Ann Herr Mitchell and I always get to the farm early to set up the fry station, roll up the dough to make donut holes, bread fish and make sure that nothing catches on fire -- and put it out if it does. That's what we do, its our thing, our routine and our time together. We're full of giggles and good cheer.
I was especially looking forward to it this year. I actually laughed out loud on the way to the farm in anticipation. Our traditions had taken a big hit last year. I was Blogstock for July 4th - I'm not second guessing or regretting my decision, I had a wonderful time. Unfortunately it would turn out to be the last with Larry and Kathy and it was the first without Mr. Herr. There was no celebrating Christmas with Ann this year either, in light of Larry and Kathy's deaths just two days before.
Imagine my surprise and dismay when I learned that dad had replaced us! And by dismay, I mean that I was furious! Frosted! Dare I say it - pissed off! This lead to Ann and I having heated discussions in the kitchen and exchanging lots of glances and internal eye-rolling. The whole thing might have been a little easier to swallow if our replacement was not so condescending and bossy.
There was a group of guys around the fryers trying to get them lit. I asked if I could try it and was told: It's a complicated piece of equipment. Those are fighting words dude! And it's really not a complicated piece of equipment - light the pilot, turn up the gas to heat the oil and fry stuff. And there might be one person in the group that has lit more fryers in their career in the foodservice business than any of the assembled yahoos. Any maybe someone who had lit those very fryers the year before. Hummm, who could that be?
Between Ann and I (with a quick call to her brother to confirm something) the pilot lights were lit in no time. Our replacement started to fry something immediately, and I very nicely suggested that maybe he should wait until the oil got to the proper temperature. I handed him the thermometer and skedaddled out of the barn before I stuck it some where that I shouldn't.
Annie and I retreated to the house where we exchanged Christmas gifts - she gave me a swell jacket (that makes me look shapely!), a necklace, an amazing photo album (did you know that we were fifth grade cheerleaders?) and a great photo calendar. I gave her a 2.5 gallon shop vac and a Spode tree pattern bowl. I have no idea where I stashed the books I bought for her.
I had a come-to-Jesus talk with myself and decided that I was not mad at our replacement -- after all, he'd never been there before and had no idea that we usually ran the 'kitchen.' I decided that I should be mad at dad, but made myself get over that - it would make for a very long day if I didn't. I wish I could say that I quit grumbling, but that would be a lie.
We did go back to the barn and impart our 15 years of cooking for the event knowledge. And I did mention to dad that an apprentice year might have been appropriate for the new cooks and I let it go.
As it turned out the cook took off after a couple of hours and Nora and the cousins went back to their routine -- breading fish, telling stories and drinking beer.
I needed some normalcy after the craziness of the last month. Of course, it's pretty funny that cooking in a fryer, in a barn, on the Martin Luther King holiday, drinking beer is normal - but it feels more right than a lot of things in my life.
I did take time to give the next generation a lesson.
More friends than ever made the trip to the farm.
And you're all invited next year - just don't get between Ann and me and the fryer.
Here are more photographs of the day - and I thought that posing the twins was great fun, poor things.