Tuesday, August 25, 2009

no camera, will travel. . . .

I've been entirely too dependent on my camera, I'm thinking. I actually got to the point where I realized I was thinking "I have nothing to say, because I have nothing to show."

This is not a good thing from someone who fancies herself a writer.

So: I left the camera behind deliberately, and have headed to the West coast - Big Sur country - armed only with my words.

I'm a little out of practice. It's much different to look at my photos and compose a caption, which I now realize is pretty much what I've been doing for quite a while now: photo-essays. I throw in the occasional paragraph in between photos and hope I don't lose the show and tell audience. We're all part of the show and tell audience these days. What with links, and pictures, and google, wikipedia and youtube footnote opportunities, an unadorned script takes on the look of a formidable fortress.

At the same time, I am lamenting the no-camera status. Out here, the ivy grows like hedges, and the lavender is enormous! Plants I know as house plants flourish outside here in sizes unheard of while confined to a terra cotta pot. There's an historic "Arizona garden" (?) which has a sign warning you to stay on the path and not to bicycle or skateboard there, for your own safety's sake. I wondered about that - snakes, maybe? - until I saw the spikes and spines. Oh yeah. If you take a tumble into that little spiney patch of __________us horridas, you're going to know about it!

I'm staying in the erstwhile DelMonte Hotel. I understand that Pebble Beach (some 18 miles away) was built for this hotel. As were the two lakes here in Monterey. Everywhere I look there are pictures I would have taken. Pictures I would have expected to carry the burden of the words I no longer would have to wield.

But pictures can't convey the feeling of ten foot high windows with no screens and wavy glass, open to let in the cold night air coming in from the sea. They don't give you the feeling of 15 or 20 foot high ceiling and endless halls, of Spanish tile punctuated with colorful jewel-tone mosaic in fantastic shapes. A picture of a peacock is quite different than looking out my open bedroom window and seeing the peacock strolling in the magnolia grove just outside.

And no picture can capture the beauty I know resides at Big Sur - even though I only know that from pictures. . . .

I'm glad I did a little research on the weather ("Take a jacket, as it gets cold at night!") because even though it's August and on the beach, I have yet to appear without a jacket. It's a far cry from the East Coast on the beach this time of year. I can just picture (ha!) the wall-to-wall greased-up sea of sunburned people, dotted with sunbrellas, walled off from each other by sand crenallations molded from orange plastic forms.

When I get back from Big Sur, I'll see what words can do to show you the place. Meanwhile, I hear my friend the peacock. I had only heard that sound in films set in India before. Now I know that it's the peacock that is the sound of exotic movie sets. . . .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

take two. . . .

OK, so we didn't hear back on our Luther for Spokesdog campaign for Carol's Canine Cookies (c'mon Carol! Get that website up! There's link-clicks to be had!). I understand she's not terribly internet-savvy and only recently saw the internet campaign.

In the meantime, Luther made his way through all the cookie rolls, the banana-fanny's, the cheesy-fanny's, and the sweet-potato rolls. Then, he munched his way through all the training treats (smaller versions of the former). . . . We were in a desperate situation! So I got cooking. How hard could this be?

I'd never thought about bananas in dog biscuits before and - luckily - I had 2 or three reaching that spotted and blackened skin phase of perfect sweetness! Online, I found several basic dog treat recipes, and I went to work.

Behold, Luther's Lúnasa! If you look closer, you can see the secret ingredient. Is that. . . . yes, I think it is . . . . it's. . . .

Luther does a little dance every time he gets one.

Meanwhile, I have just gotten word that there are more Carol's Canine Cookies enroute, via an elaborate friend-of-friend delivery system, that takes them from Virginia, to Delaware, and thence to the queenie mum's Maryland residence and - eventually - here, to the greenwood.

I smell a blind taste test in the offing. I wish I had a video camera!
Lúnasa is an ancient Irish celebration in August, characterized by music and dancing! Also, the name of a popular band these days. You can read more about it here and, for the band, here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

not cooking - ode to the tomato. . . .

This. Is beautiful. Look at the colours! The single tomato, ripe, flavorful, beautiful.

Here's the problem: every day I go outside and bring in more of these. They have a limited shelf life. If I don't do something with them within a day or two, they start turning ugly. With brown and black spots. And the occasional green or purple fuzz. Not beautiful; not something I want to photograph.

I like the ones that show promise, the ones still at their peak. These!
No, I'm not tired of photographing them yet, although I imagine you might be getting tired of looking at them. . . . To me, however, each one is different, you see, and I've gotten to watch them all from bud to blossom to fruit to ripened fruit to the gentle tug to see if it's ready to come off the vine. . . . I've staked them and supported them and rescued some of them from bug and blight and drought. I have an investment in these guys! It's a strange thing.

It's hot, though, and who feels like cooking?! Martha to the rescue: No-cook tomato sauce, by way of a "Neapolitan farmer".

I'll walk you through it.

