PlazaJen: Passion Knit

Friday, June 02, 2006

Flavors of Days Gone By

Whenever we're facing our own mortality, or that of someone we love with every cell in our body, you are not only tackling a daily wash of emotions, but you also get doused with flashes of the past - good and bad - and the smallest things can trigger them.

Driving to work yesterday, I saw a huge rope swing hanging from a tree. Like an ice pick, the image of the swing my father made for me pierced through, the board he cut & sanded, the ropes he tied over a tree branch, so high up, and I can still see his face when he was done, smiling as he grabbed both sides of the board & told me to jump on. I couldn't begin to count how many hours were spent on that swing, recklessly trying to touch the sky, or at least a wayward branch. A memory I had forgotten.

The other night, I was possessed by a desire for something salty. Not chips, not something fried, but only a straight-up boullion cube would sooth the salty needs. Because yes, back in the day, that was one of my "snacks". (I loved 'em! Beef? Chicken? Bring it on!) I ate them extremely slowly, gnawing a thin layer off at a time, and I've since referred to them as my teeny-tiny flavored salt licks. I was a little disappointed to discover the only boullion in the house was a Costco-sized shaker of granulated chicken with herbs. I dipped a finger in, and while yes, it was still salty goodness, it wasn't the same. (I'm sure my blood pressure is grateful I didn't succeed in finding a cube.)

One of my favorite comfort foods is extremely simple, but also extremely particular. It was a spaghetti made by a family friend, and I've never had another person make it quite like Frances. First off, when you cook the noodles, they have to be broken in half. Then, and this is crucial, you take home-canned tomato sauce & cook it down. It has to be home-grown tomatoes, maybe it's the acidity or the "brightness" of such tomatoes, but I've tried with store-bought and it doesn't work. Fortunately for me, I married a canner & a gardener. Then, you fry bacon. And you assemble your dish: spaghetti, topped with sauce, topped with crumbled bacon. A little salt, a brief marrying of ingredients with a quick toss, and then hunker down for a meal that rockets me back to being 8 years old, when my first real summer in Iowa was spent at Frances & Jake's farm, clambering over hay bales and playing with cats in the barn, picking strawberries, swimming in an old horse trough, watching Hogan's Heroes on a black & white TV, making a doll quilt, and just generally being a sponge to all of my surroundings.

It was a time of pure innocence and great moxie, before I knew how to be insecure, untouched by anger or depression, free from the responsibility of being a grown-up, unaware of love and all the joy and sadness it brings. I know we can never go back, but in that first bite, I squint, and I can almost be there again.
posted by PlazaJen, 8:45 AM