Thursday, September 17, 2009

Days to Remember in February

For the past month we have had the sort of weather I dream about when the winter days are gray and the earth looks dead. The skies are blue, the temperature is in the low 70s and the sun is golden. The leaves are still brilliant green as the sun shines through them. Late summer has become almost my favorite season; there are still flowers, the markets are full of wonderful local fruits and vegetables. Even though parts of my garden look creepy, I still have plenty of fresh herbs and healthy tomatoes and green peppers.

One of summer's pleasures which is still enjoyable is the ice cream stand down in New Baltimore, a crossroads hamlet just over the southern border of the county. There used to be two splendid antique shops there as well, but only one is left., and I don't need any more "stuff," anyway.

Although the place is on a main route, I like to go on the back roads through some lovely farmland. There's one place which, in early summer, had the most gorgeous garden right by the road. In June there are huge bright red poppies, iris and all kinds of roses. Last year I stopped to take pictures (which I have unfortunately erased) and the people came out and showed me around the back where they actually had some opium poppies which the man said his mother had started many years ago. Since I so admired their garden, the man picked me a selection of the most beautiful roses I've ever seen. he told me the names of them, but I don't remember. A few weeks later I stopped back with a painting I had done of one of them as a thank you gift.

The ice cream stand in New Baltimore is very popular because the ice cream is handmade and the flavors are unique. They also put eyes on top of the ice cream for the little kids, which I guess I could ask for if I wanted to. Nothing like having your ice cream staring back at you before you lick it. One afternoon this summer a group of antique car owners made a stop there during one of their rallies, so the parking lot was full of gleaming old beauties from the past. Motorcyclist roar in frequently, too, with their tanned babes on the back. It's also a popular stop with county fair goers, too, since it's on the same highway a few miles away. Even when it's crowded, they're very efficient, so you never have to wait long.

In the past couple of years, they have duded up the place, adding a vine covered arbor to sit under while you slurp. This year they are going to stay open a little longer, which will be nice for the leaf peepers in October. I'll probably get a couple of visits in before it closes for the year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When Good Veggies Go Bad

This has been a bonanza year for tomato growers. I have several varieties and they have all produced prodigiously. Somehow I got a couple of beefsteak tomatoes, not my favorite except for BLTs. (This is the only time of the year when I allow myself the luxury and cholesterol of bacon.)

With the other tomatoes, I have made chili, spaghetti sauce and even experiments with tomato paste which Erma Bombauer promised I could do easily. Alas, I do not keep the required brown sugar in my staple supply , but I made a tomato paste-like concoction which took most of the day to cook , turning 8 great tomatoes into about a half cup of goop with which I thickened my spaghetti sauce.

With most of the tomatoes I have made our favorite tomato, basil, garlic and onion topping for pasta, the memory of which will haunt us in February. Or sliced tomatoes, with mozzarella and balsamic vinegar. I have also frozen a few little packets of tomatoes for soup this fall and winter.

What with family reunions and much loved company for the past month or so, however, I have rather neglected that care of my garden. I went out yesterday and discovered the above horror in one of the beefsteak tomato plants. Eeewww! There is something so disgusting and ghastly about the transformation of a healthy plant into something so grotesque. It looks like something Hieronymus Bosch would put into a sort of corrupt still life, fruit for the damned. A good veggie gone bad on its way to eternal damnation. No more the shiny, red, edible globe. Aargh! Something nasty in the garden

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Goofy Pleasure

Years ago, before VCR or Tivo, when television was "live", Sunday nights were the nights for watching the Ed Sullivan Show. In spite of the fact that Ed Sullivan was one of the clumsiest hots ever, it w2as a terrific variety show, which brought all sorts of wonders to us out here in the spaces between New York and Los Angeles. We could see the stars of Broadway shows doing a complete number from a hit musical: Julie Andrews, Robert Goulet and Richard Burton from "Camelot," for instance, and Paul Lynde singing the Ed Sullivan anthem from "Bye Bye Birdie." We could see Rudoph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn doing a pas de deux from "Coppelia." Itzak Perelman, as a child prodigy appeared, too, as did Isaac Stern. He introduced some of the great comedians, like Stiller and Meara. Of course one of the biggest TV debuts ever was the first performance on American TV of the Beatles, featuring hundreds of screaming teen aged girls. (A charming, funny little movie was made about that, called "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", which is worth seeing.)

Among the more unusual and old fashioned acts were Senor Wences, with the head in the box - "S'all right!" - and Topo Gigo. There was some guy who would spin dozens of plates on slender sticks, Myron Cohen with his old Jewish lady jokes, Frank Gorshin the impersonator, and a comic dog act featuring a dog who only stared at his desperate trainer as man tried to get the animal to do tricks. I think this part of program was like the vaudeville shows that my grandparents' generation had enjoyed back before movies killed them.

One of the old vaudeville acts that never failed to make me laugh aloud was that of Mr. Pastry, a British music hall performer, whose schtick consisted of a demonstration of The Lancers, an old fashioned group dance popular at grand parties. Dressed in white tie and tails, with white gloves, he would dance alone, but make you see the whole company. He was on probably once a year, and that''s the only thing he did, but he did it perfectly. I had forgotten his name, but I came across it in a memoir I was reading and immediately found him on YouTube. His real name was Richard Hearne and I rather doubt that he's still among the living. Some people reading this may remember him. This is only a little clip, but it still makes me laugh.

I 'm sure that the entire Ed Sullivan show is archived out there. It was not always memorable, but there were moments that I still remember. It is nice to have Mr. Pastry available to watch again.