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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Yesterday, a crocus pushed its shiny, new green leaves up in our garden. I remember always being surprised to see the little flower in the midst of snow and ice in the Berkshire Mountains. It is the harbinger of spring, just as sure as a robin jumping around in the grass. But this time, it’s too early; the first week of a new year should find us deep into winter with hats and scarves and gloves. Instead, today it will be 60 degrees.

“In addition to Crocus’ merit as a beautiful and cheerful winter bloomer, one species, C. sativus, is the source of the spice saffron. Henry Beston describes C. sativus in Herbs and the Earth (1935, D.R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.): “An autumn Crocus with a long history as a drug, a flavoring powder, and a pigment, only the golden stigma of the flower being used… May not overwinter.”  True enough, although many Crocus are perennial in Tennessee, as a USDA Hardiness Zone 8 plant C. sativus may not overwinter for many Tennesseans. If that doesn’t deter you from growing your own saffron, Steven Still writes that “about 7000 flowers are required to produce 3 ounces of saffron.”  https://ag.tennessee.edu/news/Pages/POM-2016-02.aspx

I had no idea the costliest spice in the world comes from a crocus!

Makes me want to dig up my old, Julia Child paella recipe. I was thinking about my younger, newly married self in the car the other day; living in Cambridge, MA and spotting Julia herself at the small green grocers’.  NPR was interviewing a chef about his “…worst kitchen disasters.” Of course, it was slicing off the tip of a finger with a mandolin his first time on live TV!

I’ve managed to avoid the dreaded mandolin injury – I use mine to slice whisper thin vegetables into my veggie lasagna. But one of my very first attempts at the fine art of cuisine in Cambridge does come to mind. I almost torched my kitchen when I tried making Julia’s recipe for Coq au Vin! Since then, I’ve left anything flambeed to the experts. Even resisting the urge to buy a tiny blowtorch to crinkle-brown creme brulee – my favorite dessert!

I wish my keyboard did l’accent aigu“Getting your (French) accents right is the difference between being a pêcheur (fisherman) and a pécheur (sinner). Which one would you rather have on your résumé?”

Parsley and rosemary are still growing in the garden, even some of Bob’s winter kale seems hardy and ready to be harvested. The Bride and her family are returning soon from Hawaii and I’d like to cook them something for their first night back. Maybe I’ll buy some red wine and make a big pot of Boeuf Bourguignon! Like every good semi-Southern cook I’ve got some bacon in the fridge and I know the L’il Pumpkin loves this dish.

Although, after hearing about their first Kalua Pig in a Pit, where the Love Bug definitely did not like the idea of unearthing the body of a full-on, dead, roasted pig, I may have to get creative with vegetables and her old stand-by, pasta. Maybe we’ll roast some marshmallows on the fire pit, and pretend it’s still winter! Here they are on a lava rock.

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We are busy cleaning up after our New Year’s Day shin-dig. Friends and neighbors brought side dishes – my favorite part of every meal – and I made the usual black-eyed peas, lobster mac and cheese, and a couple of roasted turkey breasts. It was a tight squeeze in our little city farmhouse, but Bob fired up the fire pit so some of us could flow out into the garden.  Totally recovered, Ms Bean was happy to stare at anyone with a Swedish meatball on their plate.

The night before we considered attending the New Year’s Eve concert at our Bicentennial Mall, only a few blocks away, but I guess we’ve become spoiled Nashvillians. As much as I love Jason Isbell, Keith Urban and Stevie Nicks –  https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/keith-urban-stevie-nicks-new-years-eve-932562/ – the chilling 50 degree weather kept us at home all snug in our bed.

We’d visited Great Grandma Ada and Hudson earlier in the day, and Bob paid a “house call” to one of their friends with a “medical question.” It seems he’s hardly retired, still doing remote medicine for family, with a small contingent of nonagenarians on call in the local mix. I kid my husband whenever we venture out, does he have his stethoscope with him?

