Valentine’s Day pickled beets + social lubricant sauerkraut

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Some new stuff is coming down the pipe up at the Gazebo. Judy had her ACL surgery, Erin has a campus visit in Missouri, and my schedule for the semester still isn’t set. My boss at the Women’s Center is leaving for a new position at Harvard, and that means…well it might mean a few things for me. Updates to come soon.

Tomorrow is Valentines Day, though, and instead of any fancy plans, I decided to ferment and pickle. Speaking of plumbing (heh) sauerkraut is supposed to be very good for the digestive system and for social confidence! And beets, well, they are red. The deepest of deep, dark, staining reds. A well-lubricated digestive tract + extroversion + red: how’s that for a perfect Valentine’s Day?

So, I pickled some beets.
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Look at that bloody beet carnage. I didn’t kill anyone, but my kitchen was a murder scene.

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I used my mandolin slicer to julienne the beets and I felt like I was dismembering a body. You can only slightly see it in the first picture, but after I piled the julienne slices in the mason jars, I stabbed a few sprigs of rosemary in there for some extra sweet and savory flavor.

After the beets were in their jars, I worked on my kraut. I have been in a serious kraut kick and one of them I bought recently had kale in it!! (I can’t resist some alliterative additions…put a kick of kale in that kraut! okay I’m done).

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That’s a whole head of cabbage and a (rather small) bunch of red kale, the cabbage julienned on the mandolin slicer and the kale knifed to tiny little pieces. After you let it sit in a ton of salt for a few hours, you pack the veggies in a glass jar.

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A surprising amount of cabbage and kale fit into this mid-sized jar. You have to pack it down to squeeze the moisture to the top, crushing the leaves as tightly as possible to form a nice layer of brine at the top. It won’t be quite ready to eat for another 3 or 4 days (I could eat it now but it wouldn’t have the fermented probiotic goodness that apparently is the Valentine’s Day miracle bacteria).

So, happy pickle/ferment day, everyone! (And Happy Valentines, too ❤ )

-B

 

Julienned Pickled Refrigerator Beets

  • 3-4 medium red beets, peeled
  • 4 large sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup water
  1. Julienne your beets in whatever method causes the least (or the most, if you prefer) juicy beet carnage. Keep in mind that shit stains.
  2. Split the beets into two clean mason jars, an add the rosemary (2 sprigs per jar).
  3. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and heat until boiling, whisking the mixture to dissolve the salt and sugar. Once dissolved, turn off heat and stir in water.
  4. Pour the brine over the beets, dividing the liquid equally. Make sure there is enough brine to cover the veggies (if not, add a little more water).
  5. Place in the fridge. They should be ready to eat in about 24 hours!

 

Kitchen Kale Cabbage Kraut (see what I did there?)

  • 1 small head of cabbage, cored
  • 1 small bunch of kale, de-stemmed
  • 4 tbsp salt
  1. Shred the cabbage and kale. You can use a knife, a mandolin slicer – for the cabbage – or a food processor.
  2. Put the kale and cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit for 3 to 4 hours, allowing the moisture to seep out of the leaves.
  3. Pack your mason jar. Put a few spoonfuls in at a time, and press down to squeeze out more of the juices (this will be the brine!). I used a smaller glass that fit down into the jar to pack the kraut. Keep going until you have packed all of the kraut into the jar.
  4. Weigh the cabbage down with something while it ferments. The internet suggests that you put a smaller glass in the jar weighed down with stones or marbles, so that’s what I did. Cover the jar with a light towel or cheese cloth and secure with a rubber band to allow air to circulate but keep out dust or fruit flies.
  5. Let sit for 3 or 4 days, or longer, depending on the tanginess of your desired kraut. Check the kraut each day and press the glass down further to keep the veggies under the brine.
  6. Eat kraut!

