Sunday, May 16, 2010

In which I blather about books

I love books.

Yes, I love to read. But that's not the same thing. I think everyone "gets" that I love to read and, if they haven't, it would be a subject for another blog entry anyway.

I love the books; the physical board, binding and pages that make up a tangible Thing you hold in your hand and read.

New books are okay. I'm a terrible book defiler -- I make notes and underline things because I'm positive I'm going to reread this book someday and want to leave myself a message about where my head was the first time I read it. I am a book collector's nightmare because book collectors only like pristine copies.

Me -- not so much. I would love to buy a used book filled with notations from someone who obviously has the same literary tastes -- kind of like a book club you don't have to bake cookies for...or wear pants.

Which is why my favorite books are used books...and library books. I'd rather browse ABE than Amazon any day.

Book sellers and librarians are pretty diligent about cleaning up the books in their care, but every now and then something slips by them and my day is made.

They're pretty good about leaving inscriptions alone. These speak to the romantic in me. I want to think the book really was given with love from Winston to Melva. I want to believe that the only reason the book is in a used bookstore is that Melva finally died after 12 years of mourning the loss of her beloved Winston and their alcoholic, good-for-nothing son sold every possession he inherited to fund a wild bender in Vegas with his future fifth ex-wife. Or something like that.

One library book I took out had exclamation points in the margin throughout the book, I assume next to passages some reader had liked. I found a cookie recipe written at the end of a chapter in a book I bought at a used bookstore (a mediocre snickedoodle-type thing, but still...).

I remember reading a string of similar library books for awhile and coming across editing marks on a regular basis. Typos in books are rather common, so that didn't surprise me. That someone would feel it necessary to mark the mistakes, as though there would be points off if he let it just slide by, is a little compulsive. Okay, maybe he was majorly compulsive because he felt the need to list the errors and page numbers on the back flyleaf. I'll bet this is the same type of person who, when you were 13 and had to go to school with a giant zit on your nose, felt they had to point out to you that you had a giant zit on your nose.

But what amazed me was that I was obviously checking out the exact same books as the person with this compulsion.

The best, though, is finding a cache of used books before a bookseller or thrift store employee has had a chance to rifle through them. That's when you find the little bits of this and that people mindlessly stuff in between the pages and forget about. Newspaper clippings, receipts, notes -- I have an old copy of The Big Sleep with a faded note in it that says merely, "Tommy, Eat! M." I love that note; it tells me Tommy liked to read Raymond Chandler, but wasn't a big eater and he had was concerned about that and she wrote with a pen with blue ink in it.

The note is still in the book, which for now I intend to keep. But who knows where it will wind up when I'm gone.

I kind of hope Tommy outlives me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In which The Heirs eat elsewhere

When it comes to trying new foods, I'm pretty adventurous. I always thought this was a good thing, since Dirtman loves to bring home the "new products" that come into the produce department at work.

There really hasn't been anything too disturbing; usually a fruit hybrid accompanied by some bizarre, disturbing description: "It tastes like a grape, but has the consistency of an avocado." You have to wonder how boring things get around the horticulture lab that someone suggests "Ya, know what might be good? Let's cross a potato with a watermelon and see what we get."

Anyway, the grocery store chain Dirtman works for has corporate offices out of state and, from there, they sometimes get it into their heads to send entire cases of expensive, exotic vegetables alien to this area, expecting customers to take it on faith that they taste good.

This is how I ended up with a bag of fiddleheads in my kitchen.

Fiddleheads are not completely unknown to me -- they grew wild in my native Pine Barrens of New Jersey. And, while I have been known to avail myself of wild greens in places far, far away from road beds (where vegetation is regularly sprayed with chemicals), it never occurred to me to injest a fiddlehead. Turns out that was probably a smart move, since the Pine Barren variety were probably toxic.

So Dirtman brought home a nice, safe bag of fiddleheads and I followed package directions and boiled them for seven minutes and tossed them with lemon juice, butter and salt. The package claimed the taste was a "cross between asparagus and green beans."

Were we ever in need of a vegetable with a flavor between asparagus and a green bean?

