Posted tagged ‘vegetables’

“The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind.”

October 19, 2017

I admit it. I am addicted to YouTube’s black and white science fiction movies from the 50’s. No more MSNBC for me. Give me flying saucers, creatures from other worlds, space ships, really bad special effects and even a Nazi scientist. He was in The Yesterday Machine and unsurprisingly, wanted to save Hitler. The opening scene in that movie is a majorette twirling a baton, and that’s a highlight. I’m got to break this addiction. Library here I come.

Today is beautiful, the first in a string of beautiful days. It will be in the high 60’s, even reaching 70 by next week. Despite that near week of rain and clouds, this fall has been a delight.

When I was a kid, I had all the kid things every other kid had. I had a bike, roller skates, ice skates and a sled, something for every season. My bike was my favorite. It took me all over town and even far out of town. Unless there was snow, I could ride. My first bike was blue. It had a wire basket in the front and a bell on the handle bars. I loved that bike.

I remember a tingling on the soles of my feet when I roller-skated. I remember the sound of the skates. They were the loudest on the street and the quietest on the tar parking lot near my house. I carried the key on a rope around my neck. I’d sit on the curb to reattach the skate to my shoe. The skates were heavy.

Like every other girl, I had white ice skates. We all carried our skates tied together on our shoulders, one skate in the front, the other in the back. The trick to skating was always to make sure the laces were tight or I’d have to stop to retie them. My best skill was skating backwards.

When I was in Ghana, kids played with hoops and sticks. They’d use the sticks to roll the hoops. The first time I saw the kids playing, I remembered seeing the same game in old pictures. I never saw bought toys there. I saw cars and planes made from tin cans. Ghanaian kids are ingenious. I did see bicycles, lots of bicycles, but mostly adults rode the bikes as they were dear, expensive. I would borrow a bike to go market. It was an easy ride downhill from my school compound, but going home uphill was, at first, difficult. I had to walk part of the way pushing the bike loaded down as I was with vegetables, fruit and even a chicken from the market, but soon enough I could ride all the way home.

I have a bike but haven’t ridden it in a long while. It has gears. It doesn’t have a basket or a bell. It’s a good bike, but I’m still partial to back pedal brakes and no gears. They were more than enough to whisk me away!

“And believe me, a good piece of chicken can make anybody believe in the existence of God.”

June 27, 2017

What was a lovely summer morning with a cooling breeze has become a cloudy day with a dark sky, a rain threatening sky. I shut the window behind me as I felt a bit chilly. The breeze has turned cold.

Yesterday I was able to cross everything off my to do list. That doesn’t usually happen. I felt accomplished.

Gracie got her first tick yesterday. I was patting her ears when I found one on the underside of one ear. It was small and hadn’t embedded yet. I hope it can swim.

I can hear the swishing of the leaves on the oak trees. That is the only sound. I wonder where the birds went.

I once raised chickens. My first laying hen was a gift from a Ghanaian friend. The hen was white and hatched 5 chicks. She was a horrible mother and the chicks began to disappear, eaten by one predator or another. Her second hatching was much the same. I ate her for dinner a couple of nights. Such is the fate of a bad mother hen.

I like to shop at farmers’ markets, especially the one in Bass River. Mostly I buy fresh vegetables though I have also bought cheese, local honey, candles, fresh herbs, desserts, jams and jellies and once some lamb. The market is set up in a circle so I do one loop. It is held every Thursday and Saturday.

One of my favorite places in Ghana was the market in Bolga. Every third day was market day. I had gone to my first market during Peace Corps training. It was a disaster. I got sick from the smells, but, by my live-in in Bawku, three weeks into training, I had stopped noticing. I loved my market. I’d bring my woven shepherd’s bags which stretched and fill them with tomatoes, onions, eggs, garden eggs, okra, oranges, bananas and pineapple. A chicken, bound by its feet, I’d slide onto the handle bar of my motorcycle. Sometimes I’d find a surprise. Once it was a watermelon. I could buy cloth, sandals, pots and pans, dishes, glasses and so much more. I always thought of the market as an adventure.

