Thursday, June 24, 2010

Batido de Mango with Cardamom

A "Batido" is a Cuban milkshake made with fruit juice or fruit pulp. I read first about batidos in Joyce Lafray's "Cuba Cochina" (published by William Morrow in 1984).She has a recipe for Mango Shake that I adapted.

For each person use one cup of whole milk, the pulp of one mango, one teaspoon of natural sugar. Combine milk, fruit pulp, and sugar in a food processor and pulse till smooth. Pour into glasses and add 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom to each glass and stir. I think children would love this.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sweet Tea with Rose Syrup and Lemon

Boil 2.5 quarts of water in a sauce pan. Add 1 cup natural organic sugar, reduce heat slightly and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and steep 5 teabags in the hot water until the tea is dark and strong. Pour into a pitcher if you have one, or quart mason jars if you do not. Add lemon juice to taste. Add 1/4 cup rose syrup or more to taste and stir. You can toss a few mint leaves in as well as long as the tea is still hot enough to steep it. Allow to cool, then chill in the refrigerator.

This is not a diet drink, but when it is 97 degrees who will notice? Rose Syrup can be had cheaply from any ethnic or Middle Eastern Market. If I had tamarind syrup I would try that as an alternative.

*There is a small bottle of rosewater in the photo. I tried using it instead of rose syrup. It gives a very subtle rose flavor. I was not interested in subtlety.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice 2010

The Wild Potato Vine and another white morning glory, name unknown, seen this morning behind the Ensworth School at Edwin Warner Park in Nashville.

Some Little Gardens in Leiper's Fork.

The first two photos are of the same home. One shows house plants summering outside on the lawn in front of the empty greenhouse. The porch is for ferns,and feeders, for American flags and caladiums- a jumble of beloved plants. And I am sure none is loved more than the blue mophead hydrangea, which never blooms reliably because so often late frosts cut it down.

The blue-trimmed cottage has pass-a-long plants that came with it. The owner was watering when I stopped, and she said the cottage once belonged to Lark Foster, a garden writer who taught classes at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens here in Nashville. The plants were interesting. The tall spikes are Hedychiums, the tropical ginger. The garden's owner told me they were from her grandmother's garden. I grew Hedychiums for a decade in my Bellevue garden. I found them hardy but frustrating ,since some bloomed so late that frost came before the flowers did.( Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge).

Beneath the gingers there were balsams, an old time annual related to impatiens. Their owner said they came with the house. "Even when I weed them out and throw them away, they come back where I tossed them", she said.

The white house with the white porch and the statue hound was charming in a more designed way. Flowers were secondary to shrubs and grasses, to paving stones and statues. This had a sitting porch where sitting came first. And sweet tea.

The Aurelian lilies in the next photo are as tall as I am. Their owner was reading and sipping coffee on her porch. She has had the lilies for several seasons, but they have never grown so tall. She thinks it was the flood. She had water a few feet deep in her house and yard, and her friends came and helped her pump it out. She says two people in town died in the flooding.

I wanted to explore a road out to the library and Community center, but the road was along the creek, and there were signs that warned me to proceed at my own risk. I turned back. And after a good breakfast at The Country Boy Kitchen, I left Leiper's Creek, wondering all the way back what small town or city neighborhood or country road I could explore next-

Part 3- The town of Leiper's Fork

I abandoned the Natchez Trace at The Leiper's Fork exit, and drove east toward the village through Bluegrass country. I saw many farms with the "Preserved Forever" banners. I applaud them, and I wish there was one hanging over the fence at Steveaway Farms here in Bellevue.

The Natchez Trace has brought good fortune to Leiper's Fork in the persons of cyclists and wanderers and tourists who travel the Parkway. It is what I call a "preserved village", for even contractors there build new " old houses". It has Puckett's General Store and Restaurant, and across the street the Country Boy Restaurant, where I ate grits, two eggs, a biscuit, and a slice of country ham, and talked to the waitress about the advantages of owning little dogs ,after she gave me a styrofoam box to bring home half the ham to my hounds. I assured her that the Shih Tzu has a better temperament than the Pekinese, and that I found mine at the Petco one Saturday morning after Proverbs Pet Rescue brought him in for adoption. Perhaps the waitress enjoyed talking to another woman, for other than a second waitress and a customer's very aged mother, I was one of few in a restaurant full of men. Across this earth-right now- there are cafes and restaurants where old local guys hang out, wearing their equivalent of tractor company hats and eating breakfast,and talking about how much better things would be if they ran the world.

