Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween from 10 Signs Farm

And remember: If the kids don't come, you get to eat all the candy yourself. No fair turning off the porch light and hiding in the back room.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Perfect cup of hot cocoa

1 heaping Tbs. unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder
1 Tbs. sugar
a teeny pinch of salt
2 Tbs. water
1 c. milk (anything from 1% to whole will do)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
a little shake of Ceylon cinnamon

Whisk together the cocoa, sugar, salt, and water. Bring to a gentle boil and boil for a minute, then add milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Stir. Bring almost, but not quite, to the boiling point. Pour into a mug and enjoy.

Serves one; can be multiplied to serve many.

A few things I have learned about turkeys

Yes, already. The turkey learning curve is kind of steep if you've never had one before.

First of all, never assume a turkey can find water on its own. Our turkey paced anxiously back and forth and pecked in frustration at the plastic reservoir of its gravity waterer, ignoring the shiny wet stuff in the tray below. It was well on its way to dehydration by the time I figured out the problem and showed it what to do by splooshing my finger in the water. Man. I mean, I knew you had to show baby chicks how to drink, but a grown-up turkey?

Once we had the water thing sorted out, the turkey was suddenly a lot hungrier (no more "dry beak"). Its favorite foods so far appear to be:

• Cabbage
• Honeydew melon rinds
• Cracked corn
• Rolled oats
• Green bean ends

Turkeys, like certain cats I know, appear to like it when you stand there and watch them eat.

Turkeys gobble the way that dogs sometimes bark, in response to noises. The most gobbling we have heard from our turkey came when an ambulance sped by with sirens blaring. The turkey has also gobbled at these sounds:

• Screen door shutting
• Table saw
• Hammer
• Clothes dryer
• Car pulling into driveway
• Car horn

The "turkey alarm" goes off a little while after the sun rises. Sometimes it is extremely long and loud, and sometimes (like today--did it know there was a time change?!) there's hardly anything to it at all.

I'm sure there will be a lot more fun turkey facts as the month goes on.

Friday, October 28, 2005

By popular demand

This is Brutus, the half-Basset Hound, half-Great Dane in our obedience class. This picture doesn't really capture the rivers of drool he produces, but it does show off his beautiful smile. He's a good boy, if a little stubborn.

This class--or rather, the instructor--has completely turned Gracie around. And I have bonded with her. I'm so glad we kept her.

Next week is graduation! No test, just showing off what we can do.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

One-month special: All-U-Can-Eat cracked corn, greens, and wormy pears

No more factory-farmed turkey for us! I finally owned up to the plain fact that if you buy it, you condone it. So this turkey will be happy to the end.

The dogs are HYSTERICAL. They cannot believe this is happening.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Disconcerting dinner?

Apologies to those who would rather not have seen this, but I couldn't let it go undocumented. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recommendation is to roast a cod's head as you would a leg of lamb: slathered in olive oil, coarse salt, and pepper, with little bits of rosemary, thyme, and garlic stuck into the fleshy parts. Oh, and (not that this applies to a leg of lamb) a bay leaf in its mouth.

It looks and smells wonderful, despite its, er, unusual appearance. We will be serving it with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans.

NEWS FLASH: As of tomorrow morning, our homestead will welcome its first livestock animal. The newcomer will reside here on a temporary basis--for approximately one month. Any guesses?

Two women, the open road, and a metric ton of groceries

I promised a field trip report, and here it is! This morning Julie and I hit the road for Ellijay, the apple capital of Georgia. The famed apple festival was over, and that was the way we planned it--neither of us is keen on fighting crowds of tourists.

The weather was unseasonably cold and, in the mountains at least, misty. There was a lot of Thinsulate being worn today, especially among the proprietors of the open-air apple markets! But the weather did little to detract from the striking beauty of the area. The Georgia mountains are rustic in an almost New Englandy way, only more rough around the edges.

There are several apple markets along GA 52 east of Ellijay, and we visited almost all of them. Our favorite was Mack Aaron's Apple House. Not only were their prices the best--$14 per bushel instead of the usual $18--but they offered free samples so you could educate yourself and figure out what you really wanted. Also, the fried pies advertised on the sign were pure flaky bliss.