Turns out Ms Berdelle, who is 92, DID walk down to the festivities on New Year’s Eve so shame on us!

I tried sending care packages of food home with people last night; for a Pot Luck we only had one duplicate, Hoppin John of course. We are all now doubly lucky in 2020!

I read that today is National Return Day. Every gift you never wanted, or maybe Aunt Anna sent you something you already have, will be returned today! Whenever I see a duplicate of anything, I remember our little Bride receiving the same exact My Little Pony for her birthday one year. She jumped up and down yelling, “She has a twin!” How could I deny her a twin pony?

Maybe that’s why I’m not a returner. About 10% of purchases in brick and mortar stores are returned after the holidays, but 20% of online gifts are returned. Obviously, it’s easier to send something back via your mailbox than it is to get in the car and try to park around this time of year. But I’m more of a re-gifter. OK, now you know. It’s a lot easier to shove something in a closet and wait…

Here’s to a very happy and healthy 2020 to all of you! I’m wishing my children and anyone on the road this weekend safe travels home. And if you’re taking a child back to college after winter break, consider picking up an absentee ballot at your city hall before you go!

I’m not a resolution type either, which makes me wonder what the heck am I?

Let’s see, I’m trying out a new elliptical at the Y, it makes you feel like you’re cross-country skiing and it’s good for my knees. I’m learning to say, “No” more often (see the last blog post). And I’m singing more torch songs. And if you clicked on the Rolling Stone link above, you’ll hear “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” In this #MeToo age, those Tom Petty 1981 lyrics from the New Year’s Eve Urban/Nicks duo don’t translate very well. But we could all try not to “…buckle with the weight of the world” in 2020.

“You need someone looking after you
I know you really want to tell me goodbye
I know you really want to be your own girl
Baby you could never look me in the eye
Yeah you buckle with the weight of the world
Stop draggin’ my…
Stop draggin’ my…
Stop draggin’ my heart around”

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Does wisdom really come with age?

Or is it just another word, in a cacophony of Tweets by this President, meant to deflect our slow but steady march to impeachment? Bob has been saying for days that starting a war would win him the next election. But after trying to tarnish his front-runner, Joe Biden, and watching Bernie Sanders succumb to an MI, maybe Mr T thinks abandoning our allies in Syria will turn the tide.

After all, we’re not talking Ukraine today.

Today, my 92 year old neighbor and friend, Berdelle, will be meeting up with 95 year old President Jimmy Carter to jockey a nail gun with Habitat for Humanity. Sporting a black eye and 14 stitches from a recent fall, this ex-President has more wisdom in his little finger than the current inhabitant of the West Wing. He arrived in Nashville yesterday with the much-needed rain:

“Country music singer Eric Paslay performed “Deep as it is Wide,” a song he penned about the hope for something bigger and better than us.

“In a land full of songwriters and singers, we’re always trying to say I love you in a different way,” he (Carter) told the Habitat volunteers huddled under a white tent and sheltered from the morning’s storms. 

“… It’s amazing how Habitat shows love to the world. You can say I love you, but when you go out with your hands and your feet, that’s the strongest way. You don’t even have to say anything.'”  https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/10/08/president-jimmy-carter-nashville-habitat/2432826001/

Actions do speak louder than words. And my way of showing love to my family has always been with my cooking. Ever since the temperatures have started to fall, I’ve been making soup. There’s just something about a pot of homemade soup simmering on the stove that says comfort food. Since I had a couple of sweet potatoes in the refrigerator, yesterday I made the Bride’s special Peanut Soup! Mostly it’s carrots, onions and sweet potatoes, with a kick of ginger and peanut butter.

Bob delivered said soup to Ms Berdelle while they were planning a Fall garden. I had never heard of a “Fall garden,” planting vegetables like kale in October. My past Yankee experience was limited to planting bulbs in the Fall. Wisdom comes with so many lessons; love is in the details. Like spreading seeds and plants throughout your urban neighborhood. Like getting up when you fall, and fulfilling a promise to build homes in Nashville.

