Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘farm’

Suzanne Crow Haggerty
Hobo
Tubby (?)
dogs
Spring 1977

Growing up near my grandparents’ farm was simply magical. At times, the place was our own little back-country Camelot, with horses, cows, puppies, the tastiest tomatoes, the sweetest watermelons, a barn filled with hay bales perfect for climbing and a creek suitable for wading, splashing and floating.

Small wonder we never ran across a snake (literally) or broke an arm falling out of a tree, a fate that did befall a younger cousin when I was a teenager.

That small farmhouse was the steadiest structure in my life. While my parents tended to move every few years, my grandparents weren’t going anywhere. Even when I grew up and lived in the same spot for about 10 years, then another place for seven, those houses didn’t feel like home in the way that old brick house in South Mississippi did.

The smell of burning firewood will still transport me to the den, where my grandfather’s wood-burning stove steadily burned during the winter months. The taste of a simple yellow cake with chocolate icing puts me right back in the kitchen, licking the beaters as my grandmother put the finishing touch on a birthday cake.

That era has been over for a number of years – my grandfather died in 1999, and my grandmother in 2010. This fact didn’t really hit home for me until a few weeks ago, however, when my uncle and his wife finally sold the house and the rest of the land (my mom had sold her half, located across the highway, several years ago) to move closer to their daughter.

After completing a business trip in New Orleans earlier this month, I rented a car and met my mom to visit the homestead one last time before it was officially under new ownership.

I expected an emotional, memory-filled goodbye. What I faced, instead, was the realization that home wasn’t really home without the people. Without my grandfather sitting in his recliner, the den was just a room full of furniture. Without my grandmother mixing up family favorites for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the tiny kitchen was just another place to store plates and glasses.

Without a pasture filled with cows, or a barn housing a couple of horses, the back pasture was just a hilltop.

It’s gone, but the memories are priceless. I could choose to be sad, or I can choose to remember rolling around in the back yard with a litter of puppies (with only one case of ringworm during my entire childhood, thank you very much). I can share bittersweet memories, or tell everybody about the time I smacked the Shetland pony while my brother was riding to make her go fast for him (YOU’RE WELCOME and I don’t know why you still hold a grudge about this, Rob).

My fondest hope is that my uncle and aunt can create these kinds of memories for their grandchildren on their new place, which features a slightly smaller piece of land, but has all the potential of my childhood stomping grounds. Go forth, and make those kids remember your house with utter delight.

Read Full Post »

My mother collected this keychain from my grandmother’s house last year. I had made it for my grandfather in, I don’t know, maybe fourth or fifth grade. It bears evidence of my tragic attempts at cursive writing, which honestly has only degraded over the years.

And Papa should be spelled Pawpaw. I have yet to actually picture it spelled the correct way in my head, however. (We all picture words spelled out in our heads, right?)

Am I impressed that Pawpaw kept this knickknack for some 20 years? Sure. But it’s easy to just toss little things like this into the top drawer and never happen upon them again.

The attached keys are what’s really impressive. At one time, somewhere on that reasonably sized farm, was a padlock that could be opened only by hauling out the keychain that I made.

Knowing that my grandfather held on to this item for so long gives me warm fuzzies. Knowing that he actually found it semi-useful simply thrills my inner utilitarian.

Read Full Post »

I was excited and a little leery when I found a bagful of fresh English peas in my latest CSA box.

As confirmed by my CSA representative, English peas are extremely sensitive to hot weather, so they would have never had a chance on my grandparents’ farm in South Mississippi. Therefore, the only English peas I’ve ever eaten have come straight out of the can, slightly mushy and pretty bland. Meh.

Since the record-breaking heat in North Alabama/South Tennessee was making it clear that this would be the only fresh English peas I would get this year, I knew I had to make the most of them.

I don’t mean this as an insult to my Southern ancestry, but at some point cooks in the South started boiling vegetables into a salty mush. I remember the first time I ever had a string bean that had been briefly steamed, and thus still held a bit of natural sweetness and a light crunch. (Truly, it would have been considered underdone at my grandmother’s house.) Corn on the cob became a whole new experience for me when I discovered that I could simply wrap individual ears in waxed paper and microwave them for a few minutes, leaving sweet and crunchy kernels that needed neither salt nor butter.

I was determined not to turn these peas into mush.

