A common thread that we find and are trying to address is one simple fact: Holidays are stressful. There are the ever-rising expectations of children to possess the latest and greatest electronic talking iPhone or whatever is being forcibly crammed into the optical nerves of the young as the Thing They Must Have Because Everyone Else Has It. Throw in a few families, some divorced couples, adults maxing out their credit cards in the presence of a plethora of alcohol, and the holidays can be disastrous. I’m telling you it doesn’t have to be. I must believe that.
Since my illness I have lived by one simple premise: Live each day to the fullest and appreciate every moment of it. Instead of throwing myself in the all-to-easy escape of blame and vision confined to rear view mirrors. I refused to wallow in guilt and self pity. It’s mostly worked.
Lately though, I’ve been a bit of a fish out of water, so to speak. The more appropriate analogy would be a bobcat in the water. I moved from my beloved mountains of Appalachia to a whole new world. The Eastern Shore of Maryland. The home of rockfish, oysters, duck hunting, sailing, fine shotguns and hardy people. People shaped and forged by the sea and land, just as people are all over the world. We are all products of our environment.
Moving to a new area during the Holidays while you are suffering a major setback in a potentially terminal illness and having a legal battle with the moving company, who didn’t move us left me drained and weak. I arrived sick, lonely, a bit delirious, and almost antagonistic. After a few weeks, my natural curiosity returned. Cooks everywhere, all over the world, have this inquisitiveness. We simply have to see what our environment is like so we will know what to cook! Surfers, climbers, farmers and everyone living close to the land have the same affliction.
I went fishing. We didn’t catch anything and I didn’t care. I was on the water, surrounded by the astonishing sight of blue. Blue everywhere: The water, the sky, the fish we didn’t catch but saw breaking water, the horizon; which was broken with sunlight hues of different shades of blue, it seemed.
My exploration bug was unleashed. When cooks move to a new area, it is a panicky experience. You’ve left all your contacts, relationships with food suppliers, farmers, ranchers, small dairy farms and your own carefully tended gardens behind. I wondered, “What will I eat?”
Thankfully, due to the connections that all cooks, farmers, and all the other people at the still-beating heart of food and their innate kindness to strangers of all kinds, it didn’t take long to find out. We found meat suppliers…
A guy that makes unbelievable soups. My favorite is the stone soup, by far. A story later on this…
An unbelievable breakfast.
I had a few strange lunches, but this one took the prize. I ordered a hot dog and I received this rather unexpectedly. It’s an all beef hotdog, wrapped in cheese and pretzel dough and then deep fried. Served alongside pickled eggs. Why not?
Finally, I found what I was looking for that particular day. An apple grower. I met them at the farmer’s market and they cheerfully invited me to their orchard, exhibiting the hospitality that I have encountered all over the eastern shore in the few weeks that I have been there. I’ve found that people who live close to the earth, no matter where they abide, have one thing in common: Food. They sent me on my way with one bushel of assorted Black Twig and a variety of tart reds. Christmas presents await beneath their shiny, natural, waxless, local, unpolished, amazing surfaces. Of course I ate 3 or 16 before I got home and they were as I expected. Marvelous. They also hooked me up with a rare treat: Apple Doughnuts. In Nolan’s words, “Yeah, yeah, wow!!”
He’s a happy boy.