Presenting the: It’s HOT – It’s Africa HOT – Tarzan couldn’t stand this kind of heat – Edition of the Lazy Cook

When you don’t have Air Conditioning and it’s this freakin’ hot, the last thing you want to do is cook. Well, the last thing you want to do is move. But even in the Lazy Cook’s household, food prep can sometimes include movement.

And while we eat a lot of cold salads and watermelon in hotter weather, those foods don’t tend to “last” in the tummy. It’s the cooler version of Chinese food: 20 minutes later and you are hungry again. So, how do we resolve that problem? The Lazy Way of course.

Here is a picture tutorial for a cooked vegetarian curry that doesn’t require heating up the house with… heat.

The dish: a nice Corning Ware casserole with lid. The lid is a necessary part of the endeavor, so keep that in mind when following this recipe.

To fill this casserole you will need the following:

About 2 cups of Vegetable Broth, or about 1/2 of this container (Chicken stock is good if you aren’t going vegetarian on this one). Wolfgang Puck brand isn’t necessary, I’m just showing off that I got this at Big Lots for $1.50

1 cup of coconut milk or about 1/2 the can:

3 or 4 tender summer squash from the garden, cubed.

Sweet pepper, chopped. This is probably about 1/2 a cup.

A medium onion chopped. (Hello Kitty bowl is not required) And since I had some curried okra canned up from last year, I thought “Why not?”.

Red Curry Paste. I get mine at the Asian Market for about .60 cents a can.

You’ll use a tablespoon, more or less, depending on how hot you like it. Add it to the broth and coconut milk in the casserole. Mix well. This will keep you from getting lumps of paste in your curry. ‘Cause stirring it while its cooking  is too…  hot.

You can add salt at any time to your taste. But at least 1/2 teaspoon. You can add in the chopped vegetables at this point, along with cubed extra firm tofu and cubed carrots. Try cutting them into smaller bits than shown here.

Once you’ve got it all in there, it should resemble this:

Pepper is optional, I just added it as an afterthought. Now for the lid.

Let’s look at the time. Okay 11:30 ish… so we’ll get this in well before noon.

Now into the cooker.

And to set the temperature, we simply go over…

and make it so.

Serve with brown rice, white rice or millet, along with a tomato, cucumber and onion salad. Enjoy.

Spring at Island Ford Art 2011

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1st collector for Spring at Island Ford Art 2011
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Ode to the Vernal Equinox

Spring Arrived
on March 20th
at 7 p.m.
in the windbreak
of the Big Value Supermarket.
Downtown, on Main Street.

Crowded into the tiny break
on the cold concrete floor
packed tight around soda machines
and gumball vendors,
were row upon row
of full-bloomed pansies
in flimsy plant trays.
Spring pre-packaged
in disposable, black plastic.

fat, wet snow
piled on cars and roads
and numb post-work
It was twilight.
Roads were treacherous.
No one was in the mood
for flowers.

The blooms swayed
as electric doors
gusted winter with the passing
of each snow-flecked customer
and sat
each looking,
for all the world,
like a young girl stood up
on the evening
of her very first date.

(March 1997)

The Pea Pickers Dilemma or (handy clickable Gen Y title) The Epic Fail of American Politicians

This morning, I spent the coolest part of the day harvesting green peas off the vine. As an activity, pea picking is incredibly repetitious.

Black-eyed Susans and Green Peas

It is neither physically nor mentally taxing enough to fully engage my interest.  And so, as often happens in these instances where my body is engaged but my mind is free to play, I began to ponder.

What I began to ponder was a charming turn of phrase used when someone expresses utter disbelief at another’s foolhardy actions. “Are you out of your pea picking mind?” I suspect this might have it’s origins as a Southern phrase, much like it’s cousin: “Are you out of your cotton picking mind?” The implication, in both instances, is that pea pickers and cotton pickers are less than, shall we say, astute.

I understand that. By way of contrast, harvesting something wild, like blackberries, requires a broad and overarching attention in order to gather small fruit on unsteady terrain, while avoiding thorns, spiders and snakes (not necessarily in that order). Compared to blackberries, picking peas is simple. You stand in a level row, you see a green pod hanging in front of you, you pick, you drop it in the bucket, you see another pod. You pick. Simple. Unthinking. Repetitive.

