Archive for the 'Farm Market Foodapalooza!' category

Competitive Farm Marketing

You cannot sleep in on Saturday and expect the black raspberries to sit around waiting for you to show up at the farmer's market. You just can't. They will have up and left you forlorn and bereft, as they jump quickly, even frantically, into the first reusable cloth bag or colorful wicker basket that strolls by.

The natural habitat of berries at a farmer's market is close to the pay station. It's no good standing around waiting politely for the line to shuffle along the table to the berries. Say "excuse me" if you must, but slip in between and grab some of those jumpy berries NOW, and return to the end of the line, holding on tightly. You will be ever so glad you did once you reach the pay station and survey the scorched landscape that was once a lush berry patch. Remain vigilant until you have paid for the berries and secured them in your reusable cloth bag/colorful wicker basket. Because when you set them down on the table to retrieve your wallet, so as to make an offering to the berry gods, 99% of the time the hand of the person behind you will instantly hover over your berries while they ask, in foolish hope and lust combined: "Are these yours?" Whatever you are in engaged in at the moment, stop and lay a hand possessively somewhere on the berries with a firm "Yes!" that brooks no sharing.

Secure the berries carefully in your vehicle, in a cooler if you can't park in the shade. Then, and only then, return to the market to shop for the more abundant comestibles, the zucchinis and cucumbers, the cabbages and carrots, the peppers and potatoes. These will make the bulk of your meals in the coming week but the berries will make your bliss.

In your childhood you watched cartoons on Saturday morning and then tramped the woods with your friends, collecting the berries in a bucket, eating as you went, returning home with stained hands and a pailful that your mother turned into something delicious. You only had to compete with the birds, and there was enough for everyone anyway. But you washed your hands, and grew up, and went away to college, and then to grad school, and then all over the place, and now you live a cosmopolitan life in a city that offers so much more than you ever could have dreamed of in your little home town. You can have anything you want, really. You can even have your berries and eat them, too.

6 responses so far

No Modesty Left At All

People keep saying the dead-tree format is over and done with but you can still learn so much from reading the newspaper.  Take for example this (for once) sensible editorial I chanced upon yesterday in the radical left-leaning Philadelphia Inquirer.  If you are "poor", ask yourself:  WWJD?  Be prepared to shape up in a hurry because He'd tell you something like this:

Our Lord Jesus: Are you a tween working 60 hours a week sticking things on pots while rats gnaw at you, just so you can get your dad out of debtor's prison?  No?  What you are is lounging about in your air-conditioned paradise with your cable tv, maybe even going to the public library and using the computer to get on the Internet there, and you're whinging away because you're "hungry".  If you're so hungry, why are you so fat?  Riddle me that one, Batman!  Your school (though I wouldn't let my kids go there) is free (for now, till we institute the voucher system) and your government pays for "much" of the tab of state and community colleges (if by "much" we include "ever decreasing amounts").  Why are you so dumb?  You can be as "poor" as you want and we won't even put you in debtor's prison!


You see, being poor used to be about really suffering in a hideous manner unto death. If the impoverished people are fat, have cars, and aren't in jail, the system is working pretty good for them.  But give the "poor" a little and they still aren't satisfied.  It's not enough to be a wage slave in a rat-free environment.**  They want equal opportunities, too!  But the whole point of success is to give your children unusually good opportunities. But no, the "poor" want to make it about the size of the gap, claiming that if the rich get richer, the poor should too.  That's just crazy talk!

Myself, I say it's time we solved this "poverty" problem, such as it is, once and for all.  Modesty will not serve; let us be bold in our proposals.  What few poor we do have should be fed an all organic, no hormones or antibiotics diet for three months to cleanse their systems, then humanely slaughtered on-site in old style, non-industrial abattoirs. We should not limit ourselves to just the more obvious, meatier cuts but strive for a whole human, nose to foot approach.  Many parts of the poor will pair well with a good pinot noir, and there is nothing like poor heart - tender, amazing, not funky like liver, and poor trotters make great tacos.  Even if it weren't respectful to the poor to practice nose-to-foot eating, the ecological benefits alone make it a wise choice for the environmentally conscious eater -- feeding multiple mouths with one whole animal and all its edible parts is much more efficient and less tolling on our environment than processing multiple animals to feed only a few mouths, which is what we do when limiting ourselves to eating only a single part.  You know, like chicken nuggets.  Which I hear, make the "poor" so fat, but also our wallets, so what are you going to do.


