Friday, January 30, 2009

Dontcha sometimes wonder about people?

I have a cottage for rent. It is what we call in America a “studio”…one room with a kitchenette and a bathroom. In South Africa, it is known as a “bachelor.” I have placed an ad on the internet that say it is a bachelor cottage with kitchenette…so why do I keep getting calls from people who say “Is your one-bedroom cottage still available?”?

It says “reserved parking” in the ad…how does that translate to a garage? “Where’s the garage” they ask me. Who said anything about a garage?

It’s clean, it’s freshly painted, and there’s a new carpet. I have an exterminator in every 6 months (when I do my house) so it is bug-free. It is conveniently located to shopping, public transport, and only five minutes to the beach. It has a pool and entertainment area. Reserved parking. The electricity and water are included in the rent. The ad specifically states “small bachelor cottage/outside room.” And it is only R2600/mo ($260). Just what is the source of the confusion??

I gave a man directions to the cottage---I told him to come up the main road and turn left at the traffic light on Bay Street, then turn right on Water Street at the Shell station. He should go to the end of Water Street, about four blocks, then turn right onto Bird Street, and go to #100 Bird Street. He said he would call me from the Shell station because the directions sounded complicated and confusing!! What, “turn left, go to petrol station, turn right, go to end of road, turn right again” is complicated??

I gave directions to a delivery person to my house the other day. I named the main road and stated: go to traffic light at “A” Street and turn right. Go one block and turn right on First Ave. Go one block and turn left on “B” Street. Go one block and turn right on Second Ave. Second Ave. is one block long and my house is the last one on the right, #3. There is a big silver Mercedes SUV parked in the driveway,

The driver ended up at #3A “C” Street, which is around the corner from me, is not the last house on that street, and did not have a car of any description parked outside. He called me from his cell phone, very irritated that I would not answer my doorbell or open my driveway gate for him…I don’t have a driveway gate and my bell had not rung. How did he do that?

A few days ago I gave a woman the same directions…via email, so she had them in writing. She ended up on the correct street, but at the gate of the house across the road from me, which is the last house on the left and had an old cream coloured Mercedes sedan parked under a tree in front of the house…

This kind of thing happens so often I am beginning to think there is something wrong with me. Is my communication somehow unclear? Am I making unintended implications? How does one make “reserved parking” into “garage” in one’s mind? It is unrealistic of me to expect people to actually comprehend extremely simple (i.e. “left, right, left, right”) directions or an explicit description? What am I missing here??

Friday, January 23, 2009

Welcome Puddin’ Tayne!

We’re getting a puppy!

That’s right…on 6 February my Valentine’s present will be delivered to my front door by her present papa…a brand new Yorkie puppy!

I’ve been wanting a Yorkie for about ten years…and for the past four years or so, every time Hubby asks what I want for Christmas, birthday, Valentine’s.—any gift-giving occasion—I have said something like “What I really want is a Yorkie, but I’ll settle for a watch (purse, bracelet, whatever).” Well, last week he asked me what I wanted for Valentine’s Day and when I said I wanted a Yorkie, he just said “OK.”

I was so surprised that I had to ask “Are you serious??” When he confirmed, I was just in shock…finally, I get to have a Yorkie!

So, last Saturday we drove two hours up the coast to look at a litter of pups and one of them just melted his heart. Hubby has huge hands and this sweet little thing just stretched out on her back in his palm and went to sleep. She paddled her legs in the air like she was running and made little sucking motions with her mouth and he was won over.

Before we got back home, she had a name…Puddin’ Tayne…and soon we began the process of getting ready for a new puppy. We’ve discussed having a Yorkie many times in the past and Hubby has staunchly insisted that if we got one, it would be named Puddin’—Yorkshire pudding, anyone? —and despite my desire to name her Ghillie, he got his way. Oh well, I’m finally getting my Yorkie, so I guess he can have the pleasure of naming her. Hubby had never heard the childhood rhyme “What’s your name?” “Puddin’ Taine, ask me again and I’ll tell you the same,” and when I told it to him, he liked it as part of her name.

So, the accumulation of puppy stuff continues as we count down the days until that sweet little Yorkie baby comes home.

With all the other doggies thinking they are the Number One dog in the house, this is gonna be interesting!

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Politics and me…zzzzzzzzzzz

I am pretty much apolitical. Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any political opinions or leanings…quite the contrary, in fact. But it does mean that I find politics, as a topic, pretty boring and a guaranteed snooze-inducer if political commentary is going on around me.

