I found Arkansas, as I have said, to be a strange mix. For instance, it would often rain in the middle of the day during the summer. The sky would darken and this would soon be followed by a relatively short but very intense downpour. When it subsided and the sun once again regained its dominance of the sky, fissures of steam rose from the well-baked asphalt creating an almost sauna-like atmosphere. Most strange, for a northerner like me. Foliage in the area was of a verdant green and so prolific that it seemed no plot of ground was left uncovered. This, most likely, due to the rains I spoke of above. Vegetation lying beneath that visible top layer gave off a ripe earthy smell as the rainwater soaked through and broke the debris into mulch. Lots of visceral things I remember about my time there, sights and smells.

Once a week we would eat at the diner in town. The cook was a well cushioned man with quick hands and an easy smile. He moved with practiced expertise from pan to grill flipping and turning in time to the country music on a nearby radio. Out of that small kitchen he produced the most delicious country gravy, thick and rich with sausage and freshly ground black pepper. This was served generously over practically everything on the menu, including, I believe, cottage cheese. Artery hardening, fat laden and absolutely fabulous.

Locals in overalls and a wide variety of hats, from well-worn straw to ball caps, gathered at their usual tables sipping dewy iced glasses of sweet tea while discussing the weather, the crops and morsels of local gossip.

From time to time an errant cockroach would make its way across a tabletop weaving an uneven trail across a rather sticky surface. Colorful stuff.

More often than not during that sultry summer tornado warnings were issued. Never having any experience with them, but a full understanding of what they could wreak, this made me nervous. A kind of “Tom Terrific” looking tornado would be displayed on the TV screen when the atmosphere was conducive to producing this type of activity. If the touchdown of a funnel became imminent, an alert was issued and you needed to head for shelter. We didn’t have a storm cellar, so my instructions, should this occur, were that I was to lie down in the bathtub accompanied by the dog and cat and pull a mattress overall. Now, the dog and the cat tolerated each other under normal circumstances but were by no stretch of the imagination close friends. Also, we had a king size mattress so somehow it seemed that if I did manage to drag it off the bed, it wasn’t going to fit through the door in the bathroom. Weighing these options I felt my chances better roughing out the storm. Fortunately, I never had to find out.

Fish was a staple for us while living there. My husband at the time was an excellent fisherman and when requested could usually provide dinner with his pole and line. He told of story of living in St. Charles, Louisiana. He and a friend took their pirogue (pee-row), which is a small flat-bottomed boat, out into the bayous to do some serious line hanging and beer swigging. Casting their lines, they popped a couple of cool ones, leaned back, and hauled in their catch as required, then attaching the fish to a stringer dangling over one side of the boat. Late in the afternoon, when both men were intermittently nodding off, a strong tug came on the stringer. Lazily my ex hauled it up to check it out, and in doing so flipped a large cotton mouth at their feet, its mouth firmly attached to one of the fish. The story being told they nearly beat each other to death with the oars leaving a hole in the boat. The snake, probably assuming they were recently escaped mental patients, helped himself to the stringer and disappeared under water. Completely sober, red-faced and fishless they bailed their way back to the dock.

Really what we will take out of this life will be people we love, people who have loved us and the experiences we have had or shared. Thanks for letting me share mine.

Scallops with Garlic and Coriander

20 scallops
2 courgettes
6 T butter
1 T vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T hot chili sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 bunch chopped fresh coriander

Remove muscle and wash scallops. Slice in the courgettes. Melt butter in the oil in large frying pan. Add courgettes and fry until soft. Remove from pan. Add garlic and fry until golden. Stir in hot chili sauce.

Add scallops to the sauce stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes. Stir in lime juice, coriander, and courgettes. Serve immediately.