Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Estate Sale Diaries- November 25th Nashville -Part 2

There was a line even at 8:30 Friday morning, waiting for the moving sale on Grayson. The house was a brick ranch, and its driveway was a heart killer. The front lawn rose from the road at a 60 degree angle, and mowing it on a riding mower must have given someone some nervous moments. I recuperated from the walk up in back of the house, where I could wheeze in peace, out of the public eye.

What pain the owner must have felt at leaving, for her back yard was a three tiered terraced garden. Red Knockout roses still bloomed, and though cold had killed the cannas to the ground, a few Shasta daisies were still in flower.

I was in line ahead of a dealer, a man who could , and did, talk for thirty minutes straight. To me. All I needed to do was smile and nod. The dealer and his wife planned to be out all day, and he went over their itinerary. He urged me to drive down to Murfreesboro, where one of his friends was having a sale. He told me most of the people behind us and in front of us in line were dealers. Neither he, nor his wife, seemed fond of these other members of their fraternity, and no one greeted anyone else.

"Watch out for them", the wife warned me, pointing to the young couple who were first at the door. "She'll come up and snatch things right out of your hand".

I learned that the older dealers had shops or booths, but the new generation sold on line, on Ebay. "I wouldn't fool with that", the man said, "Who wants to fool with sales tax and shipping?" Perhaps people who did not have to pay rent for a shop or share their profits with the consignment store, I thought, though I did not get an opening to say so.

Talk ceased. The front door opened. In we went. We swarmed the kitchen, and in the first five minutes piles marked "sold" rose around the checkout table. I was looking for the pale green enamel cookware set, but I did not see it until a man carried it out the door. The mixing bowls-dozens- went fast as well. I found two sets of Hall Pottery bowls with their lovely, but impractical gold rims-

Later at checkout, the ladies behind me gave me unsolicited advice. "Those gold rims- You know they can't go in the microwave. You can't put them in the dishwasher-". I told them I did not cook in a microwave, and I did not mind hand washing.

There was more Hall china. A souffle dish and a covered bowl that looked as though it would be used for compotes.

Glassware covered table after table. Glasses, mugs, pitchers. Wedgewood plates. A hall closet hid dozens of ring binder church and Junior League cookbooks.

At one hour in, I kept circling the kitchen, looking for the overlooked. What dealers were left, were in line. Mr Talkative was disassembling the dining room table. His wife had bought a nest of large plastic storage boxes, and they were full of what she thought would sell. The house was emptying out, though people ignored the 20 quart stockpot, the canner, the cappuccino maker- all still in their boxes, forgotten on the garage shelves. What survived Friday would go for half price on Saturday, when there would be no more dealers around.

My arms ache today from holding boxes as I waited to pay. Kind ladies in line held some of my dishes for me, and I trusted them. No one ran off with anything. I never thought they would. There may be no honor between dealers, but there is among the ladies of Nashville who have driven out of a morning, perhaps to look for something for their granddaughter's first kitchen-

And the woman whose house this once was, the woman who collected Hall Pottery and who gardened on a hillside- Who was she? Were there clues?

If we look close enough we might find them. Perhaps inside a cookbook from the Franklin, Tennessee Ladies Auxiliary. It looks like a retirement gift , and a card and a note left inside thank her for her years of teaching- "In remembrance of the fun and good times we "cooked up" at Fairview High School", it reads. And continues-"You were a true example of class and style-always to be counted on to do the right thing-".

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Estate Sale Diaries- November 25th Nashville

I do not camp at stores to get in line early, and the prospect of being in a store with a crowd gives me what Mark Twain called the "fantods". I will be going early today to a moving sale over on Grayson in West Meade. The pictures of the kitchen and the kitchenware are at the Patterson Estate Sales web site, I have tried in vain to set up a link, but if you want to see more pictures you will have to depend on Google to guide you. I think the mixing bowls alone justify the gas, though Grayson is but 2 miles from my apartment. These three photos are from the web site-

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Holiday Red Cabbage and Turnips

A while back I posted a shredded cabbage recipe from "Four Great Southern Cooks". The recipe came from Beatrice Mize, who cooked at the Dew Drop Inn in Georgia and later in private Atlanta homes. Mrs Mize was half black and half Cherokee Indian, and she had a way with vegetables. I had never cooked shredded cabbage before Mrs Mize showed me how.

