Monday, August 27, 2007

Real butter

My mother came without warning on Saturday, partially because when she asked how Lacey was doing, I said, "skinny." My mom has a relationship with the dog and wanted to spend some time with her.

My mother came early -- way too early, considering that Glen's hockey team has been involved in a tournament series, and is doing well, but the games start LATE. "No game after 11 p.m." touts the literature from the rink, but Glen's games are consistently scheduled for 10:55 p.m., and often don't officially start until after 11:15. I've already written "p.m." a few times, but just to emphasize, we are talking about recreational hockey games that happen after 11 in the evening. After the team's usual small post-game tailgate party, Glen has been getting home well after 2 a.m. lately. Glen likes his sleep, A LOT, and has not been getting his sleep, so my mother's early arrival could have been VERY problematic.

So my mom spent a bit of time with Lacey, and then we headed to the diner for breakfast. My parents -- for reasons that I will never fully understand -- relocated to Chicken Shit, Maryland (near the Perdue plant, that is) in 2003. Despite having been life-long residents of New Jersey -- many of those years spent in Essex County (we talking some serious New Jersey-ness about them) -- my parents took to Chicken Shit, Maryland as if New Jersey never existed. If they didn't have three daughters, and six grandchildren, and my dad's mother, and one grand-dog, chances are, they'd never come back to this fine state.

It's crushing: I have been detecting a terrible Baltimore-ish dialect when my father speaks now; the Baltimore accent is all-too-similar to the Philadelphia accent for me, which -- no offense to anyone here -- is just not my favorite sound. One would think "Baltimore" might sound southern, but that's just not the case. And my mother rails incessantly against "you insane New Jersey drivers!" I am perplexed because she spent enough years in this state, were I to mention how many, she'd probably beat me to a pulp. She learned to drive here, too, and did most of her driving here. But the ride to the diner was fraught with stress and danger -- she drove, and did so along the center line. I've never been a back-seat driver, or even a lousy passenger, but I asked her to please pick a lane. She said, "I'm making my own lane, right in the center! I have to keep the insane New Jersey drivers away from me!!"

I drove home, by the way.

A quick aside: there are more roadside memorials along the stretch of State Highway 13, which runs through Salisbury, Maryland, near my parents' home, than I have ever -- EVER -- seen in my life. So, wait, who's insane?

When we got to the diner, my mother ordered a muffin, with some butter on the side. She said, accusingly, "I'd like REAL butter please. None of that fake stuff." Glen and I looked at her funny, and the waitress smiled awkwardly -- I saw fear in her eyes. My mother continued, "Everywhere I go, we get margarine or some kind of fake crock stuff anymore. I don't want that."

I said, "Ma, this is New Jersey. You think people here will stand for fake butter?"
The waitress stuck around to see where this was going.
My mother continued, "I don't know about that. Everyone is serving fake butter anymore."
"Not in New Jersey, they don't," I said.
Glen asked the waitress, "Do you serve fake butter?"
She said, "No, not unless someone asks for it."
I said, "See?"
My mother said suspiciously, "We'll see about that."
The waitress promised to bring real butter.

Our food arrived and my mother received her muffin with a little side serving of what looked to me to be real, honest-to-goodness butter. Whipped, but real butter. She cut her blueberry muffin in half and slathered each side of it with abandon, took a bite, and proclaimed angrily, "THIS IS NOT REAL BUTTER."

Glen had ordered pancakes, and also received a small side cup of butter. He tasted it. "Maggie, it's real butter." He said.
I said, "Mom, the waitress told you she'd make sure she would bring real butter."
My mom focused on her muffin, and grumbled that she had never tasted "real butter like this before."
I sighed and said, "Maybe the water in Maryland is affecting your taste buds."

When we got home, my mother asked, as she always does, when we'd be moving out of Trenton, with THAT tone. You know the tone: "We've tolerated your little non-traditional decision to live in Trenton, but now it's time to get the hell out of this place." Truth is, my parents have not come to visit very often, despite often having to travel through this area to get to my grandmother's house in North Jersey, or my sisters' homes in Monmouth County. My sisters don't come that much either, but have been getting out more regularly in the last year. (Although, both of them claimed they would be stopping by on Sunday, and I didn't even hear from them. At all; they didn't even call me to find out how the visit with my mother went. What is UP with that?) There's a list of reasons why we don't get many visitors from my family; only one of which (in my opinion) is legitimate: some of my family members have cat allergies.

The big reason we don't get visitors from my family is because we live in Trenton. Trenton is the small city with a high murder rate. Trenton is the town full of run down, once-beautiful houses. Trenton is the city with so little going on culturally. Trenton is that place from which the gang members come. Trenton is full of drug dealers and prostitutes. Trenton (gasp) is the land of parallel parking.

Except for the parallel parking bit, Glen and I resent this perception of Trenton, but, at the same time, we can't flat out deny the murder, the "architecture abuse," the drug dealers, the gang members, the constant fight to keep our cultural community afloat, and our quality of life at acceptable levels. We point out to my family how the really weird stuff happens in the suburbs of New Jersey, and in Chicken Shit, Maryland, like serial murders and sniper attacks; burglaries; robberies; rape; ATV accidents; bad TV reception; lack of garbage pick-up; no high-speed internet, and unrelentingly uniformly bland people and buildings everywhere you turn. Blech.

This week marks our third anniversary in the house. When we moved in, we told our families that we'd give it 5 years: if it was too much work to live in Trenton, we'd leave. Even though we're stuck in a gray area where we must defend our decision to live here to my family; and as newcomers, we are dismissed by many city officials, we're not planning to leave any time soon. This may disappoint my family and it may disappoint the powers-that-be. But oh well.

My mom, by the way, decided on a whim, to spend the night Saturday night. We ate in. She brought some patty pan squash (I think that's what they were) and some cucumbers from her neighbor's garden, and we have some interesting cucumbers of our own, which are pictured here. I bought the plant this spring, but don't recall it being a strange variety of cucumber. When they first started coming, and I saw they were yellow, I figured I had blossom end rot (a calcium deficiency), but when the ends didn't rot away, I assumed another nutrient deficiency. But, I'm brave, and I tried one of these weird, yellow cukes, and wow! They're crisp, juicy, and sweet, and the skin is tender, too!

So, I made a cucumber salad using my weird yellow cukes, and my mom's neighbor's more traditional cucumbers. I've been reading the blog of Trenton's own Miss Karen and she's mentioned Vietnamese rolls at least twice I can remember. I love Vietnamese food, but my mom would probably not go for that, and we didn't have all the ingredients anyway. But I doctored the cukes up with Vietnamese inspiration: some "sweet seasoning," which, best I can tell is just sugar water with a bit of white wine vinegar in it, and some fresh mint from our garden.

I sautéed some chicken, and served it over angel hair, along with some of the patty-pan squash, broccoli, and tomatoes from our garden, garnished with some basil and chives, also from our garden. We had a loaf of nice bread, with which, we served real, freakin' butter. Not that I even keep the fake stuff around, and thank the heavens for that. I heard ENOUGH about that earlier in the day.

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