Author Archives for theRaggedys

Redemption and Wildflowers

Just a quick Lagniappe (aka A Little Something Extra) Edition of BigLittleMeals.  As a follow-up to our Sonoma fire stories, we want to share with you the flowers that also follow-up fires.

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This and the 3 photos above were taken Sunday on our drive up the single-lane Nun’s Canyon road near our home.  Nun’s Canyon was the starting point for one of the four main fires in Sonoma this past October.  All of the black-ish wood pictured is burned wood.

Jeanne Wirka, who is Director of Stewardship and the Biologist at Bouverie Preserve – which suffered terrible damage to its 535 acres in the October fires and where Andy is a docent – gives a good overview in this newspaper article, which also has some great photos of the rebirth of flowers in our area.  Her article is also a perfect follow-up to our last blog on poetry.

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Eschscholzia californica – California Poppy

 

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Papaver californicum – Fire Poppy

Jeanne, thinking of the darkness and then the light and the beauty that has followed the fires, finds inspiration in the poem, “Poppies,” by Mary Oliver.  Admittedly, since my traumatic experience in my 20th Century Lit class, I’ve not been a big poetry fan, except maybe for Mona Van Duyn.  Van Duyn’s poem “Letters from a Father” still resonates with Andy and me and makes us smile; you’ve got to read the whole, rather lengthy, poem to appreciate it – and don’t let the “earthy” kind of language stop you. 🙂  The last line brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.  Just beautiful.

Redemption in Van Duyn’s poem seems to come from a birdfeeder,  while Mary Oliver finds it in wild poppies.  The poppies we’re seeing in Sonoma right now are not only the very common Eschscholzia californica but also Papaver californicum, also known as “fire poppy.”  Fire poppies also fit into the category of flowers often called “Fire-followers.”  The seeds of these plants actually need fire to reproduce and might survive years in the soil until that fire happens.  Then they live a few years – only to disappear – with their seeds stored away in the soil, awaiting the next fire.  If that isn’t redemption, I don’t know what is.

In Andy’s Corner  Andy tempers the wildflower excitement a little, lamenting about the foxtails that also come with the wildflowers.

Have a wonderful spring and appreciate the wildflowers –  even the foxtails – at least until they get prickly in the fall.

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Emmenanthe penduliflora – Whispering Bells – is also a Fire Follower

 

 

 

 

April is the Cruellest Month

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In high school I could diagram sentences, spell well, write fine, if not eloquently,  and liked Shakespeare’s works – at least somewhat.  So it seemed that majoring in English at CC was a gimme – especially since there was no Applied Life Management major offered.

But then I took “Twentieth Century Lit” my sophomore year of college.  And we had to read Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Wilbur and Ezra Pound and Archibald MacLeish and Louis MacNeice and Dylan Thomas  and T.S. Eliot….and more.  Even looking at these poets’ works now, 55 years later, my eyes glaze over and my brain goes foggy.

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The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot – from Modern American & Modern British Poetry, Copyright 1955

Glancing (blurry-eyed) over pages of these poems,  I find it fascinating that out of the 64 poets whose works were included in our book, only 10 were women – and my class was asked to read only 2 of them

Plus, I must note that those early 20th century male poets seemed primarily interested in women and death.  But spring – and April –  get a fair amount of notice.

Gerard Manley Hopkins: “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection”-  whew – which continues

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows flaunt forth, then chevy on the air-built thoroughfare: heaven roysterers, in gay-gangs they throng; they glitter in marches.

Robinson Jeffers poem “Shine, Perishing Republic” (note: I’m not making a political statement; I’m just stating the title that Jeffers gave it.

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence. and home to the mother.

Dylan Thomas
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees

Is my destroyer.

I mostly liked e.e. cummings.  Here is his wonderfully timely and slightly-salacious, alternative vision of this season:

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And now back to April and cruelty.  In Andy’s Corner Andy doesn’t find April cruel at all.  But spring is a rough time of the year for gardeners and for cooks.  Winter crops are getting tired and spring/summer crops are mostly yet to come.  I’m busy perusing seed catalogs online.  Since all of our gardening is done in galvanized water troughs, I’ve been searching for summer squash seeds that are bush-like and work in containers.  So far I’ve ordered Bush Yellow Scallop, Astia zucchini, apparently a well-bred French variety (and being “well bred” is SO important), and Cube of Butter (yum! a natural for me).

