Friday, August 31, 2012


The strawberries on the terrace continue to grow very well, so much so that I have begun to take them for granted. I feed them about once a week, on fish and seaweed fertilizer, applied via watering can. For a day the terrace smells terrible. And yet nothing tastes like fish...And then a monthly sprinkling of slow release organic granules (Espoma's Rose Tone works well).

At the moment I tend to graze on the berries in the late afternoons, when I am watering, but perhaps it's time I collected them all and Made Something.

Vince reminded me recently of a very simple thing: strawberries in red wine. Not in a drink, like the one I made earlier in the year when the farmers market overflowed in a high red tide, but eaten for dessert. Or breakfast! Years ago, he brought them to me in bed, in Vancouver, the first time I flew across the continent to visit him. And you wonder why I said yes, when he asked?

You need very good, very ripe strawberries, and just a little red wine and perhaps some brown sugar. That is all. Like this:

How do you like to eat strawberries? Teach me some new tricks.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wilder Quarterly giveaway winner

As you can see, the arrangement of names with treats on top of each was very scientific. I placed Estorbo in the circle, closed my eyes, and spun him three times. Yes, really. When I opened my eyes he was already hard at work.

Estorbo loved this giveaway. In fact it was very hard to get him to stop eatingchoosing. He wanted everyone to be a winner.

But rules is rules. The third pellet eaten, and the winner of the, er, draw, to receive a year's subscription to Wilder Quarterly is...

pulverschwein! ...Come on down!

(Sorry about the saliva...and could you please explain your name?)

Congratulations! Please send me your full name and address so that we can sign you up (click on my profile- picture-with-lilies on the blog's home page and then on the email button).

There was a tiny handful of disqualifications - either because no location was included in the comment or because the deadline was missed. But everyone's sightings were included in the Butterfly Affidavits and were very much enjoyed. I love them. Thank you.

And Estorbo thanks you. He managed to eat 11 pellets before I could stop him and remove the leftovers.


To read all the submission, which  I gathered with very little editorial interference,  head on over to The Butterfly Affidavit. And thank you!

the butterfly affidavits

Here are the responses received to my request for butterfly sightings. I kept them in order, edited them very slightly and think they make a wonderful and sometimes quite beautiful testament. Thank you to everyone who participated. The winner of the subcription to Wilder Quarterly will be announced at 6pm this evening!

the butterfly affidavit

parkfriend's butterfly bush flourished this year
bringing monarchs to her yard
but what are the white ones?

marianne in st paul
has seen butterflies in her daughter's sunny garden

jane aston found supermarket flowers
for her painted ladies peacock admirals tortoiseshells
and meadow varieties in isolated france

paul w in central virginia
says it is not the middle of nowhere
and it has buckeyes monarchs variegated frits tiger swallowtails
spicebush swallowtails spotted purples wood nymph yesterday
scads of skippers eastern tailed blue and silvery checkerspots

belinda@wild acre has seen few
cabbage whites brimstones common white heath
but has memories
of clouds of brightly colored butterflies
in her granny's garden

eileen in southeastern virginia
sold parsley to a customer as long as she took the caterpillars too
she has seen astyanax viceroys compton tortoisehells monarchs buckeyes painted lady
golden banded skipper black eastern tiger palamedes
spicebush and zebra swallowtails
and various other skippers and duskywings

jennie has moved across a nameless state
to a dry part
she saw monarchs swallowtails fritillaries wood nymphs and painted ladies

diana minna says the monarchs are massing in toronto
carboloading for the crossing of lake ontario
they graze on her phlox and bergamot
so lovely a little sad
because they are the end of summer

georgie wonders if cabbage months count
but she has monarchs too in seattle

madeleine in nova scotia saw a mustard white
and lots of monarchs on pink echninacea

sasha saw many butterflies
on the yakima river in washington
but none that she knew
west from home

hen wants to know if the cabbage whites
have a green tinge to their wings
the same as the ones
that arrived in the cape on a russian container?

