Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lunch for Angela

On most days of the year the beach outside my windows calls up oohs and ahs and pretty descriptions. Some days are hot, some cool and some wet, but for the most part it’s all a pleasant sight, a comfortable environment. This Wednesday halfway through June it has all turned into a morass of stifling heat, smoke clouded and hazy skies, with the stench of a long burning fire and charred wood thick across miles of east central Florida.

Trees and brush drying out for months without rain, a flash of lightning and sixty acres of brush ignited Monday in Osteen, a small community twenty-two miles northwest of here. A forestry spokesman described a heat index of over a hundred degrees and winds creating a hellish scenario. A fireman on the scene added, “That roar, that deep rumble that you can feel in your chest—when you hear that sound coming through the woods there’s only one answer. Get out of the way.”

The beach has been murky for two days, and a walk this afternoon along the haze shrouded beach, the smell of smoke everywhere, had me coughing a couple of times. Lots of people playing and swimming, but not the best of days on this usually sparkling beach. A half mile south someone had spent time creating an unusual colored sand sculpture. Despicable Me. The sculptor is clearly a fan of the 2010 animated comedy film starring Steve Carell.

A couple of days each week I spend an hour or two visiting a friend down the street who is unfortunately confined to a retirement home. Her name is Angela, and though she has lived in Florida for some years, she came here from Karlsruhe, Germany, a small city in the southwest. She had her ninetieth birthday not long ago and though walking is difficult and her sight poor, she still has a sharp mind and is able to enjoy lively conversation and audio books. One of her favorite topics to talk about is cooking, and the many dishes she used to cook as a young woman in Germany. With a cultivated taste in food one of the disappointments in her days at the retirement home is an absence of fine cooking. The meals are bland, quickly prepared with frozen or canned ingredients, consistently lacking in any kind of imagination. For the most part Angela makes up for that with recollections of dishes she enjoyed once upon a time.

I have a sister who could be awarded Michelin stars for her cooking. Able to cook almost anything without need of a recipe or instructions, her greatest joy comes from cooking for others. She is quick to prepare meals for sick friends, for neighbors, and really anyone she feels could use a culinary boost. Here at the beach visiting for a week, today she prepared a special lunch for Angela and delivered it to her table in the garden of the retirement home. The suggested menu came from past conversations with Angela, and for the first time in years she enjoyed a lunch of veal scaloppini, fresh asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, salad with a raspberry vinaigrette, and for her sweet tooth a chocolate-raspberry delight.

I like to think it was a special lunch for a dear old friend.

1 comment:

  1. Really nice post describing yesterdays joys with Angela. It was a blessing to share with her and my regret is that I'm not closer so that I could do that more often. That's a good picture of her. Give her my regards next Monday, please. About the brush fires, the burning smell can't be smelled here in Maitland. Hopes for a nice steady and long rain look like it won't happen here. Maybe Osteen will get the rain that we are missing here.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America