One thing I’ve learned over the years of writing this column is that I never know where my words might end up. I’ve been contacted by people from California to New York, a reader in Hawaii and even readers in Austria.
One of the most enjoyable things about the column is getting feedback from readers, most of it either fun or educational, occasionally not so, but all of it welcome. The worst that can happen to a writer is to never know if anyone is reading their words.
This morning, however, thanks to one of these columns, I had a bolt-from-the-blue response from a reader. I’m still a bit in shock, but pleasantly so.
The e-mail began, “I recently was standing in front of a store in Kirkland and there was a Whidbey Island newspaper article taped to the window. I started to read it and to my surprise, it was written by you.”
The message continued and by the time I’d read it all, I was covered with goose bumps (and wondering, of course, why the article was taped to a store window in Kirkland).
Years ago, during what I refer to as “the years of my exile” I was living, reluctantly, in a suburb of Chicago, and teaching, happily, in a small elementary school a couple of blocks from our house.
At that time, young, aspiring teachers who were doing their practice teaching prior to becoming certified were typically assigned to work with and under the tutelage of experienced teachers for six months.
Thus it was that a beautiful, black-haired, dark-eyed young woman named Mary first came into my life, assigned to me and my sixth-grade classroom.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of instant rapport that sometimes happens when you meet someone for the first time and know immediately that you’re going to hit it off.
That’s the way it was with Mary. She was intelligent and witty, with a wry, highly developed sense of humor and a fast tongue that made it a delight to trade quips with her.
After a few weeks of working together, we were a formidable pair, both in the classroom and the teachers’ room, and our colleagues began referring to us as “the Sister Mary/Margaret team.”
(She was Catholic; I wasn’t, but the nicknames came about because of her hilarious stories about Catholic school and the “Sisters.”)
Even the principal, who was your basic wimp, was cowed, I realized later, when faced with two fast-talking, determined teachers who had strong ideas about what should and should not go on and/or be taught in a sixth-grade classroom. Keep in mind that, back then, teachers actually had a lot of say about such things.
After her certification was completed, Mary was hired to teach in the same school, and we enjoyed three years of working together on many committees, curriculum development boards and in classrooms, until Mary announced, one day, that she’d be getting married right after the school year ended and wouldn’t be coming back to our area.
Imagine my surprise when she told me her future husband was moving to Seattle and that’s where she would be going after their honeymoon.
Seattle! The city I was hopelessly homesick for and pining to return to. Lucky Mary.
To keep a long story short, I did return to Seattle a few years later, looked Mary up and we got together in time for me to commiserate during her divorce. We saw each other a few times after that, then she and her two young girls moved to Issaquah, I moved to Whidbey Island, and we lost each other.
Until this morning, thanks to some store window in Kirkland, where Mary just happened to be passing by.
Oddly enough, I’d been thinking about her and had decided I’d get on Google and try to find Mary, when there was her e-mail, along with the goosebumps. We’ll be getting together soon, to catch up on two decades of life since we last talked and I’m certain it will be one of those “as if we’d just seen each other last week” meetings. I’m looking forward to a lot of laughs.
Yes, oh yes, I do love reader feedback!
Among her other accomplishments, Mary is a very good cook and we often traded recipes. She was as much a chocoholic as I, and her Cocoa Squares often appeared on the teachers’ room table.
MARY’S COCOA SQUARES
1 stick butter
½ cup shortening
1 cup water
3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 t. baking soda
½ cup buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
1 stick butter
3 t. powdered cocoa
6 T. milk
1 box (1 lb.) powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
½ cup chopped walnuts
In a saucepan, boil together the butter, shortening, water and cocoa, until well blended. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and baking soda. Mix together buttermilk, eggs and vanilla; add to flour mixture along with cooled cocoa mixture. Mix well.
Spread batter on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 min.
While squares are baking, make frosting: place butter, cocoa and milk in a saucepan, bring to a boil, mixing well then remove from heat. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and walnuts, mixing well Spread over baked squares while they are still warm. Allow to cool, then cut into squares.
Another of Mary’s recipes was a hit for this exiled Pacific Northwesterner who was always hungry for anything crabby. She often did these appetizers for some of our teacher potluck get-togethers.
CRAB COCKTAIL FRITTERS
1 can (7 ½ oz.) king crab or ½ lb. frozen king crab meat
1½ cups sifted flour
1 ½ t. baking powder
1 ½ t. salt
2/3 cup milk
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. melted butter
½ cup finely diced celery
2 T. finely chopped green pepper
2 T. finely chopped onion or scallion
Tomato dip (recipe below)
Drain canned crab and slice into small pieces. Or defrost, drain and slice frozen crab.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Beat egg slightly and add milk, lemon juice and melted butter to the beaten egg. Add this to the dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Fold in crab, celery, green pepper and onion.
Drop batter by teaspoonsful into deep fat heated to 375 degrees. Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a low oven until all have been cooked. Dip into or sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve with tomato dip. Makes about 5 dozen fritters.
Tomato dip: Combine ¾ cup catsup, 1 T. soy sauce, 2 t. prepared mustard and ¼ t. garlic powder.
Margaret Walton can be reached at email@example.com.