© Another Day in the Country

I grew up in a family, especially my mother, who knew how to make do. Her creativity seemed to blossom when the chips were down and without even realizing it, I followed in her footsteps. Didn’t everyone make do?

It was a rude awakening, when I discovered that not everyone did. Making do was not transmitted in the genes, as I’d formerly thought. My very own sister, flesh and blood, did NOT like making do — in fact she was dead set against it. While I thrived on a little hardship, priding myself in survival; she insists that is not enough and insists on thriving.

And here we came from the same family, albeit 12 years apart. While I make substitutions easily, she insists — demands — the real thing, with the authentic brand name!

There is something of the scout mentality in me. I enjoy a challenge — even silly challenges like the electricity going out. At times like these, my make-do mentality comes roaring to the rescue and my kids grew up thinking that cooking in the fireplace was fun and Make-Do Me was always just a little disappointed if the lights flared up again too quickly.

You can see how coming to the country, sans so many of the city’s amenities, was just my cup of tea; whereas, while it was my sister’s bright idea, it didn’t fit her innate nature quite so handily. If a recipe calls for sour cream and I don’t have any on hand, I’ll just squeeze a little lemon (or lime, as the case may be) into cream or whole milk and I’ve got what I need. Not my sister. “It’s not just the brand,” she defends, “it’s got to have the right consistency.”

Jess was going through one of my magazines the other evening, trying out the recipes in her mind. We always seem to do this perusal late in the evening when we’re not supposed to be eating — after 7.

“Oh here’s a good one,” she murmured, mentally licking her lips. “Can I borrow this magazine?” she asked. “We should make these for Sunday morning breakfast.”

Now Sunday morning breakfast is one of the institutions we began after coming to the country. On every Sunday morning, come rain or shine, we eat breakfast together. It’s a ritual. She comes walking across the street with a bowl of something or other in her hand, often waffle or pancake batter, sometimes biscuit dough, and meanwhile I’ve made the coffee, set the table, and either turned on the oven or set out the grill. We eat our breakfast leisurely and then watch The Sunday Morning Show (which I’ve prerecorded so we can fast forward through the commercials.) It’s idyllic. We look forward to it.

The lemon crepes, pictured in the magazine, would be perfect for breakfast.

“Oh, no,” said Jess. “I don’t have lemons. Do you?”

I didn’t.

“I’ve got limes,” I said, “they’ll work.”

They will not, Jess insisted.

“Citrus is citrus,” I said, not letting the horror on her face stop me, “furthermore, my limes are as big as lemons and some are turning yellow. They need to be used.”

“You are always making substitutions,” she countered, figuratively throwing her hands in the air. “Remember the elk meat!”

I did. It happened several years ago. I may have already confessed this transgression; but we were making a Mardi Gras dinner for our then-contractor and his family. This was going to be authentic (according to my sister’s standards). We had purchased a recipe book just for the occasion and actually every herb known to man from Dillon’s in Salina because Jessica was intent on making real Cajun stock — not just light stock but dark, as well. We decided, as the meat dish, on a recipe that called for lamb (which we didn’t have) and I suggested, “Why not use those elk steaks that John brought us?”

My sister was horrified already because earlier some recipe that called for simmer, I’d suggested nuking it in the micro-wave because, “it gets hot, one way or the other.”

“You know,” she said with that superior tone, even though she — not me — was the one raised strictly vegetarian, “the subtleties of meat-eating just escape you.”

What did we have for breakfast Sunday morning? We had yummy buttermilk pancakes.

“Don’t start,” my sister cautioned as she came into the kitchen. “That recipe called for lemons! You not only needed lemon juice but lemon zest! And lemon curd. Even yellow limes wouldn’t cut it!”

She had that certain tone and the look in the eye that would not tolerate making do. Ah, well, there’s always another day in the country and I’ve got a week to remember to buy lemons!

And clarifications

Brenda Casanova’s last name was misspelled in information about a photo by Casanova of a dust-obscured sunset at Marion County Park and Lake.

 

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