This is a re-run of a blog I wrote in 2011.
About twenty five years ago, my oldest niece, Catherine, dated a young man from County Cork in Ireland. He was here in East Tennessee, attending veterinary school at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Dennis was an ambitious but poor young man who made his way to the U.S. and finished veterinary school by dent of his own hard work, drive and smarts. Dennis was the son of a hired man on a pig farm in Ireland. His dream was to become a horse doctor at a big race track. I lost track of Dennis several years ago and I don't know whether he realized his race track dream or not, but I do know that he graduated from the UT Veterinary School and the pig farmer's son became a doctor.
I remember the first time I laid eyes on Dennis and his brothers. I saw them in Hill's Department Store, in Knoxville. At first encounter, I didn't realize that my niece was with these three strange looking young men, strange because they all looked as if they had walked straight out of the 1800's with wooly, high water pants, suspenders, newsboy caps and the pastiest, whitest complexions I'd ever seen.
Fascinated and curious, I did my best to stare inconspicuously, but then, to my amazement, who should walk up and join them but my niece?
I couldn't believe it! Where on earth, I wondered, did Catherine find these three guys?
Well, Catherine was also student at UT and had met and started dating Dennis there. When I ran into them at HIll's, his brothers were visiting and trying to figure out a way to stay in the states themselves. Catherine introduced me to her three new friends. Lovely, lilting accents and manners. And actually, not bad looking, if you could get beyond their pallor and Victorian garb.
All three of these young men were quite taken with the abundance of junky merchandise at Hill's Department Store (out of business for some years now, but rather like a big dollar store.) For three poor, rural Irish boys, the whole place was something akin to a wondrous treasure chest. But the cheap trinkets at Hill's paled in comparison to the wonders of Kroger's Grocery Store. For Dennis, it was as if he'd been transported to the land of milk and honey. The abundance and variety of available food was overwhelming!
Dennis said when he first arrived in the U.S., he couldn't get over the common American query, "What's for dinner?" Seems like a pretty ordinary question, doesn't it? It's one I ask myself just about every day, as I ponder what to cook for my family.
But to Dennis, that question was startling, and one he never heard back home. He said growing up on the pig farm, no one EVER asked 'What's for dinner?' because everyone already knew exactly what was for dinner. Dinner would be the same as the night before, and the night before, and the night before that. In fact, the dinner menu never varied: it was always pork, cabbage, potatoes, bread and tea. That was it. Day in and day out.
I began to understand the pasty white complexions.
How different it is here! Every day I cook a lot, always lunch for my husband and me and dinner for all four of us. And my never ending dilemma is 'What shall I cook for the next meal?' Most of the time, it seems like no sooner do we finish one meal than I have to start thinking about the next one. Too many choices? All that deciding, planning, shopping and cooking, sometimes it seems like a burden.
I guess it's a burden I'm lucky to have.
And so my inner dialogue goes: should I shop out of my well stocked freezer (full of venison, bread, popsicles, frozen berries, hotdogs, vegetables) or hit the stores? Kroger's, for lamb? Or the butcher shop for prime beef or all natural chicken? Rice, polenta, or potatoes? What kind of greens? Or should I make slaw? Hey, maybe fish would be a nice change. And what kind of veggies? Milk or juice?
You get my drift; the choices, decisions, and combinations are practically endless. And I AM thankful. I really am.
Today, I'm approaching the feast of Thanksgiving, planning what to cook, but knowing that Thanksgiving is really not that different than most other days in this country. The majority of Americans sit down to what most of humanity would call a feast just about every day. I thank the good Lord that no one in my family is hungry. In fact, we're a little too well fed, and our complexions are plenty rosy.
At this moment, I'm sitting at my computer, drinking my breakfast coffee. It's about 8:33 a.m. in these beautiful Cumberland Mountains, the sun is shining on red maple leaves outside my window and I'm thinking, "What shall I cook for dinner today?" It's decision time again; should I start thawing something from out of the freezer or opt for a trip to the grocery store? It's a nice dilemma to have.
Be Well, Good Luck and Happy Thanksgiving!