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Sunday, January 01, 2012

On a foggy January day

Now, it's like this: there are better cooks and there are better gardeners than I, and goodness knows better recipe writers, and better writers for that matter, on any topic you could name. I am, by heritage and disposition, a peasant wife, on my better days a bonne femme (good user of leftovers), and my incosistent skills and short-sighted interests amount mostly to: how shall I get from here to the end of the week while staying within my means? 

So, this blog is seldom likely to bring news of the best this or the most interesting that -- it might in fact better be called "How to Muddle Through With What's On Hand."

The breads, soups, gardening techniques and household stratagems on display here will not win you awards at the county fair. Some of them might win you, at best, a citation from the county inspector. But they are things that -- for me -- help to find a little wiggle room between "cold and hungry" on the one hand and "warm and fed" on the other, without overmuch commerce between me and the branch banks, the big box stores and the filling stations, all of whom strike me as designed to help Wall Street occupy me.

We grow as much of our own wood as we reasonably can, and cut up some every year with which to heat the house. The heat stove has a nice flat top, and over time I have come more and more to rely on that top for supplying me with hot water for tea, dishwashing, general housecleaning, and even bathing. This gives the hot water heater a rest and that gives the electric bill a bit of rest.


Sometimes I pop a stored winter squash or pumpkin into a stock pot of simmering water (which means this water won't subsequently be used for much besides watering, say, an apple tree) and left overnight. Usually it's done by the middle of the next morning.


I set aside the stockpot to cool, pour off the water for other uses, and split the pumpkin. The seeds are set aside to dry (on the stove, of course), be seasoned, and roasted for a treat some other day. The "meat" is then scooped out into a saucepan or a bowl for processing into a pumpkin soup, or perhaps as an ingredient in other things -- bread, say.


This will be a soup. I find the meat stringy, and I'm averse to fouling blender blades and the like, which would then have to be washed, so I go with the, for me, simpler expedient of rooting through the pulp with a pair of scissors.


Other ingredients as the whim takes me. Potatoes from the cold room and a young onion from the greenhouse, with applesauce and some dehydrated leaf matter from last year's garden (we call it veggie crumble), and some salt and a bit of bacon fat from a recent feast day.


Back to the stove. When the potatoes are cooked down, this will be ready to eat. Best thing you ever had? No. But it's not martyrdom either. It is to my taste, it is nourishing, it has cost me little more than my labor, and I have kept a little bit of small change out of the hands of the "one per cent." And now you know how I #occupy myself on a foggy January day.

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