 

Creativity Camp, and a year of my life

I am currently sitting in a windmill in West Yarmouth, surrounded by white wood-paneled walls, strange nooks filled with fake flowers, and sea shell-encrusted tissue box holders, complete with iron spiral staircase and cozy turret bedroom. My housemates and I are spending a weekend here and calling it Creativity Camp: giving ourselves time to write, think, read, make home movies for our web series, all sorts of nonsense, all in the comforts of someone else’s home.

I decided to write a blog post for my first activity of Creativity Camp. I don’t have any pictures of this place yet, so instead I wanted to give myself space for a brief retrospective. I think I’ll work backwards.

For New Years, we set this German drink on fire:

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Mareike wielded the ladle of fire with precarious aplomb.

For Christmas, I was home in Georgia with family. I got to see the Gravitt’s:

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And the Story’s:

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And got to spend lots of time with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece:

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Audrey and Bryce are always the life of the party:

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Before my trip to Georgia, though, the Gazebo threw a post-apocalyptic themed Christmas party, “Apocalypse SNOW.” Everyone was required to attend in their best festive desolate attire. Here are few shots that I think encapsulate the evening:

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Gazebo-ites
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I really wore this all night.
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And Zach wore this all night…
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This pretty much sums it up.

 

I mean, what could top a gif of Erin and I singing to Lady Gaga in crazy costumery? Only one thing, folks: cookware.

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My very first le creuset. I bought it for myself this past fall because guess what? I’m a grown ass woman. Here’s its inaugural voyage:

Then, Judy, like the saint that she is, bought me another for Christmas!

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It’s a bright light in a dark land. On a garbage island full of garbage people, these will last a lifetime.

Tata for now,

B

Friends & Food

 

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Hi!

So, it’s been awhile. The semester has been busy, to say the least. Busy is sort of a lazy word, though. A by word for stressed, or overwhelmed, or guilty about the things you say no to. Or just an excuse to say no. I have felt like I don’t have a choice about being busy, and neither do any of my friends; we are busy because not to be would mean not trying hard enough, or not working hard enough to achieve our goals. In reality, not being terribly overwhelmed and busy might just mean spending more time with each other, feeling like I have room to breath, cooking dinner for myself when I want to. Or you know, writing in a blog about things I like doing.

For the Thanksgiving break, I have decided to do all of these things, and try not to let myself feel guilty about not taking the time to get more work done. Often, that’s what holiday breaks mean for academics – more time to read and write that you don’t normally get during the semester. The pressure comes not just from myself but from others who expect me to work at a certain pace; those who expect me to always  be busy.

I will continue the tradition of not posting about work on this blog, and instead continue to think about food and friends, in the spirit of this weird holiday (we’re not getting into politics here today). While I helped make most of the dishes we shared on Thursday evening, there were a few that I specifically contributed.

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This pecan pie recipe is from smitten kitchen. I added the leaf embellishment – my mom and I started doing this a few years ago, probably off a tip from Southern Living. smitten, in her greatness, added an option to this recipe to “gild the lily”: aka, add a chocolate ganache bottom. And of course I did that too.

smitten also contributed the recipe for the cocktail that I drank for most of the day (I’m not sure anyone else had any but it was definitely gone by the end of the night).

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This apple cider sangria really got me through. Her recipes are always reliably delicious and aesthetically pleasing.

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Yeast rolls! These turned out better than I could have hoped. I have made this specific recipe a couple of times (it’s Pioneer Woman). I always have to add much more flour than it calls for, though, and it ends up making at least twice as much as the recipe says. If I can get the texture right, which is hard, they are everything I want in a yeast roll. Of course Pioneer Woman’s rolls are way prettier than mine, but I feel like she would say that’s okay. She likes when things looks rustic.

The last thing Bryn was in charge of (and by in charge of I mean I insisted on making it) was a cheese ball. I was inspired by A Cozy’s Kitchen’s pimento cheese ball, but used my mom’s pimento cheese recipe instead (I won’t have it any other way).

This ball was demolished. Here’s the pimento cheese recipe:

  • scant 1 cup mayonnaise (Blue Plate, if you can find it)
  • 1 small jar pimentos
  • 8 ounces Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated on the small side of a box grater
  • 8 ounces Sharp Cheddar, grated on the normal side of a box grater
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients. Place in fridge or freeze for at least 15 minutes, while you chop the nuts. Chop 1 cup of pecans, then roll the cheese in the nuts. Voila! Ball of cheese.

