Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Storytime With Beth: Orange Cheese and Cool Whip

These days I am trying to learn German, but my longest language study has been in French.  I took French for two years in high school and for a few additional semesters while in college.  I even got an extended dose of real-world practice in Belgium during the summer of 2002.  

My high school French teacher was a wonderful woman named Bev Anderson.  She organized a trip to Europe as part of French Club for several years, including when I was a junior in high school.  I've always had the itch to travel so I saved up my money and went to France, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein with Ms. Anderson, a couple of other brave chaperones, and a gaggle of my fellow students.  After ten days, my traveling companions headed back to the states and I caught a train to stay at the home of our exchange student from the year previous.  I got ten days of incredible sights and tourist experiences and then almost a month in Belgium with Marj and her family having a taste of everyday life.

That trip was, without question, a lifechanging experience for me.  I remember it was fondness and awe.
Alli and Me in Paris.
I heard that Bev's mom, Thérèse, passed away earlier this month.  Thérèse was born in the very south of France, but eventually married and moved across the world to eastern Montana.  It's wild to think about, if you ask me.  I only met Thérèse once that I recall.  Even still, I distinctly remember her teaching me two important culinary distinctions:  
  • First, that cheddar was not inherently an orange cheese and that other orange cheeses (Velveeta and American slices, say) were barely cheese at all.  
  • Secondly, she taught me that Cool Whip and Whipped Cream were not the same thing; that they were certainly not interchangeable terms.  
As a woman who grew up eating French cuisine this was just stating the obvious and she was certainly right.  Still, as a child who grew up with Cool Whip on my pie at Thanksgiving, I found it mind-blowing at the time.

I told this story to someone--Matt's brother, Adam, perhaps, as part of a Miracle Whip vs. Mayo conversation--around the start of the new year.  I can't help but marvel a bit at the timing of it coming back to me.

Ms. Anderson in Germany.
Below are some excerpts from the telling of her life that I thought were rather remarkable.

Thérèse was born on October 16, 1930, in Ahaxe, France, in the Pyrenees Mountains along the border of France and Spain (Euskadi—The Basque Country), as the second of seven children. She was fortunate to be selected to get a Catholic School education, ultimately earning her teaching degree. She taught for seven years, first in Ossès, and then in Hasparren. On February 15, 1958, at the age of 27, she married Bert who had returned to France for a few-month visit after living and working in eastern Montana for the previous seven years. Soon after the wedding, the new couple arrived in eastern Montana where Thérèse (Mom) experienced her first brutal winter. Living 42 miles from town, not knowing the language, did not impede her from making the best of it. Mom learned English by listening to the radio and voraciously reading the books she anticipated receiving from the various Book-of-the Month clubs to which she subscribed.

In addition to the many meals she cooked, Mom made bread and soup almost daily. In the summers, she raised a large garden and beautified the yard with flowers in each flower bed, not an easy feat in the often-dry, almost-always windy eastern Montana climate. Throughout the year, Mom sewed and knitted. She was very creative as she often used her sewing and knitting skills to make things without a pattern. One year, she knitted each of her daughters a coat for Easter. Mom was always put together, poised, and classy.

Largely influenced by their Basque heritage, they raised their children to be strong, hard-working, independent-thinking individuals. Mom felt fortunate to see that her children were also raising their children to be the same.

In all situations, Mom advocated for the underdog, wanting to make the world a better place for all. Consistent with that philosophy, she purchased a stained-glass window for St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, depicting the Rich Man and Lazarus. Mom had a razor-sharp intellect, believed in education, and encouraged it in every way. She kept apprised of world news, reading the paper daily. Mom looked forward to completing the daily newspaper crossword puzzle. She wanted to keep her mind sharp. Despite her age, Mom used the internet and social media like a pro. Mom’s iPad was a window to the world. When Mom first came to Montana, she had to wait months for communications from her family; in the last years of her life, Mom marveled that she was able to communicate by Skype daily with her siblings in France. Having survived occupied France during World War II, Mom had strong political views that she was not afraid to share.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Beth,
    ...what a sweet tribute...French is also my oldest second language and I spent a summer with our former foreign exchange student as well...between high school and university...where I majored in French and Classics (Latin and Greek)...and I taught high school for a few years as well...I loved the photo of you in Paris...
    ~Have a lovely day!

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    1. Ah, one more thing I like about you. A love of languages! Where was your exchange student from--France?

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  2. Bethany, this made me cry. I can hear my mother schooling you on whipped cream and orange cheese. She did have a strong opinion and didn’t mind sharing it. I have such fond memories of my student trips to France and other European countries. I’m so glad that RaeLeigh shared this with so I can follow your blog. You are and excellent writer and I enjoy reading your work. Thank you for tribute to my mother. I love you my friend. 💕🥰

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    1. Hi, Bev. I'm touched by your comment. Many thanks--and much love! I'm so pleased that you found the post moving--and that you shared it with others, too. Your mom was a very special woman who lives on in so many memories. My Europe trip with you remains one of my travel highlights--you never forget your first, as the saying goes.

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