Pea Pickers, then, would be the domesticated cousins of the Wild Berry Pickers. Over the years, we’ve bred all the uncertainty, pain and danger from the enterprise of picking peas. As a result, picking peas requires much less mental and physical stamina, much less engagement in the process, than gathering from the wild. Therefore, simpletons are able to do it. And so, the logic suggests, that makes your average pea picker a simpleton.

There is an obvious presumptive flaw in this line of thinking. But as a metaphor for a foolish person doing mindless task, calling someone a pea picker has the potential to be a fair assessment. So hold that thought, we will revisit our pea picker in a few moments.

Let me briefly turn your attention to George F. Will, political columnist for the Washington Post. George Will falls, rather definitively, to the conservative side of the political spectrum. And while I admire him for his occasional ability to admit his most grievous mistakes, George Will and I have only agreed on 2 things in the past 30 years.

The 2nd thing we agreed on was a comment he made during the Inaugural Parade commemorating George W. Bush’s 2nd term in office.

The limousine carrying the President and First Lady was traveling along the parade route with secret service and a uniformed guard detail, on foot, beside the vehicle.

As you may recall, the security for this event was unprecedented. For the first time ever, spectators had 10 foot fencing between them and the parade route. There were “free speech” areas, cordoned off to keep protestors from impinging on the happy occasion.

Mr. Will was a guest commentator on one of the broadcast television networks along with the usual broadcast news anchors. As the events unfolded, the television people nattered on, filling air time as we watched the car progress along the route. At one point, the President’s limousine inexplicably sped up to the point that the security detail had to jog along side the car to keep formation. One of the news anchors made some comment about why they might be moving more quickly when George Will said, apropos of nothing: “It looks like a Banana Republic.”

There was dead silence in the studio, then a quick cut to commercial.

The first thing George Will and I agreed on was in the early 90’s. He had written commenting on a friend of his in northern Virginia, who worked with his hands making custom pajamas for a discerning clientele.

Using his friend as an example, Mr. Will explained that he was of the opinion that those living inside the beltway were entirely disconnected from the daily realities of American life. They didn’t have real jobs. Many of them hadn’t had real jobs in decades. They didn’t make things. Therefore, they didn’t understand the complex and intricate process of seeing an idea through from beginning to end; from thread to cloth to product. Or the ramifications of failing to understand and acknowledge each part as it relates to the whole.

He suggested instead, that a life of signing and pushing around individual pieces of paper, disconnected from a knowable outcome during the day, coupled with a life of political socializing and leisure during the night had created a culture that could not comprehend the realities a majority of Americans face. Obviously, I’m paraphrasing here, but in George Will’s opinion: Making piles of paper, only to send those piles to other people to makes other piles of paper, was no way to understand the needs of your constituents.

Politicians, bureaucrats and their faithful, well-meaning wonks are doing work that is well-defined; bounded by bureaucratic process and laid out in neat rows. There is very little uneven footing. They do not stumble upon tearing thorns. And what snakes and spiders creep there are easily spotted and, unlike their wilder cousins, just as easily negotiated with.

Something happens to those fledgling politicians after they leave the nested security of the small towns that elected them. There is some fundamental shift as they are domesticated by money and power. They forget, or most likely they never knew, what life is like in the midst of briars and mud and need and want.

They also forget who picks their peas; who puts the food on their tables. In their re-negotiated world-view pea pickers, mindless drones of an agrarian age, become part of an indistinguishable mass of humanity that exists out there. They are unknown, and so become unknowable.

To those unknowns outside the security of the beltway, one vote by an ethical politician can keep a multi-national corporation from killing an ecosystem. One vote can save the source of a multi-generational local business or it can allow ruination on an unprecedented scale.

Politicians from the Gulf States who failed to vote against those corporations with no vested interest in the local communities, voted against their own constituents by default. And any politician who chooses without thinking, who mindlessly grasps the low hanging fruits in front of him rather than considering the consequences, has failed those who put him in office.

Deciding the fate of people’s lives was never intended to be easy. It was never intended as a pea picker’s job. But it has become just that; too easy and much too safe. Politicians have become too insulated from the consequences of self-interested choices. They have been allowed the self-indulgent mindlessness of simpletons. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans in the wilds outside the beltway, are forced to scrounge in the briars; competing with coyotes and snakes for what we can gather before the hard rains come.

(This commentary was published in the Grant City Times Tribune during the week of July 7th)

Baked Eggplant Slices with Hot Sausage Marinara

Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Yes, it’s time again for a found entrée. A few days ago, the Mister’s boss gifted him with some beautiful eggplants and a couple of pecks of chestnuts. Frankly, both were a mystery to the Lazy Cook.