**Well, I did hear today about a transport authority worker stuck in a booth all day who has to dodge rats running around his feet so, technically, I guess we haven't quite achieved "wage slave in a rat-free environment" yet.  So close!

10 responses so far

A Farmer's Laments

Aug 31 2011 Published by under Farm Market Foodapalooza!, Gardening For Life

Tomato season, no matter how long it lasts, always seems painfully short to me.  Real tomatoes, with all their juicy flavorful delight, are an incomparable treat.  I've been making sauce, tomato juice, a fancy tomato-and-melon soup, a simple and amazingly good tomato-and-green bean dish, tomato sandwiches, BLTs, and of course, just plain old sliced tomatoes with a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic, and maybe some mozzarella and fresh basil.  Tomorrow I'm going to concoct a roasted heirloom tomato Bloody Mary mix for a friend of mine.  I know the tomatoes will be gone soon and so I eat as many as I can now.

I eat through the seasons courtesy of the wonderful farmers who come each week to the markets I frequent.  I eat what they are growing and have to sell; the Z-table features whatever they've got.  Today one of my favorite farmers asked me if I was a vegetarian.  No, I said, it's just that when there's so much good stuff available, we tend to eat more of it and go lighter on the meat.  (Side effect: cheaper, and better for our health. Mr. Z asked me once, "Am I becoming a vegetarian?"  Ha ha!  Veggie by stealth!)

At the market

Today at the farm market I got into a conversation about farming's travails with one of my favorite farmers. They did not suffer too badly from Irene.  Many young fruit trees were blown over by the wind and had to be restaked; the corn was blown down, but could still be harvested.  (He feels for the farmers with large corn crops that are normally harvested mechanically.  It will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to run a mechanical harvester across the blown down rows.  For sure they will only be able to go in one direction, not turn and go back and forth across the field like they normally do.  They'll have to make one pass, then turn and go all the way back up the field and start over.) Peaches took a beating, and the cantaloupes may be done, but the watermelons are harvested and will keep for awhile.  The blackberries came through unscathed.

Irene was not the main aggravation on his mind, however.  Stinkbugs were, and a new devastating invasive pest, the Asian spotted wing fruit fly.  Stinkbugs poke into ripening fruit and leave only a small blemish - the fruit could still be saleable - but the punctured skin leaks scent and juices that attract hornets and yellow jackets. The fruit fly, however, is a real nightmare.  Normally fruit flies are attracted to rotting fruit but these flies come to ripening fruit on trees and vines and lay their eggs, which mature and decimate the fruit.

The farmer said his raspberry crop was infested.  He had to pick off every fruit and discard them, spray thoroughly, and continue to discard ripening fruit for a week.  He said this new pest, combined with the stinkbugs, is making him rethink the whole idea of organic farming.  His family has tried to do organic farming, partly because they believe in it for the good of the land and partly because customers want it, but he is sickened by seeing the literal fruits of his labor ruined just before time to go to market. There was anger in his voice as he spoke about this, and about people who want to buy fruits and vegetables shipped from China because they are cheap, or because it's something interesting.  Every time you bring a fruit or vegetable in this country from China, he said, you are taking the chance to bring in another pest, and you are hurting me, and you are hurting agriculture in this country.  I wouldn't eat anything from China, he said.

He also talked about GM corn.  Worms get in to his corn, of course, and they do light spraying to control the worms, even though some of the "organic only" crowd fusses about this and hesitates to purchase oh noes! the lightly sprayed wormless corn.  He looked into a type of GM corn that is resistant to worms, but ended up deciding against growing it for three reasons.  (1) Lots of his customers don't want to eat GM crops. (2) They make you sign all kinds of paperwork to get the seed and grow the corn, and you are not allowed to save seed.  You have to buy it again each year, and it's just too expensive.  (3) It simply doesn't taste as good;  "Who wants to eat cardboard?"  He's not opposed to GMOs on principle, but is unwilling to compromise on flavor, and dislikes losing the autonomy of being able to save his own seed.  On this latter point: he talked about the issue of some GM soybeans that are designed with self-terminating seeds - they cannot reproduce.  He thinks this is madness, and is worried that making seed sterile is a trait that might spread into the wild population.  All in all, he doesn't see GMOs as providing any value for him at this time.  One of the main points of his operation is to provide the markets with locally grown food with a taste far superior to that in the supermarkets, which helps justify the somewhat higher price that allows him to make a living and keep going.  GMOs that resist pests but have no flavor are of no real help.

