The Past Week

The past week has been a hectic feast of picnicking and near-miss food adventures, a fall off the cooking wagon as it were. Over the days preceding the Fourth of July, my sister-in-law with her husband and five boys (ages 10, 5, 2, and eight-month-old twins) ascended on my in-laws. Chris and I were invited for dinner each evening and had lovely, raccous times which included bottle rockets and jumping jacks; bratwursts and gazpacho; ‘nana pudding; various magic tricks and associated bets; a rosary presented by our sweet, five-year-old Burkley to help “Gramma Kay quite smoking;" the sneaking of cigarettes; gin-and-tonics; whoopie pies.

In the middle of it all, Chris and I slipped off to Birmingham for Tom Waits’ Glitter and Doom tour appearance at the Alabama Theatre. The first time I heard Tom Waits, I was fourteen, riding in a Cadillac Brougham with my friend Caleb’s dad at the wheel. “Step Right Up” spiraled nearly-out-of-control on the stereo (everyone’s a winner, bargains galore…something for the little lady, something for the little lady, something for the little lady), and I was sucked in; have been ever since.

For the record, Birmingham is a beautiful downtown of potential and nothingness. We found a single bar, packed to the gills with Rain Dogs and a lone slow-motion bartender; no luck. So we were back on the street, searching for dinner, when Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs beamed brilliantly through its grime. Ever on the search for a good dog, Chris was drawn in and even more so when he swung open the door to be hit with the scent of “boiled meat, steamed buns, and onions,” as he describes. Sadly, the hunched, aproned man behind the counter apologized that he’d cleaned up for the evening, and we, ultimately, were left to theatre drinks and dirty-sock popcorn.

We had a similar miss yesterday for my birthday breakfast, when Chattanooga’s Koch’s Bakery was closed for family vacation. It was apple fritters that we were after. I choose the crispiest fried heap that I can find, glazed in simple confectioners-frosting, and feathery soft crumb inside: an ornery treat reserved for birthday morning, serious hangover repair, or early-morning barbeque-team relief. Oh well.

Tonight, we’ll be hoisting back onto the wagon. Tomatoes are here, and, damn, does this first harvest of Brandywines look promising. I hope my sad little basil plants are ready to be ravaged.

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