One of the things I have come to dislike about politics is the mud-slinging and dirty tricks…the win-at-all-costs attitude that seems to have taken over the political arena. The Swiftboat shenanigans, the vote tampering in Florida, manipulating and lying to the electorate…I feel dirty just thinking about it. So, thinking about politics is something I very seldom do.

One of the interesting things about watching American politics from the perspective of another nation is the gift of relative objectivity. And the fascinating opinions of locals who, even knowing very little about the structure of the American government, have strong feelings about American political leaders. I cannot count the numbers of people who, not knowing that Americans cannot recall a disappointing president by voting him out of office before the end of his term, have come to the conclusion that Americans are utterly mad to have allowed Bush to remain in office for so long! When they understand that a President stands for the entire four years of his term unless he dies, resigns, or is impeached by the Congress, they are amazed…and then think Americans were mad to re-elect the man. Living next door to Mad Bob Mugabe, election fraud they understand…but it doesn’t make them think we are any less mad for allowing a fraudulently “elected” man to stay in office.

One of the things that disturbs foreigners most about recent American politics is how Bush invaded a foreign country without provocation and the electorate supported this outrageous act. If everybody in Africa could see the “reasons” were bogus and the invasion was without legitimate context, why couldn’t Americans see it? By re-electing him, Americans sent a message to the rest of the world that they accepted and supported Bush’s act of international piracy, something that made the citizens of smaller, weaker nations outraged…and nervous. To say this act gave America a global black eye would be understating the situation by several magnitudes. Nobody likes a bully, and that is how America has been perceived for the past five…almost six…years.

In my rare ruminations over American politics, I have come to wonder about a few things. What was going through McCain’s mind when he named that uncouth pea-brain of a loose cannon, Sarah Palin, to the ticket? Surely he did not so underestimate the female electorate to the degree that he believed we would change political affiliations on the basis of gender alone? My god, the woman’s mouth is bigger than her brain…we who supported the polished, well-educated, politically savvy Hillary Clinton would switch sides because McCain added boobs to the ticket? I do not think so!

What was he thinking? That he was too old to run the country and pull it out of the stinkhole of impending bankruptcy, so he could get out of it by appointing a political joke to his ticket? How, in a time that the average voter was tightening his belt in the face of impending financial doom, was McCain able to justify spending a bloody fortune to hang designer rags on his rugged, culture- and couture-challenged running mate? Oh…and whatever became of those duds? Did that shamefully expensive red leather coat ever make it to a charity shop? Or will Palin watchers see her parading about in it come spring and temperate climes in the frozen wastelands that make up Sarah’s little empire? Might be a fashionable substitute for a neon vest on her next moose-hunting foray, yes?

Will Bush go down in history as the worst president since the creation of the Union? I thought mad Ronnie was a disgrace, what with the astrologers and Nancy running things as his mind shuttered, but he’s been surpassed. In eight short years, under W’s watch, the nation went from peace and prosperity to invading a sovereign nation without provocation and near fiscal collapse. Those who, their heads still firmly buried in the sand, excuse and defend Bush’s actions evidently haven’t considered that more people have died in Iraq than in the Twin Towers and just ignore that it has been unequivocally proven that the “justifications” for attacking Iraq were…as anyone with a functioning brain knew back in 2003…were a pack of lies, trumped up to scare the American people into acceding to a pruning of their civil liberties and supporting Georgie’s personal vendetta against Saddam.

One person, it appears, did not buy into the bullshit and that person was Barack Obama. I find it amazing that his subtle but scathing attack on Bush’s administration has been ignored in favour of the literal interpretation of his inauguration address. Is no one willing to acknowledge the subtext of the speech? Where is this “liberal media” the neocons keep whining about? Shouldn’t a liberal media be jumping with glee and making a big fuss over Obama’s masterful message?

I mean, what did Obama really say? I have never laughed during an Inaugural Address before. In fact, historically speaking, I have found Presidential inaugural addresses to be so boring and full of mealy-mouthed platitudes that I don’t think I have ever listened to one all the way through, let alone laughed through it and felt a bit disappointed that it was over! And I got quite a chuckle when the cameras cut to Georgie and his increasingly grim countenance as the indictments against him and his administration inexorably mounted.