Time and again I am staggered to realize how hard the farmers work, constantly, day in and day out, to bring their produce to the markets.  The food they grow is wonderful.  It takes more time (and the money, and the utensils)  to prepare and cook fresh produce than, say, ordering take-out, or heating up a tv dinner in the microwave.  Everything in our lives is stacked against us devoting that time to food prep.  We are pushed toward the baguette dispenser and away from the bakery, but we owe it to ourselves and to the farmers, and to the kind of life we would like the children of today to have when they grow up, to resist that push as much as possible.  In some parts of Philadelphia, there are young kids who have never seen fresh vegetables and cannot identify them by sight. A world in which young children do not know what a tomato looks like, let alone how good a true fresh tomato tastes, is one we should feel shame to inhabit.



4 responses so far

Puree, Then Strain

I am a fan of farmer's markets, as most Zuskateers know, and I am grateful that I am able to enjoy their bounty.  As I have turned our diet to focus more and more on what I can bring home from the farm market, I've tried to get a bit more creative with the veggies and fruits.  This requires a few things beyond the resources to purchase said veggies and fruits. First, you need time - time to study out different recipes and decide which ones you want to attempt and how to go about them, time to undertake the various recipes, and possibly learn some new cooking skills along the way.

Second, you will need a good source of recipes.  If you have access to the internet (which, if you are reading this, I assume you do) you can always Google for a new idea, but I like having a book in front of me in the kitchen to page through for ideas. And my favorite veggie cookbook is Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  It has tons of great recipes, but also it teaches you about veggies and fruits, how to choose and store them, and it teaches you techniques for preparing them, as well as how to make various sauces and dressings that will be good accompaniments.  It is not cheap, so if you can get it used, do so.  The only thing I do not like about this book is that sometimes I will get excited about a recipe on page x, only to discover that it needs a sauce on page y, which is based on some other sauce on page z, and then I give up, because it's too complicated.  Or, I just fudge it.  So far I have managed to live without making my own garlic aoli from scratch.

But every once in awhile I do get the notion to make some complicated thing just for the hell of it.  Well, not just for the hell of it.  Sometimes I find spending three hours in the kitchen making some complicated concoction very therapeutic - it helps me forget all the elder care stuff, the pile of paperwork on the desk upstairs that needs my attention, the phone calls I need to make on behalf of my loved ones (or to yell at my insurance company).  Gardening is maybe the only activity more mentally helpful than pureeing the hell out of a bowl of something.

So what have I been making?  Fruit has been in abundance, so I've been messing with that.  First up, Cantaloupe Soup.  Take your melon, chop up the flesh.  You'll get about 6 cups, but who's counting.  Take 1.5 cups of orange juice, and if you're a purist, you could fresh squeeze your own, but I grabbed the carton from the fridge.  1/4 cup lemon juice, and here I did go the fresh squeezed route because, oh, fresh lemon juice, so nice!  2 T. honey - something nice and fruity, or whateverthehell is on your shelf.  Just a little cinnamon, don't go overboard.  The recipe said 1/4 tsp but they are insane, it was way too much.  At little cinnamon goes a long way. It also called for 1/4 tsp salt and here I agreed with them - it does need that bit of salt.  Mix all this mess in a big bowl and get out your immersion blender if you have one, which I hope you are lucky enough to have one, because nothing gets the stress out like sticking an immersion blender into a mess like this, pressing the button and going whirrrrrrrr!  The final mess should be sweet and a little tart.  Chill, and when you serve, if you are an ultra fancy soul you can garnish with a little chopped mint but I didn't have any so we ate ours plain and it was just fab.

