Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mangos and Memories

     The mangos have arrived!  A few days ago, Grandma Lovett called to ask if I wanted any mangos from her tree in southern Florida. I didn't hesitate because, well, I am not
     Grandma Naomi Lovett is one of my most favorite people on this planet.  She is a true southern Floridian. This is very different than being a southerner in general. The way a southern woman is typically portrayed  is sugary-sweet, exuding an aura of helplessness and insincerity. This could not be further from the truth. I wish I were talented enough to paint a word picture of her. You would love her as I do.

     I don't often get to see my family in Florida, which is very sad. Although my brother and I didn't live near them after mom and dad split when we were very young, we both have a tremendous amount of "Lovett" in us. I am not talking about looks, we don't look like them at all. Instead, somehow, in our DNA, we were slipped the same sense of humor and splash of "quirky" that you just don't get unless you've spent a lot of time marinating in the sweet, balmy humidity of Homestead, Florida. 

     "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride," was a favorite thing for mom to say when I was -no doubt- whining about something as a child. But if wishes were horses, I would ride to see Grandma Lovett. We would sit on the front porch swing and talk about nothing. I would swat mosquitoes and she would probably be grinning so I couldn't see her because mosquitoes know better than to bite her. I'd walk through the house and breathe in as much as I could. There is no better smell than the smell of her house. It must be from the aroma of years of the world's best cooking seeping into the knotty pine walls and wood floors. 

     This year I will put up some of her incredible creamed corn recipe. I don't remember a meal at her house without this corn. It is a simple recipe: Fresh Corn cut off the cob, salt, pepper, butter and bacon drippings. Can't go wrong with that!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


     My adventure today started at 10:15 pm.  I had 20 pounds of peaches to process.  This was another first for me.  I learned so much! I am sitting on the couch with my body sort of throbbing, waiting for the boiling time to be complete. It is 1:00 am. I only canned a little over half the peaches. Tomorrow, if I get out of bed, I will prepare the others to be frozen pie filling.
A few things I learned...

Canning can be done all by yourself,  but should be done in a group of people whose company you enjoy.

There are two categories of peaches. One has the type of seed that is connected to the flesh of the fruit, and the other's seed is not. It would make for prettier canned peaches if you choose the free floating seed. My peaches were not this type, so they look a little abused.

Peaches are SLICKERY once peeled.

In order to place the peaches "cut side down" as per the directions, first, pick them up out of the boiling syrup while they are facing down and then slide them easily into the jar. Don't frantically pick at them with a fork or cuss at them, that doesn't seem to work as well.

      The last thing I learned is more of a reminder. 
It is something I have felt before.
When I am engaged in homemaking activities, I feel connected.  

I smell the fruit or the dish soap, I see my hands cutting an onion or sewing on a button, I feel the ache in my back from mopping, or maybe throbbing feet from standing in the kitchen too long, and I feel connected

I only feel connected when my heart is open to enjoy the activity 
instead of grumbling about the work. 

  Brief glimpses of women,  that I don't even know, float through my mind. They have done the same thing I am doing - whatever it is  -and I feel that feeling of connection to them. 

This lets me know I am in the right place, doing the right thing at the right time. 

It is a feeling of harmony and privilege.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Fruit Bat

I can't get my tomatoes in the house. 
Marshall (age 2) thinks whatever is in my harvest bowl is lunch. 

He ate 12 tiny cherry tomatoes and five "big" tomatoes in one sitting.

 He ate the three-inch ear of corn, too. After all that, he insisted on eating a green bean, but spit it out because it took too long to chew. A few days ago he came in the house with a mesquite pod that he was chewing on. If none of these items are around, he picks at my herbs, crushes the leaves and shoves them up his nose. I tried to teach him to smell the different herbs, but he has his own way of doing things. Little Show-Off!

Whooping Around the Fire...

     That was the expression Mom used today.  

 I did my first waterbath canning just a few hours ago. 
How do Black Forest Preserves sound?

 Yes, "Oooh!"  is right.  
It is amazing what some sugar, cocoa, and cherries can become. 

I called mom to tell her what I was doing because I was so excited about it.  I had no idea how fun and instantly rewarding doing a little home canning could be! She immediately understood.  "My Mom would always be there to whoop around the fire with me whenever I did something like this," she told me. "We would do a little canning here and there and then get so excited as we watched the pints and quarts add up to a colorful display on the shelves."

My memories of mom canning were skewed by the whininess of being a self-absorbed little girl. It would be fun to turn back the clock and savor those days of picking tomatoes as big as a softball in the hot buggy days of summer, putting them in bushel baskets and fighting with my older brother, Walt, over who has to lug them in the house.  We were both afraid of getting stuck helping if we were seen in the vicinity of work. One year, I swear, Mom canned one scrillion-bazillion quarts of tomatoes. I tried to stay far away from the kitchen while she canned. In my ignorance, I thought she must be miserable in that hot steamy kitchen, scalding the tomatoes, burning her fingers as she peeled away the skin and loaded them into jars. But now I know the truth- it was pure bliss- and I missed out on it! Fortunately, it is not too late. Today was the first day of a new tradition. It is hard to explain, but today I changed again. 

Friday, July 4, 2008

Bread Report

I am trying to teach myself to make bread from scratch and by hand. There is a learning curve to this and I am still at the bottom. I love the idea of it though, so I am not discouraged. I have my bread guru, my sister-in-law, Jen, that I seek guidance from in troubled times. Look at this trouble. 

In other words, it was too dense and should only be used as a doorstop.

Jen gave me this great book on bread basics, 
but I'd rather have her here to hold my hand. 
She has already been through all the work of perfecting the art of bread-making. She's so good at it, that she could probably make bread out of two gum wrappers and some saw dust. She's the Bread MacGyver.


where is everyone?