hunger game: how to feed 1,000-plus pounds of manly flesh
dispatch from the land of 02139 (in which chief cook and mama of big strapping man-boy stands at the cupboard of her cambridge flat, scratching her head, trying to determine just how to feed the hungry hordes due to descend any hour….)
tisn’t a nursery rhyme, and though my last name isn’t hubbard, i do feel a bit like that old mama who stood before her cupboard and found it, if not bare, at least begging.
here’s the backstory: for 48 years now, the great rolling river just at the bottom of our hill (the charles is its name, so given by colonialists who offered a nod to their faraway king) has been the site, every third saturday and sunday in october, of what’s billed as “the world’s largest two-day rowing event,” drawing some 9,000 rowers from all over the world, who will put boats and oars into the water, and row, baby, row.
it’s called the head of the charles regatta, HOCR for short or those in the know.
and this is that weekend, which the lovely organizers refer to not merely as the “third weekend in october,” (how pedestrian) but rather as “the penultimate” (that’s second to last, you’ll recall; oft-confused, wrongly, as best of the best) full weekend in october. (this is cambridge, people, where words are pulled from the highest of shelves, never down low where mere commoners forage).
it’s a 3.2-mile paddle down a sinuous river that threads under six bridges and takes not one but two rather sharp turns, and apparently makes for some fierce banging and clanging of boats, oars and expletives, as boats that don’t make the turn smash into the flanks or the rears of those that do. sounds like a blood sport on water.
and how nifty could it be that after five seasons of rowing, and lord only knows how many miles of wishing, our very own rower, that strapping 6-foot-almost-3 lad, is for the very first time dipping his toe and his oar into the head of the charles, and paddling like heck, from the start at the dewolfe boat house, near the charles river basin, way, way down to the finish, just past what’s called the eliot bridge.
with his very own mama and papa and wee little brother screeching their lungs out, from high atop a footbridge that’s just down the lane from where they happen to be dwelling for this one sumptuous year.
there is a God, and she must be a rower.
ah, but the olympic feat for me, the one that has me up nights making my list and checking it twice, has nothing to do with oars or turns in the charles, nothing to do with coxswains and shells (the $75,000 fiberglass rowboats), and everything to do with hunger.
the entire varsity boat (minus the shell, thank goodness) is crashpadding with us.
that’s 1,000-plus pounds of manly flesh and bone. and that’s five bottomless tummies.
heck, we’re just up the riverbank. we’ve a roof and heat. and who cares if there aren’t nearly enough beds?
apparently, collegiate rowers do not.
all they care about is the cupboards, and what flips from the cookstove.
that’s where i come in.
early on, the plan was that i’d be feeding them the eve-of feast (the carbo-load, thank the heavenly hosts, was last night in the college cafeteria, as it needs to be 48 hours pre-paddle). but, turns out, (and with college kids there are always U-turns and roundabouts) i get the post-race nosh, saturday night, and the morning-after gorge, come sunday.
be still my hungry heart.
i’ve stored up mounds and mounds of bread (the freezer looks like a tundra of challah and sliced-up baguettes). i plan on clearing the shelves at the grocery today of all cheeses and plump links of sausage. henhouses are on high alert, as i need, oh, five dozen eggs. for starters.
and juice. oh, lord, juice. i might just dial a tanker, and have it lurch to the curb out front, unspool a hose, thread it up through the windows, and have the boys stand there and guzzle.
don’t even whisper the R word — “red meat,” if you must — for i’ll be taking out loans to leverage that big whopper of a bill.
and once we conquer the feeding, we shall inch our brains to that other obstacle of the weekend: the toilette.
hmm. four big boys and a lithe little coxswain (pronounced coks-en, she (for often it’s a she amid he’s) is the one who sits down low at the bow of the boat, screamin’ and hollerin’ and calling out which way to turn). one porcelain bowl with seat, lid and flusher.
hold that pretty thought in your head.
i have. (remember folks, this is a two-bed apartment with a one-toilet bathroom, that is shared, now that i’m letting you in on all of the secrets, with our sweet little kitty’s very own rendition of a powder room, aka the litter box.)
maybe, while i’m dialing up the OJ tanker, i ought to scroll around for the port-a-potty people, and add one or three to the weekend tab.
let it be declared, high and low, that there is not so much as a droplet, not even a micro-driplet, of complaint here. (and, yes, i know you know that already, those of you who know that i live and breathe to flutter about like a mama hen, feeding my hordes, cooing and clucking.)
it’s just that, well, it’s going to be a page in my scrapbook that i’ll never ever forget.
mostly all i can picture is the morning after, when all those tired-out muscles, those floppy hard limbs, will be splayed this way and that on the floor of this pad, and i’ll tiptoe over and through the mounds, trying to get to my skillets and oven.
then, while they dream of the bends and the bridges of the great river charles, the ones they’ll have coursed — please, God — without collision, i’ll be steeped in my weekend’s challenge: cookin’ up vittles (slang spelling for victuals), to sate the hungers of my very own rower and his bottomless crew.
dear chair people, and so another week passes. this one certainly held highlights: the visit from grammy (who now knows what it is to sit in a harvard lecture hall, surrounded by laptopping freshmen); dinner at the over-the-top over-baroque home of an ambassador named swanee (yes, as in the river) hunt, in which for the first time outside a church i sipped from a sterling goblet at a table set thusly for 24 hungry nieman fellows; a visit with the former greek prime minister, george papandreaou; and to round it all out, a fireside chat with the CEO of NPR, who in a previous life was head honcho at sesame street, and thus might be the rockstaringest dude in the media pantheon.
i realize i’ve been amiss in playing word-of-the-week, so to make up for missed opportunities, i’ve a slew to toss your way, all culled from virginia woolf’s sublime “mrs. dalloway.” here goes:
lollop: to move in an ungainly way, clumsy paces or bounds; or to bob
concord: agreement, treaty
obsequious: trying too hard to please someone; excessively obedient or respectful
pother: a commotion or fuss
pertinacious: persistent or determined
breasting (as in breasting the stream): to face and move forward against or through
vagulous: wayward, vague and wavering, a Virginia Woolf-ism
and because it’s all so sumptuous, how bout few fine lines, to boot (again, all from “mrs. dalloway”:
“…she was like a bird sheltering under the thin hollow of a leaf, who blinks at the sun when the leaf moves; starts at the crack of a dry twig.”
on sewing: “…her needle, drawing the silk smoothly to its gentle pause, collected the green folds together and attached them, very lightly, to the belt.”
describing grand houses of London: “….halls laid in black and white lozenges…”
“turning one’s nerves to fiddle strings….”
“long streamers of sunlight…”
on “the compensation of growing old”: “the passions remain as strong as ever, but one has gained — at last! — the power which adds the supreme flavour to existence, — the power of taking hold of experience, turning it round, slowly, in the light.”
so that’s it for this fine friday.i’ve a class to dash off to. and one pulsing question: how would you feed my hungriest hordes?
Soooooooo jealous! Loved the experience 3 years ago. Even more jealous of the Houseful. Drink it all in. It will nourish you for years!!! 🙂
My word of the week: chili.
(But maybe leave out the beans . . . )
brilliant idea, m’dear. and hilarious addendum on making it bean-less. i will need a cauldron in which to bubble it all. and best part is we just heard that the updated weather report has shooshed the rain showers out of the skies, and brought in mere clouds and high sixties. how perfect is that? the rower just texted me to tell me they’ve rolled into town, and wondered if i might want to wander down to the river and watch from the banks. be still my heart, this is all but a dream. (as if all that’s not enough, my toughest class, with the hugest assignments, was cancelled for monday, making me feel like i am on spring break suddenly. or at least HOC break….which is sweet enough for me.)
I will send you a great bean less chili recipe when I get back home later today!
Great again – Why don’t you see if the University paper will publish these weekly! Hurry, hurry, do not delay – they’re sensational! This year is turning out to be more than extraordinary and it’s only October! What’s doing with Teddy? Laurie (:
tedd is ready and willing to be the sous chef, and chief egg cracker. he is sopping up harry potter tomes at breakneck speed. can’t stop. it’s a beautiful thing to watch T neck deep in story. maybe one of these days he’ll troop into widener library with me, just to inhale the fumes of all that readin’ and thinkin’. sending buckets of love, sweet L. xoxox
How about cheesy potatoes for breakfast? Easy and filling and yummy.
20 oz package of hashbrowns
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 can cream of potato soup
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup crushed corn flakes
2 tbsp melted butter
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Transfer mixture to prepared pan. Combine corn flakes and 2 tbsp melted butter in a small bowl. Spread topping onto mixture. Bake for 45 minutes.
YUM! thanks, baby doll. and i’m guessing i need to multiply quantities times five, right?!?!?!
I’d multiply the whole cheesy thing by 3 at least to feed your crew. Bon appetit 😉
Have sent this off to my own 6’4″ boy-man who has just started rowing at OXFORD for Lord’s sake. He attended a secondary school in Ireland which was half boarding students (i.e. terminally hungry), and I miss terrifically making American pancakes for the pack who slept over at our house on the weekends. The Cheesy Potato recipe has a real Holy Cross scent to it.
that is SUPER cool. my rower dreams of the other cambridge, YOUR cambridge, and the royal henley regatta…..he’d take a british pancake any day….so sweet to find you here. thanks for pullin’ up a chair.
ah no, thank you, would love to be in your place in Cambridge. Where is your son a rower? Ivy league somewhere? The “other” Cambridge is always interested in someone who has the grades and a crew history…if it gets to a real application be sure to ask us for advice. Alex loves being somewhere where rowing is the coolest sport. Christ Church regatta coming soon, followed by a curry buffet!
be still his heart. he’s at amherst college, little ivy. he would swoon a hundred thousand swoons even to think of rowing across the big ol’ pond….
Enjoy this blessed weekend! Sounds terrific and then some to me. How about lots of breakfast casseroles, sort of buffet style, help yourself while you wait for your turn in the necessary room?
Those potatoes for sure. Occasionally I’ve made a baked french toast in a 13 X 9, but also stratas are great for this sort of thing. Super easy, made the night before, you pop it in the oven and boom, done. I have a very easy recipe if you want it. Also we like to have a waffle iron on and waffles come churning out of a morning. Can do that easy with a mix (shh, don’t tell anyone). Dinner the night before? I might lean toward a lasagna. I mean, several lasagnas.
darlin, that is EXACTLY what the tundra of bread is all about: undergirding of strata times strata times strata. i love baked french toast. my recipe is at home. you have one you could fling my way? or else, could you tiptoe into my kitchen and yank it from the old maple recipe box, the one missing a hinge on its lid? it’s tucked right by the old cookie cutters, on the third shelf from the top. xoxo
my beloved across-the-street-back-home neighbor, allyson, sent this treasure from her mama’s recipe box. too delicious not to add to this groaning board of EZ brunch trough delights. bless you allyson and your beautiful mama. xoxo
Crunchy Sausage Casserole
1 6 oz package long grain wild rice
1 lb bulk pork sausage
1 lb ground beef
1 lg onion chopped
1 8 oz can sliced H2O chestnuts
8 oz sliced mushrooms, sautéed
3 T soy sauce
1 2 3/4 oz package sliced almonds
Cook rice, set aside.
Saute onion and meats until meat cooked and crumbly.
Add remaining ingredients, stir well.
Spoon into casserole dish.
Take out of frig, let stand 30 minutes.
Bake uncovered @ 325 for 50 minutes (stir part way through).
EAT. YUM. Serve with scrambled eggs with costwald cheese, biscuits, sour cream coffee cake, fruit to absolve the sins of cholesterol and fat.
If not refrig’ed overnite, bake @ 300 for 20 minutes.
Hey B…it is now 12:10am sunday and I just read your posting…sooooo sorry cuz i would’ve sent you a few recipes and if you were here i would’ve made them for you..how did it go???
Been a hectic month..Ron’s mother in law died in Peoria..would’ve been 99yrs old this month..so we were there of course and then I just found out I have a cousin who lives in Australia that never knew that his real father was my uncle who was quite the rover and ladies man! His best friend from high school here did all the ancestry stuff for him and on his way back to Sydney from a trip to Paris Paul and I got to meet him for lunch during his layover at ORD.Really amazing to look into a total stranger’s eyes and see someone who is instantly your cousin and looks so like my Uncle(who is deceased) My cousin Jim’s mother died and never told him about the affair and he always thought he was of Slovenia descent and was planning to look up any relatives there when in Europe and the family decided to tell him the truth!
Also read your previous blog regarding favorite poems…one of mine is Little Boy Blue by Eugene Field..my Mom had one of his books and that poem always got to me….keep in touch…time for nighty night…love to you all..especially the Tedster…Lynette…
postscript: sunday morning, the morning after….
as i type, the swirling perfumes of nutmeg and allspice and cinnamon, and that fat gourd from october’s vine, are filling the apartment. so too are lots and lots of long legs and arms, and a face or two i barely recognize (okay, only one of those).
i’ve already orchestrated a game of musical beds, as i woke up to discover one long-limbed rower sleeping upright in a chair. so i shooshed the rower i know and love into my bed, and cleared the bottom bunk for the chair-sleeper.
so it goes when you’re in the business of inn-keeping rowers who paddled their hearts out (oh, how they’d hate that i cheaply toss out “paddled” instead of the more astute “rowed,” or “stroked,” but wood to water, in whatever way, is a paddle or a row or a stroke, when it comes right down to it), and never crashed, and made it to the end, and by the end of the night were feeling a wee bit proud of their efforts.
they rowed to the best show of amherst college in a very long time, and though the three seniors in the boat had dreamed of cracking into the top 10, they all turned to my rower, a sophomore, and told him he’d be carrying the torch.
last night it was chili, chili, and more chili. this morning, besides pumpkin loaf, it’ll be trays of bacon, piles of flapjacks, all smothered in a fine apple-y, cinnamon-y, stewed-on-the-stovetop sort of a thing. and maple syrup, by the tanker, of course. i know i know, casseroles would have been easier. but, dang, if i can’t find a single casserole pan anywhere on these shelves. so my best laid plans for my mama’s strata are foiled.
i really can’t imagine a sweeter moment than this one. imagine if — or when — you send your firstborn off to college. and deep in your heart you harbor a wish that you could just tag along, and be there to cook for that sweet child in the morning, to be there when they all straggle in at the long end of a saturday night. but, ha!, there’s no such wish-come-true, short of commuter college, well this then would be the closest i’ll ever come. and i’m gulping it down with three spoons.
bam, you live more in one week than I do in five years! And cook more, too! Your funny/smart description of provisioning made me think how much my mother would have enjoyed this dispatch… and you! Hope you got some of your own good chow, some rest and your homework done to boot!
Haha, loved this! Always look forward to your new adventures!! Xoxo
Sent from my iPhone