cube steak, pan gravy, buttered corn

As we approached the lagoon brown with runoff the strong smell of alcohol assaulted our nostrels nostrles nostriles noses and we hurriedly drew our canoe upon the shore. The brown lava rock murderous on our feet we knew in that instant we should have worn shoes. But it was too late now to correct that unfortunate sartorial oversight. Strangely uniform evenly eroded boulders covered with slimy slippery yellow material obstructed our passage and made our trek across to the center of the remote island treacherously difficult but also much more delicious.

I do not use the frozen section, pass right by that usually, but this time I wanted peas and little onions, and possibly spinach. I noticed these brightly colored  packages, obviously packaged for microwave convenience, I usually avoid this sort of thing but they were all astonishingly low price.

Right at that moment two boys appeared, they began making a joint decision about buying frozen corn, as if they share a first apartment or the like. The tall thin black boy directed the shorter latin boy to the corn package to pick up. The package held two short cobs, trimmed, ready to go. 

Interrupting their private grocery store idyl I said removing and showing one of these packages, "Did you notice these are one dollar?"

"Thank you! Thank you, Mister." I moved away from the spot and they moved into it. They actually went for it.

I met more women today than you can shake a stick at. 

What an odd saying. Who would want to shake a stick? Where does such a strange thing even come from? 

There were more feral cats than you could shake a stick at.

There were more piñatas than you could shake a stick at.

There were more paint buckets to stir than you could shake a stick at.

There were more orchestras to conduct than you could shake a stick at. 

A few friendly words is all that it took. Repeatedly. I keep putting this off and it keeps being so fun when I go. I must say two black women surprised me. The first one was where I found vinegar. They move things. I said, "Yay! I found it. She ignored me. "I just realized how good this is for cleaning." And that got her started. She confirmed it is excellent for cleaning, told me all about using it for bath towels separately, makes them fluffy, she would not stop recommending vinegar for things, I rolled off with her still talking, looking back and making recommendations.

The second was at checkout, she had kale sticking up, and it was beautiful kale too, very pretty leafage there for a vegetable. I said, "Wow, that looks like a beautiful salad." 

"It's not a salad." 

"I cook that in a pressure pot, makes fast work of it. Pssssst. Up. Down. That's it. Softens it right up. Look what I got for beans." I showed her a package of neck bones. She suddenly became sociable. She and I were talking soul food for her entire wait period and throughout her checkout period and she was reluctant to break it off, she kept returning to our conversation after my attempts to stop it and get on with things, she was smiling broadly each time. 

The black dude too at the dairy cooler. I loaded up. Bought six gallons. A tremendous lot for one person. Right then a huge black man rolled up. "This has to be whole. None of that 2% stuff."

"That don't look right." (he agrees the 2% don't look right)

"Im going to freeze this. I'm tired of buying it all the time." 

"Does it freeze well?" 

" It makes little white dots floating around. It doesn't come back to normal. I think." 

"Still drinkable."

Friendly. That is what I see everywhere. Rarely does someone deliver the short shrift, a woman step it up so the locking door closes safely behind her, no mind from her holding it open for me as anyone would do for her, that sort of safety concern is rare, the woman in the elevator who does not respond to simple greeting, but her children do. Her children force her to interact so that she is not a completely self-centered schmuck. That sort of resolute introversion is rare. Far more common and daily surprising is grace all around.

In Britain this is minute steak. The term cube steak is unknown there. Cube refers to the mechanical puncture marks made to tenderize the meat. 

"Why is this minute steak only fifteen pence?" 

"Well, it's small then innit." 

Minute. Get it? I wanted everyone I knew to see King Tutankhamun exhibit while it was here. I bribed a guy with lunch if he would go. He was not interested in Tut but became so by going and seeing. He saw his own African heritage. It was moving, actually. We stopped at a neighborhood restaurant that offered chicken-fried steak. My friend could not process the description of a tenderized piece of beef steak punctured and flattened, torn up a bit, partially pre-chewed as it were, coated with seasoned flour and cooked as fried chicken, most likely deep fried. "But why do they call it chicken-fried?"

"Because it's flattened steak cooked like a chicken." 

"But why bring chicken into it? What does chicken have to do with it?" 

"It's cooked as chicken is cooked."

"But chicken is cooked a lot of ways." 

"This is cooked like fried chicken." 

"But where does the steak come into it?"

"The whole thing is a steak."

"Why don't they cook it that way?"

"It's tenderized." 

"Chicken is tenderized?" 

And so on.  I said, "Order one and see." He did order one, and still did not see. Somehow he was expecting chicken. 

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