Parfianka pomegranate, year three
Sunday November 03rd 2019, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

So how do you know when a pomegranate is ripe, I wondered?

I went looking for the answer several times over the last month or so, each time hoping to find someone who’d grown that particular type. And found this:

You can’t really tell by the color.

You can’t tell by the stem end.

If you get it wrong and let it stay on the tree too long, it loses some of its flavor. Wait. This was definitely news to me, because I planted my tree after tasting pomegranates from Jean’s that had been left in place till they’d begun to split open. I had never tasted anything like that in my life, and given her age I knew I might not again unless I grew my own. So I did, and wondered if I should leave them till they split open, too.

But they looked so good…

There were two fruits that had made it past the one inch stage (and our not watering while we were gone for three weeks in September when Lily was born.)

Heft it, was the advice I found: it should bulge and it should be heavy.

Define heavy?

It should be large.

It was. How large?

Tap on it and listen.

Oh great, good luck with that one.

Don’t pick it: clip it.

Okay, that I know how to do.

Michelle was going to be dropping by for dinner and I thought, one to try now, one to leave for later in our experiment. We’ll compare and know better what to do next year when there will be many more of them.

The verdict is, it was probably harvested just a little early, but the seeds came away easily (almost all of them anyway) and it was as good as anything from a grocery store.

But the thing that struck me was all those little bite marks and a long clawing on one side. So many times over the months it hung there that something stealthily approached, tasted that gorgeous red exterior, and then went, This is supposed to be food?? and let it be, leaving a mosaic pattern behind. At least once something larger tried hard to pull it away but it held on to where it needed to be to grow.

They never got past the tough exterior.

They never found the sweetness inside.

But we believed, and we did.



Berryburgers
Monday October 28th 2019, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Food

I had never heard of salmonberries, so towards the end of our trip to Alaska last month I bought a tiny jar of jam to try.

It tasted mostly like it tried, but there wasn’t any really memorable flavor beyond the pectin and honey holding it together and I’m still not sure what the salmonberries themselves were supposed to be like, so it was left sitting in the fridge.

Then came the Trader Joe’s veggie masala burgers.

Two leftover deli slices each of roast beef that needed to be eaten.

Two juicy but late tomatoes, chopped. Some nights have been cold enough to turn off the gene that makes tomatoes sweet, and after tasting a piece I knew I needed to balance that tartness and the patties’ heat somehow. Just a little bit of sweetness and…something. I went through the fridge and the cupboards, trying to figure out just the thing.

That salmonberry jam. It wouldn’t take much.

Okay, this was going to be weird but let’s try it. I scooped out a goodly tablespoon of the not very jelled fruit and stirred it into those tomatoes and covered the beef on top of the masala veggie rounds with it. Then I grated some sharp cheddar on top, a goodly amount, put the whole thing in the oven at 350 for ten and hoped.

I debated toasting some sourdough to scoop them onto afterwards but in the end did not.

The tomatoes and jam oozed into the burgers below and the whole thing gave way at the fork into more of a casserole effect, with a much better texture than those burgers had ever been before. This is what they’d needed all along.

I should have chopped the beef, too. But that little bit of tart and just enough sweet from the salmonberries completely pulled the whole thing together and left me wishing for more.

And here the whole time I’d been throwing these random ingredients at each other I’d thought of how my dad praised my mother’s cooking every meal. He would tell us, “You never get a dull meal with your mother.

Sometimes, though,” he would add, given Mom’s flair for experimentation, “it’ll be *interesting!*” And then he would guffaw that deep joyful celebratory laugh of his that made the whole world whole.



Apricots
Friday October 25th 2019, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

It was not how I intended it to go but it was the way it needed to go.

My dad loved dried fruit, particularly apricots, and he said the apricot slabs from Andy’s Orchard were the best he’d ever had. That was high praise.

