Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My Indiana Jones




This is my current favorite photo of RH.

He had just planted four new trees

and sat down to enjoy a cold beer.

It makes me think of an Indiana Jones

who should be retired, but never will.

When he gets started on a project he just doesn't stop,

even though he should.

He still hops down from the bed of his 

Ford F-150 Lariat,

though he's limping from that very thing today.

He volunteered to assemble two lattice pie crusts

on Father's Day for my chicken pies,

with all the confidence of a chef,

which he's definitely not.

He's fearless, even when I think he shouldn't be.

He thinks our four children are perfect,

and he's right about that.

Happy late Father's Day, RH, my Indiana Jones.

I love you, but please stop leaping

 from the lion's head to prove your worth.



Thursday, June 14, 2018

I'm a simple woman, but....



but...a bathroom very similar to this one once woke me up to the fact that rich people were different from us, us being my family back in the late 1950s. 

I know, F. Scott Fitzgerald said it a lot better.

Only one more picture comes with this post but there is a story I want to put down for posterity because my three sisters were younger than me and I'm not sure how much they remember about that magical day.

When vacationing in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, our family was invited to a cookout at the house of a man Daddy bought apples from for all the middle Tennessee Kroger stores.

Col. B and his wife and teenage daughter (my age) lived in a very large house in a remote area near the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, near the French Broad and Pigeon Rivers. 

Our house tour through the mansion could have been so intimidating except for the genuine hospitality Col. and Mrs. B extended all of us. 

I hope we made Daddy and Mama proud of our behavior but I suspect that I walked through the house with my mouth wide open in astonishment. I remember the house as being a brick Southern Colonial but it was the interior that wowed me.

We entered the foyer walking across a rug that Daddy had already told us cost more than our house. And we weren't even asked to take off our shoes.

I don't remember the living room, maybe we weren't invited in there, but the family room had a feature that even I could see Col. B was proud of. He told us that when he bought the house, a large bar took up one whole side of the room. His kids wanted him to put in a drugstore soda fountain but instead he had a family altar built for their family devotions.

Then we went upstairs to see some of the bedrooms and I don't remember a single detail because I think that the teenage daughter's en suite bathroom wiped out any lesser details.

It was a pink marble bathroom. Not pink marble floor, pink marble bathroom, I mean from head to toe. All her very own. For ages afterwards I wished I had asked this girl who was my own age some questions--like, "Do you have any idea how lucky you are?" 

But I didn't say a word, just listened to Mama talking to Mrs. B about the details, mortified because she told Mrs. B that I had a bathroom to myself too. And I did, it had a toilet and sink and window and it was pink. And you could have fit the whole room into the B's daughter's pink marble bathtub, easily.

But we still haven't come to the one item that impressed me more than anything, although I admit I was a little bit amazed that the large kitchen had a real water fountain in it near the service door. That seemed like true luxury to me.

I wish so much that I had paid more attention to the whole kitchen but we were on our way outside to the pool, where we'd been invited to swim and eat supper. 

Yes, the large pool impressed me and the gorgeous terrace around it and the pool house where we changed into our swimsuits. And the outdoor kitchen (the first I'd ever seen if you didn't count my father's outdoor grill) where Col. B put hamburgers on to grill after we had all had our fill of swimming. 

We lined up for our burgers, assembling them from all the condiments laid out for our choosing. And then came the luxury item that impressed me more than anything I'd yet seen. Mrs. B took the finished hamburger off my plate and put it inside a machine, lowered the lid, opened it to a whoosh and hot steam came out.

This made the burger taste like an honest-to-God drugstore hamburger, something I've always been very fond of. 

Here's what it looked like, only rounder, more old-fashioned, just like the 1950s were. 




Can you believe the beauty above is on sale for almost $1300?

I'm a simple woman. I don't need a pink marble bathroom.

And I definitely don't need a huge house to keep clean,

A pool would be nice, if I didn't have to maintain it, but what I really want is a bun steamer to make my hamburgers taste like the best drugstore hamburger ever.

Now that would be my dream house!







Monday, June 11, 2018

"Scallop-Shell of Quiet"



"Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope's true gage,
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage."
Sir Walter Raleigh


I read this in Agnes Sligh Turnbull's journal, Dear Me.

She wrote: "Was ever more beautiful writing in the world?

                               The staff of faith!

                                The scrip of joy!

                   But most of all, my scallop-shell of quiet.

                    I feast on this."


And I do, too.

Friday, June 8, 2018

I feel like a farmer.



I know, it's only jalapeños.




One big jalapeño plant and a few pots of herbs.





Not only that, RH is the one who plants them, totes the heavy pots around, and waters them.




But when I go out and clip them,
          bring them in and wash them...





and then mince them...




I feel like a farmer.

I can only imagine the pride I'd feel if I actually grew fields of them. I would if I could because I use them for almost every meal. I'm also excited about the other three pots of peppers I planted. Well, I did choose them and sit the little plants in the pots I wanted RH to plant them in.

One other thing I wish I could grow is baby bok choy. It's so expensive and I dearly love it.




One of the best tips I have for almost any soup is adding chopped baby bok choy only five minutes before serving it.





And have a bowl of chopped scallions, jalapeños and minced herbs ready to garnish each bowl of soup when served.

