Friday, June 24, 2011

The Little Red Hen's Gone Broody

The littlest red hen wants to be a mama. Her heart is set on it.

Last week, while Dennis was out of town, I found she had been sitting in a nest all day, all night and the next morning. Gently I prodded her until she reluctantly hopped out. She had been sitting on 13 eggs, which I promptly gathered.

Every day she sat on the nest. Every day I prodded her out. The other hens were upset by her odd behavior and warning clucks. Their egg production slowed down.

Dennis came home and solved the problem Now the littlest red hen spends her days in a cage with her own food and water. The other hens seem to be back to normal.

Dennis lets her out at night, and guess where she goes? Not to the roost, of course.

Her urge to procreate is understandable in light of human behavior regarding fertility clinics and surrogate pregnancies. Sad to say, our little red hen can never become a mother because we don't have a rooster and none of the eggs are fertile. Still, she hopes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

This One's for Grant-O

I was making cole slaw the other day, and thinking of Grant, who said, "Grandma, I love your cole slaw." Now that he's too far away to sit at our table, I'm posting the method I use, in case he wants to make some himself.

Start with a napa cabbage, also called Chinese cabbage. That's the elongated one with wide ribs and crinkly leaves. It has a nice crunchy texture.

Cut the cabbage in half longitudinally.

Starting at the leafy top, thinly shave off slices.

When you've finished shaving in this direction, chop the shreds in the opposite direction.

Now, make the dressing. These are the dressing ingredients I use. Being a Southern cook, I prefer Miracle Whip to mayonnaise, but mayo would be acceptable if you Yankees want to substitute.

Sorry I can't give exact measurements, but begin with a blob of Miracle Whip. Add a little sugar and stir together. Now add a squirt of good old yellow mustard, a shot or two of Worchestershire sauce, a dribble of cider vinegar (I used a capful) and a few grinds of pepper. Want it zingier? Add more mustard and vinegar. Sweeter? More sugar. Here's the dressing I made for this small batch of slaw before I stirred it up.

Cole slaw, in my opinion, should have just enough dressing to lightly coat the shreds of cabbage. Here's the slaw with dressing poured over it.

And here it is after stirring in the dressing.

So, there you are, Grant. If you can buy Miracle Whip in Flagstaff, you're all set to go.

By the way, I learned this basic recipe from Jo Elliott, who was your dad's baby sitter when I was teaching high school English in Lathrop, Missouri. All I've changed is the type of cabbage.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gooseberry Time

My dad loved gooseberries and his June 12 birthday coincided with gooseberry picking. When his birthday rolled around, he and I loaded baskets in the car and drove to various country sites where we picked the wild gooseberries. It was hot, sweaty work and I usually ended up crying and begging to go home, but we didn't leave until Dad had harvested every gooseberry in sight.

As it happened, I married a man who also loves gooseberries and whose birthday is June 15. Here he is, picking gooseberries from the bushes in our front yard.

We moved these bushes from the edge of the woods, where they never produced berries, to a sunny location near the cold frames. With sun and a dressing of chicken manure, they now produce an abundance of berries. Note how Dennis is holding the branch up so he can access the hanging berries. He's holding it gingerly, having respect for the thorns that line the branches.

Gooseberry picking is not the end of the work; the stem and beard of each berry must be removed before washing the berries. This is time-consuming work that used to be a family affair, with everyone sitting around the table working at the task. Sadly, my hands aren't up to the task any more, so Dennis has this chore all to himself.

Still, I'm not entirely useless. I get to make the birthday gooseberry pie.

Happy Birthday, Dennis! And thanks for picking and stemming all those berries.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I've Got The Quinoa Blues

Last month several members of the New Boston Food Buying Club shared a bulk order of black quinoa. I participated, planning to use quinoa to increase the protein value of my bread.

After placing the order for quinoa, I heard a news report about quinoa having been a dietary staple and important source of protein for Andean people. Now the people who have cultivated this grain-like food since 3,000 B.C., can no longer afford to eat it. Why? Because spoiled, thoughtless people like me, who have a myriad of protein sources readily available, have become big consumers of quinoa. It's a fashionable food in the United States now. Basic capitalism is at work here: demand increases price, and the price has grown too high.

I made bread today and added some quinoa, but I did it with a heavy heart. I guess my diet doesn't really require quinoa, and when I've used up my supply, I don't intend buy more unless it was grown in the United States.

Some would argue that by purchasing quinoa we are helping provide economic development for poor countries. But is it really a good thing to take away nutritious food and replace it with the ability to purchase a bag of Fritos and a Coke? No, I believe this is a good time in world history to preserve traditional, self-sustaining ways of life. Hard times lie ahead, for, as Thomas Friedman recently wrote in his New York Times column, "The earth is full."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fresh Eggs, A Little Known Fact

Eggs purchased in supermarkets have some age on them, and because most cooks buy eggs at supermarkets they don't realize that hard-boiled fresh eggs are nearly impossible to peel.

Last Saturday I wanted to make deviled eggs for a family gathering of eleven people. I needed to boil 15 of the the oldest eggs on hand so I asked Dennis, the egg man, "Which eggs in the refrigerator are the oldest?"

He identified two dozen as the oldest. They weren't.

If I'd had all afternoon to peel 15 eggs, the results might have been better, but I had only one hour before guests arrived, so I peeled with abandon. Seemed to me that after the whites were filled with the deviled yolks, no one would notice. I thought maybe the yolk mixture would serve as glue to keep the mangled whites from falling apart.

By golly, it worked!

The happy diners didn't even notice and, at the end of the meal, the plate was empty.

All three of our adult children, two of their three spouses, and four of their six children were here. Our grandchildren range from two to twenty-five. The latest, our bonus grandchild, is the left-hander I've been hoping for. That makes three of us. (To be honest, Zander appears to be ambidexterous, but eats mostly with his left and throws with his right.)

It was a bittersweet occasion because Bill and Carol soon will move to Maine, taking their children with them!