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Meal is fish and loaves story in action

August 12, 2003

The scrumptious vegetables lined up in floral hall down at the Boyle County fair started my craving for some home cooking. All those beans lined up on identical paper plates, ready to be judged were stewing on the stove in my head.

As I typed up the winners from the show on the last day of the fair one of my co-workers came in with a grocery bag full of Roma beans, a head of cabbage and some chilies.

After work I threw that bag on top of my laundry and headed to Lexington to visit my friend, Amber, and her sister, Shannon. Amber recently bought a house, an adorable 1920s Bungalow, so our weekend routine is to lounge on the front and back porches and make the neighbors nervous.

I dropped the bag at the end of the kitchen bar and drug the clothes down to the basement washer and dryer.

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Back in the kitchen, Shannon was nosing in the bag.

"That is Sunday dinner," I said.

Well, that and a pot roast. I stuffed a Boston Butt pork roast with garlic, rubbed it down with salt, pepper, lemon and olive oil then left it to chill in the fridge. Shannon took charge of the beans and Amber the cabbage.

The next morning Shannon fried plantains, made coffee and we snapped the beans. She was stumped after we had washed them, so she called her mom for some bean-stewing tips. I told her, like a good Cajun cook who believes that anything added to a pot just makes it better, to throw those chilies in, too.

Her mom also gave Amber some advice on sweating the cabbage and a recipe for buttermilk dressing. I had never heard of working cabbage into a sweat, but apparently if you stick it in a colander and cover it with salt it is the equivalent of a half hour of patriotic kickboxing. All the water will run out of the thing, so the dressing isn't watered down and the red cabbage's colors won't run.

Two hours later, the beans and pot roast were simmering on the stove, so we girls settled on the couch to watch "Pulp Fiction" and sip Bloody Marys. Just as John Travolta was explaining the difference between the American Big Mac and the French Le Big Mac, there was a knock at the door.

Amber and Shannon's folks, their little sister, Betsy, and her friend decided to drive down from Louisville to check on the cooking. We started a game of Scrabble on the front porch and called their other sister, Leiah. She was driving aimlessly through the city with her roommate and their boyfriends in search of food. We had food and soon we had Leiah's group.

Now, I'm a firm believer in fish and loaves, and that day I saw it in action. We fed 11 people on that grocery bag of beans, head of cabbage and a little old pot roast. Amber's dad sneaked out the back door and came back with a bucket of fried chicken and bread. Shannon pulled out a tomato, onion and basil salad and a bean salad she had made to eat for lunch that week. Viola! It was a feast.

We set out the spread. Amber's dad sat at the end and served the roast that by then was so tender it just fell apart.

The house was so full of laughter and good smells that I thought it would burst. Nothing makes me happier than a well-fed group of people in good humor.

I began to think how lucky I am to live in a place where more homegrown vegetables are left on my office chair than memos and how all the care and how the love this woman had put into growing those cabbage, beans and peppers had come bubbling out during that meal.

Liz Maples is a staff writer at The Advocate.|8/7/03***

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