Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Estate Sale Diaries- An Addendum

In my last Diary , I failed to mention some of the furniture that I am seeing these days. Particularly the dining room tables and chairs. I admit I have a blind spot when it comes to the out sized and the wooden. I go for the "smalls"-the pots, pans, paintings, linens I can carry away without a dolly and fit inside the cab of my truck.

I live in a small apartment that lacks only a sofa. There is only so much more I can fit in, though a few more bookcases would be welcome. And as for that sofa, the daybed I used as a substitute is on my porch ,where it has been taken over by a family of once homeless black cats-

I have been to a few dinner parties over the years where I sat in dining rooms, but most of my 62 years worth of meals have been a kitchen tables. The one I sit at now is a peculiar thing with a heavy blue plastic (and uneven) top that I keep covered with round tablecloths. Since I am now a bohemian/hermit semi-retired semi-professional, it suits me well. My dining room,just off my dime- sized galley kitchen is quarter- sized. Had I the money to buy a real dining room set, such as the one I saw at the sale on Friday, the dogs and I would have to move out if it moved in.

Perhaps it is the scale of the houses we build these days, that we need fifteen foot tables with ten chairs. And giant chairs, on a scale that would shock a Shaker. Nothing delicate, or simple, or restrained. Dark wood with big seats for even the biggest behinds. A style I would have to call "Viking Funeral Banquet".

Perhaps this is a regional taste, suited to the homes of Nashville's ostentatious and striving to be ostentatious suburbs where there is new money and questionable taste. People who live in houses as large as their corporate headquarters may have a blighted sense of proportion.

As for me, I will always sit at little tables, and when I dine on an ordinary evening, I will only see three small empty cafe chairs, unless the beagle is sitting on one of them. Cozy and everyday ,and better than a table used only over the holidays and secretly by the maid for her morning coffee.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Oxtails-Part 2

Here are the braised oxtails,ready to be coated with Dijon mustard, then rolled into Panko crumbs.

And here are the oxtails after 2 minutes beneath the broiler-

Left with the braising liquid, I decided to make soup! I added a few sprinkles of Herbs de Provence and a 15 ounce can of Cannellini beans. Delicious.

This recipe should serve two or three. And you may find it best to eat the oxtails with your hands, as you would fried chicken.

Braising In The Oven Now- Oxtails- Later to be Broiled with a Mustard Crust

I found oxtails at the grocery a couple of days ago at 60 cents off a package( a Manager's Special). My favorite way to cook them, for they are the most succulent of beef dishes, is to open up my "Beef and Veal" volume of "The Good Cook", edited by Richard Olney.

I am braising the oxtails inside my Lodge cast iron pot. I have put the 1 1/2 pounds of meat onto a bed of 3 diced carrots and half a diced yellow onion. I have two cups of vegetable broth in the pan as well as 5 small garlic cloves and three slices of an orange. I also sprinkled in some sea salt. I will braise this at 300 degrees for a few hours, then will scoop out the tails, and coat them with brushed on Dijon mustard. Then I will roll them in Panko crumbs and brown them under the broiler.

The strained onion and carrots will be a side, as will my garlic and rosemary roasted potatoes.

* The orange slices are my addition. I will post a photo of the Mustard coated oxtails when they are done-

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Estate Sale Diaries-Friday September 28, 2012

There are major estate sales and minor estate sales.

Major sales have lines outside the door hours ahead of time, and are held in rich neighborhoods. Dealers spend the night outside in their vans, waiting. The word is out that there are antiques, designer pocketbooks, quality cookware, and top of the line garden ornaments.

Minor sales do not attract dealers, and there are no lines. One is not pinned against a wall trying to get to the checkout table or to get a look in the closet.

The three sales I went to today were minor, but not a waste of time. My motives for going were curiosity, the endless hunt for vintage cookware and vintage cookery books, and my desire to buy a blender, since my ancient Waring, circa 1960, died.

All three sales were at a nearby subdivision of condominiums. These homes suffered much damage two years ago when the Harpeth River flooded, but are recovered now and once again inhabited by the elderly and retired.

