Sunday, October 27, 2013

Carrot Fishing Net

The Pearl, Continued

News of the great pearl that Kino had found and the terrible luck that it had brought him soon reached beyond La Paz. Fishermen in distant cities told the story of his pearl, of Coyotito’s murder, and of the way Kino and Juana never spoke of what had befallen them in the mountains.

Once the pearl was returned to the sea, Kino knew he would have to rebuild his life. Because he had no canoe, and no brush house, he and Juana simply slept upon the shore of the estuary, keeping warm with a fire made from driftwood and eating fish Kino caught with a line he collected from among the rocks. They spoke to no-one and no-one spoke to them; it was as if they were ghosts on the periphery of the town. It was considered bad luck to approach them, and even Juan Tomas stayed away.

Years passed in this way until the town’s memory of Kino’s misfortune was buried along with the citizens who’d known of it first-hand. He became a legend whom children fancied lived a very long time ago. The doctor choked to death on a fishbone and was mourned by no-one, not even his cat. The beggars on the church steps carried on begging for scraps. The town kept on breathing, and children kept on being born, and pearls kept on being bought and sold and the pearl fishermen knew that nothing could be done.

Eventually, Kino grew too old to wade into the sea, so to keep himself occupied while Juana went into the town, he sat and carved elaborate fishing nets out of carrots. In his dreams, each net held baby Coyotito before that fateful scorpion bite, giggling as Juana prepared corncakes. Then his son was replaced by a great pearl, glistening in the moonlight. Then the pearl was replaced by a skull, bleached clean by the sea and the sun. Then Kino woke up and carved another net, hoping each day to catch a different dream.

Garnishing: A Feast For Your Eyes, HP Books, 1987

Also from this book: Cabbage Christmas Tree, Randolph The Red-Nosed Rainmoose

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Will no one rid me of this turbulent cake?


It is said that Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was wearing a hair shirt when he was murdered by Henry II’s knights in 1170. Hair shirts were made from goat hair, their inherent itchiness occasionally enhanced by the addition of twigs, so that their unpleasantness might be a perpetual penance for their wearer. Mortifications of the flesh were curiously popular among the pious of the middle ages, when life in general had its share of painful experiences. The hair shirt, for example, carried with it a living cargo of lice that can only have added to the prickly sensation.

To wear a hair shirt has entered the lexicon as being the action of a martyr. Becket, canonized as a Saint since his gory death, became the object of pilgrimage at the site of his demise, Canterbury Cathedral.

Saint Thomas Becket having his brains spilled
Eating one of these delightful shirt cakes also requires a kind of martyrdom. Imagine, if you will, the rictus of a smile one might adopt upon receiving the gift of such a cake. It’s the same one Becket wore, no doubt, upon seeing the assassins approaching him with evil intent in their eyes. “Why hello good sirs,” he probably said, scratching his chest. “What brings you to church at this ungodly hour?”

How different history might have been if instead of slicing the top of his head of by means of reply, they’d simply said “Ta-da! Cake!”

Creative Cake Decorating, Better Homes and Gardens, 1983

Also from this book: Pablo The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Mother's Day

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Fate Worse Than Death

It was long thought that the very tiny German pixie men were nothing more than a novelty dreamed up to delight tourists and fashion cuckoo clock springs, and that once the penchant of northern Europeans for digital timepieces overcame their sentimental adoration of wooden ones, the miniature fellows would find themselves out of work.

Fearing what might happen should a hoard of starving, underemployed wee Germans take to the streets, the beneficent owners of a local sauerkraut factory devised a solution: he put them to work in the pickle vats, where they stood, in doll-sized wellington boots upon the raw cabbage, raking it over and throwing tiny armfuls of salt upon each layer. A good pair could thus be occupied in a sauerkraut barrel for an entire day.

If, however, one or both succumbed to fatigue and did not meet their quota quickly enough, the ladder providing their only means of exit would be lifted away from the barrel’s edge until productivity increased.

After a particularly unfortunate incident which resulted in the suffocation of a miniscule sauerkraut worker who slipped and was quickly inundated with a fresh load of shaved cabbage from the chute above, the little people called a strike in order to win better working conditions.

Sadly, the strike resulted in halting the supply of sauerkraut to the stores, whereupon German housefraus abandoned cabbage as a staple and switched instead to a diet consisting entirely of sausage. Millions died as a result of clogged arteries.

Today, these events are memorialized in the extremely small and hard to see plastic figurine which can be found buried in every jar of sauerkraut. Luckily, the label warns against swallowing said figure, and offers up a year’s supply of kraut to anyone finding a special sauerkraut turning pitchfork instead.

The Cooking of Germany, Time-Life Books, 1968

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