diane st john plants for butterflies
she has seen painted ladies monarchs tiger swallowtail and black
spicebush swallowtails and cabbage loppers

unknown is bearing witness to streams of butterflies
drawn by her zinnias
they are orange and black and grey with white spots

petoskystone lives in the connecticut valley
it has been the worst season for butterflies
a few cabbage whites perhaps and some monarchs
that's it

alexa in dc has seen quite a few monarchs
in the past month or so
they like the  agastache and bronze fennel

angela parker in oregon
has seen mostly cabbage whites and moths
and is tempted to plant more butterfly plants

pulverschwein in the northwest corner of montana
on 35 acres
with a bike
has loads of flowers that butterflies love
she brought butterfly roadkill home
for her art journal

elspeth lives in a barn
in tiny kingston bagpuize near oxford
and has seen peacocks red admirals cabbage whites
and a little blue one
also an elephant hawk moth

sara in western massachusetts
saw a delicious buttercolored butterfly
like a cat and a bird she says
eastern tiger swallowtail

which is also a dance

annko in rockland county new york
saw a black butterfly with orange and bright spots
and a clearwing hummingbird moth
which sounded like a hummingbird
and looked like one too

webb in central virginia
has been seeing black swallowtails cabbages whites
skippers and many monarchs on the buddleia

thelocalscoop loves purple giant hyssop
her blazing star is a butterfly magnet
her monarchs fight for a spot on a wand

leedav is heading out to the garden for a look

cait lives in brooklyn
she has seen an abundance of monarchs
at her parents house in new jersey

darbi  in tucson
has seen mostly monarchs she believes
loving their shadows first

mona saw two brimstone butterflies
dancing near cologne germany
and many more at the tate by damien hirst

karen sees cabbage whites on rare occasions
in her small garden somewhere
which has suffered from heat
she has seen great spangled fritillaries
on the orange milkweed
on the blue ridge parkway

dinahmow in australia has not seen many so far
she is waiting for blue triangles and maybe monarchs

karin in carmel valley planted ornamentals this spring
they have attracted butterflies
delicate white
and those with markings like live oaks with orange spots

michelle in kansas city
has seen monarchs and a zebra striped one
but butterflies are few and far between

lorlee in texas has won competitions
with her butterfly photos but fears those days are at an end
with the spraying for west nile
the politicians tell her
the butterflies hide under the leaves during spraying
and will not be harmed

she thinks they are toast

rosanne in milwaukee
planted zinnias nasturtium morning glories phlox
and a herb garden
she gets many painted ladies and some that are not identified
cabbage whites come too
and can destroy overnight

laurel marshfield in philadelphia
has seen monarchs cabbage whites and one tiger swallowtail

david saw a monarch the other day
in the berkshires near a stream that has dried
for want of rain
he lives in japan

pearl in atlanta
has seen many butterfly and moth visitors
but does not yet know their names

liz in east flatbush brooklyn
saw small white butterflies
a dark black with blue spots and a dark brown
what are they called?

carol in west virginia
has seen swallowtails black and tiger
and fritillaries
one monarch
but she is watching for more

clark has a view of a lush and remote waterway
a sylvan river
on the virginia side of the bay
where butterflies flit

katie in ann arbor
has seen very few butterflies
compared to years past
a very small black butterfly with yellow patterning
and some monarchs
a bittersweet sight

kate hutson in greenpoint brooklyn
has an instagram of a red admiral
which she thinks may be a monarch
there were two or three
chasing each other on Guernsey Street

nancy in pinesa county florida
has seen a monarch a gulf fritillary cloudless sulphur black swallowtail
and a grey hairstreak
and yesterday a white peacock the first
it all started with black swallowtails
on her parsley plant

the porch light in north carolina
has seen skippers hairstreaks swallowtails and cabbage loppers

anonymous in kentucky
has recently spotted viceroys swallowtails and cabbage moths

jelli's garden in rural leicestershire
has been graced with peacocks red admirals
cabbage whites tortoiseshells holly blues
though not many
a brimstone a skipper a couple of meadow browns
and a very dark unidentified winged visitor
cabbage white caterpillars stripped her bank of nasturtiums

helsbels' porch and back garden in chicago
have been visited by a plague of cabbage whites
red admirals common buckeye and two painted ladies
she is hoping for a monarch sighting
before fall

meg in portland oregon
the city of roses in fact
saw scads of yellow swallowtails
swirling in raucous trios with such force
that she could often HEAR them
she imagined tsunamis mounting boulders rolling heads chopped off
in some distant locale
obvious fallout of such violent flaps
cabbage whites are so lackadaisical that their flits
can't cause more than a stubbed toe

