Often certain dishes are described as being "comfort food." Food is more than simple nourishment, a vitamin and protein delivery device. It's a way of being connected to those important things around us--and it's not the food itself that's comforting. It's all the things that food represents. Unfamiliarity isn't bad. It just is. But it's the reason that my recipe box is one of those things labeled with blue duct tape that should be loaded very carefully into the cargo area of my Jeep. Right there, between the windshield and the back window. Where it should be.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The Windshield, the Rearview Mirror, and Blue Duct Tape
There's an old adage about the proportions of the windshield and the rearview mirror, that the rearview is smaller for a reason. I think the idea is a load of crap, because what's behind you can--and often is--just as important as what is in front of you. Right now, I'm sitting in my office, my empty campus office, drinking my delightful Earl Grey Supreme, and trying to pretend that what's churning around inside of me is a caffeine overdose, not emotions. For the past month, I've known intellectually that "this is the last time I'll do this" for a lot of different things, but it hasn't meant anything. But last night, somewhere around midnight, as I was tossing and turning and listening to the rain and thunder and unable to sleep, the lightning shattered the shell around me and this morning I woke up, ankle-deep in the mud of "what have I done?"
The windshield is a pretty compelling place. There's a lot outside that view that pulls like gravity. But I've never been a complete nomad and I don't think I could be happy completely full-timing it in the Scamp. I need a home base. I need a pivot point. I need to be grounded somewhere. And right now, leaving BG behind me and not yet being firmly established in my new place, I'm in that stringless nomadic place. I don't have a problem with strings. They bind me to some pretty important people and it's the people that's making leaving hard this time. I remember coming back to BG from Minnesota last summer and by the time I got to Mackinac, I was ready to be home. As much fun as it is to travel around with your home on your back like a turtle, there's just something great about sleeping in your own bed, being able to stretch out and not hit your feet on anything. Being able to close the bedroom door with the cats on the other side. I missed my friends. I missed the memories that were being made without me. Can you really appreciate being Away without having a point from which Away is measured? Maybe the rearview mirror is attached to the windshield for just that reason.
I spent most of yesterday packing and didn't stop until I ran out of boxes. The control freak part of my personality likes packing--and yesterday's aha! moment was putting a stripe of bright blue duct tape on those boxes that should go into my Jeep or the inside of my father's pickup (the extra special or the extra fragile), so that whoever helps load will know where to put them. We're fans of duct tape in my family. My grandfather has more colors of duct tape than I knew existed. I got this roll of blue duct tape from Santa this past Christmas. I wondered if I could justify buying a roll of different colored duct tape to color code a different set of boxes, but stopped myself before I went completely nuts. One of my students this past fall wrote a paper on why duct tape was the greatest invention of all time--and I happened to agree with him. Duct tape is amazing. They used it to hold helicopters together in Vietnam, for crying out loud. And duct tape brings back memories of being in the car with my parents and sisters and whenever the bickering got to be too much, Dad would always threaten to stop the car and get out his duct tape.
But what I see in the rearview mirror, out the back window of the Jeep, is equally compelling. I know where I've been and I like it a lot. It's not just that what is behind me is familiar and comforting because of its familiarity. I have no fear of new places and I have no fear of this new place in particular--and I'm thrilled that it's five hours closer to C. than Bowling Green. But it's twelve hours away from people who have become my family in the last seven years. Family isn't always about blood. Sometimes it's about blue duct tape.
Food is completely inextricable from memory for me--not just past memories, but the making of memories. When I want to spend time with my adopted BG parents, D. and B., I'll go over to their house and cook them dinner. I wanted to cook them dinner tomorrow night (and even had the menu planned in my head: Crock Pot pork roast with sage and fennel, roasted purple heirloom potatoes with garlic and rosemary, and sauteed kale with lemon. It's making me drool just thinking about it)--but that doesn't look like their schedule will work out. It's why most of my Scamping memories have to do with food, like I can't talk about camping--or my family in general--without talking about food. (Or tea.) Sometimes our family is comprised of people who are related by blood, but what's just as amazing are the family members we adopt by choice. D. and B. have stood in for my parents (who are 800 miles away) and AMR and LC (who moved to Chicago last year) feel as much like my sisters as K2 and K3. LC's daughter, H., is as much my niece as C. And my favorite memories of the time that AMR, LC, and I spent together have to do with food, particularly the Twilight Going Away party we had before LC moved, where I made Ed Welke's stunning three-layer chocolate cake, which we paired with a wine AMR found called "Vampire." We laughed ourselves silly over that.