Wednesday, April 27, 2005

quality, simplicity, healthy appetitites, and adored eaters

The picnique table was pulled out last night from its winter perch beneath the spruce tree to its summer throne in the middle of our yards.

Oh - it is summer!

It's just a simple picnique table. Wood. Painted green. Chipped with the years. Guardian'ed by the neighbor that actually owns two of the four units that cherish it, who followed a call of adventure by hopping into a van and catching a 1970's ride to Alaska. And simply gifted to each subsequent generation of renters.

But like most simple things, it is one of the joys of the season.

In this case, the picnique table has come to epitomize for me the joys of Alaska living. Don't get me wrong - I could spend days identifying things that epitomize the joys of Alaskan living. Coming to a dead stop on a "freeway" to let a moose and her baby cross from a pond on one side to a lake on the other - epitomizes. Looking out my window at work to a landscape humbled by a range of massive mountains, peopled by bikers or skijorers (pick your season) frolicking on the Tony Knowles trail, brightened by the sun reflecting off the waters of the Cook Inlet, emblazoned by the brilliant sunsets that gold-sheath the skies, mountains and water in hues of yellows, oranges, reds and blues, and rendered priceless by red foxes leaping up from snow piles, bald eagles soaring past, and whales spouting in the Cook Inlet - epitomizes. Rock stubborn colleagues with belly-splitting wit - epitomizes. Strangers that fill your freezer with wild salmon - epitomizes. Friends that won't laugh at you (mean-spiritedly, at least) for thinking that pigtails are the perfect hairstyle for borrowed men's fishing waders or for not being able to catch your own salmon because you are too distracted by the regal sight of all the bald eagles - epitomizes. The log cabin, reachable only by float plane or snowmachine, that was built completely by the hand and determination of my college roommate's father, and the pride with which he hangs the toilet seat next to the fire because he believes a cold seat is an avoidable travesty no matter how many feet of snow one has to trudge through to get to the outhouse - epitomizes. First dates with a boyfriend that involves the introduction of puppies and the grilling of steaks - epitomizes.

Yes, there are many ways to epitomize the joy of Alaskan living. The picnique table, though - well, it's a good one. It sits between two duplexes. Someone always sticks a bottle of wine on it....within 10 minutes, we all seem to find ourselves sitting around it. We each bring our own glass, our own backgrounds (so wildly diverging, yet so comfortingly similar in that they involve lots of adventures and travels before arriving there) and a cache of stories. Puck gets to run around, catching tosses from a crowd. And if I somehow fail to appear with my glass, the neighbors never fail to grab Puck from my apartment and let him enjoy the impromptu reunion. So many conversations - of current events, of civic art projects, of philosophy, of politics, of food, of stories, of romance, of trying to stay on the good side of that fine line between really living and merely making one - have occurred at this table. So much advice on Alaskan living was relayed to me at its benches, especially as the days grew shorter and winter was looming. And in the cycle of seasons, today the days grow longer, winter wanes, my picnique table is back where I love it to be and I'm solidly in cahoots with my neighbors in the burgeoning plans for a summer season of dinner fetes.

I know that this doesn't really seem to be a food blog - all this constant exuberance over sunlight and summer.

But sometimes one has to revel a little in the context of the food - enumerating, if you will, the reasons and backgrounds and social cohesiveness that makes food so worthy of all the celebrations: like quality, simplicity, healthy appetitites, and adored eaters.


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