This is what true leadership and wisdom looks like.

Hands building homes instead of typing off Twitter tirades. I mean, if the Lords of Twitter can block you for hate speech, or trolling a celebrity, or showing your breasts, then why can’t our Golfer-in-Chief be blocked for spreading lies? He’s threatened to “totally destroy and obliterate” the Turkish economy, while polling for impeachment climbs to 58%. I was wondering what might convince his Republican comrades he’s run amuck.

The chaos Mr T’s Twitter feed has created is unmatched in history. I prefer to chop up the holy trinity of onions, celery and carrots for a soup base, and maybe add fresh sage for wisdom.

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I call us the Christmas party babies – the seven family members who celebrate their births during August and September. The Rocker almost always had a beach party in August; I remember painting a hundred rocks gold for a Dick Tracy treasure hunt one year. The Bride’s party, in September, was a bit easier rounding up (or rather down) a guest list since school had started. We could invite her whole class instead of the whole beach club. This was before Evites and cell phones people!

And today is Bob’s big day. Happy Birthday to my honey.

Bob is now officially older than dirt, um me, for a few weeks at least. He’s been celebrating early, recreating our time in Tuscany last year, by making pasta with Ms Berdelle’s vintage pasta machine. We figure he’s got the ravioli down, which is a good thing since our local Italian market was just demolished to make way for progress. Will this new chef be able to recreate Lazzaroli’s goat cheese and pear ravioli? He’s already perfected the classic spinach and ricotta.

And I must admit Bob’s fettuccini this week, paired with our home-grown-home-made pesto, was bellissima!

What to get the man who wants nothing? I married a guy who defined “Minimalism” long before it was cool. Every few years we go into a store to buy him the same number Levi jeans he’s been wearing since I first met him 57 years ago! No wait, he needed a new alarm clock this week so he tried battling it out at Target with incoming Vandy students. He lost. Only two small travel clocks were left on the shelf. So he gave up and drove home in a huff, reluctantly searching the evil Empire of Amazon.

Which only reaffirmed his opinion of shopping.

Tomorrow the Love Bug turns 7! I think she grew 3 inches this summer. I was lucky enough to have Nana Camp extended another week because she came down with an ear infection and persistent fever; unlucky for her, she missed her first week of second grade. We played games, watched Disney channel, painted with water colors, and once we even ventured out to the Farmer’s Market. So even though I wanted to give her a new bike for her birthday, she told me she wanted another American Girl Doll.

Now I hate, really hate to sound old, but when I was young we got ONE doll and lots of different clothes. That doll would even cry and wet her diaper! Sometimes our mothers would even sew the doll clothes, and if we were lucky we had a doll trunk or a wardrobe to keep everything nice and organized.

But the Bride had lots of Barbies growing up since her allergies only allowed for plastic toys. The price differential however of a 1980s Barbie and an almost 2020 American Girl Doll is off the charts. My effort to convince the Bug that she only needed one doll was futile.

We’ll have a small family party tomorrow, highlighted by my 3-layer carrot cake, the Groom’s favorite. She has already had a class party shared with one of her school buddies – now why hadn’t I thought of that?

How is it possible Labor Day is right around the bend? We’ve been thinking if the Second Coming returns from the G7 with his proverbial foot in his puckered mouth, we may have to reinvent ourselves and go back to work. I could always try selling my necklaces and Bob could start a pasta food truck! Here are my birthday babes learning all about honey!

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Let’s face it, you can never have enough storage. When we moved to Nashville, we were forced to rent a Pod, the first time we’ve ever had to pay for storage. But when you downsize to a two bedroom townhouse, while anticipating another move to a second home, you need a place to keep your antique French cupboard for example… because we all know our kids don’t want our big old brown furniture.

Although it seems they do want Great Great Grandma Ety’s fine china, and Great Grandma Ada’s Steinway grand piano!