I asked around the family before his funeral to see if anybody wanted me to bring some when we flew into town and got a resounding YES!, surprising me at hearing how many people Dad had told that those were his favorites.

So last Monday I drove down to Andy’s and bought two three pound tubs.

The clerk quietly stopped me: did I know…?

The Premiums look so pretty. And Andy only grows what tastes good.

But the slabs are the ones that were so perfectly ripe at picking that they went smush, so they won’t win any beauty pageants, but the flavor!

I thanked her, because I’d known that but had forgotten it, put one of the tubs back and got a second slabs one.

My thought was, it’s cheaper to get the large containers than lots of individual small ones and I’d rather spend the money on the apricots; people can ziplock for themselves however much they want to take home. Or whatever. But six pounds should do it, if for no other reason than that there’s only so much luggage space and I had to pack sweaters and wool skirts.

And so, after our flight two days later, the first tub was opened at Mom’s.

Saturday, the second tub was opened at Mom’s. And that’s after only one person took me up on the sandwich baggie thing.

We slowed down. Mom, six siblings, spouses, and a few of the grandkids, we were trying not to eat them all. But they were good.

One of my brothers said something wistful and I asked him, given our family’s round-robin tradition, “Is this my year to give to you for Christmas?”

He considered a fast half second, his face totally lit up, and he exclaimed, “Yes!”

Saturday, Mom looked at where that second tub had gotten down to and was a mixture of pleased we’d enjoyed them so much and, “Hey, leave *me* some!”

So guess where I went today. Beat the Christmas rush and all that, because I have no idea at what point Andy sells out for the year. Let us help him speed up that date.

I bought some fresh fruit and veggies, too, and as we loaded up the back of the car together in the 90 degree heat (normal is 71) I asked the clerk, If I run an errand for an hour or so would these all be okay in here?

Sure, no problem.

I drove off telling myself that, well, but realistically it’ll be longer than an hour, and then the half hour home after that.

I’d never tried to find Fillory from that direction before. Near the freeway but not either of those two freeways. I had my yarn and needles in my purse all ready for my Friday afternoon knitting group and wanted to go. Let’s see, this one connects to that freeway with the exit to the… Yeah, no problem.

Now, on my way to Andy’s I’d realized that I ought to check my phone when I got there to be sure.

I realized on my way to Fillory that I should have checked my phone back at Andy’s to be sure.

I realized that where I found myself awhile later looked familiar not because I was going the right way but because it was where I got lost a couple years ago trying to find the place when… Some maps programs are better than a particular one. And you cannot just pull off to the side of the freeway to read what you cannot hear: GPSs are lost on me.

The forty minutes I’d spent in extra traffic getting around an accident on my way south and the half hour I’d blown looking for my turn along my way north added up to its being rush hour now.

I found my way back to the freeway–that I could do–and went straight home. Sorry guys. Next week.

Which is how I ended up pulling in my driveway just before Sandy’s son pulled away with his wife for their long twelve-hour drive home. I hope they stop somewhere in between for the night. They’ve been working hard on making that house more elder-friendly.

I waylaid them with just-picked figs from Andy’s, to their great delight, and they caught me up on his mom. It’s a lot easier to talk about in person than across texts when it’s a hard subject but both of you love the person you’re talking about. You can see the emotions in each others’ faces. You can be a better comfort to each other. We were able to be there for each other. I’d needed to be there.

I’d thought they were leaving town tomorrow. I’d come so close to missing them.

I almost, almost, offered to run back in the house and grab them a tub of those apricot slabs in Dad’s memory. If I find out they like such things, maybe when they come back in a few weeks.

When they can share a tub with his mom before they leave again.



Going out. Way out.
Monday October 14th 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Dad was the original foodie.

My mom always delighted in his ability to find his way back to a restaurant he’d last/first stumbled across years before.

