Friday, August 31, 2007
Today’s images were supplied by friend Laura Wallis in Charleston who provided photos and stories for the Wet Coconut Cake FPF. She is a very talented food pornographer.
Fried Green Tomatoes are one of the most beloved of southern foods. They are a special item only available when the tomatoes are green and on the vine. Choose fresh home grown green tomatoes if they are available. The tartness of the tomato is what makes these lovely slices of heaven so special. The heat releases both sweetness and tartness.
I should say a word about the term “frying” in Southern food culture. We are not deep frying in vats of oil. Fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, fried okra…all of these are pan fried. We put oil in the bottom of the pan so it just coats and then do our frying. Fried chicken uses an additional step of steaming the chicken with the lid on the frying pan. Foods fried in this manner are laid out on paper towels to absorb any excess grease after they are done.
For true authenticity, use bacon fat, but vegetable oil has long been used since most of us threw away our “grease jars” and are no longer eating bacon daily. The taste of bacon does lend itself rather well to these, though.
Fried Green Tomatoes
4 large green tomatoes sliced thickly
2 eggs, well beaten with ¼ cup water
1 and ½ cup stone ground corn meal
2 tablespoons self-rising flour
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup vegetable oil or strained bacon fat
cookie sheet covered with paper towel
Put the oil in a large cast iron skillet and place on the stove on medium high to heat. When the oil is good and hot you will want to ease the heat back between medium and medium high. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and combine well. Beat the eggs and water together. Coat your tomato slices well with the egg mixture then dredge thickly in the corn meal and flour. Place them in the oil to fry, turning so they are golden brown on each side. When they are just the right golden brown color, transfer to the cookie sheet and place in a slow oven so the tomato will finish cooking and any left over grease is absorbed.
I do hope you will try these if you aren’t familiar with them. They are a wonderful addition to a brunch menu and can be fancied up if you like with sprigs of fresh parsley and sweet basil.
And yes…I really did work on the movie. I even sat in Fannie Flagg’s chair, just to do it. I think I was hoping some of those successful and good writer cooties would rub off on me.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The polished, final draft of this story has been accepted for publication. In keeping with the SMB's policy, this rough has been removed.
I will provide linkage where you may purchase the magazine or read the story in its final draft form on publication.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The day had dawned with the startling blue of a clear mid-August mountain sky. There was no breeze and the air was hazy. Days like this, everything seemed out of focus. You could barely make out Hall’s Top Mountain rising just over the treeline. The haze made everything fuzzy and soft.
But there was something different today and Mizz Emmy seemed to sense it with that extra sharpness that some pregnant women have. She saw a bird that morning she’d never seen before fishing in the creek. It looked like a cowbird with a feathery white beard. No birds sang and the crickets were strangely silent. Summer was usually a noisy time in the mountains. You noticed it because the winter was so silent. So silent that you longed for the summer days that were filled with the sounds of exploding life. Then, just as the winter days and the ice and snow seemed more than a body could bear, the frogsong started and you knew the whip-or-wills wouldn’t be far behind.
Mizz Emmy sat on the wide front porch of the blue house on the little hill by Big Creek fanning herself. She took a long drink of icy cold spring water just brought up from the spring house. Her oldest girl had just put the two-year old twins down to nap with the one year old. So this was a rare opportunity to rest.
Lord, she thought, the heat were about to kilt her. Mid -August sure did seem the dog days.
A handsome field of burley tobacco stretched out across the road and she admired the broad leaves starting to turn the color of a gold pocket watch. Nothin' much purtier than that color she thought dreamily. In a few days it would be about time to gather the children and go stake the tobacco. Hopefully she could sit this one out, she thought, as the baby kicked her from her insides. This baby, her sixteenth, was about ready to come into the world.
She leaned back in her porch rocker and dozed for a bit, her belly straining the fabric of her cotton house dress.
“Rider, coming! Rider, coming!”, came the shout from down the road where her Jimmy was fishing by the old wooden foot log. His shouting jolted her out of her doze and she rocked herself a few times to get herself out of the chair. She braced her hands on the small of her back and waited.
She could hear the sound of the horse coming fast. It was the waltz-like cadence of a racking horse moving swiftly and efficiently. She saw her Jimmy running fast on bare feet coming around the curve and the rider followed soon after and passed him.
The big racking horse came to a jarring halt in front of Mizz Emmy. She recognized the boy who had been running messages up from Hartford all summer.
“Hey, Jason…what news?”
“Storm comin’ Mizz Emmy. Big storm!” The boy panted out breathlessly.
Mizz Emmy cocked her head and knitted her brow. It wasn’t like they didn’t have storms all the time here.
Jason seemed to sense her puzzlement.
“No! Mizz Emmy …H’it’s one’s real bad. They sents me up to warn you’un’s on the creek. It’s a big ‘Cane, Mizz Emmy. And it’s headed this way!”
Her Jimmy finally made it up to the porch. He bent over and rested his hands on the knees of his overalls and panted.
“Did ja hear, Mama?” He panted out. “Big, big storm comin’…hail and rain!”
Emmy looked up into the clear blue and strangely quiet sky. Then out at the vulnerable tobacco crop. It didn’t seem possible that such a thing could happen.
“Jason,” she said, “You git along…I know you have more stops to make up the 15th. I need’s to figure out what to do.”
The boy set the horse off at a punishing clip, splashing across the creek.
Mizz Emmy grabbed Jimmy and gave him a little shake. “Listen here, I need you to git your Daddy and bring him down here. Tell him what’s goin’ on and to gather the stakes from the barn. I’m going to call in everyone and we got to get that ‘baccy staked now. We’ll like to lose the whole crop if we don’t.”
