17.1.19

Not my childhood

Growing up, I knew that there were a few food/drink items that the city near SmallTown was known for: Utica Club and Matt's Beer and the half-moon cookie. When I say "growing up" I mean the years between 1969 (when we moved to Central NY) and about ten years ago.  But about fifteen years ago, something changed.

No, it's not that Matt's was superseeded by Saranac (same brewery, more upscale beer). And no, it's not that the original bakery has gone out of business as a retail outlet.  It's the sudden appearance of two new "traditional" items on many menus around town, greens and chicken riggies.

My father, inordinately proud of SmallTown and various institutions and events around it, like the 'Munstitute' and the Boilermaker Race, started talking about these items as though they were around for decades.  And perhaps they were, but not in any restaurant I'd dined in as a child.  My sister confirmed that no, she'd never heard of them until recently, either. Turns out, they weren't part of the dining out experience until at least the late 80s when they moved from grandma's kitchen to restaurants.

That's not to say they are bad or that I wouldn't order them when visiting SmallTown.  But they weren't part of my childhood.  Sorry Dad.


14.1.19

When is an owl not an owl?

Answer: when it's a hedgehog

No, that's not some strange version of a Japanese koan.  Rather, it's a tribute to my mother's love of owls.  Over the years, she collected many owls: figurines, stuffed (not taxidermied!), printed on dishtowels and t-shirts, jewelry, statues, etc..  Here are just two "clusters" of them:


It might actually be more accurate to say she hoarded owls.  She knew the origin and composition of each of them, sometimes organizing the collection by type of owl, where it came from, or which year it got added.  Of course, it made gift buying very, very easy.  On a trip?  Buy an owl.  Mother's Day? Find something with an owl.  Etc..

Sometime in the 90s, my parents visited Prague (they visited a number of times, I just forget the exact date).  When I then went to visit them, Mom - as usual - showed off her most recent owl acquisitions.  The Czech Republic, if you don't already know, is noted for crystal and she was excited to show me a crystal owl she'd obtained.  I took one look and laughed.  Here's why:  


No, you're not missing anything.  It's not an owl.  It's a hedgehog.  Yes, my owl-obsessed mother saw "owl" when everyone else saw "hedgehog".  To me, it epitomizes her collection and her love of that collection.  So when she asked what from the house I wanted written into the will, this was the "owl" I wanted.  That puzzled her, because by then she'd accepted that it was, in fact, not an owl and exiled it to another, non-owl-filled shelf.  

Last week I was showing one of my cousins some of the collection and the hedgehog, and mentioned that this was going to be mine one day.  My father overheard and immediately said, "take it" "Now?" "Go ahead - if you want it."

So here I sit, in my bedroom, looking at this hedgehog and thinking about all the other owls she collected.  I think Mom would approve.