“Know what we haven’t had in a long time?”
“Ummm. A quiet house?”
“No, daddy. I MEAN do you know what we haven’t had to EAT in a long time?”
“Your right.” I didn’t really think that would be the end of it but it was worth a try.
“Know what I’d like for lunch today?”
“Ummm. A quiet house?”
“NOOOOOOOOO. I’d like some A leech.”
“Why don’t you just have some yogurt and -”
“NOOOOO. Can you PLEASE make a leech?”
Sigh. Please sometimes changes everything. I didn’t really feel like making alice (which is pronounced uh-leech which Elena always pronounced A-leech). Then again, she did say please and I had no real reason not to make it except that I didn’t really feel like it.
Elena loved alice and I’m not sure why. She first had it at a Christmas Even seven fish dinner when she was probably two or three. She was told that they were noodles with a special sauce.
She loved them. Finally in this meal of nothing but fish she had found one food with no fish in it. This one was just noodles and anchovies (whatever they are) with some parsley and bread crumbs added at the end. Besides, Tony and Butch had cooked this. It had to be good. Even at three Elena loved to flirt with older men.
We boiled the noodles and turned on the pan for the sauce. Elena added some olive oil to the hot pan. I then added the anchovies and Elena stirred. While I chopped up some parsley I asked Elena to find the panko bread crumbs.
“These?” she asked.
“Yep,” I nodded. “Pour some in.”
“How much,” she asked.
“About a handful,” I said.
She added the bread crumbs and I threw in the parsley. I tossed the pan a few times. I asked her, “how much do you want.”
“A lot,” she said. “I love a leech.” Elena knew how and when to use flattery. I put some pasta in a plate for her and some for me. We sat down at the table. Elena asked what kind of fizzy water I wanted. I asked for Orange. “we don’t have any Orange left,” she reported when she returned, “so I didn’t bring you any kind.”
“Can I have berry?”
“I think so,” she said.
Maggie wandered in to the dining room to see what we were doing. Maggie doesn’t like alice. She took the pepperoni out of the refrigerator and sat down with us.
“Maggie,” Elena said in a voice that was much sweeter than her intent, “would you like some a leech. Dad made a leech. I love a leech.” She knew the repetition would annoy her sister.
“No. I don’t like fish,” Maggie said. I shook my head at Maggie but she either didn’t see me or ignored me.
“What do you mean?” Elena asked. “This isn’t fish, it’s a leech.”
“Alice IS fish,” Maggie said. “Don’t you know anything.”
“Ewwwwww,” Elena said. “It is not. I hate fish and I love a leech so a leech is not fish.”
It’s the sort of argument that wins elections. The logic isn’t strong but it sounds as if it might be right.
“Dad,” Maggie said, “tell her. Tell her that alice is a kind of fish.”
I was stuck. I didn’t want Elena to stop eating this thing she liked but I wasn’t willing to lie to her about this.
“Is it?” Elena asked.
“It is,” I said.
I waited for the explosion but it never came. Elena worked through her own logic and finally said, “well I guess I like some fishes then.”
“Fish,” Maggie said.
“That’s what I said,” said Elena.
“Did not,” Maggie said. She might have been ready to say more but I exploded.
“Enough,” I said. “You eat your noodles and you eat your salami.”
“Pepperoni,” Maggie said and I laughed.
Sunday night was Christmas Eve and we did a seven fish dinner in our house. Nine actually or eight depending on how you count it. The last dish was three kinds of fish prepared with different sauces. The trout had a garlic, parseley and butter sauce. The red snapper was done in potato flakes with a beet juice sauce and fried beet chips on top. The monkfish had a mushroom syrup on top. I counted that as one dish.
I had taken anchovies packed in salt and filleted them and put them on a salad Kim’s mom brought. We had started with steamed mussels and sauteed shrimp. There were fried smelts and a bacala in tomato sauce. Somewhere in the middle I served the first alice I’ve made since Elena died.
She just loved a leech.