Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget

We will all remember where we were, how we heard the news.

I remember wanting to get away from the TV, so I drove to the blood bank - not yet knowing that there would be no need.

I remember waiting for them to open, along with perhaps a dozen other people.

I remember that we didn't speak to one another. Words were inadequate, thoughts were unutterable.

I remember feeling disbelief. I remember feeling anger. I remember the realization that there is true evil in this world which rarely touches me.

I remember recognizing those feelings in the small group of people around me at the blood bank.

I remember that cars would pull up and someone would hurry out with a bag of orange juice, donuts, etc. and leave them by the blood bank door.

I remember thinking that, despite the evil in the world, there is goodness. There is resolve. There is bravery. There is light.

Never forget. Thank you to all the men and women who work so hard to preserve the light.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We're All Gonna Starve

My hoards of readers might remember my last year's attempt at making grape jelly. I was, justifiably, proud of myself. It took a few days, my kitchen looked like a murder scene, but I was rewarded with twenty one pints of grape jelly.

It was gone in four months.

No, I didn't give it all away. Are you kidding? I worked so stinkin' hard, I was stingy with it! We ate it. If we had to depend on my jelly to ward off scurvy during a foodless winter, we'd all be toothless.

The grape jelly was borne of a couple of ideas. The desire to incorporate more local, in-season food into our diets. The idea of "slow food" and getting away from the convenience stuff. Wanting to expand my domestic arts and begin to learn how to preserve freshly grown food.

Since I haven't worked in years and years and years, and the economy being what it is, well, let's just say that our retirement is looking less and less like a waterside golf course community and more and more like a double-wide on some remote acreage and a subsistence farm since we can't afford to buy food. And whether or not that actually is the case, I hate to see these arts die and I want to learn how to grow food and how to preserve it so that I don't have to eat 27 zuchinnis a day during squash season, or throw out the tomatoes because there are too many.

My garden, alas, hasn't proven to be the cornucopia of produce that I had hoped. But the growing season isn't over and there is still reason to hope.

Until I really learn how to grow food, and in some useful quantity, I decided to pay a weekly visit to our farmer's market (really just a couple of good ol' boys from Ponder selling out of their trailer) and buy one or two things in quantity and preserve them.

Last week it was spicy green beens and freezer pickles. These are pretty much just condiments and garnishes and nothing you could expect to survive a winter on. But they ARE quite yummy and good in a Bloody Mary!

This week, it was tomatoes. I bought a large box of their "less than perfect" tomatoes, and some freshly dug onions. I de-seeded for hours. The kitchen once again looked like a murder scene. My back and feet ached from hours at the sink.

I filled two large roasting pans with tomatoes with a bit of onions, garlic, wine & salt. I also added the few tomatoes I've gotten off my plants so far. They've been sittin' in the freezer for just this reason. I roasted them all until they were soft enough to puree.

I pureed them and added a bunch of herbs and now they all fit in ONE roasting pan. Back into the oven at 200 for fourteen hours. Yum.

Start the big canning pot a-boilin'. Sterilize my jars, add a bit of citric acid to discourage botulism. Ladle the yummy sauce into the jars.

Six and a half quarts.That's all.

Do you know how quickly my family will go through six and a half quarts of tomato sauce?

Add in the four quarts of green beans and about two quarts of pickles and I figure we'd starve to death in about a month.

But there is a bright spot. I am becomming comfortable with canning. I had several leftover tomatoes from the tomato sauce, and had also recently made a watermelon gazpacho that left me with an orange pepper and a few jalepenos unused. They all went under the broiler while onions and garlic roasted further down in the oven. Into the food processor with cilantro, cider vinegar and lime juice and I had a yummy roasted salsa. A LOT of it. More than we'd eat before it went bad.

It was almost second nature to boil a big pot of water, pull out a few mason jars, fill 'em up and drop 'em in the pot for processing. Yummy roasted salsa, on my pantry shelf.

Come over with a pitcher of margaritas and I'll let ya try some!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Not in MY town!

The other day, we were having lunch at the local Subway. Three teenage boys came in, and while I didn't really pay attention to them, I noticed they didn't order anything - just sat there discussing and making phone calls. Ray, however, DID happen to overhear portions of their calls and became suspicious.

As we were walking out of the shop, a truck pulled up and the three boys came out and conversed with the passenger of the truck through the window. They started handing things back and forth, then the three boys walked away and the truck pulled out. Ray said "Get in the car and call the police!"

We commenced following the truck as it wound it's way through the parking lots of the gym, the grocery store, and the strip mall in between, trying to lose us. They obviously knew we guessed at what they were up to and were trying to lose us. They eventually tired of that game and took it out to the city streets where they went up and down the two main drags and in and out of the adjacent housing developments. All the while with us following them and telling the police their location.

There is no exciting ending to this story. They lost us, and they lost the cops. But we did get their plate number and hope that we put a bit of a scare into them and hurt their business.

These three boys in Subway, buying the drugs, were clean-cut kids. They could be my kids. They could be your kids.

As a neighborhood teenager advised Aidan recently: "Drugs will mess up your life no matter what. Even if you just try them one time."

I don't want drugs in my town. Or my country. I don't want drug dealers in my town or country. They mess up lives. They thrive on getting kids addicted, moving them up from the cheap "starter" drugs to the expensive and more addictive narcotics.

If you ever have any suspicions about drug activity, I hope you will consider it your business and alert the authorities. They may not make the bust that one particular time, but the more information they have, the more successful they will be.

As Ray said, "Not in my town!"