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I was 20 minutes away from our summer rental, driving on a dark, hilly, remote road with my son, when the moose happened. We rounded a bend, and it materialized in the exact middle of the road. I stopped short, 5 feet away from the animal–I could now see it was a baby moose, no antlers but still taller than 6 feet–and was immediately rear-ended by the minivan behind me.
After the hubbub settled down, we headed home, unharmed but shaken, and set to unpacking the clothes, books, kitchen equipment and, especially, the huge harvest of garden vegetables I’d picked and packed on ice that afternoon. But the trunk had been jammed shut from the impact, and there was no retrieving them.
I spent the next day trying to liberate my food, but it was Sunday and no garages were open. Calls to dealers went unanswered. A locksmith scratched his head for an hour. The local firemen agreed the Jaws of Life were overkill. I brooded over my quarts of bouncing blueberries, my dewy basil, my baby haricots and first head of broccoli, the sugar-sweet Sungolds, my warty little cucumbers and crisp heads of romaine. I imagined them wilting and blackening in the midsummer eat, halfway to compost already.
But Monday morning the local service station came to the rescue. They had to drill a flap into the already badly damaged trunk lid to access the lock. The trunk sprang open and there was…everything. I nervously opened the coolers and found, to my unending relief, that my produce was still cool to the touch and quite intact. And, for the first time in 48 hours, I broke into a broad, hungry smile.
My son’s list of “No” foods isn’t as long as some, but it’s still longer than I wish it were: tomatoes, eggplant, avocado, most kinds of egg, and zucchini. But as of this week, we might be able to cross that last one off the list, thanks to Zucchini Slivers with Garlic, which you can find in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty. And just in time, because the zucchini’s just starting to riot in the garden.
Goodness knows I’ve made zucchini with garlic countless times. But when it comes to zucchini and kids, texture really matters. You can’t just slap it in a pan with some oil if you want to win over the under-12′s. This recipe using several techniques–hand-cut slivers, pre-salting, blazing-hot pan, high-smoking-point oil, finely minced garlic–to drive away the moisture that makes zucchini flabby when cooked. The garlic doesn’t even burn, if you’re quick about it.
I plant radishes promiscuously in my garden. I plant them with the lettuce because that puts my salad all in the same place. I plant them with chervil because someone said they’re good companion plants. I plant them around the squash to keep the beetles off (supposedly the bugs don’t like the smell). I plant some to grow big and set seed. In other words, when in doubt, radish.
The problem is, I sometimes lose track of my radishes. I have 16 beds, and it’s easy to see what’s growing in them in April–nothing. In July, it’s a different story. It’s a circus in there. And it’s no use looking in my garden database worksheet (yes, yes, I’m a nerd) because I don’t take my computer out to the garden.
These are some radishes I forgot about and found in a neat row in bed 10–bigger than golf balls, some of them. They’re French Breakfast radishes and they were probably just perfect 7 days ago. I cut them open after taking the picture and, surprisingly, about half of them are still good–not woody or spongy through the center as you might expect of an old radish.
It must have been seven or eight years ago that we planted the blueberry bushes, back when the garden was still just a passel of herbs and some flagstones. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we dug generous holes and fed the blueberries compost and, sometimes, coffee grounds.
Over the years, the blueberries would come and go–a peck, a pint, a quart. We lost many to birds and bears until we learned to cover them with netting. Meanwhile the garden grew, and the fence hopped over the blueberries, enclosing them.
The kids grew too, and played under the netting when the blueberries ripened, eating till they could eat no more. Violets seemed to thrive under the blueberries, and they kept the grass down, so every time I found some in the garden, I moved them beneath the bushes.
Yesterday, having returned from a few days away, I went out, banging the empty strainer against my knee, to see what there was. Half an hour, I was still there, picking with both hands.
My son and I gorged on blueberries, but we could not eat them all. Fortunately, it happens that my next assignment is…a baking book. I think I know where those blueberries will end up.
I brought two kitchen utensils from home to our place in Vermont: the immersion blender because I can’t live without it, and the popsicle maker, because I don’t want to.
I also brought a new book–Perfect Pops: The 50 Best Classic & Cool Treats–which turned out to be full of beguiling, unconventional popsicle formulae. The only problem is that now I am being called upon for a repeat performance.
This is the sort of thing can happen when a person who is generally accustomed to behaving properly among humans is left alone for a couple of hours.
The father and daughter were up in Vermont; the son was at a playdate. The materfamilias was alone in the house, grilling shellfish for an assignment. One moment there were 20 clams, nicely composed for the shot. The next, there I was, still squatting on the well cover, with buttery, clammy fingers. Your Honor, I have no idea what happened.