Yes, we have no tomatoes….

posted in: Family, Food, Gump | 0

When I was a kid, and our family took a road trip, my dad would get us up at four o’clock in the morning so we could get on the road bright and early. We’d be so excited….mum would get the thermos full of hot, sweet tea, and we’d down our cereal and toast in record time. The car would have been packed the night before, and off we’d set with our favourite toy, a book to read in the car, and the ever-present scent of egg sandwiches assaulting our noses and making us salivate. We’d feel like we were on a grand adventure, and we were always so thrilled to arrive at our destination four hours later. That’s right, FOUR hours later. By British standards, that was considered to be a long drive, worthy of all the food consumed en-route. Any journey longer than that would require a stop-over at a B&B.

These days, my British family members are aghast when I blithely mention that I am going to visit my grandchildren, a mere ten-hour drive away. They think I’m a bit Thelma and Louise, that I’ve become an independent American woman driving all that way alone…. but I like to drive. I certainly like it far better than flying. Other than the fact I am terrified of being up in the air, I prefer driving because then I can see things that aren’t just clouds and dots on the ground. I can see things like roads that go on for hundreds of miles, scenery that stretches out across the vista like a wonderful blanket of many colourful fabrics and threads. Building after building, town after town of people I’ll never meet, whose stories I’ll never hear. Abandoned places are fascinating too. Who lived there? What happened for everyone to go away? Driving along every single trip I am struck by the amount of open space in this really massive country.

Last week, Gump and I went on a road trip to Minnesota. That’s close to an eleven-hour drive north of here. On a long drive, the Gumpster takes what he needs for the duration of the trip – this consists of a cup of coffee and a pbj sandwich to cover the journey. I’m a pretty light packer myself, but I’ve got a Yeti full of hot tea, British chocolate, back up chocolate, British crisps (yum) a variety of gummi things, a movie and three tv shows on my iPad, a couple of Audible novels on my iTouch, two books and a notepad and pen in case I need to write anything down for my ongoing novel. All this stuff I bring with me to make the journey pass quickly. Pretty smart planning, except every time we go on a road trip, I end up driving at least half the way there, and spend the remainder of my time on the road eating all my snacks and talking to the Gump (when he’s awake).

I do love watching him tremor with fear every time we have a long drive. Gump’s a workaholic, so he’s only used to spending small increments of time with yours truly. The prospect of many hours in close proximity to me is enough to send him into a anxiety attack. I LOVE it – he is my captive audience, trapped inside a small metal vehicle with nowhere to run. It’s my perfect opportunity to regale him with all the chores we need to do at the house, my memories of childhood, and my latest topic, where to retire……

Every single time I bring up the subject of our future, Gump visibly pales and looks frightened. Change is difficult for someone like him. Unlike his namesake Forrest Forrest Gump, my Gump has lived a life completely root-bound. He’s a creature of habit, he likes to do the same thing every day. Don’t get me wrong, he enjoys the odd adventure and going places (Kellyville Rodeos), but nowadays a trip to the hardware store constitutes traveling, and wearing a tee-shirt that is any other colour than gray is Gump’s sense of adventure.

Back on the drive north, we did pretty well the first hour of our trip. We caught up on gossip, talked about my upcoming trip home to the UK. By the second hour he had already started yawning and I knew I wasn’t getting his full attention. As I merrily discussed all the places in the USA that would be fun to live his eyes started to glaze over. By the time we reached Missouri, he was ready to eat and take a nap.

We stopped in Kansas City, Missouri to go to Gump’s favourite place….not Worlds of Fun, not a cool brewery, not even the Harry Truman Library – we went to the HYVEE Grocery store.

Hyvee is a grocery chain that started in Iowa. They really are cool stores, with massive departments, and every possible food you can think of. They even have a small international section for people like me! But what Gump LOVES the most about shopping there are the Brats – not the two-legged human variety, but the sausage variety. He can regale you with the many selections to be had, some twenty+ I believe. When Gump is in Hyvee, he is the proverbial kid in a candy store, his eyes become saucers and he will buy absolutely everything without supervision.

