|The knowledge of Medea and of Circe and of Helen...|
November 9, 2003
OH...don't forget the QueenOfSheba, either...now that's a bunch of ladies I'd be pleased-to-pieces to spend some time with...imagine all I could learn from them. I'd be proud to be, eventually, one amongst their ranks!
Just for reference's sake I'm going to finish dear John Ruskin's little snippet...(Ruskin was one of my great-grandfather's most cherished, uhmmm, what? Critics? Writers and thought-thinker?? Close enough.)
It goes like this and I was teasingly told this once in reference to cooks and Cooking !!! Here it is:
Cookery means the knowledge of Medea and of Circe and of Helen and the QueenOfSheba...It means much testing and no wasting: It means English thoroughness and French art and Arabian hospitality, and in fine, it means that you are to be perfectly and always ladies---loaf givers. John Ruskin
Of course, this quote could not be quoted without severe reminders that it should be British thoroughness, not English ...for they were just a bit obsessive about the British vs the English. (By age ten, we all knew all the history of the Englisch. Invasion of tribes and so on and so on...I've never been too clear just how much mixing up of native British or Celt blood with the invaders took place. Probably never will...and a good thing, too, I reckon.)
Anyway, tucked inside an old, old copy of the supposed last FannieFarmer's cookbook, given to me at the tender age of fifteen was a clipping from a Farmer's Almanac, pondering on this very same subject: Circa 1827!
" A cook must be quick and strong of sight, her hearing most acute, that she may be sensible when the contents of her vessels bubble...and that she may be alarmed before the pot boils over; her auditory nerve ought to be discriminate (when several saucepans are in operation at the same time) the simmering of one, the ebullition of another, and the full-toned warbling of a third...It is from the exquisite sensibility of her palate that we admire and judge the cook."
Very, very inspiring indeed...and all this lazy Sunday afternoon pondering has been brought about by two things: An overheard, shrieking, screaming, growling "discussion" that took place between a couple as they met on the driveway after a long day at work. One-half (not the better half) had most obviously forgotten to pick up SOMETHING, ANYTHING...fast or food-like for the evening's meal.
Spilling out of the DarthVaderBlack Expedition were three little piglets of various ages, shapes, and sizes but with one thing in common...tired, frazzled, over-stimulated and STARVING. Their hyper-whining and tear-filled frenzy made a lovely background music to their parent's "discussing."
My presence, frozen there by the mailbox by the driveway did not hinder nor slow down the ever-increaing discourse. In fact, the three little piglets were staring at me with eyes wide, dirty-smudged faces all thundering and muttering. (What is going on in the driveways and entryways of happy little 'burbs these days? Are people just soooo over-stretched, stressed, what? Does everyone's medication need adjusting, is that it?)
I didn't know whether to just flee staight across the street to the comparative safety of our humble abode ( from which even as I stood there by their mailbox...the rich, lovely scent of a plain ol' Friday evening humble BeefStew danced upon the blowing wind...I swear I felt guilty...I mean how long would it take me to dish up some plates and run 'em across the street and then vanish??)
Going into speedwalking mode seemed the safest action and I sped-walk as if the very sorry hounds of Hell were nipping at my heels...one part of my brain thinking a very not-nice thought...the amount of time and energy those two were expending in argument could have quite a bit of supper on its way...lord, give me a frying pan, a tablespoon of oil, one Oct15 yellow onion, a pound and half of hamburger and see what happens!!!
I couldn't help it, I tried but I couldn't...I flashed back soooo strongly at a memory from childhood...me...about ten years old, wrapped up in one of Tizzy's spotless aprons, facing a wide, scrubbed counter and Pryex pans awaiting to be filled with our family's Extra-Special HiredHands Meatloaf.
Ten. Years. Old...and to my right, of course, as always, Cheri, nine years old and what were we doing? What was our job...mixing and blending and cutting and chopping freshly ground round with green onions, peppers, fresh AA eggs, smidgen of milk, spices, salt/pepper, torn-up bread and old biscuits (Cheri loved to smash 'em into crumbs, she was excellent at that chore...clouds of crumbs rose to the ceiling and all over us but hey, she made great breadcrumbs!)
Next, we smoothed and soothed those long loaves of meat into lovely MeatLoaf shapes...no Loaf pans for us! Some mornings, we'd make five to six, other: TWELVE. Big ONES.
I could plan and cook for crowds before I was twelve. I'm not one bit special or unusual "Where I Come From." Ask almost any FourH-ers.
Some of my grandfather's tenants/employees's wives would work all day...from literally dawn to dusk...and come home and fix dinner for big families. I used to wander down to some of their houses and hang-out...every so often I'd keep an eye on some of the smaller children, too. Some times, it was their fathers who would be home first, to start supper or pitch in to help the oldest children's efforts for dinner. (One lady always had vast huge frozen pans of all sorts of casseroles in her vast, mountain-size freezer on the back porch.)
So, I spent some time shaking my head and feeling amazinlgy crusty and crotchety and creaky...'til I found this amongst my files under "Cooking"...I have not one clue as to where I found this or who wrote it and since it was dated about 1869...I think I'm okay putting this here:
"You may make houses enchantingly beautiful, hang them with pictures, have them clean and airy and convenient; but if the stomach is fed with sour bread and burnt meat, it will raise such rebellion that the eyes will see no beauty anywhere."
What if the stomach isn't fed on anything at-all?
Part two of this SundayAfternoonGoingDown Pondering is this: For how many married couples is this whole cooking, meal, children, shopping, cleaning, the whole nine yards, just nothing but one big huge BATTLEFIELD to wage out all sorts of of little and BIG War-of-Wills??
Is the reality of Parenthood and Mommiehood and Dad-stuff just way too overwhelming or did they believe television and commercials and magazines' glossy portrayal of marriage, children and work and careers? It's sad, but true, the little darlings don't stay small, cute, managable sizes very long at-all and some of them never are.
I only took the briefest of glances at this woman across the street...she was dressed in a nice, cookie-cutter sort of SteinMart or maybe Foley's dark-grey suit but lord, she was stressed. As for the LordAndMaster of this, uhmmm, castle, he gave out very hostile and pressured feelings and looks. I have not one clue as to what he does...he drives across the bridge twice a day every day and that's no fun at-all, either. Probably a General Manager or some sort of engineer? About forty-ish, I would guess. (They don't know what to think of us...our children are just about all grown up and thousands of miles away. Very puzzling to them and very amusing to me!)
Soooo, here I sit...my beloved husband happily semi-watching some ol' football game...a nice easy SundaySupper simmering in the ol' RevereWare...the slowly sliding sun tinting the windows gilded-gold...peace and quiet all around...oh, I do love this! I do, I do, I do!!
Anyway, if I was braver or more comfortable, I'd just trot right over there and offer an invite to SundaySupper, but I'm not either. Brave or comfortable. I HATE the changes in my self, brought about these years and living here.
Still, it was a lovely Sunday afternoon.