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Monday, March 22, 2021

I shared my relish tray with her.

That reminds me of one of my favorite lines from "Orange is the New Black," where one character shows her love for another by losing her favorite treat on behalf of another during a good fight. My daughter had to explain the T-shirt I saw the message on because I'd never seen the show.

So last week, I was having a Jack Daniels Manhattan at The Ranch in Hayward -- not to be confused with the old Ranch near Cornell -- when I noticed the elderly woman next to me.

She was at least a generation holder than her social group and on her second drink, looking at her watch as the others dawdled with their brandy old-fashions. I began to think the older lady was concerned about getting some food to go with her drinks, a Rob Roy -- a scotch Manhattan.

So I asked her to share my relish tray.

You have to understand I've missed the iconic Wisconsin appetizer for decades. At some places, the relish tray is a little fancy with pickled fish, meatballs, some sausage and cheese maybe. At The Ranch it's freshly cut carrots, celery and radishes, pickles, some pickled herring, cheese spread and an array of crunchy crackers and bread sticks.

At first she declined but I insisted, introducing myself. "Please," I said, spreading a wheat cracker with cheese, handing it to her.

She accepted demurely and introduced herself as Audrey. We clinked glasses and she dug in, her dinner companions talking about politics. I asked Audrey about her family and kids. Her husband had passed and kids spread around the world. I suggested she scoop a sesame seed bread stick into the semi-soft cheese spread.

Then I screwed up.

I ate a slice of radish.

"You must salt them," he said, taking a shaker and showing me how.

Of course. That was how I was raised. My dad used to prepare a bowl of ice water, salt it heavily and then cut washed radishes into them. Years later, I introduced my kid to the habit and it turned out the leftover water was a special treat for her Dachshund named Tosh.

Honestly. I should have known better. I took a slice of radish, salted it and the combination of salt and radish pepperiness tasted sublime.

When we parted ways as her group made their way into restaurant and I stayed at the bar, she held my arm and said, "You saved my life."

I asked for a hug and received a nice one.

That's the least I should get for sharing my relish tray.

Peace and salted radishes unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

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