C.W. Gusewelle is away this week. His regular column will return. In the meantime, here is one of his favorites.
Our friends who visit each Christmas on their way back from Colorado always bring some remembrance of the season. One year it was an enormous spaghetti squash. Another year it was a delicious batch of homemade pesto.
This past Christmas they left with us a slender bottle of pinkish fluid, made from raspberries, its label written faintly in pencil. My wife put it on an upper cupboard shelf to be saved for a special occasion.
Time passes. The arteries harden. Eyes and the memory fail, and confusion rules.
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The other evening, after the second crossword puzzle, I was overcome by a lust for ice cream. When the life force has been reduced to a barely audible hum on the encephalophone, passion of any kind is worth encouraging.
But my wife is a disciplinarian.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” she asked.
“Darned right I’m sure! I want some ice cream, and I want it now. Before I forget.”
I took the carton from the freezer.
“It’s more than half gone,” I whined.
When all the rest has blurred, you can still recall — to the ounce — the inventory of forbidden foods.
“Somebody’s been in the ice cream.”
“I wouldn’t know who,” she said.
It forever amazes me that anyone so small and innocent-appearing can be so deceitful.
But never mind. There still was enough to fill a good-size bowl.
“What is there to put over it?” I demanded to know.
“Well,” she said, “we have that nice raspberry topping our friends brought.”
“Where have you hidden it?”
“On the top pantry shelf, with the bourbon.”
She dreams of the day when I will be unable to get up there, and then our life together will stretch ahead temperate and serene. But for a little while longer I still can reach the shelf.
I poured the pink fluid over the ice cream.
“How does it look?”
“Thin,” I said. “Kind of thin.”
I carried my bowl in to sit with her at the table and revel in her envy.
“I’ll bet it’s tasty,” she said.
“Quite nice,” I reported.
I took another bite.
“Well, actually …”
“What?” she said.
“To tell the truth, it’s a little on the sour side.”
“Raspberries are like that. They have an edge.”
“No, I mean really sour. You can tell it’s raspberry, all right. But something’s gone terribly wrong.”
“Maybe it’s spoiled,” she said. “Was it supposed to be refrigerated?”
I got the bottle down from the cupboard again but couldn’t make out the handwriting on the label.
“You have your glasses.” I handed her the bottle. “What does it say?”
She got a queer look.
“It says it’s raspberry vinegar.”
In case you’ve never tried it, I can tell you that raspberry vinegar over vanilla ice cream belongs in the category of acquired tastes.
“You’re not going to eat it, are you?”
“It’s the last of the ice cream. I can’t just throw it out.”
We’re all prisoners of our past, and I was raised at a table where waste was an unpardonable sin.
“But it might make you sick!”
“If I think of it as a salad,” I told her, “I believe I can keep it down.”