I found inspiration at Williams-Sonoma’s website: Sautéed English Peas with Garlic and Sesame. Unfortunately, I didn’t have sesame seeds or sesame oil in my pantry, so I had to wing it. I also don’t know how many pounds of peas I started with; Williams-Sonoma recommended two garlic cloves for 3 pounds of unshelled English peas. Do the math for the amount of peas you have, or just use a couple of cloves of garlic.

There are few vegetable recipes that wouldn’t be made better with a couple of cloves of garlic.

The husband was at first stunned by the color of the peas when I removed the lid from the pan; the short cooking time had left the peas a brilliant green. The texture was magnificent; they weren’t crunchy or chewy, but they weren’t mushy either. The garlic flavor burst through with every bite, but not in an overwhelming way.

Sautéed English Peas with Garlic

  • Fresh English peas, shelled
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl 2/3 full with ice water. Add the peas to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the peas and immediately plunge them into the ice water. Let stand for two minutes and drain.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant but not brown, about 30 seconds.

Add the peas, salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing and stirring occasionally, until the peas are just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.

****************

Yang hasn’t given up his photobombing duties; here, he inspects the bowl of English peas mid-shoot.

Read Full Post »

True confession: Despite growing up with ready access to my grandparents’ South Mississippi farm, I never learned to like cucumbers. Plates of cucumber slices would appear on the table throughout the summer, and I carefully avoided them.

I eventually learned that cucumbers were delicious alongside other foods. First, a high school friend made me a cucumber sandwich, well-salted and slathered with mayonnaise, and eventually I discovered cucumber salads. Mixed with tomatoes and an olive oil-based dressing, cucumbers became perfectly acceptable, if not well loved.

These perfectly acceptable vegetables show up every two weeks in my CSA box, so I had to find a go-to recipe for a quick and easy salad. Christy Jordan over at Southern Plate posted a recipe last year that looked like every cucumber salad I had ever loved. As a bonus, it called for bottled Italian dressing, so all I had to do was chop vegetables.

I pretty much just chopped up a cucumber, a medium tomato, a small red onion and a banana pepper, then coated the mixture with a few tablespoons of Italian dressing (the Southern Plate recipe calls for an entire bottle of dressing — I just can’t justify making the veggies slosh around in that much dressing).

Marinated for two hours, the salad was the perfect accompaniment to eggplant pasta (also a CSA-inspired dish). Marinated for two days, it was an even better accompaniment for leftover eggplant pasta.

Read Full Post »

Just another day riding around on barnyard animals (avec supervision — if you look closely, you can see my grandfather’s boots below the cow’s belly as he hides from the camera).

Best childhood ever? You tell me.

Read Full Post »

It’s good to have friends who help you maintain a positive attitude and healthy habits. It’s also good to have friends who urge you to make questionable choices every once in a while.

When I emailed a photo of a surprising food find — Little Debbie Banana Pudding Rolls — to a former colleague earlier this week, he responded immediately:  “My professional advice to you is to buy two boxes of them right now. Why two? Because you’ll eat one box on the way home from the store.”

How could a girl resist?

I grew up eating Little Debbie products at my grandparent’s house in South Mississippi — my brother and I could always find a box of the treats on top of the refrigerator. I am the Forrest Gump of Little Debbie products, with a readily accessible running list of the different varieties taking up valuable space inside my brain. Ask me about nearly any of the company’s products, and I can run down a quick review for you. Here are just a few that popped into my head this very minute:

Devil Squares: Their substantial filling and sort of weirdly textured chocolate coating combine for a unique and delicious culinary experience that made me, as a child, feel slightly more sophisticated than my tomboyish habits generally merited. (more…)

Read Full Post »

My prime trick-or-treating years should have been the late ’70s, but thanks to overblown rumors of poisoned Halloween candy, it was a bust. My brother and I would don our costumes and go to maybe three houses, all people my parents knew. No roaming around knocking on door after door, retrieving the great variety of treats that I imagined other kids were enjoying – after the candy was x-rayed, of course.

Oddly, we were given the run of the neighborhood the rest of the year. We could disappear for a couple of hours at a time without too much worry on my mom’s part. If we were on my grandparents’ farm, we might be out of sight for the entire day, popping in only for meals and snacks.

So I’m not sure how today’s children, protected from every bump and bruise, both to their bodies and self-esteem, are allowed to waltz around neighborhoods (sometimes not even the neighborhoods they live in) and TAKE CANDY FROM STRANGERS.

