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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Importance Of Being Ernest



Children can be so difficult. They’re always insisting on wearing stiff white collars and combing their hair. Ernest (we’d prefer to call him “Ernie,” but he simply insists) once tried to have a maid flogged because he found a stain that had not been properly eliminated on the back of his collar. We had to tell her to limp for a while to pretend we’d done it so he’d calm down. You should see the looks he gives if he catches anyone slumped at the dinner table. Back perfectly straight or else. He refuses to drink water out of anything less than a stemmed glass with a lemon wedge and can at times be overly critical with the arrangement of the centerpiece, especially if it contains elements out of season or not absolutely balanced. He’s a sensitive, artistic child.

His sister Rosamond (she prefers “Rosie”) is rather heroic sharing a bedroom with him. Oh, the paces he puts her through. She’s less picky but does have a taste for sweets — pies, doughnuts and things of that sort. We sometimes worry that she will become plump but honestly we feel she has to grin and bear it to such an extent with her brother that we indulge her. He won’t have any of that — preferring instead to cap his meal with a slice of aged cheddar and perhaps a perfectly ripe fig.

We used to have a great deal of trouble with Rosie’s nightmares — she’d wake up screaming in absolute terror for no discernable reason, clutching her doll and shaking. The doctor suggested it was indigestion caused by cook using butter in the pastry, so we switched to Crisco and now she sleeps peacefully all through the night like a lamb. Of course, as soon as he heard about his sister’s digestive failings, Ernest moved into the guest bedroom and has remained there ever since.

We hear strange sounds coming from behind his door. From the blueprints he carelessly left on his desk it seems he’s installing a greenhouse for his orchids.

Mrs. Neil’s Cooking Secrets, Marion Harris Neil, The Proctor & Gamble Co., 1924

Also from this book: Crisco Fever, Let Them Eat Cake

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