My camera is still in the shop. But if it weren’t, what you’d be seeing right now is a giant wooden cob of corn, with three wooden crows sitting atop it.
This folksy objet d’art is on my TV cabinet right now; not permanently, just until it finds its perfect spot with its rightful owner. But her obtaining it is a great story.
It was Fellow Traveler’s birthday this week. We’re foodies, and while this usually manifests itself in things like competitive home cooking or systematically working our way through the sauce menu at Buffalo Wild Wings, I thought I’d take her out to the swankiest restaurant I could think of in our corner of the world – a venerable white-linen-tablecloth establishment across the street from a regional state university.
We had a generally swell time. FT had wheedled our destination out of me earlier; in studying the menu beforehand, we thought it would be most fun to order a series of intriguing appetizers and dessert, so that’s what we did, I think much to the interest and amusement of our attentive waitstaff – little dishes like a buttery snail tart and puff-pastry-wrapped goat cheese surrounded by an engagingly sweet-salty mixture of roasted Mediterranean vegetables; each tidbit presented to our appreciative oohs and ahhs. Business was a little slow that evening – a table of doctors and pharmaceutical reps on one side; a set of visiting ‘rents taking their college-age kids out to dinner over in the corner; a morose older couple who picked at their plates while glaring at us so steadily and intensely and disapprovingly – that don’t-make-us-integrate-the-lunch-counter kind of glare -- that I felt like walking over and saying, “Doing that is not going to make us leave, so why don’t you just eat your salad and mind your own business.” Later on a casually dressed couple, folks who looked like farmers having a night out on the town, were ushered to a table on our other side, briefly deflecting the hot-dagger stare of Mr. and Mrs. Congeniality. (“We’re going to have to eat at the country club from now on, Muffy…there are altogether too many unacceptable people here.”)
FT has a fondness for baked Alaska, so that’s what we ordered – little knowing that the purported “dessert for two” was going to be the size of a large cinderblock. How were we going to eat all this? we wondered as one of the waitresses lit it tableside, the other diners around us (except, of course, for Mr. and Mrs. Congeniality) watching with delight. We asked if anyone wanted to share half; our neighbors demurred, so we asked the waitresses if they’d like to take half of it back to the kitchen and share it with the other staff. They were thrilled – “Oh! I finally get to taste it!”
In the course of the baked Alaska presentation we’d told the staff about it being FT’s birthday; that prompted the couple next to us to introduce themselves. Turns out they were farmers, from a small town right around the palm of the Lower Peninsulan mitten; they’d been up in Marquette, and had spent the entire day driving back downstate. We talked about the weather, and farming, what we did for a living, and the restaurant. Suddenly the man excused himself: “I need to get you something.” Several minutes later he returned with the wooden cob of corn. He carved these and sold them at craft shows, he said. His mother used to paint them for him; she’d died recently, and this was one of the last ones she’d painted.
“Here -- I want you to have this,” he told FT. “Happy Birthday!”
We love the cob of corn, and the crows on the corn, and the story behind it. Thank you, neighbors.