HAIL! the great salmon who laid down their lives for the South Carolina Book Festival literary launch.
As fabulously wonderful as our new friends were, and entertaining the good company surrounding us, I’m sorry I didn’t photograph the feast.
There is a lot to be said for Southern Hospitality.
The salmon were pride of the table – long and plump, pasted with thinly sliced cucumber and accessorised with fine capers and elegantly chopped red onion (the crushed egg was not for me).
Further up the table, in a large silver warmer, was a round of parmesan and artichoke dip.
In between there was the kind of fare beloved by carnivores everywhere: chicken wings, meatballs and, presumably for the vegetarians, spanikopita triangles. Lured by the next table, these were of little interest to me.
The next table was an assemblage of cheeses and fruits, including fresh mulberries! I haven’t had a fresh mulberry since we lived in Nowra when I was eight years old. We buried the family labrador under that tree one year and the mulberries from then on were a spectacular thrill of glowing good health.
And then, in another room, the brownies – and the blondies!
Those desserts were divine. Especially layered (by me) with the strawberries, juicy orange slices and the mulberries.
Chocolate, cheese and fruit. It was as if I was on pilgrimage all over again . . . which, in another way, I am.
Our table was a hub of fun from the kick-off, with Wendy Wax, Patricia Sprinkle and, eventually, Mary Alice Monroe joining Lucinda and me for a laugh and a feed. Mary Alice had just arrived from Kingsport, Tennessee, where she had been presented with the keys to the city.
They really did give her a key.
Before shooting up the highway to Columbia, South Carolina this afternoon, I’d made a presentation to Lucinda’s Rotary Club in Augusta.
When we walked into the meeting room at the newly built Baptist Church, stunningly beautiful for a new building, my eyes beheld the first feast of the day (not
counting the smoked salmon bagel I’ve been making myself for breakfast these days, taking advantage of a fridge for the salmon and sprouted wheat bagels).
There were platters of fresh slaw salads, fancy rice, tomato and squash stew and the usual flesh fare beloved by Southerners everywhere. And I mean everywhere, not just in the South.
My full plate laid on the table at my seat, I stood before 40 people and led them through the realities of pilgrimage: the trials and troubles, the gift and the glory.
It was goin’ great . . . till I got to Albania and started blubberin’. Reading the passage where Ben and I walked into Albania, crossing the border from Montenegro, reduced me to tears for the love and curious interest showered on a pair of strangers who were taking the time to visit a world long forgotten by the West.
It was unbelievably difficult to read through those tears – probably because I was trying to stop them! Perhaps if I’d unapologetically let them flow and just kept reading I might have . . . what? I was a blubbering woman, either way.
And we know how men can be around crying women.
Actually, I don’t really. I’m too busy tending to a breaking heart.
Besides, I fixed all that when one of the men asked about Ben’s and my health during our thousand mile hike.
I thought for a moment, then realised this was gonna be good.
“Oh, we were fine!” I said.
“The only health issue I had I soon learned was menopause.”
I laughed. They laughed, some I suspect nervously. We moved on.
Tears and menopause and feasts, rites of passage all.