I can remember twice when I think she was the one who started the do-you-remember, he did indeed with great delight, and then he had to find it. He was a homing pigeon for great food–and always made a point to exclaim over Mom’s cooking too, for that matter. She’d helped take over the kitchen at twelve years old when her mother had broken her hip: she’d learned early and she’d learned well.

But you can’t eat at home when you’re on the road.

One time was when my niece Emily got married in Seattle. My folks, my brother and I were in a car together afterwards and there was this wistfulness back and forth between the folks about that seafood place from that trip from the time when I was I think two.

Dad said it was on the waterfront.

Mom said You’re right it was.

Dad started off that-a-way and after awhile my brother and I were…a little doubtful. That did NOT look like anywhere you’d find a restaurant.

We went over a drawbridge. They still have those?

Dad used the Space Needle as his mental compass, which means it would have to be…wouldn’t it be that building over there?

Ivar’s! Yes! Tadaaah! And it was still there!

I’d never seen a restaurant before with an indoor–hill, for lack of a better description, with a sidewalk/aisle rolling upwards and down to match.

Canoes hanging from the walls. Pacific Northwest Native art. And the best clam chowder I’d ever eaten in my life.

Another time that comes to mind: we were way down South somewhere (that was the trip with the camper where an armadillo raided our marshmallows in Florida) and Dad said there was this barbecue place we had to go to. He found that one, too.

It was put together by lots of hard work: the tables were just picnic tables, nothing expensive at all.

But they had been sounded down so fine that they felt like velvet. Seriously. And they trusted us kids with sauce near that? I was nine that trip, and we were all marveling and running our fingers back and forth on the perfect surfaces. How had they done that?

Sand paper and a whole lot of time and elbow grease, Dad said. And then had to explain that no, not grease grease, elbow–and expanded my vocabulary.

And then that barbecue!

If anybody has any idea where that restaurant is or what its name is I’d love to be able to give them a shout-out for the happy memories all these years later.

The trip when I was sixteen to see the last Apollo lift-off in person. Dad found the place again that had the old-time jukeboxes and Brunswick stew so good that years later I realized I just had to learn how to do that. (Although they and I went with chicken, the traditional squirrel meat being hard to come by these days.)

I’m with Dad: I’d go back there in a heartbeat. Just like he did.

Celebrating his memory.



Florida native
Friday October 04th 2019, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift,Life

And…38F again at 7:30 am.

After posting about the cold mornings last night, I finally got up the gumption to go email a friend who’s gone missing. This is someone we’ve had over while finishing up a batch of chocolate level of friend. I told him he had said I didn’t even remember what anymore but that it had left me thinking, This guy needs a hat.

So I’d gone through my small stash of Malabrigo Mecha and knitted him a simple beanie.

Didn’t see him at church the next Sunday, so I thought, good, because sometimes his friend comes too and I wouldn’t want to leave him out. If both come, they both get one, if not, then he gets to choose. Not that anyone’s really going to get excited about thick wool in the heat of the summer.

No sign of either.

I had a good laugh at myself as I went down to Fillory that Friday for my informal knitting group, and this time I went through the skeins, razzing myself that he didn’t come because he was avoiding having to tell me he didn’t like them. This time I was going to get the color right!

Mottled browns, this time in a pattern with more pizzazz.

No sign of him.

And then we went off to Alaska for the new baby and we sure didn’t see him there, either.

I wrote that quick post about our unseasonably cold mornings and then it nagged at me: so, at long last, I sat down and sent him a note. Tossed the idea of any kind of surprise and simply told him the story of the three hats.

I had no idea.

He wrote back that he’d spent the summer out of the country and that he’d just come back Saturday–with a knock-out case of the flu, while home was cold cold cold compared to where he’d been and he was freezing.

I read that and thought, and none of your friends knew to come help.

He ended it with his gratitude that God knew he needed that divine ‘hey you, I know you’re there’ just then.

On a side note but on second thought it was clear it was not, Richard happened to mention this evening the same thing I’d been thinking: we’re overdue to make another batch of chocolate.

