warns telemarketers to take them off their call list. They don't need a cell phone.

Sometimes, I'll be thinking of them as I work in the garden. I'll call and pretend I'm a salesperson asking for the lady of the house. That riles Angela until I identify myself. Mick has a wry sense of humor. Liberal in their politics, they support a variety of Fair Trade, Green and eco-friendly organizations. Goodness exudes from them. We first met when I ran a trading post downtown. The American Indian is one of their interests. The other is a grandchild in Minneapolis. They have no pets. Their lives are singularly focused on simplicity and purity.

We've assembled at our house for a trip. Angela brings along five pounds of bananas and an assortment of other fruit. "You have a problem with constipation?" I ask. Our cat comes in from hunting outdoors. She grabs him roughly and begins to clean his paws. He struggles. Normally, he doesn't allow anyone to touch his feet. As she continues to wipe at his rear paws with a paper towel, I feel anger welling up inside. "Leave my cat alone," I tell her. Then I start yelling. "Never touch my cat." That's when I wake up.

The bedroom clock, which is 7 minutes fast, says it's after six. The Pooch has been quiet all night. He came in early without any coaching or yelling. I feed him raw hamburger which he ignores. As we watch an episode of Burn Notice, he jumps on the back of the couch. He buries his nose in the cover over the couch. Dawn says he's favoring his right eye. I don't see anything obvious in his eye. I walk in the bathroom and prepare a warm compress. He won't allow me to keep the compress over his eye and tolerates only gentle smoothing of the eye with the wet, warm towel. The confrontation with Angela in the dream says I'm touchy about my cat.

Worried about him all night, I get up and find him sitting in the north window overlooking the garden. He issues a short high mew, his way of saying "Hi" and jumps down. As I walk back to the bedroom he follows me and jumps on the bed. I sit there dumbly waiting to wake up. He moves over into my lap and I pet his head and the back of his neck. He knows how to purr but if he's really happy, he grunts. I walk downstairs and make mooching noises for him to follow. He begins his morning routine.

First he goes to his bowl of dry food. If he could talk he say, "I might as well eat something before I go outside. Might be a long time before the next meal." I hear him in his litter box in the basement as I make coffee. The windows are open and it's chilly inside the house. I grab a sweatshirt, open the back door and The Pooch follows me outside. We both stand on the driveway taking note of early morning in the country. Crows are upset. They are cawing and arguing down at the portion of the river a mile away. In a willow tree by the segment of the Kickapoo which is 100 yards from the east fence line, a swarm of blackbirds is nosily roosting. When they take off their wings make a sudden flutter of wind. A woodpecker, probably a large one, works at dead bugs in the remaining silver maple in the front field. A good portion of the leaves on the south side are dry and brown. 30 foot high flames from the burn pile underneath singed them. I cleared the area of weeds around the stump of the evil maple tree that fell in our garden and lit the pile of pine branches, old lumber and cardboard. Now we have an excellent cleared area for another compost pile. The one in the rear yard is too far away from the garden and completely overgrown with pumpkin vines.

The Pooch sits patiently at my feet. His nose twitches occasionally. His ears rotate at each distinct morning sound. The yard light over the garage glows since the cloud cover is dense this morning. Two solar lights in the garden, gifts from Ella and Del, pulse red and green. I'm thinking of cilantro on eggs for breakfast, but when I reach the herb garden, the plants have been cut back. Dawn cut and froze fresh cilantro on Sunday. The Pooch digs a hole in the soft soil between the sweet corn rows, while I walk to the red potato patch for the short pitch fork we use in digging potatoes. I dig at the front of the Kennebec patch. The vines are tall and healthy. Supposedly 90 days until maturity, these spuds are well past that mark. I'm concerned that I over fertilised the plot causing extensive vine growth and small potatoes. There is no indication that the vines are dying off. My first stab with the pitch fork is well clear of the base of the vines. In the past, eagerness on my part leads to speared potatoes which are difficult to clean. The second stab near the base of the vines with the fork almost vertical yields six potatoes. Three are small, two the size of a baseball and one tiny ping pong.

The Pooch follows me back toward the house as I walk along the deck, checking the live trap. Dawn tells me she hears high pitched trilling at night, which I interpret as a female raccoon with pups. The trap is empty. I tell the Pooch I'm going in for breakfast. He glances back at me two or three times. When I reach the back door, he lopes towards the house, He 's ready for breakfast.

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