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Cheese Fondue and a Horoscope

Alternative Title: what happens on a loopy Friday night…

When I was a kid my mom provided home-cooked dinners every night for years.  Growing up as the youngest of four kids in a very middle class family, that meant a relatively routine cycle of meals that fit the family budget.  Of course, when I was a kid I didn’t realize any of this.  And there was something else that I didn’t know until much later as well.  Once I left home and went out on my own and demonstrated a love for cooking, my mom told me she didn’t understand where I got it from because she hated cooking — which probably explains the routine cycle of our weekly dinner menu.  Spaghetti, chicken prepared the same way week after week, white trash tacos, sliced ham and macaroni and cheese, and I don’t remember what else.

But, every once in awhile, my mom made something different.  In family lore, the truly classic example of this is the night my mom made Greek Lasagna.  In my memory, we eagerly waited at the table as she presented a casserole dish with this dark dish of pasta or something that was going to be incredible.  And within a few minutes after each of us had taken a bite, my father was on his way to McDonald’s to provide us with the sustenance we needed.  So, understand something.  I grew up in an environment in which what was put on your plate was what you were going to eat.  The idea that we got McDonald’s that night instead of having to eat the Greek Lasagna my mom made for us shows just how horrible it was.

(Here’s the weird thing about this … with the advent of the internet and the intervening years, I’ve never looked up what Greek Lasagna is.  I just did.  It really doesn’t look that bad.  So, I don’t get what happened all those years ago.)

But sometimes my mom got it right with her experiments.  Back in the 70’s we had a fondue pot.  It was red.  Complete with cute little forks to spear bread with and dip into the pot and the cheesy goodness that bubbled in there.  Yes, we were so cool and hip and with it that, every now and then, we had cheese fondue.  In my memory, when we had cheese fondue for dinner, we were fancy.  We were breaking out of our mold.  This was … something special.

As an adult, I have almost never had cheese fondue.  I can remember having it only once or twice over the last 25-30 years.  A few weeks a co-worker mentioned she was going to have cheese fondue for dinner that weekend and I was intrigued.  I printed out a recipe.  This morning, Queen Midget asked for ideas for dinner tonight.  I told her the cheese fondue recipe I had printed out.

We had cheese fondue for dinner.  Sourdough bread and salami for dipping.  A bowl of strawberries and blueberries to accompany it.  And after dipping and dipping and dipping, I was reminded of something I recalled from all those years ago.  There’s this thing about cheese fondue.  It’s really good.  Just so incredibly yummy.  Until it isn’t.  I don’t know if it’s the wine flavor, or something else, but there’s this point that isn’t explained by being full.  It’s just that there is this … twinge in the flavor that becomes too much.  It overwhelms the cheesy goodness and…

Well, I had cheese fondue tonight.  I relived my childhood.  It was good.  Until it wasn’t.  Not sure when I’ll need to have cheese fondue again.


Which, of course, leads to the next obvious topic.  A little over a month ago, I wrote about Rob Brezsny’s horoscopes. About his uncanny ability to strike a chord for me. No matter how much I do not believe in horoscopes, Brezsny’s seem so frequently to get to the very core of things for me.  I checked out my Brezsny-authored horoscope in the local alternative weekly today and here’s what it said:

Russian writer Ivan Turgenev was a Scorpio. Midway through his first novel Rudin, his main character Dmitrii Nikolaevich Rudin alludes to a problem that affects many Scorpios. “Do you see that apple tree?” Rudin asks a woman companion. “It is broken by the weight and abundance of its own fruit.” Ouch! I want very much for you Scorpios to be spared a fate like that in the coming weeks. That’s why I propose that you scheme about how you will express the immense creativity that will be welling up in you. Don’t let your lush and succulent output go to waste.

When I got to “It is broken by the weight and abundance of its own fruit” I thought ‘ah-ha’ he is on to me once again.  I have been called the Angel of Darkness and the Joykiller.  I have been accused of being an Eeyore instead of a Tigger.  I have been accused of having a glass half-empty instead of half-full perspective.  And to all of these charges, I plead guilty.

Because I believe in reality.  I don’t believe in sugarcoating things.  I believe that while celebration is a worthy goal, one must always look at the other side of things.  And while the people around me want to focus on the celebration, I generally focus on the “yeah, but what about …”  So, yeah, the apple tree can be incredible, laden with fruit, but there’s a reality there if there is too much fruit.  The tree will be broken and something will happen as a result of that reality.  That’s a fact.

And then I got to this part … “the immense creativity that will be welling up in you. Don’t let your lush and succulent output go to waste” … and I just wanted to cry because I simply don’t feel that anymore.  I don’t know where my creativity has gone.  I don’t feel like it is welling up in me.  Instead I feel like there is this immense void, a sinkhole where that thing once was.  Lush and succulent?  Try “dried up and shriveled beyond recognition.”

There was this time … hell, let’s call it the first 40 years of my life when I thought I had not a creative bone in my body.  Then, one day I outlined a novel in my head on the drive home and spent the next year writing that novel.  And then wrote another.  And dozens of short stories.  And … well all sorts of things.  And now I think I’m an imposter.  A pretender.  That lush and succulent output, the creativity I never expected to have is gone.  All completely gone.

So, yeah, Mr. Brezsny, you got it half right this week.  I only wish you had got it completely right.  I want to feel that thing I felt for a few years.  I want to feel creativity bursting forth.  I just don’t know where it will come from or if it is even there anymore.

Time for me to go make some Greek Lasagna.  Maybe I’ll invite my mom over to give it a try.



