Sunday, October 25, 2015

Luck of the Coffee Drinker

Used to be, Mom bought our clothes at Robert Hall and food at the A & P supermarket, home of lost or now rare enchantments such as the Spanish Bar Cake and red tins of Eight o' Clock Coffee, alongside the foreign and fascinating adults-only object (pictured) resembling a nautical speed control but engraved with weird, haunting, perhaps mystical words; Mom never used it. Today I stock only 2 brands of ground coffee: Eight o' Clock, and Chock Full o' Nuts. These passions are old, deeply set, and based solely on the names and packaging. At eight a.m., all things are possible; I still believe that. Out east, the franchise "Chock Full o' Nuts," so named because it started as a chain of roasted-nut shops in Manhattan, has sold coffee and pastries since 1932. In New England I became addicted to Chock Full coffee, rare and expensive in Missouri, consistently available at only one classy St. Louis grocery at $6-$8 for a small can. I remedied this by ordering a case of the regular coffee direct from Chock Full; the green-lidded decaf was harder to find.

I drink more of the decaf now, when I can get it. The last tin I bought is tagged $6.49. So last week in a supermarket in House Springs I'm stunned to see the "marked down" shelf holding 5 cans of Chock Full decaf at $2.99 each. Ecstatically I bought them all. It was the best luck I had all day.
Selling it here isn't easy because the Chock Full franchise, still active, never extended west of Chicago and the name causes folks to believe the coffee contains nuts. It does not.

It might be the "o"s in the middle of Eight o' Clock and Chock Full o' Nuts  that have so entangled my coffee-drinkin' heart.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"Tastes Like Wald Hick'ry Nuts"

Come a certain week in autumn it's World War One around here with "Bang! Bang!" on the cabin roof and people jumping out of their skins, but it's hickory nuts raining down from the shagbark tree. Can't help but think of Euell Gibbons, a famous wild-foods expert who late in life did commercials for Post Grape-Nuts cereal and, in his Texas accent, bawled the immortal lines, "Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible," and "Tastes like wald hick'ry nuts." He'd be proud that I finally tasted wild hickory nuts from my own tree. They tasted not at all like Grape-Nuts. Furthermore, Gibbons did not die, as was rumored, of stomach cancer but from a ruptured aorta.

Two autumns ago in a trance of delight that lasted two weeks I gathered in a basket several pounds of hickory nuts such as you see here, most from the shagbark just outside but also from hickories in the woods, where I found nuts walnut-sized and walnut-shaped -- every tree's fruit sculptured a little differently. Left them to dry in a basket until Christmastime when they agreed to be cracked -- a little. It took hammers and dental tools to get the tiny, brain-shaped meats out, spraying shards of shell all over and me stepping on them, and about 3 pounds through the pile I gave up and tossed the other nuts out the door for the varmints. In winter now, my favorite wild food is the chives that grow in snow.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Red October

These gallon ice-cream buckets full of about six pounds of ripe Tommy Toes -- an Ozark heirloom cherry tomato variety -- simply appeared the other day on my porch, courtesy of my neighbor's son Patrick, who kept a garden during this difficult-to-garden summer. Patrick says he didn't even plant them; they were volunteer tomato plants, descending from a plant or two that I shared with him two or three years ago. Tommy Toes -- that's their name -- about one inch in diameter, are wonderfully balanced sweet and acid, and the plants withstand terrific Missouri summer heat and pouring rain, do not crack or get tobacco virus, keep their shape, and pump out fruit like mad all the way into the third week of October, and they'd still be growing except the other night we got very close to frost.

It was in a seed catalog that Demetrius and I found the Tommy Toes and liked that they were bred in our climate. A bonus: Wildlife don't raid and chew on Tommy Toes they way they did our Big Beefsteaks or Mister Stripeys or Mortgage Lifters, the varieties visible on the plate in the photo of me that appears to the left of this blog. What to do with six pounds of cherry tomatoes? I gave one pound away. Four pounds I cooked down into two quart containers of sauce I then froze. Some I roasted with olive oil and ate on pizza and pasta, some went into salads, and a few are still rolling around on the counter, getting snacked on. I threw a few into the meadow, hoping they'll volunteer for me next summer. There's nothing as tasty as a homegrown tomato -- in October.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It Reminded Her of Me

A city friend sent me this, saying it reminded her of me. All I can say is, I wish magazines today had covers like these; I have seen enough of Christian Bale and Caitlyn Jenner and whatnot.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Glorious October

We've had a fabulous first 15 days of October. Unfortunately I haven't been able to enjoy much of it because of flu (get your shots!). But for the 14th year now, I'm still living in the most beautiful place I've ever been. And can still see October's beauty even if I'm not outside in it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When Sick

Feeling bizarre, dizzy, and tired: three-hour naps in late morning and then in late afternoon. Headache and chills became malaise with no fever. Today's Day 7. My blood pressure's up (I can feel it) as the body struggles, and I cough myself awake. No, I hadn't had my flu shot. Intended to and want to: I won't tolerate this again. My old job would have fired me; you can't be sick more than 3 days without a doctor's note.

Microwave cabbage risotto
I have twice been out driving. Parked in the lot of the grocery store housing my pharmacy, I lay down in the back seat exhausted from the 10-minute drive, and dialed the number on my insurance card. Yes, the guy said, insurance would pay for my flu shot there. I went in. The pharmacist phoned the same number, which denied me the insurance. I should go to Walmart or Target instead. I went home.

Because I'd missed two martial arts classes and had no number to call, at the community center I stood far away and told the black belt instructor I had not quit, it was flu, and she cheerfully said, "Everyone has it. I'm the only one not sick." "Did you get the flu shot?" I asked. "No," she said cheerfully, as I struggled to stay upright and talk at the same time. So I know I got it in a place frequented by lots of school kids. Vaccination might not have helped anyway.

I set myself a goal of doing one thing a day. Yesterday I changed the light bulb above the door. The day before that I refilled the poison in the outdoor mousetraps. They work very well.

I'm missing some lovely fall weather. There are benefits, however, having to do with food. I'd bought meat loaf mix the day before collapsing and had to cook it or toss it. Could not guarantee I'd be awake or mobile to take it from the oven in an hour. As a last resort, consulted microwave cookbook. In 12 minutes, in a glass loaf pan, perfect meatloaf. I took it in spoonfuls when I had appetite. I'd also bought cabbage. Same cookbook had recipe for cream of cabbage soup. Delicious. Yesterday used the remaining cabbage in the microwave "Cabbage Risotto" recipe. I had the required onion and an ancient box of arborio rice and a dried-out hunk of Parmesan. Followed instructions. This I actually wanted to put on a plate; it was fit for a king. I also ate the pizza a friend brought, piece by piece. Today I have two goals: write this and take out the trash bag. I must be getting well, although I thought that on Wednesday, too.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Aft of Eden

October brought me flu, far earlier in the season than expected (although the counties surrounding mine are dark blue on the flu map), sooner than me getting the vaccine. What I have for you is pix of the most creative amphibious camper/trailer I've ever seen parked at a Jack in the Box in Pulaski County. Christened "Aft of Eden," from Monterey, California, it's half boat and half camper top, and it seemed to work for them.