It started out well enough. I sent out a job application first thing. After that I put on some housecleaning music and danced around deep speed cleaning. I vacuumed, which may not seem like much to you readers, but if you knew how much I hate the noisy heavy machine...
Then the doorbell rang and it was my daughter Ash with my surrogate daughter Hillary (Ash's best friend) and Ash's new beau, Rob, a kid I used to work with at Shitty Markup. A kid I was particularly fond of, so this is good news.
But there went my day; before I could say linguini, dinner plans were being made and the rest of the day was consumed with the making of it.
Thai Chicken Stir Fry with Homemade Linguini, Asparagus and Broccoli
Fresh Fruit Salad with Mango, Orange and Pineapple
Green Salad (Ash insisted) with Romaine, Red Onion, English Cucumber, Avocado, Local Goat Cheese, and excellent quality EVOO and Red Wine Vinegar.
Dark Chocolate & Lime Pie - a Key Lime adadptation with Chocolate Cookie Shell, Lime Custard, Chocolate Ganache and Unsweetened Whipped Cream
Red Wine and Awake Dark Star Coffee
And a good time was had by all - except for maybe you :oP XXKHT
*Sorry there are no pics Recipes available on request.
Anyone who reads this regularly (and I'm pleased and honored that a few of you do) knows that I've been beating back the blue demons of late winter. A few of these past days have been more like Holly Golightly's "mean reds..."
There was nothing for it but to start another blog. For certain I'm crazy to begin one right now, considering I really do need to start looking for traditional employment (outside of the house! - sharp inhale) and I'm doing the NaBloPoMo 31 posts in 31 days challenge here at PYtB.
Who cares?! Bring it!
Besides, I love the garden. I've never been so happy in my life as in that tiny patch of ground. Could it be a prelude to my ultimate future actually in the ground? Who cares if it is. Gardening is as orgasmic as anything - instead of just your body gone euphoric, you're entire being does so.
If you're not a gardener, you probably think I'm exaggerating. Below is a short list of behavioral changes that happen to me in relation to the garden.
My eyes well up in garden supply stores
I arrange seed packets (aka veggie porn) in relevant piles and imagine then as my embryonic plants
I whirl like a Dervish just thinking about the first weeks of gardening to come
I obsessively lurk in gardening sites and blogs (ok, maybe not a behavioral change but certainly focused!)
I started my own gardening blog in the middle of 31 in 31
So here you go. If this isn't enough for ya, here's some more:
In TLoAG, I will attempt to journal one full season as a community gardener - from starting seeds, to planting, maintenance and all the way through food preservation. There will be plenty of recipes as well.
Isn't that just so dang cute? Isn't it? I know, I know.
Maybe I'm bi-polar like my mommy. Only at least in my case, I have an outlet for each of my two halves - Put Yourself to Bedlam for my Cynic with a Sense of Humor and The Life of A Garden for my Hopelessly Hopeful Romantic Do-Gooder Plant Junkie.
It doesn't get any better'n this... XXKHT
B'days on this auspicious day: Douglas "Don't forget to bring a towel" Adams (55); Bobby "I'm way too happy" McFerrin (57); Rupert "I want all the money and your collective will to live" Murdoch (76); Lawrence "Made Grandma Squirm" Welk (104)
For some time I've been considering communal living. I have tried so many living arrangements - roommates, marriages, single motherhood, living with my parents and grandparents (as a child of course), with boyfriends, with boyfriends and roommates....that's pretty much all the modern ways to live and none satisfactory in that each situation was an endeavor to just get by.
I mean, some had better perks than others. Dwelling in a gorgeous old world flat in one of the prettiest towns in Germany, as the dependent of a former boyfriend was choice. It was a damn shame he turned out to be a sociopath, because the situation was otherwise perfect.
Raising my family in a faltering marriage had many up moments between the searing emotional pain of spousal rejection - I mean kids are amazing, and there are few things more satisfying or amusing (or exhausting) than helping them grow.