I bought a lot of apples. I mean a LOT of apples. First I bought an entire bushel of Granny Smiths for a friend. Then, for myself I purchased half a bushel of Yates (my hands-down favorite--a tiny rosy-cheeked apple with a tart-sweet tang and a crisp texture), a peck of Stayman Winesap, and a half-peck of Grannies. I also got a big freezer bag full of dried apples and a jar of sourwood honey.

Once we were "appled out," we continued along 52 toward Ellijay and happened upon a roadside farm market, where I purchased some of the last scuppernong grapes of the season, as well as five small pie pumpkins, a bag of okra, and some large North Carolina tomatoes ("The soil is better for them there," said the proprietress).

We ate lunch in a Mexican restaurant in Ellijay, then went through some kind of strange time warp in which several hours disappeared and we suddenly found ourselves exhausted, standing on the sidewalk and holding receipts from a bunch of antique malls.

Atlanta was not on the way home, but we decided to pretend it was because we wanted to go to the DeKalb Farmer's Market. Julie hadn't been there before. I overheard her talking on her cell phone to her husband as she stood in the spice department: "It's like Christmas here. It's a little overwhelming. Are you sure there's nothing else you want?"

My favorite purchases:

• Three pounds of shiny Italian chestnuts, for which I later discovered I was undercharged by two-thirds because the cashier rang them up as water chestnuts

• Five pineapple quinces that are currently exuding their sultry scent in our kitchen

• A one-pound top butt bison steak

• A cod head (yes, there's a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe for that, and it looks delicious)

• Two Florida Ambersweet oranges, which are the best tasting oranges I've come across in quite some time.

We left at 9 AM and didn't get back until 9 PM. It's not most people's idea of grocery shopping, but it works for us.

Monday, October 24, 2005

What a weekend

The photo of collard greens is apropos of nothing, but I didn't want to post yet another photo of canned goods!

I was busy this weekend. I canned two jars of pickled jalapeƱos, putting two red peppers in each jar for aesthetic effect. I also found enough nearly-ripe pears on the ground to make the year's first batch of pear-citrus marmalade. Nature has her schedule; I looked back on my Manor Menu blog and found that each year I tend to start putting up batches of it around October 24.

Here's how it's done:

5 lbs. pears
1 1/4 lemons
1 1/4 oranges
3 3/4 lbs. sugar
Wash the pears, peel them, then cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the ends off the lemons and oranges and quarter them.
Put the pears, lemons, and oranges through a food grinder (use the coarse blade).
Put ground fruit in a pot and stir in the sugar thoroughly while bringing to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring frequently. Continue cooking until shiny and almost transparent.
Ladle into sterilized jars and process. Makes about eight 8-oz. jelly jars.

This time, for reasons unknown to me, the recipe made 10 jelly jars. That wouldn't be so strange except that the marmalade also set better than it has in the past, which I assume means there was less water in it. How on earth? Oh well. Maybe I just measured badly in the past. All I know is that this batch is delicious and damn near perfect.

Other accomplishments over the weekend:

• I started knitting myself a new scarf (I am a terrible knitter; all I can do is stockinette stitch back and forth, and I'm not even 100 percent sure I'm doing that right, so I make lovely fluffy scarves and that's it)

• The s.o. and I built a raised bed for the perennial garlic and onions

• I organized my office files

• I baked two baguettes from a recipe I hadn't tried before (pretty basic except it includes a little bit of oat bran), and they turned out great

• I finished the first coat of drywall mud on the new closet extension, and barely escaped with my skull intact after knocking a heavy mud trough off the ladder and onto my head

I have big plans for tomorrow, but I don't want to say what they are until after it's all done. Two words: FIELD TRIP!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Time to make more pickled peppers

JalapeƱo peppers are the Energizer Bunny of garden vegetables. I've been neglecting the plants for at least a month now, but they just keep producing!

Ssshhhhhh...nobody tell them it's mid-October.

