Category Archives: Good Food

The Carrier.

CHAPTER 46.

The fresh zucchini had endured that suctioned sealer long enough. Removing both small tubes from the fridge shelf, she noted that each had become a bit moist and rubberized, more like the consistency of a full water balloon. Yet the touch to the tongue revealing no revolting after taste, she peeled, sliced lengthwise, lay each “finger” in a drizzle of olive oil, and set the pan about slow frying.

As the oil peppered its flesh, she added a liberal dress of herbs and spices. Oregano leaf. Basil. Smoked Paprika. Then, Onion powder and, finally, Celery Seed. Inhaling the chemistry, satisfied she covered the pan, and reduced the heat to just enough for smolder; then, removing a palm sized chunk of Goat Cheese from its bin, she scooped out a couple generous swaths. This would coat the bottom of the dish, she decided, to melt later.

Just in case the squash might be a tad overripe she tossed a few drops of apple cider vinegar in the mix, to kill any aggressive pestilence. There were dishes in the sink and, motivation to wash them always at the mercy of aversion, she rationalized a bit of extra time for frying and soaped up around a third of these, letting the saucepan sizzle for about four more minutes. Zucchini was usually baked, anyway; extra time in the pan wouldn’t kill anything except the part she wouldn’t want disturbing her delicate gut flora.

Minutes later, ladling the now limpid legs onto her trusty Corningware plate with its molded handle, she took a flat knife and spread the Goat cheese up and over and around the entire mixture of zucchini and herbs, watching it melt and meld into the meal.

Eating this little dinner, she smiled. It was so good. Zucchini was, after all, naturally tasteless – the perfect vehicle for the reason she cooked like this in the first place. Really, cuisine was about flavor, nutrients and a texture carrier. Who wanted to melt cheese on a plate, then douse it with leaves of plant? Spreading everything that had both pungence and palatability across one generic summer squash meant that she could taste the divine yet give her teeth a reason to crunch.

She still had her teeth, all of them but one, in fact, and being able to chew voraciously meant that she was still quite alive enough to live in her own house and use a fork. Good enough reason for one bland vegetable to carry everything else worth loving, while she still had breath.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 4/10/21. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Sharing by blog link, exclusively; no copying, in whole or part including translation, permitted. Thanks for being the honorable person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Exceptional Stranger.

The gurney is hard, the fluorescence above it humming. Nubbing legs dangle over the side of the frame, an IV port pinching the tender skin on top of my hand every time I forget not to move it. A single, nearly square corkboard on the wall beside holds a smattering of 9×12 memos, one of them hot pink. I stare at that one, mesmerized. How many among this newest crop of strangers will have seen their memo, that day, and would they be ready for the moment of my death?

The half hour preceding, high drama. Arrival, gasping with terror, the creeping itch encircling my face and crawling between my bosom, around, under my arms and across my back, and then the rear of the tongue rising to meet the pharynx, daring to close entirely, heart racing, skin clamming, the lights, lights so icy bright, the smell, always the smell of sterility.

These are the minutes over which nobody has any control. The roughly twenty odd ones after the puncture of Epinephrin and IV push of Benadryl, during which our father, Time, the only sure indicator of ongoing life vs. cardiovascular collapse. And, after four of these in one year, again left alone by strangers in the ER bay to ponder the outcome, mind attached to body gradually succumbs to the antidote of semi-coma.

Strangers. At the moment of theoretical death.

This is the realm of the anaphylactic.

Unlike those stricken with terminal illness or even massive stroke, the anaphylactic cannot feature the luxury of familiar faces, phone calls, cards and letters, even bedside caregivers who’ll call us by our name. If we’re lucky as well as fastidious, we’ll carry with us the proper packet of antihistamine or the Epi-pen, provided we are also completely able and willing to inspect every ingredient contained in every appetizer, entree, salad, and dessert offered by anyone beyond the scope of our own, protected kitchens.

Were we to be anybody outside of our actual selves, we might observe the scene at the neighboring table on a Friday evening – server, hunched over the menu, squeezing a pencil, forehead pinching, corners of the mouth twitching neurolinguistically to mask cursing annoyance, fixated guest rattling on about oils and additives next to a bewildered date mentally reviling why he’d been so determined to know this woman.

We’d not have been able to enjoy our own meal, what with the server hastening off to the chef’s lair to consult, report back, consult again, report back, smile assuredly, take the order, bring the order, take it back, the date leaning in toward the anxious female, arms folded across the table’s edge, eyes sucking into his head behind a smile stretched to its breaking point.