Seriously. Kids aren’t trusted to walk 25 yards to the bus stop unescorted, but Halloween goes on?

Read Full Post »

When I was a child, a visit to my grandparents was a magical event. They had a farm with gardens, cows, tractors and sometimes even horses. My brother and I were transformed into free-range children, loosed to explore the edge of the woods, climb big hills of red clay and ride the Big Wheel up and down grassy slopes, dodging excited dogs and fallen tree branches along the way.

The food was also an adventure. I can’t think of my grandmother without picturing her in the kitchen, mixing biscuits by hand, cutting up potatoes or rolling out a pie crust.

One of the culinary experiences we looked forward to the most was homemade ice cream. My grandmother always kept one of those old-fashioned hand-crank wooden barrels on the back porch; once it was deemed hot enough outside, she would make a ton of ice (or get someone to pick up a couple of bags on the way back from town), gather the salt, make the ice cream base and prep the grandkids for hard labor.

Because if we wanted ice cream so badly, we were going to have to work for it, turning the crank until the mixture thickened so much that we our little arms just couldn’t turn it anymore and our grandfather had to come to our rescue and finish the job for us.

The ice cream always came out thick and delicious, not as firm as it would be after a couple of hours in the freezer, but good enough to eat without having to wait. And while we were good kids, waiting for ice cream after all that work was not on our list of things to do.

Fast forward to the late 1990s, when I my husband gifted me with an electric ice cream freezer. I was disappointed when my first batch emerged from the canister not merely soft, but soupy. When the second and third batches did the same thing, I packed the freezer away and gave up.

(Yes, you can buy hand-crank ice cream freezers, but they make way more ice cream than two people [these two people, anyway] can eat, and we don’t have any readily available child labor.)

I was on the verge of tossing the freezer a couple of years ago when I gave it one more chance and it redeemed itself with a recipe for strawberry ice cream from the Ben & Jerry’s recipe book. Alas, that’s the only ice cream recipe that emerges from the maker ready to eat.

I’m ready to give it another go, however, because the Red Velvet ice cream from Jake’s Ice Cream in Atlanta is everything I’ve tried to accomplish in homemade ice cream and more. It was like a fresh piece of cake, cream cheese icing and all, mashed up in a scoop of ice cream. Only it had all been frozen together at once, without the cake drying out or freezing into crunchy, unsatisfying bits.

We visited the Irwin Street Market location of Jake’s, a former warehouse housing several creative food vendors. The building’s got kind of a Lowe Mill feel, for any Huntsvillians reading, only on a smaller scale.

The husband had the Nutella flavor, which I don’t even SEE on the menu. Jake must spend his days dreaming up awesome new flavors. I want Jake’s job.

Anyway, I’m trying to decide whether to dump a measure of red velvet cake and cream cheese icing into my unpredictable (or, I guess, quite predictable) ice cream maker or just mash some cake and ice cream together toddler birthday party style. It’s a win either way, right?

Read Full Post »

Banana melon, some 15 inches long. It tasted like a really sweet cantaloupe. I am SO tired of melons that taste like cantaloupe. What ever happened to old-fashioned watermelons that were sweet, juicy and red inside?

Read Full Post »

One of my favorite local farmers, the guy who sells tomatoes and whatnot out of the back of his truck in front of Hartlex Antiques in Madison, Ala., warned me last week that the watermelons weren’t all that this summer, but I had a jones and could not easily be talked out of buying one.

I’ve had worse watermelons, but this one was nothing to brag about. Its texture was good, but it just wasn’t very sweet. I’m pretty much the only person in the house who scarfs down watermelons, save for one misguided cat, so I had a lot of mediocre melon to account for.

Luckily, my mom and I had recently discussed sorbet. Mission acquired.

I ended up using a recipe from a blog called Mmm … That’s Good! because it was one of the few that didn’t require lime zest. It did call for the use of my ice cream freezer, which I’m trying to break out more often this summer.

My watermelon sorbet did not fare well. It emerged from the ice cream freezer a sweet, soupy mess, resembling a half-melted ICEE more than sorbet.

Delicious? Yes. Scoopable? No.

Now it’s granita, waiting in the freezer for me to scrape it into fine, pink crystals with a fork and scoop it into my grandmother’s awesome green sherbet glasses. And I have no more excuses to avoid buying mediocre watermelons.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: