“Baseball and hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet,” rang the t.v. commercial back in the 1960s when I actually had to stand up and take a few steps to turn the channel. And even that would usually break into a fistfight with my brothers after an argument as to who had changed the channel the last time.
All of those products are out of favour in modern life. Baseball: too slow. Hot dogs: don’t even think about what’s in them. Chevrolet: too American. And who actually makes apple pies anymore ?
Nepal does. The Annapurna Trek through Nepal’s Himalayas is nicknamed the ‘Apple Pie Trek’. A lot of the teahouses along the way serve up what is a usually-delicious apple pie that we often ordered and sometimes ate before our actual meal. This could be partly explained because the high altitude’s thin air not only makes exertion difficult, but also seems to impede normal brain functioning. After making short work of her second piece of pie before lunch,Brenda had to deal with a breathing problem. In my characteristically sympathetic manner I assumed it was because she had eaten too much too fast. Brenda waved me off. “I’m having a heart attack,” she informed me. She’s usually indignant with my superficial ways but this time she surprised me with her forgiving request. “If I die I want you to do my eulogy.” Funny what becomes a priority when you visualize the Grim Reaper’s scythe on your jugular.
We couldn’t afford to have Brenda die on the bare floor of a Himalayan teahouse with a half-eaten piece of pie left on the table, so a couple of hours of uphill trekking brought her back from death’s doorstep. A $2.00 charge at the next teahouse brought Brenda pause. “Pricey,” she said. “Usually they let us stay for free if we promise to eat supper and breakfast there.” Her old parsimonious self back, I knew Brenda had recovered from her moment of mortality.
This time it was me who couldn’t walk any further. “I’m staying here,” I declared.”Even if they are over-charging.” A glance at the door showed a calendar with the page showing February. Today was November the 8th. “They’re a little behind the times,” I pointed out. “I hope that they’re a little more prompt with their meals.” Then I noticed that the calendar’s year was 2009.
We gathered around the woodburning stove at 5 p.m. waiting for a little supper action. There were four other guests present. Three German girls named Sophie, Francie and Ronia and one other French young woman who introduced herself as Anne. All of them were outgoing and cosmopolitan. We spoke French and German and I even contributed with my caveman version of the Teutonic tongue. We eventually found our way into English, which they all spoke quite well. Sophie the blonde German girl had almost finished medical school and had already worked as an intern in a Kathmandu hospital. She could get by in the local dialect and was not averse to lending a helping hand in the kitchen. She was also outgoing and funny. Anne the French girl had travelled through Mongolia and China. She was now hiking the Annapurna of course, and then would continue on into India. Most of the young males I knew of her age were still playing video games in their parents’ basements. But Anne worked in the aeronautics industry in France, where it is law that all employees could have a year’s sabbatical with a guarantee of having their exact same position back upon their return.
Supper was fried potatoes and vegetables; all we could eat. Anne had misplaced her phone and that sparked a frantic search until Brenda reached into her pocket and pulled it out. She had mistaken Sophie’s phone for her own. There were no angry accusations and I was able to good-naturedly joke that “Brenda had given you some of her fried potatoes. We figured your phone was a fair exchange.” All of us had a hearty laugh.
The sense of humour of both the French and the Germans is greatly underrated. We stayed, laughing and joking around the stove until 8 p.m. when the fire died out. With nothing to keep us in the now-unheated kitchen, it was time to bunk down in our unheated huts.