“...our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.” I heard this as a promise that cronyism will not be part of the new administration, that the interests of a favoured few will no longer take precedence over the needs of the many. And a message from the new President to his predecessor that these corruptions did not go unnoticed.

“We will restore science to its rightful place...”
The choices of the words “restore” and “rightful” were purposeful, a declaration that science has been sidelined in favour of special interests, progress impeded, discovery derailed. I expect it means a return to stem cell research and a removal of restrictions limiting it.

“...this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.” If Obama believes his own watchful eye can influence the market and prevent it from spinning out of control, then clearly he thinks that W was asleep at the switch…or looking away while his cronies stuffed their pockets with loot…while the US economy imploded. I have not forgotten that one of Bush’s closest friends was Ken Lay of Enron infamy and that while Ken lived in opulence, the people he boondoggled lost their jobs, homes, life savings, and retirement plans. It was an omen too few of us heeded.

“...we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man...we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.” Well, I’m not sure if this references the Patriot Act or the horrors of Guantanamo Bay and related interruptions of Constitutional protections, but I’d like to think it covers both.

“...our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.” I see this as a direct slap in the face, rebuking Bush for his invasion of Iraq. And he’s right…our status as the last Superpower didn’t prevent 9/11 and it doesn’t give us the right to trump up a bunch of transparent excuses to invade another nation without direct provocation. I mean, people have their panties in a wad over Israel’s actions against the Palestinians and Israel has endured years of Palestinian attacks. Is it surprising that world opinion views Bush’s foray into Iraq as a wanton act of aggression, an example of America the Bully doing whatever it wants?

“Guided by these principles once more...” This is my favourite quote from the address, a clear, unequivocal indictment of Bush’s ethics and wisdom. Rather than use America’s power with prudence and justice, rather than act with humility and restraint, Bush turned America into a jackbooted thug, a conscienceless marauder, a nation that turns a blind eye to the guarantees of its own Constitution in the pursuit of his nefarious purpose.

I suppose it is too much to hope that George W. Bush can and will be prosecuted for violating his oath to protect and defend the Constitution. And I feel sorry for Obama and the massive mess he has inherited…had it been this bad when he first stepped on the campaign trail, would he have taken that step at all?

I don’t envy him the incredible task ahead, but I have hope. For one thing, he has already accomplished something I thought impossible: had you told me eight years ago that it was possible for a man to run a clean political campaign and actually get elected to the Presidency, I would have laughed out loud. It seems that American politics have not been irrevocably corrupted after all, and with a little luck, Obama’s ability to perform miracles will turn the country around.

Let’s hope so, because if he doesn’t, America will surely join the rapidly growing list of former Superpowers.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The down-side of pet ownership…

A little more than a year ago, Sasha died unexpectedly. She was a sweet little Maltese who had an unhappy life until she came to us and was reunited with her brother and litter-mate, Nash. Nash survives her and, with Candy, his nemesis and sweetheart, at his side, he did not long grieve Sasha’s passing.

Shortly before Sasha passed on, we took in an elderly Fox Terrier. This sweet old lady never put a foot wrong in her life…she spent her first fourteen years with a family that, when they decided to move to the UK, decided that the UK quarantine was more than they were willing to deal with, and decided to either find the dog another home or, failing that, put her down. After a lifetime of being a faithful member of the household, this poor old girl was facing a lethal injection for no greater crime than just being a dog. My husband, the soft-hearted, couldn’t see that and opened the doors for her.

Last year Trinny, the Foxy, had to undergo some surgery for tumours. It took her a while to recuperate…she’s 15 now and at the end of her expected life span…but recover she did. Within a few weeks she was gambolling on the back lawn and leaping like a jack-in-the-box to greet us when we returned from shopping. My husband, who has been afraid of dogs his whole life until we got the Maltese, which are little more than animated stuffed animals, has taken firmly to Trinny. She is a sporting dog who is more dog than stuffed toy, and she has the most meltingly beautiful, dark, soulful doe eyes! Good natured and personable, Trinny just leaps her way into your heart.

This weekend I noticed she seemed down, and Monday she seemed to be disoriented, staggering about a bit. She seemed to be favouring her right front paw, but not as if it were injured. By Tuesday she hadn’t gotten any better and Hubby and I had a discussion about her health.