In my walk through our garden area just now, about the only green growing use-able thing I saw was mint.

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So with dreams of summer and hot days and warm nights and an abundance of summer squash, I’ve paired my home-grown mint with squash in three do-it-right-now recipes.  After all, squash in the stores seems to be decent pretty much all of the time, if you pick and choose carefully.  Look for little shiny ones.

Somewhat related – and a fascinating read – is this recent NYTimes article which we just put in Food for Thought.  It’s shocking how much of our produce is imported.

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“To Life! To Life! L’Chaim!”

With the arrival of April and Passover and Easter all this weekend – and with lovely spring days on their way,  Tevye’s toast seems right on.  Maybe (only MAYBE) it’s what made us think about serving White Russians at our Sunday evening Dark and Stormy Night dinner party.

Actually, Andy and I debated whether to serve Dark and Stormy cocktails or White Russian cocktails.  Not being huge rum fans – a Dark and Stormy is basically dark rum, ginger beer, and a squeeze of lime, over ice – we followed up dinner with nibbles of various cakes and cookies – and White Russians, enjoyed while sitting in front of the TV, watching 60 Minutes (of course).

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Ingredients if you want a Dark and Stormy cocktail; or maybe you just want Stormy?

Since the White Russian is associated with The Big Lebowski and the Coen Brothers and Jeff Bridges, Andy is likely hoping we can claim them as fellow members of the War Baby Generation, which he just wrote about.  But Andy will be disappointed; they’re Boomers.

We recommend serving about 3/4 of the average cocktail when doing the after-dinner thing.  After all, you’ve already had wine with dinner (hopefully, Sonoma wine), and your guests still have to drive home.  It’s a Go-To Cocktail (see last Tuesday’s post for more on Go-To’s).

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A White Russian – Vodka, Kahlua, and Cream

White Russian Cocktail

If you substitute brandy for the vodka, the drink becomes a “Dirty White Mother” – but we’re not going there!

  • 1 oz Kahlua
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz cream
  • ice cubes

Although the fussy way to serve this is is by layering the cream on top of the liquor, we’re just as happy putting all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shaking it well.  Strain and serve in a glass filled with ice.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

“Perennials” Anybody?

 

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Echinacea purpurea ‘Julia’

This time of year echinaceas are on my mind.  They’re not only a great perennial (my current favorite is ‘Julia’) but they’re part of our keep-sickness-at-bay routine.  Andy and I should own stock in Quick Defense after trying to get through this year’s flu season unscathed.  A main ingredient in Quick Defense is echinacea purpurea.  And – as a silly aside – I have to share this tweet I just saw:

“When I told my parents over the phone that my husband has the flu, my dad said “Have you tried euthanasia?” and in the background my mom yelled “For the last time, it’s echinacea!”  OMG. 🙂

Though I have little interest in planting annuals and lots of interest in perennials, I bristled when someone suggested recently that older people should be thought of as, yes, “perennials.”

Laura Carstensen, the head of the Stanford Center on Longevity recently wrote in The Washington Post:  “Language matters: We need a term that aging people can embrace.”  In the same article, Carstensen suggests the term “perennials” may be just right.  She continues:  

Upon first hearing this term, I was startled. The symbolism it connotes is perfect. For one, “perennials” makes clear that we’re still here, blossoming again and again. It also suggests a new model of life in which people engage and take breaks, making new starts repeatedly. Perennials aren’t guaranteed to blossom year after year, but given proper conditions, good soil and nutrients, they can go on for decades. It’s aspirational.

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Maybe I have a perennial problem, as in “they’re perennially late” or “the politicians’ perennial whining” or – especially this time of year – “his perennial allergies.”   Even negative connotations aside, I don’t particularly aspire to a Blossom-DieBack-Blossom-DieBack kind of life experience.  Andy used to be in limbo about this issue but has found a solution.

If not “perennial” or – god forbid – “elderly,” that brings up the question as to what a better choice of words might be when referring to someone……well, my age.  My suggestion? “Go-To.”  The “Go-To Generation.”  Or just think of yourself – when you achieve that certain age – as  “Grandpa Go-To” or “Auntie Go-To”  or “Nana Go-To.”  Don’t you think it has a nice ring? And an even nicer meaning?  Go to them for wisdom.  Go to them for advice.  Or encouragement.  Or tons of love.  They’ve been there, done that.