I’ve never cooked eggplant, but I’ve eaten it on occasion. Nothing against eggplants, they are beautiful things, but in each instance, there was never enough “something” (texture, flavor, smell, taste) for me to get too excited about seeking it out as an ingredient. Still Life objects definitely. Food…not so much.

And the most I knew about chestnuts was that, ideally, you roasted them over an open fire. Ostensibly to keep some guy named Jack from giving you facial frostbite. So I was going to have to do a little research on chestnuts and what was possible. The eggplants were merely waiting for inspiration to strike.

And yesterday, it did.

I knew you could make Eggplant Parmesan. But cheese is off the list entirely. So, it would have to be some modified version of that. Thank goodness breading has become more feasible since we figured out they sell 5 pound sacks of white sorghum flour at the Indian grocery in Winston-Salem. (Golden India: Awesome food, nice owners, great grocery. Try it if you are in WS. Then, go get a hot, fresh Krispy Kreme)

Evil Children Aside, they are GREAT!

Evil Children aside, they are GREAT!

And adding a little cornmeal to the sorghum gives it some “tooth”. For something as vanilla as eggplant, I figured a little cornmeal excitement would be a good addition.

I knew from the weekend meals I had half a pound of hot pork sausage waiting in the fridge. I also had a half a quart of Marinara Sauce from some other adventure. I figured that was good enough for a start.

Under that Big Rock next to the Tree

Under that Big Rock next to the Tree

I cut the top off one eggplant stood it bottoms up on the now flat top and sliced it into ½ inch slices, and stacked them into a pile. I told the Mister it looked like a stack of half-soles for shoes. We might be in an economic rhyme of the last Depression, but at least we’re not that desperate….yet.

The oven was warming at 350 degrees, while I dragged and sometimes pushed the surprisingly flexible slices of eggplant into the egg. Then I lay each slice flat into the flour mix and gently pressed. Pick it up, shake the pan to even out the flour and coat the other side. Put each slice onto a baking sheet or pan with about 2 tablespoons of oil coating the bottom. After arranging them sort-of-like canned sardines or in this case it would be flounder, I had just enough room in an enameled 9 x 14 inch baking pan, for 4 slices. Into the oven.

I took a 2 cup Corning baking dish (for soufflés or some other thing I’m too lazy to try. But the Mother-in-Law knows I’ll only use Corning or Cast Iron, so she is sweet enough to send along ware when she finds it on sale), plopped the ½ pound of sausage in and about 2/3 cup of Marinara on top of that. I tried mixing it with a fork as the dish was too small for the masher, but it soon became evident that this was going to require putting my hands in there to mix it. Ugh.

I’ve got fingernails. I don’t grow them on purpose. I’m just too lazy to cut them and they are tough as…well, nails. So they get long. And there are things you dread with long nails. Throwing a clay pot and mixing ground meat being the top two items on the list.

So, I rolled up my sleeves, turned to the sink and lathered up my hands with soapy, hot water. Potential fingernail grunge in my food is another no-no. After washing, I thoroughly mixed the Marinara and meat and put it in the oven with the eggplant. And then back to the sink to get the sausage from under my nails. Really, just gross.

As I was tidying up I spied the chestnuts. “Well,” I thought, “the oven is hot. And there is room for another baking pan.” So, I grabbed up about a dozen of the little fellows and set about slicing a couple of vents into each one. Some people cut them in half, some just cut in a couple of vents. Either way, they need a way for the steam from the cooking nut meat to escape or they explode. Considering I had never dealt with chestnuts before, having only one of them explode in the oven was a minor victory.

It was like a muffled rifle shot. All the critters looked up from their dinner at me and the Mister while we looked at each other wide-eyed. I was fearful of opening the oven door to check. Who wants piping hot chestnuts exploding just as you open the door? Luckily, it was just the one and the exploded meal was scattered about the oven, on the eggplant and in the meat mixture. Which gave me another idea……

After about 10 or 15 minutes, I turned the slices once, and noticed they weren’t really browning although they were cooking. I don’t know if the oven needs to be above 350 or I needed more oil, but after another 10 minutes and another flip, I went for the old back-up plan and stuck them in the broiler. It’s a propane stove, so the flame was on anyway. After a couple of minutes on each side they were a little more presentable. I pulled them out and waited just another couple of minutes for the sausage. One does NOT want to eat any undercooked pork.

