We can joke all we like about the World-Enders, but I will admit to whistling past the graveyard. I figure that all such predictions have at least a shot at being right. And if they had been right today, I would’ve been boarding a short bus straight to Satan Academy.But wrong they were because, well-- here we are.
In fact, today was as far from apocalyptic as it is possible to be, at least in our little corner of the world. After weeks of rain and unseasonable chill, we woke to sun, blue skies, and temperatures already edging towards the eighties.But that’s a small thing compared to the fact that Patrick, for the first time in weeks, was feeling good. So we were determined to get out and enjoy the day—we decided to go out to the City Market, and maybe have a picnic lunch.
Taste Memory (an excerpt)
At the grocery store, I wander up and down aislespiled high with fruit, icy caverns of florescence
where it is the produce that looks unnatural.
No odors of earth, not even by the crates of mushrooms
or among the root vegetables, great bearded purplish heaps of turnips
hyper-sanitized in plastic bins, disguising origins.Subtle stickers whisper when you turn the apples over,
Producto de Chile. New Zealand oranges.
Taste is the great underrated sense as a bearer of memory,
its importance secondary to the necessity of nourishment.
I am reminded of the old dim markets I once walked,
tagging along after the women of my family,
in one shop and out another, lugging our bags and carts.
We knew them all,
Bichelmeyer the florid German butcher,
his stereotypically vast belly barely sheathed in a stained apron,
looming behind the scales,
his brutal fascinating displays:
pig’s feet and ears and snouts, beef tongue and head cheese,
a cracked concrete floor with rusted drains.
He considered me over the counter whenever I came in
before whispering to my grandmother,
"You know, I have five sons."
The Mexican grocers on the Boulevard where we bought
masa by the buckets, cornhusks for our tamales.
We knew the bakers, Reina’s pan de huevo,
bars of Ibarra’s mulled chocolate,
the day-old bread store on the Kansas side,
steeped in sugar and vanilla smells
artfully dyed icings and toothsome little cakes
that came in pastry boxes, cellophane lids crackling.
Cinnamon rolls, and plain cake donuts
a staple in my grandmother’s home,
to be taken with coffee.
Then the city markets with their haphazard crates and shallow fronts,
the Chinese woman in a corner stall that I trotted hurriedly past
with my nose pinched shut, the overwhelming fish-smell
that revolted my inland dweller’s sensibilities. I had not yet learned
to eat things that swim.
Old Italian men who once gambled in speakeasies with my grandfather
Inquired after ol’ Sally.
A pat on the head for me, followed by a wink and a nod
that meant I had the go-ahead to grab gratis
handfuls of cherries from their bins to carry in my bunched shirt,
and I’d spend the rest of the day shedding stems and pits,
hands and mouth stained grappa-red.
Jingle’s, the Korean convenience on Summit with
bluish lighting, created from deep shade by their few windows
and steeply sloped striped awnings.
I remember their bottles of neon-colored soda.
And the Little Holly Market we could walk to,
if we were in a hurry, to grab a loaf of Wonder bread
for later, when we’d eat sandwiches or grill melts,
getting them gritty in childish hands . . .
Let me create memories for you in courses and feasts,
teasing out your tongue.
The Catholic buried at the back of my consciousness
salivates at the plain wafer.
I will give you something purer. . .
Empty chairs crave your arrival, as I do.
And when this evening’s done, what will my tongue remember,
what taste of you?
It’s funny, all the women in my family were great cooks, but I was always convinced that I would be hopeless in the kitchen. Then when I grew up and got out on my own, I discovered that I wasn’t bad at it after all. And, more importantly, I loved it. From there, food has grown into a full-blown obsession. First, for pleasure. And lately, for more serious reasons.
Then we went up to the park on Quality Hill to snap some more pictures. And if the four horsemen of the apocalypse happened to show up and trample our picnic—well, let’s just say, I wasn’t havin’ it.
World without end.