We invited all our favorite people (unfortunately, not all of them could be there). It was a beautiful evening, and we were all thankful to be where we were.

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Erin making the place cards (yes those are squids get your mind out of the gutter).

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SAMSUNG CSCThere was lots of apron wearing.

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And cats in sweaters.

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Stuffing prep.

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Friends…

The end.

Happy Holidays,

❤ B

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Fall Gardening in Somerville

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I picked the last four cucumbers from my vines today. The vines were mostly drying up – it is September after all – so I pulled them up to plant more seasonally appropriate vegetables. It was still sad to end their run; there were little buds on the vines that could have, maybe, pulled through if I left them up. Thinking about the history of those plants, though, they probably would have just curled up into little poop-shaped cucumbers and that would be that (see above).

So I pulled them up. I hadn’t realized how long they had gotten, and when I laid them down on the ground I was rather astonished!

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What long vines! And the ends were still fairly good-looking. Well done, strange cucumber plants. On to new ventures.*

*I actually left up one of the small plants, because it still had cucumbers on it…I just couldn’t get rid of all of them at once!

The new vegetables I planted today are: Brussels Sprouts, Swiss Chard, and Broccoli Raab. As in the summer, my only real hope and goal is to have the plants produce at least one thing that I can eat. (P.S. I finally ate my summer kale! I was proud to put it on my pizza).

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Brussels sprouts! Where the cucumbers were before.

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Broccoli Raab, in the failed zucchini containers. Let’s hope they these don’t go the same way!

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Chard – yellow stems! I actually found this large pot in the back yard and I think it will work well.

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Plant cluster.

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This afternoon I plan on pickling one last batch of cucumbers to hold on to a little more of summer. But, I also pulled out the crock pot because it’s wonderfully cool today – one of the first days in the 60s, with a lovely fall chill. I will always mourn the official end of summer, but I’m ready for this beautiful season. Keep your fingers crossed for these little plants!

– Bryn

The Peak of Performance, and the slow roll towards Autumn

Things are starting back up again around here. Library books are overdue, it’s high time my syllabus was finished, and I’m going to have to submit a “what I did with my summer research funding” report soon. I think I will have a proper amount to say in that report, but I always wish I had done more. More! More.

The summer always starts out so promising. You have this long stretch of time in which you think, “I can do anything! And everything! I’m going to the beach three times a week and write drafts of TWO you heard me TWO dissertation chapters and create a blog and post in it every day and make all my food from scratch and I’ll grow all of my own food because that’s possible in a concrete backyard, right?”

Maybe that’s just me. Inevitably, I do a couple of the items on my grocery list of ambition, but most of it is actually not possible. Granted, that rant was a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. I actually did think I was going to get drafts of two chapters under my belt. I actually did think I was going to get to the beach like once a week. I really wanted to grow some vegetables and cook as much of them as possible. And I did at least a fraction of all of these things. Let’s review, shall we?

Earlier this summer, I posted about my tiny backyard garden. I was so optimistic! All of the plants were doing great at the beginning of the summer, and I thought I was going to be smoothered in zucchini and cucumbers and herbs for the rest of my days. Well, at least for like a week. BUT, things took a turn.

The cucumbers faired the best. At the peak of their performance, the vines had trellised all the way up the porch railing and up onto the strings of lights hanging a few feet above them.

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See that? The plants actually grew more after this picture was taken – they started creeping to the right along the string of lights (I’m not sure if this was dangerous or not…I assume it’s alright).

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This picture from the back shows more of the creepage (and also more of the neighbor’s porch). They grew so much that they started taking over the herbs in the box above them!

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The green swirly fingers grabbed right on to both the thyme stems and the rosemary. (You can see a little baby cucumber hanging out in there too!)

