Friday, January 05, 2007

Cats Will Be Cats

Hoonah is a small Tlingit village of 860 in Southeast Alaska. When my friend Marion was growing up there in the 50s, there was a general store, which carried everything. Supplies were brought in by boat or plane, as they still are in all but a very few communities in this region, since we are not connected to anywhere by road. People planned their grocery buying carefully, making certain that they told the store owner if they were going to be needing anything unusual so that he could order it. If the weather was bad and the barge couldn't get in, you became less and less able to get first unusual and then common items, as the store sold out.

When Marion was in fifth or sixth grade, a high school basketball team from a rival community came to play the Hoonah team. Marion's father had informed her mother that he was inviting the coach of the rival team for dinner, and she had purchased groceries to feed him. Then, three hours before dinner, her husband sent a boy with a note telling her that he had invited the entire team.

Desperately, she searched her pantry for food that could be prepared to feed a dozen teen aged boys. She sent Marion to neighbors to borrow anything that they could spare. I believe she decided on a kind of buffet where people could build their own meal from a number of items, each in small supply, that she had managed to beg and root out. The one item that she had been able to produce enough of for everyone was a Jello salad with mayonnaise on top, which she had seen a picture of in a woman's magazine and which, for rural Alaska, would give the entire meal a sense of sophistication seldom rivaled. As her mother set the rest of the food out on the table, Marion added the dollops of mayonnaise to the individual Jello salads, and then began carrying other dishes out. Marion's dad, with the coach and team, arrived before they were finished setting the table, and of course Marion and her mother stopped what they were doing and greeted their guests. When they went back into the kitchen to get the salads they discovered that the cat had licked the mayonnaise off all of them. Marion went to all of the neighbors but was unable to find enough mayonnaise. And so the Jello salads were served without their sophisticated topping.

When I heard this story, I thought of the time that Julie had made lemon meringue pie for my dad for his birthday. Now, Daddy loved lemon meringue and Julie made it for him every birthday, Christmas, and Father's Day. With my fudge, which he also loved, it made for gifts that always pleased -- both because he liked the food and because he really appreciated the fact that we had cooked for him. This particular year, Julie made a lovely pie and left it on the counter to cool. And when she went back into the kitchen -- the cat had licked all of the meringue off, leaving the lemon base unharmed. And I hate to admit it, but we had so little time before we were taking it over, that Julie just re-meringued it.

8 comments:

KelliAmanda said...

Ha! What's a little cat spit between family, right?

Anvilcloud said...

Rocks likes to share our food and has been known to take candies form the dish, but he's never done anyhting like that. He prefers candy and salty snacks to mayo and meringue, I guess. And toast; he likes toast. Don't forget the cheese either.

Always Question said...

What? Re-meringuing is bad?

J said...

Poor Grandpa! He never knew. ;)

kenju said...

Too funny! I have set the table for dinner, called mr. kenju, and when he delayed in getting there, I have had to swat the cat off the table where I caught her hungrily licking whatever meat was on the plate. I didn't tell him....LOL

Ginnie said...

This Christman one of my sons brought taco chips and dips of cheese and salsa. We had it out on the cocktail table and went off to welcome the other guests. When we went back in the living room we found the salsa and chips there but just a "licked-clean" bowl where the cheese dip had been. Our culprit was his dog, not a cat...but the principle is the same.

Kay Dennison said...

Is it okay if I laugh? When my kids were growing up, we had cats but, amazingly enough, they never bothered our food. What a great story!!!

Mary Lou said...

LOLOL I have sooo been there! My husband refused to eat off any dish that an animal had, and I always made sure that he never knew how many things were in the cats mouth before they were in his!