I've had fun with roommates as well; but as rents rocket past actual wages and you have to pay as much or more now to live with the quirks and peccadilloes of another person (or persons) as you used to have to pay for the luxury of private space (or a mortgage!), just to keep a roof over your head - it goads a person to consider all the options.
Add to that the global demand that we all start consuming less - starting yesterday - OR ELSE! - and communal living, or living in a commune (gasp) starts to sound better and better.
So I went looking for them. At first they were surprisingly not easy to google. I forget the first phrases I tried but whatever they were, they failed to produce anything like a comprehensive list - more along the lines of scholarly essays and lectures on the pros and cons of communal living in the 60s and 70s no less.
Finally, after coming back to it a few times, and after asking around a lot - I entered the correct phrasing into the google bar and up popped www.ic.org. The "IC" stands for "Intentional Communities." and it's an amazing list of both existing communes and aspiring groups.
There's even a detailed search feature that lets the user pick and choose incredibly specific criteria, i.e. the percentage of children allowed, various financial structures and rules of government, in addition to settings (urban, rural, suburban?).
I spent several hours in the site looking at places (and prospective places) from as close as the town I'm living in to as far away as Portland, OR. After some trial and error with the search feature, I happened on D Acres in Dorchester, New Hampshire - only two hours from where I live now.
D Acres is a working organic farm that serves also as a teaching facility both to the town and visiting interns from around the globe. They teach not only sustainable farming techniques, but carpentry, organic vegetarian cooking and if I'm reading them correctly animal husbandry - or maybe that's a workshop - of which they have an ongoing variety for townies and tourists alike, including: yoga, writing, painting etc. I particularly appreciated the disclaimer (after my own heart) that "No one will be turned away from a workshop for inability to pay."
The main house is straw bale and there are several outbuildings that serve as summer quarters for the rotation of seasonal farm workers. They also have camping space, or cheap space in dorms or on floors around the property.
Additionally, they hold a series of regular gatherings meant to foster community and perhaps bring in a little money for the homestead. They continually strive for ways to keep the workers working at the farm rather than having to subsidize by commuting elsewhere. For instance, they sell vegetables and baked goods at two weekly all-season farmer's markets. I believe they also sell fine restored and new furniture.
So lucky me, they need a KM (Kitchen Manager). Of course I wrote them impulsively without thought to my current situations, including a lease until September, along with my partner and two cats. I fired off a sassy letter listing the many reasons I'd be perfect for the job while humbly confessing a few of my quirks to keep it real.
I have no idea how they'll react. It appears I come across like a jump in an icy swim-hole* to some people and it's always interesting to discover whether their perspective is from a hot day or a warm bed.
My partner was a bit shocked at first, but he's aware of my big dreams and he as much as agreed to stay on at the apartment while I scoped it out - I believe they have a 6 week trial period and I'm not sure I would accept without that so I don't have to torch my life with no return in case it turns out to be a wash.
Meanwhile, I've been day dreaming about caring for their brooding hens, and learning to make pottery, and honing my bread baking skills. I imagine a freezer-full of organic New England berries to make mid-winter blueberry-mollasses gingerbread and the morning's oatmeal in that huge gorgeous kitchen. Not to mention baking in their outdoor cob oven in summertime as I toss a mix of cultivated and wild greens in my extra-large maple-wood salad bowl. And I just know they have the root cellar of my dreams....
I'll admit, it seems a bit too good to be true and it's a giant step that I only hope is in the right direction. As usual I'm ready to jump in feet first before I've even heard back from them. It's just that if the reality is half as good as my fantasy, I may have finally found what I want to be when I grow up. With hope, XXKHT
*imagine the clumsy swim-hole offering you a homemade cookie and a hug on your way out.