Jimmy nodded and took off running up to the north pasture where he knew his Daddy was working on the cow pond.
Mizz Emmy lumbered into the house and grabbed her rifle. She stood on the porch and shot the three blasts that signified “Trouble! Come quickly!” Then she sat down to wait.
Her oldest daughter came out at the sounds of the gunfire.
“What is it, Mamma?” She said. “Do I need to fetch Granny?”
“No child,” Emmy said, “We need to stake the tobacco. There’s a storm comin’.”
Her daughter frowned. “I’ll get changed.” She said, and went back into the house to put her dungarees on.
“Little One,” Emmy said to her belly, “Looks like you are going to need to wait a while longer.”
Soon her entire clan was gathered around her. With the nine children ages six to fifteen, plus herself and her husband, they would have a work crew of eleven. This should be enough to get the tobacco staked before night fall.
The family set off to work. It was tiring, back-breaking labor, driving the stakes in, then wrapping the leaves around the stalks with twine. The nicotine from the raw leaves seeped through their hands and made everyone headachey. But the family pulled together swiftly and surely, driven on by the specter of the oncoming disaster.
They were about midway through the field when the sky started to change. Everyone tried to pick up the pace, even little six year old Jimmy. But Emmy could feel herself slowing down with the weight of her belly making her back scream in pain. Yet she kept going.
The thunder started sounding in the distance when the field was three-quarters staked. It was about that time that Emmy straightened up and felt her water break. She staggered slightly and two of her daughters rushed to her side.
“Momma!” One of them cried. The two girls hovered and little Jimmy stood by nervously watching.
Emmy grabbed a piece of burlap and laid it on the ground. She hunkered down and the newborn girl just seemed to slide right out of her like an otter on a snowbank. The lightning flashed with menace and lit up the baby girl in an eerie glow.
Mizz Emmy picked up the baby and put her to her breast, tucking the small snippet of life inside her dress.
“Yes, ma’am?” The child answered in a soft voice.
“What you reckon this storm is called? Did he tell you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Jimmy said. “He said h’it were named ‘Camille’.”
“Well, then. Looks like this one already come with a name. This is your little sister.”
Miss Emmy finished staking the row she was working on, before going in the house to lie down and wait out the storm.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
There was a bit of a breeze that day, but not much. The sunlight filtered through the giant giant chestnut trees, their broad leaves creating patterns in the shade of the morning. It was the sort of day that if you lay on your back in the forest and looked up, you could see the dust motes swirling like angels in the light. But there would be a storm coming soon. You could feel that on the air too, and smell the coming lightning.
Sadie was digging new potatoes when she heard the hoof beats and the muffled sound of male voices coming up the holler. She stood and cocked her head like a doe seeing a flash of white in the wood. She ran to the garden gate, brushing the soil from her hands on her skirts and grabbed her rifle from where it rested there by the fence.
The riders had come again to Raven’s Branch. She was certain of it.
“June Bug!” She called out to her sister who was sweeping the dirt of the yard. “Git your gun!”
In the darkening days following the Civil War, ragtag bands of marauders had cut a swath through the mountain hollers robbing and killing. They came in broad daylight and sometimes in darkness. They came for the children, murdering them before their mothers. Though the war had ended, they hadn’t had their fill of blood quite yet.
Her own man had yet to return from the war and she often times wondered if he would ever come back. It weren’t no matter to her. She’d kept the farm going through the long years, scraping together enough food and game to feed the family. She’d likely continue to do the same, even if he came home.
Sadie’s five-year old nephew was playing on the porch of the cabin. His feet were grimy with coal dust. He looked up at his mother in alarm as she emerged with a shotgun from the cabin.
“Ransom! Git over here now.” Sadie said, with an edge of desperation in her voice.
The child scurried to obey. She hissed to him, “You don’t make a sound or I’ll whup you…You hear? Do you?”
The little boy trembled and nodded, his lip quivering.
Sadie gathered the child up and stuffed him under her skirts and stood rock solid at the steps to the cabin, stony-faced as the ragged band rode up. June Bug took her place at her side. She pushed a strand of hair from her face and glared fiercely.
The two women watched as the men skittered their horses to a halt in the dirt, causing dust to fog the air.
The leader of the band sat his gaunt horse easily. His clothing was ragged and you could barely discern the blue gray of his tattered uniform.
“Woman. Where be your menfolk!”
“Ain’t no menfolk here.” She said. “You’uns can just move along. I ain’t got no bidness with you’uns.”
He looked at her with cold dead eyes. She tightened her grasp on the rifle and pointed it menacingly at him. Her sister followed suit.
Her eyes were cold and narrow. She stood solidly but did not try to move. Ransom had his pudgy arms wrapped tightly around her legs and his small body was plastered against her. She could feel the contours of his face, crumpling against her thigh as he stifled a whimper.
“Well, ma’am, it don’t seem right, us coming all the way up here to see you and not leavin’ with nothin’.”
He spat into the dry dust.
June Bug’s hands were shaking as she held her shotgun.
“Easy there, Junie, “ Sadie said. “You know that there thing has a hair trigger.”
Sadie, herself, spat into the dust and managed a grin like a feral she-wolf.
“Lookit!” She said. “There be a ham in the smokehouse. Why don’t you’uns take that and go on.”
The lean man looked at her narrowly. Then he nodded at one of his men, who dismounted and headed toward the smokehouse.
They all waited tensely. June Bug cut her eyes at her sister. Neither woman was sure how much longer little Ransom could stay still under Sadie’s skirts, like a fawn in the forest.
The man came back lugging a big joint of cured meat. He slung it over the pommel of his saddle and mounted up.