I had hope from this much promising growth that the plants would produce a lot of healthy cucumbers, but there must not have been enough nutrients in the soil, or not enough sun reaching the back deck, because I didn’t get very many. Most of the little ones, like in the picture above, shriveled, and the ones that did grow didn’t entirely fill out. I would have one cucumber with a big butt and one with a tiny waist; none of them were actually cylindrical, and most curled up into a fat “C.” They actually tasted pretty good, but I had hoped to produce at least one fully formed cucumber.

Some of the other plants did alright for awhile. The dill has completely played out, but I think I could still recover the herbs from the cucumbers with a little effort. I may try to move them inside when it gets cool. The kale isn’t so bad either. I can harvest it soon – but it’s just one wee little plant. The leaves stayed small, but it could still provide a meal.

The zucchini didn’t get nearly as far. One day I went out to water the plants, and every zucchini plant had fallen flat over. The leaves weren’t green, and they looked pretty dead. I talked to my dad, and he mentioned that he had a few squash plants that did the same thing, and he told me a story about a moth. I wish I remembered that moth story, because I could tell you now. But let’s just say, I’m blaming the moth. I tried to rehabilitate the plants, and things were looking promising for awhile; the plants started to have new growth, with green green leaves! But then they stopped growing. I didn’t stop doing my part, but damn it if those plants didn’t quit on me.

It almost felt like the end of the desperate zucchini plants was some sort of signal for me to get back to work. I have actually worked a little bit on my dissertation, and feel okay about the thing right now (surprisingly). I am running a writing retreat for graduate students this very week, and hope to get some words on the page, by god.

When the semester starts, though, I worry that the tenor of this blog might change significantly. So far, it’s mostly been about vegetables with the occasional plant or rant thrown in, and a teeny bit about grad school life. I truly hope to keep it going – it’s so good for me to practice writing of any kind. I will still keep trying to grow some things, definitely cook as much as I can with my schedule, and I’ll be damned if I don’t make it to a beach one last time before the fall begins in earnest, but I also need to think about those dissertation chapters, and how I’m going to juggle three different jobs plus dissertation writing. Oh, did I mention I’m working 15-20 hours a week at the Women’s Center starting in the fall? I am beyond excited, and am so grateful to have this opportunity, but I also don’t see many more zucchini plants in my near future. Let’s just say I’m not aiming for garden + food blog celebrity status just yet 🙂

This is all speculation, of course. And anticipation. Anticipation is always a feeling I associate with fall – that crisp in the air makes you feel like things are about to happen. So here’s to counting down toward September: let me not mourn summer and the loss of my cucumbers too much, and instead get excited about opportunities that await me!

Fried Garlic Scapes + Scape Stir Fry

I have gotten garlic scapes in the last two of my Boston Organics boxes. I have never worked with them before, so I tried to experiment a little bit before I posted a recipe. The first thing I tried was a fried rice/stir fry situation that adapts this Kale Coconut Stir Fry from Cookie & Kate. I used her method: frying the vegetables in batches and then pulling everything together at the end, seasoning at each stage. I decided to use the scapes in the stir fry and also pan fry them separately so they get crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The dish turned out to have a great flavor, and to add some extra protein for those who are looking, I fried an egg to throw on top. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pretty photos the first time I made the dish, so it was a huge bummer to have to make it again 😉 I had different vegetables this time though – bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and of course the garlic scapes.

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The next recipe I made with the scapes was a pesto. I also had dandelion greens in my box, so I blended them together with some walnuts and parmesan cheese. It was less than stellar the first day, but after the flavors had a chance to mix and brighten in the fridge for a day, it was quite delicious. I sauteed some patty pan squash and served it with cheese tortellini, and though it didn’t make the best entree, the cold salad from the fridge the next day was deli-worthy.

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The colors in the stir fry make me very happy. You can just see the head of a garlic scape poking out of there. I halved the snap peas so that everything would cook at a similar rate. For the fried scapes, I curled them into individual bundles so they would be easier to manage (and look pretty too!). Trim off the harder, woodier ends of the scapes – it gets tough, kind of like asparagus – as well as the very end next to the bulb. The little bulbs taste the most like garlic.

