Company in the Kitchen

Mt Lemmon Store and Inn, Summerhaven, Arizona

Mt Lemmon Store and Inn, Summerhaven, Arizona

I think there is no other place in my life that I have as much company as when I am in the kitchen cooking. There’s Bev, my friend Linda’s mother, who one day in the kitchen at my house demonstrated the correct way to use a pepper mill. Held at a tilt with back and forth grinding motion. Bev was one of the loveliest people I have ever known (who was not at all discomforted when I told her that), and the last day I spent with Bev, not too long before she died, was spent watching Rick Steve eat his way through Europe, and ended with her daughters and me cooking dinner together and us all sitting down to eat. It was a good day.  Then there is my aunt Norma, who, with Uncle Dick, came to stay with us when my family all gathered as my father lay dying. Over those three weeks there was lots of cooking (and drinking). Norma likes the water to be really, really boiling before you put the pasta in. More recently there is Frances. She and her partner were over for a BBQ some months ago and I was getting my normal kick out of spraying the Pam on the gas grill after I had already lit it. She made me promise not to do that any more. Promise. So when I use a pepper mill, boil water for pasta or BBQ there’re Bev, Norma or Frances.  And I really enjoy the company.

The ur-ness of all this sense of presence in the kitchen is perhaps that my mother tells me that I cook like her mother. A big part of this commonality is that neither of us address(ed) our tasks in the kitchen with that tidiness flag flying too high. I can mess up a kitchen and apparently she could too. But the bigger part of the resemblance, I like to think, is an elegant kitchen bustle and the joyousness in cooking for lots of people. I am not sure how she practiced her craft — family recipes, continual invention and experimentation, cookbooks — but Grandma Z was known to be a good cook. She and my grandfather built and ran The Mt. Lemmon Inn on Mt Lemmon outside Tucson and people would make the long trip up the mountain just to have some of her pie. Our family still occasionally has the enchiladas that she showed her girls how to cook but the recipe has gone no further. (Grandma died several years ago at the end of an attenuated mental decline and my mother, now 80, is concentrating on writing rather than cooking, as she has as long as I can remember.) In my sometimes hyperkinetic world, cooking is one of the most naturally relaxing and feet-planting things I do. I like to think that might be Grandma.

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Shuga Mae on a Walk

Shug letting me take her picture with my laptop camera

Shug letting me take her picture with my laptop camera

Shug and I just got back from a walk in the arroyo and ran into boys on motor cycles — both 2- and 4-wheeled contraptions — again this week. In the past we have got to the side and let them pass us. But today we could not yield as we were in a narrow passage, and they had to go slowly behind us for a few minutes. I was so proud of her. Her Golden nature makes her very friendly and she is a bit of a nervous sort but she just kept walking by my side as if they were not back there. And then when there was room to do so, we got to the side and she let them go by without even a sniff. It was almost as if the noise, dust and smell had never been there. Fond wish.

Shug has a furminator now and we only use it down in the wash as it looks very much as if some furry animal has been killed and devoured after a few minutes of brushing.  She’s very patient about that, as she is about most things.  Her sister Natalie is a rescue Greyhound and when they go together to the dog park for the Greyhound to have a good run, Natalie cannot seem to work up much interest for that great insane burst of speed she’s there to undertake until she has harassed Shug for a bit.  She nips at Shug’s legs and then when she is sufficiently worked up, she takes off in a great bolt across the field.  I have never seen such fast beauty.

Fall in Tucson

Even though it is nearly Thanksgiving, the daytime high temperature here in Tucson has not dropped much below the 80s.  That is, we are being unseasonable here.  Although the heat is certainly affecting humans, who are just a little edgy (although it would be hard to say exactly what that is about, what, with all the change afoot in this country), the fauna are discombobulated – or discomposed, as it apparently used to be called.  The ants are still in the kitchen, although they should have gone to bed weeks ago. Snakes seem to have started their over-wintering but lizards are still out.  A friend recently found an old Desert Tortoise crossing a busy intersection who was very ready to go to bed as soon as she (the tortoise, that is) had a vet check – 40 year old female in good health – and was put in a cardboard box in a dark cool closet.