I arrived in Leiper's Fork at 6 am, and it was quiet. By nine ,the bicyclists and motorcyclists were there, all looking for food. A friend of mine who lives in Santa Fe and takes Highway 46 home from the city says as many bicyclists use 46 as take the
Trace, for the highway goes through quiet country and is not crowded. None the less, she hates having to dodge them. She also tells another Highway 46 story of the night ice sent her car into a ditch on her way into work in Nashville. Stuck in a ditch? What better way to get out of work! Then came the Knights of the Highway in their pickups.

"We'll get you out, Honey", said the Boys, "You're a nurse! You gotta get to work!"

None of the shops in town were open, for it was Sunday. I was surprised that the guitar sculpture on the porch of one shop was left outside. People in this town were trusting. If I could have carried anything off it would have been Ben Franklin on the bench. Or maybe one of the wooden Indians. But I wanted to see gardens. And I will show you those in my following post.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Part 2- The Natchez Trace

The northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway is just to the west of the Loveless's parking lot on Highway 100. Most people who start in Nashville get on the Trace there, though I never do. I drive out a few miles to Highway 96, go east until I go under The Big White Bridge, and enter the parkway there. There is not enough money to pay me, nor are there enough drugs to calm me ,to make me go on that bridge as either passenger or driver-

Whenever I start to think that all governments are useless, I remember the Natchez Trace Parkway. The government built it, the National Park Service oversees it, and it is a wonder of the world. It wends southwest for 444 miles through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, and it ends in the city of Natchez. The house where explorer Merriwhether Lewis died, the Pharr Mounds Indian burial grounds, the town where Elvis Presley was born, the Ross Barnett Lake, historic French Camp- all along the Trace. This parkway follows the old path from the plantations of Tennessee to the ports of the Mississippi where planters sold their goods. It passes through forests, and the Black Bottom Prairie, and cypress swamps. I have travelled its full length twice, and parts of it many times. If I had the money or time and someone to water my foyer garden ,the dogs and I would get in the car and drive down it now, and you would not hear from us for weeks-

I drove only a short distance down the Trace Sunday, for the town of Leiper's Fork is not that far, and I was in search of old-timey small town gardens. And breakfast. I will take you farther down the Trace another day. I promise.

And one final thought- The National Park Service and our government built both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Natchez Trace Parkway. Why not make it a trifecta? I propose The Route 66 National Parkway through Texas and the Southwest to California. People from across the world would come to drive it. Instead of another pointless war, let us build a Nostalgia Highway!

Let's Go for a ride- Sunday at the Loveless Motel and Restaurant, on the Natchez Trace, and in Leiper's Fork.

Part One- The Loveless Motel and Restaurant

When I moved to Nashville in 1981 the Loveless was a little country restaurant out on Highway 100. There was a working motel attached to it, and it would not have been too different from other mom and pop eateries with big southern spreads, had it not been a mandatory stop for visiting celebrities, whose photos still cover one wall. It had excellent peach preserves and great breakfast biscuits and it was the place to take family from out of town. I used to mail my family the Loveless's preserves at Christmas. Back then there were no crowds and there was no wait, and I remember one breakfast there with some of the other young nurses who worked nights at St Thomas Hospital. I shook a lazy ketchup bottle, and it exploded all over my white uniform. We were young and this was funny, and before long we did not have to wear white anymore anyway, so I remember it fondly, just as I remember Cheryl Buck and my other friends calling each other "Belle". They even called me Belle, and I was a Yankee, but that was a long time ago.

I digress. The Loveless has changed hands, and to me looks like a prisoner of its old fame. The motel is closed, and on the weekend the Loveless is overrun by tourists and by motorcyclists and bicyclists starting their trek down the Natchez Trace Parkway. The restaurant even serves granola now. The Spandex-clad Bicycle Boys on their Italian racing bikes will never eat grits or country ham. Never. It was dawn when I took these pictures. A man was working in the barbecue shack, but I decided to move on to the Natchez Trace.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another treasure from Buried Treasures

This charming little watercolour was $5.00. I think the young woman in this painting looks the way Marion The Librarian would look at her wedding to The Music Man.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Out to Fairview looking for antiques.

I drove out to Fairview, Tennessee today, and stopped at Buried Treasures, which is on Highway 100 just before town. Anyone with the time and energy can find anything there if you are willing to dig. Old garden furniture is on one side of the shop, scattered over the lawn. On the other side is an entire house filled with old furniture. The second photo, with the singing bass on the wall, was taken deep into the shop where I found the little iron soda shop chairs shown in the photo taken in my apartment foyer. The white garden shelves and table, as well as the antique flower pots were out on the lawn.

