Archive for the ‘the on-going story’ Category

My Father Passed Away This Year

August 20, 2011

My father passed away January 4 of this year. He was 93. I hadn’t seen him often for the past 25 years. Short phone calls and emails. Increasingly it would be his wife on the phone because he didn’t hear well after awhile. And often he really wanted to talk with my husband, not me. But I have been thinking about him more often this summer, I knew I would, as I fished and foraged as that was something he shared with me as a kid. (When I am a teacher we always refer to them as children or students but here I can say “kid”) The photo above is a lovely tableau of a few red huckleberries I found while searching for the dewberries shown in the previous posts pie. Huckleberry picking is a big memory for me. My folks would pack my sister and me into the old “56 Buick and we would head up into the Cascades (mountain range) to their favorite sub-alpine lakes where blue and red huckleberries abound. This was back in the ’50s.

I remember him as really big, which is only natural when I was pre-adolescent, and small. He was big in stature, and big in personality, loud, extravagant, boisterous. And he was fun. It was only later I understood the kind of pressure this created in a marriage, and for soft, vulnerable children. I never knew that it wasn’t my fault when he would storm out of the house. Later, I would believe that it was all my mom’s fault. That took some major amends with my mother much later as an adult. And arguments? That was one of his favorite pass times: tricking us into an argument as we grew older, as if shouting was a major merit in his debate. Often this took place during dinner time. We all have distorted eating habits to this day. I didn’t own an official dining table until about 3 years ago.

Yet, the best fish I have ever eaten was a steelhead caught on February 16, 1966 by my dad, cooked over an alder fire in the back yard. This is February, we all had on coats and there was snow on the ground. And those huckleberry jams were the best. You wonder where I got my well seasoned taste buds? All I had to do as a child was ask my father what a certain food was, or what it tasted like and, poof! the next day or next week after payday we would be cooking and eating it. Once I asked him what the difference between pork chops and lamb chops was. We ate them off and on for a week, seven different ways.

He got mad at my mom once because he thought her cooking was bland. She had grown up thinking that herbs and spices were extravagant and kind of like cheating. He had been in the army overseas, many of his mates were from east coast cities, Italians, Eastern European, and Australian. He learned to make noodles, smoke fish and game, for instance. So my mom told him to cook! I will never forget the roasted chicken with half a cup of dried marjoram rubbed all over and throughout. We had to eat it.

During winter months at low tides, which usually happens at or around midnight, he knew the best clam beaches in our area so we would trek out with lanterns, shovels and pails, this was when you could keep a bucket full. My dad loved to whistle and we could hear him going down to the water in the darkness, us kids trying to keep up because on the way to the beach in the car he had told us scary stories about people lost in the waves. We loved the little steamers…..arriving home at 6am, putting the pot of water on, my mother throwing a loaf of garlic bread in the oven, dad making cocoa for everyone. Have you ever dunked garlic bread in your cocoa? for breakfast? One of the best tastes EVER.

My dad had unusual rules for foraging. As we camped out at the Stillaguamish river in the summers there was usually a dairy farm near by where the farmer also grew field corn for cow food. My dad was not opposed to sneaking through the woods to the fields to pick some, which roasted over the campfire was tolerable….even tasty if tough. But he never poached as the fish and game laws became more restrictive in when and where you could find your food. He complained, argued, but always abided. He understood the need to protect nature and how our behaviors should change as the environment changed. He didn’t think we needed laws for that, just common sense. I don’t think he ever made peace with how humans can be so ignorant about what they have.

He was a Republican of course, and profoundly disappointed in three independent, left leaning daughters. Although this scenario was perfect for the aforementioned arguments. When I was 13 we had been in the Viet Nam war for 2 years. My best friend Lane from across the street came over with newspaper articles we should read to know what was really going on and that we could go to a protest meeting in town. Instead of talking with Lane about his fears, my dad told him to go home and told me I wasn’t to hang out with Lane any more. If the saying “we’re going to hell in a hand basket” was ever true, it was for my father. When I think of his pain over our country, some pain I feel as well but for different reasons, I am glad he is at rest in a place where I believe he could have a big boisterous chuckle and perhaps know and understand his kids in a way he never did living.

I am sure there is more to say but I think I will leave you with this photo of my dining room table, the first one I ever bought, three years ago….I am 59.


Part Five of the Story

August 19, 2009

We can all recall a moment when some refined and fortified, fluffy white bread became supremely memorable, especially delicious, because of the setting, because of friends.

I remember March, 1985, after seven days hiking the Appalachian Trail, when a friend and I knew we’d be sleeping in some backwater town the next day, after we’d eaten all the fresh food packed seven days earlier, after seven days, one complete week together, sharing the sunrise, the blisters, the indigestion, the stories that came rising up out of us when we couldn’t avoid them any longer, the anger and intense joy, the eventual sharing of sleeping bags to fend off those cold nights…that last box of macaroni and cheese, powdered cheese and powdered milk, fresh river water, will never be forgotten by either of us.

Was it because for hours our minds had not been concerned with hunger, because so many other areas of our lives were mined as we hiked the trail, strong, yet open hearted? Because these were our last hours woven together in such an unplanned fashion, never to be worn again, and we knew it?

Who do we invent to stand at the gate of our own pleasures? Under what circumstances do we allow that gate to be opened? Only when our sentry is overwhelmed and over taken?

