Powerful Flavors and Memories

This afternoon Mr. Glad and I shopped for a pewter cup for our newest grandchild. My in-laws gave each of our children one when they were babies, and we’ve carried on the tradition with our grandchildren. After we made our choice of cup style and engraved letters, we wandered around the fancy stationery/gift store browsing expensive Christmas ornaments, multiple versions of Carl Larsson calendars, and ball-point pens.

Then back to the parking garage, through balmy evening air, so odd and dreamy. We were reluctant to go home to our wintry house, and briefly considered buying food downtown. Passing an outdoor cafe, my husband said, “Nice dog,” and I looked at the greyhound sitting there by a table and smiled behind me at him while I kept walking. Then, “Gretchen?” I heard, from the dining area, and I saw a woman getting up and coming toward me. I had already recognized her voice, though I hadn’t heard it for almost 20 years. E. is mother to two children who were among my day-care clients way back, my children’s friends, decorators of my walls and place-holders in my heart.

I have often wanted to get together to talk about those old times, and find out how the now-grown-up children are, and send them my love. Just this week I was thinking of one time when the mom needed to talk privately to me. We had to take chairs to a back bedroom and sit there in the middle of what looked like a hurricane disaster zone. Probably all the children were outdoors at the time finding polliwogs or on some other neighborhood adventure such as you can see in this photo. Her two children are among the ones pictured.

It turns out she has moved to another state, and is only visiting here briefly. Thank you, Lord, for arranging this meeting! We exchanged our info, so I hope we can talk later.

As we drove toward home and came near this market, we agreed to stop in. I took the picture in the daylight once, but tonight in the dark I could see it was still open. We went in and were greeted by a pervading fish sauce smell. I like it well in my Thai dishes, but filling the store–not much. I was trying to just pick up one item and get out of there, get home to cook, but it is another place that keeps you looking at all the many fascinating things you don’t end up buying.

I saw the bags of MSG, giant rice papers, rice crackers and twenty types of noodles in cellophane packages. But I snatched up my tapioca flour and we skipped over the other inviting aisles to the produce section. There are usually some very nice vegetable offerings, and we carried a couple of them up front and waited meekly behind the person checking out.

“If you drink Red Bull, you have got to know this is the original stuff!” A tall man with long pale kinky hair had come up behind and was waving some brown bottles.  “Whenever I can, I come in here and buy this–it’s way better than Red Bull! Much more powerful, and cheaper, too!” He smiled broadly in his excitement to share his discovery with us, revealing black holes where teeth must once have been.

So thrilled, he didn’t notice our laden arms, and stepped forward to put his brown tonic bottles on the counter and pay. It didn’t take long before he was striding out. As the cashier tallied our purchases I said, “I don’t think he needs any Red Bull, Asian or otherwise.”

Today I went through my back stock of spices and herbs, sorting and consolidating and putting many little bottles and bags aside for my daughters. Another thing of my past, after the day care business, was the food co-op business, and in the years when I had hundreds of pounds of rice, flour, yogurt and teabags piled in my garage every month or two, I found that I could buy a pound of spice for the same cost as 2 2-oz bottles.

Most of the time these flavorings came in foil bags that preserve the freshness very well. Often four or eight of us would split a pound. If, as the experts would tell me, the potency was diminished over time, why, I could just throw in a bit more of the oregano or whatever. Today, though, I threw quite a bit out, into the garden. I don’t make 20-quart pots of soup anymore, and some of the herbs, especially, had lost all their savor.

Soon I’ll share a recipe that helps me use many different spices, and a lot of them, at one time. This is a sneak preview.

2 thoughts on “Powerful Flavors and Memories

  1. I love those kind of stores, but like you I don't tend to buy much. What a lovely gift of seeing an old friend…I love moments like that.

    I look forward to the recipe – that stew looks yummy.


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