Chislic

chislic
"Life goes on a little richer. Bring a Pepcid®"

The Muse explains as I wonder what the heck chislic is. The menu describes what sounds like chicken fingers, breaded, deep fat fried, except with "finger steak", whatever that is. She says that it's a South Dakota thing, common bar food, a dish she's known about all of her life. I'd never heard of it. In deference to me, she orders some so I can taste without committing to a full order. I nibble a piece and gratefully leave the rest for her. Some will remain after we've both finished our meal.

The Muse pulls up the Wikipedia page describing the many variations on the dish.
In the southeast, mutton replaces the "finger steak." In Brookings, it's lamb. The name evokes my own family history, Germans from Russia, though the web attributes the origin to some guy from The Crimea who immigrated to South Dakota, bringing the recipe. It suggests Turkish roots, which in my mind, makes sense. Germans lived beside Turks in the Ukraine. I'm always imagining connections between probably unrelated events. It's how I make sense of the world.

My point here is not, though, to write a critique of the lowly chislic, but to broaden the standard definition into a more general one. For me, and this is how family language evolves, chislic will forevermore now stand as a symbol of some common thing that somehow evaded my experience until now. Hardly a week goes by but what I don't encounter a 'chislic', something that everyone else in the universe considers commonplace, but which I never before even knew existed; I'd never imagined it before.

Traveling, even along familiar routes, seems to flush 'chislics' out of the underbrush, perhaps because on the move one might see the same old from new angles. It might even be that most real learning involves 'chislic', for if there's truly little new in the world, it necessarily follows that those things I experience as new to me must be 'chislic', stuff somebody, often almost everybody else, already considers commonplace. These are hiding in plain sight, so obvious that nobody already accustomed to their presence would ever even think to mention them. The Muse has never once in all the years we've known each other, brought up chislic in conversation. It was the soul of none of her metaphors, the punchline of none of her jokes. It sat tacitly there between us until last night.

Now, of course, like a four year old, I'm calling everything chislic, properly wearing out the word so that I can fully integrate it into my readily accessible memory. The recent remodeling effort was absolutely 'chislic'-filled for me as I was exposed to construction techniques I'd never before suspected existed. Each profession holds what seem to be deep secret chislics to anyone outside that profession. They seem like tricks or jokes when the outsider first encounters them. Deep fried what???? What the hell's a "finger steak", anyway? Later, once the shock and initial derision dissipates, even somebody like me can start to integrate the new, slightly orthogonal presence into my previous conception of the world concept. Life goes on a little richer. Bring a Pepcid®.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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