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”

May 1, 2017

My patience is exhausted so I’m putting Mother Nature on notice. Make up your mind. Is it spring or isn’t it? My heat went on for a bit this morning, and I had to add another afghan as I was cold. The gray sky has returned, and it rained earlier this morning. My dance card has a bunch of house stuff to do like the laundry. It overfloweth. I have some trash and recyclables which I need to move to the trunk. Tomorrow will be dump day, but I have to get a new sticker first. Be still my heart!

When I was a kid, I could eat hot dogs every day. The best were barbecued, but that was on the weekends when my father was home. During the week, my mother fried or boiled them. When she fried them, she’d make cuts across the dogs so both inside and outside got browned. I used yellow mustard and piccalilli. Toasted buns were the best.

 

During the week, my mother served some sort of meat with potatoes and vegetables. The vegetables were frequent flyers, the list of what we liked was limited. We had mashed potatoes, corn, peas, carrots or some sort of squash. Butternut was our favorite.

My mother made great brownies. They were always frosted with chocolate and sprinkled with jimmies (the Boston/New England word for chocolate sprinkles). I liked the harder, outside edges.

Bananas were my favorite fruit. They were the easiest to eat. Just peel. I also liked them on my cereal though they always sank to the bottom. My mother used to peel the apples for us because we didn’t like the peel. I didn’t mind it when I got older. She’d cut the oranges into eighths and take out the seeds. We loved watermelon but ate it only in the summer. I don’t think it was available winters. I didn’t like the seeds in grapes. We used to pick pears off the tree in the next yard. I think they were never as I remember them being hard to bits. Blueberries came in a pie and strawberries in a shortcake. Pineapples and coconut came later. I think coconut is my favorite now.

I think my laziness dictates my meals. I don’t often make dinner. Lunch is a sandwich or hummus, or something equally easy. Cereal is sometimes dinner. I’m into Frosted Flakes, and I still add bananas.

“There are many reasons to celebrate, but National Mustard Day just isn’t one of them.”

November 21, 2016

This morning I got to thinking. Thanksgiving is a day, one single day of family and food. For most of us the menu is the same. Turkey has the most prominent spot on the table. It generally arrives uncut so we can ooh and ah at the beauty of the roasted bird. My dad, at the head of the table, did the carving. He’d fill a platter with slices and then tear off a leg or two to complete the dish. He was the only one who loved a leg. The rest of the meal depends on family traditions though I suspect they’ll be gravy and mashed potatoes on many a Thanksgiving table. We always had a squash and carrot dish which originated with my aunt but was tweaked by my mother who substituted butternut squash, far more seasonable, for the undefined squash in the recipe. That was always the favorite vegetable. My father got his canned asparagus. None of the rest of us ate it. My mother would cook a few more vegetables, sometimes peas, creamed onions and a new dish or two. Cranberry sauce came from the can. One year my mother made a wonderful orange cranberry sauce and served it in oranges. It wasn’t a hit, especially for my father who seldom liked anything new for the holidays. I loved it and was glad it was packed in my doggy bag.

Okay, I majorly digressed. What I was originally thinking was Thanksgiving is a single day, while it is the Christmas season, many days. I know it seems to come earlier each year, but we do have 4 Sundays of Advent, the start of the season for me. During that time there is so much to do and most of it fun. Cookies have to be made, and best of all, they have to be decorated. The house gets decorated. I alternate decorations year by year, but the tree never really changes. New ornaments are added but the usual appear every year. Cards need to be addressed and sent. I love buying Edward Gorey cards and found 2 wonderful sets of them this year. I know people sour on having to buy gifts, but I love shopping for just the right ones. Years ago one of my friends said she loves anticipating what I give her as it is always so neat which is why I love to shop. Just because I’m older (not old, older) doesn’t mean I forget the joys of the season. We decorate gingerbread houses. I play Christmas music and always sing along. I sit in the living room just to look at the tree.