Lana is the shop's owner, and to her the posted price is just a suggestion, especially if she has seen you before. She always knocks a few dollars off-

Lana also has books, paintings, lamps, dishware, linens, baskets, and much old cookware and old timey kitchen stuff. And the drive out takes you under the Natchez Trace Parkway and past the Loveless Motel and Restaurant. The town of Fairview is up on the west Highland Rim, and many of its fields are prairie remnants. I may drive out there this Sunday morning as I am looking for small country gardens to photograph.

Lions and Tigers and Bears-

This photo is of an alligator at Point Mallard. Point Mallard is in Alabama. Northern Alabama. In Decatur. 30 miles south of the Tennessee border. 110 miles from Nashville, and two hours away. I thought the nearest alligators lived below the Spanish Moss line south of Montgomery, but I have been disabused of that idea. The Feds introduced alligators into the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge to control beavers. Now people are running over them and calling the cops to drag them out of farm ponds. The alligators have been there for years, but I never knew it. I have walked around Wheeler looking at the sandhill cranes. I wish the refuge people had put up a sign. How long before the gators are at Williamsport Lakes? Radnor Lake?

And the scariest thought of all- as they move north will they drag the Gnat Line along with them? At least you can see the alligators.

Summer Dawn- Saturday June 19 Nashville

Mist everywhere this morning, and thunderstorms on the way. It may reach 97 degrees. The old farm house glimpsed through the trees is abandoned. This photo was taken on Sneed Road, and the old farm is surrounded by expensive subdivisions. This makes its presence mysterious. Why is it still there?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Armadillo Armada

The dogs and I were out early this morning, not only to avoid the heat, but to look for Tennessee's newest nocturnal citizen, the Nine-banded Armadillo. Just in the past week I have seen two dead ones out on Highway 100, one of them in the hell-strip between the Harris-Teeter grocery store and the highway. I doubt that carcass stayed there long since no one wants to smell dead armadillo on their way in to pick up sushi. The other carcass, out by the park, was already being appreciated by the black vultures.

Three years ago, a young man I worked with saw a live armadillo walking along the road in Pegram, a small town 15 or so miles west of the city. Not long after, on my way back from Reelfoot Lake, I saw half a dozen dead ones on the Middle Tennessee side of the I-40 bridge over the Tennessee River. From north to south ,Tennessee is not a wide state. The Tennessee River is wide with a bridge to the north at Paris Landing, in the middle at New Johnsonville, and then in the extreme south in Savannah. It is hard to believe that these are the only three immigrant portals for the armadillo, which has managed over time to bumble itself from South America up to Texas, presumably crossing rivers all the way.

I use the word "bumble" with confidence, for that seems to be the way the armadillo gets through life. As one can see in the photo, this animal looks like an armored possum- a mammalian version of the Humvee. This only looks like an advantage, for I have been researching armadillos and their natural history, and it seems their shell will not even stand up to a coyote. They are born with their eyes open, but this is no help- they are almost blind and find what they need by smell. Which brings us again to the Big Question.

How did they get across the Mississippi River, and then the Tennessee? One source I read claimed they could walk underwater. Another- that they could swallow air, blow up like a balloon, and float across. I suppose that is more likely than that they hitch-hiked or hid in the wheel wells of jet planes. Or rented a car. Since I am a follower of William of Occam, I defer to him. The simplest explanation is that they came over the bridges or swam across. The latter is no small feat. U.S. Grant and the Union Army had trouble getting across the Tennessee ( albeit because people were shooting at them from the other side).

Yet what does it mean for us- that they are now in the neighborhood- regardless of how they arrived.

First off, are they edible? Internet sources say they are. That they taste like pork. I consulted Mrs Mary Land's "Louisiana Cookery", which to me is the Bible Of Southern Critter Cuisine. Mrs. Land, a good woman to consult if you want to cook a chipmunk, does not mention armadillos.

Do they carry diseases? Indeed they do. Some have been infected with leprosy, which may be why Mrs Land did not cook them.

Are they destructive? That depends on if they are digging up your yard and not your neighbor's. Or undermining your house's foundation. People in modest Pegram may not mind a few holes in their lawn since they have better things to worry about. They may not mind an armadillo here or there. But the armadillo at Harris-Teeter was in the Belle Meade Highlands and not that far from the mansions along the Boulevard. Soon the armadillo's mug shot will be on the pest control vans along side the corn snake, the raccoon, and attic-invading squirrels. After all, Belle Meade is a very exclusive neighborhood. The armadillo would have no trouble finding houses so big he could not miss bumping into them. But where would he find food in a land without termites and lawn grub worms?

Box Turtle at Edwin Warner Park

And a Shih Tzu, who is not impressed.