Do other people worry as much about a missed appointment as I do? Believe me, I don’t like to use the Old Lady excuse. It’s tempting, but I don’t want to cut myself that much slack, as I am sure it will lead to even further disregard of the niceties. Even so, I did have an excuse. I was sitting on my couch engaged in thinking about the likelihood of an American cuisine. This idea has been circulating for a while, in particular through Jeff Smith’s book, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, in which he extolls the influence that native American foods have had on cooking world wide. Think tomatoes and come up with sauce and you can grasp the ubiquity of these native Americans—-sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, black walnuts, avocados, peanuts, the list goes on, but these ingredients don’t begin to tell the story about the way we Americans eat. The native foods simply contribute to the world foods that arrive here with the arrival of the great diversity of the world’s people. And we have mixed them all up in new ways that, like our American English language, distinguish us as a whole distinct people, as our own ethnic group.
Mixing these various foods into something new of course required time for the regular influx of new foods that arrived here via immigration and trade. Very early on the English brought their tea here, and their beer. At first the people from England and Holland were supplied directly from home, but I’m sure it wasn’t long before trade had begun with the far east bringing tea and pepper and other spices one of which brought the beginning of a new way of cooking. This would have been garam masala, a spice mixture used with stewed meats to bring a brand new flavor to the people of the colonies.
Well, it’s all worth thinking about, because there is a problem here. Why does it become so difficult to raise my body up from the chair and go about my business. What business? That could be the problem. As Betsy, with her educational lingo might answer, my tasks. I do prefer to think of them as jobs. Doesn’t task seem to denigrate the enterprise, whatever it is, like making my bed or picking up the papers, or phoning Pat about tonight’s fish dinner, so that it has lost any sense of importance, and making sure my work is of no practical use to anybody but me.
I certainly don’t propose to stop thinking about an American cuisine, an American ethnicity, but that wasn’t what I was doing yesterday. I sat fingering the shoe I was supposed to be putting on very busy with not getting ready to go. I really don’t like to be busy anymore. It is a frame of mind that I have been cautioned against, as even so much as suggesting that I am growing older and tireder. Everywhere THEY are cautioning us older people that we should deny what is patently true; that we are in process, that we will notice a disability, here, an ache or a pain there, an indication that we have walked this earth almost long enough. I think that is wrong thinking. We should meet the challenge of finishing the journey head on, knowing who we have become, where we are going and bringing the wisdom we have garnered during this long life to as much of a conclusion as there will ever be.
And in the meantime I will simply incorporate a kind of formal interest in this foods thing, and this ethnicity thing and keep at it as another one of my many hobbies, and if I get tired sometimes I’ll just say, It’s par for the course.