I warn you now: this is a totally separate story within a story about Iowa...
In the middle of the animal and craft shenanigans and Sample Sunday fever during my trip, I was actually scheduled to teach and cook in Iowa to earn my keep, so to speak. Yes, dear friends, don't mistake that I still had to earn my bread and butter; it was in fact the reason I had gone in the first place.
Amongst my agendas of bee wrangling and teaching any number of exotic food dishes, I was given the opportunity to cook a Middle Eastern meal at Maggie's house. I thought it was the least I could do as a round-about "thank you" for even offering to host me to begin with, which set up a whole slew of trips to Iowa, and which opened many doors for me since then.
The dinner was actually held BEFORE Sample Sunday, and had been squished between my arrival date, the teaching of two beekeeping classes at Maggie's Prairieland Herbs, and then a Sample Sunday celebration, so there was indeed quite a lineup happening. However, I could not be happier to be part of their dinner plans. This would be considered part of their traditional social-food-get-togethers that she and her partner John would host, called Hot Pot. Clearly, my impressions of these get-togethers were not cleverly understood, since I didn't realize they LITERALLY involved a pot, and often were Asian themed affairs that included folks taking a portion of food cooked all in one pot!
As a result, I sheepishly had to rename my Middle Eastern Soiree Hot PAN as, alas, there was no communal pot-dish to be had amongst my menu! Nevertheless, the celebration ran full steam ahead--Maggie had done a herculean job of not only buying all of the ingredients herself, but she started COOKING the food, even though I had volunteered to do it!
In the meantime, several friends that I had come to know and love joined us for the feast. Randi, Dawn, Becky, her husband Brian, and various other friends joined the fray. One of them, Lars, was particularly interesting, not only because of his rampage-wit, but because, as a publisher and one-time New Yorker, he seemed to bridge the small spaces in discussion between city culture and rural culture.
During one hilarious moment (and I can't remember what the point was, exactly now), I made a stylized comment using proper New York slang: "uh-uh, heffa!"
Let me tell you, that comment stopped the room, cold. No one was actually offended at all, I should say, but it was a lesson in how very different each part of the country is; a funny bit of slang in one place would be so foreign in another place.
What is a "heffa?" I remember Dawn asking.
"You know--heifer--it's slang for a female cow."
I don't remember who said it, but the response from around the table, good-naturedly, seemed to be: "I don't know, I think that might be considered an actual insult to cows, here in Iowa."
I had to explain that it an urban take on what was an unfortunate insult to a woman, not unlike the British calling a woman "cow." This, in turn, was taken (as New Yorkers are wont to do) and use it as an insult not only women, but frankly, anyone who annoyed them. It was not uncommon for some of the hip, younger folk to call people they disliked (or imagine they disliked) "heffas" on any given day.
This invited peals of laughter from the table. It didn't help that I had to show them the "Bronx" version of this, which was rolling your eyes and holding up a hand to "block" out a person that you were talking to, if you were offended by them. The typical monologue that accompanies this: "Nuh-uh, heffa." or "Oh no you didn't, heffa!"
This was enough to send everyone at the party into fits of laughter, and the conversations that followed included a welcome peppering of "heffa" at the end of certain sentences or, "nuh-uh-heffa" after a few others.
Now would proably be a good time to point out that this CLEARLY and obviously is not how most New Yorkers speak, and is very stereotypical, to a point, about certain New Yorkers. It's no more, and no better than assuming that all Southerners say "ya'll," but it IS done tongue-in-cheek.
At the same time, I will say it was funny to think: "could I actually be starting some sort of language/slang trend here in Iowa?"--I somehow doubted that once I left, such silliness would continue...or could it?
I say this because, two days later, I would encounter many of the same amazing people at Maggie's Sample Sunday. Becky was selling her amazing pots, Dawn was working her henna, jewelry, etc, Randi was there with her super-tasty baked goods--and so on and so forth.
And I was there, setting up my own little table of goods (which, by the way I happened to forget spotlighting in the original Sample Sunday post, and so now reveal it here):
....which looks even better with cute Prairieland Herbs kitten asleep across it:
And speaking of which, here is my smart Sample Sunday attire for that day!
But wait, I digress!
Anyhow...just as I finished getting together the old kit-and-kaboodle, Dawn seemed to appear out of nowhere, and with a gleam in her eye, and a playfully authoritative voice, she instructed me to close my eyes.
"Just close them, Zan, and no peeking."
So close my eyes, I did, and the next thing I knew, I felt hands tying something around my wrist. When I was finally allowed to open them...well, you can see what I was wearing in the above picture!
For a better demonstration, here it is another "glamor shot" of the piece!
Yes, that is "HEFFA" in sparkly little wristlet!
DAWN, I love it! And I love you funny, silly, nonsensical, sentimental folks in Iowa.
Does it make me weird if I confess I haven't taken it off since I received it?
Yeah. I thought so.....