Saturday, July 12, 2008

When Annie Gets Anxious July she makes applesauce. Lots and lots of applesauce.

That's when Beverly Hills apples ripen in Sherman Oaks, California where she lives. Annie picks them all from a single tree in the backyard or from where they've fallen and rolled in the garden. Some are large streaked in red, others quite small like pale green rocks. Most of them, at least in part, make it into the pot. 

Annie soaks the apples in a sink full of sudsy cool water, then runs her fingers around each one feeling for bruises or holes. Ones with stems still attached get rinsed separately. If the stems made it this far, then they deserve gentle removal.  A good rinse and the apples are ready to go.

She slices them open with a paring knife in one swoop. Then cuts, slowly and methodically, on each side of the core until only the seeds are left. With one swoop the seeds are offed. This precision wastes none of the solid white flesh and often exposes worms rather than chopping them up.
Annie leaves a small bit of apple around the worms and sets them aside on a small clear glass plate. The squiggling worms used to give her the creeps, but since she doesn't peel the apples, Annie perfected cutting around them. That way the worms ended up in the composter and could eat something else rather than dying such a harsh sharp death.

Of course, Annie has a big old dutch oven. It's ordinary enough and special enough to have hosted fish and potato chowders, chicken soup (every time somebody gets sick), boiling potatoes that get mashed right there in the pot every Thanksgiving, and even bouillabaisse. No lobsters.  

Annie thinks about all those delicious, delectable meals as she drops the first few quartered apples, bing bong, onto the bottom of the pot. Her fingers work steadfastly, quickly, paring away like a corpsman on kitchen duty with a sack full of potatoes.

She pops a piece in her mouth periodically. The fresh juicy tartness brings a slow smile that spreads, by the time the pot is full, from ear to ear. This is her secret, and greatest delight. 

Annie's never measured how much water she pours over the apple slices. Enough, is what she'll tell you if you ask.  A heap of cinnamon and dusting of nutmeg contrast so distinctly with the apple green she wishes it didn't have to be stirred into the vortex that ultimately leaves an appearance of green speckled skin, then dissolves into a neutral multidimensional background. 

"I imagine a very early Andy Warhol might have looked like this, before he added the vivid gold leaf and pale singular figures. Back when he was just figuring out how to juggle the images and colors, "she said once.

As in every cooking experience, time lapses while the pot simmers, and the mind can rest as it watches the natural events take place as the mixture shifts, mushes, mulls and dissolves into an aromatic new form. There have been times when Annie put in too much water, so she had to cook it off, which gave her a little more time to consider the process. She thinks about how if her hand didn't stir the pot, the apples would stick to the bottom of the pan and burn and be ruined. She realizes with joy that she has a "hand" in the outcome of this endeavor which is inevitably successful in about an hour or so.

So simple and so beautiful.

Annie would never presume to tell others how to make applesauce, or even that they should make applesauce, but she does love to share a bowl full with everyone she knows. 

And that's the truth. To some extent.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How Becky Got Married

Becky is small and naturally blond with deepsea blue eyes and a very svelte figure. She works as a secretary, same place for a couple decades. She had a model's portfolio and ambitions when she was younger, but it didn't pan out, and eventually she got a good job.

A short lousy marriage along the way really got her down, but with the help of family and friends, she got over it, and learned what not to do. Meantime, she went to work every day, showed up on time, took disappointments and frustrations in stride, and saved her money. 

She lived in a variety of places over the years, but no matter what, she had a cat or two or three. Wherever she moved cat food, petromalt, brushes and combs went with her. She's the type who would go to the city shelter and buy a cat who was on death row with the last money in her checking account. I don't know if she ever actually did this, but it is her nature.

She would try every way she could come up with to find homes for stray cats. Almost overnight she would become attached to these cats and want to keep them herself. She knew she couldn't so she made it a point to have lots of friends who loved cats.

Eventually she bought a condo where she lived for several years quite happily with her cats. There was a cat box upstairs as well as downstairs and she kept them clean and tidy. The condo never smelled of cat odor. Cat fur was not a problem either.

Someone once suggested that the cats were her substitutes for a real relationship with a man. She did have relationships but none of the men interested her more than the cats, and certainly not enough to get rid of a cat. She felt sad about this but the cats loved her and accepted her in a way that no man ever had.

She knew that when the right man came along he would be willing to accept these circumstances like the Prince accepted Cinderella's ugly stepsisters, who once they got used to him weren't ugly at all, merely a different species of God's creatures.

Because Becky was so beautiful, and her cats were so beautiful, she looked for beautiful men. She hoped she had found the one in an ex-body builder with slicked back black hair and an Italian accent. He liked her condo so much he put in a lot of time, not necessarily money, making changes. The more changes he made in her condo, the more she wished he would change.  He didn't mind his own mess, but she and the cats did.

This went on for awhile. She even ended up in the hospital at one point. First one cat got sick, then the other one. All this made Becky sad and mad. The Italian accent (who had never been an Italian stallion) had to go. 

She mothered her cats, taking them to the vet, giving them medicine, making sure they were properly nursed when she could not be there. 

