Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not Quite the Breakfast Club

Both mornings this weekend, before the heat and humidity became too much to handle, and before most folks even thought about getting out of bed, Dad came over and helped me with some much-needed house maintenance and repairs. The work is by no means finished, but we Southerners learn to pace ourselves in the summer, a season which can start before the calendar says it does, and end long after the calendar says it should.

And we don't always eat first then go to work. The heat can make a person ill, and then all that breakfast needs somewhere to go when the stomach kicks it out. Eating later can actually be a good thing.

After work was done, and this being my house, I was the designated breakfast cook. Although Mom made sure my brother and I learned to cook and clean and take care of ourselves when we were still in elementary school, I've not had much use for making breakfast in all the years I've lived on my own. Yeah, I still rustle up some oatmeal on occasion, or toast, but generally I'm an on-the-go breakfaster: peel back the foil on a store-bought cup of yogurt and eat it with a plastic spoon while driving to work, or pop open a can of breakfast shake and use it to swig down some extra vitamins before heading out the door, and fixing a fresh cup of coffee after I get to work.

This weekend, though, I had to relearn old skills: scrambling eggs (too much milk made them watery Saturday morning), or eyeballing the water-to-oats ratio for oatmeal (measuring cups? what measuring cups?). The toast turned out okay. Boiled eggs Sunday morning -- not okay. We ate them anyway, mixed up as egg salad and slathered between pieces of toast.

Coffee, now, that's my specialty. It was perfect every time.

If I was really going to go for traditional family fare, there would have been biscuits and white gravy, sausage or bacon or both, fried eggs, grits, and probably buttermilk. But I don't keep that stuff on hand; Dad was fortunate to get those watery scrambled eggs and that chewy-thick oatmeal. He didn't seem to mind, though, because he ate two helpings and he sat long at the table, drinking coffee, talking. Saturday, he picked out a DVD, took his coffee into the living room, and watched 3:10 to Yuma. This morning, he ate those wonky egg sandwiches and talked about the movie, how it had lingered with him for the rest of the day and what it made him think.

So my cooking skills, or lack thereof, weren't important. Nor am I going to spell out what was important. The "moral" of this story is up to you, the reader, to infer.


Just as writers are often advised to begin their stories en medias res (in the middle of the story's events) in order to grab the readers' attention, so too they should be advised -- as poets are -- to know when to stop. Often, the best way to engage an audience in your story is not to tell them what to think or feel, but to lead them in a certain direction then step out of the way, and leave the rest up to them.

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