Friday, May 22, 2015

Survivors



I always catch my breath when I see garden survivors like this little clump of narcissus on the UW campus. They speak of the history of the site. Presumably the bulbs were planted by whomever owned the house that became part of the university’s property, if such was the case. Perhaps, also, they remain from previous campus landscape schemes, like the plantings for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exposition that was a blockbuster local hit in 1909.

There’s a quiet archaeology of historic plants. Apple trees grow, fall over, and “walk” downhill from their original roots. Roses brought west on covered wagons are hunted and fostered by the descendants of the original farmers. Daffodils are amazingly persistent and turn up now and then in the deepest woods. 

A plantsman whose name I forget commented that if one has a valuable cultivar and gives slips of it away, there is no risk of it being lost.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Poach


In an exercise of what we laughingly refer to as menu planning, I promised to pick up some fish last Friday. The idea was to contrive a better way to spend the money that usually goes for fish and chips. I stopped by the fish market that stands between my gym and the bus stop, coughed momentarily when I handed over ten bucks for a piece of fresh halibut slightly larger than my palm, admired the three-figure bottles of wine listed on the handwritten inventory, and wandered off on a couple of other errands.

By the time I got home, it was time to brew a cup of tea, unload my bag, and do something responsible with the fish, that was just at the perfect temperature to cook and minutes away from deteriorating. The bus ride gives me time to visualize what I’ll do at the stove. I filled a neutral cooking vessel with about three cups of water, added a slug of white vinegar, some black pepper, a bay leaf, and whatever else I could remember goes into a court bouillon. I let the pot sit for a little bit, brought it up to a slow boil, set in the fish, and kept it at a medium simmer for just enough minutes to set the flesh gently into white flakes. I put the fish aside to finish cooking on its own heat while I prepared salad greens and dressed them with oil, lemon, and a dash of olive brine.

The halibut was delicious on top of a mound of greens and minced olives, topped with a lacing of sour cream mixed with lemon and brine. I used leftover buttered toast as croutons that absorbed the dressing in the soaked salad tradition of New Orleans. A slab of neighborhood pizza cut into thick fingers rounded out the presentation, and we were good to go at the end of a vigorous week. The in-house road warrior claimed the dish bettered a $40 restaurant salad. I had spent half of what two orders of fish and chips would have cost. I credit that nice little halibut of blessed memory and the first-rate Italian country bread from the corner ovens. The whole exercise took the same or less time than acquiring take-out, left me with a clean refrigerator,and produced a low-fat entree.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Solid Waste Disposal


Set usable surplus goods close to the curb and post a note on Craig’s List that says, simply, “Free stuff”. I use an open garage that sits next to an alley, but transparent trash bags would protect inventory from the weather and allow curious rummaging that won’t create a mess.

I am neither merchant nor teamster. This approach is the most efficient way I have found to keep the inventory lean.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Food Safety


Numerous years ago I learned of the concern about bacterial contamination of raw produce. As advised, I began to rinse salad greens in successive baths of dilute hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar. The bother is worth the trouble. The process refreshes even weary mesclun. Soft fruit, asparagus, green beans, and little tomatoes all benefit from the process, keeping much longer under refrigeration than they otherwise would. Dumping the washes also cleans the sink.

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More after the jump.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Jean's Rags


An acquaintance is a gifted needlewoman whose hands are never idle. At a meeting last week, she generated quite a few knitted inches of a mysterious pad, working from a wide flat cylinder of mauve something or other with torn edges. After the group adjourned, I moseyed over to her chair and learned that Jean was working from a roll of torn curtains. She’s about to move and had decided to recycle her window coverings, simply ripping one-inch widths from lightweight polyester goods. I didn’t think to ask, but it looked as if the strips might have been wound on a turntable.

The technique is a cool way to make the most of what, to me, is at best uninspiring fabric, though archival. The in-house archaeologist says his colleagues will be happy to run across it (and the stamped stainless steel flatware that usually accompanies it) in a couple of thousand years. Jean’s knitting generated a thick, resilient cushion in mere minutes. I could see using it for seating, as a throw over a couch, or perhaps encased in thin goods and used as a quilt or sleeping pad.

Jean tells me the technique was developed by seamen who taught it to land-bound women. She hails from Grays Harbor and seems to embody the deep well of Peninsula craft. Rose Wilder Lane's Woman's Day Book of American Needlework is a vintage overview of the various disciplines. The author is a descendant of Walt Whitman and the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House fame.

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More after the jump.