January 09, 2008
"Dear Cynthia," the email begins.
"I thoroughly enjoyed your article, "Spring Chicken, Winter Foods." It was sheer reading pleasure. In fact, I read and reread it several times, enjoying your humor and descriptive words.
"I have not purchased a Tri-City Times in a long time, but because I enjoyed your column so much, I will now buy one weekly. That is, unless you want me to proofread your column, and then you can email it to me for free. LOL.
"Your column brings back fond memories of working for you at Cynthia's Cornucopia. Yes, it is me! Trudy! Who else would suggest that you email me your column so I wouldn't have to buy a paper?
"I enjoyed Cornucopia-land so much and often think of those days. I could walk through that door and be in a fairy land. It brought me great joy, and so did having you and Kevin in my life. I have people come up to me a lot and tell me how much they loved the store. You are a special person, and a blessing to all you meet.
"It sounds like you are having a great time, and doing well. We are all doing fine, and have been blessed in so many ways. Becky is busy working at a daycare in Metamora. She also teaches the Metamora branch of the United States Pony Club, and gives riding lessons. I am so proud of her.
"Please say hello to Kevin for me. I look forward to reading more of your articles.
"God Bless You, Cynthia.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!—Trudy"
Of course, I must reply—and why not right here, since this is the spot that brought us in touch with each other once again? Here goes...
My Dearest Trudy!
What a wonderful surprise! Your email definitely warrants a personal note! Please excuse that it's typewritten—those few years of hand writing receipts at Cynthia's Cornucopia didn't help my legibility for the long run. My scrawl is often mistaken for a doctor's. "No," I say, "Just a lowly boutique owner—once upon a time…"
Thank you for evoking all those wonderful memories of the Cornucopia in Dryden, and your timing couldn't have been more perfect. We had just spent Saturday shopping for a few odds 'n ends for a trip we're taking—you know, things like a replacement for that yellowed bra that's just so comfy, I hate to give it up! "If it feels like an old glove, it can't be doing much to lift and separate," Kevin instructs me from outside the dressing room. He's obviously coming off the high from watching that Victoria's Secret special. (Gosh, I wish they'd rerun "It's a Lawrence Welk Christmas." Those Lennon sisters barely showed a kneecap!)
Anyway, driving home that night, past the old building—now so dark and eerily quiet—made us reminisce of the hustle and bustle that was once its holiday hallmark! Right about now, those lighted deer—with the moving heads—would take their honored place at the window, and seemingly munch on the same bushel of apples for the whole holiday season!
Remember all those wonderful customers? Sometimes you and I would be six-deep in that little store, with at least a dozen more browsing, and those bells would just keep ringing each time another stepped through the door! How'd we do it, just the two of us?
Well, of course, Kevin would come in after work and help, and we'd roll our eyes when he'd use those used car tactics to sell a bottle of cherry BBQ sauce, or a jar of seasoning. "Remember, ladies, if we don't sell it to the customer, someone else will," he'd quip. And if there was a lull in the action, when we were literally catching our breaths, he'd shake a finger. "Laaa-dies, A-B-C! A-B-C! Always Be Closing!" Funny, Trudy, I don't remember hiring our own personal Zig Ziglar. Do you?
We laughed so much there, and I just noticed that thinking about it doesn't make me sad. Sometimes in life, you have to leave a good thing, but that's the discipline—like turning away from a beloved home. Or mowing when the grass is lush. Or quietly walking away when the chips are up. And in my case, closing one local door has opened so many others…
You're right, I am having a great time! You know, when Cynthia and Cornucopia parted, it came out of a very personal decision to live less in the world of things and more in the world of ideas. Eating exclusively local happened very naturally out of that pledge to myself. I thought I might just do it for the summer, but I got addicted to the quality, so here I am—still at it! Going down a dress size with practically no effort, I admit, has also helped the cause.
I finally settled on what to do with all that cabbage you read about! I spent last Sunday conjuring my mama's stuffed cabbage recipe. The last time she visited, before passing away, was in the early fall of 2003. I think you covered for me at the store that weekend. Her plump, arthritic hands must have rolled a hundred golabki that day. Of course, like all great cooks, she didn't work from a recipe, and I never bothered to write anything down. I thought there would be so much more time…
Well, hers were undisputed, to be sure. But mine are gourmet—thanks to local herbs from Teemie (Eschenberg's). Actually, by the time I got home from her place, I forgot which was what, so I chopped them all together. I think the concoction even included chocolate mint, which is usually best reserved for floating in a hot toddy!
Instead of a pinch or a dash, I used more like a splash or …a fistful! There was an angel in the kitchen that day, and you know who it was. The boldness of the herbs took an old, ethnic recipe, and turned it into a fresh, updated lip-smacker. I lament over my mama's lost recipe no more! Ah, but what I wouldn't do to have had her here Christmas Day so that she could try mine. I miss her so much, especially during this season, as I'm sure you are missing yours.
Trudy, I cherish our days at the store together, and always will. I'm glad you're enjoying the column, and that you're picking up the Tri-City Times again. (Be sure to go on-line for any you may have missed.) And NO! I will not email my column to you in exchange for proofreading! There's already a wonderful proofreader on staff who takes good care of us, and anyhow, the paper's always chock full of good stuff. You wouldn't want to miss all that now, would you? I didn't think so!
Happy New Year to you and your family, Trudy. Thank you for being a bright, local light in my season!
Share your favorite recipe or local food concoction with Cynthia at