We might have left the restaurant with a social checklist ticking across our own foreheads. We’d have recognized the woman from having seen her on the various pages, she with her dubious references to multiple former lives. We’d have concluded many things. Clearly a narcissist, judging by the texture of her dark hair and the angle of her nose the spoiled daughter of he who sold back room numbers, she would just have to be spending everyone else’s time in public grasping for singular attention. Yes; siphoning the entire room of its last particle of energy, in her own mind she would be exceptional.

Exceptionality. The curse of the oblivious.

Cosmopolitan life renders a certain mass anonymity. When merely dozens are displaced by hundreds of thousands, that which is distinguishing fades from immediate view. Blending is both habit and practice; that which doesn’t easily finds enough of its own kind to forge new criteria for acceptability. By contrast, in small towns anything or anyone who is unavoidably different can become quickly pigeonholed, marked, recognized, and not in a good way. Traits borne by these are subconsciously dismissed as, ultimately, forms of weakness. Exceptionality becomes a force which both pulls and pushes, and that against itself.

The coronavirus has at once rendered every civilized center, regardless of size, homologous. All are flanked according to appropriate distance, masks obviating familiarity, no one a stand out by either class or station.

All, that is, except we anaphylactics. Our fears are inextricably distinguishing. Virus, or vaccine; we face the threat, of death, whether we do or we don’t. Statistically a tiny minority, exceptionality neither our excuse nor our defense, we remain the stranger.

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© 2/26/21 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, including translation without written permission from the author. Sharing permitted by blog link, exclusively. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

MACARON.

Addiction drives the strangest behavior.

Mine isn’t booze, heroin or cocaine. Mine’s the one even lab rats choose first:

sugar.

The object of my affections had been ignoring me, all day. Petulantly. Enjoying my clamoring, ghosting to a narcissistic forte. By teatime, I’d hit critical mass.

Henceforth, because I needed a succouring fix, I did FIVE THINGS well out of my comfort zone. 1.) Without first placing a curbside pickup order, I drove to the Whole Foods Co-op; 2.) parked, and w.a.l.k.e.d. i.n.t.o. the store — something I had not done since M.A.R.C.H.; 3.) grabbed a sack of mini-peppers and some daikon radish sprouts, then headed for the bakery reach-in; 4.) chose a variety pak of chef made MACARON; 5.) rang out, waving to several I knew on staff, and side stepped out to my car.

Why so radical?

Macaron had proved the creme de la creme of confectionary. Only egg white, no flour, the premiere sweet for all gluten intolerants, and only a pro pastry chef could expertly craft each bite sized burst of scrumptiousness to the Parisian standard of perfection. Pre-Covid, I’d been known to drive 3 miles south after midnight, just to snatch the last batch at Wegman’s; but, the girl who made them at WFC had won my ribbon.

This month’s recipe was labeled (according to Customer Service) — “autumnal” flavorings. I’d already had this set, over a week ago – and, hadn’t been keen on it. My preference included: berries, and their cremes; vanilla, creme cheese, pistachio, and caramel. But, not….pumpkin. And, this set used pumpkin as a motif; even the creme cheese was tinted with the hue…and, the flavor.

But, you have to understand addiction. Sugah addiction. We dream of cookies and cakes, frosted confections… And, the piece de resistance is macaron. For us, reward for good behavior – and, even bad – is all about the taste buds. And, the receptors for sweet are everywhere; the tip of the tongue, the sides, the back, the flat surface, even the roof of the mouth. We can salivate to the point of orgasm, just thinking about sugar.

So, yah. Pulling up to the curb, I was giddy. Self-congratulating. After all, I’d savage the entire container of chicken salad first just to prove my nutritional planning was sound. But, two down, and three to go, the test would be: how many hours before all five macaron were dust?

My first selection: vanilla. Smoothe; cool; bright. Second: salted caramel. Texture, first; then, the rush. Number three: okay. Might as well get it overwith. Pumpkin puree.

First bite: Nawp. Was it the consistency ? Maybe a touch more creme to render the filling. What would normally gush from between two oh-so-delicate cookies felt more like a slurry at the bottom of a saute. On that note, I’d reached my A1C for the hour. Heck, for the evening. Two and a half down, I was sated.

You can have your spice lattes. I’ll take my pumpkin the only way it should come: in pie.

On Thanksgiving.

Even addicts have taste.

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© 9/11/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com