The Piccadilly Herb Club

Tonight Laurel picked the recipe for dinner. Chicken and Biscuit Pie. She found it in this cookbook that belonged to me when I was little. A few years ago my mom passed it on to us. I had everything except the can of condensed cream of chicken soup, so I decided to cook up a quick bechamel sauce. When I opened the cupboard door to find some thyme, there was the little glass jar from the Piccadilly Herb Club. My grandmother Norine gave it to me many years ago. The jar had a few little sachet herb packets for cooking. I guess I had used a few of them right away, but after she died I never touched that jar. Sometimes it would surface when I cleaned out the cupboards or moved things around. She's been dead quite a while so I assumed that the herbs wouldn't even be good anymore. I didn't want to throw it away, but I didn't know what I was keeping it for. Tonight I threw the last sachet into the bechamel sauce and there was a surprising amount of flavor still left. 

The children's cookbook is terrible, by the way. I'm not sure they tested the recipes. Their proportions are way off. Laurel was not bothered by it. We'll just experiment with our cooking, she said. Everybody liked the meal, especially the biscuits. They had never seen the kind that pop out of the can before. When I popped the can, Marko was amazed... Laurel and Max were terrified. 

I didn't know what to do with the empty jar. 

I wondered if the Piccadilly Herb Club was still meeting. I thought about the things my grandmother started to do after my grandfather finally died after an agonizing decade with Alzheimer's. Silver Sneakers. Tai Chi. I remembered the first time I saw her after she stopped dyeing her hair and it was all silver. When she gave me her red leather Samsonite luggage, barely used. How she never once asked me when I was going to have children in the years between my wedding day and her death. The pots of African violets on her sun porch. Seeing her standing in the doorway, watching a 12 year old me sit with my grandpa, hazy in the smoke from his cigarette. 

As I get older, I don't find that memories fade, so much as they get shuffled to the bottom of the deck.  Out of sight, out of mind. But then a word or smell invokes them again, and there they are clear as day. 

1 comment:

Mary McKinley said...

I think about Norine often, and it warms my heart to hear or read her grandchildren's memories of her. She was proud of her grandchildren. I'm grateful to her more and more for the nieces and nephews that she made possible for me. I admired Bob so much for the eulogy he wrote for her and read at her funeral. He said that her husband and children at home were all she needed to be happy. But in her later years she discovered that she was good at things outside the home and I think she surprised herself by how easily she moved into new responsibilities: volunteering at the library, editing the "Piccadilly Thymes," being asked to join the board of that seniors group that met at Parkwood Church. It hurts me that she did not live long enough to see her great grandchildren -- except for Viktoria, whom she loved very much. It would have given her such joy to know Laurel, Marko, Max, Logan and Luke. So I'm glad that the bottle of Piccadilly Thyme that she gave to you found its way into a dinner that Laurel helped to make.