Now , I have created my own recipe by combining cabbage with shredded turnip. This is a creamy and tasty side dish, and it is the second time I have added orange juice to a recipe . (Last week I added it to creamed chicken livers, with happy results).

Here are the ingredients :

1/2 head of red cabbage, shredded by the julienne disc of a food processor.

3 small turnips shredded by the processor.

1 tbs red vinegar or cider vinegar

All the juice squeezed out from a large orange

1/2 stick of butter

1 cup of chicken broth or chicken bouillon

Sea salt, 1 teaspoon, or add more to taste

1/2 to 3/4 cup of heavy cream.

1 to 2 tbs olive oil

Melt 1/4 stick of butter in a twelve inch saute pan. Add the olive oil, then the vegetables and toss them with the oil-butter mixture to coat them. Season generously with the sea salt. Heat over medium for five minutes , stirring the mixture. Now add the rest of the butter, the broth, the vinegar, and the orange juice. Taste, and add more sea salt as desired. Reduce heat, cover the pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Then add the heavy cream. Sir in and heat through, and it is ready to serve.

I paired this with corned beef and hot buttered egg noodles. It would go well with any holiday roast. I think this recipe would serve four to six.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Give money me, take friendship whoso list".

So said the old poet Barnabe Googe, whose Dickensian name would have been worthy of a clerk in a counting house.

In 'Provide, Provide", a greater poet tells his readers-

"Make the whole stock exchange your own!

If need be, occupy a throne,

Where nobody can call you crone".

Money is much on all our minds for the next four weeks, for merchants rely on our money to put air in their retail soft tires. Our children want us to prove we love them by asking us to line up outside the electronics store at midnight, only hours after eating our Thanksgiving dinner.
The poets advise putting cash away to buffer us in old age when our health and friends are gone. But we-we prefer to spend. If not our own money, well- then the bank's.

"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run." So said Thoreau. This thought never occurs to a young professional woman with a ten thousand dollar limit on her credit card. Over to the Green Hills Mall she will go ,to buy a handbag at Louis Vuitton.

Why not? It helps the economy. She can afford $175 a month for her Mastercard, and 15% interest.
But let her be late by twenty-four hours in paying that bill, and her interest and her payment double. She would have been better off paying the thousands she spent on the handbag in cash.

But she could not afford that. She has no cash. She has only her labor. If she is a nurse, she might get overtime or a second job. Extra checks that could help her pay down the debt. Reclaim her life. Instead, she feels rich again. What is a luxe pocketbook without shoes to match? Back to the mall, using a different credit card. She has five or six.

Then Bear Stearns fails, interest rates rise, overtime is no more. She has to pawn the handbag to make a car payment.

I know people who live like this. I have had brushes with this myself, though I, who always buy second hand, have never worshiped pricey leather in whatever form it comes. I once owned a Coach pocketbook that I bought at a thrift shop. A nurse I worked with offered me $30 for it one night as we talked at the nurses' station. I sold it to her, and carried my keys and wallet home in a ziplock bag. That nurse thought she had gotten a bargain, but I had the cash.

I do not have credit cards anymore. My Chanel boutique is the Goodwill store. If I have no cash, I cannot buy, and if I deplete what cash I do have at an estate sale, I must do without till the next payday.

Thus I am spared paying for a pontoon boat I might use once a year, or for a car bought only to impress. This is a perk of being over sixty, when one has little desire left for jewelry and clothes and makeup.

The currency I want now- free time, good health, and peace.

Not one of these is for sale on "Black Friday".

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On the Stove Top Now

This is a simple vegetable and bean soup I will leave on the stove top to simmer. I had some beet greens I needed to use, and two carrots a day or two away from terminal softness and the garbage pail. I can afford to waste nothing, so into a soup they went, along with two fifteen ounce cans of cannelloni beans, 3 cups of water, one 15 ounce can of chicken broth, 15 ounces of Muir Glen Fire roasted diced tomatoes, five cloves of garlic, sea salt to taste, and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. I sprinkled in some Herbs de Provence as well, and a tablespoon of olive oil. This kind of soup is good with warm bread, even if it is the 2 day old butt end of a loaf of Cuban bread revived by 30 seconds in the microwave.