The leader touched his fingers to his cap and nodded at Sadie, in a mockery of courtliness. Then the group turned their horses and galloped down the path into the woods.
Sadie and June Bug stood stock still until they disappeared and they could no longer hear the horses and the laughter of the men.
Then June Bug lay her shotgun down and burst into tears. She pulled Ransom from his aunt’s voluminous skirts and drew him into her arms. She rocked him to comfort herself as much as she did so to comfort him.
Tears made muddy streaks down her face as she looked at her sister and said, “You didn’t tell me you had no ham? Where’d you git that from?”
Sadie lifted her rifle and sighted high into a chestnut tree. She shot, bringing down a fox squirrel with a clean head shot. It fell, lifeless in the dust.
“Oh. That were from the last time they’uns showed up here.” She said.
Then Sadie turned to her little nephew and said.
“Ransom! What don’t you go git that there squirrel for auntie and I’ll make us some biscuits!”
The companion essay to this ficlet is up on Feministe. It's called, "An American Brigadoon".
Monday, August 27, 2007
I've been very kindly invited to guest blog this week by Jill Filipovic over on Femimiste.
I’ll be using this opportunity to write about a subject very dear to me, Appalachian women.
One of the problems and one of the blessings that I’ve faced in the gathering of my stories has been that they are, for the most part gathered from women. This is because I am a woman myself, and there are still very strict rules regarding how women and men interact in this culture. I owe a huge debt to Friend Scott, who has been able to gather stories from the men folk that they might not tell to me.
I think what has consistently struck me about the Appalachian women is their tenacity and strength. These women are not feminists. They would be insulted to be called such. But at their core is a resolve and a resourcefulness that we could learn much from. They are action-based and dynamic. The adversity they face in their day to day living is staggering at times to the outsider. Much has been made of their poverty and lack of education by scholars and many people have difficulty seeing beyond this deficit. I will say to you that there are different kinds of wealth in this world and different kinds of “smart”.
I was talking to my friend one day and she was telling me about the Vista volunteers who came up here in droves during the 1960’s. They came here to teach people various life skills.
“So what did they show you?” I asked.
“Well, they showed us how to make mattresses, can and built outhouses.”
I thought about this for a minute.
“Ummm…but didn’t y’all already know how to do that? I mean, you’ve been living up here forever!” I said.
She smiled at me gently. “Oh yes. We knew how to do that.”
Talk about teaching your grandma how to suck eggs.
Another curious example of this was the teaching of “Forestry” in the schools here. They taught kids how to recognize and name different trees. This is a culture that lives in a forest environment. I have yet to meet a ten year old who couldn’t tell the difference between a red and “piss” oak.
So, there is indeed a paternalistic attitude that has been directed at the Appalachian people from the outside for quite a long time. It’s very easy to fall back on these stereotypes, unfortunately.
I’m hoping during this week to show from a women’s perspective how women deal with real life and hardship here. I’ll be alternately entertaining with fiction pieces based on some of the stories I’ve gathered about Appalachian women. If there is a story here, there will be an essay over on Feministe. You’ll have to go there to read the companion article.
As per usual...I'll be writing from the seat of my pants.
...Plus...I love their header...cause I was once a little girl with a big gun. And I'm all about girls with guns.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The day started out overcast and I was half afraid the Reunion was going to get rained out. But instead, it gave us a small respite from the oppressive heat that has been covering the mountain.
The large Hall family has their reunion every August on the third Sunday. It’s the largest family reunion in Cocke county. People come from all over the US to the old Bell Hill property to celebrate and catch up with long lost cousins. Today it looked like at least 500 had made the pilgrimage to Hall’s Top Mountain.
The reunion is held on the grounds of the old Bell Hill Church and Schoolhouse where so many Halls grew up and went to school. The current building is not the original. That one burned down some time ago. But they still have a bell to call the family in for the singing and that gave Bell Hill its name.
The food is laid out in a shed that must be 100 feet long. And still, there is hardly enough room for all of the dishes. I, of course, ate way too much.
The singing portion of the Hall Family Reunion is some of the best you will hear. Family Elder, Ransom Hall, led the family in some rousing gospel favorites. He is the son of “Singing” Sam Hall, who originally taught everyone to sing up on the mountain using the sacred harp method.
And then the bell rang for the singing!
And...hope you are having a very happy Sunday!
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Kazari _lu has tagged me for a meme.
Now, the last time I was tagged, I decided to institute a new tradition...the no-strings meme. Basically what this means is that I'll throw out a gang of links at the end of the post. If you want to participate...fine. If you don't...don't...no comment is necessary...so I don't want to hear about how many times you've already been tagged. Technorati doesn't care. I'm not trying to piss you off...I'm just throwing you some free link love. Get it?
4 jobs I've had
Convention Model for Ian Anderson's(Jethro Tull) Smoked Salmon Company
Phone Book Editor
Professional Psychic /Cold Reader
John Cullum's Personal Makeup Artist
4 places I've lived
Los Angeles, CA
4 places I've holidayed
(this is hard...I was a traveler...I don't know that I've really ever been on a vacation)
New York City
4 favourite foods
Thinly sliced beef tongue (yeah...well...I almost did it for food porn but figured you guys would hang me.)
Sushi/Sashimi (favorites are uni, ama-ebi, unagi, hamo, hamachi...I'll try anything though)
Extremely stinky cheeses
I like cake. A lot. And Apricot Flan.
4 places I'd rather be
What in the world are you talking about? Can't I just have the people I'd rather be with sent here?
Here are my random tags. You may participate...or not. There are no strings...just free link love to boost your ranking.
