Friday, October 25, 2013
Sunday, October 20, 2013
If bought at yard sales or on eBay a box might yet be crammed with some homemaker's recipe cards, newspaper clippings and notes, telling an intimate story of her household and her kitchen, heart of the home. And the heart of the kitchen is--it must be--the recipe box! I have made some of their recipes, such as Orange Chiffon Pie. Many recipes, reflecting their era, require canned soups. My mother owned the same box as the red one pictured, and I laid out for you a sample of the unknown former owner's recipes: a clipping on how to make Arthur Treacher-style fish and chips; a handwritten recipe for 24-Hr. Salad, on its reverse a handwritten recipe for "Chicken Cha Cha," a dish credited to Della Reese, the singer; and a note saying "Calgon & water - mix to remove wallpaper." Just visible inside the box: "Potato Chip Cookies."
My brain's pleasure center lights up seeing their colors and imagining their stories, and I welcome the recipe boxes (the only items I have ever actively collected) back wholeheartedly into my daily life.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Monday, October 14, 2013
My mushroom classes and forays with the mushroom society have taught me to recognize several common mushrooms, but one is always seeking the edible ones, and here I found one in a ground-level hole in a tree, a few "petals" of Chicken of the Woods or Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus), so called because of its bright-yellow underside. This isn't Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa), which looks like an actual hen with gray feathers and no head; years ago I found a glorious 24-ounce Hen in my woods, which I kept for a while out of sheer delight with it, and now I know that one was edible too. The Sulfur Shelf should perhaps be called "Chicken Breast of the Woods," because it has lovely dense white meat, divinely scented like canned mushroom soup.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
At dusk I fetched my mail, and when opening the screen door to get back into the house nearly stepped on a young snake right on the concrete threshold. (Between door and threshhold is a gap of half an inch). "Oh!" I cried. "Excuse me!" It stayed put and I saw this was not offspring of my house blacksnake, or a garter or milk snake. It stayed in striking position, head raised, the entire time, so I used the zoom feature to get closer, but then the photos turned grainy. I kept shooting while its tail -- very thin at the tip -- vibrated like a needle of a gauge that has reached its upper limit, and knew it was a rattler. So when it finally struck out I backed away and shut the screen door carefully so as not to pinch it and annoy it further, and hoped it would then travel away from the house rather than come in. I don't fear snakes--I respect them--but this was my first photo session in the house with a venomous snake, a Pygmy Rattler (Sistrurus miliarius streckeri Gloyd --try to say THAT after three beers). No one is known to have died from a Pygmy Rattler bite, says the fine manual The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri. That manual says it's a southern Missouri snake and it is not recorded to have appeared in Jefferson County, but I'm tellin' ya, it was here. This was a baby 5 or 6 inches long. I hope it doesn't go summon its 20-inch mom and bring her back to scold me.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Well, today after too much work and no fun I came home and noticed that last night's little rainstorm had knocked some nuts and branches out of the shagbark hickory next to the house. I'd picked some nuts back in August, but now their outer shells had darkened and dried enough to fall to earth, split open and show, or fling to the winds, the ivory-shelled seed shaped like an acorn with pleats and no cap, containing the prized wild hickory nut.
So I began to gather them, and, getting my basket, poked around beneath the other shagbark hickories in my yard, gleaning dozens and then a couple of hundred hickory nuts, some still in their tailored casings. This was the most fun I had all day, and early tomorrow I'm off to the Divine woods with my basket to see if I can't gather a couple more pounds of wild hickory nuts to dry and then crack and eat, or stir into chocolate fudge, and to give away at Christmas, as the trees have given them to any creature who will stop and notice the bountiful earth beneath their feet.