Friday, July 16, 2010

The Garden Muse

photo by J.T. Hammond

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
-Marcel Proust


There she is in her Most Happy Place. It is time I introduced the Matriarch of the other side of my family. Grandmother Pauline.
The farm that my father's family finally settled on after a number of years of tenant farming, was just a stone's throw from Claude's Cove. Mom and Dad met in high school. As country neighbors do, the families occasionally got together for special suppers. We will delve into that aspect at a later time.

I spent many childhood days visiting my grandma's hilltop farm. I believe her greatest loves at that time were being encircled by her family, music, and gardening. She labored for hours with her own hands building stone walls and pathways and growing lavish roses, lilies and other beautiful flowers.

I played for long hours and days with cousins or childhood friends, riding horseback or staging imaginary sagas in the hand built fort, complete with lookout tower. The tower overlooked the clay tennis court where other cousins exhibited their physical prowess.

Many family reunions occurred there. Roasting split whole chickens slathered in barbecue sauce over a fire pit. Many hours of my aunts slaving over the stove to feed the dozens of us who came just to play. More hours of putting away freshly picked produce from Grandmother's garden to feed our families through the year.

This summer we have put away much happiness from the garden. We are blessed.

Pickled Green Beans

3 lbs. tender green beans
4 hot peppers, fresh or dried
4 garlic cloves
4 tsp. peppercorns
4 tsp. mustard seed
4 TBS dill seed
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup salt
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. celery seed

Trim and wash beans.
Sterilize canning jars and lids. Fill each jar with beans. To each jar add 1 chile pepper, 1 garlic clove, 1 tsp. peppercorns, 1 tsp. mustard seed, and 1 TBS dill seed.

Bring water and vinegars to a boil in a non-reactive pan. Add salt, pepper flakes and celery seed. ladle vinegar solution over beans leaving 1/2" head space. Clean jar edges and place lids on securely.

Boil in hot water bath 10 - 12 minutes. Remove and let cool. Check lids to see that they have sealed. Allow to sit for 3 - 4 weeks for flavors to blend.
Makes 4 pints.

Monday, July 12, 2010

You say tomato..

I say, "Let's Eat!". Let's eat them now on fresh white bread and as John T. Edge said, "Standing over the kitchen sink with the juices running down your arm."

It was my pleasure to discover a program on South Carolina ETV this last sweltering Saturday afternoon while escaping the heat. At the end of the regular Saturday food shows line-up, Dr. Walter Edgar hosted a symposium on Southern Food featuring speakers, John T. Edge, Matt Lee and Ted Lee. It was an eloquent review of historical reflection as well as an observation on where we have arrived in present day respect and honor of our culinary heritage. (Re-airing July 12th at 7 pm)

Our summer suppers at Claude's Cove, and breakfasts and lunches for that matter, have been laden with fresh garden vegetables. Nice, juicy tomatoes and bushels of beans, also squash, eggplant and peppers.

In inspiration from viewing Dr. Edgar's review of Southern fare, I pulled out my best kitchen knife and cutting board and chopped up my first summer batch of Gazpacho. Gazpacho is a cold Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup originating in the region of is also said to have been a product of Southern kitchens generations ago, called Gaspachi.


2 cups tomato juice
1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
1-1/2 cups chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS red wine vinegar
2 TBS lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp hot sauce
dash of worchestershire sauce
2 TBS white wine
1 TBS chopped fresh basil
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley

Combine all ingredients and allow flavors to blend for several hours or overnight. Serve in chilled bowls and garnish with your choice of fresh herbs. Serves 4.

In my kitchen which IS the heart of my home, I chop and stir and simmer and create in the space where my grandmother made many meals and creations for her loved ones. Her spirit stands beside me and comforts me. When I can do nothing else, and life feels all out of sorts, I go into this sacred place and sometimes, magically, rewards come out that soothe my heart and soul.

In my quest to re-create my life, my career, in soul searching and daily inspirational reading, Sarah Ban Breathnach cinched it. My life path did not come to me as a ready made mix in a box. It has been made from scratch, one ingredient at a time, year by year. One might think that we would be nearly ready for the feast by now. I think I may still be short an ingredient or two.

I was also inspired as I recently viewed a video interview of a sculptor. She said she found her sculpting 'Muse" at age 55. That made me feel much better. Many great creators have found their niche at that awakening time in life.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Accentuate the Positive

"In times of great adversity, it's always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive."
-Lee Iacocca

Amen and Amen