Croissant

Croissant: (n) a rich, buttery, crescent-shaped roll of leavened dough or puff paste.

For the sake of our little essay I shall refer to him as Martin.

This is not his real name, but perhaps if the actual individual reads this, he can come to the conclusion that he’s Martin. Then I can tell a story without people making fun of him personally.

Boy, was that a useless preamble.

So let’s pretend like I’m starting again.

***

Martin was the kind of guy who loved to come up with new things to try and insisted it was the cutting-edge practice from “the coast.” I was never sure whether he meant the East Coast, the West Coast or some other coast I might not be familiar with.

Many years ago, Martin arrived at a brunch we had put together.

(We did not call it brunch at that time because the word was not yet invented. We called it “late breakfast.”)

Martin arrived with a box—the kind you get at a bakery and usually has a cake in it. While we were laying out our eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, cereal boxes and a little fruit here and there, Martin exploded into the room and dropped his box on the table, pushing back a jar of homemade marmalade.

He turned to the gathered souls and said:

“Save your appetite! I have got the thing to eat today.”

Well, we were all a little suspicious. Martin was known for providing oddities and insisting they were delicacies. If you don’t know the difference, an oddity only becomes a delicacy if it tastes real good.

For instance:

He was the first to bring jalapeno peppers—with no warning on how to survive them after consumption.

He brought calamari and waited until we had chewed on it for a while before revealing it was squid.

Of course, there was the time that he offered our first box of Muesli Cereal from “over there in the Scandinavian lands,” which we all tried.

We all resembled cows chewing their cud.

But on this day, his offering was a croissant, which he pronounced with as much of a phony French accent as he could muster. He told us that croissants were better than biscuits, superior to rolls, left toast in the dust and of course, forced cornbread back to the farm.

He brought enough for everyone, so we all indulged in our first croissants—which were scrumptious. (Well, some folks took a couple bites and reverted to their primordial biscuits.)

But they were flakey.

Not that different from Martin.

(And now I jest.)

Also, they were just chewy enough that they did a fairly decent impersonation of bagels (Martin’s contribution three months earlier).

I cannot lie:

We all felt a little continental eating our croissants, imagining the French people who may have made them.

Since that day, if offered toast, biscuit, bagel or croissant, I will tell you—bagel and croissant do top my list.

So even though I may have found Martin to be pretentious, overbearing, a bit self-righteous and a social bully, he did introduce me to things I might not have found as quickly on my own but have become intricate parts of my life.

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Covered-Dish Supper

Covered-dish supper: (n) meal to which guests contribute food, as casseroles.

 When I was nineteen years old I had no job, but I had a music group.

It was constantly brought to my attention that I could have a job and still sing and play with my combo on weekends.

I did not favor that idea.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I thought the only way to be a professional musician was to insist it was your profession, long before your bank account confirmed it. Money was infrequent and when it arrived, we were so hungry for it that often we blew it on a desire rather than what the bills might require.

Because music groups were plentiful in that time, no one wanted to offer hard, cold cash for playing songs—even if it stimulated great enthusiasm, joy and clapping. What was offered—and may I say, even touted by a sponsor desiring to schedule our musical abilities—was a covered-dish supper.

In other words, after we got done singing, we would go down into the basement of the church and eat the food that had been brought by the concert attendees for just such an occasion.

Certain dishes were pretty well guaranteed:

There was always fried chicken (even if you were sure it came out of a bucket instead of a frying pan.)

Macaroni and potato salads were plentiful.

Someone always experimented with a rice dish, putting in some teriyaki sauce to give it “flare.”

Brownies, cakes of all sorts, pies, garlic bread, four or five concoctions with spaghetti, and once in a while some grilled hot dogs or hamburgers would appear.

By the time we got done singing, we were hungry. Also, we were starved because during the week we had not necessarily been able to procure grocery money to satisfy our growling innards.

So we learned two very important procedures:

First of all, you get more food when you compliment the food. If we found out who cooked what, we could center our appreciation in on that person and pretty soon they would bring their pot over and dump the contents onto our plates to “make sure we got our share.”

The second thing we put into practice, which took some trial and error, was to ask the smallest (and usually feminine) member of our band to walk over and chat with the ladies, asking for recipes. Well, these fine women looked at the dainty, somewhat underfed waif of a girl and loaded her down—not only with index cards containing the ingredients for their delicacies, but also boxes of leftover everything.

So even though nobody ever gave us money, we walked out of covered dish suppers with full bellies and enough food to last for two or three days thereafter.

Now, some people might think this is a terrible way to live, and I certainly can appreciate their point of view.

But I, for one, think it is quite charming to have a remembrance in my life when I literally did live hand to mouth.

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Al fresco

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Al fresco: (adj) in the open air: e.g. an al fresco luncheon.

Much as I enjoy the arrival of spring with the promise of coming summer, and the warmth of that experience, I also become fully aware that I am about to be inundated by many different individuals who want to take advantage of the beauty of the season … to do everything outside.

Especially difficult for me is when they suggest that I take my sound equipment and music and array it on some sort of makeshift flat-bed trailer to perform in a park situation, surrounded by so many distractions that it’s nearly impossible to get the attention of a dead squirrel.

Let me tell you what bothers me about it:

1. Good sound needs walls. Otherwise it floats out and joins with other distracting molecules and becomes distorted or dispelled.

2. Even though I work very hard to be interesting, birds and trees, supersonic jets flying overhead and children briskly running and tripping to fall and scrape their noses do tend the eliminate the possibility of an ongoing attention span.

3. Bugs. If you are a normal person who showers, uses deodorant, or God forbid, aftershave, bugs seem to approach you as if you were a saloon and they are determined to get drunk on your elixir. I’ve had them fly in my mouth, buzz my bald head and perch themselves inside my ear.

I think I’ve just described the definition of “distracting.”

It happened to me recently when some friends invited me out to dinner, and asked if I wanted to sit at a table near the lake. It was a beautiful evening, about 6:15 P.M., and apparently the exact time when the local bees come out for an evening fellowship and what appeared to be church service. They huddled together, gathering around our food, and at times it appeared they were saying grace for the bounty set before them.

We eventually (being more intelligent than the buzzers) found ways to cover up our food, our bodies and the surrounding table with napkins, plates–and I think one lady used a scarf. It was not exactly what I would call a favorable dining experience.

I think going camping is an al fresco event. When you do so, you plan on roughing it, taking on nature and trying to get away from the delicacies of life.

But every other time you go al fresco, you must realize that it’s going to turn out to be a campout–and as soon as you arrive outside, you have departed your home … and entered Nature’s back yard.