My guilty pleasure. I can’t think about where it comes from. Though I do buy local ‘happy pig’ bacon when possible, and otherwise the most ethical available. Which isn’t very. This is why it’s a guilt trip for me; and an indulgence.
When I want bacon I manage to automagically separate the food from its origin as a sentient being. My mind disassociates. Today I’m grateful for the first batch of homegrown jalapeño poppers. So simple, so delicious.
I’m grateful for my tiny crop of small Fuji apples, which I rescued the other day from magpie predation. This morning I turned most of them into this Jewish apple cake for Boyz Lunch. Not simple but so delicious.
Wren took a break from her hard work in the garden today to accompany me to Garden Buddy’s house for a produce exchange. She was able to get acquainted with their big dog whose head is about the size of her whole self. We all sat in the shade and visited for a little while, and I enjoyed the view of all the suns on their old cabin ruin. I’m grateful for the bountiful sunshine today, and overall mild fall weather. In this moment, all is well.
I’m grateful for a day of ease this Saturday. It started with a leisurely stroll through the woods on a cloudless morning, and a short meditation under a juniper tree.
Two online mindfulness groups sandwiched lunch and a single kitchen project, the powdering of paprika. There are still a few to ripen, but the bulk of them have dried and were reduced to a half cup of ground spice. I’m grateful for a tiny pinch of this potent pepper year round in everything from deviled eggs to refried beans to squash soup. My use of it has increased exponentially since I started growing my own. It’s a small and simple accomplishment that, like many such, brings joy each step of the way from nurturing the sprouts, planting them out, watering and watching the green plants grow, flower, and fruit–to snipping the bright red ripe peppers, carrying them inside, slicing and drying them, and finally grinding them to a fine powder. The powder has to settle in the blender for awhile before decanting to preclude inhalation of fiery dust.
One of today’s kitchen projects was to combine both batches of fermented peppers and blend them into a hot sauce rough draft. I’ll ferment at least one more batch of yellow, orange and red peppers along with a carrot or two and a red onion from the garden, and then blend all these phases together before bottling. It was naive of me to think the various pepper varieties would all ripen at the same time, and I’m grateful for allowing things to be as they are and adapting my plans accordingly.
Another of today’s kitchen projects was spicy dill pickles. I made six half-pints and for the first time in my nascent canning career made a dreadful mistake. Not the first mistake I’ve made canning, but the first time I’ve made this one: I screwed one ring on crooked so the lid wasn’t held down and didn’t seal. Somehow, though, the jar didn’t fill with canning water: the pickles smelled fine, so I reset the lid and stuck the jar in the fridge. I’ll test it in a couple of weeks, the recommended time for pickles to steep before tasting. If it goes bad, oh well, compost. I put a tiny red Jigsaw pepper and one slice of orange jalapeño in each jar, along with a quarter teaspoon of dill seed.
After a busy day in the garden and kitchen and a couple of short walks, I lay on my back on the chaise for toes-up time. Little Wren had to investigate so she jumped up on my belly and coming close, cocked her head: What are you doing? Do you want me to lick your face?
This little yellowjacket didn’t want to budge from the base of a chimayo pepper, so I let her stay, happy to share sustenance. She won’t eat much, the pepper will ripen and soon join the harvest basket. Just a handful of yellow beans, jalapeños and a few other peppers this morning, but enough new arugula to make another batch of pesto. There are still loads of green tomatoes and unripe peppers to come, but with this cool spell everything has slowed down. I’m grateful for a rainy day predicted tomorrow. I’m through teaching on Thursdays for awhile, and love the prospect of an empty day in front of me to catch up in the kitchen, and hopefully to start a pet project on the computer that I’ve been procrastinating on for years. We’ll know more later!
I’ve read about cabbage steaks and finally decided to try some. I had a couple old pieces of sourdough bread, and plenty of chickpeas on hand, so I made this, and wow! Next time I’ll use less salt, but otherwise this was a delicious and healthy dinner. I burned most of the croutons but that was just as well, who needs the carbs. Chickpeas roasted to perfection, and the mild seasoning with cumin and coriander went well with the lemony mayo dressing. I chopped up the leftover roasted cabbage, grated a carrot into it, and put in the fridge for coleslaw for the week.
