|Carrot in winter|
From that close I could smell him. A musky almost fungal scent, a smell I was familiar with after two months on the trail. But his was almost spritely, green, alive. A funk so deep I could grow broccoli in it.
“So, Maaaaah-zipan,” he says. “How'd you get that name?”
After a month of being saddled with a ridiculous name from an online comic, I was sick of explaining. Sick of dividing marzipan from marscapone, explaining how it's like playdough, made of almond paste, and that people build things out of them and then eat it. People in Hungary build statues of speed-skaters out of it. And that cracked me up, to no end. My secret, truthful reason for my fascination with marzipan was the exquisite molded mangoes and custard apples I used to spy at the Thai department store. Central. When Mom finally let me buy some they tasted like wax.
But I told one more person the story. I breathed his funk as I made everyone at the shelter laugh with the story of marzipan.
“Big County,” I say, finally, my revenge. “How'd you get that name?”
“Biggest county east of the Mississippi,” he says. Aroostook County, his home far away. Where he has Belgians and 120 acres of fir and spruce. So big that to locals it's just the County.
The first night we camp together I make my favorite, mac and cheese. It should have been only mac and cheese in my mail drops on the trail. I leave behind my wild rice mix and dried shiitake mushrooms at hiker boxes, unable to stomach them. I pick up mac and cheese and taco fiesta liptons, grab pepperoni and tuna packets whenever I can find them. I'm still cooking in my dad's old boy-scout pot, and it's far too small for even one mac and cheese, plus the additions I'm starving for. I'm distracted by County, still, so distracted that I can't manage my soda-can alcohol stove. My noodles stick. The pot is half-burnt at the bottom, and the top half is crunchy and raw. Orange powder unevenly distributed.
He laughs at me, cooks rice and beans—my rice, that he retrieved from a hiker box behind us—and feeds us both.
Tonight, nine years later, I make ham, carrots, potatoes and broccoli dauphinois. Carrots, potatoes, broccoli, garlic grown from our Aroostook soil. Happy valentine's day, lovers.
|Mars Hill potatoes, our broccoli and garlic, Houlton Dairy milk|