It’s been a strange few days. Or rather a few days of some strange incidents. Ones that left me thinking, is what just happened what I think just happened? I swear, you couldn’t make this stuff up.
Friday night I taught a class at a lovely local cooking store. Two wonderful women were on the slate to be my TAs. One raises sheep, whose wool she spins and dyes (or is it dyes and spins?) herself. She is also a very accomplished and careful sheerer. You’d never know it to look at her. But when she went through a weekend-long intensive – very intensive to hear her tell it – sheering class, she was the only woman whom “the guys” invited to drink with them after it was all over. You’d never take her for one to do shots, either. At any rate, after we were all set up for class, we were catching up on what’s been going on with both of us, and she told of a ram she had recently shorn for a friend who had just obtained him. As she was lifting him (can you imagine?) backwards to sheer his belly, she was stunned to realize that he didn’t have (leaning close and whispering now) a penis. She showed the new owner, and explained it had likely happened as a result of a previous careless sheering. I was shocked. I mean, I love a good rack of lamb, but I’m about as far removed of the, for lack of a better term, nuts and bolts of raising them that I was just stopped in my tracks. My friend learned a few days later that he had died shortly after she had shorn him. While part of it was all in a day’s work for her, I could tell that she was equally disturbed that anyone would work in such a shoddy, ultimately dishonest manner. I had no frame of reference for even processing such a story. And there I was trying to get in the zone to teach a class on Caribbean cooking. I felt so bad for that ram. He must have been in pain and quite ill. But I let the steel drum CD that was playing move it aside until I could let it settle in my mind.
About then the other TA, a darling and enthusiastic young high school student arrived. The first words out of her mouth were to ask if it was okay if she was in jeans. I looked, they were clean, and I wished mine fit me as well as hers do her, and said, “Sure.” She went on to explain that, “We’re calving.” I regarded her silently, eyes perhaps a little too wide, for a moment thinking: Oh God, not another animal story, and then, isn’t February a little early? The look on my face prompted her to add, “We raise cows. My family. They have calves. It’s called calving.” Note to self: remember to wash stupid off forehead before bedtime. I considered explaining that I’m familiar with the concept, but just wondered if it were a little early. Instead, I kept my sketchy knowledge of bovine parturition to myself and said, “Yes. Right. Now let’s go over these recipes for tonight.” We all got through the evening, and a good time was had by all.
Saturday I went out to do the general Saturday errands, and wound up being done a little earlier than I expected. I decided to stop at my favorite coffee shop for a great big decaf cappuccino and some time with a book. I always take a book or Kindle when I leave the house. You never know when you’re going to need to occupy a few minutes, right? It was brisk and windy outside. I got all settled in one of the comfy chairs, opened my book, sipped, and felt very darn content. A man and lady sat down in similar chairs nearby. I looked up, smiled, and we had a lovely conversation about the stunning amber necklace she was wearing. Seriously, it looked like she could skip rope with it. It must have weighed five pounds. I described to her a shop I saw last summer on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence which dealt exclusively in amber. Finally, she asked what I was reading. I held up Gabrielle Hamilton’s BLOOD, BONES & BUTTER. She squinted and read the words slowly out loud, as if forcing herself to utter each one. I had my mouth open, ready to describe that she’s a chef (in case, you see, she hadn’t seen the subtitle, The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef) and wonderful writer, and I’m a chef, and I can’t put it down, when she reached forward and touched her husband’s arm, saying, “Oh look, the couch just opened up.” She strode away, leaving her husband looking around like, “Wha…?” He calculated 2 + 2 much faster than I, and stood up to join her. I am not making this up: As he walked away, he tapped me on the shoulder and leaned down to whisper, “Don’t take it personally.” I sat staring toward the window, with my eyes closed, shaking my head. My mouth was still open.
Earlier on Saturday my friend, Marci, stopped by. She, her parents and I are all going in together on weekend baskets of produce from Bountiful Baskets. Saturday was the first pick-up, and she had picked it up. She pulled out a plastic bag full of beautiful root-y looking knobs, said they would never use it up, and dropped it in my basket. We both figured it was ginger, the most beautiful, unusual ginger I’d ever seen. I spent the weekend, when I wasn’t wondering why people thought I looked like the sort of person to be studying up on axe-wielding skills, thinking about embarking on a sequence of ginger recipes. Yesterday morning, the President’s Day holiday, I started making lists and letting the idea machine whirr. After dinner I was primed to make a cup of tea (to take to bed along with THAT book) of grated ginger, honey, lemon, and a pinch of cayenne. All the rage in what’s good for you now, or so I’m told. So I got out the beautiful bag, turned down the edges and took a photo to post, imagining the introduction I would start before dawn the next morning. I peeled a knob and thought of how I would describe that I even (oh so cleverly) kept the peels to put in a pretty blue bowl to scent the bathroom. I picked up a piece to smell as I reached for the pretty blue bowl. And froze. It smelled damp. Maybe a little earthy. It did not smell like ginger. I picked up the knob and tasted it. After I smelled it. And my friends, I burst out laughing. After a sequence of what the h*** situations in which I’d landed, through no fault of my own it must be added, I realized I had a gorgeous bag of sunchokes. In Montana in February. When, evidently, cows calve and sheep are shorn.
Back to the proverbial drawing board.