I know who could use a bar of the good stuff.

—————-

(Edited to add: After he got home from his ham radio meeting we did indeed get that batch started tonight. For my records, it’s Madagascar 2018 Organic Trinatario-Sambriano Valley from Chocolate Alchemy. The kitchen smells divine.)



Oh honey
Tuesday August 20th 2019, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

An old Purlescence friend Facebooked yesterday about some honey she was considering at a farmer’s market, and that when she’d learned the source and sampled it she’d bought two. She described it as smokey, caramel-y, with a depth of flavor like nothing else.

I would have gone right past that display without a glance–actually I did at first–at Andy’s Orchard this afternoon but then that well-known picture of the vendors caught my eye and then the jars, familiar only because of Lynette’s post. Hey. Those!

The Honey Ladies’ name has long been passed around on the neighborhood sites as where to go when you have a bee swarm where you really don’t want it. They’ll happily come and put those honeybees to use in a better spot.

She’s the one who saw the guy first and yelled, Hey! You can’t bring that in here!

Which drew the attention of apparently the police thankfully nearby, and of the Gilroy shooter himself: she and her husband were his first targets.

The lady at Andy’s told me that they’d thought they were going to have to amputate her leg but right now it looks like they can save it after all. The woman’s husband took more bullets–but they both lived, their son was unharmed, and they are coming along bit by bit.

So Andy’s is one of the places now selling their honey. Of course it is. That’s what our Andy does. I bought three.

By far the best is the one Lynette raved over.

Checking me out, the lady said, her eyes on me, questioning how I felt about this, You know, a lot of people are afraid of that.

I told her it came highly recommended so I had to try it.

Now that I have, I wish I’d bought more, and I have an extra excuse to go back sooner rather than later before they’re all sold out.

Poison oak blossom honey. From rescued bees.

Who knew, right? Of all things. Even poison oak can leave in its wake something highly good and desirable.

(I’m thinking of my mom’s fierce poison ivy allergy and wanting to say, It’s okay, Mom, it’s okay, I’m fine…)

P.S. I gave Richard some and he called himself agnostic on the issue, that honey simply tastes like honey to him, so then I had him sample their blueberry. He was surprised: Oh! That IS different!



The best comes after the longest wait
Tuesday August 13th 2019, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Looking around as things ripen and beckon, I got it half-right last summer: I did need two layers of bird netting for the figs. One to go over the small tree, yes, but the closer-meshed one heaped at the base to keep smaller critters from being able to squeeze in and climb up from below.

The over-netting is held down by old oven racks, a heavy doormat, and reinforced by some flower pots in front of that mass of mesh.

Those flower pots got shoved aside last night. Skunk? Raccoon?

Every fig was still there. I had another perfect one this morning. Soon I’ll have enough at once that I’ll need to stuff them or wrap them and roast them and make a supper out of them and still we’ll have some to share. At last.

To quote Andy Mariani: August is the Sunday of summer.



The first ripe Black Jack of the season
Monday August 12th 2019, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Fresh figs: Nature’s fruit geodes.



I finally asked
Sunday August 11th 2019, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

Item 1. They replaced the carpeting at church last week. People were complaining about the smell. It was intense. (I did a mental grin upwards at the late Ski, who’d ordered the previous one ~25 years ago, thinking, at last they’d corrected his color choice. He was so proud of that mismatching green. Shhh.)

I spent much of the time holding very still with not one oxygen molecule to spare. Yow.

This week I was hoping the place would be aired out far better by now–but the answer was, um, some.

I got the doors propped open with a flower pot on one side and a chair on the other before the meeting, but during it found myself having to put my head between my knees. Hey I did better than this last week, what’s up with this. I made a break for it and went for that chair. Yes it was near noon on a summer day and in the sun, but you worry about paying for it re the lupus tomorrow after you make it through today–can’t get to the one without the other.

