Cancer, the Crab (even though this Medieval illustration looks like a Lobster!)
Crabs – © Renee Comet
Greetings everyone and welcome to the Summer ChatterBulletin! Some of you might have noticed there was no bulletin last month, and the reason for that is because I put my back out shortly before Memorial Weekend, so sitting and typing at the computer has not exactly been either pleasant or possible for a few weeks. However, I am happy to report that I’m on the mend and getting back to some writing again, but I still have to be careful not to do too much heavy lifting! So since our last bulletin, a lot has happened besides my back going out – North Carolina country crooner Scotty McCreery was crowned winner of American Idol (yeah) and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward deservedly took the Dancing with the Stars mirror-ball trophy (another yeah). I watched a lot of television while I lay on my sofa recuperating, and immersed myself quite happily in both the French Open and Wimbledon tennis tournaments. And since our last bulletin, Astrologically we moved from the gardening sign of Taurus into the talkative sign of Gemini, and we reached the longest day of the year and the Summer Solstice on June 21st. And from there, the Season of Summer began and we now find ourselves in the Watery sign of Cancer, the Crab. Last year our Cancer theme was Motherhood & Family – but if you missed it, you can always go back and read it here: http://chatterblog.chatterboxenterprises.com/2010/07/
So not wishing to repeat ourselves, our theme this time reflects another aspect of this zodiacal sign, and that is the stomach or more specifically – what we put in our stomachs! Last month we talked about gardening and the sign of Taurus – the growers of our flowers, fruits and vegetables – so I figured, let’s continue on with the topic and make this month’s theme Food, because the sign of Cancer is the Archetypical Mother, it rules the stomach, and what mother doesn’t continuously fret about feeding her family? It all starts with the breasts and the mother’s milk, and from there it pretty much never ends. Between the shopping and the cooking, let alone the cleaning, a mother’s job is a life of eternal meal planning. Sometimes I am quite glad that I am not a mother because the constant feeding would have driven me crazy! My mother always said that if she were ever to completely lose her marbles, it would be in a supermarket! And in case you hadn’t noticed, it doesn’t really matter how young or old the offspring are, because the feeding frenzy continues even after they’ve left the nest, and the matriarch still wants everyone back home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, does she not? She can’t help herself, and besides, it keeps her feeling “needed” because as a baby, you certainly “needed” her to feed you, but once you grew up and became your own person, she no longer had the same control over your diet or your life. So in order to still feel necessary, they stick with what they know. They can’t change your politics, or whom you choose to marry, but they can certainly coax and cheer you with some of that lovingly home-cooked comfort food that only Mum knows how.
Family Dinner – © Steve Lesnick
One of the mother’s functions is to nurture her children, and part of that nurturing is providing food for her family. Cancers are natural homebodies – they’d rather stay home and entertain than go out on the town. They represent “family” so “home” is where they prefer to be, baking cookies. My own mother would always start to fill up the pantry with things she knew I liked as soon as I told her I was coming for a visit. And then, she’d go into complete panic mode and worry about whether or not I still liked apricot jam, or was it blackcurrant, because what I may have liked at some point in my childhood or even last year, might not be the case now, but there were certain staples that were always a sure thing. To start with, we would usually celebrate my arrival with a bottle of champagne and some smoked salmon (no matter what time of day) and as I’m writing this article, not only are we in the sign of Cancer, but it is also Full Moon today (in Capricorn) and the Moon rules Cancer, and yesterday was my mother’s birthday, so I celebrated by putting a major dent into a bottle of bubbly in her honor!
