Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Family Collection:

Life on the Farm and in the Country, Making a Home; the Ways of the World, a Woman's Role

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Selected articles written by Laura Ingalls Wilder for The Missouri Ruralist newspaper. The idea of this collection was to let us know what happened in the time between settling on Rocky Ridge Farm as a farm wife and producing beloved classics of children's fiction.  I can't say that the collection succeeded in its mission, but it did give us a glimpse of what she was really doing all those years. Farming is hard work, but living close to the earth is worth the work.

Some are instructive in a practical manner; some promote women's importance to the economy; all have moral overtones, but oh, so gentle is her prodding!  And in that elegant, nineteenth century prose!  (although they were written after the turn of the century)
Spring has come! The wild birds have been singing the glad tidings for several days, but the are such optimistic little souls that I always take their songs of spring with a grain of pessimism. The squirrels and chipmunks have been chattering to me, telling me the same news, but they are such cheerful busy-bodies tht I never believe quite all they say.
She continues with an exhortation to picnickers to clean up their litter, but you get the idea. She's working hard and enjoying her life. When you're doing what you want and living as you please, maybe you don't feel so great a need to write your life history. That came later, when she grew older.

One more quote:
I have a feeling that childhood has been robbed of a great deal of its joys by taking away its belief in wonderful, mystic things, in fairies and all their kin...  A young friend with whom I talked the other day said that life was so "much more interesting" to her since she "began to look below the surface of things and see what what beneath." There are deeps beyond deeps in the life of this wonderful world of ours. Let's help the children to see them....

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Recipe Reduction 141...140

Plantain, Avocado and Black Bean Bowl
from A Modern Way To Cook

I'm told that trendy, big-shot chefs tend to use a lot more acid on food than we ordinary people do.  But anyone who'd put an entire lime's juice on a two avocados is just plain sick, don't you think?  I'm certain she meant "add lime juice to taste", but that's not what the recipe said.  It was hideous.

Once I scraped the bitter avocado off the top, the rest of it--leeks, black beans, and caramelized plantains--tasted okay.  Barely okay.  It needed the avocado, but done correctly with just a drop or two of lime juice, a minced onion, and a few leaves of cilantro.

Also, this was the first of my timed recipes from A Modern Way to Cook.

According to her: 20-25 minutes.

I messed up little by cutting my leeks the week before, so my stopwatch didn't include the amount of time it would take to trim, wash, and slice the white parts of two leeks.  My guess is, for an experienced cook, 5 minutes, but for me, at least 10.  So...adding on that 10 minutes, here's my time:
    39 minutes and 51 seconds.

That's a 60% margin of error.

Chinese  Nine-Vegetable Hot and Sour Soup
Adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

It's certainly very healthy.  Actually the soup is nutritious; it's me whom it makes healthy.  It makes a huge pot of yummy soft vegetables; I'll be eating on it for two weeks.

But as a recipe, it's not a keeper.  Too much stuff going on in there. Cabbage and bok choy?  Carrots and sweet potatoes?  I like my simple recipes better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Love lost

To Darkness and to Death

In my review of #2 in the Rev. Claire Ferguson and Ross Van Alstyne Mysteries, I reported that I was in love with the series and wouldn't be able to discuss it critically. Here and now I announce:
I have fallen out of love.

I thought the whole point of a mystery, as opposed to a thriller or a plain old book, was the mystery. The puzzle; the discovery; the slow unraveling of clues, means and motives. As Dorothy Sayers once wrote, crime in the purely intellectual sense. In my idea of a mystery, the actual dirty deeds occur in the past or offstage; the plot concentrates on the detective and the detection process. There's not much mystery when you know exactly what happened.

So you can imagine my disappointment at having to suffer through chapter after chapter in the minds of the killer and his victims, feeling real-time the pain and suffering and stupid decisions they make. I know life is tough. I know good people do bad things, often for totally inadequate reasons. I know anger, pain, and frustration.

But I don't want to read about it. I don't mind experiencing peoples' emotion, but I don't want to be dragged through the mud with them.  Bleah!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Gardening in my roots

Today's episode is subtitled, Riding the rollercoaster of springtime weather.

