Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old letters and old cookbooks and Tidal Waves.

My friend Adrian never had a snow day. He grew up in Hawaii, and occasionally school would be canceled for an impending tidal wave. Yes, in Hawaii, they have tidal wave days. When that Chris Elliot movie, Snow Day, came out, Adrian was more excited than anyone to see it. So for some, perhaps, snow days remind them of a bad Chris Elliot movie.

As for me, I think of two things: 1) Adrian and his crazy tidal wave days and 2) Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that old Julia Child book that is suddenly all the rage again because of that Julie & Julia book/ Meryl Streep movie.

People associate memories with smells, and to me snow days smell like French Onion Soup. It might be the only recipe my parents ever made out of that book, but that is what my dad did on snow days. He made French Onion Soup. It took hours of slow-cooking those onions in butter, gently caramelizing them and surely adding more butter. When I became vegetarian, he adjusted the recipe accordingly, using vegetable bouillon rather than beef. It always tasted delicious.

I was at my parents' house last week, and I saw the old Julia Child book sitting on their shelf. It never occurred to me that my parents are too young to have that book, but mom informed me it was my grandmother's, who had given it to my dad at some point.

I never knew my grandmother; she died of some smoking-related cancer when I was barely two. But as I was reading the book, -- yes, reading it, from cover-to-cover -- a letter slipped out.

Postmarked January 16, 1969, with a stamp that cost 6cents, and that perfectly-angled old-timey penmanship, the tiny envelope is addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Kaelin. 1626 South Preston. City." There is no "Louisville" and there is no "zip code." The Post Office even postmarked the letter with an ink-stamped admonition: Always Use Zip Code.

But the letter found its way to my grandparents somehow, and it reads:

Abbie & Kale,
Ever since you all gave us that Dutch Oven, Steve expects me to learn how to cook food. Seriously, though, that's a great little oven. We really appreciate it. I don't even like to use that big broken-down oven we had anymore. Thanks too for taking the pictures at the Wedding. I haven't seen them yet, but Mother said they were really good. Thanks again. Steve & Terry

The return address is 1455 South Third Street. I considered dropping it off at 1455 South Third with a "Return to Sender -- Always Use Zip Code" stamp, just to give the current residents a fun story to share at cocktail parties. Then I thought about heading to my favorite section of the library, the old city directories, and finding out just who these "Steve and Terry" folks were. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow. Stay tuned. In the mean time, and even though I despise winter, I'm kind of looking forward to a snow day. It seems wrong to make this soup on any other day.

1 comment:

  1. What? A dutch oven is used for cooking? Who knew?