Thirty plus years ago, Mom and Dad hauled the family out to Yellowstone for an unforgettable summer vacation. The natural phenomena were stunning, remaining vivid, crystal images, still in the mind. We have so many great stories from that summer: The bear mom spotted in the creek that turned out to be a rock, the morning we started out the door of the cabin we were renting to drink our morning coffee – greeted by the massive head of a bison: We retreated.
But the weirdest memory of all, relates to the functional incapacity of my brain: At the Old Faithful gift shop, Mom offered to buy us a memento. Of everything available to keep for the memories of the place – I chose a bag of rocks.
Our Granddad was a collector of agates, thunder eggs and other such shiny, eye-catching things. (Not leaverites: Sometimes you see a stone sort of buried in the sand that looks like it might be interesting, but when you pick it up, it’s just a sedimentary sort – so you leaver ‘er right where you found her! Grandad joke!) Withal, it wasn’t out of character for any of us youngsters to have an eye out for shiny stones. However, as a souvenir from Yellowstone… Not the most salient selection.
I’m sure Mom questioned it, but being the little piss I was, I imagine she pinched her lips tightly closed and shook her head, acquiesced to silence the whining.
Somehow, a rock or two ended up in my mouth. Surprisingly they tasted sweet. Disappointment hung heavy: That mighty haul of shiny stones was nothing more than candy – two-thirds of it was consumed before Mom questioned what the hell I was doing, in that, “I can’t believe I gave birth to such an idiot,” way that she does.
Through, streams of drool and cheeks stuffed with gummy stones, I explained, “It’s candy.” By then, the idea of candy that looked like stones seemed like the most amazing thing that could ever happen, and I gloated to my sisters – was admonished to stop eating it: It was gone by that evening, leaving nothing for a memento but empty wrappers and a sour stomach.
That silly episode came back to mind, last night, as my amazing wife presented the gorgeous confection, above, that a while back I noted was the coolest looking thing I’d ever seen, and wanted for my birthday. We marveled that they even put some little stones atop, and again, it never even crossed my mind they could be eaten…
It was a little more frosting than a normal person could consume, though light and fluffy, and the cake was outstanding.
The surface was coated with atomized garlic before it was allowed to rest, while the other ingredients were sliced and shredded: Shiitake, feta and a little Italian blend: Parm, romano, asiago… After baking, topped with shredded basil.
Seemed like an odd number to turn darker, but as he often does — Holfelder nails it…
Toastwich. Sort of an impatient person’s grilled cheese. They had a sort of vaunted place in our lives, growing up…
Weekends were very regimented things: Saturdays we went to the market. Sunday we had church. Meals were more of a production, with Dad often stepping in to contribute – often with dinners, but always, his famous Sunday morning breakfasts: The sound of early morning clanking was the occasional tell-tale signal that cinnamon rolls were in production, but always we could count on an elaborate feast of hearty, nut and fruit filled pancakes, or waffles, or omelets served with fancy sausage or Canadian/peameal bacon.
The breakfasts were a thing, notable to friends and family that were lucky enough to share in the feast. But, so were Saturday lunches.
Hours were spent at the market, grabbing produce, meats and cheese and wine, often cookies at Johnny Macs, nuts, flours, legumes and such at Rocky’s, coffee and spices from Rafel’s. There was a stretch that only the pea-berry Ethiopian coffee would suffice, but then that Brazilian variety arrived… We had to wean away from that. Rafel’s also had all the little bottles of various oil extracts that became a thing in grade school – where we’d twizzle a toothpick in it for several hours and then walk around as if we’d gained some greater gravitas by having a flavored toothpick hanging from our mouths. Also, Gabriel’s: That’s still the best place on the planet – for olives, halva, their red-pepper hummus; yogurt balls…
All the walking, talking and gathering was followed by the unloading – packing all the food into two fridges, including one in the garage that eventually failed, but still reserved its purpose, regardless, though probably less effectively. The freezer was on the bottom, and over time, it would grow massive walls of ice that eventually would need removing – it locked, a foot-pedal used to swing it open.
What followed, then, was arraying of what was foraged: Often sandwiches made of all the lunch meats and cheeses from Hirt’s, fruit, and the desultory passing of the nut-cracker, as we worked our way through assorted, in-shell nuts. Then, of course, the cookies.
But on occasion, on only ever Saturdays for lunch, sometimes we’d have cheese toastwiches. They were received like gifts on Christmas morning – a treat so simple, but perceived so exotic and so infrequently enjoyed: They were celebrated. Irrationally… For whatever reason, toastwiches were never asked for, just occasionally presented and exalted: Served, always, with a sprinkling of Worcestershire. Once in a while, always on Saturday for lunch.
With all the chaos involved in current family life, it’s hard to conceive we held to such strict routines: They’ve all been left to history as we scramble every week to cram in all the abundant activities, though toastwiches remain a rarity – and not held with the same regard by the new generation, perhaps because the lack of association as a novelty to routine. We probably would have scoffed at these as kids: There was a rumor that tomatoes were disliked, and pesto had yet to become a thing – and who ever heard of garlic scapes?