Friday, October 21, 2005

My devotion to the sale table

Up in front of our local Ingles supermarket, next to the last register, there's a sale table where they clear out merchandise they're no longer going to carry (or that has been discontinued). As such, it's bittersweet. If something's on the sale table, the party's over; I'll have to buy it in Athens or Atlanta--or at least down at the lake where the rich people live--forevermore. But still, I'm a big fan of it. My tastes are different enough from most people's that I tend to like the selection very well indeed.

Examples of things I love that I've found there:

• La Croix sparkling water
• Sun & Earth environmentally friendly dish and laundry detergents
• Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (this is how I first started buying them)
• Lyle's Golden Syrup (which I am astounded that they carried in the first place, but boy did they ever...I've already bought one can of it and may buy another, because about 20 of them are still sitting there)
• Kashi brand organic Strawberry Fields cereal
• Gold Medal all-purpose flour packaged in the plastic resealable pack (I assume this aggravated them because it didn't fit on the shelf with the normal-shaped flour bags)
• the 96-oz. size of Pompeiian extra-virgin olive oil
• tins of smoked mussels, smoked oysters, and sardines

All very good things indeed, n'est-ce pas?

Sometimes it's not the end. This week I got a large carton of vanilla soymilk for 99 cents because it was approaching its expiration date. The same happened with three-packs of single-serving aseptically packaged "Li'l Milks" not too long ago.

The sale table is good to me. If it weren't for the caprices of the Ingles store manager, I wouldn't be sitting here drinking my coffee with vanilla soy milk this morning. That's something I never thought I'd do, being a dairy devotee, but you know what? It's actually really good.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Note for those who are following along at home

The pecans from our trees have just been incorporated into a batch of chocolate-chip cookies. That's really the ultimate thing to do with a small amount of pecans, isn't it?

Fresh pink-eye cowpeas

Last week Rozanne mentioned that she'd never encountered cowpeas, let alone pink-eye cowpeas, so I thought I'd share. This is what mine looked like after I shelled them. I think they're especially pretty legumes, not to mention especially tasty ones. Cooking darkened the pale white-green color of the peas, but only barely dimmed the delicate pink-brown color of the markings.

I had about two cups of shelled peas. I simmered them, covered, with water to cover by a half-inch, along with:
• a few shreds of leftover ham
• the end of a tomato, chopped
• a smashed clove of garlic
• salt and pepper
• a handful of green and wax beans from the garden, cut into one-inch pieces (which technically makes this dish into a Southern classic called "Field Peas with Snaps")

When the peas were completely tender, I took the lid off and kept simmering for a few minutes to let the sauce thicken a bit. Easy and delicious.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Because we've had so much success already with our existing six Sunshine Blue dwarf blueberries, we ordered nine more. Last night we finished planting them all. You can see the older, more established plants in the background and the newbies in the front.

This is going to be really great.

'Tis the season

Aren't they gorgeous? I already have two plastic grocery bags full of windfalls. This will mean several batches of pear-citrus marmalade (yes, more marmalade!) in the near future. And some preserves, too.

I'm very pleased with myself

This is a very crappy, dark photo of a really wonderful batch of tangerine marmalade. As I write this, I am eating buttered toast spread with a generous amount of it, and please forgive me if I pat myself on the back, but it is delicious--a really decadent way to begin the day.

I made this marmalade with those Florida Fallglo tangerines I blogged about last week. It signifies a turning point in my canning abilities. The recipe (an old Southern Living Cookbook one) called for 3 1/2 cups of sugar and only 20 minutes of boiling time, and I have finally gained enough experience making marmalades, chutneys, and jams that I knew neither would be sufficient with my particular batch of fruit. And what do you know--my amended version turned out perfect.

Those of you who are on the fence about learning how to can: I beg you to try it. If you are detail-oriented and able to follow directions, you can hardly help but succeed. And you will make yourself so happy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


There is a smallish calico cat living under our house!*

We put out a bowl of food for her, because what with Taxi leaving, it can't hurt to have some volunteer rodent control around here. An outdoor cat that is not really ours and more or less minds its own business would be just the ticket.

