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Circus
Read on Minnesota Public Radio, Wednesday March 10, 2004
By Nanci Olesen

When I was 22, I lived in a truck with a bear, and a monkey, two dogs, two doves, and four men. We were the world’s smallest circus, the Royal Liechtenstein Quarter Ring Sidewalk Circus. I was a juggler, a flautist, the bear trainer, the calliope starter, and the first woman ever to join that little troupe. The men I worked with became brothers to me.

We ate well every day. Nick, our ringmaster, was on a tight budget. The truck’s kitchen was outfitted with frying pans, saute pans, a stock pot and a great tea kettle. Every five days or so, Nick would take one of us into the grocery aisles with him. We all knew the list: chicken breasts, fresh vegetables, pasta, an occasional roast, tortillas, red beans, and lots of rice.

At night, in a parking lot behind a student union or in a snowstorm outside of Whitefish, Montana-- we always kept enough propane for all three burners on the stove-- Nick would cook us a great meal. We would be milling around outside, mending things that were broken, feeding the animals. Then Nick would call us in. Three people sat on a bunk, then the table was folded out of the wall. Two people sat in folding chairs.

Nick would swing the potatoes or chicken platter onto the table, as one person reached behind him into the cupboard to pull out the stack of plates, the silver and the napkins. Nick would seat himself at the head of the table and we would begin passing. We were family, so sometimes we had stuff to tease each other about, and we shared the kind of laughter where the water you are drinking spurts out of your nose. Other days we chewed in silence, fretting that the rain would cancel the show or knowing that someone owed someone else an apology for some mishap in the ring. Sometimes a long winded political discussion would leave us all divided and hurt.

But we were always satisfied by the food. Our precarious existence was fortified by the simple methods of sauteing and simmering at the end of another day on the road.

Now I’m twice as old as I was when I lived in that truck with a bunch of men and a bunch of animals. I live in a house with one man and three kids and a guinea pig. And everyday at 5 p.m. I start to saute and simmer to keep MY little circus troupe on track. And I thank Nick, my old ringmaster, for teaching me the simple fact that good food, well cooked, and eaten together, can ground you at the end of another long day.

—Nanci Olesen
producer and host, MOMbo: 1990-2007

 

Nanci Olesen's commentaries that have aired on Minnesota Public Radio:

06 may 2005 • Mother's Day

17 dec 2004 • Santa Lucia

02 dec 2004 • Holiday Blues

10 sept 2004 • First Week of School

09 july 2004 • Cell Phones

10 march 2004 • Circus Food

Dad in Church

Nanci Olesen's commentaries that have been published in magazines:

May 2002 • Road Trip

Debate

Art Circle

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