Saturday, August 19, 2017

Serendi-party!

"What are you guys doing the rest of the day?" my brother asked after we had met up at the dog park with the puppies and Sonic.

Emily and I had already been to the farmer's market while Heidi and Bill watched the dogs, and Lucy was pretty worn out, so our schedule was pretty wide open. Heidi and I looked at each other and shrugged. "No big plans," I said.

"Why don't you come over for dinner then?" he replied. "I'll make steak and tuna, and we'll have a good summer meal."

Um?

Hell yeah!

P.S. I'm bringing the tomato jam and corn ice cream!


Friday, August 18, 2017

Hmm-ing Bird

Just a moment ago I opened the sliding glass door and took a deep breath of warm, humid air. At the end of a passing thunder storm everything dripped, and so I did not step outside but rather surveyed the hanging baskets and planter boxes through the screen. Everything was flourishing.

To my right brilliant green wheat grass sprouted a couple of inches tall, planted for the cat we no longer have with us. Could there be a clearer sign that life goes on, I wondered, or is it just a patch of grass that nobody even wants?

The tiniest of chirp pierced my sadness. A hummingbird as gray as the sky sipped at the salvia in the hanging basket across the deck. I held my breath as she whirred to within inches of where I stood, and just above the cat grass paused at a striped yellow petunia and drank her fill of nectar and rain water before silently zipping away.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Highlight

We had about a half an hour before our movie started this afternoon, so Heidi, Josh, and I wandered down the plaza, grabbed a coffee and a lawn chair and played a quick game of giant connect-four in the breezy, sunshiny day.

I loved it!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Jam

I spent a big chunk of the day dispensing with the bounty of my garden. Perhaps the coolest thing I did with tomatoes was to turn 2 pounds of lovely little homegrowns into 8 ounces of tomato jam with rosemary, a touch of orange, and a hint of habanero.

To my readers who are skeptical of such a [con]fusion of sweet and savory: try it! It's really good you guys!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Preservation

Even as I spent my day pickling peppers and cauliflower, putting up tomato sauce, and adding "can salsa" to my end-of-summer-vacation list, my sister-in-law was helping friends who are moving overseas to clean out their pantry, freezer, and fridge.

She came away with an impressive haul of all manner of luxury grocery items, so many that my brother despaired of ever finding a place for them. Not to worry! How could I resist the offer of free, really good stuff?

Oh, I took a share of the loot including home-roasted Hatch peppers from New Mexico, Chinese cooking wine, jarred chestnuts, pistachios, hazel nuts, demi-glace, and duck fat. "It's a windfall!" I tried to console my brother. "We are going to eat well this fall!" But even so, it was hard not to think that, really? There was too much bounty here.

Back home again, I inventoried my own plenty and vowed not to allow it to go to waste.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What You Eat

I get a lot of my news from the radio: listening as I dress, cook, drive, etc. helps me to stay informed about a wide range of topics, some of which I never see in print.

Take the ethnic minority group that lives in northwestern China. As Muslims, they have clashed with the government there, and are by many accounts persecuted by the majority Han Chinese. A couple years ago, when there was more unrest than usual in Xinjiang, I was fascinated by the reports of this people and culture I had never even heard of, who to my ear were called the Weegers.

But as the U.S. election heated up, and ethnic clashes of our own and other international concerns took precedence, those stories eventually faded from the lineup, and from my attention as well, I am somewhat sorry to say.

And so it took me a minute when a few months ago I read a review of a relatively new restaurant nearby to recognize the cuisine. Billed as a fusion of middle eastern and Chinese, the place was a Uyghur restaurant.

Ooooohhh. That's how you spell it.

And tonight we finally made it there. Dry-fried shrimp, homemade noodles with ginger and aromatics, lamb-stuffed naan, and a lovely little bok choy and mushroom dish were all really good. The deserts? Were not. They almost seemed to be an unaccustomed luxury-- barely sweet and rather dry and garnished with tiny pieces of fresh fruit.

I think there's a story there.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Minding the Small Things

"Sensory memory is so strange!" Heidi noted this morning as she reached down to give Odie the miniature Schnauzer a farewell pat. "My family's first dog was a Schnauzer, and even though we lost him 30 years ago, I remember he felt just like this," she sighed.

I know how she felt. My whole weekend was filled with tiny deja vu moments. Everything from the grass in the fields- soft flat blades, plantain, a few dandelions, and a healthy dose of clover, mowed to about 3 inches- to the shiny tar on the pavement and the softball-sized Jersey peaches for sale at all number of roadside stands, reminded me of things I didn't even know I'd forgotten.

In fact, such memories were much more powerful and satisfying than seeing the things I thought I remembered today. The schools where I began my education were shabby and worn as were the neighborhoods and landmarks I recalled. (Although the liquor store that used to deliver cases of beer to our home and pick up the returnables did have a certain retro cool.)

Our last stop on memory lane was also a disappointment. Rancocas Woods, a historic colonial-style shopping village was still there, but gone were all the sticky-trunked Pitch Pines that shed their needles onto the sandy soil, as was the old wooden wagon and stocks where our out-of-town guests were always invited to poke their heads and wrists through for a little taste of early-American justice.

The candle store where we shopped for extra special gifts for my mom was closed, but the antique place was still open. As I browsed through the merchandise, I had to laugh at some of the items they had for sale: the last time I was there, those Corning bowls and 1974 road map of New Jersey were brand new.

In a tiny shop crammed with Colonial Christmas carolers and cocktail napkins, though, I found some hand-dipped bayberry tapers, and just like the other small details, they ignited a memory, too. My Aunt Sis bought them whenever we shopped there, and they always graced her home and holiday table.

Now I have some, too.