Category Archives: Food and Drink

Absence and fond hearts

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(Obviously, one of Edward Curtis’s finer photographs)

Sally was  driving home from one of her businesstrips in Northern Arizona when she saw an elderly Navajo woman walking on the side of the road.

As the trip was a long and quiet one, she stopped
the car and asked the Navajo woman if she would like a ride.

With a silent nod of thanks, the woman got into
the  car.

Resuming the  journey, Sally tried in vain to make
a bit of small talk with the Navajo woman. The old
woman just sat silently, looking intently at
everything she saw, studying every little detail,
until she noticed a brown bag on the seat next to
Sally.

‘What in bag?’ asked the old woman.

Sally looked down at the brown bag and said, ‘It’s
a bottle of wine. I got it for my husband.’

The Navajo woman was silent for another moment or
two. Then speaking with the quiet wisdom of an elder, she  said:

‘Good  trade…..’

____________________________________

Shriveled grapes, sour grapes, stomped fermented grapes, raisins- I’m leaving town. Bonnie is oh-so-right about my attitude and Mary is citing the adage about absence making the heart grow fonder. I’m banking on it. And, yes, Bonnie- we did go see Julie and Julia. What a splendid film! I especially liked the part where Julie blogs about the great falling out with her husband, the one where he leaves because she’s too busy cooking and blogging to have sex with him. Ah, me. And that Paul Childs was a saint.

The truth about marriage is that it’s tough sometimes- really tough. I think we have a seven year itch thing going on around here, that involves scratching the eyeballs out of the other. Kidding. Really, I’m kidding. But here’s the thing: in seven short years together we have been through end-of-life illness and death of two parents, menopause, skin cancer, getting another parent into nursing care, two moves, three job changes (one that included loss of benefits and other securities that are important to 50-somethings) and children really, truly, once and for all leaving the nest. Rich has re-written the direction of his life’s work, along with a book. He’s transitioned from a life on the road as a single business man to married man with inherited diabetes. I have retired from a professional life that was more than a profession, that I loved with such passion, one where I had functioned as a successful and independent woman for decades. One that defined me. I loved my work the way Julia Childs loved hers. I have had to re-define myself as a zoo docent, a raptor rehabber, a fiber artist- and as a wife.

When a marriage fails early on and unexpectedly and then a woman struggles to re-organize herself as a self-reliant person who can build a life, raise children, make a home all on her own-well then, it’s hard to let go of that. Because you had to fight so hard to get there. So, I’m just saying. And frankly, people, the fact that Rich is the butter to my bread and the breath to my life sometimes becomes background noise to the sniping and spitting. Because one thing you sure as hell do not need after all those years of being the one and same person who both overstuffed the garbage disposal with fresh greens and unclogged the nasty mess, is someone in your face asking you why you overstuffed the garbage disposal with greens. Especially when you know more about plumbing than they do. I bet even Katharina Von Bora would agree.

You know how sometimes I disappear for days at a stretch from blogging? Well, I’m working on shit. As in, getting my shit together. I’m over here trying to learn how to be a married woman, for one thing. I don’t have decades under my belt as some of you do. Working on being a whole person, even minus her own income. Someone who makes a difference, even without patients. (Who I needed because they were, God forbid, analysts cover your eyes, MY therapy.) Someone who holds the gardener in her soul while contending with pavement and alley rats. A mother who can’t cook dinner for her children. And there you have the truth and the heart of the matter.

Still. He is the butter to my bread. And still. I’m leaving home for a bit. Not because of him, although I would probably take a break one way or the other right now, just to stir up that fondness, but it’s time for- wait for it! BCMA!

Yes, yes, you should all be insanely jealous. This is the week when I get to go to that small 1920s cottage perched high on the dunes of the undisputedly best lake in the whole world, Lake Michigan. And this is the week when I am with my most favorite people in the whole world, the women of Book Club, My Ass. Our baby girls went to pre-school together. Our sons played the North Seas Jazz Festival in high school together. We have been sick together, had parents die, suffered cancer, complained bitterly about spouses, dieted both successfully and not and wept together. But most of all, we’ve laughed together.

