Month: November 2004
Oklahoma: the twins and their shad roe
My entrance was less grand than I’d hoped, but the birthday cake and I made it home intact. It is virtually impossible to fly directly to Oklahoma from any West or East Coast city, and I had the grave misfortune of passing through Dallas-Fort Worth on Tuesday afternoon and finding my one-hour layover stretched out into seven as a riot of nasty weather cavorted around the Great Plains. But I passed the time with a very chatty 83-year-old Manhattanite named Edith who sat down next to me and, among other things, told me where to find the best steaks and the wealthiest men in the Big Apple. Edith had beautiful deep-set blue eyes, red lipsticked lips, and shiny crimson nails, and I nearly squeezed her when she told me, “I’m a walker. For a short girl, I’ve got a long stride.” Oh Edith, me too. I want to be Edith when I grow up.
Speaking of growing up, there are few things more awe-inspiring than a pair of adult identical twins—specifically, a vivacious pair of 58-year-old identical twins named Tina and Toni, the latter being my mother. I was lucky enough to have dinner with this pair last night, along with their vivacious mother, my grandmother. Together we were (of course) vivacious, three generations of Mack women. What better cause for a toast?
It was a belated birthday celebration for the twins, a feast of shad roe. The American shad is a member of the herring family and one of the boniest fish around, but we don’t waste time with the flesh: we go straight for the roe. Shad are usually caught in the springtime, when they are migrating from the sea to freshwater to spawn. Their roe is highly prized in the Chesapeake Bay region, where spring is essentially synonymous with shad roe. When the twins were growing up in Maryland, my grandmother (whom I call Nan, Nanny, or Nanzer) would occasionally treat her family of nine to this sautéed delicacy during the brief months of its annual season. They’ve been hooked from early on.
This spring, an “inside source” of Mom’s had a hefty package of shad roe shipped to her, direct from the fishermen in Maryland, as a surprise. She generously shared some with this inside source, and then she tucked the rest away in the freezer for safekeeping. So last night, with a pan of bacon snapping and popping in the background, Tina, Nanny, and I watched eagerly as Mom carefully washed and dried the slender, slightly wrinkled, and horrifyingly ugly egg sacs. “It’s like caviar in spring,” Tina told me. “Like saltwater,” Mom chimed in. She cooked the roe in bacon fat and foamy butter, then served it with a hearty squeeze of lemon and a strip of crisp bacon. We ate it with roasted asparagus and warmish Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled and tossed with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and fresh dill. Alongside, we guzzled a very tasty Chehalem Chardonnay from Oregon. The twins moaned. And then, after candles and song, we dug into the far-from-disaster cake, imported from Seattle and only slightly misshapen. There was more moaning all around, punctuated by the high-pitched scream of forks scraping ceramic plates. Even Nanny, whose appetite has waned over the years, managed to finish her slice. For the occasion, I wore dirty hair and an oversized Act Up “SILENCE=DEATH” sweatshirt I found in a drawer in my old bedroom, a remnant of my early teens grunge-and-politics wardrobe.
Happy birthday, twins.
To a cherry-pit spitter on her 58th
Dear readers, today we celebrate the strongest woman I know, a truly swanky dancer, the epitome of poise and slightly goofy sophistication. Happy 58th birthday, Mommy dear. It couldn’t have been easy all those years, fending off my pre-teen pleas for Vienna sausages (in a can, pale and slippery), Cheetos, Bubblicious bubble gum, and Hawaiian Punch. While pining away for these forbidden “junk food” items, I was deathly picky: no condiments on anything, no lumps in the Campbell’s Tomato Soup, no bananas, nothing spicy, nothing jiggly, nothing remotely gristly, no mushrooms, no nuts in the cookie, no asparagus, no jam on the PB & J. But with patience and a steady diet of bologna roll-ups,* she brought me around. What…Read more
Self-sufficient and not too sour
Dear reader, I am a true pioneer woman. Round three of the sourdough experiment—the second go-round with Jack Lang’s method—was pretty damn fine. Poilâne has nothing to fear from me, but then again, I’m just looking to keep the breadbox full on long, windy trips in the covered wagon. Somewhere, my sweaty man is grunting with pleasure.Read more
The good, the very good, and the wonderful
Inspired by Kate—who was inspired by someone else I can’t remember—I present the good, the very good, and the wonderful of the past week, all lumped together and in no particular order, which sort of defeats the purpose: 1. Veteran’s Day afternoon with Kate: being unstylish, unshowered, and happy on a sunny day and walking arm in arm along the piers and down to Myrtle Edwards Park, after which we split a spectacularly buttery brioche (her very first!) from Le Panier, bought some deep green crinkly dinosaur kale from flirtatious vendors at the market, and talked chamois creme. 2. Meeting a real, live (ex-)break dancer. Bonus points for recent thumb injuries incurred while break dancing at parties. Yeow. 3. A…Read more
On self-sufficiency and sourdough
Forget the Ann Demeulemeester sex bag and all that snooty France stuff; give me a bull-scrotum bag and the open prairie, land of my birth. Forget the joys of a shower with excellent water pressure; all I need is the Red River and some pumice. Cast off the lacy lingerie and other things requiring delicate hand-washing; give me leather, rags, and a splintery washboard. And down with Mr. Pete, my trusty four-wheeled steed; I want Cinnabar, that wild-maned, dead-legged beast we fought over at summer camp. Dear reader, I’m trying my hand at being a self-sufficient pioneer woman, able to sustain herself, sweaty man, and grubby kids on nothing more than flour, salt, and water. How convenient that some flours…Read more
Gloom, doom, and biscuits
It has been a very dark week in this land. Much doom, much to be gloomy about. Times like these make me wish my father had kept his Canadian citizenship. But then I remind myself of the thirteen holy reasons to love America despite its shady leaders, twisted foreign and domestic policy, and general unholiness. 1. History2. The idiosyncrasies of American English3. Blue states (and Oklahoma, because of a few shreds of irrational hometown loyalty)4. The Star-Spangled Banner (okay, okay, it’s pretty)5. Bruce Springsteen6. Thanksgiving7. S’mores8. Peanut butter9. Filibusters10. Dischord Records11. McSweeneys12. American mice, which are bold yet mind-blowingly stupid and thus make for a great story. For purposes of comparison, French mice are bold, but they have the sophistication…Read more
On being hungry and (un)adventurous
I do not take well to being hungry, especially when the source of my next meal is unknown. Consider yourself warned. And woe betide those, such as Nicho, who choose to test me. This story takes place on a crisp, sunny Halloween morning. The evening before had been spent at the home of lovely Kate, whooping it up at her second annual “catastrophic success” cocktail party. I’d gone over early to provide costume consultation and get a head start on the (yes, post-season) gin and tonic. Kate, eager to wear a 1970s getup she’d found at a thrift shop, successfully morphed into a (half-)Chinese cowgirl with the addition of a hat and boots. I transformed into my alter ego, a…Read more