Lyrical Laughs

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Fiddlehead prep is not for the weak

They’ve taken over. First the refrigerator where they lay in wait for someone to unleash them from their cold prison. Then the sink as one by one you are forced to snap, soak and strain each one by hand as you suffer back and neck strain from hunching over. Huge pots of boiling water anticipate the arrival of these little green delicacies that bob in the bubbles for just a few minutes before being plunged into an ice bath.  Finally, they are dried off, bagged up and frozen to partake of at a later date, but be warned – you have to make sure to cook them for the appropriate time upon thawing or you may find yourself a victim of Montezuma’s revenge. It is time consuming and tedious, but it’s worth every grueling minute.

It is the season of fiddleheads.

When Spouse was just Boyfriend and we were getting familiar with each other’s families, I learned that his dad had a fiddlehead connection. Seriously, this was not information to be shared lightly – it was more like, “I know a guy.”

His dad would pack waders and disappear for the whole day somewhere “up North” in the Connecticut hills to scour through swampland in search of curly green treasure. None of this sounded like fun to me, but he would return at the end of the day with a victorious smile and buckets loaded up with funky looking green things the likes of which I had never seen or even heard of. They really do resemble the heads of fiddles, except for being green, soft and edible.

Fiddleheads are a cross between asparagus, broccoli, spinach and nothing you’ve ever tasted.  They are very hard to come by because the harvest season is painfully short, allowing just a brief window in spring to find them. So it was with great excitement that I welcome five pounds of them into my home last week when I discovered a friend “knew a guy” and was willing to deliver.

Remember the part about my father-in-law wading through swamps foraging for fiddleheads? He had the easy part.

Last Monday night I was up until 11 p.m. working on the “treasure” from my fridge. By the time I had gotten to them they were just starting to lose their freshness and I had to act fast. Vats of boiling water and bowls of ice water stood ready for Stages Two and Three. But first, there was Stage One – cleaning them. Every. Single. One.

Does anyone know how much five pounds of fiddleheads is when it comes to cleaning each one? About four pounds too many, that’s how much. If they could understand me those little buggers might have learned a few choice words as I hovered over the sink snapping the brown ends off each one and washing their little green bodies. Yes, bodies – by the second hour of washing I was delirious. At one point I was so tired that I didn’t realize I was tossing the fiddleheads into the sink and saving the ends in the colander, which meant rewashing them.  My normal bedtime is ten at the latest. I cannot be held responsible for my actions after that.

I rinsed, boiled, iced, dabbed and bagged every last fern (at that hour they were downgraded to a four-letter word) until my kitchen and my clothes were a disaster. After cleaning up the mountain of kitchen items from this production I sprayed room deodorizer to eradicate the stench – I mean scent – of boiled plant heads and collapsed into bed hoping to dream of anything but green vegetables.

For now our supply is tucked safely away in the freezer until we decide to take them out and complete the cooking process. I sincerely appreciate those who brave the swampy waters and provide us with this rare goody for a short time, and heartily applaud the ones who tackle such a persnickety preparation. As exhausting as it was, and having learned my lesson about the preparation of certain produce, at this time of year the elusive fiddlehead is my best frond.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bringing out the best...?

The other morning Spouse was sharing his almost daily last-minute running-out-the-door rant with whoever he thought was listening (i.e., nobody), "I'm so sick of running late for work. I really need to change my routine."

Oh yes, I'm thinking, you do. The irony of this blustery rhetoric is that he did change his whole system for about a week. Every evening he made sure his work clothes were packed and his lunch prepped for the morning. He even got up a few minutes early to fit some stretching exercises in before showering. You may wonder what made him put aside this very successful schedule. I can name that tune in three words.

I returned home. 

I had been away on a weeklong trip, which was when my other half started this new routine – and promptly dropped it like a hot potato the minute I got back. If anyone is going to blame the demise of his impressive organizational skills on me, forget it. My shower, breakfast and lunch prep time do not interfere with his at all. In fact, I'm there to help feed the cats, a chore he was on his own with during my absence.

Once again I'm putting his lunch together while working on my own, since he is now back to the "What have we got for lunch?" query that grates on my nerves and makes me want to include his lunch in the cat food disbursement.

I suppose I have some 'splainin' to do myself. While I was away I also tried a few changes. I incorporated stretching exercises into my morning, was on time for every event or meeting, and even wore a couple of ensembles that were decent (and clean) enough to earn compliments. Since returning home the only stretching I’ve done is to reach for the snooze one or four more times. We won’t discuss my clothing – and neither will anyone else. Last minute attempts at lunch and snacks will inevitably include the banana that's turning 50 shades of don't-eat-me.