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Finished product! The light had faded by the time I took these photos, so they don’t look quite as good as the fresh veggies, but you can see the crispy fried garlic scapes on top. Time for a recipe!

Organic Vegetable Stir Fry with Fried Garlic Scapes 

Ingredients

– about 2-3 cups chopped vegetables of your choice. I used:

1 orange bell pepper, sliced

1 green bell pepper, sliced

about 1.5 cups sugar snap peas, stringed and snapped in half

1 bunch garlic scapes, ends trimmed and diced small (keep out 8 to fry)

– 1/4 cup Coconut flakes (optional; use flakes, not shredded coconut)

– 1.5 cups cooked brown rice

– 1 egg, beaten

–  olive oil

– sesame oil

– soy sauce

– salt and pepper, to taste

– sriracha sauce

1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, scramble the egg until lightly set in 1 tsp olive oil. Add a dash of salt and pepper, then remove the egg to a bowl and set aside.

2. In the same pan, add 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Add the garlic scapes with some salt and pepper and cook for about 6 minutes with a lid on, but stirring frequently. Add the rest of the vegetables and another teaspoon of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and about 1/4 tsp of soy sauce. Cook for another 6-7 minutes, until the vegetables reach your desired level of tenderness. I kept the lid on my pan for awhile so that they would cook through but still reach a nice level of brownness. Add the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the egg and set aside.

3. Add the coconut flakes to the same pan with 1 tsp sesame oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browed and aromatic. Add your cooked brown rice to the pan, along with 2 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp sriracha (more or less depending on level of heat desired). Cook until heated through, then add the veggies back to the pan, warming everything evenly.

4. Meanwhile, fry your garlic scapes. Use the 8 scapes you have set aside and curl them into bundles (see photo above). In another frying pan, heat 1 tsp of olive oil. Add the bundled scapes and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until you see a nice char forming. You can also add a top to the frying pan to cook the scapes through more quickly. DON’T overcook these though – they will burn easily once they start browning.

5. Divide the stir fry equally into bowls, and topped with your fried scapes. If you are feeling adventurous, fry an egg to go on top and drizzle everything with a little more sriracha. Fin!

Makes 4 large servings 

Domesticity: or, Kitchens and Contradictions

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I recently made a short trip home to see my family. In the summer every year, the Gravitt’s go to Holbrook Campground and sweat our little butts off making food and going to church. As someone who considers themselves a hardline feminist, I have had a hard time over the years embracing some of things I have been expected to do as a southern woman. Though my parents in particular never forced me to do the dishes or help in the kitchen (anymore than my brother), whenever I was with my extended family there was an expectation. Every family gathering – holidays in particular – the extreme pressure to always be in the kitchen reared its divisive head. The men would be in the living room or somewhere else sitting, watching tv, or playing outside, while the women would be constantly frantic, moving dishes from one table to the next, letting the men and children eat first, and half the time never even sitting down to the table. I didn’t feel comfortable in either the living room with the men or in the crowded kitchen with the women. It’s particularly interesting, then, that I’ve taken to cooking as much as I have. Campmeeting specifically is a place that brings these debates and contradictions to the surface for me: most of what the preacher spouts at the altar doesn’t jive with my own moral sensibility, and the women in my family – whether it was my grandmother growing up or my mother now – cook and look after everyone the whole time. Not exactly a feminist utopia. But, I still love being there. I like cooking for my family, and though I don’t normally go to church, I don’t mind sitting on the porch and listening from afar. The place has a specific sense memory that I can trace through all of my 27 years. It’s one of the only times of the year when I see my cousins. It’s weird, and crazy, and a little bigoted and closed minded, and also special.