lyn in new brunswick canada
has a screen house into which a mourning cloak flew
before flying out again

ccg in philadelphia has seen cabbage whites
hornworm moths and some monarchs
and what looks like tortoiseshell butterflies
in south kensington

leeann in the garden state
has seen spectacular monarchs and swallowtails
and all those frisky dancing white butterflies
and hummingbirds moths too

tiffchick from brooklyn baby
sees butterflies all the time
at the park on her way to work out for a run

jenny in northwest arkansas
five miles east of oklahoma and twenty south of missouri
saw lots of butterflies this summer
despite the drought
she keeps watering spots well filled
she has had the small purple all the way up
to the large orange and the large black and yellow one

anamanzana in fort worth texas
has seen some little white ones with an orange spot
and some small orange and brown ones too
the monarchs haven't come down yet
in new jersey she scared a butterfly
out of her sister's garden

anonymous ariane
is at a cottage in mackinaw city michigan
she saw an aphrodite fritillary in a field
where she was picking flowers
a red spotted purple along a roadside
and just this morning
a mourning cloak in her own backyard

mason westmoreland in northeast georgia
fifteen miles north of athens
has seen a good many butterflies this year
lack of identification skills allows him
to list only the monarch

kelvin in brooklyn has seen mainly painted ladies
in fort tilden and green-wood

jimmy in dc has been visiting minnesota
where monarchs abound
his uncle is an entomologist and is pumped
to try the 19-year cicadas
which are considered quite the delicacy

farmer phil on a farm at mudgee west of sydney
says that it is still too cold for butterflies
his airspace is filled with wagtails
when not disturbed by magpies or the odd hawk

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Catching our supper

Photo: Vincent Mounier - from Sea Birds

We're having fish for dinner, but not these. These were being hunted by cormorants in the Rockport harbour when Vince was there.

Our supper is a fat smoked trout, from the Catskills. I bought a bunch of wild watercress, too, "from the last piece of freshwater* that New York City left us," said the blue-eyed troutman at the Union Square Farmers Market... 

(*And it seems we're going to frack with that Catskills water, now.)

The best book?

What cookbook would you grab if you had time, in fleeing The Flood, The Quake, The Fire?


One of mine, stuffed into the cat's carrier with passports - if we're lucky - would be Patricia Wells' French Bistro Cooking. It is not glamorous. It has a soft cover. There are no photos. But it has fine stories and recipes that make me turn its pages just for pleasure. I have owned it forever.

The Frenchman tells me this: If it's a quake, you go under the table. Nowhere else.

If it's a fire, you take nothing. You just go.

He hasn't said anything about floods. Yet.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Flowers in the house

Supper was late.

The kitchen was full of today's brick cake and the empty mason jars which I had strained and decanted - the black and red currant gins, the sumac-infused vodka, the wild black cherries. Everything was a little sticky. The jelly from the leftover alcoholic fruit was roiling on the stove beside the bolognese sauce for our spaghetti, and we still needed salad.

So I shot up to the roof farm while the pasta water was heating. Up there, after the storm, the rose was in bloom. Trying to pick it with my bare hands I was pricked, hard.  I shot back down again and reappeared with the sharp Felcos. Ha! In the napkin I carry with me on these sorties I heaped tomatoes and groundcheries and some basil and brought the bundle down, held cautiously around the soft flowers.

Made salad, cooked pasta, tested jelly, called the Frenchman, who uncorked the wine, fetched the cat...

I have not been true to my spring resolution. I had promised myself flowers in the house every week this year, but have either forgotten or been uninspired by local blooms. Until the terrace or roof help out.

So now that I have flowers I may play with Jane and her cohorts. A little late to that party, but, as we say at Africa's southern tip:

Agteros kom ook in die kraal.

That's a bit difficult to translate. Even the last ox finds shelter.

Hm. Not quite right. I am the ox, I am late, but I still make it to the flower party.

Tuna mousse recipe

There's moose on them thar rufftops.

Tuna mousse.

Over at 66 Square Feet (the Food).

I can't actually describe how good this is.  It shouldn't be (surely?). But it is. I could eat it often. I don't.