This is a difficult thing to do. How do you put a price on a pet’s life, especially if you have the resources to pay for surgeries and such? At what point do you stop? My primary concern was that her tumours had metastasized to the brain or spinal cord…surgery and chemo would not improve the quality of her life, it would simply subject her to more pain and feeling sick. If she were a much younger dog, then perhaps it would be a viable option, but for a dog who is already at the end of her life span, I cannot justify making her last days those of pain from surgeries and malaise from chemo drugs. Her symptoms could also be those of a mild stroke, but whatever the cause, she obviously needed a trip to the vet.

So, yesterday morning we headed for the vet’s office. Lately, Hubby has been taking Trinny our for walks on the beach…she just loves the beach…so when she saw the leash and got a ride in the car, I am certain she expected to end up at the beach. The look of confusion and disappointment on her face when we got out of the car in the vet’s parking lot was just sad. Poor thing, once inside she knew where we were and she does not have happy associations with the vet’s office after those two surgeries. She sat down next to me and started to moan.

The vet said that my fears were justified, that in an old dog like her that had had such a big tumour, metastasis could well be the problem and, given her age, stroke could also be a cause for her symptoms. I put her on the floor and let her stagger around for a minute so he could see what I was talking about. He concurred, then noticed something I had completely overlooked: she was holding her head funny.

On the examining table again, Trinny had every inch of her spine poked and prodded until the vet decided she could have a pinched nerve and her stiff posture and drunken gait could all be from that. He still did not rule out more dire possibilities, but gave her a shot of cortisone in the neck. I was handed a packet of Prednisone for her, with instructions to bring her back if she wasn’t better by the time the Prednisone was gone.

She seems a bit more cheerful this morning…although I am sure the nice fat chunks of cheese (with her Prednisone buried inside) she is getting twice a day are at least partly responsible for her eagerness at seeing me at the kitchen door. Hubby and I have come to an agreement on handling the last days of our dog babies’ lives and if this, indeed, turns out to be a recurrence of her tumour, then we’ll take her to the beach for a final walk, then go together with her to the vet where we will hold her and pet her as she slips into her final sleep.

My husband does not want to put a price on the lives of our little canine babies, but I see the situation differently. It isn’t a matter of the money, it is a matter of the animal’s comfort and well-being. What is kinder for the dog: repeated surgeries and chemo that will negatively impact the quality of its continued life? Or letting the dog fall to sleep…permanently…while being petted and comforted by its people? There has to be a balance between our desire to keep the animal alive and at our sides and the animal’s need for surcease from suffering.

We are looking for a puppy…a Yorkie, this time. Hopefully we will find one and have her home while Trinny is still with us so that Trin can enjoy the baby, too. She’s a gentle old dog and I think a puppy in the house would be delightful for her…she loves snuggling up with the Maltese when they allow it. We are trying to enjoy her as much as we can, but I can’t shake the Sword of Damocles I see hanging over her head. Fifteen is the expected life span of these dogs and she has reached it. Hopefully, she’ll go on a few more years…she’s not frail or fragile or incontinent or anything like that…and her life will be a happy one as she continues to enrich ours,

But if she doesn’t, then we embark upon the hardest part of being pet owners…letting them go for their sake instead of keeping them on for our own.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sweet Violet and the Attack Vac

This past weekend was hot…so hot that even in my air conditioned bedroom, I was wearing a light cotton nightgown in the middle of the day. It was one of those things I bought in the States in anticipation of the hot summer weather, a thin white cotton chemise-type ankle-length gown with eyelet straps, a light, floaty concoction designed for maximum air flow.

Like most places, Cape Town has its weather peculiarities. Our most famous one is the “Cape Doctor,” a stiff wind that is the bane of hairdressers everywhere, but the darling of the wind and kite surfers. This is no wussy breeze, mind you…the Cape Doctor not only blows your cares away, it has also been known to blow roofs off garden storage buildings (known as “wendy houses” here) and take the make-shift tops off the shacks of the poor. It’s a powerful wind and if you’re smart, you keep your windows closed during its visits…not only does it blow dust and debris into your house, it will actually blow things off window sills!

And so it was on Saturday morning: Hubby was in the shower and I was checking email when I heard the unmistakeable sound of breaking glass. Concerned that he had broken something in the shower, I slipped on my sandals and checked up on him…no glass.

“Sounds like it came from the loo,” he said and, sure enough, there on the floor of the loo lay one of my African violets, the water catching bowl in shards all around it. I picked up the larger pieces and, when Hubby was done with his shower, sent him to the guest room to fetch the vacuum.