Bob and I are starting to house hunt again, and we’re also about to list the old homestead in NJ. So while his brother Jeff is trying to find places for 50 years of a life well spent traveling and accumulating stuff, I’m looking for a modicum of closet space! We toured a historic home right up the block yesterday with soaring ceilings and absolutely no storage. Although it did have a garden shed in the backyard.

Usually Bob and I are on the same page, but this is a sore point between us. He is absolutely not interested in collecting stuff – he is in fact, the opposite of his Mother. While she stores her sisters’ bric-a-brac for years, Bob will throw out anything that isn’t tied down. “Do you need this?” is a common refrain. He continually reminds me that he is not into things, just experiences. Give him Predator tickets, not another tchotchke!

Not me. As you may already know, I covet shoes. Boots of all varieties too. I know I’ll never have my very own custom shoe side of the closet again… but a girl can dream right? And I LOVE books, real hold in your hands books. So a built-in bookcase would not be unreasonable! Books will always call my name whenever I walk into a living room. Naturally I was drawn to this article in the Real Estate section of the NYTimes, “Beyond the Built-in Bookcase:”

“One way to come up with ideas for creative built-ins is to look around your home for wasted space. Taking advantage of any oddly shaped leftover space is a great way to integrate storage while reducing the need for free-standing pieces…”

First you are supposed to walk around your home and make a LIST of everything you want to store, then determine if you are a messy kind of person who deals with clutter (I would change that description to “creative types”) OR a show-offy type of person who wants to display collections…

Artistic people need to think of drawers and closets, while collectors need to think of glass cabinets and open shelving. OK that makes sense. And now to tackle the wasted space part. Nearly every house I look at, the owner will say something like, “I just never knew what to do with this space.” Either it’s a corner with a huge air vent, or a strange architectural detail, like a point instead of a bay window. Designers like to hide storage in plain sight with invisible latches; “They send a signal of stealth wealth and attention to detail,” she said. “Built-ins have gone from being a statement to being a secret.”

Like a Murphy bed! Who doesn’t love a Murphy bed?

It’s another rainy day in Nashville. I think I’ll start my list of stuff to store with all my stringing and beading paraphernalia. It’s organized among clear plastic bins and can fit into a small painted chest, but right now it’s spread across the dining table because I’m feeling creative. Pantone’s color for Spring is Living Coral!

I’ve told Bob when we finally empty the Pod it will be like Christmas morning for me. He figures if we’ve lived without “it” for 2 years, we don’t really need it, whatever “it” is. I love my 1960s Dutch oven that I bought in a store in Cambridge Mass, after seeing Julia Child. Is this minimalism a Y chromosome thing?

To his credit, Bob does make a mean ravioli, and we sometimes eat at the table!

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“Mama Pajama rolled out of bed”

Yesterday, since the Bride and Groom were busy saving lives in their respective hospitals, I told the Grands it would be Pajama Day! They cheered and ran around like I was Willy Wonka telling them they could eat all the candy they wanted in the world. The Bug was sporting flannel penguins all day and the Pumpkin was delighted to stay in Star Wars attire.

The only thing they had to do was brush their teeth, the rest was optional!

I had inadvertently left my cell at home, which is oddly freeing! We baked cinnamon buns, built a Legos airport, watched some Mickey Mouse Club TV, walked the dogs, and visited Great Grandparents Ada and Hudson as Secret Santas! Then I cooked a turkey for Christmas dinner!

“But turkeys are for Thanksgiving,” the L’il Pumpkin said. “I’m only cooking the breast,” I told him.

We’ve never done the Jewish Chinese restaurant thing. Maybe because it was always just the three of us while Bob manned his ER, or maybe it’s because I had never heard of it. Once we did take-out Thai on Christmas Eve though, and that’s a tradition I would love to continue…

Last night, my ER doctors told me why they tend to see a lot of congestive heart failure on Christmas Day – it’s because of the HAM. Yes, that big salt load will do the trick, so be careful people. Too bad it’s so good with horseradish sauce.