Next, the lemonades. We start with Blueberry Lemonade. Two cups H2O, 3/4 c. sugar, bring to boil.  Add peel of one lemon in strips, 2 c. blueberries: boil 5 min.  Strain through a fine sieve. Be careful, hot blueberry stuff will splash everywhere and stain. Go slow!  Add juice of 4 lemons.  FOUR!  Do not skimp.  Sometimes I strain a second time to make it ultra smooth, into whatever pitcher I am going to keep it in. Refrigerate.  Serve diluted 1:1 with club soda or H2O.  Imbibers may want to mix with a favorite spirit.  You can make this with frozen blueberries too.

Blueberry Lemonade

Watermelon Lemonade is just as good.  Puree about half of a medium-sized watermelon.  Not one of those really huge ones, just a decent sized one.  Here it is nice to use a blender if you have one.  It does the job and the seeds don't really get chopped up, so if you strain the puree into a bowl, they stay behind along with the flavorless pulp.  Add in the juice of 1 lemon, and 3 T of simple syrup (more or less, to your taste).  (Simple syrup is 1:1 water:sugar, which you will have to heat on the stove to get the sugar to dissolve, then cool before adding to your melonade.  You may have extra, you can keep it in the fridge for awhile, or put some in your hummingbird feeder.)  Mix it all up, cool, serve.  Some say dilute with water but I never do, I drink it straight. Delish, and very refreshing on a hot day.

Neither of those recipes takes terribly long to make - the worst part is cutting up the melon, and/or juicing the lemons, but if you have a good tool it's not too bad.  Don't get anything fancy, get an old-fashioned one that sits over a bowl with the cone you stick the cut lemon half over and push down on.  You know what I mean.  It catches the seeds and lets the juice run through.  Pour the juice through the strainer if you don't like the lemonade pulp, or not.

And now, my three-hour crazy recipe.  It is from The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook.  If you follow that link and look at the middle picture on the bottom row, you will see what I was trying to make.  This is how it came out.

Cold Golden Tomato Soup With Melon And Basil Essence

So, mine isn't as beautifully photographed and I left off the fried basil leaves because at the end of the recipe I was all "you want me to do what now?  In a half inch of olive oil? For six basil leaves?  I don't effing think so."   But I have to tell you, it tasted damn good.

Cold Golden Tomato Soup With Melon and Basil Essence

I don't know what the hell a Sharlyn Melon is so I just used the cantaloupe I had lying around.  That's why it's just "with Melon".

First, the ginger syrup.  1/4 c. water, 1/4 c. H2O, 1-inch piece fresh ginger peeled and grated.  Shit.  Drive to grocery store and buy ginger.  Return home, pour self glass of blueberry lemonade, grate ginger.  Mix H2O, water, ginger, bring to boil, boil about a  minute, sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and pour it into a little bowl so it will cool quicker.  (One pot, one bowl, measuring cup, chopping board and knife dirtied.)

Cut up three big ass "golden" tomatoes (that's yellowy-orange to you and me).  The tomatoes were each about the size of a softball.  Core them, cut out bad spots - do this over a bowl so you don't lose any juices.  Get out your immersion blender and puree that mess!  Yippee!  Then strain through fine sieve.  (Bowl, knife, sieve dirtied.  You will have to throw out pulp and rinse the sieve several times to get all that tomato-y goodness strained.)  Now strain the ginger syrup into the tomato yum.  Stir and refrigerate.

Cut open melon.  Scoop out seeds.  If you have a nice ripe melon, juice will puddle in the cavity.  You need a bowl to put this juice into.  You don't have a melon baller, so use a spoon to scoop out sort-of roundish-y cone-balls of melon, somewhere between twelve and twenty, depending upon how many people you are willing to share this with.  Do this over the bowl, catching the juices.  Cut up the rest of the melon and put it in a container to eat later.  Then drain whatever juices have accumulated, into your bowl with your cone-balls. (Cutting board, knife, spoon, bowl dirtied.)

Oh shit, you did not make basil essence yet.  Pack a half cup full of basil leaves.  Thank the Lord you have chives in the freezer because you do not want to wash and chop 1/4 cup's worth.  Mix these two herbs in your blender, or your immersion blender mixing cup, along with 1/4 c. olive oil and, crap, 1 T lemon juice, okay, there's half a lemon in the fridge, that should yield enough.  Puree the shit out of this.  Takes awhile.  Now what?  Now...strain through a fine mesh sieve?  Are you fucking kidding me? Okay, with great patience, you collect enough frigging basil essence to use in two bowls of this stuff, and since there are only two of you, good enough. Hey, the rest of that stuff would be awfully good on pasta to go with this soup, since I didn't plan anything else for dinner... (Measuring cups, immersion blender, immersion blender cup, lemon juicer, sieve, cup dirtied.)

