It’s cookie and pastry day before the holidays - an attempt to get ahead of the permanent food shortage. Not only must we produce enough items for our own consumption but also sufficient for neighborly gifts. In addition, each child must have a turn in the kitchen, one on one with mum.
Although we’ve been in the States 15 years, I still have a hard time rolling ‘a rebel without a cause’ in dough – it’s a tall order - but Jimmy Dean is the number one brand of sausagemeat out here, and sausage rolls are a must on the menu. Nonna observes our doings from the safety of the dining room table as she paws over a library book.
“Ooo look at dat,” she says turning the page of ‘Snakes and Reptiles, the scariest cold-blooded creatures on earth.’ “I’ve seen that somewhere today.”
“Yes, now where was it?”
“It must have been something else. It can’t have been a Fer-de-Lance, not here, not in California.”
“No, no, I’m sure I saw it.”
“Maybe you remember seeing it in the book, perhaps earlier today?”
“No, no, no. It’s the first time I see dis book ere.”
My youngest son recently decided that he has Ophidiophobia, although whether he has a real fear of snakes or merely warms to all those syllables is still unclear – an affectation or an affection for all things Indiana Jones? Who knows?
I step over for a closer look, hands air born and flour covered, “no, look at the map, in the corner, they’re in Central America and Brazil…..Mexico……they don’t live this far north, none in California.” I make sure the last phrase goes over my shoulder, back to the kitchen so my youngest son gets the message, the fact, indisputable, from a text book. He, the chef, is busy squeezing dough through his fists – it squirts through the gaps in his fingers just like a fidget ball but less calming. I nip back to salvage warm pastry, oily from over handling, on the turn, grey and lifeless, a sticky mass.
“Now where did I see dat ting?” she continues.
“Can’t have seen a snake as it was too cold to go out today – remember?”
“No, I tink I saw it somewhere around ere…….in dah house.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Hmm ere somewhere,” she repeats as her hand circles the air, close by and about to materialize, charmed out of the ether. I am ready for this conversation to cease, but only the cookery is terminal as her grandson keeps a beady eye upon her, just in case. She stands gingerly, fingertips braced against the table for balance as they begin to tap, semaphore over the surface, searching like heat seeking missiles until the inevitable collision.
“See!” she beams. “Ha ha!” she chortles as she lifts the volume in my direction, the evidence in black and white, so I am red all over, “it’s yours isn’t it? Dis is what you are reading!” She doesn’t say ‘stupid girl!’ out loud; she doesn’t need to.
4 hours ago