As I was waiting, I warmed another 2/3rd cup of marinara. I pulled out some kalamata olives, put on some green peas and checked the millet that was in the steamer. The olives were on the list of ingredients, and really should have been pitted sooner, but hey, I never claimed to be organized either.

I pulled out the sausage, drained the fat into my pork fat jar for later use and spooned a couple of tablespoons of meat onto each eggplant slice. I spread it out so that it covered most of the slice, and spooned a little warm marinara over that. Then I pulled out the chestnuts, shelled and chopped about 6 of them, and pitted the kalamatas. I sprinkled chestnuts and kalamatas across the slices and voila, it’s pretty and it’s food.

The one thing I would do differently, although neither Roger (who was over for Monday night HLF practice) or the Mister complained, is peel the skin off the eggplant.

As for the chestnuts. Interesting flavor. And texture. It reminded me of the sweet Mung Bean filling in the Moon Cakes. They are small celebration cakes for offerings or some-such. We get them at the Hmong Market.

And now I’m wondering if you can make a chestnut soufflé? Stay tuned. We might just find out.

The Lazy Cook Makes Pasta Sauce for the Coming Year

My mother taught me to can. Not to cook mind you, well, not directly anyway. That was my sister’s thing. I was the official “guy” of the house; fixing the lawnmower, changing the oil in the cars. I didn’t start cooking until I was away from home.

But canning enough food for the coming year requires more than two people, so I helped prep vegetables, wash jars, tend the cooker and in general take orders while staying out of the way.

And over the years I watched my mother drag out her canner, can a batch of something and put it away. A few weeks later when another batch of something was ready, she would drag it out again.

When making pasta sauce this was not nearly lazy enough for me. Tomatoes are fickle. Too little rain means they wait to flower and fruit. A lot of rain often means blossom end rot and few tomatoes. Sporadic rain means batches of randomly ripe tomatoes.

So the Lazy Cook came up with a plan. We are lucky enough to have the space for an upright freezer; as many farms and rural households do. So as the tomatoes ripen, into the freezer they go. And when the season is through, you can bring them all out at once and make a weekend of it.

Freezing the tomatoes has the added benefit of making them easy to peel. Spending a lot of time up to my elbows in raw tomatoes irritates my skin. If I can dip the frozen fruit into boiling water for a few seconds, the skin slips right off and I can cut out bad spots and chunk them with relatively little mess.

Yes, it’s cold; but much less messy. Besides, there will be plenty of time to warm hands once the cooking starts.

This year, I’m trying out Amish Paste Tomatoes. They are an heirloom variety, so if they make a tasty sauce, I’ll just keep planting them as I need them in the future with no fear of Monsanto coming in and busting up the joint.

Many people add sugar to their sauce to offset a bitterness that can arise in the process of cooking away the excess liquid that regular tomatoes often have. Adding sugar is unnecessary and, frankly, an affront to the tomato. Here are some ways to avoid this, which are also conveniently lazy:

– Use sauce tomatoes which are less juicy. Roma, Amish Paste and quite a few other varieties are less watery.

– Use a sweet onion in your sauce. I use Vidalia onions; and a lot of them. It’s almost impossible to get your sauce too “onion-y” with these. Sometimes, if I want a different flavor, I’ll sautee the chopped onions to the point of crisping the edges. Sometimes I just dump them in raw. Add a few grated carrots too.

– Roast your sauce. Yes, Roast Your Sauce. Best lazy move I ever made.

You’ll need enamel pans or Corning ware. I end up stacking pans on dishes on pots in my oven. The very occasional stirring becomes more complicated, but on the whole it’s much easier. I have yet to burn a batch of oven-roasted sauce, unlike some of my early stovetop batches.

Turn your oven onto its lowest setting. I use propane and have a newer stove, so the lowest oven temp I have to work with is 170 degrees. My last stove’s lowest setting was 120 degrees. I miss that oven. Because, in this case, the slower you can cook the sauce, the better it will taste. So it might take all day, but you won’t have to stand over a hot stove. Unless you want to stick around because your hands are still cold from dealing with frozen tomatoes.

