Go to the Lobster Pool

If you need a taste of summer, I suggest going to the Lobster Pool.  Why? Sigh…

Eat a great dinner and watch thesunset from the Lobster Pool.  It sits on Folly’s Cove, which conveniently cuts into the land making it westward facing over the water.  Living in the Northeast, this is a gem.

Throw an old blanket in the trunk in case the picnic tables are full.  Bundle up for 10+ degrees cooler than inland.

Plan for lunch or dinner at an odd time, between 2 and 5 p.m., if waiting drives you a little buggy.

Order something off this lobster shack’s menu for you – lobster, steamers, mussel, or clams – as well as kid-friendly fare – burgers or chicken strips.

Grab a cup of chowder as an appetizer; ask to have it right away, before your main meal is ready.  With a smile, plea for extra crackers for the kids.

Ask if you can hold a lobster and have a family picture taken with it.

Find a table inside if it’s too blustery and cool to eat outside.  Then reserve it with your cooler or your blanket. Or Mom.

Climb on the boulders outside while you wait for your number to be called.  Take Band-aids.  Someone will trip on a rock and skin a knee or an elbow.

Make S'mores at dusk.  Roast marshmallows over the stovepipe stemming from the fire on the boulders along the ocean’s edge.  (S’mores are Friday – Sunday, weather permitting.) The early sunsets of spring and fall make staying up for the fire & S’mores easier on kids.  And adults.

Mmmm…  I just might see you there.


(Want to catch your own fish? Here's my attempt at deep-sea fishing: A Reel Hairy Tale.)

Burnt Bacon

The last batch in my kitchen has a 50-50 chance of burning. Cookies... pancakes... bacon. I don’t cook bacon on the stovetop, too messy. If I plan well enough in advance, I like to bake it in the oven. Otherwise, I microwave it. I’ve microwaved bacon often enough to usually get that nice, brown, crispy state on the left side of the plate. The right side of the plate is when I thought it needed to be just a bit crispier, so I pushed the 2-minute button on my way to the eggs in the skillet. It was the last batch of bacon. I nearly swooned when I opened the microwave. Simultaneously, the smell of Grandma Murphy’s farm kitchen whooshed over me and Granddad Mills' words rolled triumphantly off my lips, “When it’s brown it’s cooking, and when it’s black it’s done!” A vision of Grandma’s black iron skillet on the stove followed. Then the microwave plate landed on the counter next to Liam.

“I’m not eating that. And black is not done. It's burnt.”

“You’re not eating that: I am. And black bacon is just crunchy; it’s not burnt.”

And it's a delicacy on bread with lots of catsup.

And you would never say ‘I’m not eating that’ to Grandma.

And you would sit next to Granddad and eat blackened food, happily crunching away, just like he did. Fully thankful for the hands that prepared it.

My memory often lapses, but smells and tastes can take me to places in the past over and over again.

(So...Would you eat the bacon on the right?  By the way, have you met my grandparents? Memories of them still keep my life in perspective.  And, just for kicks, here's an old bacon story.)

Corn's On!

What will you do or did you do on your 70th birthday? At dusk on the eve of Dad’s 70th birthday, Will, Liam and I were helping Dad pick sweet corn.  We would be “doing corn” the next day, on his birthday.  In the corn patch, which was probably 100 yards long and 20 rows deep, Dad picked corn and filled 5-gallon buckets while I couriered full buckets to the Chevy S-10 and emptied them into the truck-bed.

The corn stalks shot way over our heads and were thick enough to hide Dad in the middle.  I followed his voice to find him and exchange my empties for his full buckets.

The boys and I over-exaggerated the steps we took over the electric fence. It lined the perimeter of the corn patch and was about 6 inches off the ground. The fence stopped the raccoons from entering the patch. If a raccoon family had a midnight feast, then invited their friends to come the next night and the next, a good chunk of corn would be stripped from the stalks in a matter of a couple days.