Absence of the Mind and Body
Cubby Goes Digital
Fetch me my axe
Fun in Flatland
Hidden Haven Homestead
Karen Road Chronicles
Mommy on the Floor
no school, just learning
oya baka mama
Ruminations Of A Country Girl
Straight White Guy
The Gods Are Bored
Rooster Hill Farm
12 Happy Chickens
DC Comictician on Star Trekiology
In other news... I've just done a big cleanup on the blog rolls and links. If you notice that you've been removed in error...just drop me a line and I'll put you back. I'm very good usually about reciprocating links but the blogroll is getting to the point where I'm weeding out non-reciprocating links...no matter how fabulous I think their blog is.
I apologize for not getting around and commenting as much as I did this spring. Some of your pages take me five minutes to load on my 24K dialup. So...if you have a very graphical page or very big graphics...or one of the old slow blogger templates, like that antique paper on olive green patterned background, or music...it's going to be hard for me to visit very often. Evidently, the dryness has done something weird to our phone lines. Hopefully, when the weather cools down and the rains begin...connection speeds will improve.
Next week, brace yourself for Appalachian Women's Week on the SMB. I'll be doing lots of ficlets and essays on the women of Appalachia. I've got some new fiction you haven't seen that should be enjoyable. I'm guestblogging on Feministe beginning on Monday and will be running companion pieces to those posts here.
Friday, August 24, 2007
(Today's Food Porn Friday comes from one of my favorite foodie bloggers, Kazari_lu, all the way from Canberra, Australia. When I think of Australian food, I think of fresh ingredients combined in innovative ways and Kazari certainly shows us how that is accomplished with a personal touch. Her blog is I think I have a recipe for that...)
Honey Walnut White Chocolate Cookies• 28 oz. White Chocolate (chopped)
• 24 oz. Walnuts (chopped)
• 12 oz. Sugar
• 1lb. Light Brown Sugar
• 1lb. Butter
• 2 tsp. Salt
• 6 Eggs
• 6 oz. Honey
• 4 tsp. Vanilla
• 2 lb. 2oz. Bread Flour
• 1 Tbls. Baking Soda
Cream butter and sugars. Scrape frequently. Add eggs with vanilla a few at a time. Scrape often. Add sifted flour with baking soda. Mix until just incorporated. Add chopped walnuts and chopped white chocolate. Mix until incorporated. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll into balls and bake at 300-325 6-10 minutes depending on the size.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Poor ole Fat Buddy!
He loves to steal food. My food, mostly. It's necessitated all sorts of security measures concerning food stuffs around the house. Past disasters have included 5 pound bags of sugar, flour, eggs, many many sticks of butter, and I don't know how many loaves of white bread. White bread is his favorite.
But every once in a while, depending on availability, he likes to eat healthy. Fresh cucumbers are his favorite and there have been many years that I got zero cukes from my vines. Fat Buddy would guard the cucumber vines like they were steak and growl menacingly at the other dogs if they tried to come near. They unfortunately give him gas.
He scored himself a yellow squash from the kitchen counter the other day. I'm certainly not going to try to take it away from him.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Every spring, they come. Sarong wearing boys, dread-naughted girls, tanned and wiry youths with powerful arms. If you didn't know better, you'd swear you'd stumbled on a Grateful Dead concert. All in all, it is sort of like a Grateful Dead or Rainbow gathering...except with paddles and life preservers and kayaks.
It's the invasion of the River Guides. They are usually accompanied by an undercover DEA or TBI agent or two...just to keep all the young folks honest. 'Cause, you know how rambunctious the young folk can get. And indeed, somebody falls victim to injudicious rambunctiousness every summer and is led away in cuffs.
Professional river guides are a rare and unique breed. They arrive from all corners of the states and travel around the country supplying skilled whitewater rafting services to rafting companies from Oregon to North Carolina. If they are lucky, the rafting company will provide lodging for them, but they are just as likely to live out of their vehicles. It's a rough life with no insurance, no benefits, no security, low pay but lots of fun and adventure. If the water is white and high, you will find them there.
Our little town of Hartford, brings in millions of dollars in tourism revenue every year from white water rafting. Indeed there are more rafting companies in Hartford than any other sort of business. They are the only reason they let us keep our tiny post office. So, it was distressing when the rumors started flying around about the rafting season ending early due to the drought. I noticed that the crowd at the Pigeon River Smokehouse had cleared considerably and I started asking questions.
The first I heard, was that the rafting companies were going to operate on a contingency basis. If there was rain, they might possibly run trips. Then I heard that many of the companies were being forced to refund reservation deposits. Finally, Friend Scott was asked by his cousin, one of the few local guides, to help him move from one of the rafting lodging houses. According to Scott's cousin, the rafting is done for the summer.
The problem is with the Waterville Dam that releases the water that creates our stage II - IV rapids. It is said that the river needs to rise 180 feet for the rapids to come back. We are going to need some serious rain for that to happen. And it looks like they are laying off the seasonal river guides.
Lets hope these guys can find wetter places to finish the summer's employment. And lets hope the rains in September will rescue our rafting companies and provide a nice fall run. If the weather is good, they sometimes run through October and November...so, all hope is not lost.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
This is just turning out to be the most craptastic year since the last time I almost went into a coma. The truly most craptastic year was the year preceding the year I actually did go into a coma...10 years ago. Of course I know that saying the fated words, "Things can't possibly get worse," usually precedes things truly going in the toilet. So I'm not going to say that, since I have first hand experience in circling drains.
So, today I headed to K-town to my doctor's appointment. On the way out of my road, my wheels locked on the gravel and I clipped the rear of one of my neighbor's vehicles as I tried to get control of the frickin' jeep. So...no trip to K-town and the left front of the jeep is trashed. It could have been much worse. I just barely missed a big mimosa tree and a bank of mailboxes.