“Letting go” has been coming up in conversations recently. I’m so grateful for letting go. I never used to be able to. I hung onto things like the proverbial dog with a bone, all kinds of attachments and most of them unhealthy, like grudges, the need to control, an outcome that was beyond my control, rigid and narrow ideas of right and wrong. you name it, I couldn’t let it go. Maybe it’s a function of age, lessons learned, disappointments, or just wisdom, but I credit mindfulness training with a lot of it: these days I let go of way more than I cling to. In this moment, I can’t think of anything I cling to, besides the idea, the hope, that I’ll wake up alive tomorrow to enjoy another day of known and unknown experiences.
When I first moved here, and discovered several old dump sites from the 1930s and 40s, I was gung ho to clean them up! I thought I’d have time someday to gather up all the broken glass, crockery, rusted metal, porcelain knobs, and whatnot, and — do what, take it to ‘the dump’? I really meant to. These dumps along the canyon and a couple other places were an eyesore. My disgust of them was tempered by some fun with an older friend investigating them with ‘archaeologist’s mind,’ especially when she found some hairpins like her mother used, and we were able to date some other artifacts. Also, there were a lot of other more pressing demands on my time.
I did pull out some pieces of a large crock, and figured I’d be able to glue it together once I found enough of them. Just for fun, my ‘puzzler’s mind’ at play. I let go of that idea when I realized I’d collected fragments of two different crocks. These pieces have sat along the rim now for more than twenty years, collecting their own microcosms of forest floor; and here they’ll stay at least until I’m dead and gone. Eventually I completely let go of the cleanup plan, and what a relief! Goodbye resentment, farewell guilt. These dumps are a historic part of the landscape at this point, their contents at rest here for nearly a century. Under each plate shard, each canning jar curve, live perfectly content micro-creatures. Who am I to disrupt their habitat?
I’m also grateful that I’ve let go of some self-imposed limitations, like the label ‘can’t handle the heat.’ I’m not going to crunch down on a Scorpion pepper any time soon, or this first Red Savina to ripen (above) on a stocky bush full of them; I am, however, going to make some really hot sauce and sprinkle a few drops here and there. But what in hell am I going to do with a bushfull of Red Savinas? This particular pepper once held the world record as ‘hottest pepper‘ until the Ghost Pepper eclipsed it (though by now the Ghost Pepper lies at the low end of the world’s hottest peppers). Nevertheless, the Red Savina comes with a caution: “…can cause severe burning sensations and numbness for days if proper care isn’t taken.” Rest assured, I’ll take proper care, as I have with the Scorpions. Eeeee.
And now letting go of the letting go theme, a bit of cool respite. Tiny crabapples load the tree below altocumulus clouds preceding the storm that brought a cooling drizzle late afternoon. I’m grateful for this precipitation, as usual, and anticipate a good rain tomorrow. The moisture brought out the vibrant color of desert four o’clocks shimmering with internal light under full cloud cover just before sunset.
I’m grateful for the first Boyz Lunch in a month yesterday. All is well and we are reunited on the patio. “Three is good,” said one, but it may as well have been the other. I tried out a zucchini lasagna on them, and even though I thought it was too salty they loved it. I’m grateful that almost every dish I cook for them they rate in the Top Five. This zucchini lasagna was a blend of three recipes I found online. I sliced a large zucchini thinly with a cheese slicer and layered it with a faux-ricotta blend (substituting cream cheese when I found the ricotta had turned pink), last year’s tomato sauce simmered with browned sausage, and shredded cheddar and mozzarella. Three layers deep in the baking dish, with the top layer latticed, a delightful frill.
Sprinkled with seasoned breadcrumbs and grated parmesan, then baked for half an hour, it was sizzling delight.
Boyz Lunch on Saturday with sourdough biscuits, then double dessert. I’m grateful for zucchini lunch. I served chocolate zucchini cake with Bello’s frozen cappuccino on the side. “All you have to do is…” he says every time. So simple, so delicious!
I’ve been grateful this week for lots of rain to nourish the earth, replenish the aquifer, water the garden. And I’ve been grateful for plenty of sunshine and busy pollinators stocking up before they slow down, perish, or leave for winter.