Jenni saw me and immediately followed me out and stayed by me and asked if I was okay. I searched through my purse I should have used last week but before that hadn’t had to use in years, even if I’ve periodically replaced it at expiration.

I found my inhaler. It helped. Not as much as I wanted, but it helped.

Item 2. I had to go back in to the one of the less aired-out parts to retrieve the Trader Joe’s chocolate goodies from the mother’s nursing lounge at the end.

A young mom was in there: Oh, are you the one that brings those? Thank you so much!

Me: Yes, it is the most fun job–and I take requests.

Her: You always bring my favorites!

I left with a big grin on my face.

Item 3. The upshot: the realization that there was no excuse not to ask. I needed to send out a message to both wards that use that building to make sure there are no serious peanut allergies in either one before I bring TJ’s chocolate peanut butter cups in there. Whether I ever know about it or not, I do not want to leave some poor kid fighting to breathe.

I’ve only brought them a few times but I never should have without making sure first. Checking with the leaders like I did was not enough.

So now I’ve asked.



And it’s the week the Kit Donnells are in. Woot!
Saturday August 10th 2019, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knit

Hey, Mom, wanna go to Andy’s Orchard with my friend and me?

YES!

I sat in the back as they caught up in the front seat (her dear friend just moved here a week ago) and just about finished the back of the baby sweater a mile from home.

Kit Donnells are some of the best peaches out there–and one of Andy’s creations.

On a total non sequitur, I was mentioning to Holly a few minutes ago about a message Richard got in the early days of DARPAnet, the precursor to the internet.

So I had to go find it: the fractured fairy tale Ladle Rat Rotten Hut. Enjoy.



Mass-delivery cherries
Tuesday August 06th 2019, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Our cherry season is over, so these weren’t local but when I saw them at Costco I fell for them.

Funny how you can tell yourself in the grocery store that it doesn’t really take that much time to make a fresh cherry pie when you really want one.

It does.

I overfilled the 10″ pan, wanting to use all three pounds and be done with them because (after tasting one) this was the best they could ever aspire to be. I pinched those edges shut, but the pie wasn’t having it. Five minutes before the buzzer went off (I’d set it at maximum time because of the size of the thing) the kitchen was suddenly smoking up big time, and I mean billowing.

I yanked the oven door open, fully expecting flames (nope, just a gray cloud and an escaped cherry and juices sizzling on the floor of it), turned on the fan, and opened windows skylight doors and got a nice quick chat with my neighbors out of the deal.

Richard came home from his errand a few minutes later and walked in going, Did you know something burned? You can smell it down the street.

Naaah. Never would have guessed!

It doesn’t taste smoked. It’s not an Andy’s cherries pie, but it is still definitely cherry pie. Yum.



Oranges and spinach
Sunday August 04th 2019, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Food

I knew about huanglongbing, ie, greening disease, first found in China about a hundred years ago and how it has been threatening to kill every citrus tree in the world–I have looked for signs of it in my lemons and mandarins. Supposedly, northern California is the last corner of the American citrus world that doesn’t have it.

What I did not know was how far anyone had gotten in fighting it nor by what means they were trying.

First, the horrifying article from May saying that the EPA had approved spraying 650,000 pounds of human antibiotics on commercial groves this year even though they don’t yet know if that will even work. You didn’t need your streptomycin to be effective on your infections or post-op, did you?

I wanted to know more.

I found a six-year-old article, also at the New York Times, that was far more hopeful.

A spinach gene. A grower who was as enraged at Monsanto’s business practices as the rest of us helped fund the research that discovered that a gene in spinach might make it so that orange juice still exists 20 years from now. 90% of the orange trees in Florida were already dead at the time.

His group even found a way to get that gene into living trees so that they could test it for safety sooner. The story needs an update whether their efforts got swept away in the anti-GMO fad and whether it worked as well as initial tests suggested. He understands that fad–but hoped he could make his case to the American public that he had chosen spinach and not pig genes for the same reasons they would have: to stick to a widely-used well-known plant source so as to cause the least potential disruption in the food chain. The gene had nothing to do with flavor or color.