Okay, pour cantaloupe juice into bottom of two bowls.  Arrange cone-balls attractively in bowl.  Ladle tomato-ginger goodness  over top.  Drizzle effing basil essence around. Those fried basil leaves can suck my cantaloupe cone-balls.  Serve.  Oh. My. God.  It is really, really, really good.

10 responses so far

Hunger Relief vs. Poverty Relief: I Vote For More of Both

Last Saturday I came home from the farmer's market, made mega-veggie eggs for me and Mr. Z, and blogged about it.  Zuskateer Kea commented

All very well if you can afford it.

And she's right.  I am extremely fortunate both to be able to afford nutritious fresh produce, and to have good sources of it readily available to me. In parts of Philadelphia with high poverty rates, there are no grocery stores at all, and corner bodega shops may carry little or no fresh produce.  A recent series of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer about efforts to support community gardens and teach young children about gardening and good eating habits revealed that many young kids in the city don't even know what fresh fruits and vegetables look like, and can't identify them by name when they are shown them.  This is an abominable situation.  Our young children, and the parents struggling to raise them, deserve better. Continue Reading »

26 responses so far

It's Mega-Veggie Egg Time Again!

Jul 23 2011 Published by under (if) Elder (why) Care, Farm Market Foodapalooza!

This morning at the farmer's market, one of my favorite farmers had lovely long and thin purple Japanese eggplant available for the first time this week.  I scooped up several of them with pleasure, and brought them home to feature in a lunch of Mega-Veggie Eggs for me and Mr. Z.  Yay!  Of course, Mega-Veggie Eggs means the end of summer is within sight, hard as that is to believe on this hottest day of the year.  I thanked every farmer and vendor I purchased something from, for coming to the market in the heat.

I was glad I had included instructions for Mega-Veggie Eggs in that blog post last year, because I had sort of forgotten just what all I'd thrown in them and how I made them.  Not that it is a precise recipe - MVE is one of those things that's highly adaptable to what you have on hand.  Though I have to say, the little eggplants and a particular type of heirloom Roma tomato (from the same farmer) are a delicious combo.  You can see the tomatoes in the second photo in this post.

Looking up the description of MVE led me to read what I had written of sharing Duda's corn-on-the-cob with Z-mom last summer.  This most recent time I was visiting her, we got to have a meal at her house that featured Duda's corn, and she was sooooo happy!  (N.B.: this is not the large company Duda's Fresh Farm Foods, but the small farm listed at the end of this article.) There's no way of knowing if she and I will get to do this again this summer, so I'm glad we got to do it at least once.  As always, I wish I could pack up some of the wonderful things I brought home from the market and take them right over for her to enjoy.

I bought a flat of blueberries at one farm stand, and people kept asking me "what are you going to do with all those blueberries?" as if I must be crazy for buying so many.  But they seem like barely enough to me.  This may be the last week for blueberries.  Some we will eat now: in yogurt; by the handful; with sliced peaches.  Some we will give to Mr. Z's parents for their breakfast cereal.  Some we will freeze for smoothies and blueberry pancakes in the fall and winter.  I look at the glut of blueberries and I feel rich, and I also feel that more would be good, too.  Some peaches, a cantaloupe, and a few tomatoes will also go to the in-laws, and maybe a bean salad if I get off this computer and go down to the kitchen.

Good food to eat, loved ones to share it with, an exaltation of blueberries - these are riches indeed.

6 responses so far

A Nutritious Meal From Locally Sourced Whole Foods

Yesterday I spoke of my extreme personal makeover vows that included getting off the internet more and cooking nutritious meals from locally sourced whole foods every night!!!!!  So of course I'm here again today to report to you how I'm doing.  Ha ha ha ha!