The first sale had few books and fewer cookbooks, but boxes of old cassette tapes, both audio and video, and the out sized black boxes we used to use to play them on. How dated they are now, how remote. But how surprising to see people rushing to look through old L.P. records, which are much sought after!

I saw little of interest until I reached the kitchen, which was empty. (Even at 9am, I do not think there were more than a dozen people in the house,)

I found a vintage Wearever aluminum steamer/double boiler with that pre-Julia 50's look. A few bucks, and not to be resisted-

There were also some good quality storage containers. Banal, I realize, and not interesting until one regrets not having one to freeze leftover roast lamb in- These are always a good and economical deal at estate and yard sales, especially if they are Pyrex and can go from freezer to microwave.

The next two sales were at two neighboring clubhouses at the same condos. One was forgettable, yielding only a cheap blanket and comforter that I will put out on the daybed this winter for the Porch Cats, a feral tribe that has taken up living out there. And there was one interesting book- an encyclopedia of Tennessee history and culture. I might have paid five for it, but $20 is too steep for me. I may stop over tomorrow and see if it is still there and if I can deal-

The first clubhouse was more interesting, not only for the three nice Talbot's blouses in my size and the London Fog lined winter jacket, but because it had two cookbooks-the only cookbooks I saw- and both were choice.

The first, a community volunteer cookbook from a group called the Tennessee Telephone Pioneers, was published in 1981, and new editions of "Dining With Pioneers" still appear from time to time, though now the old name has become "Telecom Pioneers", a name that does not have the friendly, neighborly, good times, traditional spirit of the original. One reads "Telephone Pioneers" and imagines women on the phone across this country-house to house, farm to farm- sharing banana pie recipes and stories about their children and grandchildren. One sees the word"Telecom", and the images morph to outsourcing, layoffs, to nothing good.

The second book, quite worn, is "Kitchen Kollege", a collection of recipes from a 1950's Nashville cooking show on WSMV TV. The author, then Phila Rawlings and later Phila Hach,was a well-traveled and well educated woman who flew over a million miles around the world as an airline stewardess. Later she cooked on the air, then opened a restaurant called "Hachland Hill", which was open for "private dining". She wrote six cookbooks, and now I own two.

Altogether a successful and thrifty day. And I bought a blender. An Oster, for $8.00.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Must Read For Hummingbird Fanciers!

A fascinating post at about the migration of Western hummingbirds such as the Allen's and the Rufous into Tennessee. Nashville has yet to see these, but they are in Knox County and Chattanooga. I will be leaving my feeder up through the winter again.

I discovered the mentioned blog on, an indispensable site for anyone interested in birds.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Stop It!"- A Postcard from a Cynic.

I turned off the political TV shows this week right after Mrs Romney told her husband's fellow Republicans to cease and desist with their complaints about her husband.

"Stop it!" I commanded my TV, for I was sick of everyone, no matter what they believed or what party they belonged to. I was sick of Morning Joe and Fox TV and MSNBC and CNN. I was sick of seeing the video from Boca Raton with Mr Romney and the waiter whose apron got in the way and the little flickering candles. I was tired of tax returns and AARP rallies and campaigns that go on for four years.

I was so weary, that cynic that I am, there was only one man to turn to. One Antidote.

"The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice," said this man, "You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you."

George Carlin said this.

Gore Vidal once said the same thing. He said that when any newly elected US President walks into the Oval Office for the first time he will find Them waiting for him. The real Powers. The real owners of the country, and they will tell him how things are going to be-

Perhaps , once a century They will pick a token outsider- a Latino, a woman, or an African-American for president. They do it to calm the masses. To fool the idealistic. Like Tancredi in Lampedusa's "The Leopard", they admit to each other that "In order for things to stay the same, we are going to have to change".

Autumn Equinox-Nashville

A rare old Elm at Percy Warner Park-

Two places to sit and think-

A vista-

A path through the fields-

Our most beautiful weather of the year started a week ago. Mornings in the 50's and cool dry days in the 70's. No longer does the humid heat hold us hostage inside, kept company only by our air conditioning! Walks and garden work galore, but alas, little time to post-

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Corvette Club Has A Picnic, And I Did Not Have My Camera!

