Wednesday, August 07, 2013

adding detail

My commenters on yesterday's post caused me to laugh heartily and humbly and they prompted me to keep that conversation going for just a while longer (so if you did not read yesterday's post, it would make sense to do that before continuing here).

First, how do you carry a six foot cardboard box on a motorcycle? Well now, under the right arm of both passengers. At a slight slant. Though I did shout to Ed halfway through the ride -- could you make sure the tape is firmly keeping it shut at the end? I have a very vivid imagination about all that may go wrong when he and I are doing something ridiculous at a fast speed.

Then, onto pickles: Ed's idea is that you can pickle cucumbers (in garlic and dill flavored saltwater) in ziplock baggies -- the ones with a vacuum seal, from which he squeezes out the carbon dioxide on a regular basis (He is forever squeezing his pickle bags, which looks funny if you don't fully understand what he's up to.)

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One of our chores yesterday was to get more pickling salt and I was already reaching my shopping saturation point at the home improvement store, Menards. I ask, hoping against hope that we would not have to go to yet another store -- maybe they have pickling salt here?

Those of you living in big cities will never need pickling salt and indeed, you most likely wont even find pickling salt on your local grocer's shelves, but in Wisconsin, where so many from central Europe came and settled with their pickle love,  brining cucumbers is big and it seems that even a home improvement store will carry pickling salt (it can't have iodine or additives).

We find the salt at Menards, where the helpful clerk admits that he, too, pickles stuff all the time (and he has plenty of time, as he just completed his PhD in Japanese history and has no job to pick up on those sets of skills). In his grandfather's German pickling clay pot. He and Ed discuss the pros and cons of allowing some of the non-beneficial bacteria to remain, for a while, in the pickle jar, so to speak. For flavor. (Ed's system of anaerobic lacto-fermentation with zip lock bags doesn't allow for that. For more on that method you could look here, at or, though Ed will tell you that using baggies saves on the cost of buying the jars at those places. But then, Ed's not a purist -- a purist would not put plastic near any food.)

A third amplification on yesterday's post and an answer to the question -- what are you two up to now with the farmhouse? Well now, we're aiming to rip out the ceiling over the porch, to replace it with either glass or polycarbonate twin-wall. (I use the affectionate "we," but with the admission that 95% of the work will be done by Ed.) We want more light in the kitchen and even more light on the porch (and since it's a northern exposure, there isn't the danger of excessive heat there).

Another amplification comes in the matter of the Polish Consulate: as usual, my valiant sister will do for me in Poland what it seems no bureaucrat here can imagine is possible. It could be that I have one more trip to Chicago before me, but just one. After that, I shake my hands free of the whole lot of them.

And one last explanation -- this one purely for the locals among you -- in the matter of Liliana's, our nearby more upscale restaurant: even at the Tuesday special (four-course dinner at $25), we thought it was pricey for what we ate. The jambalaya came with two shrimp. Good shrimp they were, very tasty, flavorful too, but solitary figures up there on the plates of rice before us (there was, for the sausage lover -- more of that in the mix). The wine flight was cheap, but in my view, a cheat: tiny glasses of indifferent stuff. It made you feel important -- here you were, pairing your wine, like the pros. Forget it. By the glass gives you a nicer glass and a better wine.

Is there nothing that I can write here that belongs to this day? Oh, yes there is! Even as, after breakfast...

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...a chunk of time is spent on the porch -- we've moved our computers here and so now it is but an extension of our work, our play, our time reading together.

Interrupted by glances at the pickles...

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...and at farmette land -- the peaches on the old tree are doing well!

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...and the flower beds, with a sudden realization that, as always, I have planted for mostly May - July blooms, neglecting  the late summer and early fall, thinking that by then, my focus would be on other worlds.

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Yet here I am, in August, wanting to prolong the flowering season just a few months more and so I cajole and nudge Ed to come with me for one last seasonal visit to the Flower Factory, where we pick up just a few pots of flowers that will, in the future, keep things perky and bright even beyond Labor Day.

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In the late afternoon, we do a pickle tasting. First batch, after four days in brine.

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The cucumbers are pickling nicely. But the taste's too salty! Quickly Ed scours the Internet for advice. Every pickling source had given the same brining formula -- one cup salt, one gallon water. Ignore that! Develop your own sacred formula and may we suggest -- start with less salt!

A pickler's job is never done...

And here's a comment that I myself have, in response to nothing in particular: in the middle of the night, as Isis again began his nocturnal frolic -- back and forth, back and forth, inside and out -- in that space of time, where I am not asleep but not fully awake either, I think about how the very next Ocean post should be about the perfect understanding that I have right now that I live in a moment of beautiful tranquility. And that it wont last, because tranquility is not the defining feature of life for anyone on this planet. But nonetheless, I have it now. No one in my near family is ill or without work, around me the flowers are bursting their silly heads off, indeed -- if you'll ask me about tranquility a decade from now, should I be lucky enough to be here and still writing, I quite likely will talk about this moment now, in August of 2013, and I will smile at the beautiful recollection.