Thursday is close. In the morning I’ll watch the parade, crack nuts, eat a few tangerines and some M&M’s just the way I did when I was a kid. My friends and I are going out for dinner, a new tradition started last year. I’ll probably cook a small turkey so I can have a mini Thanksgiving complete with leftovers. On Friday I’ll let everyone else shop, but on Saturday I’ll finish my list. Saturday night I’ll put my feet up, enjoy some egg nog and a Hallmark movie, and I’ll not wonder how it will end!

“If God had created celery, it would only have two stalks, because that’s the most that almost any recipe ever calls for.”

November 21, 2015

Today is the quintessential New England fall day. The sun is shining, the sky is a light blue, a breeze becomes a wind then a breeze again and the temperature is in the high 40’s, low 50’s. This is the sort of day when all the fathers in my neighborhood would rake then burn the leaves. Each would stand on the side of the street in front of his house rake in hand as he tendered the fire and fed it leaves. The smoke carried that wonderful smell which still means fall to me. I loved to watch the small fires and listen to the crackling sound the leaves made. I remember the smoky smell stayed on my jacket long after the fire had gone out. I miss that smell of burning leaves. It was my favorite fall ritual.

When I was growing up, my mother was an average cook or maybe I should say cooked average foods or common foods. She knew fancy meals and my father were not a good match, and we four kids would probably refuse to eat something for dinner hithertofore unknown. What is it was usually the kiss of death for any new dish. I’m not eating that said in disgust generally followed my mother’s answer. Potatoes were always mashed and so were carrots to disguise they were vegetables. I don’t know why vegetables had such a bad rap with every kid I knew. Just saying the word gave us a shutter. We knew they’d be at least one on our dinner plates, and we hoped it was a vegetable from the sanctioned list of acceptable vegetables. It was a small list. Peas topped my list and corn of any sort was on all our lists. Creamed corn, though, was not a huge favorite of mine. I always hated how it spread all over the plate and its color wasn’t all that appealing. We seldom left food on our plates because my mother was smart. She always served us stuff she knew we’d eat.

When we were older and our palates had expanded, my mother cooked all sorts of food for us. By then I had gotten over my distaste for vegetables except for beans and Brussels sprouts. Potatoes didn’t have to be mashed and carrots no longer needed a disguise. My mother, it turns out, was a fantastic cook. She had hidden her culinary talents until we were old enough to appreciate them.

I was my mother’s sous chef. It was a huge honor.

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

August 16, 2014

The sun is in and out of the clouds. The day goes from strikingly sunny and beautiful to cloudy and dark. The weather in the paper said partly sunny. I guess I didn’t think about the other part.

On Saturday, the day before I left for the Peace Corps, my mother asked me what I’d like for our last family dinner together for a long while. I answered right away: roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas and gravy, all my favorites, and that’s what we had. It is still one of my favorite meals. Mashed potatoes are the height of comfort food for me. My mother’s mashed potatoes were always fluffy and lump less. She used a hand masher, one of those metal ones with a flat grill bottom. I sometimes watched her. She wielded that masher as if it were a weapon in the hands of a master swordsman. She’d add butter and milk and keep mashing. I even remember the bowl she always used to serve the potatoes. It was a wide, not tall, bowl. She’d add the potatoes and put a few pats on butter on top. It was a thing of beauty.

My favorite ice cream changes. When I was a kid, we didn’t have all the choices and exotic flavors we have now. Back then my favorite was a dish of plain old chocolate made exquisite by adding Hersey’s syrup. When I was in high school, it was mint chocolate chip in a sugar cone with jimmies all over the ice cream. I used to buy it at Brigham’s. Mocha chip was my favorite for a while, and I still sometimes buy it, but lately I have been into coconut topped with dark chocolate sea salt caramel sauce. It tastes as superb as it sounds.

I like vegetables, quite a change from when I was growing up. Back then I ate potatoes, peas, corn and French green beans, all of which came from cans. I also ate carrots but they were disguised and hidden in the mashed potatoes. In Ghana I couldn’t get many vegetables. I ate garden eggs which are small egg plants, okra, tomatoes, yam, onions and one year I had green peppers grown from seeds I got from home. I really missed vegetables which I wouldn’t ever have imagined when I was a kid. My favorites are still peas, but corn on the cob and summer tomatoes are on my list of favorites. Just no beans ever!