Storming The Gates

Barbara and Claud came by the other day delivering fresh home roasted coffee beans. We sat out under the late afternoon sun with an extraordinary cup of coffee, dark roasted beans( the type of bean is a secret), made with a ceramic Melita cone and paper filter. Barbara has mastered the art and science of coffee roasting, hence the local popularity of her beans and conversation about them. As our hunger became apparent we began our foraging. Start with the bread, multigrain, flecked with millet, oatmeal, flax seeds, unsliced to heighten the tension, the immediacy of freshly cut open loaves. A hearty crust is nice but more important is the chewy texture of the insides, the density. In all sincerity there is nothing more satisfying than a whole heartedly baked loaf of bread.

My recipe for flavored, scented olive oil is simple. Always use extra virgin oil, the Spanish or Greek is so deep in color, it becomes the background of the little landscape we make with the rest of the ingredients. Place about one fourth cup of oil in a round or oval flat ceramic dish (another use for that set of crème brulee dishes). The oval shape is best as it gives more room for the bread to sweep up oil, and avoids the other ingredients getting trapped in a corner. Next, sprinkle one fourth teaspoon of sea salt and three grinds of black pepper over the oil. Peel a half inch piece of garlic clove and run it through a press into the oil. Mix it around with a fork, Take one tip of a rosemary branch, about five or six needles, chop coarsely, and drop into the oil.
By this point you might be over come by the fresh, cheeky paso double going on  between the garlic and rosemary. But wait, because the top note approaches.

Lastly, peel off two pieces of orange zest or skin, lemon if you are without an orange, about two inches long, with a vegetable peeler, just the skin, no pith, and float these skin side up on the oil. Now, stop for a moment, marvel at the bright colors. Citrus skins are full of volatile oil which easily releases into another oil base. That’s why you can light a match, squeeze some fresh peels together with your thumb and forefinger next to the fire and a mini fireworks display occurs. While you’ve still got the peeler handy peel off one more strip and rub it behind your ears, at your temples, and feel aromatically blessed. Let the mixture dance about together in the dish for at least fifteen minutes.

Part Two of Our Story

August 12, 2009

All day, as I moved from one tree shaded table to the next, unfolding and laying out translucent sea green cloths over an undercloth of white, placing waters, wines, flutes at each setting, lining up hors ‘d oeuvres fork, salad fork, dinner fork, teaspoon, knife and dessert spoon, taking the ecru napkins, one after another, from square to triangle, folding over the base two inches, wrapping the ends around the back, tucking the right end into the left, propping the mitres cap in place, inserting the pale blue menu card into the fold, I had been aware of you up in the kitchen, filleting the fish with your sharp knives, blanching the beans, peeling pears and peaches, critiquing the final canapé presentation.

The day metered out in an old rhythm, a ritual set in motion by desire and the answer to a certain question, a question which upon answering, the rise and fall of empires has been predicated. Who knows how far Bill Clinton would have risen, or fallen, if Hillary had said “no”. How many times did Jennifer Lopez have to say “yes” to finally find her Marc Anthony, how many times did Elizabeth Taylor say “yes” to her Marc Anthony? And how many avoid the question all together, for all it portends, for thousands of years, perhaps our greatest leap of faith?

All precipitating this tremendous coming together here and now, of truth and beauty, embraced and enclosed by this finely wrought repast:

Barbara & Kenneth’s  Wedding Feast

A Delicious Assortment of Afternoon Canapés

The Wedding Ceremony

Seared Divers Scallop with Lemon Beure Blanc
Pinot Gris

Butter Lettuce Leaves topped with sliced poached Pear, Caramelized Pecans, with
Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Grilled Sesame Encrusted Sea Bass napped with a
Peach, Ginger and Wasabe Sauce
Wild Rice and Fresh Wokked Green Beans
Pinot Noir

Followed by the Wedding Toast

The Cake – Chocolate Tiramisu with Fresh Raspberries
Coffee and Port

It was you who suggested how beautifully the lemon and butter would segue into butter lettuce, pear, and apple cider flavors, how exciting to then taste the floral of peach, the almost apple-like spice of fresh ginger and that supremely Asian heat from wasabe. I could think of no other accompaniment to fresh sea bass that would elevate it to the celebratory state we were hoping to present to our guests.  The tables, understated in color warm as though picked that sun filled afternoon, with a touch of fireworks here and there, mimicking the sparkle of vibrant tangerine seed pearls scattered across the bridal dress were perfect, and we were satisfied.

And the day poured forth. Every fold of fabric, each bit of sun reflected off glass

sweetcomice and friends

August 10, 2009

PearWelcome to the world from my window. We’ll begin with a story, told in episodes, with time and room for all things light and dark, meaningful and uncertain…….

The last pair of guests has disappeared into the dark along the poplar lined path to the parking lot with fourteen relieved Madeira and raisin sauced meatballs scooped into a white take out box along with two French rolls, a half bottle of burgundy tucked under his arm.

As the clatter of chocolate and cream encrusted cake plates piling into the dishwasher goes on above our heads through the open kitchen window, we slip off our shoes, pull a banquet cloth from the final empty table and wander down into the garden, past the heirloom rose display that is only more spectacular in the dark for the rise and evaporation of dew scented with a predominance of rasp berried rose.

We reach our destination, the soft hollowed out grass between rows of tall junipers ending in two huge black iron Labrador retrievers which hide those looking for sanctuary with fierce barking faces. It is dark here, the deep gray of old unmoved shadows. The cloth  billows out cloud-like,  then comes to rest on the ground. Out of one side pocket of my apron comes folded linen napkins, two sterling salad forks, and out of the other, a pair of champagne flutes.

You have managed the short hike balancing a flat basket on one arm, a bottle of brut carefully suspended from the fingers of your other hand so the liquid barely moved as you walked, few bubbles lost carelessly. We sit down cross legged across from each other, napkins in our laps, the basket, bottle, cutlery and flutes at our knees.

All day, as I moved from one tree shaded table to the next……