It's just been such a crappy year. Starting off with the death of my beloved Aegis, learning that I now had developed kidney disease, the well going dry and now this. I'm just really ready to have something wonderful to happen. But wishing for that is almost as bad as saying things can't get worse.
Yes, I'm a pessimist. But I come by that honestly.
Hey...anybody got some good food porn shots? I still got nothin' for Friday and would gladly entertain a guest blogger.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
(All works shown are in the Archives of the Edwina Church of God in Jesus' Name and are presented here by express permission of the artist. All rights reserved.)
I'm really excited to present to you a taste of Pastor Morrow's artwork today for "Happy Sunday". I know when I first saw his paintings that I was completely blown away by them. I've long been a fan of outsider art. Jimmy's work is some of the most exciting that I've seen.
He works on a relatively small scale for most of his work. He has 600 paintings kept in loose leaf notebooks in the Church Archives. Some are historical in nature, given Jimmy's keen interest in history, so there are secular works. But for the most part they deal with the subject closest to his heart, The Pentecostal Church Serpent Handlers and The Signs Followers.
I asked Pastor Morrow if there was a reason that he did 600 of the paintings. I think I was perhaps hoping there was some story like Howard Finster's about the blob of paint speaking to him and saying, "Make Sacred Art!"
But Jimmy just shrugged and said, "No, my arms sort of started to cramp up and I don't like to get too involved with anything that takes me away from the Gospel."
I do think his art is very important. I hope you will see what I see in it. The passion of his convictions and his faith. And the beauty and sweetness that is the Pentecostal Church Serpent Handlers.
If you would like to view the entire collection you will have to make the pilgrimage to the church to do so. I'd suggest writing before you come.
The address of the church is:
1751 Bloom Drive
Newport, TN 37821
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I had to go back into town yesterday to pick up a few tubs of goat lixx and some mop heads. Goat lixx are basically goat lollipops in a big tub. They are full of vitamins and minerals and all sorts of healthy goatie things suspended in a solid hard mass of molasses. The goats are crazy for them and now that I have them back in the pasture, everyone will have sticky brown noses and faces. The little ones aren't sure quite yet what to make of them, but the big goats will show them the ropes. Unfortunately, when I picked them up, they were labeled "Do Not Feed to Sheep!"
So I had to build a creep feeder so the woolie buggers can't get to the buckets. That's okay though. Those two sheep are obese at this point. They need a Thigh Master.
Anyway, I picked up Friend Scott and dragged him to town with me. We went to the Chinese buffet. We are actually getting a little sick of the Chinese buffet. We were talking about trying to find somewhere else to eat, but we just keep ending back up there. It's reasonable, the wait staff is cute, they have a decent pot of tea, good frog legs and honestly....it takes a bit of doing to fill up my six foot nine buddy.
The restaurant was packed as it always is on Friday. They serve crab legs on Friday and everyone had piled plates full of crab legs. I hit the frog legs as per usual.
I don't know why I like frog legs so much. They are the one thing that actually does taste exactly like chicken. I just have fond memories of watching my Aunt Baby Dear fry them up in a skillet. And memories of gigging for them with my brother on my grandfather's Tennessee farm. I now have my own frog pond.
We paid the bill and were making our way into the parking lot of the large strip mall where the restaurant is located when I heard a voice calling out behind us.
I turned and it was the pretty Asian waitress that I always want to over-tip.
Dangling from her hand was my dog muzzle. The dog muzzle is black mesh with nylon straps. It had evidently escaped from my purse where it had been since Baby's last vet visit. If you don't know what it is...well, you might get the wrong idea.
I blush as she hands it over to me when I realize this.
"It's a dog muzzle!" I say to her retreating back, my voice fading toward the end. For some reason, I don't want this pretty Asian woman to think this is something I might possibly be using on my dining partner.
Scott looks at the offending bit of shiny nylon mesh and buckles.
"What the hell is that!" He guffaws at me.
"Shut up!" I hiss. "It's a dog muzzle. It's used for dogs."
He laughs all the way to the jeep.
Friday, August 17, 2007
These are one of my favorite fruits of the summer and they come in here between late July to mid August. Most think of them as a weed, but I take note of every bush I see when they start to come into flower. They grow near water sources and you can find them by noting the profuse white blossom heads.
Elderberries have a very sweet taste that is somewhere between a blueberry and a blackberry. They don't have tartness and for that reason I usually add a bit of lime juice or zest to the recipes that I make with them. I really like the combination of lime and elderberry.
Both the blossoms and the fruit may be eaten or used to make wine, jelly or any number of things. The blossoms can be deep fried in batter and may also be used to make wine.
One tip I will give you if you are making jelly is to remember to add your pectin before your sugar...it will not set if done in the reverse.
The elderberry and elder tree have a long and honored tradition in folk medicine of being healthful, particularly as a treatment for the cold and flu. They are very rich in vitamins A and C. They also have a tradition as a sacred plant in many old world religions. (Perhaps Anne at The Gods Are Bored could tell us more about that!)
I'm going to send you over to Paul's Elderberry Page for recipes. He has some really lovely ones and I'm bookmarking the Elderflower Champagne for next summer!
Just count your blessings if you have this lovely plant growing on your property and put it to good use!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Well, the farm is covered with the damn things about now. I went out to load some bags of feed for the goats up on the hill today. The heat is sweltering.
I turned over the barrow and found a nest of them.
When I was at Pastor Jimmy's church, I mentioned that the "deadliest thing" on my property was the black widow spiders. "Deadly thing" is a reference to what the signs followers call the strychnine water they drink in the course of their worship.
