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Friday, June 04, 2010

Four minute lunch

The heat in the western Pacific has filled the air off the coast of Japan with millions -- billions? of gallons of water vapor, and the jet stream -- stuck over the U.S. Northwest for what must surely be a record length of time -- is bringing it all here and wringing itself out as it bumps into the Cascades.

Somewhere in the middle of our tenth week of garden-preventing rain, depression has hit us and we have become obsessed with food. But even the rhubarb is shriveling up, like fingers that have been too long in the sink. The cold room is fairly empty now; and even Risa can only eat so much elephant garlic, kale, fava leaves, kale, walking onion, kale, lettuce, and kale ...

The only reason there's a decent quantity of kale and lettuce is they were planted in the grow tunnel, when it was up. So it's time --thank goodness there are grocery stores, huh? -- to stock up on something or other.

The remaining potatoes have gone into the potato beds, and are bravely putting forth greenery in that stage they have before they notice just how eternally wet they are, and proceed cheerfully to the blight stage. So, on her way back from some errands, Risa stopped by the cheapie store -- the one that used to have everything in gallon size cans with labels in Arabic -- to look over the bagged potatoes.

She discovered this store's potato-buying habits a couple of years ago, when she found that they end up with pallets of odd-looking stuff the other stores' patrons refuse to buy -- fingerlings and purples and what-not, from obscure Washington or California farms, that have begun to sprout -- and mark them down through the floor. Risa's been know to try these out as seed spuds, and the results have always been satisfactory, though she knows she's been courting trouble -- we'll see what the rain brings.

But, yesterday, she picked up a twenty-five pound bag of baseball-sized red potatoes, waxy in appearance, smooth as a baby' bottom, as groceries. And, eek, not even local. They're from all of a hundred and eighty miles north of here, on the edge of the Palouse.

So? says she to herself. She knows the name of the farm that grew them; that's rare enough in itself these days. And twenty-five pounds of a staple for two-ninety-nine isn't bad, says she to herself. Granted, the next display over showed Idaho bakers at fifty pounds for two-fifty, but in this weather a little flavor is worth something. She callously tosses the penny change into the leukemia jar and drives home.

Not feeling up to "slaving over the stove," here's what she did, and sometimes does. Even "lazy Susan" would be ashamed, to which Risa, beyond niceties, says, so? Wash two spuds. Bring them to the cutting board, slice each one three ways in each of three directions, skins on; this cubes them to a good fork size. Transfer them to an ironstone bowl that has a hollow clay handle (this part won't overheat; ease of handling). Sprinkle with olive or grape oil and stir with a chopstick. This keeps them from sticking together in the -- gasp -- microwave oven. Add, at this time, a pinch of your dehydrated garden greens flakes from the jar on the counter. Wow, already looks like something from Sunset Magazine. Cover with a saucer, to prevent spatters, and give them three minutes on high. Four if you need them more done than Risa does.

While the spuds in their bowl are going round and round and round, get out some homemade bread-and-butter pickles (Japanese or English trellis cucumbers are great for this) and some hard-boiled free-range homegrown chicken or duck eggs -- two duck or three chicken -- peel the eggs and chop up with the pickles and some fresh, rain-jeweled chives into another bowl, and, with the chopstick, stir in a couple of tablespoons of mayo -- good for you if this is homemade as well. Get out your spuds from the microwave, combine the contents of the second bowl with the first, stir together, and zap for one more minute. Don't forget your "saucer lid" -- as the fats in the hard boiled eggs can pop, though in our zappifier, one minute is pretty safe.

Remove from microwave, take off the saucer, grab a fork and go sit by the fire with your four-minute hot lunch and an Anne Perry mystery.

Let 'er rain.

The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain. -- Longfellow


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