At the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea. I was packing up for the Golden Old Time Jam and Campout in Boonville, and I was filling up my food tub. If I didn’t bring any goodies, if I didn’t even bring sugar or honey to make up something, then no matter how tempted I was, I wouldn’t eat those things that make one fat. Smugly, I packed cans of beans and olives, tuna fish, corn tortillas and olive oil, and two kinds of cheese. I brought milk and Grape-Nuts and walnuts. Mayonnaise and beer. Seasoned quinoa grains. And a mystery can from the scratch-and-dent cart that I thought might be mandarin oranges.
I arrived Friday at noon, after a long drive. Any time I felt hungry, I just heated up the griddle, threw a tortilla on it and arranged different ingredients from the ice chest on it. Everything was lovely. The fairgrounds filled up with Volkswagon vans, pop-up canopies, tents, and Priuses. As soon as people arrived, they got right down to business- the business of playing Old-Time music. It seemed the only thing that suspended the playing momentarily was when friends would put out the spread and have potluck. I had a few offers, but I was really enjoying my tortillas.
Saturday morning, my daughter Melinda arrived. Like-minded, in both food and music, we enjoyed the day together in perfect harmony. We had a lovely little jam, tucked back behind my truck, until my fingers started to give out and it grew a little chilly. Melinda and I kicked back then, enjoying the night, listening to the music. A few minutes passed. Then I had to say it.
“I want something sweet.”
“So do I,” she said. “Did you bring anything?”
“Neither did I.”
We pondered this calamity in silence for a few minutes. We already knew it was no use walking to the little store uptown—we’d tried that for ice earlier and they’d already closed.
“What have you got?” I asked.
“I have some trail mix. It has a few chocolate chips in it.”
Well, that was good news. Chocolate is always good news.
“Is that it?”
“I have some cinnamon too. We could make oatmeal and sprinkle the cinnamon and trail mix over.”
Then I remembered a half jar of home-made applesauce I’d thrown in the ice chest. All together, this sounded like it might work. Desperation can make many solutions sound rational.
“Oh Oh! I have some millet! Let’s use that instead of oatmeal!”
Now, I didn’t really know what millet was; I’d never eaten it. We were unsure of how long to cook it, so we hovered over the little bubbling pot, periodically testing the little round seeds. The first few grains I tasted brought a memory rushing back. I was a little kid again, playing in one of my grandfather’s big parakeet cages. He raised them to sell. We loved to play in the ones that had been emptied to clean because the seeds on the floor came up past our ankles, and we could dig around in them looking for lost parakeet eggs. I loved that grainy aroma. And now I realized it—I was eating bird seed.
Bird seed apparently takes a long time to cook. 10 minutes went by, and my standards were lowering by the second. Finally, although the seeds were still a little hard, we decided they were done enough and made our desserts. Melinda stirred in the cinnamon, we spooned it into Dixie cups and topped it with trail mix and applesauce. We crunched without speaking for a few minutes.
“With the applesauce, it’s sort of like apple pie,” she bravely said.
“Mmm. Sort of. I guess.”
Each of the 3 chocolate chips in my portion was a bright star in the middle of my harvest cup. It looked like something a schoolchild would make for a “Christmas Present for the Birds.” I ate until all that was left in the cup was millet. At least I didn’t crave anything sweet anymore.
Next morning, buying ice at the little market, we noticed the fudge display. We stopped. In an out-of-body experience, I heard myself ordering a quarter pound of chocolate praline fudge. I decided it was fate when the clerk misunderstood and boxed us up a half pound. It was delicious and probably the only thing that could have settled the bird seed.
1939 - Thimble Summer
3 weeks ago