Certainly that was the opinion of the Heirs, who saw no need in their lives for an asparagus/string bean flavor blast, though they were delighted with the fact that holding them upside down turns them into little yo-yos and prompting me to wonder how long after a child has passed his eighteenth year you can stop reminding them not to play with their food.

So Dirtman and I were the only ones who actually ate the fiddleheads, our reaction to which was..........................................................


They tasted like...a vegetable; nothing unique or outstanding. They are, however, visually interesting.

So the next night I decided to put the leftovers into a frittata, figuring I would artfully arrange the coil of the fiddleheads around sliced mushrooms and then pour the egg mixture on top. This way, when I turned the frittata out, the bottom would be the top.

The Heirs, of course, chose to dine elsewhere.

Well, that was the plan anyway. When it came to actually doing it, I remembered that my nonstick pan isn't oven-safe (which is where you finish off a frittata). So I had to resort to my iron skillet where I artfully arranged the fiddleheads and mushrooms and poured the egg mixture on top, at which point I realized that the reason you finish a frittata in the oven is so that the cheese you put on top melts. This was a frittata, not an omelet, and no one was going to see my artfully arranged fiddleheads coiled around sliced mushrooms.

So much for my career in food styling.

The frittata was wonderful, though. was wonderful so long as you kept your eyes closed. The fiddleheads turned the eggs gray on the inside. And, again, not a strong flavor.

The final verdict: If I need a conversation-starter at dinner, I'll serve fiddleheads. If doctors discover that fiddleheads cause you to suddenly drop your weight by 10 pounds every week, I'll serve fiddleheads. If fiddleheads go on sale for a dollar a pound, I'll serve fiddleheads. Otherwise..............


Monday, May 10, 2010

A Mother of a Day

As some of you already know, I have this love/hate relationship with Mothers Day.

On one hand I'm thinking: "Hell yeah...I spent 596 hours popping you out; you damn well better bring me weak coffee, burnt toast and a wilted flower in bed this morning."

On the other hand I'm thinking this is a sort of life style choice and no one else gets an entire day to honor their lifestyle choice (except, you know...fathers). You know who deserves a day? People who clean public toilets in bus stations. Now those are people who deserve a free dinner.

I am of the firm belief that no one's job is more important than anyone else's and income in certainly no reflections of a task's function to society; otherwise those annoying Kardashian people would be living in a van down by the river. (Why are those Kardashian people creeping out of the sewer of inane cable television into places like the Washington Correspondents Dinner? Shouldn't someone set out traps or something to prevent such infestation?)

That being said, I never feel entitled to too much hoopla when it comes to Mothers Day because I'm a little reluctant to celebrate merely doing my job. Mothers Day is like saying: "Hooray! The human relegated to your care isn't dead! Good job!"

So, I'm always happy with whatever is planned in my honor on Mothers Day, lest someone find out I'm not quite as saintly as Hallmark would have you believe. So I have a few confessions to make:

  • My kids always had a consistent bedtime, not because I was a good mother, but because I was tired.
  • I listened to audio books and knitted during Little League games.
  • If we were in the pediatrician's office, there had to be a limb dangling or someone's brains seeping out of their ear; I couldn't see paying a doctor to tell me "it's a virus that's going around."
  • All while my kids were growing up I told them that Disney World was a huge, poorly-run amusement park where people stand in line all day long for a thrill lasting a cumulative half-hour; I told them Disney spends all it's money on marketing, which is why everyone thinks it's this great place to go. (In short -- I told them the truth.) Consequently, they not only have no desire to go to Disney World -- they have an active dislike of anything related to it. That's right -- I stole Mickey Mouse from my children.
  • I ate some of their Teddy Grahams. Okay, I ate a lot of their Teddy Grahams. Okay, so a few times I ate so many of their Teddy Grahams that they were forced to have toast for a snack (hey -- I put cinnamon and sugar on it...).

So there you have it. And through it all, I still received this yesterday from Heir 1 (it's good to have a kid who works for Panera):

And this from Dirtman (this is one of six):

And was treated to dinner and a movie by Heir 2 (accompanied by Caisee, who was treating her mom, Carol, too!) and a trip to The State Arboretum at Blandy Farm by Dirtman.


All this in spite of everything.

So I'm not even angry that I woke up this morning to a sink full of dirty dishes. Well, not too angry...