The sauce ends up with this amazing sun-dried flavor. Not a hint of bitterness even though I don’t remove the seeds. (Lazy)

Roast a batch, adding your spices in somewhere along the line. I tend to wait until it is almost “done”. My logic is: some spices don’t like extended cooking. Because I’m going to have it boiling in a canner for another 30 minutes with an additional hour to cool off, the flavor will have plenty of time to release. This allows me to make individualized batches. I just have to remember label them properly after the jars are cooled.

Put the roasted sauce in a suitable (non-metal) container and stick it in the fridge. Repeat until all tomatoes are processed. Then you can re-warm the sauce to a suitable temperature for the canning process.

If you decide to freeze it, reconsider when to add the spices. I make no promised here, as I’ve never tried freezing sauce.

Have fun.

The Last Summer Tomato

Today, we ate the last,
the very last
summer tomato.

We stripped tall vines
down, first of September
before a first hint of frost.
Before sky-bound leaves
spark flames, red and gold.

Fall breeze thrilling
bent and sun-warmed bodies
lifts a pungent smell
of crushed vines
from weary, dark-stained hands.

In the end there was
a small, sad, rubbled pile.
Pocked and warped; worried by wasps.
Running hard green
to a nearly ripe orange.

We sat them precious in a window.
We watched them as they ripened.
We ate them over days; until
we reached the last.
The very last summer tomato.

We considered fanfare,
or quiet ritual to mark
the season’s passing.
It seemed, somehow,
in bad taste.

So we prepared our simple meal
as if nothing were amiss.

And we sat and ate and talked.
Each secretly noting the other
saving on their plate
one small, cherished piece
of a final and irrevocable moment.

copyright 09/01

Summer Fun

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The Nights of Blackberry Dumplings

The blackberries are ripe. It is that time of year.



Unlike the clockwork regular and finely parsed schedule of humans, blackberries and indeed all of creation, have their own state-dependent agenda.  Not enough rain? Well, slow down and wait.  Not enough sun? Pretty much the same.

But a hard, sour knot of berry after 2 days of brief showers, can transform into a glorious and fleeting taste of wine and oak and summer.  That same berry after 3 days of moderate rain becomes a soggy, flavorless mush.  So, if we mere humans want to taste the nectar that is a perfect berry, it is on the berry’s rather particular schedule and not ours.

Usually, and in my own experience, berry picking is a group activity.  There are many reasons; safety being the common concern.  Copperheads, water moccasins, various spiders, toxic insects, rabid animals, are all dangers the berry picker needs to account for.  So, as one picks carefully and studiously through sharp tangles for that perfect, fat berry, a barely conscious rhythm of silence and signal is maintained.  Long spans of almost perfect, concentrated silence broken by a voice, a need to reconnect with others in the safety of the tribe.

These vocalizations are usually minor comments on the exquisite flavor of a particularly irresistible berry, discovery of a bountiful vine, curses thrown at briars, unsteady footing or the ubiquitous and irritatingly plentiful Junebugs.  For all the ire they draw in the berry patch, Junebugs are the most likely creature to be secretly envied by the berry picker.  It seems that the entirety of their brief life is taken up with sitting in the warm summer sun, eating the sweetest and ripest of the blackberries and in their seemingly endless procreation.  If forced, in some future attempt at karmic balance, to reincarnate on the insect level returning as a Junebug is at the top of the list.

Sometimes, by chance or by choice, berry picking is done in solitude.  Usually,  and in this instance, early in the morning.  Unlike the group pick with it’s monkey mind, monkey chatter, the lone picker is left exclusively in the company of mist, bird calls, dogs waiting patiently to be offered a bit of too ripe berry and the heavy, fruit laden vines.

As I pick, I fall into a decades long body memory of practiced regularity.  And in the unthinkingness of concentrated continual motion, I feel my consciousness begin to shift, ever so slightly toward opening.  And in those liminal moments, I invariably begin to ponder the grinding of snail shells on rock.

In certain tribes the shaman’s apprentice at his upper levels, is taught to induce a trance state by increasingly simple means.  This is after he is taught the more familiar, more traditional methods:  chanting, drumming, dance.  The blunt instruments, if you will.  After that, it is a matter of fine-tuning one’s perceptions, of understanding exactly the moment when the veil begins to part and transition into the imaginal space is possible.

Without fail, each method of trance induction involves engaging as many of the senses as possible.  As if focusing each part of your conscious mind and each part of your body into this one, singular activity directs your physical brain to produce the brainwave state known to us as alpha; a sort of light functioning trance state where movement and action are possible and for the shaman who is working with a patient, desirable.

