I was sitting on the couch with my youngest when she told me the story of how she lost each of her six fallen teeth. When she was on the second incisor (lunchtime, an almond) I began to wonder if attention to detail is something that erodes over time. For me, it is something I have to fight to hang on to, since I find myself forgetting much and muddling my way through tasks with partial awareness. But then, we give ourselves to what matters most to us. Though at times, even our great loves can garner only our partial attentiveness. Fear of losing my ability to focus caused me to sink myself a bit deeper into the tail of the teeth, and how they went.
The other day I was all a-tingle with the thought of making a crisp from local berries for my husband’s cousins. I went to Johnson’s Berry Farm where, after my purchase of blueberries and golden raspberries, I received a tip: for a crisp top, place your crisp under the broiler for the last few minutes of baking. Here’s what the well-meaning farmer didn’t tell me: don’t do this when you are chatting to a friend and, specifically, listening empathetically to a tale of injustice. Commiserating with a friend is better than other tasks that might have distracted me (zipping up a thermal beer sleeve, trying out my electric eye-lash curler, and so on). As it was, while I showed solidarity with my wronged friend, the crisp burnt to well, not a crisp exactly but a wet, charred soup. It rivaled the infamous pink slime I brought to Easter two years ago. I scraped the entire top off, bought ice cream and served it. I love my husband’s merry band of cousins for eating it up; my cousin-wife said she would eat the remainder for breakfast.
This lapse is one in a series of Lucille Ballesque kitchen escapades in which I have played a starring role. I talk about, think about and write about food o ‘plenty, but my actual cooking has been sporadic and lackluster. Nothing in my life has seemed properly attended to of late, partly because we have taken a series of short trips. I even found a fully formed spider web in my car between the steering wheel and the dash. That’s a neglected vehicle right there. The car was beyond saving, but I needed a face-saving recipe – fast – to salvage my reputation. I wasn’t up to a main dish, but what about a drink? Summer seems the time to try a new beverage, and I have long been a fan of sangria, though from afar. It goes down too easily and puts me in a recliner, singing Steve Miller at the top of my lungs – undignified for a woman of a certain age.
This little number is easy: watermelon, mint, pink wine and elderflower syrup or cordial (Monin syrup or St. Germaine). I cut the melon in uniform chunks and told myself not to rush, to just notice the process
and be grateful and present. I took it to my friend Kirstin’s house, along with the ingredients for fish tacos. She ended up doing all the cooking, but I still felt a sense of vindication because after a couple small glasses, she pronounced the sangria, “complex” and said her face felt funny. Perfect.
Later, while mucking out my daughter’s room – a mad hodge-podge of a life well-lived – I found her wee toothlets – rootless little nubs that they are – and placed them all in a seashell. May they remain to have their tales told again, and may someone be there to listen with all their attentive heart.