The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Gadget Sisters

by Tricia Dower

I traveled to Watsonville, California, two weeks ago to spend US Thanksgiving with my sister Lillian and brother-in-law Glenn. Me, myself and I. Colin had university classes to attend. It had been nearly a year since I’d seen my sister and I needed a ‘fix.’ “What do you want to do when you’re here?” she asked. “Just hang out with you,” I said. “Just talk.”

We were invited for Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home, our contribution to be pies and appetizers for fourteen people. From home I brought recipes for Blue Cheese and Caramelized-Onion Squares and a veggie dip concoction called Garden Cheesecake. Lili is an even better pie-maker than our mother was, wouldn’t think of using a prepared crust or a box mix. On the night before Thanksgiving — after the toddler grandson she takes care of four days a week had been returned to his parents; after we’d had dinner and she’d made Glenn a cup of decaf — she started on the pies: two pumpkin, two apple. The pumpkin pies were dispatched with relative ease. Glenn went to bed.

I offered to peel, core and slice the apples. Lili said she had a device that would help and brought out something an Inquisitor might have used to torture heretics. She couldn’t remember how it worked. I clamped it onto the kitchen counter, impaled an apple and turned the handle. The apple went round and round to no effect. It was getting late and we’d been sipping wine. We laughed as only sisters with a shared, neurotic history can. Lili laid her hands on the device as if she could heal it, and we laughed some more. There was nothing to do but wake Glenn who had it working in less than a minute. “The reason you couldn’t figure it out,” he said, “is because you were never in the military. You have to cock it like a gun.”

It was kind of him to propose an excuse, but the truth is that Lili and I are hopeless when it comes to gadgets. If the toaster stops working, we stop having toast. Cell phones are as fantastical to us as Dick Tracy’s two-way radio wristwatch once was. We have trouble remembering the proper name for anything considered a tool. Everything’s a ‘thingy.’ It would be reasonable to blame genes, but our parents were quite handy.

Earlier in the day I had made the Garden Cheesecake for which I needed a blender. We borrowed one because all Lili had was something called a Veg-O-Matic which she only uses for Margaritas when a particular group of her friends come over. The borrowed blender arrived with two rubber rings inside the cup and even though we were told where they were supposed to go, we couldn’t figure it out. I managed to crush the Cheezits for the crust and topping and merge the cream cheese, yogurt and green olives before little puffs of smoke wafted from the motor. Lili got out the heavy-duty Veg-O-Matic we should have used in the first place. You could probably stick a log in it and make wood chips. It devoured a celery stalk, green pepper and onion in seconds.

Lili puts more apples than normal in her pies. Piles them high. As she was trimming the top crusts, I read aloud from her Better Homes and Gardens cook book: A cookie sheet under the pie is recommended to catch spills. It was getting close to midnight and Lili wasn’t even sure where her cookie sheets were. “It’ll be fine,” she said. We sat down to sip more wine and share memories of a spooky house a couple of blocks from where we grew up. I want to use that house and its emotional associations in the next story in my collection. I had a page of notes and the pies were nearly done before a curtain of smoke rose from the back of the stove and began to fill the room. The cat went nuts.

“Why didn’t your smoke detector go off?” I asked later. Lili pointed to it, lying disabled on the kitchen counter behind a wooden thingy.

The next morning she told Glenn what happened. He had managed to sleep through the smoke and the subsequent airing out of the house. "The Gadget Sisters," he said.

“And just you wait,” Lili said, "she’s gonna blog about it, I know.”

You betcha.

The next day: raves all around for the Garden Cheesecake and veggies, the tray of onion and cheese squares and the pies, the fabulous pies. Nothing to it, we said.

Photos: Top -- A long-ago turkey day with our mother Mary, far left, and her sisters Fern and Georgie. We think the kid was Georgie’s nephew on her husband’s side of the family. Bottom -- Lili (right) and I before we were domesticated and obliged to use gadgets.


Blogger Patricia said...

what a great story Tricia, and I love your pictures, you have incredible legs!! wonderful story, a great new Thanksgiving memory..xo Thanks for sharing.

Tue Dec 05, 11:44:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

Lovely post as always, Tricia. Hey, any chance I can score the recipe for Garden Cheesecake?

Tue Dec 05, 04:44:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger tamara said...

Tricia, I love these posts, esp with those great pix of you and your family. And about gadgets... I can empathise. My sister won't even let me touch her Braun handheld anymore.

Tue Dec 05, 07:02:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Patricia. Hard to believe how old those legs are now.

Absolutely, Mel. I'll send you the recipe by z-mail.

Tue Dec 05, 07:09:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Hey, Tamara -- glad to hear you're not gadget literate either. Colin says I shouldn't be allowed to operate certain dvices without close supervision.

Tue Dec 05, 07:11:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Sisters are the best. I've got three of them right here in Calgary...too bad none of us can cook. :) We do love our restaurants though. Thank you for this lovely post, Tricia.

Tue Dec 05, 10:31:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Jen!

Wed Dec 06, 12:23:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I close my eyes, I can smell the smoke! You are a truly gifted writer - look forward to your next post.

Wed Dec 06, 12:01:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, anonymous! You're too kind.

Wed Dec 06, 06:42:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Nancy McKenna said...

Tricia I LOVE your writing. I enjoyed this so much and because I know some me of the participants it was like I was there listening to the conversations. You truly are a very gifted writer. And, you know I'm always eager to read whatever you're currently working on. Thanks for letting me be a fly on the wall while you and Lillian made pies, drank wine and laughed.

Wed Apr 23, 11:22:00 pm GMT-4  

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