Continued from New Branches from Old Roots
With Canada’s Food Guide in hand, I walked nervously into the grocery store and tried to find Häw (yeast) on my own, but I found Romano beans instead. I grabbed a bag of those and got some jalapenos, onions, and tomatoes. With those ingredients, I could make a dish that would probably taste pretty close to how it did back home and it would somewhat fit the Food Guide.
I thought, “I have had it with Komstborscht! It has brought me nothing but sorrow! I’m moving on.”
Finally, I spotted a guy working in the baking aisle. I worked up the courage to tell him what I was looking for. He laughed so hard he was crying.
“You are looking for something to make buns grow bigger?” He asked.
“Yes, that is what I am looking for.”
He burst out laughing again. He could barely speak as he grabbed a jar of yeast, handed it to me, and said in Low German, “Dü meenst Häw fe Je'backniss?” (You mean yeast for baking?)
He spoke perfectly good Low German. He had a smirk on his face right from the start. I really wanted to whack him with the bag of Romano beans I had in my hand. On my way to look for the Pine-Sol, I thought, “I really should have called him a schwein noagel!” I got all worked up just thinking about it.
I walked past the razors and shaving products. I slowed down, backed up a bit, and grabbed a pack of razors just in case I decided to start shaving my legs. I had been thinking about it long and hard and thought it was time.
On my way home I decided to stop at a local thrift store. I was just going to look around a bit but I found the most beautiful dress I had ever seen in real life. It was purple satin with black lace trim on the front crossing down to one side and down to the side of the hip where the slit began just above the left knee.
I thought, “I could put a sweater on with it and it would be perfect.” I had a pleated Mennonite dress in the exact same colour. I made a matching purple bow and glued it onto a hair clip and a black lace waistband with a bow on the back to wear with it. The colours were exactly the same.
I loved it and it was only a few dollars. I walked around the store for about an hour, nervously talking myself into buying it. The more I thought about it, the more nervous I got. I felt butterflies in my stomach just thinking about how it might feel against shaved legs.
I looked around some more and found a pair of jeans I liked and a silver top to go with the jeans. I thought, “I will buy these clothes just in case I want to go somewhere and not be recognized. Just because I have them doesn’t mean I will wear them all the time. I really, really want to buy these clothes. I am just going to buy them! I am doing it.” I slowly made my way to the cash register.
I was hoping she wouldn’t ask me anything and that I would have the right amount of change so it wouldn’t be too complicated. I really hoped that she wouldn’t ask me if I had a nickel or a dime because I could never remember which one was which.
A tall blond woman working at the register picked up the purple dress, looked right into my eyes, smiled, and said, “This is gorgeous and it’s brand new. It still has the tag on it. I can’t believe someone would throw this out. I was going to buy it, but it doesn’t fit me so this is your lucky day.”
I just smiled and held my breath. I really wanted to say something back to her but I just couldn’t find the right words to say.
When I got back to the car, I just sat there for a while and imagined George saying, “Anna, breathe. Just take a deep breath.” I did that until my heartbeat slowed down. I was so proud. I just bought a dress that I chose for myself, one that I loved.
When I got home I decided that it was time to take that nurse’s advice and start eating more. I made tweeback dough, put a pot of beans on the stove and diced onions, jalapenos and tomatoes to make my favorite salsa to go with the beans, just like I used to make at home on the colony.
Back in Mexico, we cooked beans in a daumpgropen (pressure cooker) but, since I didn’t have one, the beans would have to cook for at least two hours or so and the tweeback dough had to rise for about an hour before I could knead it again.
I figured I would have a bath and shave my legs while I waited. I lay in the bubble bath for twenty minutes before I worked up the courage to start shaving. I took a few deep breaths and thought, “What the heck! I’m doing this! It won’t be that obvious so no one will have to know about this.” As I started shaving I thought, “While I’m at it, I’ll do my armpits too!”
I got out of the bathtub and got dressed, kneaded the tweeback dough, sat there for a while, and thought, “The beans still have to cook for another hour and I can’t make the tweeback for another half hour. Why am I sitting here when I could be trying on my new dress?”
