Didn't Think I Could Do It But - (No...
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|Sat, 11-18-2000 - 12:53am|
Didn't Think I Could Do It But - (November Exercise)
PEARLS BEFORE SALAMI
Mom and dad hardly ever went anywhere without us kids. We were like appendages, another arm or leg. Once every year, though, daddy took his wife to the golf banquet. She wasn’t interested in the bowling dinner held six months later, too common for her. The golf banquet at the country club suited her just fine. Twice a year daddy got drunk.
Usually after one of daddy’s sports banquets, he could be found on the front porch, fair weather or foul, rain, snow or warm breezes, holding his head in his hands mumbling, “Never again. I’ll never drink this much again and then get in the car.”
This year he was quite sober. He still found his way to the porch after putting mom to bed. “Never again,” he muttered. “Never will I let her drink that much again.”
I knew that was an idle threat as I sat beside him, the concrete of the front step now cooled from the heat of the summer sun.
The next morning mother woke the house with a scream. “My pearls!” She clutched her throat and ran around the house in her underwear opening drawers and moving papers. “Somebody stole my pearls!”
My father, brother and I aided her in the search. We looked everywhere but the potting shelf in the garage. Her pearls were nowhere.
As my father comforted my mother, wiping her tears and shushing her profanities, I decided to relieve him of his Sunday duty of making breakfast. We all knew his favorite breakfast. It was a pan of eggs he called an omelet but I knew as a fritatta, not folded but left to bake in the pan from its own steam. Daddy liked to put quartered slices of Kosher salami in the eggs. I would do the same.
I pulled over a chair to reach the huge 20-inch copper-bottomed frying pan that was my mother’s pride. Guilt hit me for a moment when my eyes focused on the dent I had made trying to hit my little brother in the head and connecting with the door jamb instead.
Dragging the chair across the room, I stepped up again to fetch a mixing bowl. Some day, I thought, when I cook more, I’ll insist on rearranging the kitchen. Being short is a handicap. Having everything you need to work on opposite sides of the room can be almost crippling. My legs were starting to hurt from mounting the chair.
I grabbed a fork from one drawer, a knife from a second and spatula from another. There must be a better way to arrange things!
Now was the time to grab the food. Thank goodness there was only one refrigerator and all the food was in it. The paddle-shaped cutting board on which I had hand-stenciled a Pennsylvania Dutch design and “give us this day our daily bread” in some Germanic language hung from a hook next to the thing mom still called an ice box. I grabbed it before opening the door of the refrigerator.
I barely looked as I withdrew the morning’s fixings from the ‘fridge. The pressed-paper carton of eggs, I could feel as I lifted, was a full dozen; more than enough for a family of four. It went to its place on the counter. Next to come out was the Kosher salami, full of garlic, we had used for “omelets” and sandwiches until only a third of it was left. That went to rest on the cutting board.
My slices of salami were slightly thinner than those cut by my father. I liked it that way, my mother’s teeth were bad, and I was sure she had a headache. I cut the circles into quarters then started breaking eggs. A pat of butter in the pan was set to sizzle as the eggs got beaten with a fork. Just before the butter started to brown, I poured the eggs into the pan, ready with the spatula in case they cooked too fast.
Creamy yellow eggs began to bubble in the giant pan. Time for salami I thought and crossed the room to the counter where it rested. I carefully placed each little rounded triangle of aged salami into the cooking eggs. I put the cover on the pan, turned the gas flame down a bit and began to clean up. Dishes started piling in the sink. Oh, the dreaded dishes – my least favorite part of cooking.
The nearly empty egg carton returned to its corner of the refrigerator shelf. A little nubbin of salami went to fill its former home. Looking more at the stove than what I was doing, my knuckle brushed something small and hard and cold. Scents of eggs, beef and garlic began to fill the kitchen. I had to check the “omelet” before doing anything else.
The fire went out beneath the pan as I shut off the burner. I set the table quickly and returned to the refrigerator. The hard, cold alien form nestled in front of the salami came out in my hand. Three strands, two white and one black.
“Breakfast is ready,” I said to my parents. “And I found this in the refrigerator.” The pearl necklace dangled from my fingers in front of my mother’s eyes.
“Where on Earth did you find it?” My mother never looked so happy or so relieved.
“In front of the salami.” It’s not nice to lie to your mother.
“Whatever possessed you to put your pearls in the refrigerator?” My father looked amused.
“Well, I keep them in my jewelry box.” We could tell that she was thinking hard on this question. “Guess I was just too tired and put them in the ice box instead. A box is a box.”
My father laughed as I had never heard him laugh before. “Smells good. Let’s eat!” He helped my mother from the couch. “Oh, Henry!” he bellowed like an old Henry Aldrich movie, calling my brother for breakfast.