The animals just keep a-comin' around here, don't they?

* Like many older Southern homes, our house sits on what is called an "open foundation": basically just a series of short brick pillars with (in some areas) decorative brick latticework in between. In our case, the crawl space underneath ranges from about two feet high to tall enough to park our riding lawnmower--which we do, under the bedroom.


I think something is amiss with my Weather Pixie. It has read 86 degrees F for days on end. It is most definitely not 86 degrees.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

It's happening

Last night I went to the Caledonia, a club in Athens, to see The Drams. It was a very enjoyable show--not as stunning as their set at Twangfest this June, but very worthwhile nonetheless.

On my way to my car (and yes, if you attempt to park in Athens on a weekend night, you will end up walking quite a way to your car), I was suddenly aware that I was freezing cold. I had a sweater waiting for me in the car, but still I felt chilly the whole way home and had to run the heat. The temperature was in the mid-50s. Until now it has not strayed so low.

So the weather has changed at last. It could be argued that October is the nicest month of the year in Georgia. Daytime temps in the 70s, nighttime in the 50s, ample sunshine mixed with misty moistness. Only March and April (tender, green, gorgeous beyond reason, scented with flowers) can compete.

Today: Bright sun and crisp air. Tonight's forecast: Low of 52.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Seafood heaven

Ten gorgeous, oceany-smelling fresh clams, large enough to properly be called quahogs, rode home from Atlanta with me on Wednesday evening. They were nestled in a double plastic bag in a soft-sided coolerful of ice, but the plastic was left open and hanging out of the top of the cooler so they could breathe.

When I got home, I made up a potful of cold brine--1/3 cup of kosher salt to 1 gallon of water--and placed the clams in it. Then I sprinkled 1/4 c. of fine cornmeal on top so the clams would eat it, thereby chasing the grit and impurities out of their systems. The clams remained like this overnight in the refrigerator.

Yesterday afternoon I flushed the clams well with fresh water, scrubbed them, dried them, and made this, which was truly excellent:

rock salt or coarse kosher salt
10 large hard-shelled clams, prepared as above
3 ping-pong-ball-sized mushrooms (I used puffballs, but button mushrooms would work), cleaned and chopped small
2 slices crispy cooked bacon, chopped small
1 tsp. fresh minced parsley
fresh bread crumbs as needed
freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 dots of butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Shake out a layer of salt in a jellyroll pan and nest the clams in it. This is to keep them stable so they don't spill their liquor. Bake them just until they open. Discard any clams that refuse to open (or that have been hanging half-open the whole time you've been preparing them).
Keep the oven turned on.
Open the clams all the way by cutting the muscles at the sides. Pour all the liquor into a small bowl and reserve. Cut out the meat of the clams, chop it, and put it into a large bowl. Reserve 10 half clamshells, nesting them once again in the salt-filled jellyroll pan.
To the large bowl containing the chopped clam meat, add the mushrooms, bacon, and parsley. Throw in a couple handfuls of bread crumbs, then add just enough clam liquor to make a mixture that will hold its shape. You can keep tweaking the amount of bread crumbs and clam liquor to get the consistency you like.
Taste for salt. The mixture should probably have retained some of its brininess. If not, adjust. Mound the mixture into the half clamshells, grind a little pepper on each, then top each filled clamshell with additional breadcrumbs and a dot of butter.
Bake until golden brown.

Note: We haven't tried this yet, but our experience in coastal seafood restaurants suggests that a layer of grated cheese between the clam mixture and the breadcrumb topping would not be a bad thing. It doesn't need it, but then again, why not go for the gusto?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

For anyone who hasn't seen this demonstration 1,000 times already

On the right is a commercial egg--a pretty nice one by those standards, vegetarian-fed, higher than average in Omega-3 fatty acids.

On the left is an egg laid by one of my stepsister and stepbrother-in-law's happy, free-ranging backyard chickens.

The country mouse goes to Atlanta

When did I turn into a country mouse? Nowadays I'm not in a city for more than five minutes before I start grumbling about the traffic. I guess that's why I used to be such a fan of public transportation when I lived in St. Paul! (I suppose I still am a big fan of public transportation. I know I believe in it; it's just that I have zero opportunity to use it.)