Of the many ways this state can be achieved, the one we are probably, and unknowingly, familiar with is sitting by a waterfall.  With it’s rush of sound, smells of oxygenated air, water and mud, the feeling of moist earth beneath us and the whisper of mist on skin.  We feel light and easy and relaxed.  We feel good, but we can’t say exactly why.

In another, it is the grinding of a snail shell on rock.  The white noise of steady grinding, the rhythmic motion of the body, the smell of nacre flinting off stone, the weight of the body given to the arm and into the hand as it grinds.

For me, picking berries in the morning solitude is very much like this.  Full of deeply concentrated movement, careful, focused attention, the flux of insulated quiet and sharp birdsong.

Those moments of near opening, of being on the threshold of that other, unreal space, allow the mind to draw connections, to have epiphanies, to make discoveries.

And so, on this morning of quietly and studiously picking berries, as I have over many years and many decades, it occurred to me, unbidden, that in the innocence of my childhood, I had no realization that we were gathering the food that would help us survive in the harder months. It wasn’t as if my mother ever said to me,  “We must pick these berries so we will have enough food to eat come winter.”.  Although it was exactly the case on those rare occasions when blackberry dumplings and sweet tea were all of dinner.

To a child, blackberry dumplings for dinner was having desert without having to suffer though collards with vinegar.  Again.  Unlike the nights with only fried fatback and biscuits;  which were a little more obvious in their poverty.

Fatback is a 2-inch thick, 4-inch wide, 5-inch long slab of pork fat with a bit of the skin left on top.  Usually used for seasoning or to gather grease for frying other food.  It is cut into strips of ¼ inch and fried thoroughly.  The resulting strip of salty fried fat with the crunchy skin rind can be eaten, and usually was in our household, as a side to greens of any sort.

Some nights, not many, but enough to create a memory, there was fatback and biscuits for dinner.  It could have been the set of my mother’s mouth that told us complaining would be pointless.  It was what there was. However on the nights of blackberry dumplings, it is possible that as children, we were so taken with the idea that we did not notice the intent or reason behind the novel treat came down to a lack of anything else to eat.   A quart of sugar-sweetened blackberries, self-rising flour, pork fat and water.  Filling and, as it stands, nutritious enough.

I’m sure if, today, you could summon my mother’s spirit to ask, it would never have occurred to her that she was teaching me a survival skill by educating in the ways and means of blackberries.  Nor in taking me to the garden, nor in forcing me to pick and clean and can on those days when all I really wanted in the world, was nothing more than to be in the woods packing with the dogs, catching crayfish or building dams across a shallow neck in the creek.  She was simply doing what her sharecropper parents taught her to do.  Garden and pick and preserve and survive.

Yes, over the years I kept gardening, kept picking and cleaning and canning.  But more after the fashion of Marie Antoinette, who had one of her country estates turned into a sort of royal theme park.  This was constructed with guest hovels for visitors replete with various livestock housed in the shacks.  Here, she and her guests played “peasant” on holiday.

Like Marie’s peasantry, gardening and canning were activities that amused me; gave me pleasure.  Things that I could do at my leisure.  That would have no real impact on my life if it rained too much, or not enough.  Or if the rains flooded and washed away all my cropland.  Or, as once happened to my grandfather, hail destroyed an entire fresh planting  and I had to find money, sell the cow or go into debt to buy more seed or I would not be able to pay my lease with crops and my family would not eat come the hard winter.  One cannot survive on fatback and blackberry dumplings alone.

It has taken me years of leisurely tinkering to learn the skills that seemed innate in my mother:  how to plant just so, when best to water, who is unhappy in the plot and why, where the worm that has been gnawing on the tomato vines is most likely hiding and finding him before he strips the plant bare.

And I suppose, in the end what concerns me, what has prompted these blackberry musings is a pondering on the future of food.  And the future of a people that need it to survive if the rains continue to wash away our cropland or the wheat rust spreads or the price of oil makes the shipping or buying food from stores untenable.

How will they learn?  Who will be their teachers, their guides?

We have lost so much along the way.  Forgotten too much.  Having grown up without want, without fear, without danger, we believe we are invincibly safe.  And in thinking so, we have strayed from the safety of the tribe.  Wandered off to pick in a sunny patch where gathering is much too easy and it seems for all the world that a time without plenty can never possibly come.

But we have forgotten the snakes.  We have forgotten the winter.