Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Boeuf Bourguignon

I have just eaten the first Boeuf Bourguignon of my life, thanks to Ms. Child, Godde love and keep her--I made it myself. I don't know how it compares to others, but, if it gets any better than this, I expect to die of completely solid arteries within two years. Yeah, it's a lot of work, but it all shows up in that wonderful sauce.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blackberries or, Granny: an Introduction to Theology

I think there's an earlier draft of this somewhere in the innards of this contraption, which likely indicates I ought to return to pen and paper.

The world is this big in 1950 or so: my house and the following: across the street one door down is my Daddy's older brother, Unka B. Behind his house is the small frame building from which they run their electrical contracting business. There are two massive oak trees, one in the center of the yard, and one marking the border of the next lot beside the path. There's an outdoor brick fireplace/ grill between the trees, and below it, at the end of the shop, under the second oak, my Uncle's toy: an Air conditioner he designed and built. Later this becomes the business. Beyond that is an overgrown lot behind Granny's house, which is past the vacant lot between the two houses, where a covey of quail live; my Uncle likes to squat by the brick grill at dusk and whistle until the birds appear at the edge of the yard. Unka B bought the three lots and built two houses just before the war, one for him and one for his parents.

The most important place is, of course, Granny's house, where we make cookies (I have an identical bowl in my kitchen now; I don't think I've ever used it, but it needs to be there), and spend Friday nights to get away from our parents. Granny makes us anything we want for supper, but sometimes things don't taste as they should, which we have learned is because Granny was a Yankee and can't help it. We sometimes tease her about this.

One of the very best suppers in Summertime is Cobbler, which she is the best at making. There are two kinds, and I still can't tell which is the better: peach (OMG!) or, maybe even better, blackberry: biscuit dough baked over sweetened fruit. Sometimes Strawberry Shortcake, in which the dough is baked separately, with layers of fruit and whipped cream, is a nice change, but blackberry may be best, because we have the fun of picking the berries. Between Granny's yard and her neighbor's, at the back, are two rows of blackberry bushes whose branches arch back across one another, forming a tunnel full of sun and the best berries--a cathedral-- which no adult can reach, because they're too big to pass through, but we're not, and we fill our buckets while they struggle with the briars. Brer Rabbit got nuthin on us. As my mama was confined to the nursing home in the last few years, she told me my Grandfather and namesake, Granny's husband, had planted the blackberries; I hadn't known that.

Granny taught me to read before I went to Kindergarten; school being an unusual favor at the time for my class; it was a private school. I remember Bugs and Daffy, but I suppose there were Three Little Ducklings as well. She had a big upholstered chair with wide arms; each of us could sit on a side and read along. She taught us songs, too: "Rock a bye, Baby", and others.

She would tell me sometimes "I wouldna trade a farm for ya." which I thought was sweet: a farm with all kinds of animals and things! I didn't know then that she had left Indiana and the security she may have thought she had found with a husband twenty years her senior, at nineteen, with a baby Unka B and another on the way, when Dad Wood's siblings sold the farm out from under them when their parents died. He had left college and his dream of being a Methodist Minister to care for them and the farm for twenty years, buried a first wife and raised a daughter; he never went back to Indiana again. I know very little about the lineage from which my surname comes; it stops, for all practical purposes, with him. A farm, and the security, and the position it conveyed, was nearly everything in Indiana at the turn of the Twentieth century; I meant more to her than that.

When Granny died, in 1963, my cousin, Unka B's daughter, told me Granny suddenly sat up, at the end, and said "I see my mother" and fell back, to speak no more. Granny was a step-daughter, in an age when that mattered; she never spoke of the woman who raised as anything but "my step-mother," though she was close to her half-sister, Pauline.

Over the years, I have come to realize that, when I think of Godde as a human being, I know what She looks and sounds like, and I'm sure who it will be, should we still know such things, who will greet me in my time.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Second Thoughts

Lightly toasted Pine nuts; that is all.

