Skipping Rocks

Spargelzeit

My wife and her sister and I had dinner last night at Steinhaus Keller, Hot Springs’ only German restaurant. We chose to go there because we’re in the midst of Spargelfest, the culinary celebration of Spargelzeit. Spargelfest is the observance of the peak of asparagus season (Spargelzeit). In Germany, the season peaks when white asparagus reaches perfection (or thereabouts). Frankly, though I absolutely love asparagus, I don’t eat it often enough to recall the difference in taste and/or texture between stalks of white and green asparagus. I know, though, I enjoy both immensely. But, in spite of the season and the special asparagus-laden menu, we opted to sample only one items from the restaurant’s special Spargelfest menu. We shared an appetizer of spargel gravlax, which the menu described (aptly) as follows: Smoked salmon painted with horseradish cream cheese, rolled around marinated white asparagus, tomato, cucumber, red onion, and roasted garlic then served atop toasted crostini. It was excellent. For her entrée, my wife chose Ziguener Schnitzel. My SIL chose Braised Pork Knuckle (Schweinshaxe), but then had to retreat to an alternative (German Bone-In Shank) when she learned her choice was sold out. I selected the Steinhaus Platter, consisting of two sausages (bratwurst and (I think) knackwurst and sliced pork roast. We chose various sides, including red cabbage (Rotes Kraut), Brussels sprouts, German Potato Salad (Kartoffelsalat), and Potato Pancake (Kartoffel Pancake). I ordered a wheat beer (Heffesweizen), Franziskaner Helles my SIL had, I think, a Marzen Oktoberfest (Spaten Oktoberfest).

To say the meal was rich would be a monstrous understatement. I think we all enjoyed it immensely, in spite of leaving the place absolutely stuffed. We all agreed we’d like to go back to try other dishes. The menu is extremely inviting!

***

Speaking of Germans and Germany..my home country owes its name to a German cartographer.

In 1507, a German cartographer, Martin Waldseemüller, drew a map of the world. He called it Universalis Cosmographia. Waldseemüller based his drawing of the “new world” on the published travelogues of Amerigo Vespucci. All countries were, at the time, viewed as feminine, so Waldseemüller used a “feminine Latinized” version of Vespucci’s first name. Cartographers at the time tended to copy one another’s descriptive words, so “America” came into common use on maps and, thereafter, in the language at large.

According to Jonathan Cohen, a poet, translator, essayist, and scholar of inter-American literature, whose online essay inexplicably resides, apparently, on the website for the Department of Surgery at Stony Brook University:

“In their resulting Cosmographiae Introductio, printed on April 25, 1507, appear these words (as translated from the original Latin): “But now these parts [Europe, Asia and Africa, the three continents of the Ptolemaic geography] have been extensively explored and a fourth part has been discovered by Americus Vespuccius [a Latin form of Vespucci’s name], as will be seen in the appendix: I do not see what right any one would have to object to calling this part after Americus, who discovered it and who is a man of intelligence, [and so to name it] Amerige, that is, the Land of Americus, or America: since both Europa and Asia got their names from women”

***

Discourteous Pigs Who Scrape and Paint

I can’t believe how long it has been since I hired a contractor to scrape and sand and paint my deck. It has been ages. Well, the contractor continues to simply fail to show. Even after promising to be here “tomorrow” or “by noon,” he fails to show. Yesterday was the last straw. I got a call just before 9 a.m., saying they would be here by noon. (The day before I was told they planned to spend the entire day at my house.) By 2 p.m., I texted, inquiring how much the guy thought I owed him for work done so far (I guess that question gave away my plans). An hour later came his reply. He gave me a rough estimate and said he would give me a firm number in 15 or 20 minutes. As of this morning, I still have no “firm” number. I imagine he figured the writing was on the wall, so why bother? If I hear from him again, I will inform him that he has two choices for payment: deliver to me on a day and time suitable to me the two 5-gallon cans of paint I bought for the deck (in which case I will pay him for work completed so far) or keep the paint as payment in full for his efforts to date. If I don’t hear from him, I will simply buy more paint (after I finish scraping and replacing boards that need it).  It absolutely stuns me that people behave like he does. One thing is certain. He will not complete the work he started so very long ago.

***

Ultrasound

Finally, I’m scheduled for an ultrasound. I got a call yesterday to schedule the test, which may provide more information about the suspected gallstones revealed during a recent X-ray. I do not relish the idea of ultrasound confirmation that I may have gallstones, but neither do I relish the idea of learning about them (if, indeed, they are there) through horrific pain. I think I have an allergy to pain. Before month-end, I will know more than I know today. But that’s true every month, isn’t it?

***

Okay. That’s sufficient for now. Ideas suitable for fiction have begun to bubble up in my mind. Perhaps I will return to fiction in short order. Or, perhaps, not. When I look at what I’ve written and see that the topics are so diverse, I think to myself that my mind is skipping rocks on the surface of a broad expanse of water. Or, if not water, thought.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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