Here is a picture I borrowed from a Corvette Club, but they are such nice people that I do not think they will mind at all!

Nursing a bad mood and a migraine headache, I took the Path Of Wisdom and drove my dogs to the park for an evening walk. There is always something at the park to turn a sour mood sweet, and at first I thought it was the acres of goldenrod now blooming or the family of Kestrels(Sparrow Hawks) that I saw on the power lines near the Ensworth School. These were good things, but not unexpected. I had seen a party going on down at the picnic area near the Little Harpeth River, but we walked out to the greenway by another road. We came back on the path near the shed, and I could smell the grilling. A man rode by us on a bike, and smiled at me.

"Where's your Corvette?', he asked. I just smiled the way I do when people say things that make no sense. Then I looked over at the cars parked at the picnic shed, and I knew.

There were at least a dozen. Pink. Copper Penny. Yellow. Burgundy. Shiny, groomed, and loved. It was the Nashville Corvette Club and a Corvette owners' pot luck. We stopped, and looked. I cursed myself for leaving my camera at home. Then as we turned away we met a couple walking. I asked them if they had noticed the Corvettes.

They had. The burgundy one was theirs. They told me their club had several hundred members, one of whom owned a 1954 Corvette fully restored. I asked if they went on road trips. I imagined them in a long, sleek Chrome line, tops down, cruising down the Natchez Trace on an autumn afternoon.

"We do", said the gentleman, "We drive down as a club to Hoehenwald or Ashland City, and we visit different restaurants".

"It's a lot of fun", said his wife, but I could see that for myself.

I asked if other cars had clubs and enthusiasts.

"Tri-year Chevys and Mustangs" ,he said.

I drive an 11 year old Toyota Tundra truck. I have never worshiped cars.

I could make an exception for the Corvette, for what car would be better for the Great American Road Trip. It is modern. It is retro. It is 77 Sunset Strip with a handsome guy at the wheel and a gorgeous blond at his side, her bouffant "do" covered with a scarf. It is getting your kicks on Route 66 powered by gas that doesn't cost a fortune and driving across an America that runs on optimism. It is proud Detroit. A better future. The American Century. Speeding out across into the night through sparse land covered with tumbleweeds and hunted by roadrunners. It is driving down the mountains into LA on a six lane highway at 80 miles an hour. It is being free.

It is the way things used to be.

Where I Wish I Was-

I am reposting these pictures for anyone who has not seen them. They were taken from the wrap around porch of a second tier beach house I rented in Cape San Blas ,Florida. In better financial times I was able to go down to the Gulf fall and spring. I am hopeful those times will come again. How I long to drive south! To see the first wisps of Spanish moss south of Montgomery, Alabama. To see the first palmettos. To walk out to Mobile Point at Fort Morgan and see the fisherman trying for redfish. To toss in my crab traps into St Joseph Bay, and spend the evening picking the boiled crabs clean. To walk the boardwalk at the Lower Suwanee National Wildlife Refuge. To see the clam nets of the fisherman of Cedar Key drying in the sun.

It has been a long five years since my last visit.

The water in the distance in this last photo is St Joseph Bay. The Town of Port St Joe is on the other side. It was at Port St Joe that I saw a Bald Eagle among the gulls swarming a grocery store dumpster!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Season Of Mists And Mellow Fruitfulness"

So wrote Keats in his "Ode To Autumn". Here are two of Tennessee's fall fruits.

This is the American Persimmon,Diospyros virginiana. It is common in forests all over Tennessee, and was photographed this morning at Percy Warner Park. Its fruit is an autumn banquet for possums and deer, and I would not be surprised if coyotes ate it as well. Books say its fruit ripens after frost, but this is a myth. Frost does not come here till late October, and by then most persimmons are on the ground. You can turn the fruit into puddings or muffins, and years ago I did. But now I leave it to the wildlife, for this fruit has a metallic aftertaste that the Japanese persimmons in grocery stores do not. This is not a yard tree. It suckers too much.

