And Then There Was One

Dearest Rachel –

Like you, I grew up with the understanding that one needed three square meals a day: the whole breakfast-lunch-dinner thing. I was a card-carrying member of the Clean Plate Club, and always tried to get my money’s worth out of the meal plan back in college.

My point is, I come by this dad bod quite honestly, and I’ve had it since long before I was a dad. And thankfully, you didn’t seem to be bothered by it – which is one more reason I’m going to have a difficult time finding someone to take your place. I’ve been told by some that it will happen at some point, but it’s so much like waiting to get out of quarantine: how’s it going to happen, and why does it take so long?

But ever since I was able to retire (and, to be honest, there were many days during my working life, too) I’ve learned to eat when I am hungry, as opposed to going by the clock. As a result, the number of actual meals I eat has been cut by nearly a third since my retirement. Breakfast is late, and dinner is relatively early. Actually, that latter situation has only developed since you left; it never occurred to me to hurry home at nights; save for Monday club nights, and even then, we would eat after club (which was probably not the best idea, all things considered). These days, I get home early, Daniel and I take off for church and hour or two before club, and we grab ourselves something to eat en route. Bottom line, I’m at two meals a day, and Daniel at one-and-a-half.

Today has been more lethargic than most – and I’m running out of menu items worth investigating, quite frankly – and so I have decided not to bother with anything until now. It may not be the healthiest path, but neither are loads of calories atop a whole bunch of inertia, and so, here we are, some twenty-two, twenty-three hours since my last meal, ordering… what?

Well, how about one of Maria von Trapp’s favorite things?

That’s right; schnitzel, with noodles.

I actually looked it up, and discovered that apparently, the Austrians are very proud of this dish, to the point where it can’t even be called Wiener schnitzel unless it is specifically made with veal. It’s literally the law, if only the law in Austria.

But we fair, we’re not in Austria. Still, it’s probably one of those things that’s upheld by the entire EU. Well, let’s try this.

By itself, it’s a little more than a breaded veal cutlet. And I would imagine there’s a fair number of people who might be reading this letter, and going ‘well, duh.’ Well, I can’t be expected to know everything before hand. In fact that’s been most of the point of these culinary reviews, such as they are; these things are exotic to me, when they’re probably quite routine to those who live here.

I’ve made my taste plain about the cranberry – I may spread that on the bread later as a form of dessert, however, as the purée has a taste and feel not unlike the preserves offered with my various breakfasts. The true savor of this dish comes from the items that might otherwise look like garnishes; the lemon, the caper and (for the first time in my life) the anchovy. Each of them adds a flavor that is at the same time familiar and interesting. The lemon, quite obviously, lends a citrus note that gives the cutlet a taste reminiscent of fish and chips. The keeper gives it a zest like a pickling spice. And finally, the anchovy tastes almost like concentrated Caesar dressing; I may have to consider what they might actually taste like on a pizza someday.

Not with Daniel around, of course.

I am going to guess, however, this is not quite the way Maria would’ve expected it to be served; between the schnitzel and the noodles, the entire dish is somewhat dry. Oh, the cutlet is nice and fork-tender – it is veal, after all – but when combined with just noodles, the entire composition is lacking something. I suspect that the dish as she knew it would have included a cream sauce, not entirely unlike Alfredo, that would’ve gone well with the noodles in particular.

Speaking of cream sauces, however, I’m actually mildly surprised by the side salad. As I understand it, Europeans know nothing of what we Americans refer to as ‘ranch dressing;’ I don’t know if you were still around for it, but I thought I remembered seeing a TikTok video of an English girl tasting ranch dressing for the first time, and coming to an enchanting enlightenment as to what this stuff is that she’d heard so much about from so many Yanks. It’s a truly amusing sight. With that being said, I find myself perplexed; if I didn’t know better, that Europeans didn’t know about ranch dressing, I’d swear that was what was on the salad. Not that I mind in the slightest, but still, it wasn’t anything I was expecting.

And, while I am certainly expected spreading the cranberry purée on the bread would be considered gauche in public, there is no one here to criticize me for it, and it works quite well. It still tastes more like breakfast than dessert, but it will serve.

We’re coming down to my last few meals in captivity; just before ordering, I received a call from Louise, telling me that I will be free to go as of midnight tomorrow night. However, she instructed me to contact the Board of Health for my release papers, so that I can show them to the front desk as I leave the hotel for the outdoors and freedom. She also mentioned that I would need to check with said front desk for a guest ticket that will allow me to ride the public transport system wherever I might want to go. And here I thought it was just free to ride; maybe it’s just rather on the honors system.

Anyway, they’ll be just one more day of this, and maybe a day or two of describing food out on the streets for a change.

Until then, take care, honey. Wish you had been here go through this with me, and share the adventure.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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