Core the tomatoes directly into serving bowl. Add olive oil, dried oregano, hot pepper flakes, kosher salt & fresh ground pepper, and garlic cloves. (Martha gives measurements if you're into that kind of precision) My good friend, fellow postgrad and careful reader Jason pointed out that Martha says to remove the garlic cloves before serving.

REMOVE?! This is what I say to removing garlic:
NOW try and remove it! (A garlic press will ensure the non-removal of the garlic, as well as the greater integration of the garlic throughout the entire dish).

I am not reasonable when it comes to garlic.

Now, what I probably should have done before I added all the other ingredients - including the olive oil - is tear the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Martha is quite definite about the tearing bit. As you will see, it looks different than it would look if it had been chopped and so that's one reason to tear and not chop. Another reason is that getting your hands into this involves many more senses in the process, and so to that end, I recommend adding the oil and all the seasonings first and then getting your hands into the bowl! No. Of course I didn't lick my hands during, or afterwards.

Neither did Luther.

No pictures, because my hands were all oily and yummy tasting and I didn't want to muck up the camera. Here's what it looks like afterwards, though. Bother. I've forgotten the basil! Go out into the garden and snip basil, rinse, dry, and tear the leaves off and into the tomatoes. Mash it all together with a wooden spoon and let stand at room temperature for at least an hour, and up to 8 hours. You know, what Martha doesn't tell you is how GOOD this smells! The aroma alone makes you hungry. . . . To serve, you will have to boil water and cook your pasta. When done and drained, stir the hot pasta in with the room temperature tomatoes, and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Here's the final result. This is the king's dish, however. He wanted bread - no pasta. (sometimes I doubt the truth of his Italian heritage. . . .) Mine looks a lot like white pasta. In fact, it was mostly white pasta - quite unphotogenic - with a bit of butter, some cream, some of the tomato-ey juice and a few pieces of my favorite tomatoes (just to keep me company). That's because I don't really eat tomatoes. I merely grow them, pick them, photograph them, and present them to the king. It looks like he liked them.
Now for a nap.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

a mushrooming we will go

This time of year, I pull mushrooms like other people pull weeds. Ok, ok, they're probably toadstools, but I don't know the difference. I do know I'm not eating them!

They're everywhere. In the mulch - natch - that's where they are known to flourish: too-deep mulch. I've been hauling mulch away almost since it got put down. It's been making great paths over the clay hardpack that turns into a pond whenever it rains.

But they also grow in good topsoil, as I recently discovered. As well as in direct sun. Did you see that clump hiding in the groundcover I started? Here, look closely.

They're in the grass, in the woods, in my herb garden. . . . This could be a full-time job! I only wish they were edible.

Speaking of edible, if I find out what's been eating my Thomas Jefferson vines, there's gonna be trouble! That's the leafy vine in the second picture with all the holes in its leaves. . . . Soon now, very soon, there should be beautiful white and lilac flowers, followed by maroon bean pods. If the leaves hold out!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

what's wrong with this picture?

The early morning sun is so beautiful. All is peaceful. Calm. Quiet. Sleepy, still.

But wait. If you pull back just a bit you'll see what's wrong. Wake up li'l' Suzie - it's 07:30 and the contractors are here!
No, this isn't from last year - you can see Luther [full-grown] in the picture. This is this year, déjà vu all over again! (Thank you,Yogi Berra)

The bathroom floor is being replaced (it had cracked along the subfloor seam lines) - that's the tileman's white truck in front of the library - and Ralph the plumber is here to find the leak responsible for water in the crawl space.

If we thought new construction was bad, now we know that REconstruction is worse.

Monday, August 3, 2009

more 'maters. . . .

The tomato crop is coming in, faster and faster.
Here's what we have on hand, so far! The colours. . . . so brilliant.
This is the Black Zebra tomato I just wrote about - sliced up. Pretty, isn't it? The Long Tom is still the favorite, though. . . .

blackened corn and seed savings.

With every tomato or aubergine we eat, a scrape of pulp and seeds goes onto a paper towel to be dried and (if we like it) saved for next year. So far, our favorite (by far) is Long Tom tomato. . . . but we still have the Cour di Bue to try, and the Black Zebra, not to mention the Genovese Costoluto!

The Romas have been a bit disappointing. . . . and the Jaune Flamme a bit tart. . . . I understand that the Jaune Flammes are good for drying, though, so we might try that.

I dislike aubergine, but the Fairy Tale ones pictured above (it turns out they're supposed to be small) were a huge hit with the king! We'll be growing them again, for sure, if only because of their beautiful colouring.

Here is a great thing to try: grilled corn on the cob! Pull back the husk (leaving it attached at the bottom) and clean off the silk. Wrap a piece of bacon (BACON!) around the cob. Smooth the husk back over the corn and tie. Grill at medium high to high. Yes, the husks will char, and some of the corn maybe, too. Not to worry - it adds flavor and it's delicious! bon appétit.