Food was for the most part, a very important factor in our family life. Of course, food is important to every family, but we were given four substantial meals a day (perhaps too substantial by today’s standards) and we ate pretty healthily with virtually no junk food. Back then, we had a large garden and grew some of our own fruits & vegetables. Eating according to the seasons was so much more rewarding – you just can’t beat the taste of those first new potatoes straight from the ground, or the sweet juicy strawberries that are only in season for a couple of months, unlike today where we can now buy anything, including strawberries all year round. Looking back my sister and I wished we’d eaten less, but there you go… And because my father especially loved his food, we weren’t subjected to just plain old English fare (which we know gets a bad rap) and besides the essential bangers & mash and tasty Shepherd’s pies we also ate things like spaghetti Bolognese and home made curries. Our parents liked to entertain and enjoyed hosting, as well as attending mutual dinner parties with their social circle. One particular tradition was of course, the great “British picnic.” I loved picnics, and still do. Nowadays, everyone gets out the BBQ and grilling season is in full swing – aaah, there’s nothing better than dining “al fresco” in the summertime. If there’s one thing I miss by living in the big city, it is having some outdoor space where I can live and eat outside for those summer months! One day, one day…
Corn on the cob – © Steve Lesnick
I remember some years ago now I was visiting with my mother and it was my birthday so I requested a picnic. We were a small group, consisting of myself, my mother and my sister and her husband, along with one of my nearest and dearest friends, Rowena, and her two beautiful daughters, Fani & Billie. We walked a long way to one of out favorite spots in the forest and sat down to picnic. We were miles from anywhere and yet somehow, the only other people walking there that day managed to come by right where we were sitting! And then, the funniest part was that my sister had left my birthday cake in the car and she had to trudge all the way back to get it! After our parents had divorced, my sister and I spent our “family holidays” with our mother and Christmas was always particularly difficult in the early years after their split. Mum would drink too much and get very angry and emotional and then she and my sister would usually have a fight. My role was that of “chief carver” of the turkey (neither my sister nor my mother had a clue about how to tackle that assignment – luckily I learned from my father!) and on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas), every year my mother would pack up some sandwiches and we would cram into her little Mini and drive to the sea, no matter what the weather! And, the weather was usually pretty wild and nasty, so we often sat in the car watching the big gray waves from the cliff-tops while we munched on our turkey leftover sandwiches.
Birthday picnic, 1997 (?)
As I mentioned, the sign of Cancer rules over the stomach and many of them love to cook or become chefs, such as Wolfgang Puck, who was born on July 9th. And yet, ironically, my own mother, born on July 14th, was not exactly in love with cooking herself, and was instead totally intimidated by our father when it came to culinary affairs and matters of the kitchen. He came from a food-obsessed family who would constantly discuss whether the roast beef from Sunday lunch had been rare enough or if the string beans were too stringy! So no matter what my mother was making, he would always come and poke his nose in and interfere and tell her “this needed more salt” or “that was overdone.” This led to much insecurity on her part and a few failed attempts at “a lovely dinner!” When our father died last year, we talked about his gourmet approach to food and wine in his eulogy, and told a favorite story of ours which went something like this… “One evening our mother offered up a piece of fish for him [our father] to smell so as to ensure it was fresh enough for supper. Dad immediately rushed out into the garden and threw up into the privet hedge, [he may have loved his food but he threw up at the mere drop of a smelly fish] which pretty much gave her the answer!
Our mother may not have particularly loved to cook, but she certainly enjoyed entertaining and took great delight in nurturing her guests without necessarily having to be a Cordon Bleu chef herself. When she died in 2009, my sister and I wrote this as part of her funeral address, which captures not only her essence but also beautifully illustrates the character of a Cancer. “Mum was born under the nurturing zodiac sign of Cancer, therefore home and family were most important to her. She was a brilliant listener and always had an ear for your troubles, which is why many people, young and old, would all gravitate to her cottage to pour out their hearts while she poured out the drinks! She always had something to eat or drink on hand and once she knew you, she took great pleasure in producing whatever it was you liked, whether it was Battenberg cake for Roly, beer for Andy, or bonios [dog biscuits] for the many assorted canines that came through her house. Whether it was a joint of roast lamb for Sunday lunch, or three lamb chops that had to be miraculously shared by four people, she made you feel well taken care of. She lived in her cottage in North Poulner for close to 40 years and her home was truly her castle. I fondly remember the years when we experienced power cuts and had to figure out how to cook supper over the wood fire and then played endless games of scrabble by candlelight.”
In closing, it wasn’t until later on, after our parents had divorced, that Mum started to enjoy cooking, just a little bit. But honestly, she wasn’t all that bothered and she really couldn’t understand what all the fuss and constant discussion about food was. “Besides,” she would say, “It all turns to sh*t anyway!” She had a point…