Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Walmart, Irony and Me

A few days ago, I had some time on my hands while Mom was having her "feet done." Women of her generation would never refer to the experience as a pedicure. To do so would  make it sound indulgent and self-gratifying.

She didn't survive the Great Depression, spend thousands of hours stooped over in the garden, butcher her own chickens or fill 500 fruit jars each and every summer to spend her hard-earned money to have someone clip her toenails.

Or did she?

 I didn't need groceries. My gas tank was full. I wasn't in the mood to shop in either of the two decorating stores (a form of torture I save for when I deem myself in need of a good flogging). I could have spent the time reading or taking a brisk walk, I suppose.

Instead, I went to Walmart.

Wandering through the aisles, I managed to find several items to satisfy a couple levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. At least, that's what it looked like from the surface.

 I bought these
For Mom.

And this
For me.

Rounding out my purchases,

A book about the spiritual connection between women and food and a bag of candy.

Sometimes a simple trip to Walmart offers an insight into my inner life. And it's really not that simple.

Or is it?

Perhaps instead of reading books, eating candy and spraying lethal chemicals, I should be writing, feeding others and pulling weeds.

Like Mom did.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Strawberry Fields

Sam and I had a quick lunch at the Presbyterian men's burger stand yesterday. We are shingling the church so it was definitely a working lunch.

And the beginning of an obsessive desire for
Mary Jean Miller's daughter had returned from a strawberry picking trip to Heron Lake. As she was leaving, Mary Jean, gave Sam and I each a strawberry and sent one along for Mom.

The berry was huge, juicy and sweet.

One was definitely not enough.

I could not stop thinking about it.

Those strawberries were my destiny.

So this morning, as Mom and I were driving to her house, I came up with a plan. Mom was reluctant as she needed to tend to some newly planted vegetables . But she succumbed to the call of the berry. I made a quick trip to the office to start payroll, stopped back home to change clothes and we were on our way at 10 am. It took a little over an hour to get to Heron Lake and the berry picking closed at noon.

We found the farm with no problems. It was a hot windy day and I soon realized that Mom would not be able to join me picking--the only way to get to the field was by hayrack. With no time to waste, I parked Mom in the shade where she could see what was going on, had my containers weighed and hopped on the hayrack.

I forgot my phone/camera so I didn't get any photos--the plants were loaded with huge fruit and I was able to quickly fill my containers. I so wished Mom could have enjoyed looking at the vast clean rows of strawberry plants dotted with groups of pickers of all ages.

After checking out, I returned to the car and placed a large bowl in Mom's lap. She popped one in her mouth and sighed deeply. They are just too beautiful for words
We were on our way home at noon, stopped for gas and did a drive through lunch. A hair appointment, grocery shopping and tornado warnings rounded out the rest of the day.

While I made dinner, Mom hulled berries--almost reverently. They were that good.

I cooked a batch of jam

We had some for dessert
And still have some in the frig for tomorrow

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Forever Friends

I hurried into the house late one afternoon and set my bag of groceries on the counter. Mom took her time and after putting away some things in her room, joined me in the kitchen. We had freshly picked asparagus and a large bag of fresh mixed greens from Louise's garden. Perfect accompaniments to the grilled burgers planned for dinner.

I perched at the island with my laptop, checking my email, facebook and a few of my favorite blogs, sharing bits of news with Mom along the way. Mom especially enjoys the Amish cook's weekly column. So many of the recipes and information about their farm and family remind Mom of her own life.

We laughed at the irony of reading about the Amish on a blog.

I wondered out loud, "What did I do before Google, Facebook, Epicurious and Pioneer Woman?" 

Mostly, I suppose I called Mom.

And before that, Mom called Marion, her dear, sweet neighbor and friend. Mom remembers, "One time I phoned. Marion for her pickle recipe. We had to go through the pros and cons of several pickle recipes, then we talked about our kids, the weather, our gardens and a little bit of everything else. By the time we were done talking, it was too late to start making pickles."

Much like spending so much time on a blog post about cooking that there was barely enough time to throw together Kraft Mac and Cheese for dinner. Not that I've ever done that, mind you. I'm drawing a purely hypothetical example for illustrative purposes only. (When in reality, Mom is waiting for me to make breakfast as I'm writing about, well, you get the picture by now)

Marion passed away a little over a week ago. I baked a batch of rhubarb muffins to take to the family. The lawn was immaculately mowed and flower beds all neatly weeded as I drove on the yard to drop them off. Marion's beautiful farm house is in pristine condition thanks to the hard work of her children and grandchildren who lovingly care for the historic family farm.

I placed the tray of muffins on the kitchen table covered in a flowered cloth. Marion's daughter Debbie and I embraced and I took a seat at the table for a quick visit. Through tears, Debbie related the last days of Marion's life. We laughed, cried, talked about our homes, our kids, our jobs, the weather and a little bit of everything.

Facebook is great, but sometimes we need to be face to face.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rhubarbarama Chapter II

I have a couple more rhubarb recipes to share:
Rhubarb Cheesecake Squares
Crumb base:
1/2 c .butter
1 cup flour
3/4 c. oatmeal
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Blend all the ingredients for the crumb base until they form coarse crumbs. Pat half of the crumbs into a greased 9 x 9 pan.
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese--room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 c. rhuarb cut up
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Combine all ingredients except rhubarb and blend until smooth. Gently stir in rhubarb. Spread filling over crust. Top with reserved crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees 40 to 45 minutes. Cool dessert and keep refrigerated.

Rhubarb Rumble 
(Don't get me started about who came up with such a cheesy name for this quick, easy and deliciously refreshing pie)
3 c chopped rhubarb
1-3 oz pkg strawberry gelatin
1 1/2 c cold milk
1 small pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
1 8" graham cracker crust.
Place rhubarb in a microwave bowl (I use a small casserole), cover and microwave on high for 6 to 8 minutes or until rhubarb is softened. Immediately stir in gelatin until dissolved and cool completely. In a bowl, combine milk and pudding mix and beat on low for 2 minutes. Fold into rhubarb mix and spoon into crust. Cover and refrigerate. Makes 8 servings.

Can use sugar free jello and pudding. I usually use a (boughten) shortbread pie crust instead of graham cracker