Now, you have to understand about this vac…Hubby had it before I moved here and, since I don’t have to use it (one of the perks of having a maid), I’ve never agitated for a smaller, easier-to-manage one. It is a massive canister vac, the kind that will suck up dirt and water and any passing 747 that may wander into its space. It’s huge, heavy, unwieldy, ungainly, and difficult to move about, despite having more wheels than a semi. I hate the thing but, since the maid was off and I am the back-up household management person…and glass on a floor where we walk barefoot in the dark of night is not something to leave until she returns…it fell to me to get the floor safe enough for naked feet.

Hubby plugged it in and went back to his retreat. I looked for the “on” switch but couldn’t find it. I felt around on top of the body of the machine and found a likely depression in the plastic housing…but the only thing I got out of pressing it was a broken nail. The machine stood in the hallway, its black plastic hide gleaming evilly as it counted its first point against the puny human.

I am not a person to be put off by machines. I firmly believe we are their masters and when one takes it upon itself to challenge my dominance, I get unhappy with it…and determined to prevail. I mended my broken nail and then called in the big guns…my husband, the mechanical engineer.

So well-concealed was the on-switch, Hubby actually had to turn the light on in the hall and spin the beast around several times to locate it. I stood by, wand in hand, the head poised over several glittery shards of glass, as the monster roared to life. I made the first pass over the broken glass and the wand came apart in my hands, the left hand holding the wand and head, the right hand holding the hose…which was diligently trying to eat my nightgown!

It had sucked up a bit of fabric near my midriff and was eagerly chowing it down. Startled, I dropped the wand and pulled the fabric loose, only to have the fiend snatch the hem and start slurping down the entire skirt like a spaghetti noodle. Again, I dragged metres of fabric from its gullet but before I could put the wand back over its gaping maw, it attacked again. This time it seized a bit near my knee and greedily gobbled it down, pulling the gown snug against my ample torso.

My husband stood there, rapt. He neither turned off the machine nor tried to rescue me from its clutches. I suspect he was caught in the kind of hypnotic paralysis that a cobra’s victim experiences…knowledge of the impending danger but powerless to flee. And it happened fast: all three attacks in less than a minute! Eventually I managed to muzzle the brute by clapping the wand over its rapacious snout and compelling it to do what it was supposed to do in the first place: suck up the glass shards from the floor.

Ten minutes later Hubby had returned the beast to its lair and I was comforting the poor violet that had been so unceremoniously dashed to the floor. Fortunately, it was the sturdiest of the three on the window sill, so it gratefully soaked up some fresh water, shrugged off a few crushed leaves and, in the morning, popped a few buds into bloom for me.

So, I have been contemplating buying a new vacuum…one of those small stick vacs that aren’t much bigger than a broom and don’t have a separate wand to be suddenly cast off in preparation for attack. I’ve got my eye on a cute little thing they’ve been advertising on TV…it’s called The Shark…

Monday, January 05, 2009

Eggs should not be crunchy!

I’ve never been particularly picky about what I eat…fish, organ meats, slimy greens, and yellow squash notwithstanding…but I will own up to being a bit choosy about how some foods are prepared. I don’t think my mother was truly a bad cook…she did turn out some excellent fare from time to time…but she was a lazy, unimaginative and disinterested cook, which put her offerings on the same level as those who were bad cooks.

My mother liked to fry things. She had a massive cast iron skillet in which she prepared everything from “Swiss Steak” (a round steak boiled in tomato soup until it was well done and tough as leather) to “Glop” (undrained fried, crumbled ground beef…lowest cost, highest fat content…mixed with a can of pork and beans, ladled over dry toast). On the stove she kept a kitschy little 3-piece brushed aluminium-and-pink plastic set of containers, one labelled “salt”, one labelled “pepper,” and the third labelled “grease.” I kid you not.

Anything my mother fried was fried in grease from that can. If there wasn’t enough grease, she would add a few gobs of shortening, which was always the cheapest Crisco substitute she could find. And the can was never emptied out and cleaned and filled with “fresh” grease. Only the inner lid, a disk full of fine holes intended to strain out solid bits, was ever washed. Did it get rancid? Of course. Did it make any difference? Of course not.