The carrots I diced. The garlic I crushed up in a press. The beet greens were from three beets. I cut off the purple stalk-y part and tore the leaves with my hands. Cooked through, the colors of this soup will not be as bright as they are in the photo, but the soup will still be good.

And here is last night's dinner- Creamed Chicken Livers in Puff Pastry Shells( Pepperidge Farm, out of the freezer case.) and beets and carrots roasted with a glaze of olive oil, sea salt, pomegranate molasses, and a dusting of cinnamon.

The roast vegetables are easy. Peel and cut up 3 beets and 2 or 3 carrots. In a bowl mix 4 or 5 tablespoons of olive oil with a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. Grate a stick of cinnamon over the glaze and blend. Taste and adjust. Be generous with the sea salt. Then toss the vegetables into the bowl and coat well with the glaze. Line a Pyrex dish with enough aluminum foil to wrap the vegetables in a packet. Dust on a little more cinnamon before you seal it. Bake at 350 for an hour. This should serve three or four.

Creamed Chicken Livers-

1 pound of chicken livers

1/3 stick butter

2 Shallots, peeled and diced.

1 tablespoon of capers

4 or 5 tablespoons of heavy cream,more if you want the livers creamier.

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Sea salt- a sprinkling on the shallots to sweat them as they saute.

2 sage leaves, chopped up.

Juice from one orange.

Put half the butter in a saute pan, and saute the chopped shallots (sprinkled with sea salt )until they are translucent. Add the capers then add the chicken livers. As they cook over medium heat stir them and break them up with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped sage leaves and the vinegar and mix well. You want the chicken livers to achieve the consistency of ground beef. Add the rest of the butter, the cream, and the orange juice, and mix well. Keep the livers warm while baking your puff pastry shells according to package directions. When the shells are baked, spoon in the warm chicken livers. If each person eats one shell this should feed four to six.

Had I done the usual with this recipe I would have added sherry or marsala to the livers. A fortified wine would have made this good, and it would have tasted like the tried and true and familiar. The orange juice takes it in another direction- away from the conventional.

These are my own recipes. I hope you try them. And if there are any livers left over, add them to an omelet or make a condiment for pasta.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Diagnostic Drift"

AOL gets my email, and when I go to it to see what's new , there is always some  headline to scare or amuse. On four hours of sleep, one is easily amused, or easily peeved, and AOL is always reliable.

"Cursing Baby Doll Outrages Parents" is one of today's stories. This might be funny, but I will never read it so I will never know. Instead I see another headline asking "Is it Borderline Personality Disorder?"

Well, is it? Big M.D., Big Psych, and Big Pharma hope so. People with BPD must be treated, declares the article. With mood-stabilizers, anti-psychotics,  and anti-depressants.

And who might these sick people be? "People with borderline personality disorder can quickly swing from having intense love for someone to suddenly becoming very angry and hating that loved one".

This sounds like marriage to me, so let us include all the wedded. It sounds like the mother of a defiant 14 year old girl, and the football fan who throws his shoe at the dog when it blocks his view of the last play of  the Tennessee- Florida game.

A round of anti-psychotics for each and every one.

Big Psych says there are other symptoms. "Spending money carelessly". Here go the Men in White Coats- out to fill their vans with Black Friday shoppers fighting each other to get into Target.

"Eating Binges". Now we have diagnosed anyone who sits down to Thanksgiving dinner, or orders a second burrito .

"Over drinking" There go all the Winter Carnival revelers stumbling back to Fraternity Row across the Hanover Green.

"Being afraid of being alone". Now we have to figure out the anti-depressant dose for infants and toddlers-

"Feeling empty inside."  Existential pain that has plagued man and woman since Eden. That means the whole doubting, suffering, wondering human race. We are all going to the Bad Mood Gulag together.

And who else will be joining us there?. Jesus felt forsaken on the cross. Job confronted silence and emptiness until God spoke to him out of the whirlwind.

Job must have been hallucinating. Big Psych says so.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Dressing Down of Nursing

After a stay in the hospital , my mother complained that she could not tell who was a nurse and who wasn't because everyone she saw had on scrubs. Gone were the white uniforms, the white nurses' caps unique to each school-

I was thinking about this the other day after seeing a young nurse who from a distance looked like a real belle, a Scarlett O'Hara re-born.  Until I saw her left arm, which was tattooed from wrist to elbow. Our dress code forbids "visible" tattooes, but scrubs do not have long sleeves.  I know I sound like a curmudgeon complaining about the customs of the young, but appearance was once one of the most important qualities of a nurse. Neatness, cleanliness, poise implied competence and caring and discipline. There was no place for talon nails, tight scrub pants, cleavage, hoop earrings. There is no place for them now, which is why hospitals fight back with two page dress codes.