Against all predictions, Friday was a repeat of last Friday.  The rain was supposed to pass through by noon and the temperatures start to plummet. But instead, at 4:45, when I was thinking about going home, I noticed it getting dark and windy outside. Looked at the radar--

Whoop!  A HUGE line of severe thunderstorms were bearing down on my house.  I headed out immediately.  All the way home, I watched the huge, dark clouds pressing in from the west and north. Tornadoes were on the move....

Then it split, skirted around my house to the north, and didn't drip a single drop on the garden.  The temperature did eventually plummet, but the first night it was still very windy, so no frost.  I thought I was home free.

The next night the wind stopped and the skies went clear and the thermometer stopped at just below 32.  I had turned on the sprinker that evening for a while, but I hadn't checked its coverage.  And yes, of course, frost.  At least four tomatoes and three peppers are damaged beyond recovery.   The rest made it--so far.

All is not grim and weary. I have first salad!

And a small harvest of bok choy. I felt like a murderer.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sticking to the formula; still works for me

Royal Flush
by Rhys Bowen

Nothing special to say--how about, another lively romp in the high society past?  Fun and forgettable, like a warm chocolate chip cookie. Who'd want to live life without chocolate chip cookies?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Deeply in love with this series

Out of the Deep I Cry
by Julia Spencer Fleming

She's trying an experiment here and it works. Barely. She's switching back and forth from THEN to NOW and letting us see the events of the past that led to the tangled problems of the present. With careful crafting and superb plotting, she succeeds--sometimes the THEN events are presented before the NOW effects that they explain; sometimes after; but always holding back just enough to keep the suspense moving.

I admire the way she includes tough topics in her stories but doesn't over-simplify them.  Vaccinations, autism, loss of livelihood, greed--is greed the right word here? No, not greed exactly, but I can't explain without giving away too much of the plot.  It's one thing to want things other people have, but it's a different thing to think you have a right to those things but feel that someone or something is preventing you from acquiring them.  It's a feeling of entitlement. Is a feeling of entitlement the root of all evil?

Another thing I love about her writing is the depth of the emotions she lets her characters express. An autistic child's mother's fierce protectiveness; an old woman's grief over long-ago events; a man's self-hatred that extends to all the people he is powerless to protect....

Friday, April 13, 2018

Recipe Reduction 145...142

White bean garlic stew
from fat-free vegan

Something wonderful happens to garlic and carrots when you cook them gently for a long time.  This stew called for whole cloves of garlic but after an hour simmer, they came out soft and gently flavored--loverly.  it should have been a perfect bowl of gorgeous vegetables--beans, carrots, onion and tomatoes--

But acid. Aka sour. Just a little. I think it was my tomatoes.  Not my tomatoes, mind you--if I could approach every recipe with a freezer full of home-grown tomatoes to work with, I'd consider myself a successful gardener. No, these were the discount brand of canned tomatoes at a big-box store.  Next time, I'm buying Hunts.

Red Beans And Rice
a taste of home

Funny thing about this recipe--I compared the ingredients to my standard recipe from a long ago cookbook by Talmadge, and they were almost identical.  Out of fifteen ingredients, only three differences.  Is this a plagiarism or simply a convergence?

I made some adjustments, like using less water to cook the beans and then not throwing it away with all its yummy flavor.  I put in more garlic and used a little smoked tabasco paste instead of the hot sauce it called for.  The reason for that last substitution was embarrassing--when I pulled out the three bottles of hot sauce from my cupboard, none of them looked or smelled fresh. There was Tabasco Sauce, Frank's Red Hot, and Louisiana, but they were all brown and smell tired. How long had those bottles been in there?

Years. At least.  It's not we don't use it, it's just that we don't use much of it. One bottle lasts a long time and we had three.

The Red Beans came out good. Not great, but as always, better than store-bought.


Chili con queso

Horrible and I can't even guess why. I already had a recipe for queso, so this failure isn't worth writing about.  Stupid of me to save it; stupider to try it.  It's gone.

Hot and sour cabbage
 from The Seventh Daughter by Cecilia Chiang

Good!  Nothing more than toasting a few dried chiles in oil, adding shredded, salted cabbage and wilting it, then tossing with some home made chile oil.  I'll make again.

But I can't help wondering if this was supposed to be a fermented dish...?  She tells you to keep the cabbage covered with the oil and store in the refrigerator, but wouldn't that make more sense if you were going to let it ferment for a while?  I suspect the original dish wasn't refrigerated at all.