Yesterday afternoon found me waiting at a series of interminable red lights in order to visit the Midtown Whole Foods, one of several Atlanta retailers that carries Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses. As some of you might recall, I mail-ordered their Lucille, Georgia Gouda, and Green Hill during August's Eat Local Challenge. They were excellent; I wanted more. I was especially interested in their fresh chevre, which hadn't been available via mail order because of the hot weather.

Well, the chevre is good. Really good. But the Thomasville Tomme, which I have seen referred to as the best cheese made in Georgia, is definitely the one to seek out. After my trip to Whole Foods, I met up with my stepsister, her husband, and their two daughters, and we devoured some cheese together. We all agreed the tomme was All That.

Stepsister and co. introduced me to the Dekalb Farmer's Market, which isn't a farmer's market at all, but is rather a large, cavernous warehouse-style grocery store. You can find a lot of fantastic bulk foods there--especially a lot of organic nuts and grains--but it's not the kind of place where you spot, say, mahlab or black salt or fresh fenugreek. It's not that fancy. But it does have a spectacularly large selection of produce, meats, and seafood. And here's the real kicker: EVERYTHING IS LABELED WITH THE LOCATION WHERE IT WAS SOURCED.

It's like a happy dream for a local foods aficionado.

After some wheeling around with my cart, I came away with (among other things):

• Florida Fallglo tangerines
• Florida white grapefruits
• Georgia pink-eye cowpeas
• Georgia banana peppers
• Georgia green beans
• Georgia Red Rome apples
• Virginia hard-shell clams
• Alabama watercress

At the end of the day, I also returned home with eight pullet eggs from stepsister and co.'s young flock of Wyandotte chickens. We sat around and talked about chickens, bees (stepbrother-in-law is a skilled amateur beekeeper), and fruit and vegetables until it was time for me to head home.

Having experienced all this bounty, I think I might have to drive in to Atlanta every couple weeks or so to get provisions. There were all kinds of beautiful Florida fish and shrimp I didn't buy, simply because we couldn't have consumed them all while they were still fresh.

P.S. I drove home in the wake of a semi truck, not changing lanes except when it did, just to make sure no errant deer ended up in my path.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Disorienting, yet cool

A hundred or so years ago, when our house was built, people didn't have a lot of stuff. We, however, have quite a lot of stuff. As a result, we are forever questing for More Closet Space.

Specifically, we need a place to keep all the tools and DIY doodads that have gotten us to where we are today. So today the s.o. did something really clever: He expanded the under-stairs closet so that it is a little more than two feet deeper (and quite a lot taller) than it was before.

Isn't it strange when the layout of your house changes? Walls seem immutable, but they aren't at all. One afternoon's carpentry (and possibly weeks of subsequent foot-dragging on my part, because I am in charge of drywalling and finishing work) and we suddenly experience a new traffic pattern, a new way that light bounces around, and most notably a new place to store an unwieldy table saw.

Actually, the table saw will sit in exactly the same place it has sat for months. The difference is, now no one will be able to se it.

One additional benefit of the new construction is that it hides an old amateurish drywall seam of mine--done before I really started to figure things out--that I wasn't particularly proud of. It's like a clean slate. I can begin anew.

I like it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A morning's foraging

I found the contents of this bowl while I was walking the dogs this morning. Not bad, I say.

Now, I know four green beans isn't a lot, but (a) the deer ate all the other bean plants from my late-July planting, and (b) there are a few more coming. I'm surprised I have any at all. So I chalk it up as a victory.

The pecans are aggravating. This year our delinquent pecan trees finally set a lot of fruit, only to have most of it rot in the pod. These few are all the healthy nuts I could find. They are not a hundredth of what the trees produced. Is it weather? Nutrition (we did fertilize, for what it's worth)? Or is it that, as I read somewhere, some older pecan tree cultivars stop producing reliably when they get to a certain age? Well, at least we have a few gorgeous pecans.

