Thursday, August 07, 2008

Food pyramid topples in Red Willow County

A good story by Prairie Bluestem about her Grandma Violet cooking for farmhands in Gordon, Nebraska, unleashed a vivid childhood memory. My grandmother also cooked for farmhands when my mom was a little girl down by Marion, Nebraska. As far as I know, my mom kept her clothes on, although Genevieve's mom thought clothes should be optional in the hot kitchen.

I always found it difficult to reconcile the grandmother I knew with family stories of her cooking for the farm hands. To me, she lived with my granddad in an hotter-than-hell one-bedroom apartment in McCook, and never did more in the kitchen than set out a "Dutch lunch."

One Sixties summertime visit to McCook our family of five tried to sleep on the fold-out sofa and air mattresses in my grandparents' living room. The sweltering apartment was filled with the smell of overripe cantaloupe and very little sleep.

Last night while I was tossing and turning and worrying that I might have strep throat while hoping it was just a sinus infection, I kept thanking my lucky stars that I wasn't sofa-surfing with cantaloupe in McCook. Some things are worse than strep in August, but not many.

The next day, Grandmother set out the spread of pickled herring, pickled pigs feet, pickled miniature corn, sweet pickles, bread & butter pickles, watermelon pickles, cucumbers and onions in sour cream, sardines in olive oil, sardines in mustard, Club crackers, overripe cantaloupe, salami, summer sausage, cheddar, toothpicks, Fritos, chip dip, and 7-Up. Oh, and some chocolate mints and macaroons for dessert!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Let's call the whole thing off!

You say TOO ber cles,
I say too BUR kles

We're talking about the bumps on the almost translucent, velvety skin of Mediterranean geckos, a non-native species. The preschoolers are learning about diurnal green anole lizards, and nocturnal geckos. How to pronounce the bumps? Either way, the preschool class got the giggles:

Po TAT to, PO tat oh
TOO ber cles, too BURK les

Let's call the whole thing off!

I'm real self-conscious about em-PHAS-is on the wrong syl-LAH-ble (aggravated in situations compelling my mangled Nebraska pronunciation of foreign composers' names like RICH-erd WAG-ner). I'm accent-challenged, and it's definitely an inherited condition on my mother's side. Nature or nurture.

Back in 1937 when George and Ira Gershwin were struggling with vegetables for the musical, "Shall We Dance?," my mom was learning to read chapter books. A young reader who hasn't heard a word will sound it out and say it in her head. That's why Fritzi believed she was reading stories about De-BOR-ah and AG-knees. Shhh! Don't tell Deborah and Agnes! Fred and Ginger danced their way into the dictionary.

The big controversy growing up was whether those seventy-six sliding instruments were TROM-bones or trom-BONES. I leaned toward TROM-bones because of that capital T that rhymes with P.

My grandmother met Ebenezer Scrooge on a tropical vacation in the BAH-ha-mas, but never met Captain Jack Sparrow in the CAR-ib-be-ann, or the care-uh-BEE-an.

Seventy six trombones led the big parade

With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand

They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuosos;

the cream of every famous band.