Friday, April 23, 2010

Bebe Birds

You know the post where I showed you the pictures of the birdnest with the eggs? I checked in on them tonight and they were hatching! Looks like one straggler there has "pipped" his shell. And the others are all nekkid and ugly--looking all big eyes and skin. The skin is always a little obscene looking on baby songbirds who come out not quite done yet. Not like chickens who are all furry and downy and peeping. I really want some more chickens. I really do. I miss hatching them in the closet and hearing them start to complain before they even bust open the shells. So, as soon as the weather permits, I think I'm going to pull down the old goat shed and recycle the materials into a backyard coop--close to the house so I don't have to hike up the hill like before. Just enough room for maybe six hens and a roo. Of course, then I'll want to hatch them and before I know it I'll have a yard full of chickens again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wren's Nests

Each spring they build them. Little shelters of moss, grass, twigs, but also shreds of plastic Wal-Mart shopping bags, paper towels and cellophane. Sometimes they use the discarded wool I leave out. I find locks of hair from the past groomings of long dead dogs, much beloved. Cozy little wreckages. Twisted heaps of memories. Baskets of the forgotten and thrown away. All done up with a hole in the middle, ready to receive new life who will look at such things as the ultimate newness. Such a marvelous thing, bird nests.

These aren’t special birds, the house wrens. They are common little birds that some think of as pests. But I love having them nest on my back porch. They build these nests in every space they think might work. They lay cinnamon toast eggs in surreptitious clutches. I try to be careful not to disturb them. This year, her nest is in my tool cabinet. I was going to move that thing but now will have to wait until her babies are hatched and flying. Flown away to their own little lives.

I’ll try to give you updates on their progress. Cheep. Cheep.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Shall I write to you of food again on Fridays? Maybe. While I'm not avoiding the comfort foods of the past, I am working with some major portion control disciplines. So--I'm not eating out so much anymore unless I have someone I can say, "I'm not going to eat this--do you want it?" And the one person I do this with most often mostly eats very healthy food--so I'm not haunting the greasy spoons I used to haunt. There is this place in Oak Ridge the Goat Yoda told me about I've been wanting to check out though.

But I'm dropping pounds, so it's worth it. And I'm not exactly giving up things. I'm using Julia Child's philosophy of just enjoying small portions of the best available. With me and the steroids, it's more like tiny, minuscule portions to have success.

I've also been reading food writing. This, Bourdain, Zimmern and The Food Network seem to hold my attention when I can't actually eat as I would wish.

I picked up a copy of Isabel Allende's remarkable book of aphrodisiacidal (I think I just made that word up) recipes and memories, Aphrodite, A Memoir of the Senses, kept me rapt throughout my vacation just past. I've always loved Allende's writing--it's rich in sensual metaphor and ripe with tactile promises. So I wasn't surprised her food book zeroed in on the rope that binds together sex and food.

The thing about truly good food writing is that it's not so much about the food (well, it is but it isn't!) as it is about the connections between humanity, society and food. The breaking of bread, the communion of souls, the licking of mousse au chocolat from the tender spot behind a lover's knee. That's what makes for beautiful food writing--and Allende does this so well, diving into intimate anecdotes from her life. Including the tip to make sure that chocolate mousse is on you--so you don't have to absorb the calories!

It's not a new book, but I missed it when it came out in the late '90's. I think I picked it up at McKay's, Knoxville's big second hand bookstore, but I think now that I've read it, it's a "must have". And it does have recipes--excellent ones. They are all very simple, but elegant. All using very fresh ingredients, perfectly seasoned and clearly influenced by Allende's Chilean heritage. Nothing too heavy, but everything fraught with suggestion. Also very basic--so it's an excellent book for newlyweds who can't boil water, bachelors looking to impress the objects of their affections and 20-somethings lost in the kitchen. And so much fun to read.

I'm tackling M.F.K. Fisher's The Art of Eating next.

A recipe for today is something not in Allende's book, but something I recently rediscovered. It's a salad dressing, pasta sauce and spread. My sister served us Caesar salad while I was visiting her recently and I remembered how much I enjoyed this. It's very garlicky so everyone must eat it if kisses are to be had.

Garlic Parmesan Dressing

1 large clove garlic
1 large egg
Dash of salt
Cracked pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (fresh is best!)
About 3/4 cup Pompeian (or some other good olive oil--this is my favorite) olive oil

I make this with my stick blender but you can use a regular blender. Put all ingredients except the olive oil in your mixing cup (or in the blender) and pulse until creamy. Then, with the blender going, drizzle the olive oil in until it becomes thick. Not too thick as then you have a mayonnaise and the olive oil will make it solidify in the fridge to a spread anyway. Then toss your salad, pasta or put out to dip bread in. Also good for making garlic bread.

In other news...Fat Buddy's back legs are beginning to move! He's discovered that being paralyzed puts him at a distinct disadvantage when food is around to be begged for. It's so pitiful watching him drag himself around when food is in the offing, but also strangely funny. He bitches and complains about everything, but he's determined to get his legs back if only to steal a few more snacks.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

I've gotten a bit lazy with my writing, I think. I've been working on edits and collections, but no new material. I think it's time I remedy this, but I started a story yesterday and found myself struggling. It's a new feeling. I've never been one of those people who believed in "writer's block". Have always maintained it's just laziness and can be remedied by discipline. But I've never felt at a loss for tales before and now I'm wondering... So. My plan is to come back here. Here where it all started with an exercise in discipline using this blog. I'm going back to daily blogging to fight off this ennui. And I'm going to try to pick up reviewing again on Zoetrope. So there.


Yesterday and the day before were the sort of glorious spring days in the mountains that make one glad one lives here. Visually, it's an orgy of brightness, color and contrast. Out in the deep woods, you can see the white blossoms of the serviceberry trees dotting the mountains. Rarely do you see them on the verges of the roads as they used to grow here. But if you mark the location of those white blossoms and return in mid to late summer, you'll find the dark, sweet fruit. If the birds don't get them first, that is.

The other tree that is so lovely to look right now are the Bradford pear trees. They've planted those fruitless pears as landscaping--managing to breed out the quality of the tree that makes them yellow-jacket traps later in the season. No fallen fruit to clean up. It seems counter-intuitive to me--to make a fruit tree that has no fruit. That is only good for it's visual appeal. But we do that with people all the time, don't we? Ignore the hidden, intrinsic values in favor for that which is pleasing to the eye. We are odd creatures.

But they haven't been able to rid those pears of their stench. In fact, I think these pretty pear trees are even stinkier than their fruited cousins. There's this dramatic stand of pear trees just on the other side of the dump past the bridge where they dump the stocker trout. Cor! What a pong! Absolutely stunning, but stinks of rotting meat. It would be too much to ask for them to smell of hyacinths or peonies.

At least the pears are partly honest. Not their fault for being barren. Peonies are the true liars. Lovely and sweet smelling, but harboring the troubled darkness of nightshades.