Jimmy, who handles deadly serpents in the course of the practice of his religion, deadpans at me...
"You need to spray for those things."
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Crikey! What is it with Cocker Spaniels and paper...and toiletry products?
I come down the other morning and Babe is laid out fast asleep on the dog bed in all of his stinky 18 year old ancient Cocker Spaniel glory in a puddle of 500 Q-Tips. It looks suspiciously like he has stolen them from the bathroom in the middle of the night and ripped the box open to decorate himself with the things. They are everywhere, dangling from his floppy ears like earrings, but most especially in the bed with him.
I stroke his little bony back to wake him up. His head pops up and he looks around with his usual happy senility, trying to figure out where he is.
He grins at me. Then stretches languorously on his cushion of purloined Q-Tips....now...not so sterile.
He stumbles to the door and I let him out, closing the door firmly before he has a chance to turn around and come back in. Babe loves the "I can get through the door before you!" game. He drags about 50 Q-Tips with him to keep him company.
It's not just the Q-Tips. The guys just love paper products. There has been many a morning that I've come down to find that a canine frat party has occurred downstairs and the entire living room has been Tee Pee'd.
I'm pretty sure that Shadow does it just to get my attention. He'll slyly take a sheet of paper and quietly lay in a corner.
Riiiiip......Rii-iip. It's slow and agonizing, like a dripping faucet. He cuts his eyes at me to see if I'm paying attention.
Eventually I'll get up and take it from him hissing between my teeth, "Give me that! Dammit!"
He grins at me and gives me a few more moments of peace before starting in on it again.
I won't go into the list of other toiletries they have cheerfully captured from the bathroom and trotted out into the living room...but it's quite a long, disgusting and colorful list.
Dogs. Gotta love em.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I've been sort of blocked recently. I think I've just been cooped up in the house too much and not getting out to collect stories. The heat is so oppressive and I've been busy putting wild spearmint tea up in quart jars. It's really strong this year, what with all the heat and the dryness, so I'm thinking I won't have to gather too much more for the winter. I put just a tablespoon into my last pot of tea and it about knocked my socks off.
Yesterday, I loaded up the riding lawnmower and went over to Scott's to mow his lawn for him. He wielded the weed eater and we got done just in time for a huge rainstorm to pelt the landscape.
Then he came over with a bunch of bootleg movie titles and fed me pizza and Woodchuck Draft Cider.
My acquaintance with hard cider is from my years in the U.K. There, it was often on tap at the local pub. It didn't take me too long to figure out the hard way that this stuff was best taken in small quantities. The cider we get here is nothing as strong...or as good...as the stuff I had there, but I still approached it with cation.
Friend Scott and I have very different taste in films. I tend to like things with subtitles and lots of violence and action cleverly crafted into a good storyline. Yes...I do like Tarantino. The subtitles just are usually there since American films have a hard time combining violence, action and...storylines. Scott...he's more The Devil Wears Prada type. I have a suspicion that he lays around on his days off watching Lifetime Television and chick flicks.
We settle on Apocolypto....which I've been secretly wanting to see. I cleverly move The Devil Wears Prada to the bottom of the stack of DVD's.
As it turns out...Scott's copy has the subtitles in Cyrillic. I don't know where he gets these from. Or why the local hillbilly movie bootlegger would assume fluency in Russian up here in the hills.
"Do you want to watch something else?" I say, disingenuously. I don't really mind just watching the film without the subtitles, even though my Mayan is a bit rusty. You know how it is when you haven't been around a language in a long time...you just stop being able to think in it.
So we watch Apocolypto with Russian subs. It was okay...but with the same sort of weakness of story that I get from most big American films. The violence was graphic and everything I imagined from my wildest dreams of the Mayan civilization. But it didn't have the terrible beauty of a Pan's Labyrinth. Scott slept through most of it.
When it was over, I switched back on to the television and Mirage of Blaze was on.
Scott jolted awake and looked at the screen with bleary eyes.
His head flopped back on the chair in tired disgust.
"Yeah!" I say, "....but it's the gay one. Ohhh...Look! It's the part where they almost kiss!"
Labels: movie night
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I was out picking elderberries today and came across our neighborhood duck who has taken up at the cow pond where the best elderberries grow. Every year a different waterfowl takes up residence here. Last year it was Canadian geese. This year...it's a duck.
But I thought I'd send you over to my friend, Ron's blog, Ducks Mahal. Ron is a sushi eating Mississippian with a soft spot for waterfowl. He's a wonderful writer with a penchant for irreverence. He writes about living in rural Mississippi, corporate culture and just about anything that pops into his head. Sometimes sweet...sometimes biting.
I really enjoy his blog and you might too.
Hope you are having a very happy Sunday.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
I usually have tomatoes coming out of my ears this time of year. The drought took care of that problem for me. I still have three tomato plants surviving, but they probably won't do anything until September...or if the rains come back. It's shaping up to a dry August.
But last year, I had more brandywine tomatoes than I could handle. And lots of fresh basil and very spicy oregano growing in the garden. I had been doing most of my fruit and vegetable straining the old fashioned way, through a colander, but I treated myself to a Victorio Food Strainer last year. This is a must have kitchen gadget if you are going to do canning of sauces, fruit butters or any such thing that you are dealing in bulk amounts of tomatoes, apples or berries.
Making your own marinara from absolute scratch is actually very easy. I didn't really follow a recipe for this so I don't have a recipe to share with you. I was making it for canning so I kept it fairly simple. Oils and meat can safely be added when you decant the sauce to prepare. You know how you like your marinara...so be creative with your spices and ingredients. If you plan to can sauce with meat, that involves pressure canning...doable, but you need to make sure you know your pressure and timing to keep it in the canner. This information is readily available in The Ball Blue Book.
