Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Almost Gone

There's not much better than ripe Ohio tomatoes. Right now they are available, but not for much longer. My own tomatoes did not do too well this summer, for some reason. (The beauty above is from a local farm.) Maybe I got the wrong kind of plant. They are small, but not like Roma small one, just small round ones. They work for sauces and salads, but what I really like are tomato sandwiches, with lots of mayonnaise with a sprinkle of salt. In my younger days I liked to eat a tomato like an apple, but for some reason I don't do that any more. Too messy?  Whatever. But a good tomato sandwich, boy, that's summer.
Speaking of mayonnaise, it seems to have a negative connotation, but I have always liked the stuff. My mother used to make her own mayonnaise (as did Julia Child, I discovered when reading her book about living in France). Mother made it in this jar with a metal plunger. I know that she used Wesson Oil and lemon juice. It had a most delicate flavor. I don't think she added any spices. I'm sure there are recipes galore for home made mayonnaise, but I have never tried it.
Oh, this reminds me of Roz Chast's cartoon in the NYorker last week. It's a pie chart of typical blogs: one third are about yummy food the blogger has eaten (guilty), one third trying to sell one's book or whatever (guilty), and one third conspiracy theories (not guilty).But, I don't care. A tomato sandwich is a worthy subject , both to eat, and to write about.

Dupree Update

It's been a rough summer for the aged cat who lives in this house. He's had a couple of infections which have responded to antibiotics. John is back from Athens County, which is a relief for all concerned, since I am not the only one who has had to listen to his constant whingeing and snubbing of food.  He has developed a variety of yowls. When I refuse to cater to his food issues, he produces a drawn out unworldly kind of thing. If he were a human child, it would constitute sassy remark.
On the other hand, he is extremely affectionate, nestling up to me on the footrest of my throne. He also like to get into my lap and stare steadily at me, purring all the while. He is also very good at the vet. While John was away, Sally took him several times and was very proud of his good behavior both there and on the ride home, where he curled up on the front seat and slept.
I think he is on his 81/2 life, and it isn't easy for him or anyone else. Right now he is sleeping on the carpet, occasionally muttering a brief meow, a sort of "Don't forget that I'm here," sort of thing. Not likely.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

Every year, the Akron park system has a Fall Hiking Spree. There are something like 15 parks, and  if you walk a trail in at least eight of them, you get a badge to put on your hiking staff. I did that about 15 years ago, skipped a few years and started again on the Sunday after 9/11/01, as did about half the population of the Akron area. I think we all wanted to get away from TV and newspapers and find comfort in nature. The parks are all beautiful. Some have ponds, some take you along the Cuyahoga River, some take you through gorges and up hills to viewing platforms. The trails are not paved, and some run along board walks over boggy areas. Some trails are 1 mile, some are three miles. You can see flora and fauna. As the fall progresses you go from deep green forests of late summer to the gold and red of autumn. It starts right after Labor Day and runs through November, I think. There are families with babes in strollers, grandparents and lots of interesting dogs. It's a wonderful thing to do on a golden afternoon. You  cannot stop smiling.
I have not done this for a number of years, starting when I had a bum hip and had it replaced. I coulda and shoulda. Then I had that hip break and that put me off again. This year I decided to give it a try, perhaps not going enough to get another badge to add to my measly collection, but just to see how, or if, I could manage at least a mile. Yesterday, a gorgeous day of blue sky, puffy clouds and sunshine, Sally, John and I went off to Goodyear Park, along with a lot of other people. Sally has done this for years and her hiking staff has a nice bunch of colorful badges. She usually gets it all done by either late September or early October. John has done it for years, too, but he never bothers to get the badges. This spree has been going on for over forty years and you'll see people with that many badges on their staffs.
I didn't take my hiking staff, but instead used my German walking sticks. They are basically ski poles, but you'll see many people in Germany using them for walking, so I bought myself a pair the last time I was there. They give you upper body motion while you are walking along and help when you get to a hill. Unfortunately, I forgot to change my shoes, and realized that I still had my Crocs on - not a good thing to hike in. However, I managed to make the whole 1.4 mile walk, with a couple of bench sits in there.That's the most I've walked in a long time. Sally has promised to take me along on a few other ones, mainly the ones rated 1, which means that there are no big hills and that are usually the shorter ones. I'll miss a couple of my old favorites, but no need to push it, I always say. I remember seeing these really ancient people in the Lake District in England climbing up these practically perpendicular fells. They appeared to have calves of steel, and will probably never need a hip replacement.
One of the perks of this hiking thing is that you can have ice cream after. Yesterday we had frozen custard from Strickland's, an Akron institution with a secret ingredient which makes their custard very popular hereabouts, even for those who haven't just walked 1.4 miles. But if you have, you feel ever so noble and deserving.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


