Thursday, February 25, 2010

Coconut milk and coriander: the spices of life

Writing this week has been a battle.

“No, no one would want to read about that,” I keep telling myself. Every idea is shot down by my own conscience. Nothing has been worthy of recording.

I have contradicted my own motto: we can write about anything.

I was testing this theory in the shower yesterday morning. Anticipating my future as a teacher, I have been thinking of challenges for my future classrooms. How could I coax a student out of a “writer’s block?”

I suppose the most logical way would be to have him or her write. Write about what?

What was the last thing I wrote? I asked myself.

I couldn’t think of anything substantial. I did write a grocery list yesterday. Fine, write about that. Fine.

I keep a magnetized notepad on the refrigerator to jot down needed supplies and grocery lists. Occasionally notes to self, kid plans and activities are granted places on the list. Mostly, though, the notepad sees grocery items.

The particular notepad now hanging on the fridge is the third of its kind. Every year, my mother-in-law fills my stocking with practical gifts and novelty items I would never buy for myself. I always save the best (my stocking) for last because I often like the smallest gifts the most.

Once every 12 months I am restocked with notepads, sticky notes, lip gloss, Hot Tamales (my favorite movie candy), pens, fun bracelets, lotions, candles and whatever else Kim picks up throughout the year. My mother-in-law has a knack for giving. She’s one of those people who sees something special in March, grabs it up and can save it until December. I pass those gifts by, too cheap to spend money on knick knacks that seem frivolous to me. Yet, I love getting them just the same. This is a quality of myself that could use some improvement. I am selfish in this way, for sure.

Out of all my annual stocking stuffers, the magnetized notepads are my favorite and are utilized the most. Last year’s model was white with a deep purple border and rules, as in “college ruled or wide ruled” notebook paper. I would classify the rules on last year’s notepad as being wide. Each page, of course, was the same, monogrammed with a fancy “K” for Korina in the top left-hand corner. This marking made it particularly special, designed and chosen just for moi. The pad was rectangular in shape, about 2 to 3 inches across the top and 5 to 6 inches long.

I ran out of sheets in early December, and as I tore off the last page, I secretly hoped a replacement would arrive Christmas morning.

I was not let down, as usual. This year’s stock is pink, wide-ruled again, with a cute little penguin wrapped in a cozy scarf in the lower right-hand corner. The size is about the same as the previous book. The magnet is sturdy and often serves as a holder for school notes, coupons or one of the millions of items clinging to the fridge.

I normally try to conserve the pages of my grocery list pad by writing items down as they are needed. If something from the list is purchased, it is crossed off, and the list goes on. On actual grocery shopping days, however, the entire page is torn off to go with me. Later the page meets its demise in the wastepaper can underneath the cash register at the grocery store or in a large trash can outside that blasted Wal-Mart store or sometimes in the floorboard of my car until Jeromy gets fed up with my clutter and throws all my crumpled notes, receipts and occasional taco wrappers away for me.

Yesterday, I tore off a page after recording just four items. Normally, I would try and remember the four items rather than wasting a sheet of my beloved notepad, but I was trying something new, and I didn’t want to forget what was on my list.

I needed flour, sugar, coriander and coconut milk.

So in answer to my question way up there in the beginning paragraphs, the last thing I wrote was “coconut milk.”

Having come to this revelation while rinsing the conditioner out of my hair, I considered how I wrote the words “coconut milk.”

I was in a hurry because I had just read several recipes for curried chicken, something I had never eaten nor prepared, and I did not want to forget the main ingredient.

Thinking about my penmanship, I realized my grocery lists do not differ much from my notes as a reporter: I can read them just fine, but to other’s eyes, the words appear as if written in secret code.

Jeromy occasionally offers to fill my grocery list but gives up most times because he is unable to decipher it. If I interpret it for him, I generally have to rewrite it, which defeats the purpose of the original list. If I wanted to take my time and write it out neatly, I would have done that in the first place. Also, I generally write quickly because I leave the list hanging on the refrigerator, and time is limited when writing vertical with a ballpoint pen. Had I taken my time with the words “flour” and “sugar,” my ink would have run to the top of the pen by the time I got to “coriander” and “coconut milk.”

In this case, that would have been fine.

While we are thankful to have a grocery store in our town of less than 1,200, we also wish items like coconut milk and coriander could be found on the shelves. I am mindful, though, that I am probably the only customer in 10 years that may have had these particular requests.

As it turns out, the coriander was an item most recipes did not require, and the coconut milk could be substituted by plain yogurt (also not a staple in small-town grocery stores) or good old sour cream. Ironically, I was fortunate to even get sour cream. The shelf was down to one tub of regular sour cream, and it was the off brand. The remaining supply was “lite” sour cream, which I don’t believe in eating.

So, that was the last thing I wrote – coriander and coconut milk.

Had I been in a classroom telling this story could I have conveyed the importance of writing these two items? Does their existence scribbled on a list prove that we truly can write about anything?

My word counter just hit 1,068. I think that is sufficient evidence. Through my simple grocery list I have provided information about myself, my character, my hometown, my social life, my very being. I’m not sure how important that might be, but I know I enjoy knowing the simplest details about others who took the time to share their “proverbial shopping lists.”

As Hemingway described the smell of a wine bag or F. Scott Fitzgerald depicted the sting of a crisp Minnesota morning or Vonnegut took us on a dreary, hot and stinky train ride, I prepared my first curry.

And I must say, it was darn good.

Writer’s block, unblocked. Thanks guys.


Matthew 20:17-34
Acts 27:27-44
Psalm 45
Leviticus 21-23

No comments:

Post a Comment