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I think that some of my interest in 19th century domestic novels comes from my love of cooking, gardening, even freakin’ knitting and cross-stitching. I want to resurrect these activities for myself as things that I choose to do; not that I am pressured into. Also, these aren’t the ONLY things that I like to do. I have a choice. I will work full time and cook for myself and others. When I don’t have time though, I won’t. The ways that women in domestic guides and novels of the nineteenth century find power and energy in the work that they do goes beyond conservative notions of separate spheres and the expectations of gendered roles. These damn beautiful vegetables go way beyond the gender of the person who cut them.

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We used to carry water balloons around in the bowls hanging on this wall. My grandmother worked those bowls to the bone. These bowls carry with them memories of labor.

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That clock still works. It’s still ticking away the time in a place where everything and nothing has changed for me. Though I don’t think I’ll ever fully reconcile my feelings about Campmeeting, I will embrace food, and embrace the “feminised” labor of cooking at home. I will grow food, I will prepare food, and I will eat food in the best way that I can. And, at least for now, I’ll continue to come home during the summer, sweat my butt off cooking at the Campground, and even occasionally listen to a sermon (maybe). But I’ll also sit on this porch, listen to the crickets and the treefrogs, and read about how other women express their contradictions.

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Also, while I was at home, I made several batches of fridge pickles to the general excitement of those who tried them. I decided to share the actual recipe I used for the cucumber pickles here, so that people can come back to it if they want to make them. My two-year old niece, Audrey, for one, really enjoyed them (though I think she would eat any old pickle). The recipe for the brine is from the Smitten Kitchen’s Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw which is also an amazing way to use some of the summer vegetable surplus. I thought this brine worked great with cucumbers. Here’s the recipe:

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Refridgerator Pickles

Brine:

– 1 cup white vinegar

– 3 tbsp sugar

– 2 tbsp kosher salt

– 2 tbsp mustard seed

– 1 cup water

Vegetables:

– ~4 small to medium cucumbers, sliced (2 per jar)

– 4 small cloves of garlic, cut in half (2 per jar)

– 4 large sprigs of fresh dill (2 per jar)

– 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (1/4 per jar)

1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and mustard seed in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Take the mixture off the heat and pour in the cup of water to cool the brine down slightly.

2. Meanwhile, pack the vegetables into two regular sized canning jars. [I cut my cucumbers into rounds, because I like snacking on them, but I think this recipe would work fine with spears as well. Whole pickles I think would be hard to achieve with this method – they would basically be vinegary cucumbers.] Layer the garlic, dill, and red pepper flakes in with the cucumbers so that the ingredients are somewhat evenly distributed.

3. Pour the brine over the cucumbers until they are completely covered. Try to evenly distribute the mustard seed as well. Put the lids on, and into the fridge they go.

They will be lightly pickled in an hour, and perfect the next day. They should keep about a month in the fridge. Makes 2 jars.

– Bryn

Birthday Bryn

27.

Not the most glamorous of numbers. It sits me firmly in my late twenties; I can’t claim mid-twenties anymore. But, I did have the most glamorous of birthdays. We celebrated until we couldn’t celebrate anymore. There were so many surprises that I didn’t, couldn’t have, anticipated. I knew Judy and I were going to the Red Sox game on Saturday, July 4. I thought it would be nice to have people over to watch the Women’s World Cup final on the 5th. I thought I was all set to have a pretty fantastic birthday weekend. Then, Friday morning July 3rd, Judy cooked breakfast for me. What? I was beyond impressed. She also told me to wear comfortable clothes and bring sunscreen and get ready to stay out for the day. After a series of long and incorrect guesses, I finally squeezed it out of her that we were going on a Boston Harbor Islands cruise!

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We took the T down to Long Wharf and cruised out for a beautiful view of Boston. The boat took us to Georges Island, where there is an impressive Civil War military fort, Fort Warren. Judy and I explored the fort and the island for about two hours. It is visually stunning and creepy, and I loved it. Judy even brought games and we threw down a picnic blanket and sat in the sun for awhile. Here’s Judy and I on the pier. You can just see wee Boston in the background behind Judy to the left.

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View from inside the fort.