This is the wild Fox grape, Vinis labrusca. It makes good grape juice, if you can collect enough clusters. When I lived in New England, I did. But these grapes were at a public park, and pulling vines down to get them would be frowned upon- We will have to leave them to the birds.

Evening Walk-Percy Warner Park -Saturday September 8

We are two weeks from the Autumn Equinox, and yesterday our first Norther of fall broke the back of the heat and humidity. They may return for a day or two, but not with conviction. Now the day opens up for us again, and we can return to walks in the evening and at midday.

Here are some scenes from the park last evening-

A Mushroom Forest-

A Faux Tuscan Mansion seen across the fields in the Brentwood Hills-

An old beech tree in a forest empty of summer birds. The red-eyed vireo and Wood Pee-wees and tanagers are gone.

Opuntia, the Prickly Pear Cactus, the only one that grows in the eastern U.S.. Growing here on the stone wall above the steeplechase course.

Another view toward the Brentwood Hills-

Another vista worthy of the English painter of the countryside, John Constable-

And the strangest and rarest sight of the evening- a dead young Timber Rattlesnake on the side of the road at the top of the Steeplechase course not 100 ft from people sitting on a blanket in the grass. I have walked these parks for thirty years. I have seen the sleek Black Racer snakes in the stone walls here, and found their shed skins. I once found a dead adult timber rattler in the road in a more remote part of the park. It had no visible injury, and I called the park people about it. They went looking for the corpse, but it was gone. Later in the day the Park Police found the dead snake up at the golf course clubhouse where someone had taken it to show it around.
But never would I have believed pit vipers would be so close to such heavily used parts of the park. Cars are big. This snake was small, and it had no signs of being run over. When we came back by 20 minutes later, the little snake was gone. I am certain someone took a stick and pushed it off into the field. Or perhaps it was not dead at all. Just playing possum. Very strange-

Click on picture to enlarge!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

For Anyone Interested-

For those who are interested here is the link to information about and pictures of the estate sale I posted about. Sometimes it is fun to just look! When you get to the website just click on "sales".

The Young Person's Guide To Estate Sales

A copper colander bought for $18.00. A Wusthof Classic Chef's Knife-retailing for $100.00 plus, bought for $12.00. A set of high quality measuring spoons-$1.00. All bought yesterday at an estate sale.

When I stand in line to get into a good estate sale(and there is always a line), I like to talk to people or eavesdrop on other conversations. Yesterday a woman told me she had been to a sale the day before to pick up some things for her son to take off to his first apartment. What a shame I thought, that the son was not there to shop for himself. What a shame the crowd was short on young people and long on the over thirty fives. What an opportunity missed to pick up quality kitchen ware from pans to corkscrews to spatulas. Certainly a young person lucky enough to have a job and not to have to live with his parents is wise to buy cheaply, but money spent at an estate sale is far better spent than a dollar wasted on cheap stuff at the dollar store. I have never been at an estate sale that lacked a box or basket full of essentials such as soup ladles, spiders, garlic presses, peelers costing next to nothing. There is always a coffee maker, a toaster- for under $10.00. The going rate for a food processor is under $30.00. Kitchen towels for a buck apiece, and nice ones too. High end pasta bowls, salad plates, coffee mugs. There is a reason wise Latino and Kurdish women in Nashville come to these sales. They, like me, are not too good to buy second hand from the estates of rich people.

Let us not be too fastidious to buy used linens from a sale either. If you are unlucky enough to be in the hospital you sleep on well-laundered community linen. Nor are you the first and only to sleep on motel or hotel sheets. I bought a set of Egyptian cotton Royal Sateen sheets and pillow cases yesterday for twelve dollars. Retail would have been ten times that. Nice Martex bath towels for $3.00 apiece, and a bag of washcloths and hand towels by Martha Stewart and Laura Ashley tossed in for free with the bundle you have already bought-I saw all of these yesterday.

