Laurie B has been on my mind a lot these days. She was a kid who lived across the street from me and we were thick as thieves one summer when I was about 12. Laurie was a tomboy. She was also extremely hyperactive, and on medication for it. I was intrigued by her: Where did she get her boundless energy? I also got my hair cut like her once: it was a short, mushroom-like bob. Laurie had thick, slightly curly hair and the look suited her. I had thin, straight hair, and the haircut was not terribly flattering on me. (Although it could have very well landed me that part of Tiny Tim in a town production of A Christmas Carol.)
We’d get on our bikes every morning in August and ride down gravel roads to a farm, that my neighbour back within the city limits owned. And he put us to work. We played in a barn, we rounded up cute little stray kittens and fed them and we enjoyed homemade cookies and milk with my neighbour’s elderly mother around the kitchen table of the cozy farmhouse. We’d bike home, exhausted after a a hard day of work. Well, I was exhausted. Laurie was probably throwing herself against a brick wall just for fun.
One wintery Saturday afternoon, Laurie’s dad prepared us a lunch of Campbell’s tomato soup and white bread with mozzarella melted on top. It was the first time I’d had mozzarella out of its normal context in, say, pizza or lasagna. It was utterly exotic, and so good when dunked into the soup. I’m still obsessed with the combination today.
Funny that I can remember the way the gooey, slightly tangy cheese pulled away when I bit down and the make and colour of the ten speed I rode that summer, but I couldn’t remember my own birthday party: last week I was invited over to my friend Sarah’s place, along with several other friends, for some wine. When I arrived I found out it was actually a birthday party for my dear friend Susan, and myself. Apparently I’d been told about this through a series of emails and texts but I have no recollection of anything of the sort.
I’ve also forgotten complete passages of time. Just yesterday the Beast came home from work and told me that he’d met a friend of mine, an older woman who knew me from the AGO, where I used to docent as a graduate student. “She told me all about how you and your ex-boyfriend stayed at her place in Paris for a night,” he said, with only a little disdain. “She said your ex-boyfriend slept the whole time on account of being jet-lagged, but you talked and talked.” I don’t remember this. Not one bit of it. I remember Paris, of course, especially the little strawberries that I bought in the market on rue mouffetard and the steak frites at Le Balzar, an old brasserie on rue des écoles.
But I don’t remember staying with this lovely woman in Paris.
And when I was in New York recently, I spent time with some former students and colleagues from my teaching assistant days in Italy. Stories were told about me that, again, I have no memory of. “Remember at the gas station in Austria? Remember what you did when you got out of the car? Priceless!” There were expressions I’d coined–something about a “wonky tonk”–and embarrassing things I’d done were checked off like a grocery list. Us four teaching assistants went on road trips during the winter and spring breaks. We passed through Switzerland, Brussels, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Amsterdamn. And although I can’t remember the name of the restaurants where we ate, I do remember devouring a perfect plate of sausage, fried potatoes and apples in a charming tavern outside of Stuttgart, drinking excellent coffee in a Vienese cafe and dining on pork schnitzel with more glorious potatoes in that same city.
After a visual schnitizel, or “paillard”, nudge from Mark Bittman in a recent New York Times magazine, I decided that I would make my own version at the cottage when we visited in late October. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven as we ate our schnitzel, boiled potatoes with chives and butter and roasted brussel sprouts with a fire roaring in the Franklin and Twin Peaks playing (on the television and DVD player that we lugged down from the bunkie.) It was so memorable a meal that I decided to make it at home last week.
It’s not as messy, complicated and laborious as some might think. After pounding down some cutlets, dredging them through flour, then egg and finally through bread crumbs, and then frying them in a little butter and olive oil for just a few minutes a side, the schnitzel is done.
It’s especially easy when you have somebody helping you in the kitchen.
I know that my memory loss is not uncommon. Heck, it’s down right average. Still, it gives me reason to pause; to take note of all the dear and exquisite little moments, and people, that pass by; to slow down just a bit, and smell the schnitzel.