This morning, we found ourselves awake and up at 6:30, which turned out to be 7:30 because of springing forward. We drank a lot of coffee and read the paper (online of course), and then we drove into town. The best breakfast place in the region is a health-food store called the Local Grocery. They’re a real grocery store, with organic vegetables, local eggs and meat, and things like chickpea miso and frozen tempeh burgers, but they also have a kitchen and a chalkboard menu that offers a large and thrilling variety of breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and wraps, all of which can be gluten-free.
Variety be damned, we always get the same thing. Brendan ordered the breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, bison sausage, black beans, corn, and Monterey Jack cheese; I got the falafel wrap, and we asked for some of their homemade, excellent hot sauce. We sat at a little wooden table and drank strong organic fair-trade coffee. While we ate, we read, as usual, books from their bookshelf, which contains a lot of White Mountain sightseeing guides along with crackpotty and/or antiquated diet and nutrition and exercise books devoted to such topics as Pilates for pregnant women, how to lose weight with apple-cider vinegar, and how to self-diagnose various food allergies.
We left the store with full stomachs and a box of gluten-free eclairs so good you can’t tell anything’s missing, plus a whole frozen chicken and a frozen leg of lamb, both of which were raised by the owner of the store himself, the same guy who cooked our breakfast. He lives on Hurricane Mountain Road; apparently, when he and his wife bought their house, a lawn mower was included in the purchase and sale agreement. The owner absconded with the lawn mower and sold it out from under them, so they bought three sheep instead. The leg we bought is from one of the sheeps’ descendants, and the chicken we bought is from the flock they added once they realized that they were suited to keeping livestock.
“What was its name?” I asked, having established that he watched “Portlandia.” “Did it have any friends?”
“I don’t name my chickens,” he answered. And then he laughed and made a quick, random stoner kind of remark neither Brendan nor I can recall (maybe we’re the stoners; can you be a stoner if you don’t smoke pot?), something like, “I burned out on Portland long ago.”
On the way home, we stopped at Hannaford. We cracked the windows for Dingo, who waited in the Subaru. I am obsessed with not leaving him in a hot car; it was 45 degrees out, but still, it was sunny; you never know.
While Brendan went off with a cloth reusable shopping bag to gather two bottles of cava (for our usual Sunday mimosas), organic potatoes, and a box of organic antibiotic- and hormone-free local eggs (since the health-food store had none left), I marched to the customer service desk.
“I bought littleneck clams the other day,” I told the very young, very pretty woman on duty. “I brought the receipt back but not the clams. I have a feeling you wouldn’t want to smell them.”
She blinked at me from behind large, beige, but somehow fetching glasses. “Oh no,” she said. “What was wrong with them?”
I didn’t have the heart to describe the smell in the car on the way home from the store.
“They were… rotten,” I said. “I’m hoping to get my money back.”
“Oh, I am so sorry!” she said. She took the receipt from me and blinked at it. “Well,” she said. “Because it’s seafood, you get double your money back. So that’s $23.50.” She counted out the bills and gave them to me. “I’m so sorry!” she said again.
“It is no one’s fault,” I said. “Clams have a way of doing that.”
I caught up with Brendan, who was unloading his basket onto the conveyor belt: two bottles of cava, eggs, and potatoes.
“Can I see both your ID’s?” the cashier asked us.
“I don’t have my wallet,” I said. “I’ll go out to the car and let him buy the cava.”
“Sorry,” she said. “I can’t do that.”
“I’m almost fifty!” I said, squinching up my eyes to show my crows’ feet.
“She’s almost fifty,” Brendan agreed.
“Well, the good news is that you don’t look it,” said the cashier. “The bad news is that I still can’t sell this to you. The liquor store is two miles down the road, you could try them.”
We took our bag out to the car and deliberated for a minute, acknowledging the fact that we had had two bottles of cava yesterday (for our usual Saturday mimosas). We decided that this was a sign. Enough, sadly, was enough.
When we got home, the three of us took our daily walk. Dingo, whose fur is exactly the same beige color as the dirt-and-sand road that runs by the lake, has to wear a neon-orange bib on these walks for his own safety. He bears this with aplomb, but I can tell he’s sheepish about it whenever he encounters other dogs. He’s a former Brooklyn street dog. If he could talk, I imagine that he would tell me, “Get this fuckin’ thing off me, pinche cabron, before I put the hurt on you.” But luckily he can’t, and, since he’s already been hit by a car once and yet continues to be cavalier about running toward approaching vehicles if one sneaks up on us before I can restrain him, I figure it’s like rolling down the windows whenever the temperature goes over 40 degrees – it can’t hurt.
Chicken a la Ding
There are very few things in the world that Dingo loves more than he loves me. (And by loves I mean expresses enthusiasm for; who can know what lurks in the heart of a dog?) One of these things – now that I think about it, maybe the only thing – is chicken. It has occurred to me that if I could magically turn into a chicken, his life would be complete. Given that this is not going to happen, or so I hope, he’ll have to be content with the second-best thing: today I made a chicken stew to add to his kibble, enough for the next four days.
I boiled three large chopped boneless (naturally, organic) chicken breasts with a bag of chopped carrots and a cup of oats. While it simmered, he sat by the stove, rapt and slavering and wide-eyed, his entire being trained on the pot. When everything was cooked and soft, I turned off the flame. While it cooled, I went back to work, sitting at the table. He hovered by my knees, resting his chin on them in a way that had nothing to do with affection; every now and then, his chin tapped my knees noodgily to inform me that he wanted that stew. By the time his dinner hour rolled around, he was in a hair-trigger, quivering state of monomaniacal jonesing.
I stirred a cup of stew into his kibble and gave him his bowl. Less than two minutes later, he had demolished every molecule. I was tempted to laugh about this, as always, but as always, I resisted the urge, because this is exactly what we human members of the household do. Every day, we anticipate our dinner, talk about it, plan it, make it, drool over the cooking smells, load up our plates – and then it’s gone.