"Human beings will be happier - not when they cure
cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie
but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's
my utopia." --Kurt Vonnegut
Yesterday, I experienced what I hope history will eventually prove to be the worst nightmare of my hostessing life. On Thanksgiving day 2007, as I served my 17* guests a meticulously planned dinner that I'd lovingly and expertly prepared, I sat down at the head of my table to a special plate of
My partner and I come from different worlds. I come from people who'd rather carve each other with Sabatier on perfectly laid Limoges than enjoy a peaceful loving holiday gathering. He comes from an affectionate working class family who wouldn't mind sitting on the floor eating off of paper plates just to be together at holiday time. Their way has it's charms, but is completely foreign to my experience; and because our expectations were so different, we had a recipe for a perfect storm.
The bad juju began weeks ago, almost immediately after I said to my partner, "let's have Thanksgiving at our house." After living together for almost a year, we hadn't had his folks over at all and I was beginning to feel the shame of it especially because his family has had us over a dozen times. His mother changed her plans to accept our invitation without hesitation. Great! It was all settled.
Within the week I'd invited another couple and their mother. That same night I was told to my consternation that the initial invitation for 6 local family members would more than double due to visiting children and a brother that planned to fly in with his lady along with her son; in an instant, my guest list went from 11 to 18.
Where was I going to put everyone in our two bedroom apartment?! My partner was equally horrified by my horror. "We'll just ask people to bring stuff," he suggested helpfully. But that's not what I had in mind! I had offered to cook the dinner, not provide a dining hall.
I love to cook Thanksgiving - I love everything about it and have it down to a science. By three days cooking time I mean, I lovingly planned and prepared 6 side dishes, 3 homemade pies (7 all together), and roasted 2 organic, local free range turkeys. I had the menu, shopping lists and schedule done in October. The only thing left to anticipate was the inevitable calorie coma.
Last week we gathered autumnal trimmings from the woods and the day before I spent hours decorating the table with everything I had in my arsenal of entertaining-ware. Despite my panic, I managed to find 18 of everything including cloth napkins and real plates in addition to flat and glasswares - quite a feat for a starving artist who lives in relatively humble circumstances.
I arranged with the kids downstairs to use their kitchen so I could use two ovens. I struggled to make time to clean up my room (aka the guest room) for out-of-town guests. At this point, I was feeling very resourceful and good about rolling with the punches and had come out on top so far. And although my partner needed a long walk and a Rolaid after the final trip to the grocers, we had even managed to pay for the whole thing despite that neither one of us is currently employed.
After much ado, all was moving along swimmingly until a couple of days before the event when my partner casually mentioned that the house guests "may or may not" be staying with us. It seemed my partner's mom wanted the out-of-town brother to stay with them, and now the visitors were considering "splitting the time" starting with the mother's house.
Of course, this made no sense to my OCD mind. I couldn't fathom why a traveling group would switch houses midway through a weekend visit and openly resented being made to get the room ready on top of everything else, "just in case."
Why didn't I understand that the family just wanted to be together, and that they didn't want anyone to feel left out, and that splitting the time would solve this? I could only despair of the situation that exponentially seceded from my control and so far away from my careful deliberations that I simply couldn't keep up with it.
Naturally, my partner and I fought.
I took the room off of the to-do list (for now), deciding to deal with it if and when it came up . The room wasn't that messy - just a bunch of clean clothes and some stuff that had been stored in there that could be moved to the basement or our room or whatever. It's a shame, I thought, that the cat boxes are kept in there, and I'd planned to remove them for a couple of days to air out..but que sera sera. No big deal, right? These guests are extra-casual..they won't mind a little cat stank considering the circumstances... Phew!...another crisis shot down!
Somehow we made it to Tday without killing each other or calling it off. I slept until 8. The beautiful table was laid the day before with everything but the hors d'oeurves. I was right on schedule and buzzing between kitchens while I prepared apple pies to go in the oven as we dined so they'd be fresh and hot when served.