Clothing may not be as appealing, especially if you want it vetted by fashion magazines and your peers. But for fashion independents and self assured bohemians, there is hidden platinum among the old lady Republican Committee Woman suits that are so predictable at an estate sale. Interesting hats, mink coats, sequined ball gowns, big name purses. The deceased did not shop at Walmart.

A friend with a truck, and a visit in the waning hours of the sale's last day may bag a sofa, bookcases- big stuff others did not want to cart home, and for more than half off.

Not to mention prints, paintings, candlesticks, neat lamps, vintage luggage, a vacuum cleaner, a box of cleaning supplies.

And there is no tax on used clothing or goods in Tennessee.

Imagine an interesting and eclectic first apartment that does not look as though you wandered into Ikea and bought the same stuff as everyone else.

Young people- Go to estate sales!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Estate Sale Diaries- September 7, 2012- The Sale

Here is a vintage olive oil carafe imagined as a portly French waiter. And he was not the only French waiter at this estate sale. There was a serving tray with five waiters painted on it and a set of four prints featuring more wait staff. There was a cupboard full of Bon Appetit magazines with some Gourmets thrown in- all a quarter apiece, and a kitchen full of cookware and knives and sets of soup bowls. Here is a Limoges soup cup and plate. There were two. I bought them both.

A Waterford crystal canister with bits of coffee still in it.

"You aren't going to buy any more cookbooks are you?', one of my friends asked me. Probably not I said, since I cannot believe there would be anything of interest I don't already have.

How could I resist a book such as "The Cajun Gourmet-Afloat And On the Road". Especially an autographed copy by a man whose other cookbooks are"Cooking Country With Shotgun Red","All I Ever Wanted To Know About Cooking I Learned From Momma", and "The Upper Crud Cookbook".

I also bought The New Orleans Times-Picayune "Creole Cookbook".

The people who left these books behind were bon vivants. The basement was full of luggage, the walls covered with French oil paintings, the signs of good living everywhere. Sequined ball gowns, St. John evening suits, even a man's African safari helmet. A woman I talked to who works for a local police department brought home a seven hundred dollar suit for twenty dollars.

The once owners were readers as well. There were books about the South and Southerners. The coffee table had five or six books about Andrew Jackson. There was a leather bound set of Conrad's novels.

I, and others longed to go into the rooms with locked doors, and outside onto the terrace, but these were blocked. The sale moves there next week.

One last photo of a set of French salad plates I could not pass by-

The Estate Sale Diaries-Friday, September 7,2012. The Prequel-

Within the hour I will be going to stand in line for an estate sale not two miles from here. It is in a subdivision of McMansions, and the accumulation of things pictured on the Estate Sale company's website is staggering. Two hundred cookbooks, tables covered with crystal and china, lamps and conservatory furniture, and reproduction oils of antique jockeys on antique horses. A table full of designer handbags for those interested in that sort of thing, and size 8 shoes and size 8 clothes. Much expensive looking furniture that may attract dealers. Rugs and clocks and God knows what else.

There is so much to sell that the sale continues next weekend into Phase 2.

I have been skipping sales lately since I have more stuff than I need, but this sale is irresistible. I am going to cruise the kitchen and the "nice linens". Perhaps to look for a pair of sensible shoes- the only kind I wear.

Yet I also go to estate sales out of sociological curiosity. To speculate on where all the money came from and why people buy multiple sets of elegant silverware and why a woman needs more than four or five pairs of shoes. I do not doubt I will also see the inevitable hospital commode chair, the wheelchair, the sad reminders of failing health. There is always sadness at the heart of an estate sale-

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Curried Fava Bean Soup With Potatoes And Carrots . Cucumbers Braised In Ghee and Spiced with Curry And Fenugreek

A friend is awaiting this recipe so I am posting it early. It is a simple soup, and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth makes it truly vegetarian. I have been using curry and fenugreek lately , for I believe that if spices are worth using they are worth trying with everything-

Curried Fava Bean Soup

1 15 oz can fava beans- do not drain.

4 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced.

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth or 3 cups of water and 1 bouillon cube.

Olive oil to saute onion.

1 medium yellow onion, diced.

