Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wallace Stegner and Wolf Willow

Wallace Stegner was a professor of literature at Stanford, and lived his early life in the dry land of the Palliser Triangle in Saskatchewan. His book, Wolf Willow, is a Canadian classic. Wolf Willow is an aromatic shrub that grows along the banks of the Frenchman river. by his then, home. In his book he describes his experience providing the dinner meat for his family, by going to the ice house and chopping off a piece of frozen meat from the side of beef. It took me back to the identical act that I often provided for our family. I was frequently sent out to the ice house by my mother to saw a piece off the side of our frozen beef carcase. I had no idea whether it was steak or roast or whatever. It was a meat chunk. It seems to me that I removed about the right amount that we could eat, without identifying features to differentiate what we had eaten yesterday. My mother never seemed to particularly object to my offering. I assume it was because I was strong enough to deal with the rock hard meat and she wasn't. I think, as I entered manhood and refined my tastes a bit, the recollection was somewhat embarrassing. I admit this culinary maneuver now because, if it was ok for Stegner, then it's ok for me. The reason I have been constrained up to now is, that the pianist's father was a dollar a year man for the rationing board of Canada in WW2. He was a wholesale grocer on loan to the rationing board and Donald Gordon. He was responsible for the implementation of rationing by way of the meat charts, and the strict adherence to the requisite cutting and distribution by meat sellers. It was the Holy Grail of meat for him! Imagine the scorn he would have applied to the aspirant to his daughter's hand, and her heart, had he known of my butchery.

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