June 12, 2009

Gary Presley

God's Little Cabbages

I hear the tinkle of the miniature wind-chime draped from the front door, and so I do not jump when my wife’s familiar voice echoes into the kitchen.

"I smell God's little cabbages."

It is two o'clock. My wife always walks home for lunch when the days are pleasant.

"I felt like eating something green," I say as she walks into the kitchen.

She will understand. Food is color. Food is fragrance. Food feeds more than the belly. She will understand, but she will reject my offer to share the Brussels sprouts. Wholeheartedly. Unequivocally. And in spite of my intuition they are God's little cabbages and worthy our culinary homage.

She dislikes the musty odor as Brussels sprouts cook. She thinks they fade to the same vile green color common to institutional wall paint. I sometimes offer a sample from my plateful, but she refuses to spear one and savor the texture of a leafy globe, a soft noncrunchy firmness that floods the mouth with earth tones. I cannot tempt her.

I am no longer surprised. She rarely changes her mind about what she likes and doesn't like to eat, but she sees no irony when she refuses to swallow the idea that a man she labels a "rigid control freak" has decided in his sixth decade he will no longer eat meat and announces a preference for spaghetti as breakfast and popcorn as supper.

Today I've chopped a sweet Vidalia onion and added it to the pound of Brussels sprouts in the steamer. When done, I'll mix in a can of butter beans. Add a splash of soy sauce, a dash of Tabasco, and the dish will provide two meals. For me. Not for her.

"I know you don't want any,” I say. “What sounds good?"

"No, that's okay,” she replies. “I'll find something."

She slouches, hip akimbo, peering into the refrigerator. "I think I'll scramble some eggs."

Ah, pre-chicken. I should have known. For the last month, she has eaten eggs or corn-on-the-cob every day, and this afternoon we have no corn.

I reach for the griddle and light the burner for her. She's moved to the sink to rinse out a coffee cup, and I hear the snap-split behind me as she cracks two eggs into it. I search the refrigerator for butter—the griddle must swim in butter or she will insist the eggs are dry and tasteless—and knife a tablespoon's worth onto the cast iron.

The butter begins to lose its shape, sinks and melts into iron black surface, oils and solids separating, energy dissipating as the bubbles flicker about, impatiently awaiting the eggs.

Butter. How like us, I think. My wife and I are a mixture of solids and oils, a cool chemistry of elements, sweet and nourishing.

And iron, like the griddle. Holding inside the heat that might melt us into incompatibility.


Gary Presley is an essayist whose memoir, SEVEN WHEELCHAIRS: A Life beyond Polio, was published October 2008 by the University of Iowa Press. Find links to his other work at: http://www.garypresley.com

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