Thursday, July 13, 2006


It's been more than a week since I've posted, but I've been busy - the summer fruit season is in full swing and there is so much to do. The luscious juiciness and heady fragrance of ripe summer fruit is one of the reasons that this season is my favorite. Let's start with melons; watermelon, cantaloupe, casaba, honeydew, persian, crenshaw, canary and muskmelon, I love them all. I like to cut them into bite-sized chunks and put them in Tupperware, ready to snack on at any time. Recently though I've experienced melons in a different manner. My friend George (the King of salads) made a mixed green salad with watermelon pieces, olives and goat cheese dressed with a lime vinaigrette - it was really good. This week's features a recipe for honeydew popsicles – I'm definitely going to try them. Then there's cantaloupe granita, and my friend Liz's melon ball salad with a little triple sec drizzled over it. Oh yeah.

Heavenly orchard fruit; peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots, plums, pluots, figs. Peaches were on sale the other day - that means jam time. I bought about 20 pounds which yielded about 7 jars of jam - about $2.85 per jar, but if I were to buy handmade jam I'd be paying at least $7.00 per jar. One year I went with a friend to Yakima to buy fruit directly from the orchards. I was looking for apricots in particular. I crave a sweet juicy apricot and it seems the ones in the stores are never ripe and then when they do ripen, they're pithy, not juicy. Well, we found apricots and peaches and plums and much more and I was making jams and pies for about 6 days straight. I've yet to make cherry jam, though my sister has requested it. Maybe I'll get to it this year.

Berries are staring to come in and I'll be busy through August. Raspberries are ready now. This year I had white raspberries for the first time. They are perfumey and delicious and they turn a beautiful blush color when they ripen. Blueberries will be next. I always head up to Monroe to a U-pick farm. I like go in the morning before it gets too hot. I can pick about 16 pounds in two hours and I go two days in a row - so I end up with about 32 pounds. I freeze enough to make two pies, then I make a cobbler to take to work, and the rest gets made into jam. My blueberry jam is damn good too. By the time I'm done with all of that the blackberry vines will be heavy with their sweet fruit. Jam Jam and more Jam! The cool thing about blackberries is that they grow wild everywhere - I have my favorite spots to pick and they are all free. My fingers are usually stained purple for a few weeks but it's worth it.

Note: I made another peach cobbler last night. This time I used white peaches, but in the future I think I will stick to yellow peaches for cobbler. The white peach is delicious for eating raw, but it's flavor, I think, is too delicate to withstand the rigors of a hot oven.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Yesterday was the fourth of July - Independence Day. Rather than thinking politically about the holiday, I was obsessed with firecrackers. Let me first say that I have been ruined concerning firecrackers. My mother did it. I am an ACRN (Adult Child of a Registered Nurse). For those of you unfamiliar with this affliction, well, the name speaks for itself.

ACRN benefits are: I have accumulated an improbable amount of medical knowledge for one who has never studied medicine and I hand out medical advice (well, really mostly common sense first aid advice) to my friends on a regular basis; I can listen to medical-type conversation that would gross out many, and do so while eating - you know - dinner conversation.

ACRN disadvantages are: I have heard all the horror stories of kids mangled from playing on escalators, legs broken from jumping off roofs, drownings, car accidents, and yes - hands blown off by firecrackers. You'd think my mother was and Emergency Room nurse! (She mostly worked geriatric, oncology and hospice - where she "saw" these things, I don't know.)

I also lived where firecrackers were illegal and have limited familiarity with them. Basically I am afraid of them. One July 4th a few years ago I was out with some friends and they passed out sparklers. We were in an empty parking lot, it was raining (that misty Seattle rain that doesn't really get you wet), and I held my sparkler as far from my body as I could. I didn't want to admit it, didn't want to appear uncool, but, I was terrified! What if a stray spark drifted close to me a set my clothing afire? I did not enjoy my sparkler and was irrationally relieved when it finally went out.

So, yesterday I was in Burien where firecrackers are supposedly illegal, but in the evening they started to go off. The lovely dogs I am watching started barking. They weren't scared, just trying to protect the house from things that go bang in the night. Fortunately, (strangely fortunate), there were so many firecrackers going off all around us that the dogs eventually gave up on their barking. What smart dogs! To see the futility of it so quickly! Of course I'm thinking: What if a bottle rocket lands on the roof and sets the house on fire? Maybe I should change back into my clothes in case I have to make a quick exit. Thank god the alarm system has a panic button for the fire department! And where are the cops and why aren't they putting a stop to all these dangerous and ILLEGAL firecrackers??!!!

Seriously though, they are dangerous - especially in the hands of 1) Stoopid and 2) drunk people. It seems the ratio of stupid and/or drunk people goes up on the Fourth of July.

A couple of years ago I was at the Suzzalo Library at the University of Washington in the Microfiche files doing research for a book. I was looking up news stories from New York City and Perth Amboy, New Jersey papers from the 1920's. I was pulling them at random and after a bit I started to read stories of Firecracker accidents and accidental drownings. I looked at the date of the paper and it was July 5th, 1926. I know for a fact that today's papers will be filled with similar reports - There was a fire at a school a couple of days ago - some one was lighting firecrackers on the roof.... last night the docks at NOAA caught fire in Eastlake, houseboat residents were evacuated... a week ago two men (drunk) were throwing firecrackers into a barbecue, when one didn't go off they both reached in to get it, they both lost a hand. Nothing has been learned in 80 years.

As dusk came upon western Washington last evening, storm clouds rolled in and there was a brief thunder and lightening storm and a short but hard rain. This accomplished two things: 1) It avoided a skewing of the statistics of rain on July 4th - by having rain we avoided two years in a row of no rain for that day. 2) It gave me some comfort - things being wet, maybe we will avoid some accidental fires.

I'm glad this holiday is over.

BTW - I do like the fireworks in the sky with their big starburst patterns and twinkling lights - you know, the kind of shows put on by professionals?