I have a bunch of old cookbooks that are my Go-To’s in the world of cooking.  Dog-earred, ripped, stained, faded – but still prominent on my bookshelf, consulted often, and loved.

I’m sharing special recipes – all apple-oriented since an apple a day keeps the doctor away – from three of them:  the Moosewood Cookbook from 1992,  Bayou Cook Book from 1974, and the Congressional Club Cook Book from 1955.  The list of contributors to the Congressional Club Cook Book reads like a “Who’s Who” from the world of politics past:  Mrs. Albert Gore, Mrs. Barry Goldwater, Mrs. Everett Dirksen, Mrs. Hale Boggs, Mrs. Prescott Bush, Mrs. Margaret Chase Smith, Mrs. Strom Thurmond, Mrs. Richard Nixon, Mrs. Mike Mansfield, Mrs. Gerald Ford, Mrs. Sam Irvin, to name a few.  And do note: I don’t find one male contributor.  Time changes all things….and sometimes for the better.

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A few of my Go-To cookbooks

 

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The original recipes – which I’ve tweeked

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And Now for Something Entirely Different: Moss in Japan

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Japan is apparently obsessed with moss.  And Moss is obsessed with Japan.   As a result, today’s guest blogger is Moss and today’s feature recipe is a Japanese Cheesecake.

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Moss varieties in the Ginkakuji garden, Kyoto, Japan (photo by Paul Mannix)

After sending out a call soliciting guest bloggers, one of the first to respond was Moss, our younger grandson.  Well, actually, come to think of it, it was Sara, our daughter, and mother to Moss.  She volunteered him.  Since we talked about Moss and green things last week, it seemed just right to position him as our second guest blogger.  Of course, it’s hard to follow David, our first guest blogger, who has about 60 more years of experience, but Moss is a tough cookie, so to speak – though the green snickerdoodles we made for him last week were very tender – certainly not tough.

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Moss, accomplished photo-shopper – as well as rock-climber and chef

Moss Collage Early Years

Yes, our grandson, Moss, is entirely different!  In a most wonderful way.  And here is his blog and the video that he and his friend Kira made:

Hi, my name is Moss. I’m 12,  almost 13 (my birthday is April 13). I love to rock climb and bake. I made this Japanese cheesecake because I’m going to Japan soon and I heard there’s a bakery which is known for their Japanese cheesecake (Rikuro). I saw a video and immediately I wanted to make it. The cake is soft and airy, and has a wonderful jiggle. Also this cheesecake is not really filling so one person could (i’m not saying they should) eat a whole cake by themselves. After I got asked to be a guest blogger, I went to my friend’s house with my camera and my tripod (given to me by my amazing grandparents) to do something better than make the cake and take pictures of it. I wanted to film it. Although the cheesecake didn’t turn out perfectly, it was still fun to make and I really think, whoever sees this should try to make this cake at least once.

 

Next – in his preparation for Japan – Moss made a Matcha Coconut Mochi Cake, following this recipe on Food 52.  If you’ve never had Mochi, be prepared to find it addictive.  It’s not too sweet and has a chewy texture unlike any other cake.  What a splendid way to use more of the matcha you bought for our Craftsman and Wolves Matcha Snickerdoodles!  Mochiko, the Sweet Rice flour we use is readily available in markets here in Northern California.  Moss suggests that you add an extra tablespoon of matcha to the cake – so 2T total.

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Moss’s Matcha Coconut Mochi Cake

And some follow-up questions from me for Moss:

What are your favorite music groups you listen to with those big headphones you wear all of the time?

I listen to the Gorillaz, I also listen to Tyler the Creator and finally Clairo.

What meal will you ask your mama to fix for your birthday?  Or, if you want to go out, Where do you want to go

I think I wanna go to A-16 because it has amazing pizza and sometimes we get see the people make the pizza in the woodfired oven if we sit at the counter.

What do you look forward to most at school each day?

My friends.    

Why are you going to Japan?

I’m going for my 7th grade graduation. I love the food (sushi, ramen etc.). I also want to see the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto.

Do you follow any food blogs – or have a favorite food video?

I follow many food blogs, like Tastemade and Tastemade Japan. I also follow the very best blog, Big Little Meals.

That’s our boy!

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Moss in his Michael-Pollan/Farmers’-Market mode at age 8: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” – unless you’ve got a piece of cheesecake!

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