The roads were empty driving home, and as we pulled into our parking spot we said Merry Christmas to our Millennial neighbors Aubrey and Tyler. They were wearing matching onesie pajamas, and had been in them all day too! In fact, they had rear flaps like Dr Denton’s, with a reindeer motif.

iPhone back in hand, I realized that matching PJs is a funny tradition for some families; yet another holiday happening that has flown under my radar all these years. One family did super hero PJs, another did guys in red and gals in green. Then there’s always the easy to replicate lumberjack look. I haven’t told Bob yet, but I’m thinking maybe we should don matching PJs next Christmas along with the Grands?

Hope y’all had a Happy Little Christmas. One of the Bug’s Hanukkah gifts was a set of matching PJs for her American Girl Doll. Thanks to my friend Ellen for the idea.

Goodnight Rosemary, the queen of Corona!

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CAUTION:

The following essay may not be suitable for younger or happier readers!

Christmas songs are now being censored, an Ohio radio station has pulled “Baby it’s cold outside” from its skew. This made me feel really old, since I know all the lyrics to this gem, and I thought to myself, “What is this world coming to???” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46413209

While I was riding back from yet another Target run, I pushed a button on the radio in my car to a station I rarely listen to – MSNBC. I can’t even watch Rachel at night, not if I want to sleep. But I’d rather listen to music while driving, even Christmas music is preferable. Yesterday however I guess I needed a jolt of news. Good news.

The sound was strangely eerie, at first I thought the station must be having technical difficulties. But within a millisecond I was afraid these sounds were muffled gunshots, and I was listening to an active shooter in a mall someplace with a “Go Pro” camera on his head!

Turns out, it was only the sounds of President George HW Bush being laid to rest. The sounds of a talk show on silent.

I agree, he was maybe the last of the great white Republican presidents, a true statesman and WWII vet; and he knew how to get us out of a war and not just into one. Plus, I always loved his wife Babs and her homage to big, cultured pearls. But I was not about to spend hours of my time listening or watching his casket travel to DC.

I dragged in my Target haul, including a pair of Chewy slippers for the L’il Pumpkin, and started making dinner.

Hannukah always sneaks up on me, still coming right on the heels of Thanksgiving is pretty early. Last night’s dinner was a hodge-podge of leftovers that included meatloaf, olives, zucchini and pasta but at some point over the next week I’ll be making latkes! Actually this is a truly Southern holiday because anything fried is appropriate for Hannukah, including donuts!

On our first night of Hannukah we celebrated with friends over bowls of delicious chili and toppings. Our gracious friend’s art-filled home was humming with music and the lilting melody of small children. And although the Great Grands have apparently caught our colds and missed the festivities, we managed to Facetime with Ada for the candle lighting. Her voice had gone down a few octaves, like mine.

Like my spirits. After spending most of the weekend trying to design a holiday card on Shutterfly – that website needs a complete makeover btw – I started thinking that Mr T can indeed shoot a person in cold daylight and get away with it. My first reaction upon hearing of the death of a president was that this will be good for our current president. The media spotlight will pivot to funeral caravans and away from the mounting evidence of T’s Russian connections, of his blatant lies to the American people. That he has been compromised, bought and paid for by Putin.

I know this is the happiest of seasons, so forgive me for being blue today. My head cold is hanging on, and the temps have dropped from near 70 to near 30. I hope you’ve got your cards done, tree up and cookies baked! I hope you will still listen to Frank Loesser’s song about seduction in 1944. “I really can’t stay,” today I’ve got to buy some potatoes for the latkes!

It’s rumored that Mr T will not be allowed to speak at Mr Bush’s funeral…how much are you willing to bet that the gears of justice may just catch up to the presidential puppet-in-chief after the holidays? Would you bet all of your gelt?

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