Start with fresh vine ripe tomatoes, preferably from a home garden. Blanch them for about 15 minutes. I prefer to put mine in a colander and steam them over a pot of boiling water until they are slightly soft and releasing their juices. Then transfer your tomatoes to the foodmill. Mill out the pulp and you will have a lovely thin tomato juice with very fine pulp. Transfer this to a large stainless pot and reduce on low until the juice develops into a sauce. This will take hours. As I said...this is very easy...but somewhat time consuming. The good news is that you don't have to stand over it the entire time.
Add your spices toward the last few hours of the cooking down process. Be very careful with strong Mediterranean spices since they can turn bitter if cooked too long. This should not be a problem if you are dealing in fresh herbs but dried can be a bit of a problem. Tomatoes can vary widely in acidity, so to be on the safe side, do add a few tablespoons of citric acid. This will preserve color and make them safer for hot water bath canning.
One of the wonderful things about doing this is the intoxicating smell of the sauce as it is cooking. Keep a loaf of Italian bread and some olive oil handy for sampling.
When it is just how you like it, decant into quart jars and seal. Then process in a boiling water canner for about 15 minutes.
I still have plenty left over from last year's canning adventure....so this year's disappointing tomato crop is no great loss.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
The heat has descended upon us like a big soft quilt of stuffiness. It was hot over the weekend, but it was the sort of hot that you knew was just going to get worse.
I sat in my friend's living room in the dimness on Sunday.
"Do you want me to turn the light on?" She asked.
She is one of the most hospitable people I know. She's always asking if you need anything. She always sends you home with cookies or candy or an apple. It is similar to the Scots/Irish tradition of hospitality. It's something you run into in the mountains here. It's hard to come by for a visit without being fed cake or pie or being sent home with some little something.
"No...I sort of like the lights being off. It makes it cooler, somehow."
She smiles at me.
"That's what I think too."
I remember some of the hottest places that I've lived. Dallas, TX would get well over 100, but it never felt all that hot. Sure, you knew it was hot, but it wasn't the briny humid heat that I grew up in on the South Carolina coast. By far, Columbia, S.C., hold the honor of the most miserable place to be during the dog days. When I was an undergraduate student there, I had no air conditioning. I spent many days down at "the rapids" half immersed in the icy water draining from the Lake Murray dam during the hottest part of the day. You had to be careful since the sirens would go off when they released the water from the dam. You had very little time to scramble to the bank before the water would rise. I lost a friend to that river.
But here, the heat is more subtle. It sneaks into your bones and steals your breath. The goats laze about on the hillside, too hot to eat. The sheep, already fat and sheared, lay panting in the shade.
We all lay in the dark and dream of snow.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Scott comes over today after he gets off work so we can go visit Mizz Kayreen. She's not doing well at all and I'm afraid that we won't have her here on the mountain very much longer.
He lurches his way up to the porch and I absentmindedly say, "Watch the wasps."
I walk up on the porch like some sort of wasp charmer. They rarely sting me, but one did get me yesterday. But that was just because it got trapped by my hat and got confused. The only time I get stung is by mistake. They never actively seek me out.
"Holy Crap!" I hear Scott squeal and I hear him backpedaling off the porch.
"What?" I say, standing there with the wasps buzzing just over my head.
He's spotted the four rather sizable paper wasp nests hanging from the ceiling of the porch.
"Those are right at head level for me!" He says.
And it's true. The wasp's nests are right where he could possibly bump into them. That could be ugly.
I stomp off through my little cloud of wasps and we enter from the back porch, which is not quite as festooned with paper wasp nests.
"You've been walking under them for weeks now." I grumble.
There was an old woman in Bluffton who used to put up passive aggressive notes in her woods when I was a kid. I used to find them when I was riding my horses on the verge of her woods.
They went something like this:
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! I KNOW YOU HAVE BEEN KILLING MY SPIDERS AND SMILAC AND GRAPEVINES. I KNOW YOU ARE COMING BY HERE AND I WILL CATCH YOU. JUST YOU WAIT!!! CEASE AND DESIST HARASSING MY WILDLIFE AND KILLING MY SPIDERS! STOP IT NOW!!!We would find them and laugh like hell then gallop off. She had a real thing for spiders. I hope I'm not turning into her. Not about spiders...but the damn wasps.
Scott and I visited and he waited for me to change clothes and then we went for a short visit to Mizz Kayreen. Her oldest son was with her and we had a good time chatting with her. She actually looked good. I could tell she wasn't well, but she seemed so happy. She was just radiant. The age spots in the shape of a kiss on her cheek were still there.
We came back to the house and after Scott left, I decided to get rid of my wasps. I hosed down the nests. While I was hosing off behind the folk art on the porch, a tiny little bat came lurching out and hung himself upside down from the window for a while. I wanted to get a picture of him, but he flew off before I could get the camera.
The poor wasps are buzzing around looking for their homes and I put a wasp trap with sugar water out for the remaining wasps to find.
Hopefully they will not think too unkindly of me for drowning them in sweetness.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Well, I went out to the garden and dug some potatoes and picked some squash. I've just been generally a bit down today.
Then...I got stung by a wasp on my ear lobe and my face and neck swelled up pretty badly. I took a handful of benadryl right after it happened so I guess it could have been worse. I get stung about five times during the summer...but I seem to be having more and more serious reactions to the stings than I used to.
Anyway...I've been running around with my ear covered in meat tenderizer all day.
So...the air has been too hazy for picture taking....so I don't have a photo for you.
But I did make an apple pie.
