Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Salted Fish and Telegraphs

Like so much of traditional Swedish cooking, writing begins with the metaphoric dried fish. Once it was juicy, wriggly, and swam in water that was polluted to differing degrees. Now it has been hooked, eviscerated, soaked in brine, and dried to the texture of a board. The core impulse must be boiled; water must be forced into withered flesh, and then the dish begins...I've just emerged from editing over 750 pages of a densely factual book written by a doctor. English is his third or possibly fourth language. The syntax was so convuluted that the orignal manuscript read like a game of Telegraph (which probably doesn't hold much meaning to anyone under 20).
On a sunny May morning in 1962, a man on a bicycle made his way into the French vinyard where my father, just finished writing exams, was working to hand him the pink enveloped telegraph that told him my mother was pregnant. This was to be the first and last time he ever received one. My father was 20-years-old, a Londoner, and the only child of Jewish parents. My mother was an Irish Catholic typist. They met at a party in Dublin, where my father was attending university on a basketball scholarship.
They were giddily in lust/love, but probably would have gone their seperate ways if smuggled condoms hadn't been so scarce. On his 21st birthday, against the wishes of his parents, he married my mother. It was not a happily-ever-after romance. But it was a real life together. So far, 45 years of varying degrees of happiness and misery have come from the news on that little slip of paper, delivered out of the anachronistic straw basket of the telegraph company's uniformed cyclist.

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