I’ve been asked what I would like our daughter to cook for me on the occasion of my fast-approaching birthday, and whether it’s cailles en sarcophage or mac and cheese, it will be wonderful, given the company we’ll keep.
Frankly, I’d be happy just with apple crisp and vanilla ice cream — perhaps along with Kitty’s torte, hard sauce, and floating island — for whenever I’m asked about favorite things to eat, I generally think first of sweets. For Proust it was a madeleine, for me a Creamsicle.
When I see all the kids after their Little League games run to Dave Rutkowski’s ice cream truck at the Pantigo fields on a summer’s night, I have to sit down until the urge to retro-metamorphose from 80 to 8 passes.
Those indeed were happy days, on Claremont Avenue in New York City — a most peaceable street even now, I believe. There was a blizzard there with snow so high we made tunnels and forts that lasted for weeks, and on Saturday mornings when the weather was fine I’d set out with a bird guide, sandwiches, my Captain Midnight Ovaltine mug, and a Frank Buck sundial ring on my wrist in search of the tufted towhee somewhere up by St. John the Divine. I still have a box of 1948 Collegiate School orange and blue Field Day medals on the top of which is written, “Many Lost.”
“Babette’s Feast,” from which I lifted “cailles en sarcophage,” still remains one of my all-time favorite movies, all about art, beauty, and reconciliation, thoughts that may be far from our minds at the moment, despair probably being the most rational reaction to the news of the day. But science and level heads will save us, no? Perhaps . . .
Speaking of baseball, it occurred to me recently that I am the Cal Ripken Jr. of Star columnists. Two thousand, seven hundred, and 17 at last count. It would be 2,718, but Helen Rattray wrote one — and a very good one too, taking Otis Pike to task for his stand on the Vietnam War.
So despite the sagging flesh, crumbling teeth, rheumy eyes, deafness, and dry mouth, I am still game — or at one, or coming from one, or about to go to one, as my answering machine says — and ready for my apotheosis at Georgie and Gavin’s come Saturday night. It’s always “Babette’s Feast” there.
And should they ask, perhaps after the apple crisp and vanilla ice cream appetizer and before embarking upon the floating island, why I, at 80, am still so engaged in life, I will stand and raise a glass to my eternally engaging wife.