I’ve made another breakthrough identification of key interlocking components of the cosmos: rapeseed.
I was in the back of a cab hurtling through the English countryside with my Pop, my friend Greg and his dad, Paul. We were headed to Duxford AFB, the center of the world for restored WWI and WWII military aircraft, and a pre-arranged dogfight in Stearlings and Tiger Moths between the Matusky’s and the Spencer’s. It was near the beginning of our Two Fathers/Two Sons/Two Wars trip and we were all just finding our way along to a new friendship. Paul is incredibly inquisitive, and always wants to get the answer right, and the source, if possible. My Dad is more of a “no Sh*t” kind of student- anything new he learns automatically gets that response, followed by a deep belly laugh.
What’s that yellow flower in the fields, I asked. English cabbies are never without an answer, and this one did not disappoint. Rapeseed he answered. Rapeseed. Wonder what in the world that is. Dad gave his standard two word response and moved on. Paul let it go, too excited about the prospect of getting up in the planes. But I kept thinking about it, like it was familiar in some way.
It was a beauty of a May morning, with a high sky and just enough clouds to cast some shadows and depth across the fields of alternating green and yellow. I had seen seeing that similar contrast for years, taking the train from Waterloo through Normandy to Paris, or riding out to see the Spencer family seat in Northamptionshire as Dad and I had done the day before. Deep green patches broken up by vibrant yellow flower, almost the color of dandelions but taller and imminently more appealing. It always made a train ride more beautiful: there is nothing quite like it in the states, neither trains nor flora. But from a plane, that something totally different. I was about to see it all laid out in front of me in a patchwork of green and yellow from the open cockpit of a 1918 Tiger Moth I was flying. Funny thing, the Tiger Moth was actually the same color as the rapeseed.
As I maneuvered the Tiger through a few swooping bank turns, I tried to absorb what a beautiful moment I was experiencing. The Tiger flew like a feather- a noisy feather, but a feather nonetheless. The English countryside, with field after field of rapeseed and wheat was as gorgeous as I have ever seen it. Gorgeous as I’ve seen anything, matter of fact. I watched the shadow of our plane tracing the line from green to yellow to green again until- oops, too much watching our shadow and my co-pilot yanked the stick bank from me. So i went on enjoying the view, thinking myself a bit like The English Patient or Dennis Finch Hatton from Out of Africa, both famous Tiger Moth flyers. (Well, the fact they both crashed Tiger Moths reinforces the good judgment of surrendering the stick to steadier hands while one daydreams).
A month later, I am back in my kitchen cooking up a storm when I reach for my trusted canola bottle, an oil I have favored for years because it does not smoke at high temperatures. It’s really great because it is light, it cooks great, it doesn’t over power in a dressing. It’s the go-to oil in my lineup for most daily cooking chores. And I notice for the first time the label on the front of the bottle like someone is talking to me…
“In most countries, canola is also known as rapeseed oil”.