Saturday, October 21, 2023

The sill

Austere, like the flavor of autumn olives. Clear, tart, enough sweetness to keep your attention. But definitely autumn.


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Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Picnic like you mean it


The water comes up, and then it goes down, and then it does it again. This is high tide, and we perched on the edge to picnic. But at low tide we have walked across the shell-crunching wet sand to that island with the trees, to picnic, there. Once, we watched a mink swim across the water to explore the rocks. There are sometimes seals, poking their faces up to look like whiskery buoys tethered on the water. And almost always we see a loon, patrolling offshore.

I don't know when last we took wine on a picnic*. A day picnic. I carried it as a surprise for the Frenchman, who that morning had told me about a couple at the local co-op: They exited with a bottle of rosé. They took it back to their car, opened it, tossed some stale coffee out of a mug, and poured the wine into the mug before driving off, sipping. "It wasn't even chilled!" he said, unsure which act was more outrageous - drinking warm rosé or driving and drinking.

So we each had a few swigs (Tortoise Creek Zinfandel), straight from the bottle. It was completely delicious in the cold air, after the hike, between bites of sourdough sandwiches with tomato and prosciutto, a Chebris (sheep and goat cheese), and a fennel saucisson, all from the very appealing Blue Hill Wine Shop

Then we walked a couple of miles back to our own car and drove (in a straight line) home. 

*I grew up with wine at day picnics, brunch picnics, wine at lunch, wine at dinner...well, a lot of wine. (Also, not much water. But that is another story.)


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Sunday, October 8, 2023


Is one morally bound to discuss acts of war, if one is a(war)e of them, while walking in the autumn woods of a Maine shoreline, Downeast? Disaster stalks us. 

Last night the wind let loose as a storm moved in and poised above us, and water rained so hard on the roof that clear rivers formed round the cottage that we are renting for a few days. Pools grew outside and I sent the Frenchman into the deluge to check our EV. Batteries and flooding don't mix well. We're just a week out from the flash floods that drowned our block and nearby neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, thousands dead; the story so complex, and terrible. And what is to come? War. What is it good for? It's good for politicians. For people in power. For certain kinds of business. For the makers and innovators of weapons and the technology that supports or thwarts them. For the contractors of conflict. And, rarely, for freedom.

The woods here are wet and very green. In some places the moss is elbow-deep (I know, I measured). Weaponless but for eyes and intuition and and not a little reading, we have hunted mushrooms, with success. 

Our suppers have been matsutake-filled, and tonight the stuffing for our little organic chicken, raised by a local farmer, is rice with girolles (yellow-foot chanterelles). 


I'm mostly not here, but at Instagram:


Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The chanterelle stream in the woods

In the middle of the summer-humid woods in the Hudson Valley is a stream where we picnic after hunting for chanterelles. Above: August, 2018 - the first time we saw it, water tumbling. There are crayfish in the water, with blue pincers.

2021 - Baskets of chanterelles collected.

2022 - in a months-long drought. The crayfish were still there. Not a mushroom to be seen. 

2023 - a recent weekend, after some small chanterelles (and lots of other mushrooms) were sighted, and the day before historic flooding in the Hudson Valley. What does it look like, after?

As sticky and physically uncomfortable as these muggy hikes are, they are like a mesmerizing wonderland of interesting pale plants that coexist with the fungal world. The story, and a chanterelle rice recipe, are up on Gardenista.


25 July - NYBG class: Summer Edible Plants

Thursday, July 13, 2023

American burnweed - a herb to eat

We lurch from apocalypse to apocalypse. Choking wildfire smoke, and now, unprecedented rainfall. Brooklyn escaped Sunday night's flooding rain; in fact, it has been drier than usual, while just an hour north, where we hunted chanterelles over the weekend, mild creeks and tame streams turned into torrential monsters, and cliffs into cataracts.  

It is very hot, and meals have been cool. Above? Slivered baby cucumbers atop labneh, with Palestinina olive oil, New Jersey peas indigenous plant foraged in Brooklyn.

In season now is an unheralded aromatic herb of North America: Erechtites hieraciifolius - known commonly as fireweed, American burnweed, or (ahem) pilewort (it has a long history of traditional medicinal use) is a soft, annual herb of deep summer. It is ultra-floral, very strongly herbal, and slightly bitter. I love it.

You can read all about American burnweed in my story for Gardenista (and snag a cooling-zinging mango salad recipe) and I hope you pounce on it when you see it, soon.


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Friday, June 9, 2023

Apocalypse forage

Some likened our apocalyptic skies this week, and the pervasive smell of smoke, to 9/11. But the smell of the Canadian wildfires was misleadingly wholesome and pleasant, like woodsmoke. Even through my N95 mask, from our Covid stash.

9/11 was a terrible smell. Like burned wires and bone. 

I went foraging, masked. 

The air grew progressively worse; it hadn't been too bad when I set out. So the world was sepia. A few days before 9/11 I dreamed that my mother and I were hiding in a bombed-out building in lower Manhattan. This was the light in the dream. In the dream three old WWII-type bombers flew low over us.

9/11 was a beautiful day, crystal clear and blue.

I collected good things in the smoke and have many projects, now, most to fuel future forage picnics. The cones will be blanched, then pickled or/and turned into jam.  The bayberry will be turned into a vivid green oil, to be frozen and scooped when needed. Also poached with summer fruits. The green peaches will be salted and fermented. their leaves will infuse white wine. The sweet clover will be dried for future biscuits, breads, and cakes.


Saturday, May 13, 2023

How to revive lilacs

Lilacs, waiting for friends to come to Friday supper. 

I bought the bunches at the Union Square farmers market on Wednesday, and, true-to-lilac-form, they wilted fast. Yesterday, to try and save my investment, I re-cut them, removed all the greenery, and submerged them entirely in a deep basin of water for about three hours. They perked up! Then, post supper-prep, I cruised the neighborhood, where the first roses have begun to open, and picked up some wonderful fruit tarts (Ladybird Bakery), an outstanding baguette (Winner NYC),  cold wine (Big Nose, Full Body), and locally-made gin (Windsor Wine Merchants).

Thank you, Brooklyn.


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