Scrubs, which look slovenly even when new, are the universal nurse garb today. Some are all one color, some are busy, with little dancing hippopotami or flowers all over. Even white shoes are optional, but running shoes are the norm.

This past summer I wore white scrub dresses for a while until ink and other stains disfigured them. Not a shift went by without someone remarking that I looked " old school" or like a "real nurse". Now I wear green scrubs again and hope that my patients know I am a nurse because I act like one.

I am not nostalgic for nurses' caps. They were cumbersome and frequently out of place. In today's hospitals they would be just another place for MRSA and VRE or any of the other viral horrors to hatch.  And white uniforms are not practical since they are not white for long.

I am nostalgic for a time when nurses did not have their fingers glued to I-Pods. I miss the old style head nurses who knew everything that was going on in their units.  The days when a nurse was allowed to call her patient's doctor without asking a supervisor for permission and without using a script like the SBAR.

Nurses once had time to give their patients back rubs. It was an evening expectation  at my first job. Now the only back rubs being given are by nurses to each other, in between bar coding every medicine and filling in the endless blanks on paper or computer.  Now every nurse has two patients in every bed- the real flesh and blood patient and his doppelganger, the "documentation". I will let you guess which one demands the most attention.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cooking with Salsa- A Salsa Omelet

I keep jars of salsa in my pantry for cooking, not for scooping onto corn chips. A couple tablespoons whisked into scrambled eggs and then wrapped inside a warm flour tortilla dressed with more salsa and sour cream makes a fast, good breakfast. A pound of shrimp cooked in salsa, a recipe from Rick Bayless's "Mexico, One Plate at a Time", makes an ever acceptable party or pot-luck dish. And just look at the photo of the omelet I ate this morning-

The condiment I sauced it with after I took it from the pan was a few more teaspoons of salsa, one avocado, and one mini-banana from the ethnic market. You could use half of a regular banana instead. I mashed these together. It made enough condiment for two omelets.

I like to use salsas made with chiles, or with peaches, or with mangoes. Tequila Lime salsa is superb for poaching shrimp-

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14, 2011- The Blue Hour

The Gulf of Mexico is the mother of our weather. Look outside and see the bare trees of late Fall. Step outside and feel the south wind. It is 77 degrees. Anyone who has lived here a few years knows what is coming.

It is not good.

By morning I suspect we will be under a Tornado Watch. If I hear the sirens, we will be under a tornado warning, which means one may be somewhere near, on the ground.

Sometimes the Doppler radar is the only one who sees the clouds rotating, and the funnel clouds never drop. We hope for the best. I dreamed tornado dreams many a night the first years that I lived down here. They were always coming, and in swarms. How glad I am that I do not have to drive out tonight-

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Award

Claudia, who has a wonderful blog called A Seasonal Cook in Turkey has nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award. I am very grateful to her, not only for the recognition, but for forcing me to learn how to link. My skills have been very rudimentary and do need some tweaking. I am supposed to list 7 things about myself and also to choose 5 blogs to pass the award on to. I will have to think on that overnight.
And once again, Thank You Claudia!

TV and Me

I grew up with television, for when I was young, so was TV.

I remember Saturday mornings in our old salt box house in Plantsville, Connecticut. I remember Annie Oakley bravely crawling through a window in her weekly search for adventure. I remember Sky King and Lassie.. I remember the night my parents had friends over for dinner and martinis. The adults talked of loving Adlai and not liking Ike. We kids, in the next room, pretended we were on the Sid Caesar show-

"First you walk a little more, and then you do that step!" we sang.

Newton Minnow may have believed that television was a "vast wasteland", but I and my friends never did. We never stopped watching. 77 Sunset Strip. Maverick. Cheyenne. Sea Hunt.

The night of February 9th, 1964, my brother and I walked two miles along a wooded and snowy country road to visit our neighbors, the Dunns. The Dunns were old, but their TV was new, and it could pick up the local CBS station. The Ed Sullivan Show was on that night. He introduced the Beatles. After that came the deluge- Petula Clark, the Rolling Stones. The British Invasion.

