On my trip to Madison last weekend, I went to the Dane County Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning. It is a four-block affair that rims the capital building. You can enter the market from any of the incoming streets but my friends explained early on that you can only go one way at the market.
As we were there pretty early (6:30 a.m.) and it wasn’t very crowded I didn’t understand the rule about one-way. And it’s not a posted rule either, so that made me want to turn and go the other way very badly.
But after about an hour of very leisurely looking, tasting and shopping, it had gotten very crowded; that’s when I realized the intelligence of the one-way rule. At that point it would have been very awkward (and inefficient) to try to go against the crowd. My friends told me that in another hour, it would be even worse!
It was a great market – all local folks, no re-sellers. I ended up with a purple cauliflower, a chili-cheese bread, a little tiny apple pie, cherry tomatoes that taste out of this world, squeaky cheese curds, another cheese w/ Kalamata olives and some multi-colored potatoes. A real score!
When have you gone against the grain?
Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown
Last week after our t’ai chi class, one intrepid soul brought out her garden bag, to see if anyone would like some… what else?… ZUCCHINI. She was able to shed a couple of them, and proceeded to tell us that August 8 is “sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch” day. I thought perhaps she’d made that up, but a little research shows that, indeed, Tuesday August 8 is National Zucchini Day, known in some circles as Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. This site states that “Desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s time to sneak over, under the cover of darkness, to your neighbor’s porch, and unload some zucchini…”
Those of you with veggie gardens know what I’m talking about. This year I have given zukes to half a dozen people so far; I think I’m caught up with our four plants at the moment, but more are on the way. I thought I was doing well when I discovered, on the ground back by the fence, a real “baseball bat”. I decided to leave it on the neighbor’s back stoop, with a note saying “Just kidding, I’ll come back for it”, because they have their own plants, and I want to keep them as friends.
Here are some fun facts about zucchini for the curious, found at
- Zucchinis are 95 percent water, with just 33 calories in a medium-size squash.
- One zucchini has more potassium than a banana, supplying more than 10 percent of your daily need.
- Summer squash is rich in carotenoids, powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants that are mostly found in its skin. So be sure not to peel your squash. And buy organic to avoid pesticide residues.
I just checked the garden, and found a good sized green torpedo hiding on the ground… next year I’m campaigning for yellow squash – tastes the same in my book, and you can actually see them!
When have you sneaked around after dark, for any reason?
A little while ago, I got an email from Jacque. She needed a “decent, professional photo” for a guest post she had submitted to a therapy blog.
Now I don’t think of myself as a “people photographer” but I thought that I could do an okay job. I have no studio lights or flash, much less a studio, and Jacque didn’t want a studio photo anyway, so we arranged to meet in her backyard.
I consulted with Steve, the photography expert in our baboon community, and he gave me some tips and suggestions, several of which confirmed things I had learned through photography classes. I made a list, using Steve’s tips and my own ideas:
- Shoot in burst mode (in order to capture fleeting expressions)
- Background should be contrasting, dark, and uninteresting
- Jacque should be far enough away from background so that it is out of focus
- Subject does not have to smile – she can look thoughtful, serious, intelligent
- Subject should be in the shade, never the sun
- Bring a stepstool since I am short and Jacque is not and a portrait pointing up at the face is not very flattering
- Focus on the EYES
- Meter the brightest part of the face and then set f/stop and shutter manually so there are not blown out highlights
- In each new area where I shoot, make the first shot be of a gray card so I can easily get the white balance perfect
When I woke up the morning of our “date,” I was thrilled to see that it was an overcast day. Bright sunshine is the enemy of good outdoor portraits and a cloudy day would make it easier to get a good shot.
When I shot the portraits, I made a few mistakes.There were some stray rays of sunshine (that I hadn’t noticed while shooting) on her neck in some of them that wrecked an otherwise good picture. I had her too close to the background on some shots, so there were distracting details behind her. But I ended up with enough good shots for her to choose one with which she was happy. And I enjoyed the process, which mostly had to do with how easygoing and nice Jacque is and a little with the realization that I that I could do this.
A week later, Jacque treated me to lunch at Black Sheep Pizza. We ordered the Oyster Mushroom, Smoked Mozzarella, Rosemary & Garlic Pizza and, man, was that good. Even better was a chance to sit and talk. I feel that I had the better part of the deal: I got to shoot pictures of a beautiful person and then enjoy a meal with her.