Shortly, this conversation between Farm Dad and City Girl ensued:

“How many buckets have you emptied?” Dad asked. “I don’t know, maybe 8 – 12,” I guessed. “Haven’t you been counting?” he asked. Then a flashback: yes, for some reason, I should’ve been counting. “No.” “You haven’t been counting?” “No, you didn’t tell me to count.” “We always count, so Mom has enough for 100 pints.” “Oh… well, I haven’t done this in 15 years – I guess I needed a reminder to count.”  Then good-naturedly, "Why, Linda Kay... I can't believe you didn't count."

At dusk...we had more than enough for 100 pints.  We had a truck-load.

 It sat in the drive overnight, and early the next 70th-birthday-morning, Dad and I started husking corn...

...and the boys joined us.

 Amateur corn-picker that I was had dumped corn haphazardly into the truck-bed covering the whole thing. Soon realizing I had goofed up the shucking system a bit, I reshuffled all the corn to the back of the truck to where we could reach it, making room to toss the corn husks and silks to the front of the bed.

“I bet I’m the only one in my school who has done this!” Will said, as we filled the coolers with corn.

Four coolers of corn on the cob equal 100 pints of corn kernels for the freezer. Once we had lined the coolers up in the dining room, Dad’s job had ended for the time being, and Mom took over.

Mom and I lined the kitchen table and floor with newspaper, and set up a de-silking station on one end of the table and an area to cut the corn off the cob at the other end.

Maureen, Mom’s friend since high school, arrived with her grandson and the setting was complete. It was time to “do corn.” The three boys used dish towels to brush off the corn silks... Maureen, Mom and I could start stripping kernels off the cobs.

The magic soon wore off the de-silking process. The boys took breaks when there was nowhere to pile the silk-free corn and came back when we called them. They were all such troopers finishing the de-silking, it was tough going at times, but they did it.

I had seen those piles through the eyes of a 7- and 9-year-old. I remember vegetables and fruit that needed to be cleaned, stemmed, broken, cut-up – they were monstrous. Here, much like walking beans, was the true-grit of farming. Of growing and freezing our own food.  Of sticking to a task until it was finished.

Mom’s job shifted once we had big pans of kernels. They needed to be blanched for three minutes...spread out to cool in front of the fan, then loaded into pint-size freezer bags that were labeled with “2013.”

Maureen and I kept cutting as Mom followed the circuit of those final processing tasks.  Aunt Alison arrived later in the afternoon, "I heard you were doing corn.  I thought I would come up and help."  Aunt Alison stepped into the blanching, cooling, bagging circuit with Mom.

Towards the end of the afternoon, Liam walked through the kitchen. “BLAH! YUCK! What did I step in???” Ah, yes, that feeling of sweet, sticky corn milk on the bottom of your foot and the dragging of newspaper along with you as you try to walk away from it.  My “doing corn” memory and his “doing corn” experience were now complete!

“Mom, there just aren’t many kids who have done this, right?" Will asked again.  "We picked it, husked it, cleaned it and bagged it! We did it all from beginning to end!”

Having the "corn on” during our Iowa summer visit was a gift to this Farm Girl and her family.

Happy 70th, Dad.

(Yet another hot, humid summer memory... When the headlights came looking for me.)

Aroma Therapy

Soaking in a Passion Fruit bubble bath.  Swirling dried lavender with seashells in a glass under my nose. Gentle aroma therapy is not cutting it.

What I need is a few cloves of garlic to smash with the side of my big chef’s knife.  And a giant, whole, yellow onion to hack into bits.  Then watch and smell as boldness melts sweetly in sizzling hot olive oil.

Nothing cuts through thick thoughts like this.

Foodie aroma therapy.

The First Signs of Fall

Mmmm.... fall.  Such a visually appealing season.  From mums and cabbages...

to ornamental peppers in pots...

and pre-jack-0-lanterns.

Then there are the new witchy treats... a pair of shoes...

and a sign clearly stating who is running the holiday show.

And nothing screams fall so clearly as cool days begging for crock pot meals...Well, in fact, that's  our grill screaming, "Go find your CROCK POT!!!"

Have a lovely fall weekend.

