понедельник, 5 ноября 2012 г.

The Taste of Joy

By June Harman Betts

Our wedding was many years ago. The celebration continues to this day.
~Gene Perret

I was seventeen years old when my young soldier and I eloped at the end of World War II. It didn't take long for him to discover that my culinary skills were extremely limited and for me to find that his food choices were even more so. To complicate the problem, I had to prepare our meals on a three-burner hotplate.
In our little basement kitchen with the hotplate, sink, freestanding cupboard and table with two chairs, I struggled unsuccessfully to find recipes that appealed to him. Anxious to please him, and beginning to feel like a failure, I tried to find something he would eat. "I can make macaroni and cheese. Would you like that?"

He shook his head and said, "No. I don't like any kind of pasta."

Still hopeful, I told him, "I found what looks like an easy recipe for Spanish rice. Shall I try it?"

He pulled me onto his lap and kissed me soundly before he replied, "I don't like rice, but I want you to quit worrying about it. Just fix me a couple of fried eggs. I can always eat eggs." Almost as an afterthought he added, "I like them with the yolk soft and the white firm."

This wasn't good news to me as the egg and I weren't on friendly terms. I couldn't turn one without the yellow seeping out all over the pan. "How about scrambled?" I hopefully asked.

He shook his head before he said, "Honey, I didn't marry you because I wanted a cook. I fell in love with you the first time I saw you, and I could eat eggs every day if it meant being able to spend the rest of my life with you."

Though the prospect of eggs every day didn't appeal to me, to make this man I loved happy, I would try anything. I enlisted the help of our landlady to work with me until I could flip an egg like an experienced cook. I couldn't have been more proud if I had produced a Monet.

Then my mother, who had listened to my cooking woes, came to my rescue with a shower gift of a shiny new sandwich grill. Tired of fried eggs, I was anxious to introduce a new treat to our limited menu. Even with my scant ability, I was able to slather butter on two slices of bread, place a thick slice of cheese and a pimento between the slices, slide it onto the grill, close the lid and in a few minutes gaze at my golden creation. When I offered him the grilled sandwich, a string of melted cheese oozed from the side. As he took the first bite, his eyes popped open and a look of pure pleasure crossed my young groom's face. Success at last!

Many things changed over the sixty years from those days in our little basement kitchen. We moved into a house with a fully functioning kitchen. I learned to cook and the kitchen was soon filled with the aroma of foods that tempted his palate. We raised a family, became grandparents, and both had interesting careers. One thing that never changed, though, was our love and caring for each other.

Then, illness struck my husband, and we were told by the hospice doctor and nurses that, at this stage of his life, he was no longer able to eat. I refused to accept that verdict. They didn't know or love him as I did. They saw him as a sick old man while I still saw him as the young man in our little basement kitchen. Since I wouldn't give up when we were young, I wasn't going to now. After several days of taking food to tempt him, though, and sadly having to take it home untouched, I was almost ready to admit defeat.

"One more try," I told the nurse one morning when I arrived in his room. "He loves fruit so I brought chilled peaches today." She wished me luck as she swished through the door. After she left, I sat beside his chair and spooned a little of the chilled peach juice into his mouth, and, as with the grilled cheese sandwich sixty years earlier, it was as if the flavor had exploded on his taste buds. As I looked on in awe, I saw that same look of pure joy spread across his face. He smiled and squeezed my hand. That precious, joyful moment was one of our last together.

Now while I am trying to adjust to life without him, the memory of that look of pleasure stays with me and comforts me. I will treasure it always.

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