Sea salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon Helba (Ground Fenugreek)-optional

Curry powder- at least a teaspoon- more if desired

1 tablespoon of melted chicken fat or butter added to olive oil

Saute the onion in olive oil until it is translucent and soft. Flavor with sea salt to taste. Puree the fava beans and their liquid in a food processor or blender, and add to the 3 cups of broth in a sauce pan. Add the onions, the carrots and potatoes. Add the spices and taste and adjust. Bring the soup to a boil, then cover and lower the heat to medium low and cook till the potatoes and carrots are tender. Continue to taste. This soup can absorb a lot of curry. Add salt if needed. Add a little more broth if you desire a thinner soup. Taste. Taste. Taste. That is my philosophy, for spicing up a dish goes beyond the measuring spoon into the realm of instinct and imagination!

Cucumbers Sauteed In Ghee and Spiced With Curry

This is a twist on the usual cucumbers braised in butter and flavored with lemon juice. I developed it because the same friend who wants the Fava recipe gave me five big cucumbers from her farm. I could have made Gazpacho, and probably will, but I needed some way to keep from wasting them, as my ideas for using cucumbers have never been inventive. These taste good, hot or cold. I think they would like a yogurt sauce as well.

1 6-8 inch cucumber

3 tbs Ghee

Sea Salt

1/4 tsp Fenugreek

1 tbs cider vinegar

Curry Powder, to taste. At least a teaspoon, and you may want more.

Peel the cucumber, then slice it thin.

Melt the ghee in a skillet, then add the sliced cucumber.Sprinkle on some sea salt to taste and the fenugreek. Add the cider vinegar, then add the curry powder. Gently poach the cucumber until it softens and starts to become transparent. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn the cucumber slices at least twice.

Add more salt and spices if you wish. Serve hot or cold. You may want your cucumber seeded. I did not bother.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spicy Moroccan Green Beans

This recipe is adapted from one I found in a peculiar little "Stand Up and Flip Over " cookbook I bought at MacKay. This book is a flip chart in a box, a novel concept but most probably already out of date thanks to kitchen computers. None the less, I tried this recipe since I had a bag of green beans from Howell's farm truck.

I am not a southerner, but I have lived in the South for so long that I prefer the Southern way with green beans. Others may like beans cooked al dente or snappy. I like mine melted and disintegrating. I did not take this recipe that far, but I did cook the beans in the tomato sauce long enough to let them absorb the sauce and the cayenne. Had I followed the book time I would have had crispier beans with the sauce riding around on them like salsa on a tortilla chip. Instead of 25 minutes I cooked the beans for an hour and a half, and let the sauce reduce. I also used canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh for I have no patience with peeling and seeding. My motto when cooking is that little is sacred, and it is my kitchen and I am free to do as I like.

One pound of green beans

1/4 cup olive oil

3 garlic cloves, diced or put through a press

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 1/2 cups diced canned tomatoes

Sea salt

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, then add the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Then add the garlic and saute for a minute or two. Now add the tomatoes and flavor with sea salt. Add the cayenne and taste. Add more if you like more heat.
Now add the beans and one inch of water to come almost to the top of the beans. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat and and cook 30 minutes to an hour and a half , depending on how soft you like your beans. If you opt for the longer cooking time leave the skillet lid slightly askew so the liquid can reduce. Stir from time to time and taste to adjust salt or cayenne.

Serves four. This goes well with braised leg of lamb.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tasty Weekend In The Tee-Tiny Kitchen

Here are three new dishes. One is an adaptation of a Moroccan recipe, the other two are original recipes. I will post one recipe tomorrow, and the others over the next two days.

Here are Green Beans in Spicy Tomato Sauce-

Fava Bean Curry Soup with Red potatoes and Carrots-

Corn,Poblano Pepper, and Zucchini Quiche-

The Green Bean recipe will appear tomorrow!

Labor Day Wildflower Walk- Percy Warner Park, Nashville, Tennessee

Here is the last great floral display of the year, ending in purple and yellow, as it began with the purple and yellow of henbit and Nashville mustard seven months ago.