Sunday, August 19, 2007

the food network

I was just in Portland, on a culinary tour of the life of gralena. Inspired by all the wonderful things we ate, I decided to make mac-and-cheese from a cookbook for lunch today. I did a half recipe and followed the directions reasonably well. I'm sure my math was right, at any rate. I used a stove and an oven. And a whisk. And a grater and good cheese.

Ugh, it was so bad. (Yes, there is a reason I am not a bakess.) I wish I had just made the cookbox variety. Or that I'd stayed back to Portland...

This pic is from a beer garden in PDX, pretty orange looking beer bubble pattern. I'll add more images later. I got to get ready to go down to the Chicken Pickin'...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

tomato protection zone

Here is the gigantic fence my neighbor built. I figured out the aluminum bat sounding pinging (see previous post): she used an aluminum bat to drive the stakes. My tomatoes are behind--not behind as in within, but behind the within, if that makes any sense. I'm not sure how I am supposed to water them now. Hmm. I'll have to work on that.
Bunny-eye view of unattainable delicious dinner, through the nasty metal fence. I think my neighbor left the tomato carcass to taunt the bunny.

See--doesn't the bunny look taunted? This is a born-thief baby bunny, BTW.


It is grey day teasing much-coveted rain, a day for delicious wasting, saved from two-hours of plant watering…

I was lying around indulging in literature when I heard it: ping. A metal-on-metal pi- following a resonating cord, -nnnnnnggggg, not at all unpleasant, similar to wind chimes except for the sharpness of the hit. There followed a couple successive pings, at longish, irregular intervals, perhaps a minute of three apart each. The pinging somehow reminded me that I was hungry, so I abandoned my supine reading position and walked through the throes of furniture that have befallen my apartment, and heard yet another ping. It seemed to come from the west, which is to say, the sound came in the open skylight on the west side of the roof in the living room. Cracking an egg, another ping sounds: once again drifting in an open skylight, but this time from the east-sloped roof. Intrigued, I wove around the temporary plastic-sheet walls to the turret, where three real windows, of the vertical double-hung variety, allow one to look out. I did not see a kid in the driveway practice hitting with an aluminum bat. I did not see anything other than the parched lawns, the cracked surface of asphalt in the driveway, the bright yellow hose snaking the lawn that never gets corralled anymore due to daily watering needs. Ping—just out of sight, three stories down, clutching the edge of the clapboarded walls, ah yes, I understand whence the sound cometh.

My second floor neighbor planted two rows in the vegetable garden this year. Four tomato plants, basil, mint and several heads of lettuce. The tomatoes are heirlooms, and though she planted them two weeks after mine, hers grew taller and small bubbles of fruit began to appear sooner than on my tomato plants one row over. It’s been a good summer for tomatoes in the north country. We’d had 20 days above 90 before August even showed its face, and those bubbles popped up in early June. I ate my first red grape tomato off the vine in June, this in a climate whose last-freeze date is in the third week of May. Tomatoes belong to late August in Minnesota, not early summer. My neighbor’s miracle plants had several full-sized tomatoes, turgid and ripening, straining the vine before my little grape tomatoes were even thoughts in their mom-flower's eyes. I staked the fat fruit beasts for her, hoping she would not be offended, and I watched as several began to turn. One afternoon I came across one beauty in the lawn with bite marks on it. I picked it up and tossed it into the compost.

It was only a few days later when my neighbor called. My neighbor has a melodic voice, the kind made for radio, but it was a little sharper than normal. She asked me, not so much accusing as pleading, if I had been picking her tomatoes. I informed her that I had not, and mentioned the fallen beauty I had found. She tried again, asking if I thought that, perhaps, the children on the first floor might be eating them? But the children from downstairs were on summer travels, and moreover, they grew their own beans and berries in the garden. They knew the rules. I told her no person was picking the tomatoes. It had to be the bunnies or the squirrels. My neighbor’s beautiful voice wavered uncharacteristically, oh but the tomatoes are so big, you don’t think a rabbit could possibly carry it off?

Ping. The metallic noises are my neighbor installing a rabbit fence. I will sneak out later to inspect it, once the pinging has subsided. Maybe I’ll even pick one of my one tomatoes, my garden variety Early Girls. I’ve had two so far, the bunnies don’t seem to like them.