Upside Down “Alabama-French” Kitchen – by Debbie Ambrous

“Good Night” The smallest pillow has lavender sachets inside.

Late one evening a few nights ago, I was all comfy in my bed propped against my Bonne Nuit pillow, with Nook in hand, reading a travel memoir of Italy.  I usually read travelogues of France instead of Italy.  Pardon Moi!

A young Australian man leaves career and everything behind in Australia when he falls in love with a beautiful Italian lady, who speaks English with a cute accent and says stuff that drives him crazy like she didn’t forget, she just didn’t remember. She’s my new best friend already! Wrapped in my bedcovers and their love story, I was imagining Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe as the leading man, and I’ll admit that I assumed the role of leading lady in the good parts.  Suddenly, from the kitchen: BOOM, CRASH, RATTLE sent shock waves to the bedroom.  Normally, I would have jumped from the bed, but Russell was saying such sweet things to me that I couldn’t part his company. Husband Jim appeared at the bedside with a very worried look on his face.   His green eyes edged with wrinkles from reading my Debbie-Doo lists were serious with no laugh-lines, and he spoke in a tone of voice reserved for critical car accidents or bad news from the medical lab: “Sweetheart, the pot rack above the range came loose from the wall.”

I flung Russell to the far side of the bed and ran faster than Jim knew that I could move at 11PM!  Was my French copper-clad cookware damaged? What about my copper skillet, purchased forty years ago? Worst of all, was the ceramic-topped range below all of this cracked?  When my heart caught up with my feet, I found the range was safe and only two pots had fallen on the floor.  The rack had come loose at the top anchor and tilted forward.  Jim was talking fast and assuring me that he would fix it.  I looked around and saw that I had no help from Hugh or Russell, so I had to depend on old green eyes.

Southern Mother-in-Law will hear about this and say it was crazy to have those pots on the wall when we have a great, big oven to store the cookware, just like she does.  “Yes, Mama, I know that I have to remove all of  the pots, or sometime forget and grill the entire set.”  Yet, Jim is fortunate.

Pots and pans inside the oven? No way!

Southern Italian Mother-in Law would fling bedcovers and everything aside after a cell phone call from screaming daughter.  Papa would arrive angry from the disturbance.  Dogs would bark their complaint.  The noise level would cause an Auburn football pep rally to sound like a devotional.  Son-in-law would pray for deliverance in either instance.  Jim is fortunate, right?

Next day, a workday with construction duties kept me occupied.  Jim was on his own with no Debbie-Doo list to keep him on track.  End of the day, in the kitchen, I rattled on about my work, then I suddenly stopped mid-sentence.  Above the range, the pot rack was attached UPSIDE DOWN!

What’s wrong with this picture? It’s just a few strips of metal, after all. Tilted this way, harmony is out the window. Marriage harmony and cookware harmony!

Jim defended his arrangement and told me it was temporary.  “Temporary?  I know about temporary!  I’m trying to forget the time you attached the TV antenna to a fence post with clothesline, just temporarily,” I reminded him.  Old green eyes promised, “Ok, we will go to Lowes tomorrow.”

My French-Alabama kitchen right side up.

Sunflower Politesse by Debbie Ambrous

Under the shade of my sunflower on a sunny afternoon in Alabama.  Nothing missing but a glass of iced tea and a sunhat! A Monsieur in the Burgundy region of France had the same thought.  See the France storytelling page.

“Mama, look on your right at the large pecan trees already loaded with new pecans by that pretty house with the long driveway.”  As daughter tour guide of the countryside on a Sunday afternoon, I was entertaining Mama as Jim drove the red Jeep east of Opp.

“Deborah, they have some nice fig trees in the back like mine, but all of my figs are gone.” I muttered in rebuttal to Mama’s comment under my breath, “Yep, you gave them all away and didn’t share any with me!”

“Directionally-Challenged” Jim probably took this picture over the state line into Florida. His excuse: “Mother-in-law Myrtle posted signs of No Photography at the other field.”

Suddenly, a big field of bold yellow sunflowers demanded attention alongside a simple country home.  I asked Jim to stop so I could take pictures of this crop that was unusual for our area.  Cotton and peanuts are typical crops, but not sunflowers.  The high-maintenance, demanding, elderly sole member of our Sunday tour commanded, “No, don’t stop!  It’s too hot for you to be walking around in a field without a sunhat.” Still a rebellious daughter, I whined, “Mother, I’ll be o.k. Sunflowers don’t grow in the shade!” Jim heard this outbreak of hostile hospitality and referred to Old Oriental saying #23: “Elderly Mother-in-law trumps ordinary wife!” He kept the red Jeep on the main road driving east.


A hint of France in Alabama – Grape Vines!
Jim beat the tall grass to drive away any snakes so the real photographer in the family, ME, could take this picture.

Come Monday morning I gave Jim an assignment to investigate and photograph the “Sunflower Crops”.  Since Jim is French Opportunity’s Promotion Agent, Reporter-at-Large, Photographer, IT Consultant and last but not least, Chef, I insist that he present a professional image.  On assignment, he would interview an authority at the local Farmer’s Cooperative and photograph the sunflower field that Mama wouldn’t allow.  Examining the Reporter-at Large, I saw faded jeans, a clean but old beige shirt and scuffed brown loafers.  “You aren’t wearing that, are you?” I commented, and his quick comeback was,  “I changed shirts. What else do you want?”  I noticed his favorite T-shirt tossed on a chair.  He proudly wears the T-shirt showing a motorcyclist in Bermuda with the statement that he survived riding a motorcycle on that left-hand traffic island.  I need a medal of honor for hanging on for dear life!  Don’t remind me.  Enough of that!

Is this a Politesse shirt for Sunflower reporting? Do you have an old favorite T-shirt? What does yours say? Only family rated T-shirt slogans, please. Remember the Mother-in-law is watching.

I explained once again to my grumpy reporter that he must present an image of decorum and politesse, but it didn’t work.

“Ms. Debbie, if I strut into the Coop looking like some high-falutin executive they will think I’m from the National Inquirer!  And politess? What’s up with that? Isn’t that the name on the box of tissue paper in our bathroom?”

“Well, go on like you are! But you should take some lessons from Adriana, Joanna and Mayra, the nice ladies in the office.  They say “Ms. Debbie” with respect and yes, even politesse, which is not a box of tissues!”

Jim took a few index cards instead of the notebook I offered for the “Sunflower Crop” information. He returned from the Coop very soon and reported, “They say the fellow planted the sunflowers because he thought they were pretty, and the birds are attracted, so they eat the insects which helps protect the crops. They aren’t raising them as a cash crop.”

Well, that’s nice.  A lovely protection of the eco-system is happening here at my hometown. Jim’s index cards were blank.  No notes.  Not much information.  I wonder if they did think he was from the National Inquirer.

See the nice French gentleman imitating my picture on the France storytelling page.  Which picture do you prefer?