So, I did not watch any of the ceremony going on in NYC. Listened to concerts on WCLV and WQXR commemorating the sad event of ten years ago. In the evening there was a repeat of the remarkable documentary by the two French brothers who came to NYC to do a film about a typical New York City fire department, which ended up as a horrifying documentary about the World Trade Center destruction. It is an amazing film, chilling, especially when you know what is going to happen. Miraculously enough, not one of the firemen form the station was injured or killed, even though they were in the Trade Center when the first building fell. You can hear it as the cameraman and the firemen are in the lobby of the other building. Everything goes black and them dim from the dust. One of the brothers had stayed at the fire station and then when he realizes what happened, he goes off to the WTC, sure that his brother is dead. This is a side story to what is actually happening and they captured everything with their cameras. There is no getting away from the horror of this event, especially since they  covered some things that they can't even show. Watching it brought back the day it happened so vividly that I could feel the same stomach clutching dread that I felt that day. On this Sunday, it appeared that many people greeted the commemoration by waving flags, something that is  peculiarly significant in this country.
One thing that no one mentioned was the resultant destruction of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the WTC destruction. For the 2998 lives lost in the USA from the Saudi terrorists, we have killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, including thousands of children, maimed thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed homes and cities and their culture. We are not memorializing them, nor are we mourning for them. We are waving flags to "celebrate our resiliency." In addition, we have  lost thousands of young American lives and left more thousands with lost limbs and lost minds. We are naming streets and baseball fields for the dead and waving more flags as their hearses pass by on the way to the  local cemetery.
I just finished a book about WWI, describing the horror of those muddy battlefields and men lining up, facing each other and shooting each other across No Man's Land. And twenty years later they went through it again, with bigger guns and bigger bombs and even more people killed.We haven't had that kind of war in this country since 1865, but Europe has, with cities left in rubble, land ripped to pieces, people killed by the  millions, families torn apart, children left parentless and homeless, starving and dying from "collateral damage." We are still in shock from the WTC, the most violent man-made occurrence we have experienced in our lifetime. Are we as "resilient" as the Europeans? I don't think so. But we love that flag, don't we?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Favorite THings

Last year when I  was a guest for dinner at the home of my friend Jane, I was helping her with the dessert. She was making an apple crumble and she was peeling the apples and I was slicing them. She was using an ancient peeler, which seamed to be a bit dull. I told her about my wonderful peeler and that she should get one like it, which would be much easier than using the one she has. "Uh-uh," was her reply. She loves her peelre and has had it for years. She does not want a new peeler, uh-uh. That dull thing was an old friend and worked fine for her.
I realized that I also had pet gadgets, some old, some new which I cannot do without. Some I have had for fifty years or so, like some knives, a strainer, and a strawberry huller. I broke my glass lemon juicer a few years ago and was horrified to find that they don't make them any more. I found one in an antique shop and it was not expensive but I guard it with care.
The gadgets above are things I have to have.  Only a couple of them are old, because the others hadn't been invented yet when I first stocked my kitchen. On the left is a zester, a gift from Polly,one of three I have which I use to grate nutmeg, Parmesan cheese and lemons or oranges. For some reason the light makes it look rusty, but it's not. Next to it is the strawberry huller , which is ancient and is only used when strawberries are ripe in Ohio. Below that is a little gadget I got up in Amish country for removing that leaf stem on tomatoes. I use it mostly in the summer, when Ohio tomatoes (our state veg or fruit depending on whom you believe) are ripe. The little orange thing is also from Amish country (and we think they have such a hard life!) used to strip orange peels and I cannot do without it. They don't last forever, so I usually buy a bunch of them. I only use that in the winter months when there are good oranges available. Then there's my magic peeler. First time I saw one of these was in Germany in my daughter's kitchen. I can't remember if I bought this over there or found it here, but I can't use the other kind. The next plastic object is a lemon slice squeezer. I've had it forever and I don't know where I got it, but it is indispensable when you don't want to use a whole lemon and you  only need a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. It's old. Hovering over all is a cheese slicer. My late friend Harriet claims it was invented by a Norwegian (which Harriet was one of) and you can sere its outline on this one brand of cheese. It makes really nice slices of cheddar or Swiss to go on a cracker or to put between two slices of bread for grilled cheese sandwiches. It's not very old, and so much better than those crummy wire cutters which break right when you're in the mood for a grilled cheese sandwich.
I still have my 60 year old Revereware pans, only I don't shine the bottoms any more, but they're not gadgets, but nice familiar things I like very much.