Thursday, January 8, 2009

Math between Neighbors

Nono's Kitchen.

paid our electric bill while we were on the trip south. (11,000 pesos) We bought four liters of gas for him to bring back. (2,000 pesos) I only had a 10,000 peso bill on me, and he had no change. So...he made us a huge loaf of fresh bread and brought it over, and we called it even. However, the bread was SO good, I did up some home-made lemon basil fettuccine with my new hand-crank pasta machine and took it over to him. Now I was a little up, so he gave me a jar of gooseberry jam, and we called it even again.

Actual money matters aside, gifts and treats and trades between neighbors is a common act. Some fresh cherries, dried plums, bread, snippets of a favorite rose bush, a portion of a prolific vegetable from the garden. There is always a cup of mate beside a blazing wood stove, and in the country, a chipped jelly jar of chicha. A summertime visit often ends with the duena de la casa poking through a green garden with a kitchen knife to cut off a leafy bouquet of lettuce as a parting gift, along with some tomatoes or aji peppers.

My reciprocal gifts are usually some yogurt grains (not found easily in these parts) or some of my bread, and now that I have the pasta machine, some home-made pasta. And while not original on my part, Nono and Ismael like the idea of my little pot of honey butter I brought once.

I cannot match the resourcefulness of my neighbors - both in town - and in the country, so it is difficult for me to keep up. However, gift giving here doesn't seem to be a score-card keeping event. Nothing is expected from me in return, because they realize as a severely limited resourceful person, I am just hanging on a thread and will be lucky to get through a winter without starving or freezing to death. (Yes, she sets a pretty table, but what will she put on it in the winter if she doesn't get a vegetable garden set in?! Poor, silly, hapless gringa!)

But I thought I fixed Nono this time...when I bought my very inexpensive, hand-crank pasta machine, I bought her one too. And when we visited yesterday, we were talking about making pasta (I brought it up, of course). Yes! We made pasta the same way! Rolling out the stiff, reluctant dough on a wood table top, rolling, flouring, rolling. Then folding and cutting, and shaking out the strands, flopping them on another part of the table to dry a little. AH HA! No more, I said, and went to the truck to get her gift. It was the best! Wonderment, awe, then ten minutes of trying to figure out how the pieces went together, and then finally, a sigh of appreciation for what the machine would accomplish. And it was then that I realized I had robbed myself. Of the opportunity to make and present perfect little mounds of perfect little pastas as a neighborly gift. Shot myself in the foot.

Last night as I made a third batch of linguine, Nono was making her spaghetti. I can see flour sack towels spread around her kitchen with mounds of drying pasta...and maybe next time, some day in the dead of winter when the roads are too deep with snow and ice, she will gift me some fresh eggs, and I will have thought up something else to gift her.


Anonymous said...

Your amazing...I would never be able to do any of that stuff.

Thats awesome....
love, kristina

Vicki Lansen said...

Hey Kris...Sure you can "do that stuff"! You are just doing it in a different country, in a different language. Kindness, kitchens and kids are universal things that transcend all obstacles...not to mention food, music and dancing!

Make some cookies for a neighbor, or grow a and say hi to an old person. That's all it is about...connecting.

Love ya Kris...

Your goofy, old Aunt