Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 7, 2024

"Boo" and the box of chocolates

Sometimes when I'm about to meet someone for the first time, I think of Tom Hanks' line in "Forrest Gump." Meeting new people is truly a bit like reaching into a box of chocolates as you never know what you're going to get - whether you will hit it off.

Husband Art and I had been with our hosts in Wales for several weeks when Lins, the wife part of the couple, asked if we'd like to meet her mom. She had spoken about her on several occasions, and our affection for Lins made the offer inviting as it seemed probable we'd like her mom as well.

After Lins spoke with her mom, she gave us the date and said we'd be there for lunch. That added another box of chocolates. What if she made something we didn't like? Of course, there was an equal likelihood it would be something we'd love.

We met Lins at 10:30 a.m. on the agreed day and headed off into the North Wales "outback." In much of the country, even the main roads require more attention than we Americans typically give our driving as most are narrower than what we're used to. Back roads are often single track. Sometimes, even if you're dead center in the lane, the car's warning sensors go off as the vegetation from the hedges on one side or the other "caresses" the car body. In many places, the hedges are higher than your vehicle. When you meet another traveler, one of you has to reverse to a passing point. The whole experience for us foreigners produces a feeling of being on a great adventure.

We reached the "sparsely settled" - a Wikipedia description - village of Llandderfel and continued for another 1.5 miles on a narrow road that terminated at Lins' mom's place. To say the view was stunning is an understatement. And her mom? No selection from a box of chocolates could have been better! She was warm and friendly and had a great sense of humor. Her given name is Rebecca, but she goes by "Boo," a nickname that stuck from her girlhood years and the children's rhyme, "Becky Boo lost her shoe on the way to London."

At some point, Lins asked if we'd like to take an ATV ride around the property. I accepted, and I was thrilled to experience glorious hilltop views of the countryside in their endless shades of green and getting up close and personal with lambs, bluebells, and yellow gorse. Lins graciously stopped whenever I requested so I could take photos. Our intended 30-minute excursion turned into an hour.

Art stayed behind to chat with Boo. They discovered they are both fans of Judy Dench and David Suchet's "Poirot," and the "Morse" and "Lewis" mystery series.

As for our noon lunch, it consisted of a large baking pan of unknown contents accompanied by steamed cauliflower. We're fans of the latter, but it was the baked dish that proved to be the pleasant surprise. Art had barely tasted it when he pronounced he liked it. It was almost spot-on to one of his favorite meals - what he refers to as "mom's baked dish." His mom always claimed she acquired the recipe from her mother-in-law. Art likes it so much that he has made it many times and, to our surprise, this "old people food" is something even our kids seem to enjoy.

Adding another layer of coincidence, we had intersected with the dish three times before our visit with Boo. The first time was in Liverpool. Art, his cousin Kris, and I had just finished a Beatles-related bus tour and were feeling a bit "peckish" - Brit-speak for hungry. The tour ended at a pub called The Cavern, where the Fab Four had performed some 200-plus times. We decided to give it a try. The Scouse - rhymes with house - caught my eye as the ingredients seemed much like Art's baked dish and its name intrigued me. The menu said it was a stew eaten by sailors and locals. People from Liverpool are even known as Scousers.

Another reason I made that selection was because Art had been talking about using the hamburger we had in the refrigerator at our place to make his version. A few days later, he did just that. Kris enjoyed it so much she asked for the recipe. She must have been impressed because the day after she got back to the States, she sent a photo of her version of the dish in her crock pot. The photo was captioned, "Lunch is almost ready!!!!"

Art took the remainder of Boo's version with him and ate it as his evening meal a few days later.

After mentioning our visit to our friend Jan's daughter, Leanne said she makes scouse too, but she uses mashed potatoes as Boo had, rather than chunks of potatoes as Art does.

Curious about the name "scouse," I did some additional reading. According to Dominic Watt of the Department of Linguistics and Phonetics at the University of Leeds, it is "said to derive from the name of the traditional dish 'lobscouse,' a sort of stew, which was/is eaten 'round there. Compare this with the German 'Labskaus,' and Welsh 'lobsgows,' both approximately similar dishes."

Our visit with Boo proved to be great fun and we look forward to seeing her again. Our two "boxes of chocolates" had produced two excellent experiences and we even learned a bit about the origins of a favorite family dish.

Art's crock pot version:

2-3 good-sized potatoes
1-2 average white onions
2 average carrots
1 can of peas
1 can of tomato soup
1 pound 20-percent-fat ground beef
1/4 cup catsup
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut potatoes, carrots and onions into one-half inch pieces, shred ground beef, mix and set to high heat. Done when carrots and potatoes are soft ... about three hours.

Left: Rebecca, Art and Gloria. Top-middle: Gloria and Lins begin their ride. Top-right: Boo's home in the distance. Middle: Scouse description on the Cavern menu. Bottom (l-r): Cavern restaurant; Gloria and Kris at table in Cavern restaurant; Kris' lunch almost ready to eat.

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