Only a few months before we had been attached to our own television for the aftermath of November 22, 1963. We sat day by day until the funeral was over.

When I went to nursing school in 1969 ,I and my classmates sat in our "smoker" every Wednesday, and watched Dr. Joe Gannon on "Medical Center". We preferred it to the stodgy, old-fashioned "Marcus Welby, M.D.". We were a more irreverent generation than the one that preceded us.

In June 1972, just after I graduated ,and around the time I took state boards, burglars broke into the DNC offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington. The next year , when I was not at work, I was watching the Senate Select Committee and Sam Ervin trying to answer the question "What did the President know, and when did he know it?".

On nights I wanted to blot out the news, I watched "Mary Tyler Moore" and "The Bob Newhart Show". I watch them still, thanks to HULU. How our current comedies, with their disrespectful, smart-mouthed children and adults-who-never-grow-up, pale beside them.

Perhaps there are people who "measure out their lives in coffee spoons", but I am not among them. I measure out my life in decades and what was on TV. My late 20s- the spirited girls of "Charlie's Angels" and "The Bionic Woman". My 30s- "Dallas", and "Dynasty", and "Knott's Landing". All those glamorous women. All that Big Hair.

Yet now, at 61, I admit that while I have never missed one CSI, I have never watched a single episode of "Friends", or "Gray's Anatomy", or "Seinfeld", or anything with Charlie Sheen in it. I see no point in watching any of the "Law and Orders". They are all the same episode, over and over. I understand now why many of my older patients no longer want the TV on in their room.
They do not need to watch TV. They have already seen it. There is no such thing as a new plot, and they have seen them all. I know how they feel. The other night a show I usually watch was going to feature a serial killer. I changed the channel. No more serial killers. Not for me. No more Halloween episodes or Christmas episodes. No coaches being killed in the locker room. No boxing episodes. No more pedophile teachers or parents. No wonder the TV in our nurses' lounge is always tuned to a show about people who bid on abandoned storage lockers. Other people are just as tired of the same old thing as I am.

Ever hopeful, I watch some of each season's new shows to see if anything is worthwhile. This year, I am watching "Revenge", which is "The Count of Monte Christo" meets "Dynasty". Not new perhaps, but fresh. And "Pan-Am", which is so good that it will certainly be cancelled.

But the night I turn on "Revenge" and find that one of its characters is a serial killer, I will fire up HULU and watch another episode of "Newhart" instead.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Internet and Its Discontents, or Why No One in Russia is Really Reading Your Blog.

" Be careful what you wish for", my mother used to say, "You might get it". It was one of what she called her "home truths".

I have been writing this blog for close to two years. Many a time it seemed that I had few readers. I envied people who knew how to add little side widgets. Who knew they had readers, because there were those tantalizing messages-

"A visitor from Florence, Italy visited this site one minute ago".

How I wished someone from Barcelona or Prague or London would find my blog and send me a comment.

And then, Blogger added Google Stats. It appeared I had readers in over 40 countries! Russia, and Latvia! Bulgaria. Nigeria. Page views from everywhere, and hundreds a month.

But only to one or old posts. And over and over. Why would anyone in Russia want to read about the five-lined skink lizards on my porch?

No one in Russia did. My blog was being invaded by something called "referrer spam", hatched in "spam farms' in the old Communist bloc countries. Scam upon spam, one might say. And disheartening. Those hundreds of readers were an illusion born of my own naive hopefulness.

Google "Stats" poses as many questions as it answers. Perhaps it would be better not to know who reads what one writes. Obliviousness as bliss-

I wish I had never found out about spam farms and "bots" that creep around the web stealing and plotting. Whose only goal is to get the unwary to click on their referral site and be rerouted to Russian porn sites and pages full of viral malware.

What a world.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Soup Recipe Requested by a Friend

I made this soup last evening. When I told a friend about it, she asked that I post it. I had bought a 28 ounce can of fava beans earlier in the day at the K&S World Market. They were another import from the Ziyad Brothers of Lebanon. Those brothers provide most of the Middle Eastern food stocked at the market.

The fava beans were large and rust colored. Very meaty, and very unlike fresh fava beans. Pureed in the food processor and spiced up a bit ,they made a very good soup one could eat either hot or cold- And it was even more delicious when I spooned it into the bowl on top of shredded phyllo dough I had fried in corn oil.