Simple Squid Dinner

For dinner Monday night, I had leftover ingredients from the weekend to work with: a bowl of very ripe tomatoes, an onion, some garlic, two lemons, a handful of linguine, a bottle of Chardonnay, and one-and-a-half pounds of squid.  The squid was leftover from the paella Bill made Saturday night. I rustled through my on-line recipe box looking for an easy tomato-white wine sauce that I had made a few weeks ago. With a quick search for "squid," a stuffed squid popped up. Upon opening the bag of porcelain sleek & glossy white squid tubes, I decided stuffing them would be a ridiculous endeavor. I would just quickly chop them up. A deconstructed squid dish. (Think Indiana Jones, in battle with a whip when a quick shot just seemed to make more sense.)

Thankfully, all the skin, ink, and cartilage was gone before said squid entered our house. I was left with long white tubes and long purple tentacles. I chopped the squid tubes into calamari rings and threw them into a strainer to rinse. I picked up the tentacles, some 4 - 6 inches long, and put them into the strainer as well. It was right about then that I thought, "I'm a heck of a long way from Iowa."

I didn't have time to soak the pieces in milk to tenderize them. I didn't get the meat tenderizing hammer out because I didn't want squid juice squirting all over my clean counter and floor. Rather, I decided they would just need to tenderize as they simmered away in tomatoes, onions, garlic and wine for a half hour.

As the ingredients came to a happy simmer in the pan, I took one last peek before putting the cover on. Puzzled by the bizarreness of these little creatures, prepared by my Iowa-born hands, smothered in a Creole-infused sauce. Would my granddad have eaten these? He loved fish, but this was a far-cry from beer-battered bullheads. Would my dad knowingly eat these? (Dad had unknowingly eaten them as we ordered fried calamari once while he was visiting. We didn't tell him the source of the nice rubbery, crunchy appetizer.)

The end result was delicious served over rice.  So, do you eat chewy purple legs covered with little suction cups? Please do tell.

(This "recipe" is a little more complicated: Corn's On!)

Taking Inventory: Butter Beans

Breaking out the crockpot since cold weather is here. I pulled out my tattered Better Homes and Gardens Crockery Cookbook and went to work picking out two recipes for next week. I turned to the worn beef pages and jotted ingredients for the beef stroganoff that makes my mouth water when I read “sherry.” Then I thought I needed something new and turned to poultry. I can’t fathom chicken in the crock pot, but there was an interesting smoked turkey sausage and beans. Beans! Four different kinds of beans. I probably have that many on the storage shelf in the basement waiting for a purpose in life. In particular the one I see every time I do laundry: butter beans. No idea how butter beans joined the inventory. I don’t even know what a butter bean is. But I’m happy that I can clean out the beans! I scoop all four cans up. Black beans, small white beans that I’ll substitute for great northern, small red beans that I’ll substitute for red kidney beans. And the “Lady Lee” butter beans. Not wanting to shop more than once this week, I confirm that the beans are good before heading to the grocery store. Really, what can go wrong with a bean? I dusted the layers off the butter beans. Many layers. Really… many, many layers. I flipped over the can and read “July” – this is good! But wait… 1997. July 1997.

I add butter beans to my grocery list, and while in the store, I flip the can over to make sure it’s still in date. 2015. This can of beans will last five more years. So if my math is correct, the old can of beans may have quite possibly been purchased in 1992 if all beans have a five-year shelf life.

This made me nostalgic over the old can that I unceremoniously chucked into the garbage hours before. I had carried that 15 ½ oz. can of butter beans with me for all of my married life: 18 years. Soon after Bill and I were married, I purchased my crockpot cookbook. Then I went to work stocking my cupboards so I could make just about anything at a moments notice with Iowa meat from the freezer, a few spices, and even perhaps liquid smoke or – butter beans. Was it the smoked turkey and sausage recipe that prompted me to buy these butter beans in 1992?

Not only did it twirl along in the lazy Susan of our first house for 13 years, we paid for it to be moved in a semi-truck to a Chicago suburb where it sat with the bean family in the back of a tiny pantry. After a few years there, in 2005 we paid for it AGAIN to be moved 1,600 miles in another semi-truck across the Mississippi River and through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts. Once here, it sadly sat on a dark shelf in the basement for five more years, until its demise.

My new can of beans cost $1.19. My old can of beans was worth a lot more. A whole lot more.