I always eat breakfast at home (far less out of virtue and more out of the desire to have coffee in my pyjamas), so I don’t usually skimp on buying decent fruit or healthy homemade bread. Although I recognize that this eating and spending habit is a luxury, the total still couldn’t possibly rival a daily latte at Starbucks. Well, not so fast. Last night, at our fancy local grocer, I knew something was amiss when I paid up for a basket full of food. I was embarrassed at the total, but instead of being responsible and backing out of the purchase, I did a quick tally, amortized out the excess cost over the number of items in the cart, and figured that I should definitely shop more judiciously in the future lest we go broke. I tend to look at price tags on everything (habit picked up from my father!) and find myself returning products to the shelves – although not often enough – if they are too expensive. But I didn’t see an amount on the fruit. I know from experience what the normal price range is, so I blithely added both containers to my array. The tags were scrunched up and hidden, and now I can see why. $11.99 for the strawberries and $7.99 for the blueberries. You read that correctly. The perils of eating fruits and vegetables out of season are legend, but yikes. I am ashamed for so many reasons. The strawberries are a little more than .38¢ a pop and those pretty little blueberries top out at .11¢ each. I had 6 strawberries and 26 blueberries. $5.14 worth of fruit. This doesn’t even begin to take into account the rest of my meal: the piece of toast with almond butter or my coffee with milk. So very very wrong.
Not the most exciting snack on the planet. But certainly one of the only biscuits to be developed as part of a dietary regime designed to stifle destructive carnal appetites. Invented in New Jersey, of all places, by the Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, the graham cracker was originally made of far sterner stuff: graham flour with little or no sweetener. The thinking being that if one is to curb sexual enthusiasm, the solution would be to eat a bland diet. Apparently, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg also subscribed to this theory. Hence the invention of corn flakes. Who knew? These days the crackers are laced with loads of sugar, cinnamon and maybe even chocolate. And even worse, they are made from white flour. The ultimate sin.
We had a boatload of tomatoes from the garden and the farmers’ market this year, so I decided to do some proper canning of sauce. Because tomatoes fall into that danger zone of medium acidic foods, unless you have a pressure canner, you need to add some lemon juice or citric acid to the sauce in order to make the whole process safe. All the recipes I looked at (I settled on the one from this wonderful book by Ashley English) recommended using bottled lemon juice, because real lemons vary in their acidity. This could be an issue: read sickness or death. Not in my nature to mess around with that! So, I moseyed on over to the local supermarket and picked up one bottle each of lemon and lime juice (I was also canning tomatillo salsa). It wasn’t until I got home and used the lemon juice that I really looked closely at the packaging. It’s a great design. And when seated next to the bottle of lime juice, they do tell a funny story. I did a little homework and found out that the bottles were designed in 1955, and have been in continuous production by the same Swiss firm, Sidag AG. Yep, almost 60 years old. World Radio Switzerland ran a series about Swiss design and highlighted the bottles as part of their excellent programming.
With the exception of an occasional watering, I had almost nothing to do with the planting and growing of these potatoes. That credit is bestowed upon my spouse. BUT, on Saturday afternoon, my husband and I dug them up. And can I tell you that it was one of the most enjoyable pursuits, ever! My friend Jason, an excellent gardener in his own right, and the one who gave us the seed potatoes to begin with, has always said (correctly) that it’s like a fabulous treasure hunt trying to find the tubers in the dark soil. Last night, in celebration of our modest bounty, we cooked the smaller ones for dinner. We were duly rewarded for the many weeks of waiting. My gosh, they were delicious. But, before cooking them, I singled out what I consider to be the world’s smallest potato. And, take notice of that gnarled one in the bottom left portion of the first photograph. It reminds me ever so slightly of Rodin’s The Thinker.
I was tagging along on this particular trip to Home Depot. Something about my spouse wanting peat moss for the potato trench. All words I never thought I would string together in a single sentence. The gardening and landscaping section is at the far end of the store so there is little incentive to wander if one wants to get in and out in a clean sweep. And we both get a little cranky on these outings. Something about the big box retailer thing. All was not lost though. I found momentary happiness in and among the stacks of wheelbarrows, paving stones and watering cans!
Just to be clear, I’m not trying to be lewd here. To explain: One weekend before the holidays, I went into the local upstate Farm and Garden store to see if I could find some canning jars, and somehow ended up in the farm animal feeding section. There are implements and objects on the shelves that I have never seen before. And, furthermore, have no clue as to what purpose they serve. However, it wasn’t a big leap to guess at what these are. (One of the best experiences of the past couple of years was bottle feeding our friends’ baby goats. OMG!) Anyway, as I did a little more digging, I realized that there is an entire industry devoted to animal feeding nipples. All shapes and sizes. Each suited to a different species. As usual, the range and variation in shape of a single item is what’s got me hooked.
Nature has us all trumped. It’s hard to disagree on this one. Today’s vegetable — the watermelon radish — is brought to you by the good folks over at Willow Wisp Organic Farm in Damascus, PA, right across the Delaware River border from NY. They are amazing and smart and grow vegetables that make you remember how food is supposed to taste.