Guests were told that dinner was at 3pm. I'd hoped this would give everybody a chance to have a nice meal followed by a relaxed gathering while still allowing them get back to the football I knew they cared about but that we couldn't provide without a TV. With dinner at three and 18 expected in a small apartment, one would naturally assume that the guests would plan to arrive 2:30ish...2pm at the earliest, no?
Well imagine my alarm as I heard the rumblings of bodies heading up the stairs at 1:30 pm as I stood in my kitchen, un-showered, wearing flour covered pjs, pushing through the last rush of effort so that when the guests arrived at 2:30 every detail would be arranged and dinner would practically finish itself as I breezed around pouring wine and introducing myself, while seeing that everyone was seated and got what they needed to feel comfortable - well, that was the fantasy plan anyway....
Instead, the dreaded rumbling manifested into 13 people filing into my kitchen, dressed and ready for the holiday armed with coats that needed stowing, extra dishes I had no idea were coming and "what can we do to help?" expressions on their bright faces.
Well, my face had nothing like their delightful holiday eagerness. I must have turned red as a beet, as I glared at the clock in disbelief, I loudly blurted, "You're ALL HERE...one and a half hours early!.." Before I could stop it, out popped, "I'm not going to be able to attend to you for at least another hour, so go find a way to make yourselves comfortable and let us know if you need something."
Imagine an apartment completely filled with three tables and 18 chairs. Imagine 13 people trying to sit anywhere but at that table. Imagine that many of them are teenagers - who were great by the way - someone brought cards and started a lively game of something and the adults watched them play like it was the most interesting thing in the world - which is amazing to me because from the other room I was ready to commit hari kari with the carving knife.
I could no longer get to anything. Everyone wanted to help. Mo more than 3 people can fit in the kitchen comfortably, and suddenly there were 6 people standing in it asking what they could do. "You can all go back out and go for a walk" I suggested to his mother through gritted teeth. I'd forgotten that it was pouring rain and the shops were closed - sadly, this option was not an option, and now I was ruined for suggesting it.
Somehow, I pulled myself together. Dinner was over 1/2 hour late - a detail my boyfriend made sure to notice aloud - because I simply couldn't work around all the people in the house which happened to be the very reason I'd dreaded the huge numbers in the first place; but served it was, and miraculously so.
Thankfully, no cooking disasters ensued, and after everyone finally settled in, the comforting, quieted sound of lips smacking in satisfaction calmed my nerves considerably. I cheered up and made the rounds introducing myself. I took a few pictures. I even choked down a small plate of food despite having lost my appetite the moment I realized that I'd made a complete ass of myself before the first guest had gotten their coat off.
Three days of effort and a plan set for over a month in advance turned into nothing more than an expensive, elaborate effort to humiliate myself and drive a wedge between me and my partner. It's a no win situation criticizing the manners of another's family, especially when one's own family makes their manners look like Mother Theresa's. They are who they are and they were completely ignorant of their actions - probably still are even though I could not prevent myself from making it as painfully clear as one could that I was undone by them.
As a sacrificial guilt offering, I sent them home with three bags of leftovers including two whole pies and easily half a turkey.
I'm completely destroyed by this series of unfortunate events, and plan to stay in bed sulking for the rest of today. I wish I never had to face any of them again or anybody else for that matter (well, at least not today).
This morning they telephoned to see what my partner was up to. They mentioned we didn't include any breast meat in their to-go packages and asked him to bring some over so they could get a "whole" meal out of it....
Next year, I'm going to volunteer in a soup kitchen.
Choking down her humble pie, KHT (no kisses this time..)
“Manners are a sensitive
awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you
have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” -- Emily Post
It's funny, yes. But it's also eerily apropos of modern man's collective knowledge of his sustenance and it's origins.
A mania has overcome me.
I can precisely name the date and nearly the time: 26 May 2007; mid morningish.
The name of my obsession I shall call: Sustainorganilocavegegourmandism. I've got it BAD.
