25-Across: I got that one right.
Our ailing Lhasa Apso had a vet appointment on Friday morning. I slept poorly the night before, finally falling into a chasm of vivid dreams just before dawn. I awoke with only a little time to brush teeth and dress before Macy and I had to leave the house. When I made the day’s first bleary-eyed assessment in the bathroom mirror, I was dismayed to see that the right half of my face was deeply grooved with straight and wavy lines going every which way. My veterinarian, an astute observer of animal and human life, would have no problem diagnosing pillow prints — at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday. How embarrassing. I played the whole conversation in my mind as I washed my face, scrubbing hard with no effect. To be perpetually uncool is to be perpetually chagrined.
For one Walter Mitty moment, I pondered the plausibility of passing off the creases as a Maori facial tattoo. But no one who’s seen my footwear choices would be fooled. I know cool when I see it, though. Once, the actor Sean Penn deigned to bestow a theatrical bow on my friend D in a dimly-lit patio of New Orleans’s Commander’s Palace. She told him she was the queen of Mardi Gras, and he bowed low before her with a flourish. I watched from a few feet away, aware that I was in the presence of his-and-her cool that night. And once I whispered a punch line in the ear of a stranger in the elevator of the Plaza Hotel in New York, causing him and his wife to collapse in paroxysms of laughter as the elevator climbed. That felt cool. Husband and I were a magazine crossword puzzle clue once. That was wonderfully cool.**
It wasn’t until I tried to think of the last time that I felt badass that I started to get depressed. There have been so many years of wearing sensible underwear and dental appliances between episodes. There was that time, though, a couple of years ago at the four-way stop sign near my house. I was heading south in my compact purple Fit that is the family transport for shedding dogs and the annual Christmas tree. A young, handsome African-American man on a sleek motorcycle heading north smiled and waved to me in friendly fashion from the opposite side of the street. I checked my rear view mirror to see whom he was waving to, because I could have sworn there was no other traffic. Then realization dawned: it was C, a high school friend of my daughter’s. He had logged a few hours on my kitchen bar stools back in the day, and he helped me with my groceries once in the Kroger parking lot, not even realizing I was a friend’s mom until all the heavy stuff was loaded. He likes my homemade mustard.
I liked feeling suave that day, waving back at C with a smile, driving my purple Fit lined in dog hair, with a container of antiseptic Wet-Ones in the cup holder and Band-aids in my purse, chugging along at a law-abiding 25 miles per hour. I was probably headed to the library to pay a 10-cent fine on a book I was a day late in returning, wearing my mom jeans and white socks with black shoes because the dirty laundry had backed up. But for a moment, I was Angelina Jolie, exchanging signals with a mysterious young man on a motorcycle, on my way to strangle a Soviet double agent and jump out of a helicopter.
I have a rich interior life.
Clint’s Mustard, adapted from a recipe originally named after a guy named Dan, who might be as cool as Clint, but I doubt it. Cookbook source: Hay Day Country Market Cookbook, by Kim Rizk, © 1998 by Sallie Van Rensselaer and Alex Van Rensselaer.
This is a wonderful sandwich spread and also makes a great addition to a condiment tray next to an assortment of sliced Italian meats.
1 cup loosely packed dry mustard, preferably Colman’s English Mustard
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
In a medium bowl, make a paste of the dry mustard and 1/4 cup of the vinegar. Gradually whisk in the rest of the vinegar until smooth.
Beat the eggs in a second bowl, then add the sugar and salt, mixing with a hand-held electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick. Pour the mixture into the first bowl to combine with the vinegar and mustard. Whisk thoroughly.
Prepare a double boiler, which can be as simple as a heat-proof glass bowl set over the top of a saucepan containing a couple of inches of simmering water. Keep the water level low enough so that it doesn’t touch the bottom of the glass bowl. Pour the mustard mixture into the heat-proof bowl and cook over simmering water for about 30 minutes, until it is glossy and thickened to the consistency of a thin custard. Whisk occasionally as it cooks, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary to keep the ingredients smooth and blended. Once the cooking is complete, carefully remove the bowl from heat. Allow the mustard to cool completely before pouring into a clean, lidded jar. The mustard will continue to thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several months. Makes 2 cups.
**Thank you, crossword creator Vic Fleming, for making this staid American housewife feel like a badass.