Meantime, Trump’s administration is grossly contributing to antibiotic resistance.

Thanks, I’d rather say pass me the spinached.



I cobbled this post together from bites and pieces
Tuesday July 16th 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Food

Grocery-store Rainier cherries to supplement (while trying not to insult) the last of (I knew I should have bought more) Andy’s Black Republican ones.

It’s a good thing I couldn’t find my cherry pitter last week. I still haven’t found it, which makes no sense except for the fact that now I’m really glad I didn’t.

Because it made me go looking for a better version–there had to be a better version out there than what I had.

Let me tell you how much better Sur La Table’s $11.99-on-sale version was than the $10 cheapo from Amazon: I pitted all those cherries in almost no time WHILE (stupidly) WEARING A SILK BLOUSE. Pardon me while I shout. I was daring myself to stop being so lazy and just go change my clothes and I continued anyway and it was fine. No cherry juice squirting all over the kitchen, no having to place each one just exactly so, no worrying about which size cherry went where: roll’em in, make sure they’re all in an indentation, cover and stab seven at one go, repeat to about 70 pits before you have to empty them out of the bottom part–and they do not get in the way underneath, unlike my old gadget.

Roll cover push roll cover push roll cover push look up that Washington Post cobbler recipe, done!

(Edit: Having run to try it out after posting this, it works for the bigger pluerries (plum/cherry crosses) too, although it’s harder work.)



They did it!
Monday July 01st 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

A great big pot of applesauce with a very small blond boy standing over it, grin big and hand wide as if about to do an exuberant splashdown into that tasty goop: it’s not my kid so I’m not putting his face here, but it was a great photo and it made my day.

I passed Ellen’s recommendation on to the mom of the Victorio Strainer so she doesn’t have to cut the seeds out next time, and then promptly ordered one myself so we could both use it when the Fujis come on. My mom used to have something like that all my growing up, only big, metal, and heavy,  essential to her for getting tomatoes to the right texture for chili sauce; my tomatoes have started turning color (bird netting was applied today) and I was feeling nostalgic. Mom, what’s your recipe? I know you told me thirty years ago…

Plus, all those apple seeds.

So we will try out that new toy and hopefully it will last for generations like Mom’s. Thank you, Ellen!



Jenna
Sunday June 30th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

Yellow Transparent apples. I wrote a little note detailing how we’d come to have such a tree–a dwarfing rootstock grow-back after the main tree had died–and what the little things were like.

Great for applesauce. Terrible keepers–three days at the max but only in the fridge, one to two on the counter. Mushy. Small. Once a big commercial variety, now very rare (with good reason) but if you want a cooked apple, they taste good.

And then I posted that on the ward chat.

One person responded, and she said that as a matter of fact she’d been thinking of making some applesauce; she’d love to bring her little boys and come pick apples, what a cool idea!

They were all hers.

I think, when she and her husband laid eyes on the tree, that they were maybe wishing they had some competition, but hey.

And so this young couple and two adorable little toddlers ages 1 and 3 were here this afternoon with their padded bag and together we picked those apples. I added a few Meyer lemons and newly-ripe plums, because I could.

The one-year-old picked up a Santa Rosa plum, took a bite, and tossed it.

I laughed and explained that if you pit them and blenderize them, the skins are tart but the interior is sweet and it makes an effect like tart cherry jam.

As they were leaving and I was thinking of all. those. little. apples. she was going to have to core and peel (they asked if I use the skins in apple sauce, and I said I do in apple butter) I stopped her going by my front door and asked her to wait just a moment.

I dashed inside, pulled out the electric apple peeler and asked if she’d like to borrow it for a week?

The relief in her voice as she said YES! Thank you!

–Yeah, I should have offered that from the get-go.