Well, over the past few weeks I have been doing a bit less of the compulsive social network-and-email checking, a bit more cooking, and a bit more reading.  I may even make it to my book club tonight, albeit without having finished this month's selection, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I had a copy of that lurking around unread for decades but when I went to retrieve it, it was gone.  Apparently, it vanished in the last Great Book Purge a year or two ago.  Never again.  Never, never again will I take any one of my books to a used book store.  I don't care how stupid or useless looking the book seems to be, I don't care how long it has sat there unread and unbrowsed, I don't care how sure I am that I will never, ever, ever open its covers, how certain I am that I need to weed the rows to make room for fancy new blooms that caught my eye at the book nursery.  This is the skajillionth time I have wanted a book that I was sure I had on my shelves, only to discover that I had coldheartedly consigned it to the used bookstore bin. Sir Gawain may have met with the ax last time around because he was a dim reminder of my first marriage, but that's no excuse.  From now on every book stays. Even if a stack of them falls over and crushes me.

I may have made this extreme vow in the past.

Anyway, dinner last night.  We had the last of the pork and sauerkraut from new year's day.  The pork was from Whole Foods - whole foods! - and they said it came from a local producer.  I let the crock pot cook it all day long.  Chopped up an apple, threw it on top of the pork.  Dumped in a little caraway seed.  Dumped in the sauerkraut, sprinkled on some brown sugar, drizzled on some melted butter, put 'er on low, and went away for 7 hours.  Mmm.  Made mashed potatoes, but we didn't have any left last night, so I made this carrot pie to go with it.

Cousin Eunice's Grated Carrot Pie

I'm not sure whose cousin Eunice is.  The recipe is from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the pie was delicious.  I thought it would be more savory, but it came out a little more dessert-y than I expected.  Still damn good.  And very, very easy to make.

One 9-inch single pie crust rolled out, fitted into a pie plate, edge trimmed and crimped (I used a frozen pre-made crust)

1 1/4 cups peeled and grated carrot (thank you, Landisdale Farms carrots!)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
3 large eggs, well beaten
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the pie crust and set aside.  (I used frozen and used it directly out of the freezer, thawed only a few minutes.)

2. In a large bowl, combine the carrots, sugar, and milk. Add the eggs, and mix thoroughly.  Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and lemon extract and blend well.  Pour the filling into the pie crust, place in the oven, and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

3. Let cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

(From Sweety Pies by Patty Pinner, Taunton, 2007)

Okay, Cousin Eunice was smoking something if she thought that pie was going to be done in 30-35 minutes.  In my convection oven it took a good 45 minutes.  It is good to let it sit for awhile, but no way could we wait until it was completely cool.  Plus, it tasted awesome still warm.  Some juices will run out if you cut it warm, though, so let the pie sit on a tilt and let the juices accumulate in the missing slice spot, so the remaining crust doesn't get soggy.  It was full of carroty goodness and we told ourselves we were eating a vegetable, so why not have a second slice.

5 responses so far

Life, With More Pancakes

Now is the time when all good people make rash vows with a eye towards extreme personal makeovers.  I will go to the gym eight times a week, lose seventy-five pounds, cook a nutritious meal from locally sourced whole foods every night, and read Proust rather than follow the appalling antics of those housewives on Wisteria Lane!

Well, let's be realistic, shall we?  You've been watching Desperate Housewives all these years, and haven't been able to take your eyes off the train wreck yet. You're not going to stop now, no matter how stupid and offensive the storyline gets.  Really, Susan?  Holistic medicine instead of dialysis?  It was on the internet, though, so it must be a viable alternative.  If you don't get around to the Proust, at least read the TWOP commentary on DH: "Mary Alice starts off on this tangent about broccoli but ends up in this super weird, Monsters Are Due On Maple Street kind of Red Scare Paranoia thing that is, no doubt, the reason Republicans love this show so much. That and the Mexican jokes. "It's a question we all ask ourselves: Do I trust the folks who live next door? Can I count on the woman who lives down the block?"  That is not, Mary Alice, a question or set of questions that "we" all ask ourselves, with any frequency really at all. I understand that, as a murderess and kidnapper and wife of a lunatic and victim of blackmail and chopper-up of toy box-crammed corpses and associate of drug addicts you might think that this is healthy paranoia but it's really not. Not even with Paul Young's spicy self buying up all the property like we're on Park Place do those questions really count. This sort of thinking is how somebody like Bree ends up with guns."