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The public could walk around the perimeter of the very top of the fort, and there were chimneys and air shafts situated all along to remind you that you were in fact on top of this massive structure. Little did I know, that the rest of my roommates were on their way to spend the last few hours with us touring the fort! They brought a picnic (complete with many cheeses and prepared cocktails!), and we found a gazebo! So we used the crazy timer feature on my camera and we took a couple of far-away group pictures.

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From the left: Judy, me, James, Jackie, and Erin.

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There might have also been a bit of graffiti. We were fond of this one.

After a solid day of exploring, picnic-ing, playing games, and seeing the sights, we hopped back on the last boat to Boston. Erin suggested we take the long way home to see the art installation on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. It’s a giant cable sculpture by Janet Echelman suspended between buildings high above the greenway.

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You can see a little bit of the colors in the middle of this picture (also, little bird in the corner!). In person it almost shimmers like a mirage; here, it looks small, but it actually contains over 100 miles of rope and spans about a half an acre. Pretty impressive.


The next day, on July 4th, Judy and I went to the Red Sox game! She had gotten the tickets from a softball friend who has season tickets. They were pretty amazing seats, but at first I was afraid because we were up so high and right next to the railing. It took me a little while to get acclimated, but by the end I was leaning over looking for fly balls. Also, they won 🙂

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On the way back from Fenway, we decided to go to dinner. We wanted to go to Rudy’s, a Mexican place with really good margaritas that is back up in Teele Square, but they were closed. I think I had forgotten it was the 4th of July. We went to Pj Ryan’s, an irish pub down the street, and James joined us to watch the Women’s World Cup consolation game between England and Germany. I was completely unaware that they were both conspiring to keep me out of the house until later… They convinced me to walk down to Davis to get ice cream (which we hardly ever do without Jackie). I got sriracha chocolate – they called it la cocoa racha, like the song – and it was probably the best ice cream I have had in a long time. I like ice cream, but I never think I really want it. My roommates always want it and it seems like we always have some sort of frozen treat on hand, but I’d rather just have chips or something salty/crunchy. This ice cream, though, was definitely worth it. Way to go JP Licks!

Long story short, they threw me a surprise party. (!!!) When we got home friends were waiting upstairs and they had decorated and cleaned and gotten balloons….it was overwhelming and wonderful. You know how sometimes you know when someone has planned a surprise for you? Or your significant other has gotten you a gift, and you sort of figure out what it is ahead of time? This was not like that. I had no idea what was coming and am still completely floored. My friends Mareike and Rachel brought me a 3 pound bag of gummy bears. They made up a signature cocktail. They even made up a game about me! I didn’t deserve it, but I took it, and loved every minute.

I was unsuccessful at taking pictures of this event, because I was so caught off guard. I don’t think I picked up my camera or my phone the whole time. The only thing I have is this picture of James trying to feed me patriotic jello. It may have had vodka in it. It’s also very attractive.

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A magical, magical evening.


The next day, we mostly recovered. I received a present in the mail (a Harry Potter themed cookbook from Melissa!) and we had a few people come over to watch the Women’s World Cup final between USA and Japan. A crazy game, to say the least. The USA scored four points in the first 18 minutes, making World Cup history.

On my actual birthday, Monday July 6th, Judy took off work and we went to the Isabella Steward Gardiner museum. Isabella Gardiner was an art collector who built and opened her museum in the early 1900s. She constructed the museum as an historical cathedral, with a courtyard in the middle and views down into the courtyard from every window on every floor. The gardens on the grounds are one of the most impressive features, and change with the seasons.

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ISG3This is the courtyard. You aren’t supposed to walk out into it, as most of the features are from ISG’s original installation.

ISG4You can see down into the courtyard from the gallery rooms around the museum. This view is from one of the third floor galleries. You can really see the symmetry of the garden in this one.

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Though most of the galleries themselves were somewhat dark, to preserve the artwork, there are ornate windows into each of them. I overheard a docent telling a tour group that ISG wanted the walls to look weathered and old, so she demonstrated how to paint the mottled pink onto the facade herself. The long drip marks were also painted on – over 100 years ago.

