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  • I have a few words and sentences of German: Tashenlampe; Eintopfen, Cigaretten. Has tu bitte ein cigaretten? Eintopfen, bitte.

    I learned these words on a remote beach on the Algarve, close, but not quite, the tip of the European continent. It was a mile walk from the road, a mile from the nearest store, a mile from the man that sold Lagos red wine by the jug (which we lugged back up and refilled very often). We swam in the sea every day, we showered (not often) in the community center and shopped in a little store.

    We made the same stew almost every night. It had pasta and vegetables, whatever was available up in the market in the white washed village. The old village men sat in row in the bus shelter where our path to the beach met the road.The bus came on the hour, or not. The men all wore the same grey fedoras and dark suit jackets. The sky was blue and the shelter was perfect white. It was never clear if the men were waiting for the bus, or just waiting. They yelled at us in Portugese as we walked by on our way to the store or to fill our Lagos jug. I tried and failed to take the perfect photograph.

    The two Germans, Steffan and Enno, owned the cook pot. We took turns cooking--the eight or ten of us who lived on the beach that summer, with nothing much to do besides go to the little town and plan our one-pot meals and swim in the ocean and sleep with each other: the Austrian man who was so handsome it hurt to look at him, and Lulu the Maorie Kiwi, Richard, the guy from Wales, me and my traveling partner, Winnie from Atlanta. There were others who came and went but this group stayed longest. The stew tasted largely the same from night to night. Sauced with Lagos wine and water, bubbled until the pasta was soft, the vegetables mushy. We added a spicy Portuguese sausage now and then. Our dining room table a tarp laid out on the sandy soil, all of us in a circle around a small Sterno stove and our one pot.

    This past birthday, my husband gave me a bright red Creusat Dutch oven. Now, he said, you can make one-pot meals. He meant it selfishly, since I am the kind of cook who uses every pot, pan and implement in the kitchen in the preparation of a simple dinner for two, and which he, as designated dishwasher, must then clean up. But I just smiled to myself, Steffan and Enno and Moumine and Richard and Winnie suddenly standing with me in my kitchen, over my six burner GE professional grade stove.
    "Yes," I said, "I'll make a lot of one-pot meals."
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