But I could.

Giveaway - Wilder Quarterly

Leave a comment on this blog post by midnight EST tomorrow (August 28th) if you would like to win a year's subscription to Wilder Quarterly.

In your comment tell us briefly where you live* and what butterflies you have seen this month (and how they tasted, says Estorbo - ignore him). If you have seen none, tell us that, too. The giveaway is open to everyone, anywhere. Except my mother. Sorry, Mommy.

Don Estorbo de la Bodega Dominicana will choose the winner. He say he uses a method he saw used in a checkers game in the Bodega but he won't tell me how it works. Presumably it is laborious and will involve counting his toes many times, and sometimes his tail, by mistake. He left the Bodega before he learned how to cheat.

The winner will receive a year's subscription of Wilder Quarterly (four issues, at a value of $60, plus local or international shipping), a gardening magazine published out of Brooklyn and covering all things horticultural.

The Summer 2012 edition saw articles about sphinx moths and plant-inspired music and learning how to divine water and the kitchen garden of Ferran Adrià's protege Andoni Aduriz and drinking punch in Red Hook and the history of African American influence in suburban landscape design and foraging in a Texas suburb and botanical perfume distillation. There are no ads in the 144 page publication, with the exception of a Mrs Meyers back page spread, where you are offered a little packet of actual basil seeds.

Let the butterflies begin!

* Folks, be sure to say where you are. No addresses necessary but give a geographic location (town or region is fine) to be eligible!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The swamp down the road

A thriving colony of swamp mallows at Pier One, Brooklyn Bridge Park. Hibiscus moscheutos. 

To think it took millions and millions of dollars and superstar landscape architects to get them here. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Signs and portents - fauna division

These are plastered all over our hood. Beebop, if Beebop is real, has a price on his head. A quick look at his Facebook page reveals that he has been missing for...a year, is 3 1/2 years old (now), "half feral" and was frightened by movers.

I hope he is safe and living well, in a nice person's apartment.

...stuck on a new little hybrid car on Water Street. What does it mean? Cat Division. But Dogs Against Romney? So what's with the cat? Ah, a website. Visit if you like. The sticker is better.

Finally, a cassowary much farther down on Water Street. We were on our way to Vinegar Hill for a celebratory supper. Vincent is now officially a permanent, legal alien in the US of A. His conditional status has been removed. There wasn't too much doubt about it, but the shadow the INS casts is a long one, and we are glad to be out of it. Basking in the sun-shine of-uh fuh-ree-dom! Hallelujah!


The courtyard at Vinegar Hill, where we've never sat, was pretty, with Concord grapes ripening overhead. But it was filled with a skeletal blonde's cigarette smoke, so we have still never sat there. Vince was unamused when the toast for his chicken liver pâté landed on the floor when it was delivered. The server was oblivious of the toast-slide. Brooklyn seems to like this style of pâté  - it was good, and mousselike, like Fort Defiance's. Same bread, too.

I was very happy to find callaloo listed on the menu. It is pigweed. I asked our server if it was, in fact, amaranth. Oh no, she said, it's wild spinach. From that point Vince says I grilled her a little hard. I am sorry. I was excited. I asked to see some, raw, and she brought it on a plate, very nicely. Amaranth, indeed, and perhaps retroflexus, but I'm not convinced. It came back later, with friends, deep fried on a bed of buttermilk-mashed potatoes. Memorably delicious. The legal alien's lobster and tomato spaghetti was more tomato than lobster and he was unimpressed. I got the better deal.

A couple sat down beside us, and filled the air with unsettled bzzzzzzvibes. On their phones all the time. Not From These Parts could have been written on their foreheads. My guess was LA. Scripts, Fox, reshooting scenes, narcissistic ex-wives unaware of others (I think I snorted), child custody, the phones, the phones.

We walked home in the dark, on the cobbles and then along the water of the East Riverwhichisastrait. A movie was playing at Pier One, the lawn packed.

Crickets played a sustained series of staccato Cs in the weeds behind the chainlink fence at the undeveloped piers closer to home. A dog trotted after its bike-riding owners. They lifted him up when they got to the road and put him into a basket at the front of the husband's bike.