When have you done a favor for somebody and felt that you benefited more than the person you helped?
I spent part of Friday looking up the online recipes for a new diet I’ve been trying, and printed out a few of the recipes for my collection. I finally gave up on one recipe, however, when I read that I should “In a small saucepan, whack honey with liquid and simmer till sauce thickens slightly.” I realized after reading the next sentence “Take off heat and whisk in mustard” that the author meant for us to “whisk honey with liquid”, not whack it. (!)
In the next paragraph I was told to “mix sugar with nest and chile powder”, but I’m on to them now, and after consulting the ingredient list, I understand that oddly enough, instead of nest, they meant lime zest.
I want to write to them with my rant – “What is wrong with you people? Have you no editor? Since I’m doing it anyway, how about if you pay me to be your editor?” but there is nowhere to write that would bring satisfaction.
When have you lodged a complaint with the appropriate party, and did you get satisfaction?
As anyone who entertains these days will tell you, the RSVP is a hit-or-miss art. I lucked out on my party last night – everybody who showed up had RSVP’d. There were a few folks that I didn’t hear from at all, but for planning purposes, I assumed they were not coming. But even so, trying to figure out how much food to prepare for a large group can be a little like trying to figure out how many jelly beans are in the jar. Advanced degrees might help, but just a little.
Last night I did pretty well. There is a little potato salad left, a few helpings of the ramen salad and enough of the 7-layer dip for a lunch or two. There are still quite a few goodies left, but to be fair, we started with A LOT (the peanut butter cup cheesecake bites that YA wanted were extremely rich so I cut them into small pieces – a lot of small pieces)!
The one place I didn’t estimate well was the fruit salad. I made a watermelon bowl, which means on top of the fruit salad, I have all the watermelon that I had to remove to make said bowl. And I made a huge amount of fruit salad as well. Even if you freeze the leftovers for smoothies, it’s still quite a bit.
Normally when folks leave one of my gatherings there is the usual exhortation to take a small plate of food home; last night it was watermelon. I sent home at least six containers of watermelon – but I wonder what people think when the last words they hear from their hostess as a begging “take some watermelon… please take some watermelon”!
What’s your favorite leftover?
Today’s post comes to us from Jacque.
I love cherries. A bowl of cherries just sends me over the edge of contentment into pure joy. However, seldom in life have I found life to be consistently as good as the dear old axiomatic bowl of cherries. It is especially not as good as the cherry pie made from cherries ala Door County, Wisconsin (sour pie cherries).
Now I am the pleased owner of a sour pie cherry tree. For many years on holidays like Mother’s Day or birthdays, I have been getting trees and plants for the garden or yard. There are not many physical belongings I want or need. So I ask for trees and plants. They contribute oxygen to the atmosphere and produce for my table. And every time we plant one of those it is less grass to mow and tend.
The cherry tree was a Mother’s Day gift two years ago. This year it produced a bowl of cherries, after producing nary a cherry last summer. And then I produced a cherry pie. It is delicious. There are two pieces left as of the writing of this post. By the time you read this, it will be gone.
Recently, when I passed a major professional certification process, my colleague brought me a red Wiegala bush as a congratulations gesture. The “therapy certification bush” now stands proudly in the front lawn, reminding me that I did this thing. It makes me smile.
What do you like to get as a gift?
I don’t like shrimp. They are bottom feeders. Harvesting them in the wild is destructive for the ocean floor. I don’t like their taste or texture.
Now I find that 150,000,000 shrimp will be raised annually in my home town in southwest Minnesota, in an ecofriendly “shrimp harbor”. They will fatten on local corn and soybeans in a covered, 9 acre factory that will use less water than the old meat packing plant did in its heyday. The harbor won’t smell. It won’t pollute. The shrimp will be free of disease and antibiotics. I hope all the promises made by the company are true. I wonder if we can call such shrimp “sea food” or if we will need to find a different descriptive phrase for it.
I am amazed at the technology behind this, and glad for the positive economic impact it will bring to the town. I still won’t eat shrimp, though. I can’t get past the texture.
How do you like your sea food?