Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bad Housewife Muses about the Culture: Bicycling, Reading, & Thanksgiving

Flood of 2010
I don't know quite what I mean by Culture.  Occasionally we go to a play or a concert.  More often we are part of the Bicycling Culture.  I was out on my bicycle yesterday, chilly and aching, on a beautiful trail which has just been refurbished after being wiped out by the Flood of 2010. 

But my idea of Culture is to stay home and read.  This afternoon, afflicted with flu-ish symptoms, I reread Charlotte Bronte's Villette, and wondered if, like Lucy Snowe, I would have worked in the 19th century as a spinster teacher in a boarding school.  What a lonely life.  The man she is fond of, Dr.  Graham Bretton, wonders if they would been very good friends had she been a boy. 

"I believe if you had been a boy, Lucy, instead of a girl--my mother's god-son instead of her god-daughter,--we should have been good friends:  our opinions would have melted into each other."

So she is reduced to a friendship with M. Paul, a controlling teacher who goes through her desk, reads her letters, and constantly disparages her.

How could Graham say such a thing to Lucy?  And how could she have put up with M. Paul?

I'm afraid we know.  But this isn't the kind of thing one normally has a conversation about.  

I have identified my whole adult life, through many readings, with Lucy.  I understand Lucy's muted passion, sensitivity, apparent chilliness, and boredom with teaching.  I guess in my soul I know that there's more to Lucy than to many a more vivacious heroine. 

I certainly was not a plain young woman--no, that came later--but I was plainer than my male companions.  So I was told by my friends, but fortunately I saw someone different in the mirror.   (It is helpful if your mother tells you that you are beautiful.  A lot of time passes before you are the opposite.)  

Plain or pretty, I have had to spend a LOT of time riding bicycles with men.  Miles and miles and miles of bicycling. 

And I confess I didn't feel like bicycling yesterday.  It was very windy and the light was dim.  It occurs to me that I also belong to a Culture That Insists I Do Things I Don't Feel like Doing.  Do you feel sick?  Get out on your bicycle anyway!

Where did I pick this up? 

It is the kind of culture Lucy Snowe belongs to.  She doesn't acknowledge illness unless she collapses in front of a Catholic church. 

I can't be sick, because it is time for the Thanksgiving Culture.  I have to be well tomorrow.  I have to clean the house for company.  I have to clean a ladder-like stairway into the basement because someone will insist on going downstairs to do laundry or something-- who knows?  I don't feel like cleaning individual steps with a sponge, but it will come to that.  I tossed a bucket partly filled with water down the other day (we also have a cement floor in the basement) and it did get rid of some of the dust.  Not enough.


"The First Thanksgiving," 1621, painting by J.L.G. Ferris (1863-1930)
We always have a quiet Thanksgiving.  I thought I would make a fancy dressing for the turkey this year, with cranberries, apples and sausage, and was told NO!  Pepperidge Farm is the tradition.  NOTHING added except the usual, please.

All right.

Could we get our pies at Village Inn?

No.  They have to be homemade, but it is all right to have a refrigerated crust.  The Village Inn pies have a GOOD crust.  No, our pies are the holiday tradition.

How about catering?  Let's get the dinner from the Hy-Vee.

No, no.  It's not as good.

Well, cooking Thanksgiving dinner isn't very hard, so okay.    

If you would like some tips on how to cook Thanksgiving dinner, you might get  copy of Sam Sifton's Thanksgiving:  How to Cook It Well, or The Betty Crocker Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook, or one of those other Thanksgiving cookbooks.

In fact, I might sneak out and buy one of these and change some of my recipes without telling anybody.  They don't have tastebuds, or they wouldn't want Pepperidge Farm dressing.  But even if I don't get a new cookbook, the day will be the same.  I'll be reading about Lucy Snowe between bastings of the turkey while the others do other Thanksgiving things (like laundry and watching something ghastly on TV).


Alex said...

You could always suggest (I was going to write 'tell', but I suppose suggest is politer) that they make their own Pepperidge Stuffing (?) but then presumably that goes against the Thanksgiving Culture.

Frisbee said...

Ha ha! Maybe I'll sneak in a new recipe somewhere. I hardly think they can taste the difference.

Christine Harding said...

It's a bit like Christmas isn't it! Since both the girls have left home, and since I don't eat meat, I suggested cooking my husband something different this year, but turkey is what you have to have for Christmas...

Frisbee said...

Yes, it's like ahving Christmas 1 and Christmas 2. Thanksgiving is really nicer, no pressure, no gifts, so we have the turkey then and something easier on Christmas.

We had stuffed squash one year. But it was much harder to make than turkey!

Frisbee said...

Ellen sent this to me to post:

We will be just the three of us for Thanksgiving, so we'll cook a Turkey, three baked potatoes, have bread and salad and champagne. Then if weather permits we'll go for a quiet walk. Global warming has kept our leaves on our trees very late this year so it's very pretty out there. We have been fortunate this year not to be blasted by the intense superstorms. (It will come again.) I know several people where they are just in small family or friend groups. This is common. And if they cook a lot, they have a lot of leftovers. Without the TV how would the people spend the time for the whole afternoon? I agree the word culture is bandied about. Often it refers just to high culture events, but culture is all milieus, and Thanksgiving with TV is a cultural event. We might wish that culture would join people together -- yes to some extent the imagined communities feel good, but don't press these too hard. All that supports most of us is the individual job or (very bad) freelance and entrepreneurial catch-as-catch-can. Very stressful all of it, makes for shorter lives. I can't bike ride because I can't cope with the new (new to me at age 13) kinds of brakes so I must walk for my relaxation and escape. Or read and come on line for the few congenial people we can find.

Frisbee said...

Small Thanksgivings are the best. I read an article in the NYT about some super-professinal working on her Thanksgiving with spreadsheets! Too much work!

This year we're still biking in beautiful weather, but there were floods in 2008 and 2010, the drought this year,and a hurricane for you (thank God it didn't affect you that much) we enjoy the nice weather when we have it but we know that fossil fuels have done this and that it will probably continue.

But this is a nice holiday, just a fun dinner and not a religious holiday, so we can enjoy this one!