The dog beamed. They road on home, tail lights flashing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Down and dirty

Bit of a rough week. So these matches were helpful. I like matches. They helped to cook a chicken.

Come back for the butterfly count and giveway of a year's subscription Wilder Quarterly on Monday.

And may your sailing be smooth.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Goodnight, figs

Figs and ham and small tomatoes. And unnecessary potted branzino...(good, anyway).

Painted ladies and monarchs arrive in New York

The agastache has been busy.

Flight patterns convoluted. Flybys frequent. Inter-insect skirmishes unavoidable.

A monarch came by, joining the painted ladies. The monarch lifts and then floats, like a falling leaf, and opens its wings ever fourth beat, when resting. The painted ladies dart and flitter. The butterfly explosion is very recent. After that great red admiral migration to Canada in the spring things have been quiet.

 Later, skippers (I think) visited. They skip. There are more bees than an un-entomologist can tell apart. 

Check back for more butterflies, soon. There will be a butterfly count and a rare giveaway.

The winner (Estorbo will draw a name out of a hat, as always - he may be grumpy but he is scrupulously honest) will receive a year's subscription to Wilder Quarterly - a new gardening publication whose spring and summer issues I have enjoyed, courtesy of the (Brooklyn-based) publisher. I like the magazine. It's not your regular glossy. And I like you. And I missed this blog's birthday (oops). It turned five in May. How many is that in blog years? 250? Ancient.

 More about Wilder tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Anemone wilt

Something's going on.

One of the pots of fall anemones has started to decline. At first, I thought I had neglected to water it well. Leaves would wilt, randomly, three, five at a time. So I watered. Well. But it's still happening. If I didn't know better I'd say it had been poisoned, overfed with blue crystals, or peed on.

The Frenchman swears he had nothing to do with it. The cat studies his toes when I ask (his own toes, not the Frenchman's).

Is there such a thing as anemone wilt?

I have moved the mushroom log which had been leaning up against the pot; perhaps something leaked from the mushroom log? But what? Log juice? The glue to seal in the shitake spores? I doubt it. 

I could find nothing visible burrowing in the soil. 

The lower leaves of one lily sharing the pot also turned crispy brown.

Hm. This is where the pork tonnato landed all those weeks ago, in The Flying Pork Incident. They remained undetected for many days and turned awfully stinky. Bad bacteria?

The other anemones, three feet away,  are doing wonderfully. They are tropical. And! They are pushing up new flower spikes. Remember, I wondered if they might, with feeding?

To confuse matters farther, the sick anemone is still making new leaves. But then one of those curls up and wilts, too...

I don't know.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The roof farm obscured by direct sunlight.

When last did you lie on your back beneath clouds?

I have been reading Turgenev again. His Sportsman's Sketches, and he writes about clouds, a lot. Russian clouds.

I could do this more often, but for some reason I don't.

If you can, do. Today, even.

I think it is very good for you. Something happens:

You breathe out. And in doing so, you realize that you have not, for some time, breathed out.

You are smoothed. Inside and out. You tell yourself, or perhaps you feel: It's going to be OK. Even if it isn't.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Clouds over roofs

A sandwich is born (and dies, fast) - Phase 5

I give you...the BAT!

Bacon. Arugula. Tomato.

A schmear of Hellman's, because I do so love Hellman's. A lot of pepper, very little salt.


Sandwich is assembled - Phase 4

But wait! That is not all!

More will be revealed at 1.21pm!

If you missed the live action follow the progress here:

Phase 1 - A Brandywine tomato
Phase 2 - Tomatoes and bacon
Phase 3 - Bacon is crispy

Bacon is crispy - Phase 3

Tomatoes are sliced!

Mayonnaise is spread and arugula is stacked!

If you missed the live action follow the progress here:

Phase 1 - A Brandywine tomato
Phase 2 - Tomatoes and bacon
Phase 4 - Sandwich is assembled

Tomatoes and Bacon - Phase 2

You know where we are going with this, right?

More at 11.21am

If you missed the live action follow the progress here:

Phase 1 - A Brandywine tomato
Phase 3 - Bacon is crispy
Phase 4 - Sandwich is assembled

A Brandywine tomato - Phase 1


What would you do with the Brandywines from the roof?

That tomato sandwich I had the other day was just so good that I had to go a step further.