I hope you are having a very happy Sunday.
Friday, August 03, 2007
I'm really glad I did, since this is a very wonderful thing to have around the house.
Crystallized ginger used to be as readily available to the Victorians as chewing gum or breath mints are to us. Because it was considered a medicinal as well as a culinary spice, it was widely used as a breath freshener, to settle stomach problems and as a poultice.
To make, take a "hand" of fresh ginger and peel. Slice thinly or run through the food processor using the large slicing wheel. Place in a bowl and cover with sugar then set aside overnight. The sugar will extract the liquid from the ginger slices much like it does from fruit. The next day, pour off this liquid and reduce(boil) down by half. Pour back over the ginger slices and cover with sugar again and set aside over night. Again, pour off the liquid and boil down. This time add the ginger slices and let them boil down with the liquid until the syrup becomes very thick. Pour this mixture out into a bowl of sugar(several cups worth) and toss with a fork to separate the slices. When cool, run this through a sifter to separate the sugar from the ginger. In the end you'll have a lovely bowl of crystallized ginger and another bowl of ginger sugar. Keep in a dry place...will keep at least a year.
One of my favorite things to do with my ginger, especially during the hot summer months is to make home made ginger ale. This is wonderful and if you've never tried it...I highly recommend it. We tend to think of soft drinks as being so commonplace today...indeed too commonplace...but this is a good way to discover what a real soft drink tastes like. It's wonderful! And educational too!
1 and 1/2 cup sugar
Finely milled Crystallized Ginger (try 2 TBSP, more for more "heat")
(Grated fresh ginger works well too, but is not quite as hot)
Juice of one lemon
granulated baker's yeast (1/4 teaspoon)
clean 2 liter plastic soft drink bottle
Add sugar to the 2 liter bottle with a dry funnel. Add 1/4th teaspoon baker's yeast to the bottle. Shake to distribute yeast into the sugar. In a small mixing cup, place grated or milled ginger and add the lemon juice. Mix into a paste and then add to the bottle. Top the bottle off with spring water and place the cap on tightly. Lay the bottle on its side for the fermentation process. You will know it is done when the bottle becomes very hard and will not dent when pressed. At that point you will want to refrigerate the soda and drink it very soon. It usually only takes 24 to 48 hours...though I've had it be ready in 12.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Anne asked about the goats...and it's true, I haven't posted about them in a while. So...Here are some photos of the "babies", who are now a strapping six months old.
Still full of beans and mischief as always.
Everyone is weaned with the exception of Bridey...who still is finding it hard to get off the udder.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
My friend Scott is just a wee bit vain. Not in a way that is annoying , but the way that men of a certain age get. It's adorable, really.
Having grown up with a father who was color blind and whose clothing was uniformly khaki, blue and sometimes yellow, these little peccadilloes sometime strike me as amusing. My father was always meticulously groomed, and his clothing seemed to have nothing that could get him in trouble with color. Nothing in shades of red or green. We also have nothing of male pattern baldness in my family, so the hair thing was never something I could wrap my head around.
My reaction to bad toupees has gotten me in trouble on a number of occasions. I think balding looks just fine. I don't see anything wrong with it. On most men, it's very attractive. But, unless one has invested in one of the expensive lace-front toupees, like the ones I used to work with...toupees look bad. Comb-overs are an abomination.
Scott's vanity seems to be attached to his hair and sometimes his face. He has lovely wavy brown hair that he keeps cut short with the top a bit longer. It really is his crowning glory so I can't blame him for being a bit proud of it. He's a handsome man and I understand wanting to maintain that. So, he uses a little hair dye to cover the bits of distinguished silver that shows on his temples.
But, in true Friend Scott fashion, he keeps encountering disaster.
He gets those little boxes of Clairol from The Dollar Store. He usually does such a good job that even I don't notice it. But this one time, he comes in my driveway wearing a cap. Scott never wears caps.
He marches into the house and removes the cap with a flourish.
His hair is Annie Lennox orange. Ginger pussy cat orange.
I feel the air dry my mouth out as my jaw hangs open.
"Scott...what have you done?" I say in a half whisper.
Well, as it turns out, someone tampered with the hair color boxes at the dollar store, switching all the products in the boxes. Scott doesn't find this out until he goes into the Sally Beauty Supply to beg for help.
After laughing at him, the sales girl says, "Oh, you must be one of the folks who got the hair color at the Dollar Store."
They sell him some Metalex and the correct shade of dye to get his hair back to it's proper shade of brown.
Then, he visits another time and I notice that his face is sort of puffy. I wonder if he's having an allergy attack. I hadn't seen his face look like that since the last time he helped me load some hay in. It was oddly smooth and sort of like what my face does when I'm on mega doses of steroids.
I didn't want to say anything, but I sure was thinking, "Gee, what's wrong with your face?"
Turns out, he'd found someone to shoot him up with bootleg botox.
And he loves it.
Like I said....I didn't want to say anything. So I kept my mouth shut and prayed that the disturbing telepathy thing we have developed would not betray me.
So...the last and most recent episode involved him going into one of the local "Curl up and Dye's" in town for a bit of pampering. He was just going to get his hair color touched up and his eyebrows waxed. I was relieved that he was going into see a professional.
I'm not sure what happened in there. It sounds like the procedures started to snowball. He got way more body parts waxed than I think he originally intended. But his hair...well, his hair ended up being sort of black with dark red highlights. Sort of dark maroon, I guess.
And his eyebrows. Well, they came out vaguely Norma Desmond-ish, if you know what I mean.
He went back in a few days later to get the hair color fixed.
The eyebrows ...well, we are still waiting for those to grow out. He'll be ready for his close-up in another month or so.