That's a bowl of soup so good it makes me feel like a chef.





Then if I take time to set a pretty table I feel like...like what?





I don't know, I'm too tired to think straight.

It's hard work being a farmer and a chef and one of those women we know by their first names.



Besides, I'm hungry.

And it all started with jalapeños.





Thursday, June 7, 2018

Thirty Short Days



Seven days of June 2018? Where have they gone?

Gladys Taber says it best:

"I expect we should not like a world of nothing but June... But it would take a long time. Thirty days is a very small amount for June."



I always think of Gladys when greeting lovely gentle June mornings, or when walking outside in my own garden in the June dusk. She loved June days and so do I.


And there is the fact that more brides and grooms choose June for their wedding day than any other month. At least I guess that's true. I'm not going to waste precious June moments googling that fact. 




I didn't always treasure June days though.

In Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge, which is the book of letters between Gladys and her friend Barbara Webster (an author herself and wife of Gladys's illustrator), Barbara says that "It takes a store of years to realize how good a day in June can be."



I think she's probably right, although I have hopes that there are some 20-somethings who appreciate a June morning as much as I do, with my "store of years."

Just like Gladys, sometimes the beauty around me seems almost more than one soul can bear without crying or laughing or dancing with abandon. 



Birds are a big part of my June joy. I think I love birds more now than ever before, their song, their flight, the sand baths they take with such gusto, their courting antics, everything really. Their pure enjoyment in just being a bird.

That's what I wish for during the next 23 days of June, for me and for anyone reading this. 



To live with gusto every single day of June, even if it's just a normal day in a comfortable rut--my very favorite kind of day of all.

I'm going to go unload the dishwasher now, with gusto, as I watch what's going on outside my kitchen window in the wonderful world of birds...and two dachshunds chasing that pesky chipmunk.



I must chirp out a thank you to my photographer here, to RH, who has taught me to love the birds over five decades of marriage because he loves them.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Rain Drenched Geraniums



"I think most people run after things not worth having:

a man can be richest who chooses what others leave."

David Grayson

Rain drenched geraniums that are never going to look the same. I've always clipped them off and tossed them in the trash because they're never going to open fully.

Not like the blooms on the pot of pink geraniums that cheered me up at my kitchen sink all winter.




I find it kind of wonderful how one small pink geranium plant, rescued from November frost, brought so much cheer. There were only two weeks when it didn't bloom and I watched for new buds with anticipation.




While all was dismal outside, and in my heart, I didn't have to buy flowers at Publix for some cheer.




Even the leaves were pretty, sparkling in a certain light.




But these rain drenched geranium blooms wouldn't have ended up in a vase if I hadn't seen a post on Facebook of a designer who clipped dying flowers and twigs from his garden to bring inside. And he left them there a long time, seeing beauty where others don't.

So there I was one morning last week after days of rain when the pink geranium basket outside my kitchen window no longer looked as beautiful as it does in this picture.




Remembering the designer on FB--wish I could remember his name--I clipped them off but brought them inside, a vase for the bathroom, in top picture, and one for the living room with spent stalks of blue salvia that I clipped too.




Leaving me to wonder what else I normally toss away without thought? How much beauty do I miss even when it's in plain sight? 




Saturday, June 2, 2018

Nathalie Dupree's Tomato Aspic



I can't believe that I never ate tomato aspic as a child growing up in the South. My mother never made it and I don't remember my aunts ever making it although I was such a picky eater back then that I might have seen it at family dinners on the farm and passed it up.

Those were the days I would eat canned corn but never fresh. What sacrilege was that? No corn on the cob, salted and dripping with butter? Not even Mama's fried corn, otherwise known as creamed corn outside the South? 

And no savory Southern Jelly known as Tomato Aspic until the lovely Nathalie Dupree introduced me to it in her cookbook, Southern Memories. 



"A word on aspics.
They are meant to cool and refresh
and slide down one's throat...
We love them and they have never gone
out of style."
Nathalie Dupree




I scribbled notes and additions in the margins of this book that is one of my favorite cookbooks until it was barely readable. So now I keep a typewritten copy in it to pull out.

Nathalie Dupree's Tomato Aspic
plus my changes:

1. Soak 4 envelopes of plain gelatin in 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Heat a large bottle of V-8 juice in pot and bring to simmer. Add seasonings: 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons horseradish, 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar.

3. Stir in lemon juice/gelatin mixture until dissolved. [I plop it whole into the hot juice mixture and keep stirring. Don't try to mash or separate the gel blob into pieces or it won't dissolve. If there are any little pieces of gel still in the mixture, just dip them out.

4. Pour into an oiled copper mold or into a large Pyrex casserole dish and chill till set. Serve with dressing.


Dressing: 

Mix 2 cups mayonnaise with juice of 2 lemons, or less if you prefer, and stir till smooth. Stir in a tablespoon of good olive oil. Stir in 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil and fresh ground black pepper. [RH eats tomato aspic just for the dressing.]



I always think of our daughter Christy when I make tomato aspic and wish I could air mail her some to Florida. And I always send some to her big brother who loves it too.

This recipe is for you, Gurn, when Mom's not here to make it someday. Zack and Defee, I know you two would rather have your front teeth pulled than eat aspic.

You don't know what you're missing!