20 responses to “Cheese Fondue and a Horoscope

  1. sknicholls February 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    As a bipolar person this has been my whole life. Year(s) of mania when I accomplished feats no ordinary woman could dream of and creativity poured forth. Year(s) of life when I could not rise from the bed. Cyclic extremes. I’m better balanced now, but still find myself on the edge from time to time. You haven’t lost your mojo. It’s brewing under a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. And like my kombucha, when it’s ready, it will provide you with a host of benefits.

  2. Amy Reese February 19, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    I’ve had cheese fondue and I remember now I had that very same experience. It was great until…it wasn’t and I had enough. I struggle with dinners in my household because everyone, including my husband, is very picky. As for your creativity, maybe you should try something new! Try Friday Fictioneers or something else. Do an activity you’ve never done. Get away from the predictable and maybe you’ll find a new spark! Just an idea.

    • kingmidget February 19, 2016 at 9:29 pm

      A painting class. I’ve decided it’s time for me to do this.

      Regarding the picky eaters. It’s odd, I wonder if that’s part of why my mom did what she did, but I look back and think I started my adult life as a picky eater because of the limits in our meals when I was a kid. I just wasn’t exposed to much back then, but then most of us middle class white folks didn’t back then. There weren’t Mexican and Chinese and restaurants of all types on every corner. When we were making the cheese fondue, we added pancetta to it and laughed about the idea that when we were kids we would have never known what pancetta was. Our kids, however, have been eating prosciutto and pancetta for most of their lives.

      Back to writing … I keep looking at writing prompts, like those in Friday Fictioneers, and come up with … absolutely … nothing. So, I’m not sure that’s where I need to head.

      • Amy Reese February 19, 2016 at 9:32 pm

        You know, you’re right. We didn’t have as many different things to choose from as we do now. My kids are exposed to far many more things than I ever was. When my mom took a Chinese cooking class and bought a wok, things got a bit more creative! We tried new things.
        Painting is a great idea! Do it. As for FF, every week I struggle and I know I’m not alone. But it’s great for ideas. You’ll come up with things you never thought of before! You should try it.

      • kingmidget February 19, 2016 at 9:37 pm

        Chinese food when I was a kid was Chun King. This horrible, salty stuff that came out of cans. It’s a miracle I’m willing to eat Chinese food now, but some of my favorite meals have been when I’ve gone to a Chinese restaurant with a large group of friends and we order a dozen dishes and pass them around the table. O’Mei’s in Santa Cruz has some great memories for me because of the food and the company.

      • Amy Reese February 19, 2016 at 9:39 pm

        My mom got pretty good with that wok! I actually found out years later (I mean only recently) that the reason we had such bland meals was because of my dad. He was strictly a meat and potatoes guy. I had no idea!

      • kingmidget February 19, 2016 at 9:44 pm

        Kind of like me not knowing my mom didn’t like to cook until after I moved away and found I liked to cook. I know that once all the kids have moved out, my parents started eating out a lot more and eating all sorts of things — Mexican, Chinese, etc. There was a period of time where it seemed my mom put hot sauce on everything. But the meals prepared at home … my mom made things as easy to put together as possible. And I don’t question that. I get it on some level. Now that my boys are both away at college, I struggle with the motivation to cook when it’s my turn.

      • Amy Reese February 19, 2016 at 9:47 pm

        I would love to switch off and have turns! It is hard to come up with ideas even though they’re everywhere! That almost makes it harder, because then what do you choose. I’ve chosen badly before.

      • kingmidget February 19, 2016 at 9:55 pm

        Generally speaking, for years, the wifey has cooked during the week because she was a stay-at-home mom for a few years and now has a part-time job that gives her more available time during the week and I cook on weekends. But that’s hard to do if one of the resident adults doesn’t like or want to cook. There are plenty of people like that.

      • Amy Reese February 19, 2016 at 9:55 pm

        Agree! If I could, I’d hire a chef. 🙂

      • kingmidget February 19, 2016 at 9:58 pm

        Well, if I could … I’d be retired (only 3 1/2 years away hopefully) and I’d have the time to cook much more regularly. Healthy meals, fresh baked bread, dynamic and interesting things … because I’d have the time for it. Along, of course, with all of the other things I want to do. 😉

      • Amy Reese February 19, 2016 at 10:07 pm

        Sounds like a good plan.

  3. cinthiaritchie February 19, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Ah, you’re not an imposter or pretender. You’re just in a stale period, a dormant period. It happens. We can’t be creative all the time. Our brains needs to rest. Our minds need to regroup. This happened to me a few months ago and, thankfully, we took off for Arizona a few weeks later and I didn’t have to worry about it that much. But the weeks before we left, I was so depressed it was difficult to get out of bed. “Who am I if I’m not a writer,” I’d think, over and over.
    The good news: After barely writing for over six weeks, my creativity has returned. And yours will too. It’s kind of like running. Train year round and sooner or later you’ll burn out and have to cut back on your mileage/speed, etc. Writing is the same way. So take it easy and enjoy your time off. Before you know it, you’ll be writing like crazy again, and we’ll all be jealous of you, lol.

  4. Trent Lewin February 20, 2016 at 9:58 am

    You are no impostor, or a pretender. You are a writer. And you are a creator. You’re an artist. And you will be there, when you let that reality just be. Don’t force it, don’t feel compelled, just open up and let it out, because it’s right there, and you can never ever run out of creativity. You just can’t. If you had it at all, it’s still there. And you had it for sure, so inside is where it’s got to still be.

    As for the fondue… you articulated something that’s bothered me for years. But it’s like coffee too. The first few sips are like angels fornicating on your tongue. But by the end of the cup… blah.

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