Friday, November 20, 2009

The One with the Gooey Middle

I am horrible with dates. I can tell you the date of almost any arcane fact.  Napolean's bithday?  August 15--he's a Leo. But if it's a date that I should know, my brain turns into a petulant toddler and refuses to remember.  Dentist appointment?  Hair appointments?  Once they're made, they are forgotten.  The date which DH and I got married?  Hmmm. Usually it's the husband that forgets.  This makes sense, the wife was the one who was in charge of the wedding, she recited the date 5,000 times as the wedding was planned.  The date is branded upon her cortex like the icon for ranch ownership is branded upon the ass of a bull.

Not my cortex.  I probably swerved as the branding iron came down.  It is too embarassing to forget one's anniversary--trust me, I'm lucky (smirk), DH remembers.  His parents remember.  So to cope, I keep a copy of our wedding invitation in my lingerie drawer.  Poking it's scalloped corners and ribbons from under my panties, gives the aura of being a romantic, a sentilmentalist.  In reality, it's my personal mnemonic device.

Yesterday, I was tucking away the laundry and saw the invite.  I smiled and picked it up.  I looked for the date and gasped. Half of a decade!  I have been a wife for almost f-i-v-e years.  That's the same amount of time, give or take 7 years, it took to do a double BA in Philosophy and English.

The double BA was a piece of cake, compartively speaking.  I mean, gimme a break, the BA was crazy fun AND I had an advisor to steer me when I went adrift in the choppy seas of academia. Whereas, once married, you and your mate (see the nautical reference?) are often the only sailors on board.  To me, college before needing to choose a major was like dating. It was fun to meander through the different majors.  Marriage is what happens after you choose your major, you graduate.

Actually, I liked school, specifically college, a lot.  I loathed highschool.  If I had had my way, I would have dropped out in the 10th grade, not for lack of intellectual appetite--too much of an appetite was the problem.  I'd cut class to go to the library to graze on books.  No one believed me when my spotty attendance was brought to light.  Back in the day when school counselors called your parents, ours was a weekly ritual: my mother would get a phone call on Saturday morning; I'd wait, putting my spoon down from eating my cereal, listening for her to hang up the phone; take a deep breath to resign myself to my fate; and there she was, standing in the doorway to the kitchen.  "Where you for 14 days?  Mrs. Baker said your Spanish teacher hasn't seen you for the last 14 days."  I sighed as she continued, "Last week it was your algebra teacher, you were missing 17 days!"

I rarely cut the entire day.  I'd selectively cut the classes for which on that particular day, I didn't have the taste. To me, my class schedule was nothing more than a great menu.  Let's see, today I'll have an English course, maybe a side of Political Science and for desert, my favorite, AP European History.  Yum.

I already had years of French, so an afternoon conjugating Spanish verbs lost out to hours of pouring over an old book of paintings by Goya...Each week, I would explain that I really was in the library and not roaming the streets doing heaven knows what.  Oh, there was that time, when my best friend and I cut class to see a matinee performance of the Three Penny Opera.  We felt so grown up, until the principal later found out threw us into detention and as a test of our veracity, made us each write an essay about the play.  We were amazed that he failed to applaud our precocious appreciation for the theater. 

Nonetheless, each week, I'd explain to my mother that I had been safely tucked in the stacks perusing some old dusty book.  And each week, she would ask, "Who the hell cuts class to go to the library?" this was a rhetorical question, she'd add to my response,  "And there are pigs flying up and down the hallway."   Sigh.

I went on to college, despite the fact that with my propensity for cutting class to go to read, it's a wonder I'm not one of those homeless people who hang out at the main library.  Yep, that easily could be me.  Easily.  When I arrived at college, I went wild...Oh my god, someone gave me the key to the bakery and said go forth and binge!  Or so I thought they said.  I did not hear that part about choosing a major that lead to a career.  A cohesive course of study just didn't make any sense.  I was going to be a pandologist--a major in everything.  I never really said this aloud, that is, lest I scare my parents from forking over my tuition....when parents are paying your tuition, I learned, they become like timorous forest creatures easily scared by things like changing one's major. . .again.

There is a limit to how long the funds do flow.  This limit is defined by a strange calculus of the duration of your status as an undergraduate and the number of times that you change your major.  Four years and six changes seem to snap the purses shut.

I treated my financial free ride as four years of library grazing--only now, instead of reading an obscure text in quiet solitude, I could take a class with other people, who must surely share my enthusiasm for new subjects.  I mean, how many other people in my History of Hindi Lit were in there to get a job?  Right?  Unfortunately, when I hit that magical time limit and lack of focus, I was suddenly on my own.

Milton's Aereopagitica was right, money changes everything.  Getting a job, paying tuition and buying books invests choosing a major with an amazing degree of urgancy.  Besides, I didn't want to be that post menopausal lady in the back row who was taking yet another Post Modern Art in the 20th Century class. So a major was chosen--or rather, units added up and winnowed down to produce the proper amount needed for a major--no, TWO majors, and I graduated with a double BA (a triple would be as they say, an embarrassment of riches).

It seems I am always winnowing down and adding things up to make something fit.  Even men.  Dating was like college.  As I had an entire catalogue of potential courses upon which to graze, the scope of datable men was just as vast.  I liked dating.  I treated dating like eating from a huge beribboned heart-shaped box of chocolates.  I'd pick one piece, admired the shape and coating, sink my teeth in, and if the filling made me shudder, back into the box it went.  This was fine, except for the occasional period of dieting or fasting that resulted from a prolonged period of choosing pieces with questionable, or stale, or worse, too nutty a center.  "This is making me fat and rotting my teeth", I'd moan, "Chocolates, no more!"

Then one day, you raise the lid of the heart-shaped box, resigned to choosing the one with the walnut center--you hate walnuts--but hey, it's been a while since you had any chocolate.  So there you are, flicking away the round bumpy ones and suddenly, there it is under the little ruffled paper cup:  You pick it up, and slowly take a nibble, pause, lick it once more to be sure, and finally sink your teeth deeply and take a very big bite.  You found it,  the one where the filling is a bit unctuous, creamy actually, not too sweet, and oh-my-word, it's a Merlot-filled truffle!  Your eyes roll back into your head.  You're a gonner.  You're hooked.

Five years ago, I took the bite.  So far, the filling is just as good, sweet, gooey at times, but still good.

Oh, here's what I made for DH for his dinner last night...he was one happy dude...:

Fennel and White Bean Soup:

1 large fennel bulb trimed
3 12 oz cans of white beans
1 bag of fresh spinach
6 slices of thick cut bacon
2 boxes of broth--one beef and one chicken
1 small 8 oz bag of baby carrots
2 garlic cloves
1tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp thyme

  • Saute bacon in a dutch oven
  • Save bacon to a paper towl covered plate
  • Discard all but 1 tbl of the bacon grease
  • To the grease add the olive oil
  • Saute the fennel and carrots
  • Drain and add 2 cans of the beans
  • Add both boxes of stock, thyme and red pepper
  • Bring to a slow boil to reduce by a third (about 30 mins)
  • Mash the beans and carrots to thicken broth.  I use a potato masher
  • Add the 3rd can of beans to the soup
  • Stir in the spinach
  • Crumble in the bacon
  • Cook for about 15 more minutes to wilt the spinach.
Serve with crusty bread.  This is a good one.

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