Shaun Usher, Lists of Notes
For my birthday, I received a beautiful book by Shaun Usher called, Lists of Notes. In it resides notes of all types from all types of interesting people. Usher claims our daily chaos is managed through lists. It is our fastidious manner of noting what needs to be accomplished or considered that keeps our world spinning on its axis.
While leafing through its pages, I stumbled upon Mark Twain’s list of the American fare he longed to consume after traveling around Europe in the 1870s. According to Twain,
“The number of dishes is sufficient; but then it is such a monotonous variety of unstriking dishes…Three or four months of this weary sameness will kill the robustest appetite.”
Twain goes on to suggest a multitude of meals that he would like to “be hot when [he] arrive(s). Here a few of the meals on his list…
Radishes. Baked apples, with cream
Fried oysters; stewed oysters. Frogs.
American coffee, with real cream.
Fried chicken, Southern style.
Hot biscuits, Southern Style…
At the end of his list, Twain includes another note, “Ice-water — not prepared in the ineffectual goblet, but in the sincere and capable refrigerator.”
While Malaysia’s fare is not in the least monotonous, by the end of the year I crave dishes that remind me of home and my Midwestern roots. Each summer, our family of five, descends on my parents’ home in Minnesota – settling in for a minimum of six weeks. We spend many an evening eating our dinners on the deck overlooking the back garden. It isn’t just a meal, it is an event – a time to reconnect, sharing the year’s events and laugh with one another.
About a month away from our arrival, my dad and I begin corresponding over what summer meals should “be hot when we arrive.” Here are a few that end up on the list…
Mixed vegetables on the grill – a blend of asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, beans and onions.
Grilled salmon prepared with white wine, chili flakes, oregano and thyme.
Smashed potatoes topped with butter, parmesan cheese and thyme.
Rhubarb crisp, hot from the oven.
Apple pie, hot from the oven.
Fish caught straight from the lake, fried in batter.
Wild rice hotdish (affectionately known in our family as “glop”).
Tater-tot hotdish (I wouldn’t be Minnesotan if this wasn’t on my list).
Rib eye steak on the grill
Corn on the cob
Fresh berries of all kinds (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries)
Nectarines, plums, peaches, and fresh apricots.
Tomatoes from the garden with fresh basil and mozzarella.
My mom’s baked chicken with mashed potatoes and fresh peas.
Roast beef with glazed carrots and potatoes and gravy.
Homemade vanilla ice-cream with a variety of toppings.
Diner style breakfasts with fried eggs, bacon and country style sausage.
Much, much more…
The hours spent preparing each meal, savoring flavors, lingering at the table, and cleaning up together are hours I look forward to the year round – certainly noteworthy.
Summer is fast approaching and my chair on the deck awaits me.