At a time when so many of the vegetables in the garden are producing like crazy--mustard greens, turnips, chard, radishes, lettuce, cilantro, peppers, carrots, and even a last couple eggplants--it seems odd to be overjoyed at these measly finds. But I am extra-pleased with them because I didn't expect them.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Le menu

Here's a simple autumn soup that makes me very happy. You'll notice there's no basil in it. Nothing unusual about that--there's not supposed to be any basil in it.

I specifically chose a dinner recipe with no basil in it because I spent half the day processing all the basil in the garden into frozen proto-pesto (i.e., just food-processed basil and lots of olive oil to keep it preserved; other ingredients to be added at time of defrosting). As a result, right now the merest whiff of basil makes me positively ill. It won't take long for these effects to wear off, luckily. But you can be sure that the last soup on my mind tonight was Pistou.

So instead I went for a version of potato-leek soup that I specially designed to use up some particularly nice leftovers from a roasted chicken.

I served the soup with Bakerina's Rice Bread, which is every bit as great as you'd expect it to be, coming from Bakerina. Tender and crumb-y inside, with a crackly, crunchy crust.

3 to 4 c. peeled, chopped floury potatoes
3 c. chopped leeks, white and pale-green parts only (make sure to rinse them well, inside and out)
chicken broth to cover by 2 inches
1 c. cooked, shredded chicken
a splash of milk and/or cream
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the potatoes, leeks, and broth in a large pot, bring to a boil, and keep at a high simmer until the vegetables are falling-apart tender. Puree in batches in a food processor. Return to the pot.
Add the chicken, milk, and seasonings. Heat through--do not boil.

Look what the rain brought

I knew as soon as we got some rain, we'd start to see tiny puffballs in the yard. They say the best possible mushroom weather is a dry September and a wet October. So far, perfect. Aren't they cute?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Yes, since you ask, it was love at first sight

The s.o. is simultaneously watching the playoffs on TV and reading a baseball web site. I am engrossed in a culinary article online and am only dimly aware that he is typing away at something. Then I realize he is asking me a question.

"Wha?" I ask.

He repeats himself. "Is 'popinjay' all one word?"

"Yes," I respond, and return to my reading.

A moment later, he gets my attention again. "And what about 'drink-soaked'? Does that need a hyphen?"

Sometimes I think I ought to pay more attention to sports.

The yogurt wars: Vol. 2

It is a good morning. After a shaky first week in obedience class*, in which Gracie half-strangled herself on the lead, towed me around in circles, scrabbled her feet like Fred Flintstone for an hour straight, and peed in the middle of the floor, last night she made me so proud you'd think she had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

We spent all day wearing her out so she'd be mellow. She fetched, wrestled, paced in circles, etc. Then I gave her a Happy Traveler (which doesn't seem to have any effect on her, FWIW) and took her to town a half-hour early so she could greet all the other dogs as they arrived. I got myself a coffee with cinnamon and cultivated an air of quiet benevolence. But what really helped was that the trainer had thoughtfully brought an Ace bandage and did a "hug wrap" on her. It's a tactic along the lines of swaddling clothes for a baby or a squeeze chute for a cow; it does something comforting on a deep neurological level. Apparently therapists do something similar with autistic children. At any rate, the difference in behavior was startling. The wrap seemed to drastically reduce Gracie's not-inconsiderable anxiety, and she was so well-behaved that the trainer used us as an example!

Gracie and I stopped at the liquor store on the way home so I could get a bottle of Calvados. It's apple season. I need it for cooking. "Sure you do," you say, winking ironically, but at this very moment I have a panful of butter-sauteed apple slices soaking in a quarter-cup of that Calvados. Apple clafoutis for brunch!

But before I forget, I need to deal with the business at hand: Four more yogurt taste tests, submitted for your consideration.

Stonyfield Farm
fat-free strawberry

(not pictured)

Very good yogurt as always, but really, really awful fruit. The strawberries are greyish-pink, bland, and canned-tasting. Bad aftertaste. I have a hard time imagining how this made it through product testing. Overall a regrettable purchase.
Cairo didn’t even like it. Not much, anyway.

Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Yogurt
vanilla flavor

This is good, but not nearly as good as the Redwood Hill blueberry flavor. It is sweetened with maple syrup rather than honey, so it has a pronounced maple-caramel flavor rather than a pure vanilla taste. That seems like an odd choice to me--why not just call it maple? Also, I noticed a greasy film on the spoon, similar to (although not as pronounced as) the fatty texture of the Brown Cow Cream Top maple flavor. Maybe maple syrup has some kind of de-emulsifying effect on yogurt.
I am now a confirmed fan of goat milk yogurt. But whereas I’d buy the blueberry flavor again in a heartbeat, I don’t think I’d seek this flavor out.
Cairo really seems to like maple, and he loves goat milk, too, so obviously this yogurt was a dream come true for him.

Stonyfield Farm
whole milk vanilla truffle

I tried this on Maggie’s recommendation. I wouldn’t have even been able to find it on the shelf if it weren’t for the picture on the cup, which depicts chunks of chocolate and a vanilla flower. Since when do you call a chocolate-flavored yogurt “vanilla truffle”?
Well. I must say this is a very impressive yogurt. It has a cream top with a minimum of greasiness and a maximum of creaminess. There is almost too much gooey chocolate on the bottom for the amount of yogurt in the cup (as if that were possible). It is glorious, glorious stuff, and I feel very guilty having eaten it for breakfast. It occurs to me that it would go well with sliced banana. I will definitely buy it again.
Only two negatives:
(1) It looked kind of gross when I opened it, due to watery “migration” of some of the chocolate from the bottom, and
(2) I couldn’t share it with Cairo because it is chocolate.

Wallaby Creamy Australian Style Organic
lowfat lemon

Apparently “Australian Style” means “soupy and mild.” I like it a lot for its fresh lemony flavor. In fact, the more I ate of it, the more I liked it. There are little teeny pieces of lemon zest in it, which are comforting in a natural-foods way but a little odd texture-wise, almost grainy.
Cairo loooooooved this. Three paws up.


* Some of you may note that it has actually been several weeks since classes began. The first week we didn't bring our dogs, and then the third week the trainer had to be in New York for a dog show. So this was actually the de facto second class for the dogs.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The best beans in the world... least in my limited experience...are an heirloom variety called speckled butter beans, AKA Alabama Christmas limas. Gorgeous beans, spotted like Ponies of the Americas, that live up to their superficial beauty.

I first read about them a long time ago, when I received Deborah Madison's The Vegetarian Table: America as a gift. She included a recipe for them that she'd found in an old community cookbook called Treasured Alabama Recipes. I never thought I'd happen upon these elusive beans in person.

But then recently, at a small Greensboro grocery called Moon's, I spotted them (no pun intended). They were sold under the brand name China Doll, packaged in Mobile.

From the amount of time it has taken me to cook them into submission, I estimate these beans have been sitting on the grocery shelf for quite a while. They were originally intended for last night's dinner. I brought them to a boil in the morning, turned off the heat, soaked them all day, and then cooked them for upwards of two hours. Still hard. So I figured out another side dish for my pork chops and stuck the stubborn limas in the fridge.

In the morning I started cooking them again. Now they are finally ready.

And...oh! Oh, my. Oh, my, my. Simmered with a few aromatics and some butter, salt, and pepper (which I added a day and a half ago, faithful to Madison's suggestions), they have become decadent in their savoriness.

And no, I can't believe I'm using superlatives like these to describe beans. But they are really that special.

Hive mind

I am considering having a party for my local female friends on November 6 or thereabouts. I sent out an e-mail today asking what the girls thought of the date. So far I've received responses from three people who (as far as I know) don't spend a lot of time together. Each one consisted of exactly two words: "I'm down."

Linguistic evolution in action, or what? I mean, I know what "I'm down" means and everything, and I'd probably even say it myself. But it seems like an unusual choice for three people to make without consulting with each other. I guess it's just some kind of meme. Five years ago when I first arrived in Athens, a subset of the townie population was using the word "nair" (or, sometimes, "buh-nair") to mean "that is so lame." It persisted for a while, then faded into relative obscurity.

