Friday, November 11, 2011

Sage


It was Thanksgiving 1995. We were living in the caretaker’s apartment of one of the local high schools in Debrecen, Hungary, where I was teaching English. At the same time, we served as the music directors in a Hungarian church and pastors of an English congregation.

I had a bright idea: invite the pastor and his wife of the Hungarian church as well as the associate pastor and his wife to a traditional Thanksgiving meal. That was easier said that done!

We had a can of cranberry sauce that we brought from the states. We arranged with a meat market to get a whole turkey. The problem then became getting the turkey in the small oven!

Rose was creative in making the sweet potato casserole. Since she could not find sweet potato she substituted with pumpkin baby food. They wanted the recipe!

However, the best is yet to come! She needed sage to make her mother’s recipe for the cornbread dressing and since we did not have any, she went out looking for it.

Rose returned to our little apartment with a small piece of paper in her hand. I could tell that she was exasperated when she said: “Why does everyone laugh at me when I show them this paper?”

I looked at the paper and I started laughing too. You have to understand that for the English word “sage”, there is more than one meaning. When she looked in the English / Hungarian dictionary, she wrote down the first thing that she saw: bölcs ember, not realizing that she wrote down the meaning, “wise man”, not zsálya, the word for the spice!

So imagine. Here is this American lady going to all of the grocery stores and herbal shops pointing to the piece of paper in her hand asking if they had a “wise man”. They would laugh and say no.

She was getting desperate with her lack of success and pleading with them: Are you sure that you don’t have a wise man?

We went back to dictionary and found zsálya. This time I joined her for the adventure of finding this one little ingredient, only to find that it is not sold as a spice but as a tea. Well, in the end Rose decided that she would just make the cornbread dressing without the sage.

The guest came for the meal and we had a wonderful time. That is everyone except Rose. She was in severe pain. She went into the hospital to have an appendix surgery only to get an infection. She ended up staying in the hospital for 23 days.

Our son, Daniel, was three years old and too young to visit his mom in the hospital. However, I took Rose a group photo of his preschool class where all of the children were wearing their nice dress clothes. Rose exclaimed, “Dan, you dressed him in his pajamas!”