Traveling gave me the chance to try new foods, and I tried all sorts. I didn’t even know the names of some of them. The food didn’t have to look good as I had grown out of the stage of judging foods by its appearances. I think maybe it was Ghana which taught me that.

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”

January 26, 2014

Today is sunny but really cold. Last night when we left the restaurant, it was snowing, that heavy wet snow you know will be trouble when temperatures drop later at night. Now the old snow has a new top layer, a crunchy layer because those flakes became ice, and all the surfaces are slick making walking potentially dangerous, especially for me, prone as I am to falling. It is going to be 40˚ on Tuesday. These changes in weather are making me crazy.

When we were in the Peace Corps, conversations often revolved around food, usually the food we didn’t have and missed. Cheese was big on the list. Ghanaians don’t drink or sell milk so nobody makes cheese. We had to make do with evaporated milk from cans and eave cheese to our imaginings. Mostly, though, we missed vegetables. We could only get tomatoes, onions, garden eggs, FraFra potatoes in September and yam all the time. Back then even the lowly green pepper reached an exalted status. Bill, Peg and I ate dinner together every night. It was generally beef which had been cooked in a tomato-based sauce or roast chicken and both were served with mashed yams, a far drier version of mashed potatoes, or rice. One year the rains were late so the crops were late, and we ate so much rice that when I got home I didn’t eat any rice for a couple of years. I had had my fill.

All of us have been back to Ghana recently: Bill and Peg this last September and me in 2011 and 2012, and we were all surprised by the foods we found in the markets: exalted green peppers, watermelons, avocados and even pumpkins, some of the foods we dreamed or talked about over dinner, the same dinner we had night after night. Accra has pretty much anything you want for food, and you can even find cheese in the obruni (white person) stores. All you need is lots of money.

Bill and Peg just left to go back to New Hampshire. The weekend went far too quickly. I will miss their company, the laughs we had and the memories we shared. They are old friends who are among the best of my friends.

“Even in the familiar there can be surprise and wonder.”

November 8, 2013

Late, late start to Coffee this morning as I went out to breakfast down Cape then had one more errand to do. The breakfast is a once a month get-together of women with whom I’ve worked who are now retired. Sometimes we are many. Today we were few. It doesn’t really matter the number. It is still the chatting, not the eating, which is the best part.

I went home on the Mid-Cape Highway, Route 6, an anachronism of one lane in each direction. A slow car always has a line stretching behind it because that part of the road is a no passing zone. The two lanes are separated by permanent cones down the middle of the road. Being impatient doesn’t help. I just go with the flow. Today as I drove I noticed the scrub oak trees along the roadside were either covered in faded red leaves or dead, brown ones. Soon enough the trees will be bare.

The day is sunny. I noticed in the backyard the sunlight is slanted through the trees in an odd direction as the Earth makes its autumn move. Darkness comes so very early now. The house was cold when I woke up, and I just wanted to nestle under the comforter for a bit longer. Gracie didn’t mind so she stayed cozy beside me. Fern, on the other side, was just as cozy. All of us are into creature comforts.

When I fill out a form on-line, I often have to include my date of birth. The month and date are quickly found, but I have to scroll way down the list to find the year. That always surprises me even though it shouldn’t.

I buy shoes on-line, and they have always fit, but I do miss that big metal sizer they used in shoe stores. When I was a kid, I had to stand up while the shoe-man measured the size and width of my feet. They were always longer than the last time. That never surprised my mother. Sometimes we outgrew the shoes before they wore out.

I was not a fan of many vegetables when I was young. I loved peas and corn and potatoes. Mostly we ate canned vegetables back then except for corn in the summer. As I got older, my list of vegetables expanded, and I ate them fresh. I always believed they were the healthiest. Come to find out they may not be based on the distance from field to grocery store. Farm stands probably have the best fresh vegetables, but grocery stores don’t. Frozen and even canned vegetables may have more nutrients than fresh. That surprises me.