It will all be revealed. By lunch time.

This all took place on Friday afternoon and night - the picking, the making, the eating. I was Home Alone. I could do whatever I liked. Nobody was watching. I locked the cat on the terrace.  He stood outside and through the double glazing I could see his little black lips forming the word and then drawing it out in a feline slow motion version of The Scream, Nooooooooooooooooo.

I did it, anyway.

If you missed the live action follow the progress here:

Phase2 - Tomatoes and bacon
Phase 3 - Bacon is crispy
Phase 4 - Sandwich is assembled

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pokeweed behind bars

Does it belong there? And isn't it gorgeous? Just in terms of design, and colour?

The only reason I caught a glimpse of the elusive and stunningly beautiful, emerald-green and scarlet-winged Knysna loerie (now no longer a loerie, sadly, but a turaco), was because of this American weed. The gorgeous bird had been feasting on the berries pathside, above the Storms River mouth on the south coast of South Africa. It flew off as we approached. I nearly peed in my pants. Vince was quite calm about it, kind of like when we saw a leopard panting in the shade within yards of our camp in the Kgalagadi, and he looked and said, Oh, cool.

Cool! Cool? This is not Disneyland, I squeaked, This is real! 

The loerie was real, too. I really can't call it a turaco. And that was before I knew that the berries on which it had been feeding belonged to pokeweed, Phytolacca americana*, whose young green stems I have been eating for a couple of springs, now.

[* October 2023 editorial note:  That was then (2012, when this post was first published). I now think the plant in question was a species of Phytolacca native to Africa, possibly P. octandra. ]

I am learning that there is a lot of myth and hearsay passed on as fact in 'serious' foraging literature. I have probably been guilty of quoting some of it myself. Time to go back and check. Like boiling milkweed so many times. Silly. I wish we could just get these things into a laboratory and have done with the tall stories.

Don't they look delicious? Hmmmm.

I have found recipes for pokeweed berry jelly, and pie. But no published forager seems to want to write about them. The berries are said to be poisonous, though far less so than the roots, and mature stems and mature leaves. Sam Thayer makes the most sense regarding the stem's edibility, writing that the size of the shoot is not the issue, but the nature of the shoot, in particular, "whether or not the shoot is still a vigorously growing meristem." Which explains why I pick and eat green pokeweed stems that might be tall, say, fourteen inches, but that are supple and sappy, and ignore a seven-inch stem growing nearby, which is rigid and red-stemmed and to be avoided. I saw the stems bundled for sale for the first time at the Union Square farmers market this year.

But the berries. Does anyone have stories about eating the berries - jelly, pie, juice? I'm not about to dive headfirst into them, don't worry, but I am very curious.

Fortunately, I am not a cat.

Update, 2016: I have eaten the ripe berries, subsequently, being careful not to ingest the seeds. The fruit tastes pretty awful, so I have no desire to make a practise of it. Why would anyone want to turn them into pie?

Update, 2023: Of course, in 2018, I dedicated a chapter to poke in my book Forage, Harvest, Feast. The beauty of time, passing? One learns. Lots. Pokeweed is still one of my favorite vegetables.

I'd still like to go back to Storms River to see if that plant still grows there. If it is an African species it opens up a whole new avenue of enquiry. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer picnic, at home

Beam it up, Frenchie. Our picnic waits for its boost to the roof.

Tomato, fig and burrata salad with basil, mint
Tuna dip (ahem) - tuna, cornichons, capers, lemon juice, mayonnaise
Bread, wine

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blood is not the only red

Thinking of South Africa.

"...things may continue as before but in a different shade" 

Antjie Krog, from Country of Grief and Grace
from her collection Down to my Last Skin

It is Alpine strawberries.

A Munstead Wood rose in summer.

It is cherry and San Marzano and Black Krim tomatoes.

It is the first Brandywines, picked yesterday evening.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What is red?

Tiny kitchen, big appetites

Recent kitchen chaos. The chopping board is essentially my counter space. I have been cooking more than usual as I start to test or re-test recipes for 66 Square Feet, the book - and so my usually obsessive cleaning and clearing falls behind and things begin to accumulate. There are bowls of limes and peaches and gin-jars of sumac and cherries and currants, a roast chicken out of sight, on the stove beside a pot of the next day's vichyssoise (it's in the fridge now, smooth and cool and incredibly delicious) and a just-baked clafoutis...