1 28 ounce can fava beans.

3 cups of water- add more if you like a thinner soup.

2 chicken bouillon cubes

3 cloves of garlic, diced or sent through a press.

2 tablespoons tomato paste.

A couple shakes of Greek seasoning to taste.

Sea salt to taste- remember that the chicken cubes are salty.

1/4 sick of butter.

Puree the beans in a food processor. Then add all the ingredients in a saucepan. Cook on medium until the garlic is cooked through. Serve with pita bread or on top of fried phyllo strips. If you fry phyllo, you must be attentive and work fast. Do only a little at a time. If you have a fryer with a basket you could fry all you need at one time and get it out of the oil quickly and all at once.

Would serve four-

A Fine Old Mystery- Mabel Seeley's "The Listening House"

With the exceptions of Josephine Tey and Donna Leon, I prefer American mystery writers. English country house crime is not noir enough for me. Give me Chandler, and Ron Faust, and Ross McDonald. And though I have only read one Mabel Seeley, I find "The Listening House" dark enough for my taste.

The heroine of this mystery is no detective. She is a one time department store worker who loses her job over inserting an "L" into the word "save" in a newspaper ad. Forced to seek out cheaper lodging, and reduced to taking temp work, she moves into a boarding house run by an old woman named Mrs.Garr. Mrs. Garr has a history, as does her house and most of her tenants. To write any more of the plot would spoil it for those who might read it.

"The Listening House" was written in 1938. My copy, a Doubleday Crime Club Classic, was published in 1953. It was my parents' book, but I made off with it, and it has moved around with me for decades. I have read it over and over. Though the story takes place in the Depression, it is very modern. Its themes of lost innocence, corruption, and retribution are timeless. And the story's Everywoman heroine knows no more than we do. Reader and Character find out the sad truth together.

An old hardcover copy is available at Amazon for $5.00.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Potluck Season

The holidays are the busiest time of year for potluck suppers. At least where I work. I remember last season , and how hard I worked and cooked to exceed myself presenting one interesting and novel dish after another.

Never again. What a naif I was. I even thought I might write a potluck cookbook.

Now I know better.

The words "novel" and "interesting" have no place in potluck cookery. I am not accusing one's co-workers of being culinary conservatives. I am saying they are culinary reactionaries. They do not want new. They want old. The same old. They want Rotel tomatoes pureed with melted Velveeta cheese dipped out of a crockpot onto tortilla chips. They want green bean casseroles topped with Durkee's french fried onions. (I dare you to try to find a can of said fried onions during the holidays. There aren't any. They are sold out). They want meatballs cooked in barbecue sauce ,and they want Ambrosia. And spinach artichoke dip. Hot dog bits wrapped in crescent rolls.

I once made the mistake of making "Jacob's Dream", an ancient and revered Scandinavian winter dish made of potatoes, cream, anchovies, and butter. 98% of what I brought in I dragged home. I was the only one who would touch it. The same thing with James Beard's Piquant Crab Salad last Christmas. There were a few takers, despite it being delicious.

If people have not seen it before, they will not eat it. You would be better off going to Whitt's and buying a giant tub of barbecue with vinegar sauce and two dozen hamburger rolls and putting that out on the community table. Barbecue you don't have to cart home. If there is any left over you can give it to one of the inevitable bachelors. That will save them from at least one meal of black-eyed peas right out of the can or tinned beef stew.

Having said this I will now point out that shrimp are always acceptable. I think if they were marinated in motor oil, people would still grab for them. The only shrimp I have ever seen rejected were hasty bought frozen ones in a round clamshell package. They were straight from Kroger, and spent their potluck time weeping ice into a sad little puddle. Since whoever bought them did not have a beagle to bring them home to, these shrimp went into the trash.

A pork loin is also a good idea.( The pig is revered in the south.) I cooked one in milk in the Italian style ,and everyone ate it.

But these are exceptions to the rules. No one wanted the Mexican Pork rinds I brought to a baby shower potluck a couple months ago. I had to bring them home, and what the dogs and I did not eat, the coons and the possums did.

So the moral of this story is this- put on your coat and drive to the grocery this minute. Fill your cart with canned french fried onions and Rotel tomatoes. Do it now.

