When Miss Linda, Lewisburg, and Snevetski, Pittsburgh, recently visited, I planned to coddle some eggs. Snevetski was indifferent, but Miss Linda scooped up the idea "egg"-citedly and said, "Zounds! I haven't had coddled eggs since I vacationed in England."
I had sent for two coddler pots to Catalogland. (Why do we get so many catalogs in the mail anyway?) Wow! Those coddled eggs taste better than the ones at the Black Lab Bistro!
Then, May 16 arrived and I was due at the Mont Clare Locktender's House to spin some tales, and the coddler experience surfaced again.
(By the way, Lock 60, near the locktender's house, is in a state of restoration so you readers can have the historical experience of being churned and passed through the lock and into the forebay.)
Ben, my son, his banjo and the storytelling props (including the coddler), and I piled into the Honda, drove down the towpath past some people kayaking. A truck blocked our way plus mounds of earth and orange "caution" signs. I wasn't sure we could even reach the house appealingly outlined with purple irises and a sturdy black iron stairway. We found the entrance road, though.
The audience entered slowly, in twos and threes, checking out the cornet, piano and marble games in the performance room: Dennis, with his Gibson J-200 guitar; a recently arrived-in-America Russian, Elena Mallett, who taught English to Russians in Moscow; Nonna, 4 years old; Susanna, a disguised dancing princess from Renaissance School; mother, Pam; Beth, a teenager who lit the storytelling candle; Joan C. Jones, a computer science teacher at Montgomery County Community College; and a group of miscellaneous hikers and story fans.
I dedicated the story to the late Bob "Smitty" Smith, a volunteer canal worker whose cat still roams the Locktender's House.
To introduce the story, I coddled in front of the audience, breaking two eggs inside a buttered porcelain pot and screwing the stainless steel lid tightly. Then, Arlene Martin, house hostess, exited the room to put the pot into gently boiling water for eight to 10 minutes. I promised some lucky listener would eat the results after the story was over.
The story? Antonio, a nine-year-old child, loved to dance. It was his passion. As an infant, he danced in the crib. As he grew he danced in the bathtub, on the school bus and on the veranda. As he grew even older, his father, Guiseppe, a prize-winning chef, decided that Antonio should enter the family business.
Guiseppe first tried to interest Antonio by showing him how to coddle an egg. Antonio couldn't care less.
Then, Guiseppe took Antonio to work in the kitchen at the huge hotel where he was chief chef. He set Antonio to work: cutting banana slices, peeling potatoes, squeezing lemons for lemonade. Each time he cut, peeled or squeezed, the rhythm of the action started his feet tapping, and he danced all over the kitchen, cutting, peeling and squeezing his work to the background music of Ben and Dennis on the banjo and guitar. Three different times employees entered the kitchen with dirty dishes, bags of coffee and supplies. Three times Antonio collided with them, and a mess spread on the floor: spilled coffee, broken plates and crushed kitchen supplies. Employees were furious and said, "Who is this boy?"
The owner of the hotel eventually entered the kitchen complaining that one of his invited, professional dancers for a forthcoming party was sick. What to do? Antonio knew. "I can dance," he said.
He did dance with the adult dancers, was a huge hit and Father Guiseppe realized cooking was not his skill, but dancing might be his future after all. End of story.
Joan Jones ate the coddled eggs. I ate some too.
The story was based on Eileen Spinelli's picture book Boy, Can He Dance. Look for it at the Phoenixville Public Library.
Do yourself a favor, coddle some eggs. Follow the directions. You can borrow my coddler.
My own children's book, The Corncob Monster, is presently being considered by a major publisher. Wish me luck.
With Valentine love, Keystone Connie. Call me at 610-933-0669.