“I can’t be late for my first day back to work!” I agonized last week, dragging a jacket over my shoulders and grabbing shoes as I dashed through the kitchen. I ripped open the fridge door and scanned the contents. What to take for lunch? Leaning forward, I snatched the first thing I saw, rammed it into my purse and flew out the door.
Later that day I sat with the staff of Marshall School as they ate their well thought out and delicious meals. Tasty leftovers of roast beef dinners, creamy chicken casseroles, and stir-fries were warmed in the microwave, while tomato sandwiches were toasted, soup steamed on the stove and salad medleys were spooned out and enjoyed.
I sat with downcast eyes, sniffing the air appreciatively, and was just toying with the idea of stealing away to a corner to eat in solitude, when my friend Gwen took a seat beside me to unload her gourmet meal onto the table. My eyes grew round with wonder at the sight.
First came Ryvita crackers, individually wrapped to retain their crispness, and a package of aromatic smoked salmon, its pink flesh succulent and appealing. Then, a small pot of cream cheese was brought forth, to provide the creamy base on which the salmon would nestle, and a jar of briny capers were snapped open, to sprinkle on top.
“You can’t have smoked salmon without capers,” Gwen admonished in her best teacher’s voice when I expressed surprise.
I nodded. Who was I to argue?
Next she unpacked two kinds of scones: cheese and raisin, a pat of sweet yellow butter, a tiny jar of glistening jam and a selection of other hard cheeses to round things off.
“Oh no!” she exclaimed, scratching around in her bag. “I’ve forgotten the thinly sliced red onion.” Turning with a sigh, she glanced at the table in front of me where my lunch preparations sat: a dull knife, a container of salt and an overripe, peeled cucumber.
“That’s it?” she asked, curling her lip with disdain. “A cucumber?”
Okay—I made up that part about the curled lip, but she did look rather disbelievingly at my cheerless repast. What kind of nut brings one lone vegetable for lunch?
“Yup,” I said, feigning a devil-may-care attitude. I carved a thick slice from my cuke, salted it, and popped it into my mouth. We can’t all be gourmets.
Crunching busily, I thought to myself it’d probably for the best if I ate a steady diet of the watery, low-cal vegetable. A friend, and I use the term loosely, called me not long ago, solely to ask a favour.
“Hey Helen,” she got straight to the point. “I’ve put on a ton of weight recently, and was wondering if you have any clothes you could give me? You know, stuff you can’t fit any more.”
But,I don’t want to subsist on cucumbers, I thought, reaching out to accept a cracker laced with all the fixings from Gwen.
“Pretend there’s red onion on top,” she said with a wink as I took a satisfying bite.
Life’s too short to miss out on the good stuff. We should all add a little smoked salmon to our day, figuratively speaking, don’t you think? Let’s do it!
Helen Row Toews writes about the everyday of rural life. See more at myprairiewool.com