The date is significant as the very one in which I first put an edible plant into the earth with the hope that it would someday provide food for me. I had no idea at the time how life altering this simple act would be.
As I sit here in early November - mourning my garden - I find every excuse to try to recapture some small shred of the thrill that small 20x30 plot in the community gardens of The Intervale brought me every day this summer and into fall when we finally had to clear the last beet, carrot and leek from her sacred soil and leave her to rest for the long winter.
The full story of my transformation from food-source-ignorant foodie to would-be enlightened earth steward is another tale than the one I'll tell today - one I've written an article for that is currently for sale; however, in my reluctance to let it go for the season, I am now reading as much as I can about local produce, organic gardening all things relative to my newly adopted religion.
I started with Michael Pollen's, Omnivore's Dilemma. Actually, I received a copy of it last winter from B and I started it, got a third of the way through and then had to put it down because I was having nightmares about corn. CORN! CORN! CORN is the vegetable equivalent of Satan.
Corn is omnipresent; so deceptive as it insidiously works it's way in one way or another into everything (EVERYTHING) available to eat. With our help of course - it can't do it alone. Soy is close on it's tail and let's not get me started on CAFOs. (There will be way more on this topic in future rants, I am sure).
The fact is modern food systems SUCK. They are nothing more than a means of corporate profit at the expense of the planet's future, the well being of the farmers, and the health and longevity of the populace - especially Americans. A gazillion dollars are spent annually convincing us that convenience and price are the sole factors necessary to make food choices. We simply must have asparagus all year long. We cannot live without a tomato in January.
Or more often than not, a "food" that's more filler than sustenance. Junk food is little better than the corn based cattle feed that they can't digest and neither can you. Broken down to it's most basic elements, it's a surplus we're being coerced into consuming at the expense of our health and longevity.
It's clear that people have noticed and taken action as organics become more available - thanks in no small part to the efforts of writers like Pollen and Kingsolver and chefs like Alice Waters alongside small farmers everywhere. But it didn't take more than a decade for even these to become corrupted by the large scale producers who push the rules to their limits to stay "organic" by gov't standards and to shove the small scale local farmers out of the running.
The logic these advocates are promoting is that by using not just organic, but local ingredients as much as possible you are accomplishing a world of goodness not just for you and yours but for the future of , well, everything.
It's a BIG unpleasant statement, I know, but if you'd like to find out for yourself...I recommend these wonderful books on the topic currently on top seller lists. For a less shocking introduction, start with Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and then move on to Michael Pollen's, The Omnivore's Dilemma.
For the beginning of an investigative report on the American industrialized food system crisis and it's effect on our nation in terms of obesity etc...
Sending this into the ether, with hope...
"The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of
an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and
unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson"
...than to open it and remove all doubt." --Mark Twain
So we're working a theme here.
I returned this afternoon to review yesterday's inaugural offering and the quotation conjured a new subject I've been eager to opine about.
I'm recently back from a two week odyssey with my beloved friend and aunt - who for privacy's sake shall henceforth be known as B - The visit started out routinely as a trip to Baltimore to help with a family business event where I was to prepare the food.
Afterwards we'd planned on making our way back to Vermont so that she could leaf peep, pick up some apples and cider and as much of our (IMHO) superior compost as would fit in her car to take back to her gardens Maryland.
Before we knew it, the routine nine hour trip turned into an extended foodie road trip up the Atlantic coast with stops in Hartford, CT, Boston, MA and Portland, ME.
Our first stop in Hartford was highly successful the first day. We stayed at the historic Goodwin Hotel and our restaurant of choice, The Trumbull Kitchen turned out to be a half a block from it - serendipity!
The Goodwin exceeded our expectations and TTK was adequate, though a bit loud with it's bar scene - the place literally being half bar. The food was solid and interesting however, and I would recommend it if any readers ever venture through Hartford.
