At Home

Fennel al Forno, and Family

While shopping at No Frills yesterday, I passed a display of Twinkies and pastel pink meringues. And, as often happens at the sight of such delicious frivolities, I missed my mother.

She used to make my brother and me promise to bury her with just a box of Twinkies and a few cans of Diet Pepsi–or maybe Tab–those being the only things necessary for a happy and satisfying afterlife. I’m not sure how far off the mark she is, but I suspect it’s not great. Although I’ve not had a Twinkie in many years, I seem to recall that they are life-affirming in taste.

I wish the two of us had more of a regular telephone conversation schedule, like I suspect other mother and daughters do, but no one in my family is very good with the phone. The idea of interrupting each other, I think, is the root cause of our communication affliction. Also, my heart beats out of my chest when the phone rings. Who could it be? What do they want? How will I answer their queries? Like, “Hey man, what’s new?” Christ, I don’t know! Or, “How are you?” It’s just too much to bear.

Unless it’s my mother. When we do manage to connect via telephone, we could gab for hours. (I wonder if this is why she’s so well-suited to her volunteer gig with her church; she has a list of seniors she calls every week, just to talk, just to check in and make sure everything is as well as can be expected with them, most of whom have no kids. What a sweet, beautiful idea.)  The sound of her voice, her laugh, her gossip reports, her obituary news sourced from local papers, her observations culled from the latest episode of Hoarders–it’s enough to make me want to call her right now, almost.

Is it unusual to miss your parents when you’re an adult?  I mean, missing your mom and dad when you’re 12  is one thing–but as a late-something 37 or 38 year old?

I remember receiving a coveted invitation to join K.T. on a camping trip to Bon Echo National Park with her family one summer, right before starting grade eight. Never having camped before, and K.T. being a pretty popular girl, I was ecstatic. But after day four in the wilderness, I was miserable. I’d been away from home before, but it was for neighbourhood sleep-overs. If I needed to return home in the middle of the night–which I never did–I could have just snuck out the back, got on my bike and walked through my front door, which was never locked. But Bon Echo, this was something completely different. I can still recall the pain in my heart, missing my family so dearly–and being torn up inside over the realization that I was probably too old to be so homesick. I took extreme measures. I pretended like I was gravely ill for 24 hours, fake throwing up behind the tent, writhing in pain on the ground with some unknown stomach flu. K.T.’s mom must have known I was faking. But she still called my parents, and I can’t recall ever being happier than seeing my dad the day he made the six hour drive to collect me from Bon Echo. No questions were asked. We embraced, and maybe stopped for burgers along some highway on the way home. For a short time, all was well in my world, until the first day of grade eight; when I was briefly ostracized from my group of friends for abandoning K.T. that summer. I have no regrets, though.

I just remembered this very instant that I returned to Bon Echo park only one other time, in my early 20s with an ex and his group of friends. I believe I got dumped by a campfire late at night only to be asked back out in the morning.

Bon Echo and me, we don’t get on.

Anyway, I clipped out a recipe from the New York Times last week for baked fennel, or fennel al forno. I made it last night with relative ease (the hardest part was grinding up some garlic, fennel seeds, olive oil and chili flakes.)

And then the Beast subbed in to the kitchen while I retired to the dining room to do a little work, and he fried up some sausages. The result was a divine meal, enjoyed with season two of Deadwood playing in the background.

It should be noted that whatever series we happen to be watching, we tend to adjust our language to fit, or mimic, the program’s. For example:

Beast: Can you even imagine the first man making bread crumbs after thousands of years of tossing out their spoiled bread?

Foodie: Ah, I don’t think early man would have thrown out any food.

Beast (pausing): I was joking. My point is, if you take my fucking meaning, is how do bread crumbs conspire to make everything so delicious?

It’s a good point, and it’s a fantastic show. This is my third time watching it and it just gets better with every viewing. And I never noticed so much before how much the Beast looks like the character Silas Adams.

Beast: Do you think Adams has a better body than I do?

Foodie: (Silence)

Beast (looking at Adams, who is reclining in a bed): I think my chest is more robust. I really do. I think it’s on account of all of my chest flies and push-ups. (Adams stands up) Wait, no. He’s got a great fucking body, this guy. Look at it. He looks like somebody who’s spent a summer building boats with his bare hands under the summer sun.

Foodie: Yes, yes he does.

I’m not sure how either of our bodies will stand up to nightly desserts of homemade chocolate chip cookies (by way of that no-knead bread wizard guy, Jim Lahey, in Bon Appetit.) with vanilla cream.

I kept the dough in the fridge all week, and just bake the cookies fresh, as we need them, which is often during these gloomy February nights–when a box of Twinkies in aisle three can make you homesick.

Foodie: **1/2

Beast: ***

4 replies »

  1. I love how you have described someone discarding a package of pink meringues they thought better of on top of a bunch of Twinkies as a “display”. That is your art history background coming to the fore, I believe. What is the term for that? Conceptual installation? A Duchampian readymade? I bet you placed that poignant package of pink on the pile yourself. It works.

    I could totally dematerialize a Twinkie™ right now.

    That dude on the left is more handsome than the dumb-looking dude on the right.

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