Sunday, May 26, 2002

Whatever is that delicious smell?

Brace yourselves, children: today I have been (gasp) domestic. I have cleaned. I have watered the lawn. I have shopped for groceries. I have baked.

I am scared.

The cleaning is something I've been trying to do all weekend, without much success. I'll start on one seemingly simple thing, and then it takes so much out of me that I lay gasping on the carpet (with the TV on) for the rest of the day. Yesterday I washed all the pots and pans and non-dishwasher-safe kitchenware; and by the time I finished that, it was all I could do to make myself continue to breathe. Today I dusted the living room, including the cathedral ceiling, rafters, Venetian blinds, and windowsills...I concurrently watered the front and back lawns and flower beds, and the two activities totally wiped me out (I also watched The House of Mirth with Caroline and played Goldeneye on my N64). Tomorrow I have to do some organizing in the kitchen, pantry, and dining room, while concurrently catching up on my laundry. During the course of the week, I have to vacuum the furniture and visit a few delicatessens. I hope I have the stamina to make it through.

I am not a house-cleaning type of person in the best of situations. I would rather stub my toe on a brick than wash dishes. I'd rather chew on my tongue than do the windows. I'd rather sit through a tax audit than clear a flower bed. I usually find it best to just keep all the mess in one room and let the other rooms quietly assemble a layer of dust that will be removed when it starts bothering my allergies or when we are going to have company.

And that, of course, is what all this unwonted domesticity is meant to serve: I'm having a few people in next weekend, and I have to clean first...not to fool my friends into thinking that I actually live in a clean house (anybody who knows me at all knows better than that), but rather to provide them with a filth-free environment in which to interact socially. Though all of my friends know (and hopefully accept) that I am an utter slob, good manners dictate that I present an atmosphere in which they, accustomed as they no doubt are to living in somewhat tidier surroundings, will feel comfortable and at-home.

Actually, most of this cleaning is for the Grandmother's sake, to let her save face a little. I mean, I dusted the ceiling! I never even look at the ceiling, and don't expect anybody else in the world will. But I know that Grandmother is embarrassed by the very idea that somebody might look up from the sofa and see a tiny cobweb in the apex of the fifteen-foot cathedral ceiling. So I got out the little dusting thingy on the telescoping rod and cleaned the ceiling and everything else in the room (I drew the line at dusting the plants or pulling the books out of the shelves).

The yard-watering was for her sake, as well. She insists that our lawn be green, where I am simply happy that there are no old cars or refrigerators on it. I was telling Grandmother this morning that the reason I don't ever remember to water the lawn is because I couldn't care less about the lawn. If it were up to me, we wouldn't have a lawn. Which prompted her to ask, "Well, what would you put there instead?" (These conservative types always want a replacement theory before they will accept that the current theory is wrong.) I thought about that a minute, considering miniature ivy, or evergreen groundcover, or moss, or colorful stones, or a water-fall, or a regiment of pottery gnomes, or overlapping piles of Persian carpets...and then realized that I wouldn't want a lawn because I wouldn't want a yard...if it was up to me, I wouldn't even live in a house unless I could afford live-in help.

And that's the rub...I'm an apartment-dweller by nature, and would simply prefer to leave all lawns and shrubs to the Parks Department. Grandmother, on the other hand, is a farm-girl by nature, and feels limited by only having a lawn and a couple of square feet of flower beds to plant and cultivate. If it was up to her, and if she had the energy and nonarthritic limbs, she would live on twenty acres of manicured grounds and get down on her hands and knees every day to potter about in the begonia-beds and cucumber-frames.

But we live here in this house (moving is out of the question, I'm afraid), we have a lawn, we have flower beds; she has arthritis and old age, and I have absolutely no interest in living objects that can't take care of themselves; and so we have our dilemma. We've solved some of it by hiring a gardening crew to mow and trim, but the watering I have to do. And I don't remember, so it's a bone of contention.

I shop for groceries all the time, so I won't dwell on that. I actually like shopping for groceries. Hell, I like shopping, period!

And then to top it all off, today I baked. Yesterday my cousin Jamie came over, and she called ahead to see if we had the makings for Peach Cobbler...she has been baking Peach Cobbler lately, it's her new hobby, so she was going to make one for us. Of course, by the time she got here from San Ramon, after having spent the day shopping for furniture with her rather-too-aesthetically-astute husband, she was a little too worn for Cobblering. But having introduced the thought of Peach Cobbler into my mind, I was unable to dispel it...and so I made a Peach Cobbler. It's actually quite easy, one of our famous ancient family recipes (which we got out of a cookbook from the Associated Women of Pepperdine College circa 1962...all of the Famous Manners Family Recipes come from amateur fundraising cookbooks and the backs of ingredient packages), and one of my favorite dishes to bring to potlucks.

And just to make the whole thing scarier, I am going to share the recipe with you, my faithful reader, so that you can revel in my domestic bliss.

Manners Peach Cobbler

    Melt 1½ cubes of butter in a 10"x14" glass pyrex dish, in a 350° oven. Mix together a batter of the following: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 1½ teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt; pour over the melted butter. Mix together one large can (29 oz) of sliced peaches and ¾ cup sugar, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange peel to taste; spoon this into the pan on top of the batter. Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg evenly on top. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool twenty minutes, serve warm with cream or vanilla ice-cream.

Got milk? Put it on your cobbler!

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