I like surprises, even in vegetables.

” A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.”

May 9, 2013

It rained during the night but not nearly enough. Most of it on the road has already dried. The day is damp but warm and quite still. I opened the windows upstairs and could smell freshly mowed grass. Dampness seems to accentuate smells, and my nose was filled with the sweet smell of that grass, the flowers in the front garden and an earthy smell of dirt.

I filled the feeders, including a suet feeder. When I was getting another cup of coffee, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a spawn eating the suet. I ran out yelling and scared the spawn away but only for a few minutes. It was back at the suet in no time and when I looked later, the suet had been finished off. That’s what I wish I could do to the spawn.

My backyard has what a real estate brochure might call rustic charm. All that means is I have done little to it except take down some dead pine trees. The yard is filled with leaves and pine needles and more pine trees. All around the perimeter is a path Gracie has made by running the yard. She runs next to the fence. Sometimes she runs around the yard, up one side of the deck and down the other. I think of the back as her yard. Near the deck are some lights, a bottle tree and decorations I put out every summer. I love looking down and seeing the lights in the yard and the fun decorations. New this year are two huge individual star lights and a large handmade bird my friends gave for Christmas. It is white with long orange legs and an orange peak. It will join the hula dancing bird, the wooden flowers, the white pot and the bowling pin.

My deck is still in winter mode. I have to make a list yet of what I need at the garden center. I know some pots broke during the winter, and I need herbs for the window boxes which fit over the deck rail. I also need flowers for about six different pots and a hanging pot of flowers, but all of that is just the start. The front garden needs a few more flowers, the herb garden looks empty and forlorn and my vegetable garden needs fence mending and plantings. It was such fun last summer to eat cucumbers and tomatoes I grew myself. This summer I’ll add a third vegetable yet to be determined. It will not be zucchini. That vegetable seems to reproduce itself and take over the world. The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a movie that makes me laugh, but it would be more realistic (okay, maybe it will never be realistic, but I’m using poetic license here) if the vegetable was changed to zucchini. Anyone who grows it always seems to be giving it away, begging people to take some. I can easily imagine vines of zucchini wrapping around cars and houses and the feet of barking dogs.

It is definitely beginning to feel like spring around here.

“If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe…”

June 30, 2012

Today will be warm, 85˚ warm. Right now, though, the house is still morning cool, especially this room. The dog is sleeping in her crate. I can hear her snoring. She and I both slept in this morning. Last night I was up until after 2am watching the Red Sox playing Seattle first then some really bad movies. My taste definitely changes when the choices are so few. I’ll tolerate almost anything to pass the time until the Sandman comes.

My acorn squash has flowers, and I have already eaten some of my tomatoes. I figure my first year with a vegetable garden is a success. Not only that, it’s been fun watching everything grow. Today I’ll have my cherry tomatoes in a small salad. The first tomato got popped right into my mouth. It was wonderful!

Today is quiet. Usually on a Saturday I can hear people’s voices and lawnmowers and the occasional car going down the road. I don’t know where everybody is, but I’ll take the quiet. I have  new book called The Leftovers which is calling for me. I figure a cold ice tea, the book and some cheese and crackers will be terrific on the deck later.

Fall is my favorite season here on the cape, but summer is a close second. It is when spend my days outside, even to taking an outdoor shower. I grill my dinner. We have movies on the deck. Some afternoons I fight Gracie for the lounge and I take a nap. The nights are filled with the wonder of fireflies flitting around the trees and the mornings are bird songs. Even the sounds of lawnmowers are welcome.

Sometimes I look at the cape as if I were on vacation. I drive on all the scenic roads and along the shore. I visit shops instead of stores. Sometimes I stop for lunch and have clams or shrimp and French fries as take-out. Every now and then I eat at A&W Root Beer and always have hot dogs. A sunny day is the best time for meandering. Everyone else is at the beach. The roads are mine. The last time I roamed I went all the way to Wellfleet. I took Route 28 down and Route 6A back. Before I went home, I stopped for an ice cream cone. It was a perfect day.