The week before Thanksgiving will be too late!

Decorating on the Cheap

I wanted a centerpiece for my table. I thought of flowers, but carnations and alstromerias are at least four dollars a bunch. They are a monthly splurge, not a weekly one, So I brought home a handful of brown-red oak leaves from the park. I put them in the bottom of a vintage bowl, then set a winter squash in the middle. Soon I will eat the squash, put away the bowl, and throw the leaves out under the holly hedge to go back into the earth. But on this windy day with cold coming in and the early dark, they will decorate my tea room table.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beagles and Beef Stew

I have made a basic beef stew twice in the last two weeks- once in the oven and once in my slow cooker. The stew from the slow cooker was superior, for I found the beef in the oven stew dry. The cooker was so much better that I will be looking for a larger crock pot at the next estate sale I go to. What a help it will be with this years pot lucks.

This basic stew for two is so much better than anything in a can. And I have served it to young people who raved about it. And ate it all. In other words, it is a family meal.

You need:

1 cup stew beef

Sea salt or kosher salt to taste

2 yellow potatoes

2 large carrots

2 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon of all purpose flour

1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 stick unsalted butter

Herbs de Provence

1 cup of chicken or beef broth

Brown the beef in half the butter. When done, put it in the crock pot. Then de-glaze the pan with the apple cider vinegar. Pour the cider and the brown bits from the pan in with the beef.

Peel the vegetables and dice them. Chop up the garlic or put it through a press. Add to the stew. Add the broth, a few shakes of the herbs, and the rest of the butter. Mix in the tomato paste. Add salt to suit your taste.

When the vegetables have cooked though ( about two hours in my cooker) and the stew is almost ready, blend in one tablespoon of flour (Mix well). Cook another five minutes, then allow to cool. A tip- sprinkle the flour evenly over the stew. Do not just dump it in.

Serves two or three. Double or triple ingredients if you are serving more.

I will say a word about my slow cooker. It has no finesse with cooking temperatures. It only has two states of being. On. And off. I think a stew left for more than a few hours might be in danger. A more sophisticated cooker on low might let you nurse a stew all day. I assume you know your slow cooker better than I do-

As you can see this stew also has the Beagle Seal of Approval.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Ten Minute Dinner- Pasta with Sicilian Flavors

This is orzo, a pasta shaped like rice. It cooks quickly in salted boiling water, and by quickly ,I mean in under 8 minutes. If one could not find orzo, there are any number of other small pastas to substitute .

In the 8 minutes it is cooking you can put together a quick condiment of pitted olives, grated hard Italian cheese( I used Romano), capers, golden raisins, panko breadcrumbs, and olive oil.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of whole pitted olives, 2 or 3 tablespoons of both panko crumbs and the grated cheese, a teaspoon of capers, and several tablespoons of golden raisins. Mix well and warm over medium heat until crumbs are lightly toasted. Then place the condiment on your orzo. You may want to drizzle on a little olive oil as well. You can add more of any ingredient you like. I cooked a cup of orzo, which would serve two. You could also add a dash of Italian seasoning. I used Za'atar.

This is a fast meal for a tired evening when you are hungry after a long day. It combines sweetness, saltiness, and crunchiness.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Escoffier, Chicken , and a Crockpot Part 2

The Chicken drumsticks cooked in a sauce of walnuts and horseradish was delectable. I cooked mashed potatoes to go with it, and dressed them with the sauce. An excellent meal, though not an every day meal. What a fine dish to serve to friends on a Saturday night. And one lets the slow cooker do the work.

Yes, it does have cream and butter, but moderation is the key, as in all things. It would not be an ideal summer dish because if its richness, but cold weather suits it. The drumsticks make it economical as well. I cooked three drumsticks, but one could easily double the recipe.

This was not Elizabeth David's recipe, nor Auguste Escoffier's. It is a recipe using their idea of combining walnuts and horseradish.( The original recipe was meant to go with fish)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What the Poets Say-

About cold, blustery days such as today with leaves flying and birds fighting the wind-

Theodore Roethke- "A steady storm of correspondences! A night flowing with birds-"

And this-"The bones of weeds kept swinging in the wind."

Percy Bysshe Shelley-

"Oh wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,"

Poems quoted in order were Roethke's "In a Dark Time" and "It was Beginning Winter".

