As days turned into weeks, we became more adept at building our house and settling in. I built closets, installed curtains and light fittings, planted bushes and flowers. The summer hoards left and the houses in the forest emptied, bar a few neighbors and a slowing stream of weekend warriors.
We were on our own.
It felt good. We relaxed and felt healthy away from the hectic pace of the big city. We walked in the forest, and I had a rush of memories of “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams,” the 1970-80s television series. I was becoming the famed woodsman, and building a self-sustaining ecosystem in my backyard, a forest of pine trees for wood and ample land for planting herbs and vegetables.
I collected wood for the fireplace and for the barbeque, all fallen branches from our own pine trees. I threw in pine needles and cones, too. The fire started in the barbeque and I prepared the beef (from the supermarket, but in my head it was my catch from the woods that stretched behind us).
A neighborhood kid, or, shall we say, a forest kid, came ambling down my land to watch me.
“What you doing?” she asked.
“Starting the fire for a barbeque, or, well, an asado, as you call it.”
“Do you know how to do an asado?”
“Well, you’re American and all.”
“Well, you’ll just have to see, won’t you,” I said. “Why don’t you come back in an hour and be the judge?”
She looked up at me and said, “Maybe.”
I got the fire roaring and salted the beef, and put it on the barbeque along with blood sausages and pork sausages, a quartered red pepper and three halved zucchinis. We opened a bottle of wine and mellowed out while the kids played in the garden under the early-afternoon sunshine, the neighborhood kid racing around with them. I flipped the beef and the sausages, and then set the table and put out bowls of salad.
“It’s ready,” I called out.
My wife helped finish setting the table and the kids came running and sat down. We sent them to wash their hands. “Awww,” they moaned before marching off to the bathroom and then darting back with their hands still wet.
“So,” I said to the neighborhood kid, “you want some?”
She gave me a slow nod to say yes.
I served her a cut of bife de lomo, or filet mignon, and watched her poke at it and then cut a piece and try it. She chewed and swallowed and took a drink of water.
“Yeah, well… it’s not bad for an American.”