The Liberty Home Has A Lunch Guest

Keith Howard | Monday, August 31, 2015


Although those of you who have met me may be shocked to hear it,  I was a voracious reader as a child. I know, I know, my testosterone-fueled personality, not to mention my rippling muscles and unwillingness to ask for directions, makes it hard to believe I didn’t spend all my childhood beating up other kids and practicing for the Olympics. Still, the truth is the truth, and I liked to read. True confession.

Truer and even more embarrassing confession: I didn’t read just histories of baseball or von Clausewitz on war. Through the inheritance of my mother’s book collection from childhood, I am also intimately familiar with the oeuvre of Laura Lee Hope, the author of the Bobbsey Twins volumes. As much as I know about Rabbit Maranville and Eppa Rixey, I know even more about Bert, Nan, Freddie and Flossie Bobbsey and their “adventures.” The titles tell the tale: “The Bobbsey Twins Go to the Shore,” “The Bobbsey Twins Go to the Country,” “The Bobbsey Twins Go Postal,” etc. (That last, of course, written not about a shooting spree, but the family’s concern about the penny postcard’s replacement by the two-cent card.) In other words, I know from the Bobbsey Twins how best to title exciting stories.

 

“The Liberty Home Has a Lunch Guest”

 

Today I cooked my first full meal for a real, live guest; a local official—if by local we mean within 40 miles and if we determine “official” can mean head librarian. Anyway, my friend Dianne had wanted to see the Liberty Home, so I invited her to stop by for lunch—without realizing what an undertaking this would be.

First, of course, was determining a menu that could be cooked easily on a single gas burner. While the Liberty Home has a working three-burner stove, I’ve been remiss in not purchasing the plumbing doodad that will make it explode in flame. Sorry, terrible choice of words there—make it work. Instead, I’ve been using a burner attached to a small canister to do all cooking. “All cooking” here means brewing coffee and . . . well . . . brewing coffee.

Since Dianne deserved more than coffee, I chose simply if not wisely—scallops with five or six stir-fried vegetables served over angel hair pasta. In a normal, even poorly stocked kitchen, this would be a breeze. Unfortunately, the Liberty Home kitchen is not normal, and it yearns for the day it will be promoted to poorly stocked. One excellent long-bladed knife, a knife-shaped bar of metal with the edge of a basketball, and two wooden cutting boards are all the prep materials I brought with me to the experiment. These would suffice for the julienning, but I had nothing, nothing at all, for grating ginger. (That last sentence contains a lie—I do have a flesh rasp for grating callouses off my feet, but I’m nauseous even thinking about cross-purposing that.) Instead of grating the ginger, I cut it into the smallest pieces I could and prayed for the best.

The next challenge was larger, literally. For some misguided reason, the only real pot I brought with me on this journey is a heavy stockpot, big enough for cooking a raccoon, and way too big to balance safely on the propane burner. I filled it a tenth of its capacity, turned on the burner and willed the pot not to fall.

Dianne arrived just in time to help with cutting up the vegetables, a job she did with enthusiasm and precision. While I have as much gustatory gusto as the next hungry person, my knife skills result in victims looking more gutted than cut. Still, we finished the prep work and I put the pasta in the pot, having neglected an escape plan for the angel hair once its 60 seconds was up. Without a sink, even a couple liters of boiling water is a challenge. Luckily, I do have a thing with holes in it—colander is WAY too fancy a word—so we went outside, I poured as much of the pasta water on the ground as I could, then Dianne held the holey relic to catch the carbs.

Stir frying was easy enough. I mean, heating sesame and peanut oil to throw in cut-up vegetables is idiot’s work—and I am nothing if not an idiot. Following that with scallops was equally simple, and, voila, a meal appeared. Because Dianne is a Christian lady with a kind heart and a head full of manners, she declared it good. Here, “good” means not likely to induce immediate food poisoning nor lead to later food poisoning.

Once the meal was complete, clean up was easy. As I do with all dishes, I took the dirty items, put them in a large bucket and planned to take them to Liberty House to wash them in a proper sink. An earlier blog post described the challenge of washing just a few cups and plates, and this was pots and pans.

After lunch, Dianne and I went for a pleasant walk, then sat down so I could read to her. I do have a pleasant voice, and know how to turn squiggles on the page into sounds from my mouth. The reading? “The Bobbsey Twins Lunch at a Café.”

-Keith Howard

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