Oddments

In search of story


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August 22.19

Breathes there the gardener with soul so dead

who never to a friend has said,

“I grew these glorious slices of red!”

 

I’ve been gone, dear reader. Time travel. My dear old high school friends, Donna and Bill, have been visiting, and we had our own private tomato fest. Tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, served with a heaping helping of boast: I GREW THESE! I believe this is my third gardening year not killing tomatoes, and I’ve not one shred of modesty about them.

The tomatoes were highly seasoned with reminiscing, laughing, and reflecting. To be with friends we’ve known since high school is a real privilege at this age, and rightly savored with summer’s bounty. We returned to gardens, tomatoes, and roadside farmers’ stands of the past, as we slathered butter on the hot corn of the present.

It is fitting to pull out the old family heirloom dishes and other eating finery no matter how casual we are. Eating together is a celebration, and a pretty plate seems the only way to go. Besides, what better way to wear a tomato?

Now comes the time of catch-up. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)

 

Apologies also to Sir Walter Scott.


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July 22.19

ELEGY IN A KITCHEN GARDEN

My poor beautiful tomato plant,

victim of its own vitality

lies helpless, hapless,

like my old Christmas tree.

Don’t tell me what I should do

or shouldn’t.

Doing isn’t feeling.

I tried but couldn’t,

and that is everything.

 

 

If you are a gardener, dear reader, you know that lessons grow in the garden, some of them dismal. Yesterday a rambunctious wind announced the coming of today’s blessed, cooling rain. I tried desperately to right my gorgeous Beefsteak, but my two hands and two feet were not enough. And the thunder growled.  It was with real sadness I had to abandon the rescue. If you are a gardener, you understand the feeling. It isn’t about what to DO.


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July 13.19

Two dazzling things happened yesterday, dear reader!

As you know (or not), I’ve been in the throes of downsizing. I moved into this smaller house about a year and a half ago, and that makes this my second gardening season here. If you are a gardener, you know that you have to earn ownership of a garden; it doesn’t just happen. Nor does it “just happen” that a house becomes home. For me, it’s all a work in progress: this isn’t home yet either inside or out.

However, there were these two heart-stoppers yesterday:

I caught a glimpse of new color deep in a tomato plant. I was down on the ground as fast as my creaking knees would allow and, yes, there it was: the first red tomato! MY tomato! If you have read my blog in the past, you know that until recently my main claim to gardening fame was in consistent tomato-killing. I grew them in memory of my Grandpa Mauck but without much hope of eating actual tomatoes.

(Last year was The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, if you recall. The tomatoes had their revenge.)

And tuxedos in the dill! In my last house I had a magnificent dill patch and these very formal, elegant caterpillars feasted royally thereon. Swallowtails bobbed their thanks over what was left. This year the blasted rabbits ate to the ground every single dill plant I tried to grow, so I planted dill in a pot on the deck. Now come the beautiful caterpillars. Can swallowtails be far behind?

I dance a rheumatic jig and think that maybe home will happen.


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July 2.19

I am Gardener:

hear me growl.

Voracious brigands

sneak and prowl.

They come by land,

they come by air,

hordes on wing

and hordes from lair.

My harvest shrinks

with every hour

as they attack,

englut, devour.

Coneflowers! Moss roses!

My zinnia patch!

Impatiens! Basil!

Down the hatch!

I mix and sprinkle,

shake and douse;

my garden fragrance

l’eau d’outhouse.

Instead of blooms

and flowering vines,

all I see

are dollar signs.

 

 


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April 28.19

The news makes me rabid. The endless rain makes me squishy in the head. Aging plagues me. And to make the world an even drearier place, our excellent local art supply store has been bought out and now closed by Michael’s. Another valued small business pulverized.

I dwell in the doldrums. My only hope is cookies. There is no other way to find good in the world.

In my childhood I learned about the good in cookies. Mom and Grandma O’Hern were cookie-bakers. Not that they didn’t bake other things, but they were believers in cookies, and thank goodness. A cookie fits in your hand so much more easily than a piece of pie or cake (though it’s quite possible to eat either from the hand if you aren’t too fussy).

Besides, there was “Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land,” one of my all-time favorite stories. Cookies that walked and talked and lived in a cookie house? You’d think such things would keep me from ever eating another cookie, but it didn’t work like that. It just added to the magic of cookies.

Maybe you also, dear reader, are driven to the doldrums by the news and by trying to deal with losses and worries in your own life. So I offer you my most favorite of favorite cookie recipes, my drug of choice, my portal to Nirvana. It is based on the old (not the current!) recipe for “Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies” on the Quaker Oats lid.

 

Better-Than-Phoebe’s Oatmeal Cookies

1 C. butter (no substitutes)

1 C. firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 C. granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 t. plus a tiny dribble Penzeys vanilla

1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 t. plus a pinch of Penzeys Korintje cinnamon

a few grinds of fresh nutmeg

3 C. Old-Fashioned Quaker Oatmeal (don’t be generous)

1 C. dark (not golden) Sun-Maid raisins

1/2-1 C. chopped dates (the best are the ones you chop yourself)

1/2 C. Heath toffee bits without chocolate (my grandchildren’s brilliant idea)

Whisk dry ingredients together. Beat butter and sugars, then add eggs and beat some more. Mix in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well, then the oatmeal, raisins, dates and toffee bits. Dough will weigh a ton.

If possible, refrigerate dough at least overnight. Bake at 350 for about five minutes, then turn cookie sheet and bake another four minutes or so, depending on your oven. Cool on wire racks. Makes lots but never enough.

 

These are called “Better-Than-Phoebe’s” because of the episode of “Friends” wherein Phoebe says her oatmeal cookies are the best so she doesn’t bake them very often because it’s not fair to the other cookies.

I mention brand names so you will know exactly what I use.

If you want really chewy cookies, add coconut. Dark chocolate chips are another acceptable addition. However, such additions risk changing the nature of the oatmeal cookie, and that is unseemly to purists.

Wishing you homemade cookies, dear reader,

Maureen