I know most of us have been ho-ho-ho-ing and clinking up a storm all the way through November and December, only to land, as we do every year in January and February, otherwise known as the armpit of winter. With nothing to celebrate in the still too dark days, we count the new minutes of light like pennies and book tickets to Mexico (or wish we could), and otherwise grit our teeth and get on with it.
|Me and Elvis
|This year the gritting for me has mass and magnitude. On the year anniversary of my own mother’s death in January, I got more bad news. The cancer that seems everywhere on front pages (Oh Mr. Bowie you were my first love), has come to roost too close to home. A longtime Jamestown friend, still displaced from the 2013 Flood, got an advanced stage diagnosis in her Christmas stocking. Privately, I don’t know what else to do about this except spit and string hexes together. Publically, I will do quite another thing.
Karen was my first real friend in Jamestown, the small mountain town that was my home-base for nearly twenty years, after I moved there in the 90s. Known as “the crazy dog lady of Jimtown,” she was on a first name basis with every canine in town—and that’s how we met. I caught my dog Elvis giving her kisses through the fence one day as she fed him liver treats. Soon we taking morning walks up the forested lane where we lived with coffee and our pooches. Later we became road buddies. Picture two women, two dogs and two Toyota trucks.
Karen showed me the best spots to camp in Colorado and Utah–and the best spots to eat. Our route was chosen by rest stop (for the dogs) and restaurants (for us). We always had a steak at Buck’s in Moab and prime rib at Quincy’s in Leadville. There were the blueberry buckwheat pancakes at The Meadow Mountain Cafe, a place where Elvis and Sophia could settle with us beneath the picnic table on the porch, and the Southwestern Benedict with its slightly spicy hollandaise at The Jail House Café. Karen and I once backpacked into the Grand Gulch area of Utah, carrying vacuum-packed jambalaya from Herb’s Meat Market in Boulder along with my home-made caramelized cinnamon apples and the makings of teriyaki pork fajitas with mango salsa. No just-add-water mystery mush for us. The extra weight was worth it the minute we sat down to a fork-full of smoky andouille and ham-laced rice cooled with apples at the end of a long day of hiking.
Of course my response to the news about Karen is to reach for food. My own mother survived for two years after what was supposed to be her end—all because of it. She simply enjoyed the pleasure of cupcakes and potato chips—things she’d been denied on her diabetic diet—too much. And while Karen’s ultimate fate is less certain, the way forward is still paved with delicious bites of whatever the hell she wants. Food is life, along with comfort, love, memory—so many things. Now I bring Karen what she is craving. First it was my legendary mashed potatoes so good they don’t need gravy (the secret is the garlic boiled with the whole potatoes, a good ricer, and lots of butter and sour cream)—and the chocolate avocado mousse I spike with a little cognac. To my delight, Karen licked up both with her fingers. Next up: crème brulee, Karen’s favorite dessert. I will also bring the Basque Beef Stew, made with a mirepoix and a whole bottle of Malbec or Cabernet, a meal that is as hearty as it is life affirming.
|Basque Beef Stew over Polenta
Privately, I will keep clenching my teeth, but publically and for Karen, who, despite whatever the logic that orders the universe wants to heave her way, has grit enough to let this one roll off her back, I will serve forth my most delicious; I will choose belief