She seldom cooked breakfast, so her mangled version of fried or scrambled eggs seldom crossed my plate. And just as well, since she took umbrage at my food peculiarities, like cutting all the fat off a piece of meat or forking out the gelatinous pieces of pork fat from the beans before I ate them. I neither salted nor peppered my food, her efforts at the stove being more than sufficient. But once in a while we had breakfast for dinner and that was when, if I could get away with it, I would develop a horrific stomach ache just before dinner and go to bed with nothing but dry toast on my stomach.

Breakfast, at my mother’s hands, was a horrifying affair. Fatty bacon (streaky bacon, for non-Americans…and more streak than bacon) would be fried long enough to render out a good amount of grease, but not long enough to crisp the fat. Floppy slices of bacon with rubbery bits of greasy fat attached would be drained on paper, and the fat remaining in the pan would be further heated until it was sizzling and crackling. Mother then would break eggs into this seething vat of boiling grease and you could hear a roar of crackling as the cold, wet eggs dropped into the roiling fat. Grease would spatter everywhere, usually eliciting a curse or two from the cook, and she would set to work splashing hot grease all over the tops of the eggs to thoroughly cook them. The result was, invariably, tragic.

Have you ever eaten eggs you could not chew? Seriously…have you ever had eggs put in front of you that you were unable to chew? To this day I have never understood why the bacon got the benefit of a few minutes draining on absorbent paper and those eggs did not. Glistening with grease and flecked with burnt bits of bacon that had been floating in the grease, yolks runny and the edges crisp and brown, the eggs could not be cut even with knife and fork. Since the rule in our house was you at whatever Mother put on your plate, breakfast-for-dinner was a horrifying prospect. Rubbery bacon with the fat still uncooked and oozing grease with each grinding of the teeth, crisp eggs floating in a pool of fat, the edges brown and chewy, the underside a stiff, browned, almost plastic sheet, the whites overdone and strongly flavoured, the yolks undercooked and runny…it’s a wonder I can face an egg today!

Scrambled eggs were no better. Into that same overheated grease were tossed a couple of eggs that were then vigorously stirred with a fork until they were crumbly. Swimming in brown grease, they, too, were delivered to table without benefit of draining, so they sat in a slippery pool, their oily fat winking hideously up at me in the harsh kitchen light.

My mother was a person of little patience and therein laid the source of her problems in the kitchen. Whatever was not fried to cinders or boiled into limp greyness was pressure cooked into a colourless mass. Foods requiring patience and finesse never graced our table: homemade soups and stews were rare, casseroles unheard of, and roasts completely unknown. If it couldn’t be boiled, fried, or rendered unrecognizable in the pressure cooker, we didn’t eat it.

In self-defence, at the age of seven, I began to cook. And I started with eggs. I would drag a chair up to the stove, and because my little fingers had trouble cracking eggs without scatter shards of the shell into the pan, I cracked them into a cup where I could fish the shell fragments out before putting the eggs into the pan. I would take a bit of butter (margarine, actually…Mother was too tight to buy anything but the cheapest margarine in the store and then watch its consumption like a hawk) and slowly melt it in the big skillet, waiting until it was liquid but not browned. I would slip the eggs into the butter slowly and let them cook. Because I wasn’t big enough to flip an egg over with any degree of skill or accuracy, I broke the yolks so they could cook through, then delivered the egg to a plate with a piece of dry toast on it…Mother would never know I used the butter for cooking the eggs rather than to butter my toast!

It took a while to master, but I quickly realized that a really good egg had soft edges, was cooked clear through, and actually did not taste like rancid grease. It also had a lovely, delicate flavour when allowed to stand alone and not buried in salt, pepper, burnt flecks of bacon and floating in a puddle of fat. Over time, I branched out into preparing other things for myself, although I never did find acceptable ways to prepare offal or most fish. Greens, I eventually found, were often palatable in salads and yellow squash made an acceptable substitute for pumpkin in pies.

But eggs were one of my first epiphanies of self-reliance: I not only could do for myself, I was capable of doing better than my mother. I was, of course, smart enough to refrain from revealing this information to my mother lest I find breakfast for the whole family dumped on my young shoulders…I was already responsible for cleaning the kitchen after dinner each night and minding my younger, bigger brother after school…I didn’t need more chores!

My husband tells me that I am the best breakfast cook he has ever known. No matter how good the breakfasts are at our various Sunday morning places, he always says mine are the best he has eaten. And he agrees with my breakfast mantra: Eggs are not supposed to be crunchy!