Judy and I spent almost 4 hours wandering around the museum. I don’t even think we saw everything as closely as we wanted to. The trip to the museum was a beautiful end to a truly magical birthday weekend. Some people will think all of this celebrating would be a bit irresponsible; while I don’t disagree, for most of the year I run non-stop reading, writing, tutoring, teaching, grading, thinking, disciplining, organizing. So for this summer, I will take all the time I can get to wander and explore and celebrate and live.

Pickles, Mushrooms, and More

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The last post I wrote had a lot of feelings. My friend Erin posted an article that basically says what I wanted, but is much clearer and better written. The article,  The Supreme Court’s Lonely Heart’s Club, is by Michael Cobb (an English professor…I have so many arguments for the Humanities right now). A brief excerpt, before I move back into the territory of VEGETABLES which is way more fun to write about:

“Marriage equality activists could have pursued a different agenda — challenging the need for sexual scrutiny by the state, and the constellation of benefits that belong to marriage — but they didn’t. Instead of dreaming up new forms of governance, they asked to be ruled by the ones that already exist.

And so old questions remain: Why can’t I put a good friend on my health care plan? Why can’t my neighbor and I file our taxes together so we could save some money, as my parents do? If I failed to make a will, why is it unlikely a dear friend would inherit my estate?

The answers to all these questions are the same: It’s because I’m not having sex with those people. (To make matters worse, that also means we probably didn’t have children together.) For the only thing that truly distinguishes romance and marriage from other loving intimacies like friendships, other familial relationships and close business partnerships is that sex is (or once was) part of the picture.

So yes, marriage equality erases an odious and invidious distinction among straight and us not-straight citizens for which I’m truly glad and which I celebrate. And it’ll make lots of people’s lives better. But it also leaves unexamined the reason sex seems to give you benefits and recognition — and why it orders the world and civilization.”


Mushrooms  

I got another Boston Organics box today, and wanted to write a little bit about what I have been doing with my vegetables. With these beautiful crimini mushrooms, I made a mushroom gravy! (And also biscuits, and smashed potatoes :D)

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Miracle Mushroom Gravy, from The Southern Vegetarian cookbook, by the Chubby Vegetarian  (that Melissa game to me for my birthday a few years ago).

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Verdict: It was not bad. It didn’t necessarily taste like sausage gravy, but it had some nice flavors. The recipe called for sage, and I added it even though I know I don’t really like a lot of sage. If I make it again (which I might, because Judy really liked it), I will probably put less sage in it, and perhaps add a few other kinds of spices to make it more gravy-tasting. Overall, though, good meal!

I also made a homemade mac and cheese and put broccoli in it, and quinoa black bean tacos and used the green bell pepper and avocado from my box of vegetables. Overall, it was a good use of what I got in the Boston Organics box.

As I said before, I just got a new full box of veggies that includes:

– Gala apples

– 1 avocado

– A bunch of bananas

– 1 green bell pepper

– A large bunch of broccoli

– 5 pickling cucumbers

– Garlic Scapes (whaaatttt)

– Mint leaves

– Nectarines

– Anjou Pears

– 2 Zucchini

– A large heard of Escarole

I am brainstorming ideas for Garlic Scapes, which are the top shoots of the garlic bulb. Since I got pickling cucumbers, I decided to immediately  quick pickle them. I couldn’t resist!!

Pickles

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I still had an entire bunch of radishes as well, so I thought I would try pickling them – I saw a recipe for quick pickled radishes last summer, and never got around to making them. I combined that recipe with one from Smitten Kitchen that gave me a nice vinegar base to work with.

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For the radish pickles, I threw in a jalapeno pepper, lots of mustard seeds, and lots of fresh dill from my flourishing dill plant in the back yard.

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Arren’t they just gorgeous? A little Christmas-y, perhaps, but I’m loving in. For the cucumber pickles, I kept the dill and mustard seeds, and instead of the jalapeno, added some red pepper flakes and a large garlic clove. 20150701_140100

They look great in my fridge. Here’s hoping they taste great too!

– Bryn