This was a nice salad. I love raw beetroot. I let it sit in sugared vinegar for five minutes before adding it to the leaves.

Now I have that leftover chicken to deal with - spicy leaf wraps? Yes!  - as well as last night's stuffed shoulder of lamb (some of the recipes are for 6 people and there is no way Vince and I can eat for six. We tried). I am thinking lamb confit...shredded and potted in a mason jar for a picnic.

I need more exercise.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I am an anti-gun forager, with sub-clauses

Rhus typhina - staghorn sumac

"Time to stock up on ammo!" reads a recent headline on a survivalist website.

Sigh. And he had written such a nice post about eating sumac shoots.

The writer was referring to the perceived reaction to the recent, mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado - a crackdown on ammunition sales. In his opinion, his 2nd Amendment rights are about to be violated.

Don't even get into it, Marie. Tears before bed. Walk. Away. My finger hovered over the Submit Comment button.

I hit delete. I left. Now I'm here. Lucky you.

Thing is, a lot of foragers are survivalists. And survivalists have a mission, and that mission often includes guns.

I hate guns.

Or, more precisely, I hate a culture of gun worship, and so many gun owners really do seem to gloat over their weapons. Stroke them, show them off, post pictures of them. My own feeling is that if you live in a suburb or a city or a nice house in a country with a functioning government and like to shoot or collect hand guns or assault rifles then you have a serious emotional thing. The unresolved kind. Anger, defensiveness, inadequacy. Daddy issues. Mommy issues. A gun will not solve these problems. But it sure as hell makes you feel powerful. Which is the whole point.

Isn't it?

And it makes you dangerous.

My ex-husband (collective gasp!) owned a hand gun. Big and black and with as much punch as Dirty Harry's. He was an angry, angry man. He said he needed it for self defense. Living in a high end suburb of Washington DC. The night before I left him I slept on the downstairs couch with a kitchen knife under my pillow. Not that that would have helped much. Oh! I know! I needed a gun!

Moving right along...

I grew up in a house with guns. They were kept locked up. Once or twice, when the house sensed an intruder in the garden my father would prowl with a hand gun. I heard a woman scream one night and woke my father, who sat on his bed getting dressed and carefully combing a parting in his hair. It's happening now, I hissed at him, thinking of a possible rape in progress. She had screamed, NO! in the trees across the stream that runs opposite my parents' house. He and the pistol drove off to find the disturbance. I stood on the lawn behind the house in the dark and shouted into the trees that the police were on their way. The shouting woke the neighbours who arrived on our front lawn in dressing gowns. The local security company had found the woman before my dad did. We still think they might have had something to do with it. No way to know. She was upright and walking and saying she was fine. Said she fell in a hole in the dark.

I digress.

My brothers and father hunted occasionally, using a shotgun and rifles. I fired the .22 the last time I was there. I hit a box of matches dead center, first try, with a telescopic sight. My skin prickled. It felt very satisfying. I didn't like that. So I didn't fire it again. My father uses it for rats, who eat the bird food. He hits the rats dead center. I didn't want to hit a rat.

My one brother turned into a man indifferent to guns, the other collected them. He would be very sympathetic to the 2nd Amendment.

I get hunting. For the pot. I do. Keep guns if you must for licensed hunting.

I don't hunt, and don't suppose I ever will. When my Edible editor asked if she could send me to do a story in Jersey about deer hunting for city tourists I said, Yes, love to, but I will not pull the trigger. Joy Wang wrote that story. She's the producer of WNYC's Last Chance Foods, and we realized this when I went for my interview there earlier in the year.

I didn't mean to write about guns. I was going to write about wonderful, sour sumac.

American gun culture is insane. It is wrong. It is immoral. I cannot think of anything that embodies immorality more than a hand gun or an assault rifle. These weapons were made for one thing, and one thing only:

To kill humans.

It will take (yet another and another) unthinkable catastrophe to make this country change the way it legislates about guns.

Find a therapist. Ditch the gun.

And have a glass of sumacade. It'll put hair on your chest.

Or would a belt of sumac-infused gin better hit the empty, angry spot?