"Ode to the West Wind", by Shelley

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Escoffier, Chicken , and a Crockpot

Cookbooks are harder to read than novels or mysteries. They force me to put them down as soon as I stumble onto an interesting recipe or an idea of a recipe.

"I can do that!", I say to myself. "I have walnuts. I have horseradish". And when Auguste Escoffier, one of France's greatest chefs, says "I have never forgotten the sauce of horseradish and walnuts" he was served in Provincial France on a shooting weekend at a friend's grandiose country home, perhaps I should try to reproduce it in the Tee-Tiny Kitchen.

I read Escoffier's account of that weekend in Elizabeth David's "French Provincial Cooking" this afternoon as I was drinking coffee and procrastinating and avoiding housework. Escoffier and the shooters came home with hares and rabbits and "a quantity of small birds" and partridges and something called a capercailzies. I shall have to look that last one up on Wikipedia. I assume since they shot it, it was not some species of snail.

Escoffier and his friends spent the rest of the weekend eating game, for this was the Belle Epoque, and there were fleets of cooks below stairs to pluck the feathers.

Elizabeth David gives an outline of the recipe for the sauce. It calls for dunking the walnuts in hot water and then skinning them. This did not sound like something I wanted to do, so I ignored this step. I wasn't using French walnuts anyway. I was using walnuts from a nut farm in Wrens, Georgia. And I wasn't planning to sauce a char or any other fish. I was going to see if the sauce went with drumsticks.

I put a handful of walnuts and several tablespoons of Boar's Head Horseradish sauce in my mini-processor and spun away. Now I had a little ball of what looked like speckled spackle. I added a little more sauce, then started to whisk in heavy cream. The mixture now was paste. More cream and a just shy of a cup of chicken bouillon, and I had a sauce. Enough to cook 3 drumsticks in in my modest crock pot. I added 2 diced up carrots, a couple shakes of Herbs de Provence and two pats of butter.

Since raw chicken was in the pot there was no more tasting for an hour or so. Now that it is bubbling I chanced it, and I am pleased. And I did not even notice the walnut skins. I will have to wait until after dinner to give a full report-

* A trip to Wikipedia tells me the capercailzie is a wood grouse found across Europe. There are not many left for anyone to hunt.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Pantry Trick- Vanilla Scented Sugar

Here is a trick I learned years ago, though I do not remember where. Take a jelly jar or a small mason jar and fill it with sugar. Add a whole vanilla bean and close tightly, then store it in your cupboard or pantry for a few days until the vanilla scent and flavor infuses the sugar. Use it in baking. Sprinkle it on French toast, as I did this morning. It will keep indefinitely.

I used natural cane sugar here and also added a piece of a cinnamon stick.

Last Day of October Dog Ramble- Edwin Warner Park

Even in the smallest and most familiar of landscapes we can find marvelous things on any given day.

I took the dogs out yesterday for a short ramble around the edges of the Model Airplane field at Edwin Warner Park.

These old fields are bordered by hedges of bush honeysuckle and privet. And this day ,they sheltered a dozen or so White-Throated Sparrows, newly arrived from the North Country. We will hear their song from now till April. "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody", they sing. Or at least that is what country people say. The sparrows scratch away leaves on the ground. They make their living there, which is why they must flee the snows. And soon ,the privets and the honeysuckle berries will feed the legions of refugee robins who winter here. Yet yesterday, I saw not one-

There are places in these fields not so hospitable. Not even to grass. Limestone is at the surface here and forms patches of barrens. In winter, miniature succulents and sedums grow on the outcroppings. In summer, nothing does since they are arid. Sometimes cedar glades grow in the deeper soil around the barrens. They are unique to Middle Tennessee and many have unusual wildflowers.

And here is an Osage Orange. Solitary in the field beside the baseball diamond. It grows naturally in the Southwest, an area once known as the Comancheria. It has spread here. Farmers planted it for hedgerows since when it is pruned it is thick and thorny. Yet here it is a tree, multi-trunked, with its weird green fruit strewn on the ground around it. The wood is said to be good for making tool handles or bows, though I wonder if anyone bothers anymore- The fruits look like too much work for a deer or a squirrel.

But they do look Halloweenish. Green brains from Nature's Frankenstein workshop. Appropriate to the day.

For the point of this minor dog ramble- is that there is always something worth seeing. Worth learning about. If you know how to look.