More Indulgence

Well, certain other blogger/ cooks, whose initials are The Cunning Runt, got me thinking about Ravioli the last couple of days, and whitefish fillets were as cheap as fresh fish gets in New England, plus J, my Winehead and connection, suggested a California Viognier, so I indulged in Asparagus/ Lemon Ravioli at my local Whole Paycheck, roasted the fish with Lemon Zest and Tarragon, and dressed the Ravioli with my best olive oil (currently Lebanese), and minced garlic, plus shaved Parm/ Regg, to be followed by mixed greens and a pear. Note: warm, but do NOT let garlic brown in the slightest.

Simple assembly. Delicious. And only my usual three Friday stops to get it all. It helps to be known; I've shopped with my greengrocer for five years, and have started volunteering there. J knows I don't care much for Oak in wines, and am a little tired of the Chard/ Reisling regulars. Viognier, to my surprise, is grown in the Rhone Valley. I've been associating it with the adjoining areas East, primarily Austria, but I know next to nothing about Rhone Whites.

I am now patiently explaining to Mz Scarlett that this is servant food, and need not be taken seriously by Cat. She seems to think the Tarragon and Lemon ruin otherwise good fish.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

In Memoriam: Daddy and Snoopy

No, not the famous WWI fighter ace, but a little known Dachshund (1959-1973), brought into our family as a puppy, allegedly as a pet for a five year old girl, then living undercover as the family dog. Nobody ever pretended otherwise; we all shared in her exuberant love: put her on her rope so she could tumble down the back steps to challenge the squirrels in the pecan trees for her yard. She once more than challenged a neighbor's incautious German Shepherd; even with Snoopy on her rope, it took the Shepherd only fifteen seconds or so to conduct an ignominious retreat beyond her borders.

She was quick to greet me when I came to my parents' house during school or the army, and would welcome an acknowledged guest as soon as this was made clear to her. By the late Sixties, she was my Daddy's dog; her cover was completely blown.

He arose early, cherishing the quiet coffee on the front porch in his father's rocking chair as the night became day: brooding, perhaps, over his choices made and unmade. But, to get there, he had to perform the morning rites.

When he awakened, and staggered sleepily in to take a piss at about 4:30 or 5:00, he went by Snoopy, nestled in her swaddling clothes in a cardboard tray near the furnace, which she only fit into with effort; she had become a fairly large dog: 40+ lbs. He would move in the dark to start coffee, and, having made it, adjourned to the porch. When he returned, Snoopy would begin to stir in her dreams. As he made breakfast, she would begin to get her hind legs out of bed. When the toaster went down, she began to move in earnest, but without undue haste; she knew exactly how long things took.

Within moments of the toast popping up, Snoopy was at her place at table, waiting patiently for her portion. One piece on my Daddy's plate, and the other broken up and dropped on the carpet for his dining companion, who relished her vittles. This had been their routine most of Snoopy's life.

My Mama told me, years after Snoopy's death, that my undemonstrative Daddy had cried when Snoopy died. Though I am sure this was not the only time, I never heard of any other.

Friday, April 4, 2008

April 4th

About mid-way through the day, I realized it was April 4th; forty years ago, just after midnight, I got on a chartered flight to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. About this time of day, MLK, Jr. was murdered in Memphis: not directly related events, of course.

Both events had begun earlier, and had, in my case, been largely decided by 28 Sep 66, the date I joined (yes, you heard that right) the U S Army. Before then, my life seemed as if it might have a point: if not immediately, then at least it might develop one. For the past forty years, it has not seemed so, though I have continued to look, and to try to make one.

You see, I am convinced, despite these decades of evidence, that my life has a purpose, which is not summed up in social or interpersonal roles, nor even in occupation or profession. This week, I answered two important questions "Yes, I do"

Do you believe that Godde loves you?

Do you believe She has a purpose for you that She wants you to fulfill?

Perhaps the questions arose from this week, though I didn't share the significance of the date with my interrogators. (One of them already knew, of course). Therefore, I am trying something different and very difficult for me, though I have been enticed by my previous experiences with it: silence. I'm not sure yet, but this may include less internet participation.
Let she who has words of wisdom speak.

Speak, Lady, for your servant is listening.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Roasted wild caught salmon: more red than pink, but cooked, with lemon zest and juice.

This is what a pro does every time.