With the truck full of sausage (you can take that any way you want to) we continued on our way, me driving (and unable to utilize all my activities) and Gump snoring from his short stint at the wheel, but more from the exhaustion and excitement of his sausage shopping…..

Now we are back at home and the trip seems ages ago. Gump is in full-on work mode, and I have been planning my upcoming trek to the UK. I am in spreadsheet and list heaven, and it’s a good job that I’m anal about these things, because I am now senile.

Every single day I do something my mother would have done. The day before yesterday, I hooked up the battery charger to my little car, and then later in the day tried to start it – nothing. Then I realized that I had the positive charge hooked onto the bolt that holds the battery in place, not the actual battery post…..my bad. Yesterday I went to the drive-thru at the bank and deposited my shopping list – seriously, the teller just laughed and sent it back to me. Thank goodness there were no scary items on the list…..

Some good news – This year, we have been spared the curse of the Mississippi Kite – most of you that have read the blog for a while, know that I refer to the demonic bird of prey, that migrates annually to my front yard each summer, to unleash a season of terror into my world. This flying devil would dive-bomb me, talons loaded, every time I ventured within a 100 foot diameter of its nest. Gump loved it, he was at one with nature, laughing his arse off every time I screamed or shook in fright. The bastards are still around though, just at someone else’s house – yay.

It’s been another tomato summer here in Gump Country. His crop was pretty bountiful, until the trip to Minnesota. When we left, Gump’s prize Cherokee Purples (Brit friends, this is a variety of tomato) were swollen and chubby, hanging by threads while they waited to get a final blush from the sun. Four days later when we returned, Gump almost had a coronary when he discovered that the squirrels had thrown a tomato party in the garden while we were away. He was so upset, devastated not just by the loss, but by the squirrels’ casual and flippant treatment of the tomatoes. They had taken bites out of some, and thrown them to one side, wasted and rotting, littered upon the ground like nutshells at Texas Roadhouse. He was gutted. The remainder of Gump’s toms are other varieties that do not compensate for his loss. So today, I went to the ‘Tomato Man’s Daughter’, a local legendary tomato seller close to where we live, and I bought Gump 13 more plants….he’ll get the late summer harvest if he’s lucky. I brought them all home and sat them on the porch and then noticed a couple of squirrels looking at me – I would swear that one of them grinned……

It’s been pretty exciting for me lately as Tulsa finally got a WORLD MARKET store!!!! This is my favourite store in the USA because it has such cool stuff and is affordable. It also sells a small selection of British items which makes me really happy and very broke. I have already been there three times since it opened 10 days ago, and I am now friends with two of the staff there who have recognized me each time (much to my dismay). I have eaten more fruit gums than I can possibly count, and consequently am sweating it for my diabetes check next week. I’ve decided that my addiction to English candy is a very deep-rooted issue, one that stems from being locked away in an appalling boarding school during my candy-formative years, eight thru ten years old. While all you lucky people were stuffing yourselves silly with sweets, chocolate and the like, I was given a piece of candy (if I was good) once a week. Is it any wonder that I have no will power? Well at least fruit gums have less calories than chocolate.

I’m still trying to finish my damned novel – my creativity level is on par with Rob Lowe playing Macbeth. It’s as though my synapses are tired, and don’t want to work. They are far happier when being exposed to things like ‘Janet King’ or ‘Crownies’ – two Aussie shows I have recently become addicted to. I like to kid myself that it’s all research, and on some level it is – but that’s no excuse. Never going to write the best seller if I don’t start typing…..200 pages down, 200 to go –

I hope you are all staying cool in these dog days of summer. Hard to believe that August is just around the corner. My countdown to Blighty (England) has begun. I am so excited to go home and see everyone. My taste buds are already anticipating my first delicious cod and chips. Perhaps I’ll do a food blog while I am there? We’ll see. Happy summer ya’ll!

jude