I have had the great good fortune of loving two cities that other people find fascinating. Both Columbus and New Orleans are beautiful, and rich with history. They are much desired destinations for those who live in generic places where life has a sameness and the houses are unnamed.
For the past week or two coconut cake has been on my mind, and I’m not quite sure why. Not just any old generic coconut cake, but my mother’s. She did not bake cakes often, just the rum cakes for Christmas presents and a cake for birthdays.
They say you can’t go home again. This is probably quite true. But, every once in a while, Chris and I make a journey that is lovely and bittersweet.
Tom Hardy is a friend who is a good raconteur and who has a long history in Columbus. Recently he shared the following story with me. I could not improve on it, so I’ll let him tell it himself: “Recently I was driving down Seventh Street South and saw an old water oak tree, between the street and the sidewalk, which brought to mind an incident that has remained in my memory for nearly 80 years.
We fall in love for mysterious reasons. I fell I love with my husband because he said kind things about his boss, and because my knees got weak when he hugged me. That love had nothing to do with wealth or status. It was an intuitive knowing that this man was something special. I proposed to Chris four months after we met and have never regretted one second of our marriage.
First, a correction and some amplification on my last column: Thank you to Scott McKenzie, of the Mississippi University for Women Culinary Arts Institute, and local restaurateur Sarah Labensky for noticing my mistake on the author of “Larousse Gastronomique.” It was Prosper Montagne who penned the first edition of this work.
A couple of Saturdays ago a singing pal of mine and I took a day trip over through the Delta. The drawing card was a concert to celebrate the start-up of the Delta Music Institute (DMI) at my old alma mater, Delta State University.
There was a time when almost every science fiction film featured a scene where the spacemen landed and said, “Take me to your leader.”
Mother Nature seems to be playing some April Fool’s pranks on Columbus. The gags are all the more unexpected, since this is still only mid-March.
Since my last column I have had a birthday. It wasn’t one of the big ones; I’ll probably have to have someone come to hold my hand for that. Nevertheless, it was big enough to make me reflect on what I’ve learned in these many years — or, if I have managed to learn anything.
I was asked a question the other day, sort of as one foodie to another. The question was, “Do you know what a ‘finishing oil’ is?” The questioner had heard a TV chef use this term. The chef was plattering a steak and told the viewers she was going to put a little finishing oil on top.
Chris and I have embraced our adopted home of Columbus. We have wonderful friends, are avid volunteers, and have immersed ourselves in all the wonderful cultural events that our new home city and state have to offer. Still, people often ask if we miss New Orleans. Some days, that answer is easier than on other days.
The storm raged and the lightning cracked in jagged, frightening bolts. The prisoner looked out the garret window at the terrifying crowd outside. They had come for him, he knew. He was injured and scared, even though the sheriff had hidden him upstairs in the new courthouse to protect him from a lynch mob. One account of the 1878 drama has Henry Wells shouting to the mob below that he was innocent and that, if they killed him, he would haunt them.
We all experience moments of excruciating embarrassment. Sometimes, comments so mortifying fall out of our mouths that there is no way to save face. We pray that our tongue would suddenly grow a rewind button, or for Harry Potter’s “Cloak of Invisibility,” or that anyone listening has suddenly been struck deaf. None of these things are very likely. Stupid comments are so common there is even a shorthand term for it, “Open mouth, insert foot.”
Remember that beautiful weather a couple of weeks ago? Oh, it was truly glorious with the promise of spring to come. Well one day during that spell I was sitting on the front porch of my friend and neighbor, Anne, with some others while we rocked and talked and laughed and ate. From her perch on the ridge parallel to Military Road you can see straight to Alabama.
Oscar hype is a very big deal in many places. Not so much in Columbus, I suppose, since most of the Academy Award nominated films are not shown locally. We’ll probably catch them, after the fact, on HBO.
I’m not a certified empty nester. Having three kids in college who might return like bad nickels if this economy thing doesn’t turn around, makes me no more than an empty nester-in-training.
Sometimes my columns read like a catalog of events in The Golden Triangle. These are the you-had-to-be-there sort of occasions that mean little to those who did not attend. Maybe I sound like I’m bragging. But, a girl just can’t help it.
I got a little feedback from my last column, something that always perks me up, even if I have ruffled somebody’s feathers. This was the good kind, though, with a follow-up story I’d like to share about the postal service “way back when.” (In fact, several people phoned with something to say about the mail service, but we have to remember that in those days there was no competition with e-mail or cheap phone calls, and there were fewer of us.)