Whatever. I'm down.

Anyhow, signs bode well for a Girl Fawkes' Day party. It has rained twice today. For all I know, it's still doing it. If we get enough rain to un-parch things a little bit, we'll be able to have a massive bonfire.

By the way, if any of my female readers are feeling the urge to visit Georgia, that might be a good time to do it...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Machine 1, nature 0

I have returned, and according to the Greensboro Herald-Journal, here is the news:

• The owner of the local sporting goods store has been elected mayor of Union Point. His grandfather, father, and uncle have all also served as mayor of Union Point.

• On November 8, residents of Greensboro will vote on whether to issue mixed-drink licenses for eating establishments. The mayor is quoted as saying, "This is for restaurants, not for honky tonks. You must sell a certain percent of food in your business to be eligible for a license."

I just thought I'd share.

I had a wonderful trip to Tuscaloosa. Not because it was Tuscaloosa (although of course everyone should visit the original Dreamland BBQ, which has much better atmosphere than--and the same mindbendingly good ribs as--the franchises that have spun off from it, and The Waysider, which was apparently where Bear Bryant ate his breakfast every day), but because my wonderful friends were there. And I doubt that I'll go back anytime soon, because these friends are moving to Salt Lake City. They'll be way too far away for my tastes, but then again, SLC is a place that is highly appealing to visit. Maybe the s.o. and I can go sometime during Sundance.

Even though, as I just said, I doubt I'll be visiting that part of Alabama again anytime soon, note to self: I should really remember to check sports schedules before embarking. I spent a lot of the journey sitting in traffic and/or dodging drunken idiots. Also, unrelatedly, I sat in traffic in Birmingham for an hour because of (the traffic reporter on the radio said) "a large piece of steel in the road."

And then, almost home, I went to pass a slow-moving vehicle on I-20 between Covington and Madison, and HOLY SHIT, there was a deer standing right in the middle of the lane. I had nowhere to go because the deer had run in front of the vehicle I was passing, which of course meant that they slammed on their brakes and ended up right beside me. There was no time to think, just WHAM, and then it was over. I was clear-headed enough to notice that somehow I still had both my headlights and the car was running fine, so I continued to the next exit and then stopped at a gas station.

The deer was a small doe and I was doing 70, so no, I'm certain she didn't fare well. I was much luckier, however. My car sustained the least damage I've ever seen a car sustain from hitting a deer. My front driver's-side turn signal was vaporized, and the front corner panel was crumpled in slightly. Also, the force of the impact somehow popped my driver's-side rear-view mirror out of its shell.* But other than that, nothing. It must have been a glancing blow. I say "must have" because all I remember is deer and then no deer. I can kind of remember a sound and a feeling of impact, but that's it.

My first reaction was--and is--to be supremely annoyed. Can I not have JUST ONE car that's really nice? This car is our newest, nicest one (a 1994 Camry, which by our standards is brand new and extremely high-end) and runs like a dream. I got it from my grandparents only a couple of months ago. I don't carry collision insurance on cars, because anything we would own tends to have a resale value of less than a standard insurance deductible. So the best I will be able to do, repair-wise, is to have someone bang the panel more or less back into shape and replace the turn signal light. It will never look the same.

On the other hand, I know in my heart I should feel really, really grateful. Ever since I moved to the country I have been waiting for the moment to come when I hit a deer. There are just too many of them; there's no way it won't happen. But now it has happened, in the place I least expected it (Interstate 20--what in the world?!), and I'm not dead, and there is not a deer embedded in my windshield, and my car is not totaled. It was almost a non-event.**

Of course, it could happen again. I know that. But I do feel as though a little bit of the deer-hitting karma has been defused, at least for now.

* This is slightly tragicomedic from our point of view, because our 1990 Honda Accord is also missing its driver's side rear-view mirror, thanks to some student in Athens who sideswiped it while it was parked outside of our old place. On the bright side, I already know how to drive safely sans that particular mirror.

** From my point of view; obviously not from the deer's.