Then one day, she had lunch with an old friend. He and his wife had divorced, his children were grown, he was lonely. She didn't know it but he had wanted to date her a long time ago, but she hadn't been interested. See, he didn't look like the Prince Charming she'd envisioned. 

After a few weeks, or maybe it was only a day, Becky realized she was falling in love with him. He was gentle, kind, considerate, fun, sparkly, loving and more beautiful than any cat she'd ever cuddled because when they cuddled in front of the television he was much more exciting in a manly kind of way. He also had the kind of career that allowed her the same independence as the cats always had.

They married shortly before Christmas and moved into a home of their own. 

Becky walked around her condo one last time after it was sold. She felt sad but glad that her life had been so happy there. Her sisters were happy for her, her friends were happy for her, and she got lots of new stuff for the big new house.   

There was one problem. Her sick cats. Moving them into the new house proved to be too much. And, her husband had inherited from his ex-wife two tiny fluffy elderly dogs. Her husband felt sorry for her two sick cats, so when each died, he buried them just outside Becky's reading window.

Becky was now past the point of wanting to have babies, besides she had gained the affection of his children, so she acknowledged his dogs as God's creatures, too. Her remaining cat settled in, and the five of them are living very hap-hap-ily, as Becky said recently.

And that is true. To some extent.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

We were at a wedding shower... Los Angeles having a great time when one of the six bridesmaid's announced her big day would be 8/8/08. 

"I love the idea of 8-8-8," she bubbled and cooed, reaching her long arms around me and bumping my forehead like we were making a toast. "I wasn't sure about this until today, and now it is just so clear to me," she added in that whirlwind way that spirals upward in its own vacuum and tunnel.

Her mother quietly beamed at her, then at me. The paucity of words made her glow that much more meaningful. This woman had lost her husband of nearly 3 decades only a year earlier following a protracted illness. She, herself, was ill although no one spoke about it. 

"I'm really happy, I think," the mother said after awhile. "I love where we live now. The sky is full of stars after dark, there are distinct seasons, it's really beautiful." She paused. Her breath so soft that nothing moved.  "It's good to start over, I've changed my name." 

A group hug and round of picture-taking shifted the mood back to party mode. The room rocked, more like bounced, with girlish giggling, oohs and aahs, and a familial competitive spirit as one game followed the other, winners announced and applauded, followed by short silly speeches. More giggling.

Strapless afternoon dresses swirled and long straight hair hung thick and groomed over straight bare shoulder, while these friends tried to remember what had been so important way back when they were in high school, even in grade school.

"The pomegranate tree, the pomegranate tree," someone shouted. 

"Do you remember the pomegranate tree in the school yard?" asked my dearest young friend who had just announced her wedding day. 

I shook my head. I really didn't.

"I do," her mother said. 

And that, I thought to myself, is what today is all about. 

"I do." 

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sometimes it is all about how we SEE things

My husband can be so annoying. He has these all-knowing illusions.   

For instance, tonight my son called asking how to get mold off of his linen pants. He'd stuffed gym clothes in the hamper (where they should go as opposed to on the floor) and forgotten about them for a few days. One entire pant leg had grown mold. 

My husband overhears our conversation, and intervenes with well-intentioned information about lemon juice and salt and putting the pants in the sun to dry. Instead of shutting up at that point, he makes a comment alluding to how careless and irresponsible our son is. He points out that car keys have been misplaced, a cell phone crushed, and now linen pants damaged. 

 My husband then hangs up the phone, with no illusion whatsoever as to his hurtfulness. I hit redial, and calmly remind my son that his father might be allusive since this is his assessment, and perhaps there is something more going on that we need to discuss and correct.

His girlfriend has been giving him a hard time for forgetting things. He gave her a birthday card (not a gift) two weeks late. FYI: Alluding to a poor memory eludes the fact that she will have no illusions about you.

He added that she has been "picking on him" this weekend. My son continued to elude his forgetfulness claiming a hundred good reasons. 

I decide to ask him directly why he is being so elusive suggesting  that this is actually about his illusiveness

Sometimes, things slip his mind, he says, like the gym clothes and giving her a gift, not to mention the card. He doesn't understand why his dad and girlfriend are upset with him. He just wants to clean up the linen pant, and get along with them both. He's one sad fellow.

So, it falls to me, the mother to point out to him that he is under the illusion that there are no consequences for actions. You put sweaty gym clothes on linen pants in a closed place, and mold will grow. You fail to give your girlfriend a gift, or at the very least a card, for her birthday, and she will be unhappy with you. Your dad isn't going to be sympathetic, he's going to point out the obvious, matter-of-fact.

It is illusory of him to pretend otherwise. That illusiveness could well be what is eluding him from properly caring for the sweaty gm clothes and the girlfriend. It even might be why he lost his car keys. It is time, I alluded to him gently, to be open to meeting new girls.

And, I added, keep in mind that your father only alludes to being right all the time because he has illusions about himself which trip him up on a regular basis as he eludes the obvious, which is that I am the one who is usually right.