Irene Wanner

Frida’s Palette

Frida cooks for me--for us--chalupas with red and green sauce, macaroons of  white almond and white sugar and egg whites, golden squash blossom crepes and little meringues like new white breasts never touched by sun or lips, potatoes in emerald tomatillos and mango sorbet glowing amber in red clay bowls, black bean soup and punch pink with grenadine, coconut ice cream glistening like ivory and pinto beans spotted sorrel with chorizo or chiles under cheese.  We eat pico de gallo--jicama, orange and prickly pear--and yellow corn tamales in russet earthenware.  We drink eggnog and hot chocolate from glazed goblets, tequila and rice water and orange-leaf tea from bubble-crazed green glasses.  We pop dainty cats’ tongues cookies--butter, sugar, egg white, vanilla, sifted flour--into our mouths from the painted tin that snaps air tight.  We hold hands.  We whisper.  We spoon up cream of peanut soup, nougats, oysters, stuffed chayotes, guavas and plantains, black mole from Oaxaca, pumpkins.  At Frida’s lace-covered, yellow table we talk of art and politics--our inseparables--of commissions and communism, of art’s social function and our conscience.  In her Blue House, we linger over fiesta dinner we call "tablecloth stainer"--pork loin with chiles, herbs, neck bones, quince and peaches, sugar and vinegar.  I drink a coffee.  Listen.  My chin drips juice.  Frida laughs.  Her lush eyebrows lift as she sings her favorite song.  White lilies glow in candlelight.  Her rice is Mexico’s flag on a platter.  The avocado parrot perches on her shoulder.  A monkey black as figs nuzzles her dark braid, clutching her serape.  We steal kisses at table before returning to work.  Patting my belly, I bring folk art and pre-Columbian art.  I bring cubism.  I bring the Italian Renaissance.  On my clean, white porcelain soup bowl, I bring Frida’s palette and climb onto my scaffold.  See here?  Milk horses, lime jungles, mango flames, chocolate men.  And here, see?  Green glass forests, sugar white shirts, red clay feet.

Copyright 1998, Irene Wanner

Irene Wanner has published a book of stories, Sailing to Corinth (Owl Creek Press, 1988), and teaches fiction writing at UW Extension.  She is also a nonfiction editor for The Seattle Review and reviews books for The Seattle Times.

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