This is the week when 800 square feet fills up with nine women, more (and better!) food than was in all of Julie and Julia, plenty of chilled white wine, beach reads, scrabble games and WOOL. We will knit on our own projects, poke and knit on each others projects, lay out raw wool and debate various shadings and dyes. Everybody but Audrey will snore and deny it. We will go watch the judging of the alpaca and again consider seriously the possibility of stuffing one in the back of Audrey’s SUV to go live on her farm as our joint venture. We will watch sheep shearing. We’ll fondle smooth, one-of-a-kind spindles and needles and admire wheels and looms. We’ll go in together on a giant dye lot of expensive cashmere/merino because each of those foolish spouses back home need a delicious sweater the color of dusk over the lake, knit with love. (And then, because they wouldn’t really appreciate it, we’ll knit it up into something for each other and send it for Christmas or birthday.) In the evening, with the sun shooting blinding oranges and reds into the kitchen window, we’ll all be bustling about tossing goat cheese salads, adjusting the curry in the chicken sauce, mixing the cocktail du jour. Then maybe a long beach walk, a bon fire.LkMichSunset-793

After those healing days, I’ll drive to Chicago, spread a blanket with friends, in front of the Frank Gehry Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park and cast eyes and ears on my son, whom I haven’t seen in months.  NOMO ends up their tour in this magnificent setting as part of the Chicago New Music Series.

FGehry3And then the two of us- Dan and I- will go out and eat as much of the best Chinese food as we possibly can. After that we head up to Oshkosh where Bud has gotten himself healthy enough and strong enough to rebel against assisted living. He’s thinking if they discharge him soon enough he’ll be able to put in the dock and the pontoon boat, by himself, before snow falls in October. And he plans to install a new pump in the well housing, finish repairing the roof… We will need to have a family confab and the cycle of my life will resume.

I liked the line in the movie where Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) says, “I could write a blog. I have thoughts.”

Relatively Wordless Wednesday: Getting pumpkined up for voting!

(Rich suggested that this is my Obama-Hannibal pumpkin with all of those toothpick supports. I tried.)

Pumpkin Curry Soup

Flesh of one large pumpkin

1 heaping tablespoon Muchi curry powder

1/2 tablespoon ground jamaican allspice

1 teaspoon salt

Igo seasoning or other Basque sweet red pepper spice.

12 ounces chicken broth

8 ounces half and half

4 ounces cream

____________________________

cutting away skin and stringy seed part, place chunks of pumpkin in 9 x13 baking dish with 1/2 inch of water on the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees until mushes with a fork, adding more water if dish goes dry. Takes about one hour.

Run pumpkin through food processor, adding in broth and spices. Check for taste- should be nice blend of mild curry plus sweetness of pumpkin and allspice.

Transfer to large saucepan and add dairy, stirring until blended, heat to less than a boil.

dish and sprinkle just a smidge of Igo seasoning on top. Serves 6.

(Pumpkin seeds, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. 1 hour at 325 degrees)

Waste not, want not

This is the time of year I miss the expanse of a rolling yard, a garden before the first frost, and sap turned still. The zoo provides some nice autumn days with changing trees and new energy with the cooler temperatures, and yet. Here’s the view at dusk from my urban balcony onto the back alley. A few too many wires and windows for my taste.

Today, my friend Lee and I took a giant bag of tree fallen apples that a friend brought back from his mother’s yard in Michigan and we turned it into applesauce. As you can see, they weren’t exactly gems but we peeled and trimmed our way around the worm holes, added orange and lemon juice and zest, a bit of brown sugar and some allspice, cinnamon and a few red hots and voila! Ten pints of delicious (Delicious) sweetness set aside for winter pork roasts.

While waiting for the apples to simmer down I used the last of the last tomatoes and peppers to make hot sauce and salsa. Dan likes the red, with a long chipotle burn but this year he’ll get to try something new: datil pepper and green tomato salsa. The datil pepper seeds came from my good friend, FC, and the tomatoes had to be picked from the earth boxes before this weekend, when we’re expecting a serious frost. This salsa is incredible. Lee and I kept eating it while we were peeling apples. Tangy and piquant with very nice heat.

