Food. Packaged, canned, expired packets of gravy mixes and spices cemented to the bottom of each no name brand container. Instant potatoes, boxes and boxes of them and the worlds smallest canned hams.
“That’s our hurricane food”, Griff explains.
Survival placed upon these would not be survival; it would be suicide.
I examine the pantry and find nothing I want to feed them. The freezer is about the same. Frozen dinners, cardboard pizzas, ice crystal covered cellophane wrappers of mystery meat, tin foil saved bits and pieces of unimaginable age and flavor. Nothing is ever thrown out, I have to remember that these are children not of the depression, but of the Great War.
Hilda and Griff spent their formative years having Hitler remind them on a nightly basis that Liverpool, England, the entire island of Great Britain and all who reside in her should be wiped off the face of the earth. The family motto is “Just in Case”. Nothing is ever wasted. You never know when you might need that string, too-small piece of foil, rubber band, plastic yogurt container, plastic bag, paper bag, pen that doesn’t write, and my personal favorite, the bag of frozen pieces of left over bread to make stuffing that is so covered with ice I had to leave it on the counter for an hour to thaw in order to classify its contents.
There must be a dozen blue ice packs crammed into every shelf, also for hurricanes, it is explained.
Everything went into the giant trash bag. Shelves were removed, glass and plastic gleamed as I scrubbed the frig, inside and out.
I enjoy the cleaning out a little too much I know, but I do.
Everything was under suspicion.
Was this the cancer causing product? Or perhaps it’s the aluminum nonstick covered pans that not only won’t allow a good sear, but are warped into a flying saucer shape, none of which really ever touches the heat of the stove top. I take the pan out side and bang it back into a somewhat flat shape. It’s early yet, a few hours until either need their medication I decide to go shopping. I say a silent prayer of thanks, there is a Costco within walking distance. Food and wine I decide are the priority of the day.
“Here is the money for the groceries” Griff slips me two twenties with a wink.
Hilda calls from the other room,” Give her money Griff!” These two will be beholden to no one. Much later Hilda will make Griff promise to pay his way when he comes to live with us, she makes him really promise, out loud promise, and only when he does she seems satisfied.
I take the money fully intending not to tell them how much this weeks grocery’s bill will be. This is Costco; the buying will be in bulk and organic.
If these are the fixings of Hilda’s last meals, they will have to be best effort, she deserves nothing less. It’s on me.
Organic tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. Just the color alone of bruschetta can cure-all ills, fresh sunshine mouthfuls. Mini peppers of sweet colors and tastes, sugar snap peas, organic chickens, honey crisp apples, fuji apples, half and half, and heavy cream, real butter, organic chicken stock, actual potatoes that are not from a box, onions, greens, garlic and fresh-baked bread. Imported English cheddar, and other English imports like Jacobs Crackers, Smarties, Malteasers, Jelly tots, Turkish Delight, and Cadbury’s anything. Hilda has a sweet tooth, a local grocery has a british food section and I have an American Express card.
Triumphant I return laden with the spoils. The frig now stocked with edible provisions, I realize I have none of my other cooking hardware: cookbooks and recipes are in Texas. I think of my Molly Weir’s Cook Book, with its funny illustrations and section for cooking for invalids, the British baking book given to me by my mother, with the flour and sticky pages a testament to the wondrous favorite recipes…..What look online you say? I forgot to share this tidbit, no internet here.. but that is a blog for another day. I have a standard number of go-to meals, but for baking, I need at least something to go by. My ancient crackberry, a hand-me-down from my son will have to do. So when I must look something up, I stand most days either at the end of the driveway or walk down to the bay in order to get a signal strong enough to get to epicurious.com.
Put the kettle on have a cuppa tea. Warm the pot, swirl of hot, toss it out, tea in fill to the brim with boiling noisy water. Let it set. I whip cream with a whisk, and make scones without a mixer, each stroke like a prayer to my foremothers, how in the hell did they do this?
I take the best china from the hutch, and wash it first, and serve the tea. If not now when?
The result is worth it. Hilda begins to eat.
She actually eats mouths full of cream and scones and jam and tea. In fact she eats three scones, with cream and jam and cups of tea. Then she calls to invite her sister who lives near to come by and have a “proper English Tea”. I don’t remind her that I am not English, so technically this is an English Tea made by a Scottish Girl….
It’s now I start to ask questions, how did you meet Griff? Who was your Maid of Honor at your wedding? Do you have a favorite song? Laughter starts to fill the quiet now as the tales are told and I place them safely into my memory.
I leave them all laughing as I clear the china away from the bed where we had all been sitting with Hilda. I run the water fill the sink and start to wash the dishes, thinking of her favorite song, Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison. I hope the steam from the hot water will hide my tears.
It was a good day.