Good Underwear and Chilled White Grape and Almond Soup
“And put on good underwear!” Mom hollered from the kitchen. Her screeching voice was muffled by the distance that separated her from my bedroom sanctuary where I was dressing myself for a trip to the pediatrician. I hardly needed a reminder. At eight I knew that doctor appointments, weddings, wakes, and church, which we visited less often than the pediatrician’s office, were all occasions for “good underwear.” Jeans with holes and their antidotes, the Tough Skins jeans handed down to me from one of mom’s friends when her son outgrew them, were also off the table. Exactly what constituted good underwear was, however, not always clear. My favorites were the colorful, cotton days-of-the-week undies my sister Patti bought for me. Mom bought me frilly ones in pale, girly colors. The elastic at the leg openings was too tight for my chubby thighs and was covered in stiff, itchy lace. They were hardly the sort of thing a tomboy wore under her Tough Skins, so they were relegated to the back of the drawer until the occasion for good underwear arose. I often wondered if it was just another way mom enjoyed torturing me. Sitting still and being quiet in church was hard enough without having your thighs burn and itch all at once. Even as a young girl it seemed ironic that a woman who seldom, if ever, wore underwear herself, good, bad, itchy or otherwise, or a bra to contain her 44-DDDs, was an expert on undergarments. But I didn’t argue. The only thing worse than wearing itchy underwear on a hot summer day is wearing itchy underwear over a sore backside that has been on the receiving end of mom’s worn wooden spoon.
As a teenager, the great divide between good and bad underwear faded along with my obsession with days-of-the-week undies. Mom had long since given up on buying me frilly underpinnings. Battles over “good” or itchy underwear yielded to heated arguments about the outfits I wore over them and the importance of getting straight As. By college I was grateful to be buying my own underwear, many of which to mom’s horror were thongs. “When most people are looking to keep there panties out of their crack, I don’t know why you young girls would try and put them there in the first place.”
Of course our brains are clever aren’t they. Little nuggets like “good underwear” got stashed away in a dark corner under memories of talent shows gone horribly wrong and dead gerbils left in my care where they gathered dust until one day….
Decades later, I’m making every attempt to gracefully disembark Uncle Dan’s Sea Taxi. The weight of my travel bags–one in each hand–causes me to teeter back and forth a bit. Behind me twenty or so Bahamians on “island time” and a sprinkle of impatient tourists are waiting their turn. I feel no pressure to hurry. I’m mindful of negotiating the bags, my gauzy summer dress that channels a little Marilyn Monroe in the island breeze, and the strappy heels that, while cute and perfect with said dress, weren’t rated for the long day of travel ahead of me. My tanned, sandal-clad foot is over the edge of the boat and about to be the first part of me to reach the dry dock when the back of the boat floats toward the sea on the wake of a boat docking at the adjacent slip. Island time speeds up here as my foot plunges into the sea. My arms–one unfortunately attached to a bum shoulder with bursitis, tendonitis, arthritis, and a cyst–flail wildly as my bags swing over my head. My body, specifically my face, is tipping closer to the dock as the water reaches my knee. My dry leg is awkwardly, painfully tethering me to the boat.
“No, no miss, not like that,” a man’s Bahamian-accented voice shouts from the land.
Of course, not like that.
More voices. Panic. Their voices, not mine. Well-fed arms, lots of arms, are on me. Ouch! My shoulder, the good one. Three roly-poly men hoist me from the water and boat.
A cool island breeze blows across the back of my thighs.
Time slows again, slower than island time. I can’t remember what panties I have on. Thankfully I seldom wear thongs anymore. The jolly Bahamians set me on the dock and gently pry my bags from my hands.
An endless stream of quivering “thank you”s bubble out of my mouth.
Hipsters. Bright pink hipsters. That’s what I’d put on under my pink and blue dress that morning. I was relieved though only slightly less embarrassed. At 41, on a dock in the Bahamas with a soaked leg, “good underwear” meant any pair that covered my backside and not the cheeky ones I favored under my skinny jeans.
The rest of the passengers managed to get off the boat without incident, most of whom stopped to ask, “Are you okay mees?” As the warm seawater streamed down my leg, it was my pride that stung the most. My rescuers were still huddled around me. One found me a taxi. Uncle Dan lingered nearby, patiently waiting for his fare. I gathered my bags, wincing with pain now in both shoulders, and trudged up the hill to the taxi that would take me to the airport. My cute sandal squished with each step, leaving an odd set of right-side only footprints in my unsteady wake.
At least my good underwear were dry.
Chilled White Grape and Almond Soup
I have distant, delicious memories of eating a soup similar to this at a sunny sidewalk cafe in Madrid. Why it took me five years to replicate in my own kitchen remains a mystery, but better late than never has never been more apropos. It’s also nice with melon in place of the grapes and/or mint instead of the chives. If the cream sounds a little too decadent for a summer soup, simply use more almond milk.
1/4 cup homemade bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups white seedless grapes, plus a few extra to finish
2/3 cup blanched, whole almonds
1 large clove garlic
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2/3 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons almond oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon almond slivers, lightly toasted (optional)
a few chives roughly chopped (optional)
- Combine bread crumbs, grapes, blanched almonds, garlic, cream, almond milk, almond oil, and vinegar in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
- Chill until ready to serve.
- Spoon into bowls and garnish with sliced grapes, almond slivers, and chives if using.
Makes 2 generous servings.