Sunday, April 8, 2018

Bad Housekeeping, Great Organization

You just never know who'll be a font of pirate information.

It didn't come out right away (the good stuff never does) despite the conversation being instantaneous from the moment Beau, Pru and Queen B came to pick me up for dinner at Brenner Pass. We arrived at 4:59, only to be instructed to cool our heels momentarily at Chair Lift next door where I heard my name called and joined two favorite women artists who were also killing time until BP opened its doors.

Seems to me that should tell a restaurant that perhaps opening earlier - say 4:00 -would garner some bonus drinking business until food is served at 5, right?

With a half dozen visits to Brenner Pass under my belt and the others not far behind, Beau and I agreed that we'd already eaten through a lot of this menu. The good news was that the chef was starting to add spring items to the menu as of the day before, allowing us to zero in on some new tastes, from an antipasto I ordered (and everyone wound up wanting) to an artichoke and Iberico ham starter that gave Queen B a new appreciation for 'chokes.

Although Beau is not the bubbles hound Pru and I are, he graciously agreed to a bottle of Eugene Carrel Cremant de Savoie Brut to accompany our main course of wild boar shank, two bowls of Bolognese bianco (the dish that had elicited Beau's comment, "I want to crawl inside this bowl" the first time he'd experienced it) and pour moi, trout quenelles with creme fraiche and trout roe. Pru turned up her nose at my egg-shaped creamed fish, but I found them decadently rich and a fitting follow-up to the antipasto.

Pru regaled us with tales of the books she'd scored earlier in the day at the main library's big book sale, a pleasure I'd had to forego in order to make a lecture by food writer Toni Tipton Martin at the Virginia Historical Society on "The Jemima Code: What Do We Learn from African-American Cooks Besides the Recipes for Great Pancakes." And, yes, that's exactly what it sounds like, scholarly research on the subject of the black men and women whose cooking shaped this country.

I can't very well be a lecture nerd and peruse the used book stacks, not to mention doing an interview to earn a living, on a day when I'm being collected at 4:45, now can I?

Sometimes Beau and I share a dessert and sometimes he insists on his own and Friday was one of those days when he wanted his own gianduja dark chocolate tart with salted caramel, probably a wise move since I polished off mine with no need of assistance. Queen B's pink grapefruit sorbetto was perfectly lovely, but not what I needed.

From Scott's Addition, we headed north to Hanover Tavern for "At Wit's End," a one-woman play told from the viewpoint of Erma Bombeck, the housewife humorist who was a household name when I was growing up. I remember her writing for Good Housekeeping, a magazine my Mom got and one that never held a bit of interest for me.

Even then, I had a hunch that such publications were directed at another generation and only later learned it was the same demographic to whom Betty Friedan directed "The Feminine Mystique."

The set for "At Wit's End" was immediately familiar to all four of us, what with its front door with the three small rectangular windows (so mid-century), minimal technology kitchen and a noisy soundtrack of multiple children's voices constantly clamoring.

Brief as the play was and overstuffed with Bombeck zingers ("I never met a woman who'd give up lunch for sex") as it felt, the most revelatory element was learning how involved she'd been in the ERA movement (even touring the country to spread the gospel), back when women were once again (post-suffragette period) trying to become full citizens in the eyes of the Constitution,

Oh, wait, we're still trying to accomplish that in 2018.

And of course Erma had a copy of "The Feminine Mystique" in her kitchen, not that she didn't also mock her own life ("Vacuuming! Oh, it's fun, almost like dancing!"). Catherine Shaffner was just the actress to make Erma both believable and compelling enough to carry the entire play.

Back at Pru's manse afterward, we took up residence on the screened porch at Queen B's suggestion, a nod to what a lovely evening it was. Why not take in some night air before the next day's snow?

That's where the subject of pirates came up and Pru rose like cream to the top of the milk, to regale us with her surprisingly abundant knowledge of pirate lore. Walking the plank? Not so much, more of a scare tactic. The one earring? Payment for their coffin. The eye patch? Helps with adjusting to low light when looting at night. The woman was an endless font of obscure pirate facts.

That's certainly not all we talked about - hello, seismic changes over here for some of us - but it was easily the most informative and unexpected. Kind of like everything about my life lately.

No vacuuming and it's fun! Just like dancing, but even better. Much, much better.

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