The real reason we chose Hartford though was to visit Mark Twain House. I'm a huge fan of the man and own the Ken Burns documentary which I've seen a half a dozen times (at least). I was excited at the prospect of seeing the actual place having read and seen so much about it's unique architecture, and also being a history buff, I wanted to stand in the place where it all happened (or most of it). Coincidentally, I'd also lived in Heidelberg, Germany a place Twain had lived and wrote about extensively in A Tramp Abroad.
So here we were - at last - Mark Twain's house in Hartford; the only place he ever called home; the place where he raised his family; the place where he wrote Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer and A Yankee in King Arthur's Court etc. I was twitching with excitement as we got out of the car.
The house is beautiful
just as I recalled from pictures though it pains me to say this as a photographer - and it's true a picture's worth a thousand words - images are hard pressed to do justice to scale (especially this one!). You can't know the scale of a place until you've stood there. That's the most difficult part of trying to represent architectural and landscapes photographically, but it's also a whole 'nother subject.
Which brings us to the subject I started out to write this afternoon - the one related to the subject title - regarding the docent at Mark Twain's House...
Although I do not recall her name, I will never forget the experience of having to endure the incredibly boorish presentation of her personal fantasies about the man and his family. Few references to actual history were made - even fewer to any relevant facts about the house and it's architecture. Most of the hour was spent listening to her gush forth her love of the man while she held up pictures of his wife and children and fantasized aloud about what their lives were like.
There were several teeth grinding/butt clenchingingly impossible incidents: after blathering endlessly her ideas about the intimacies of the family dynamic, she invited the group into the dining room stating that "only the ladies were invited in" because it had been set for a ladies luncheon and she was sorry for the men that they couldn't join us. I'm glad she remembered to tell us that the silver service on the table was Livy's own Tiffany pattern - a gift from her father and famously so.
From there to the library where she butchered the tale of Samuel's (Twain's real first name) ritual ad lib story to his children which always began with the first object on the mantelpiece and ended with the portrait of a cat wearing a ruff including, in order, each object along the way.
She followed this by asking us to hold hands in a circle so we could conjur....well, I don't know what she expected to conjur...Halloween was less than a week away and I suppose she thought it cute to include some occultish thing in her version of the Twain House Drama.
Upstairs she did an okay rendition of the history of the famous cherubic bed but along the way she kept challenging the captive audience to ask her questions to which no one dared reply. I think we were all so collectively disgusted with her - I for one just wished she'd shut up long enough for me to concentrate on my own memories of what I'd learned of the place so that I could take some enriched experience from the ordeal.
Finally a man in the audience asked if Mark Twain had any living relatives to which she replied, "Sadly, Mark Twain has no living ancestors." Then she went on to say that we were "all his ancestors now...those who came to learn about him and spend time in his house. That we were in fact, his great grandchildren and that he'd have been thrilled to realize how many great grandchildren he had left behind to adore him."
She also replied to B as "darlin." I had to try hard not to laugh out loud but I'm afraid I made an ass of myself just as badly as she did anyway with my eye rolling, nail biting and turning away in embarrassment.
She just rubbed me the wrong way and did her best however unwittingly to ruin the experience entirely. It didn't help that house rules dictate no photography inside the home (even flashless) and so I carried my heavy camera through the beautiful rooms, dead at my side, while I endured the grating prattle of the sadly ill-informed and pathetic performance of the docent that I'm almost positive would have drawn exactly the same reaction from the man himself.
He spent a life time calling out phonies and if you've decided by now that I'm an overly sensitive pain (you're right) but think of it this way...People visit that house from all over the world and most will only visit once. How dare she make it about herself. How dare she hold an audience who traveled far and paid $14 bucks to walk through hoping to learn something only to find themselves trapped in a one hour soliloquy of a petty little docent who rather than taking the time to learn and relate relevant and interesting facts, chose instead to BS her way through the presentation promoting nothing more than a second rate performance of her own imagination.
That's what blogs are for! XKHTX p.s. more on the trip in a future installation