Back in Michigan I put up well over a hundred jars of fruits and vegetables in all variations to take us through the winter so this looks like meager fare. I’m anxious for the time when I will again have a big producing garden. Nevertheless, this afternoon’s work felt rewarding. The reason I was in a rush to harvest and can today, besides the impending frost, is that I’m heading out of town for the weekend.

My sweetie is whisking me away for my birthday to the new house in Asheville. It’s not yet rented so we’re going to camp out for the weekend. We’ll use sleeping bags and folding chairs and build a nice cozy fire at night. During the day we’ll continue the process of getting acquainted with our new and future turf. The next photo you see here of an autumn dusk will look quite different!

Here’s hoping you all have a great weekend!

Holy squash blossoms, Batman! It’s market day!

Yesterday, Rich worked from home, sent his book off to the publisher and then, when I wasn’t paying attention, he said it was okay for ABC news to come over and interview him about the fate of Wrigley Field, which is up for sale along with the Cubs. Okay, he said to the camera guy and the news anchor and two assistants. C’mon over. I had continued to tear apart wool sweaters all week so the only thing missing were some Pakistani children and rows of sewing machines. After that we decided to go to the movies, and as Kimberly suggested, sit in air conditioned comfort.

The Dark Knight was filmed here in Chicago, with all of the chase scenes taking place beneath Rich’s office building on lower Wacker so we chose that. I guess we weren’t paying attention to the press around it because when we got there at 410 pm, the 405 show had 4 seats left and every other showing (all 37) throughout the weekend were sold out in advance. We found the last two seats together, settled in and enjoyed it immensely. It’s long but moves at a good clip and Heath Ledger’s Joker is nothing short of genius. Two thumbs up if you can get a ticket.

This morning it was raining with enthusiasm but off we went to the market with our 20.00. Here are the results:

(Oh, say! That’s Miz Mary’s market bag I finished in the background. Gave it a test run this morning and mailing it Monday…it works well, expands enough to hold a small first grader.)

Tomatoes: 3.00 for a basket of Early Girls and 4.00 for the heirlooms; the former for gazpacho and the latter for slicing. Oh, yum.

Green peppers: 2.00. Going into the gazpacho.

Cucumber: .50. Ditto.

Grand Haven Peaches 3.00. I smell cobbler.

Broccoli: .50. The broccoli has been so crisp and sweet we’ve been eating it barely steamed, barely seasoned.

Corn: 2.00.

POTATOES! POTATOES! WE LOVE POTATOES! Heirloom, dug the night before, 5.00. I got Russian Blues, Rose Finns Apple Fingerlings, Russian Fingerlings and the round red Chieftans.

For those of us who worship potatoes, the Rose Finns induce a sort of ecstasy. They’re hard to find but worth the effort. If I had space like Wayne, I would grow them, too. I boil and drain them, splash on a tablespoon or two of cream and one of butter, a bit of fresh ground pepper and mash them with a fork. Oh, yes. Yes.

The other thing they had at the market today was squash blossoms. Now there is a summer delicacy. My favorite farmer just had one small pint and the price is still high but he said they would be more plentiful over the next few weeks- and then done for another year. So, next week I’ll get them and show you a good way to prepare them.

Before I forget, here’s your basic pesto recipe. I’ve had a lot of basil to harvest from the earth boxes so I make a batch every week. We eat it on pasta, tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and spread on fresh baguette slices. But here you see the problem with my sharing recipes. I don’t measure.

Mince up two medium cloves of garlic in the food processor. Add a large bunch of basil. Fine chop. Add about 1/3 cup fresh Parmesan and 1/3 cup pine nuts. I had some leftover roasted pine nuts that I had done earlier in the week so those got tossed into the mix. A pinch or two of salt. Process about a minute while drizzling in about 1/4 cup really good olive oil. That’s it.

Update: Laura is up with her Saturday Stash!