In the twilit weeks between Christmas and the Christian feast of Epiphany, when the hype has been carried off for recycling, time passes differently. Before we know it, we're days into January, or, as my wise friend Bones calls it, Remember—as in, November, December, Remember.
As in, don't just sit there streaming the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Road; remember! You are one snowstorm from an empty fridge. At any given moment, your couch could vanish from common view, appearing as but a dot on a grid only KUB can see. And dude, technology can't save you. Remember the blizzard of 1993?
Bones says although they don't show 1993 casualties on the Deaths Map for the Tail of the Dragon, that was the year they lowered the speed limit from 55 mph to 40. "For a reason, man," Bones says. "Hey!"
"You ever grill a cabbage?"
If I did, I'd forgotten.
"It's a biker thing," Bones says. "Poverty thing. You throw a cabbage on a grill."
I couldn't wait. The simplicity, the versatility, the sheer comic value of substituting a cabbage for a pork roast or, in the context of The Road, a human head! It rained for days before I got to start my sweet neo-post-apocalyptic fire in a dented hubcap on an iron garden chair, in the backyard.
A school bus's doors shushed open and shut. Dark was falling. "No need for fluid starters!" the label on the charcoal reminded. "Just light the bag!!"
Last spring an insurance company made headlines by announcing that nearly half of all American women, rich and poor alike, fear becoming bag ladies—thereby, I imagine, causing the other half of all American women to think about it for the first time and also fear becoming bag ladies.
For a reason, man.
What else does any of us have to look forward to? You say "healthy, independent old woman" and I get stuck at Cruella De Vil. The Charlize Theron character in The Road offs herself rather than risk her family seeing her harmed, rather than risk surviving them. Bones says that wasn't explicit in the book. It definitely worked for me as a literary construct, though, and then some—and now some, as I dispersed the whitening coals with the poke of a stick.
Of course, dread of destitution is not limited to women. Nor can it be quantified in general—or it wouldn't be dread.
I propped the top of a 6-inch galvy Mason jar chick feeder on the coals. The cabbage neatly assumed inverted position. With each brush of olive oil, I prayed, "Taste hammy."
We're all delusional, according to some more research that went viral last year. The poor and middle class have a lot less than most of us think, the rich have a lot more, the top 1 percent are literally off the charts, and CEOs earn 380 times the pay of the average worker.
I unlidded the grill and a Tinkerbell's ransom of ash flew into the dark. Kept whirling, in fact. Was snow.
January, remember? The month we snap out of compassion and back into ourselves, leaving those concerned with survival more alone than ever.
The moon hadn't shown itself yet, and my low barbecue rig seemed to be sucking all available light out of the sky, drawing the eddying snow down with it. In the center of the cabbage bubbled a tiny golden lake. The inner leaves had begun to pull away, opaque, while the outer leaves, now reddened and running with caramel, crackled at the touch of my brush. A corona of fat-flares shot sparks past the edges of my woolly hat. I got it.
Nothing essential about this was likely to be changed by a couple of decades. How would I ever think or act as anyone but myself? People would suffer and survive and succumb to hunger. A cabbage could still be a miracle.
A medium-sized green cabbage
1/2 stick butter or 3 tablespoons cooking oil
Chandler's Cabbage Seasoning
1/4 pound bacon or ham or 2 tablespoons miso paste
1/4 pound chopped mushrooms
1/4 pound chopped onions
1/4 pound chopped olives
Melt a tablespoon of the butter or oil over medium heat. Add Chandler's Cabbage Seasoning. Add the bacon/ham/miso paste and any mushrooms/onion/olives you're using. Cook till it starts to brown, between 3 and 5 minutes. Drain. Reserve the drippings.
Crumple a piece of aluminum foil and shape it into a ring about 3 inches in diameter, or use the top of a metal chick feeder.
Cut a 3-inch cone-shaped core out of the cabbage from the root end. Prop the cabbage upright on the aluminum foil ring or the chick feeder, cavity facing up.
Place the drained mixture in the cavity and top it with the remaining butter/oil. Brush the outside of the cabbage with the reserved drippings.
Onto a grill with medium-hot to hot coals, place the cabbage on its stand in the center, away from the heat. Grill and baste the cabbage until very tender, about an hour and a half.
Fall on your knees.