Dearest Rachel –
I realize the place has changed dramatically since your departure; you would hardly recognize the kitchen, and its new layout. Even I forget where some things are stored nowadays (in fact, I still couldn’t find enough trivets to go around last night, even though I know there’s more than the one I had Daniel dredge up), so who would expect you to feel comfortable with the new place? But I really think that last night, you would’ve felt very much at home for once.
Of course, it’s less about the place itself, and more about the people there. After several weekends in which one or another couldn’t make it over (and a few in which none of us bothered to convene for one reason or another; I was out of town, multiple scheduling conflicts, or just the fact that it was agreed that this simply wasn’t supposed to be an every week kind of thing in the first place), all three of the girls were finally over at once last night, for the first time since the remodel was completed. And for one of those brief, shining moments, everything felt almost as if it were just like old times.
Ellen started the whole thing off by sending emails asking whether anything was happening this Friday. She had an idea for dinner – a pancake mix of ume flour, which, being gluten-free, she could actually eat – and when she mentioned bringing apples as well, I thought about making a sauce out of them to cover the pancakes. Unfortunately, the variety she was bringing wouldn’t exactly be amenable to that kind of treatment (no great surprise – eating apples and cooking apples are quite different, as you recall), and so I had to do some shopping for a couple of apples that would work, as well as certain spices that I no longer had – I think I remember telling Jan back in the day that, as soon as we pared down my spice rack, I’d need some of the ones we’d just disposed of; and well, here I was. On the other hand, I don’t remember ever having kosher salt in the kitchen, and if we ever had cornstarch, I’m sure it would’ve gone bad long since. So it was all just as well.
I will say that I wish they could arrive a bit sooner; we really haven’t had the chance to see if the soccer billiards work out in the back yard. But when no one can make it over until at least seven o’clock, what can you do? You just start in cooking once they get here, whenever that may be, and between the cooking and the eating (and the talking that goes on over it all), that’s the evening.
At least now that everything is finished, and in proper working order, everyone can work on their own separate task. Ellen mixed up the pancakes, and spooned them onto our huge frying pan (I’m afraid I got rid of the griddle in the purge, honey – there really wasn’t a place for it anymore in this new setup. Besides, it’s not like the frying pan doesn’t work just fine for this purpose), while I peeled the apples and mixed the sugar and spices (I made some kind of joke about only needing Chemical X to create a Powerpuff Girl – Daniel and Ellen were amused, but neither Erin nor Kerstin got it. Pop culture isn’t universal, after all)
Separately, there was also the matter of timing. For all that I’d held off on my part of the menu, waiting until Ellen was spooning the mix (which, purple as it was, looked to me like nothing more than a heaping helping of Hawai’i’s state side dish, poi) onto her pan, in the time it took me to sauté the apples and create the sauce, she barely could complete two or three batches of the six or seven it took her to finish the amount of batter she’d mixed together. On the other hand, it allowed Erin a chance to take my spot at the stove, to make a similar sauce out of her cherries. Unfortunately, she hadn’t counted on finding ants in her sugar box (she brought her own ingredients, under the assumption that I might not have what she needed to work with – and, apart from my shopping trip just hours before, she was quite right to do so). She picked those she could out, but – having already committed to assembling the sauce, as the cherries were simmering in the saucepan by this point – she announced that she alone would be eating her sauce, although Kerstin expressed a willingness to assist her in consuming her creation.
Interestingly, Erin had also brought a tiny box of edible mealworms to offer all of us (which Daniel and I passed on – me out of simple knee-jerk revulsion, Daniel out of political offense, as it seemed to him a case of being indoctrinated towards eating bugs in lieu of real meat, as per the predictions and preferences of the Davos set at the WEF. The girls all tried some, though, although the crunch seemed to be a bit disconcerting), so consuming tiny little ants shouldn’t have been a problem for her. Still, I was satisfied with the apple sauce (and I guess I have to make clear that there’s a space between the two words; there’s a difference between ‘a sauce made from apples’ and ‘applesauce’), and only used that on my pancakes. I did have a cherry or two before she threw them into the pot, and I thought the were tasty enough, but I do prefer my fruit sour, after all – and antless. I do feel bad about her and her sugar, though.
Once everything was prepared – and, for the most part, eaten – the conversations went on into the evening. Ellen has stories from work every time she comes over, and had to fill Erin in on a little misadventure from their mutual trip to the local renaissance fair. Apparently, it happened before Erin made it up there, and for whatever reason, Ellen hadn’t bothered to tell her about it at the time (although she did tell the rest of us last week). To be sure, there’s a lot to be done up there, so it probably was the least of her concerns to do so then; that, and it’s not the most flattering of stories, like most misadventures. Erin, too, related a misadventure regarding her trip to visit her parents in Door County; the trip up there was drawn out by a slow leak in one of her tires, resulting in multiple stops to keep it inflated until she could get there. I confess I don’t recall if Kerstin had anything major to relate – apart from the adventure that won’t be, as the friends she offered to help move to Wyoming (of all places) decided to pack up and head out without her assistance after all – but I know she was showing some of her daughter’s artwork, and I think she may have said something about their new kitten.
Like I said, everyone seemed to feel like they were at home here, just like back in the old days, and I’m sure that, despite all the changes that have taken place in the past year and a half, everything yesterday would have seemed as familiar as in the days before quarantine and the like. I wish you could have been there to enjoy and appreciate it all.
Still, if you can see what’s going on down here from time to time, make sure to keep an eye on us, honey, and wish us luck. We’re doing okay, I guess, but we could always use some more, now, couldn’t we?