Ah, internet. I love you, I love you not.  Connectivity to like minds, a blog to exercise the brain since chronic migraines pushed me out of the workforce, and Television Without Pity. All good. Online seduces, of course, precious sands of time dropping one by one down the hourglass - a quick login to Facebook here, a fast check of three email accounts there, just browse by that forum to see what's doing and post a comment or three, catch up on the blogs, a TWOP show summary, and call it a day. Literally.

Over the past couple of years, more and more of my life, and the interactions that have mattered to me, have moved online.  There's nothing special about me in that regard, but I've spent some time in the past month thinking about it, and whether or not I want it to continue that way.  Of course, here I am online to tell you about it.

Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

You Want This Pie - Under The Oak Cafe

Aug 21 2010 Published by under Come Set A Spell, Farm Market Foodapalooza!

Every Saturday I go to my regular farmer's market with more than enough happy anticipation about all the good stuff the farmers will have for me to turn into a week's worth of delicious meals.  When I first started going to this particular market, it had about three farm stalls, and yet I was content.  From them I was able to collect an abundance and variety of fresh produce; I learned about some vegetables I had never eaten before; and the farm market swiftly became part of my weekly routine, a part I am loathe to miss for any but the most urgent of circumstances.

Then came, bit by bit, the addition of luxurious extras.  Jams, pasta sauces, soaps and candles at this stand!  Fresh baked breads and pastries at that stand!  A potter started showing up now and then.  The ag extension folks began dropping by, and raffled off compost bins - I won one!  Yay!  A local entrepreneur, who makes and repairs jewelry and designs her own clothing sets up a stand regularly.  Story hour for the kids!  Musicians dropping by!  Coffee!  Pickles!

Now, it seems like our little farm market is the place to be on Saturday mornings.  You'd best get there bright and early to fight for the good produce and the best fruits before they sell out - one week I set aside a couple of pints of ground cherries with the farmer, went on around the stand to continue my shopping, and came back to find another customer begging the farmer to let her buy my ground cherries.  No way!

Well, this past spring, I thought I had died and gone to heaven when a new vendor appeared at our farm market. Under The Oak Cafe popped up to sell their quiche, scones, pies, and iced tea.

Continue Reading »

7 responses so far

Beyond Freezing Blueberries and Beans

Earlier this summer the blueberries were bountiful at one of my favorite stands at the Saturday farm market.  But I knew they wouldn't last.  So I splurged, bought a flat of the delicious berries, brought them home, and froze them in single layers on jelly roll trays in my freezer compartment.  Once they were nicely frozen I packed them away in ziplock baggies and labeled the bags.  Mr. Z enjoyed eating the frozen berries.  I had to remind him that we had plenty of fresh ones available for him to nosh on and the frozen were meant for our delectation when the fresh were but a dim memory.

Similarly,  on stopping by my favorite garden center, which now features a farmer's market on Wednesdays, I discovered a mountain of gorgeous fresh-picked yellow wax beans and lovely flat Italian pole beans.  I could not say no.  These beans came from Maple Acres Farm - four generations of farming!  The wonderful woman who talked me into my personal mountain of beans gave me advice on how to prepare them for freezing - sort, chop off the ends, cut into smaller pieces, wash, parboil for a minute or two, plunge into icy water to stop the cooking, dry thoroughly before freezing in freezer bags.  The bit of parboiling deactivates some chemical that otherwise would cause a bitter taste in the beans, and my freezer bags of two-person portions can be taken out and prepared as any store-bought frozen beans.

I was inordinately pleased with these, my baby steps into food preservation.  Yes, on a visit back to my home town, I chatted with mom's cousin and got from him the recipe for the bread-and-butter pickles he makes that I love so much, but I've never watched him make them, and I am daunted by the complexity of the process he described.  I look at each jar he gave me and marvel that it ever came into existence.  In my little corner of the intertoobs, I could just hear Sharon Astyk clucking her tongue at me:  "Oh Zuska.  What you really need to do is sign up for my course on food preservation and storage.  Seriously."

So I did.  Even though it is asynchronous, I am not sure how well I will be able to keep up, given the migraines and the elder care issues which have gotten a little more complicated recently.  But I am going to do my best.  I think it is too late this year for me to watch mom's cousin make pickles.  I hope the fates will allow me another chance.  In the meantime, I aim to learn what I can from Sharon.

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