I took the scissors into the bedroom, cut the tags off the dress, and put it on. It was a bit loose-fitting, but I loved it. I felt very sexy wearing it. My closet door was a mirror. I walked back and forth past the mirror, modeling the dress. I tried a few different hairstyles to go with the dress and decided on a side bun with my hair parted in the middle.
I had brought my purple bow hair clip from Mexico, made to match my pleated purple dress. I thought, “This will match perfectly,” and put it on the side of the bun that was the furthest from my ear.
I thought, “If I am really careful, I can make the tweeback while wearing this dress. No one has to know about it.” I made all the tweeback and covered them with tea towels and plastic. I gave the beans a stir and started sautéing the onions and peppers for the salsa.
I put on my Alanis Morissette tape and checked on the beans. They were just about done. I was getting really hungry but the tweeback were not ready to bake yet so I did what mom always did when this happened. I made a Jiets Küak which is a flattened deep-fried tweeback. I put the oil on high and, while that was heating, I added the tomatoes and salt to the salsa, flattened a tweeback, and fried it.
By the time the Jiets Küak was fried, the salsa was ready and the first batch of tweebak was ready to go in the oven. I put them in and served myself a plate of beans, salsa, and a Jiets Küak. I sat down and said my prayer. As the first spoon full was about to touch my lips, there was a knock at the door.
I thought, “Hey, caramba! Who could that be? I can’t let anyone see me like this. Oh no!” I heard a knock again and then a voice. It was George. I thought, “Okay, it is just George. I will open the door and explain this to him.” When he caught a glimpse of me he almost fell backward! Then he checked the number on the door to make sure he had knocked on the right one.
He said, “Wahhaahh … what are you doing?”
“Well, I went shopping. I bought food and this dress and I thought I wasn’t getting any company so I tried it on,” I replied.
“Wow, it smells amazing in here! What are you making?” he asked.
I explained what I made to the best of my ability and said, “Come in. Would you like some?”
“Ahhh … okay, yeah sure.”
I got him a plate and quickly fried him a Jiets Küak. He followed me into the living room and we sat down on the floor beside my brightly flowered love seat. I put the plates on the little table and started eating.
“Why didn’t you say your prayer this time?” he asked.
I told him that I already said it, just before he came over.
“Okay,” he replied and started eating.
I finished my plate and got up to check on the tweeback and they were done. I took them out and put the next batch in.
I turned to George and asked, “Hey, would you like to try a tweeback?”
He laughed and asked, “Would I like to try a what buck?”
“No, not a what buck, a tweeback. That is what we call buns in Low German,” I explained to him.
“Absolutely, I will try one of those. Thank you, Anna" he said.
As George was eating the tweebak, my legs and armpits started itching really bad. I rubbed my legs and he noticed it right away and asked, “What? You shaved your legs?”
“Yes, I did,” I replied.
“Really? I hope you didn’t do this just because of what those assholes said the other day at the factory about Mennonite women,” he said.
“You know I heard them?” I asked.
“I had a feeling that you might have but I wasn’t sure how to ask if you did. But, you should just ignore what those guys said; they can be really nasty,” he said.
I told him that I had thought about it for a long time already and that I didn’t do it just because of what those guys said.
“Okay, good. You should put some lotion on it. That will help with the itching,” he said.
George continued, “Don’t be embarrassed to ask me anything, okay? Even if it is about shaving legs and what is or isn’t a dress and things like that. I won’t laugh, I promise. Learning all this while learning English can’t be easy and just between you and me, if I had to learn that language you speak, I would never get it. You are doing great!”
|Purple satin nightgown
“You think so?”
“I don’t think so, I know so.”
I turned all red. I wasn’t used to being told that I was doing great and wasn’t sure how to react to that so I just said, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome and Ahhh… Anna, I have to tell you something, and please forgive me but I feel like I have to do this.”
I was getting really nervous and worried about what he was going to say to me. He let out a big sigh and hung his head down so low that his hair covered his face. He struggled to find the right words and I could tell he really didn’t want to say it.
At last, he stammered, “Ahh, Anna, what you are wearing … ahh … well, it is not a dress, you know. It is a nightgown.
I thought I would tell you before someone else comes over, like Mark for instance. He might get the wrong idea. I’m really sorry to ruin your happy day like this.”
Then I remembered: “Ha le dietschjat miene tweeback,” and ran to the oven to take the buns out. Click here to continue reading my story.