Aren't couples that have been together forever (oh, come on, it can feel darn close to forever) supposed to bring out the best in each other? Or am I kidding myself... are we really just enablers who suck the independence out of our partner, resulting in complete loss of motivation?

Spouse has proven that he can gather his lunch, pack his clothes, feed the cats, exercise and be out of the house on time. Likewise, I am perfectly capable of making sure my clothes for the next day are ready to wear (scarves cover everything) putting my lunch together ahead of time (if the leftovers survive my picking) and getting a few minutes of stretches in before my shower (as long as I can get up from the floor).

Somehow we become a little more helpless when we're together. I guess we're waiting to see if the other person will pick up the slack by changing the toilet paper roll when there are only three squares left, or doling out the cat food because one or more feline is trying to trip one of us until they are fed. When we're on our own, these things and more mysteriously get done. You may have heard the saying, "Together we are invincible." I would like to revise that for the typical weekday morning in our house: Together we are inept. For good measure let's throw in rushed, cranky, and can't agree on a radio station when we carpool.

Last week we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary, beating the odds my parents probably gave us of not making it past the reception hall parking lot. I believe we made it this far because we try to bring out the best in each other most of the time, but it will probably never be all the time. Neither of us is going to give up that snooze button.
Engaged and clueless in the 80s!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day Memories

Spouse and I are spending this Mother's Day weekend on the road bringing Second Born home from college for her summer break.  It was very likely dinner was going to be wolfed down at a rest stop somewhere in Pennsylvania but as ti turns out we will celebrate Mother's Day and my birthday with family in Connecticut, making the weekend that much more fun. And there's going to be cake.

The best part is that in the end I’ll have a kid home for the summer, and after that I can start calculating how to get back to Atlanta to see The Love Couple (you had to know that was coming).

When I look back on the significance of Mother’s Day my mind slips back to the sights and sounds of my childhood and one of my favorite memories with my mom.

Pigeons, popcorn and the world’s best Downtown pizza.

Because my mom didn’t drive and there were barely any stores on our side of town, she and I were quite familiar with the bus lines that took us Downtown. Mom could spend hours wandering through department and clothing stores. Even then I was perfecting my anti-shopping attitude. My main objective was to curtail the whining so Mom would treat me to Domenick and Pia Pizzeria for lunch. The popular mom and pop pizza shop delivered whopping slices of thin crust cheese pizza, a greasy delicacy that dripped down into a steady line of hands reaching over the counter for a paper plate of paradise. We gathered our slices and soda and waited for one of the few small tables to become available.
Back then the pizza parlor stood in a tiny spot on the bottom floor of an office building.  Years later the husband and wife team relocated to a slightly bigger space down the street, but my fondest memories are of that hole-in-the-wall treasure, stretching up to what seemed like a gigantic counter in my youth, grabbing my pizza slice and savoring every bite to the background hum of Downtown traffic. I would slurp up my lunch with gusto as people in business suits passed by the glass windows that looked out onto the building’s lobby. A part of me felt bad that these office workers were too dressed up to enjoy a slice of pizza. You didn’t dare take a chance with Domenick’s grease on a formal outfit unless you had a stockpile of napkins barricading your whole body.

At the end of our day my mom and I would wait by the town green for our bus home. Somewhere along the way she would often purchase a small bag of popcorn and let me toss it to the city pigeons while we waited. The urban birds, familiar with humans and their treats, would strut brazenly forward, anticipating my weak, short throw. They dove over each other to grab each morsel almost before it hit the ground. The pigeons would become so pushy that I occasionally thought they might try to climb onto the bus with us.

Soon we would be on our way home, struggling to stay put in slippery vinyl seats as the bus belched and rolled through the city toward home.

My mom probably never knew how much those trips meant to me. Where she may have seen it as a hassle to count on the bus route for shopping and sometimes even doctor appointments while my dad worked long hours, I was a happy camper, pretending to be a secret agent hiding behind store displays. For a few hours I relished being surrounded by city foot traffic unfamiliar to me on the residential side of town where we lived.

I hope my girls can look back at moments that I may not have known were significant, but that meant something special to them. It could be as simple as finding shells and sand dollars on the beach, or as silly as the many celebratory meals we shared at the restaurant with talking animal heads, as long as it makes them smile because we were together.

Whether you’re celebrating in style or whooshing through a rest stop, may a memory that’s as special as pigeons, popcorn and the world’s best Downtown pizza be a part of your Mother’s Day.