Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mexican Oilcloth

¡Viva Mexico!

Four years ago, when I moved into this house, Millett and Gene, who own Flashback, a vintage department store conveniently located a stone's throw from my front door, practically gifted me with a trio of red vinyl upholstered chairs, holdovers from some mid-century industrial setting. When I upgraded to a matching quartet of yellow Heywood-Wakefield classroom chairs (identical, not-so-coincidentally, to kitchen chairs my friends Melissa and James own), I retired the red chairs to the garage.

Last summer, the patio finally happened, and the chairs came out of hiding.

I'm no upholsterer, but I harbored a long-term fantasy about recovering the vinyl, and, last fall I took the plunge -- with one chair. The other two languished for another nine months, until last weekend, when I ferreted out my staple gun from the garage, cleaned off the semi-permanent cobwebs that cling to the legs of every stick of furniture stored outdoors, and, while watching Alfred Hitchcock put Tippi Hedren through her paces in Marnie during a day-long AH marathon on Turner Classic Movies (hey, it was 100 degrees outside), I finished one more chair.

What happened to the final chair? I got the seat and the back unscrewed from the metal frame, and carefully stapled oilcloth to the chair seat, then realized I didn't have enough oilcloth to finish the project.

¡Qué un lío! Quizá el año próximo...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Clarksdale's Farmers Market Is Now Open!

Check out this photo of the fields at Chicken Scratch Farm in Alligator, MS. If you're down in the Delta this summer, you can sample their wares at the Clarksdale Farmers Market, held on Saturdays in the 200 block of Delta Avenue. On sale now: pecks of purple hull peas, Black Beauty eggplants, tomatoes, and yellow squash grown by the crew at Chicken Scratch Farm, as well as farmers and community gardeners in Marks, Friars Point and Moon Lake.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

$5K for the Memphis Farmers Market

Go here, place your vote, and get the Memphis Farmers Market to the top of the list. Or, if the Agricenter is your spot, give them a vote.

The market with the most votes wins $5,000 from Care2 and Local Harvest, and right now, the Flint Farmers Market in Flint, Michigan is at the top of the list.

And be sure to head down to MFM this Saturday -- Mac Edwards will be giving some tips on salsa making. Meanwhile, on Sunday night, the MFM Dinner Tour stops into Tsunami. Thirty percent of the evening's proceeds go to MFM, so it's a veritable guilt-free meal!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What to do for dessert...

...when it is sweltering hot outside? We recently turned to the magic that is popsicles for last week's OSOME dinner. We used local peaches, nectarines, cucumbers, and blueberries to create the flavors. It's likely that we will never buy popsicles again due to the fact that now they all seem to taste like the cardboard boxes that hold them. Check out the recipe HERE.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Never Said I Was A Pioneer

Given a choice, I'll always gravitate towards comfortable living. Sure, I'll go camping, or happily spend several hours working outdoors. If push came to shove, I think I could do without central air conditioning, if I've got a cold drink and a fan to keep the circulation going. But if you want to find my Achilles heel, strip my 98-year old home of its electricity, crank the heat up into the upper 90s, and disconnect me from the world for a few days.

Friday afternoon, a storm hit our town, knocking down trees, felling power lines, and setting the tornado sirens to full-volume wail. Many OSOME contributors lost their electricity. A live wire was knocked loose on my street, and I was 100 percent unprepared -- my kitchen sink was still filled with dirty dishes from Thursday's OSOME meal, and the washing machine was halted mid-cycle, while loaded with cloth napkins and sheets and towels from the house guests I had earlier in the week. Although I'm the daughter of an airplane pilot who lived by the meteorologist's word, I'd missed the last three days of weather forecasts, and, when Elvis Redux blew in, I was in my car on Union Ave. trying to run errands. I came home, assessed the situation, and initially decided to keep the windows closed and the refrigerator full, with hopes that I'd get back onto the grid within a few hours.

By Saturday afternoon, I decided to open the 4 windows that aren't painted shut and eat the OSOME leftovers I'd set aside for my mama, who was due in on a plane later that night. I downed a half-pint of Marshall's zingy borscht, sampled a bowl of Tara's radish salsa, and finished the last few spoonfuls of aioli I'd whipped up two days earlier. Tara came by and picked up the steaks, milk, butter, cheese and Gulf Coast shrimp that were defrosting in my fridge. I crammed my Downing Hollow CSA -- bag and all -- into an ice-filled cooler, and everything else went into the garbage. I ran to the airport, and then Cassius, my mama and I settled into Red Roof Inn for the night.

Sunday, we optimistically checked out of the motel room and went to Cafe 1912 for brunch. At 7PM we went to a movie, then came home to a hot house and tried to go to sleep, because I had Sewing School to teach at Grace-St. Luke's this week.

After camp on Monday, we downed ice coffees and sandwiches from Cafe Republic. Drove home holding our collective breath, then let out disappointed sighs when we realized it was still hot, hot, hot, and decamped to Scott and Kerri's for a brief respite. Another storm blew through, and I raced home to open the windows and get the cool air inside.

Today, with Justin in tow, I went into Fino's Italian Grocery for an Aquisto sandwich on a baguette. Came home and it was still hot. I know I'm not the only Memphian dealing with this -- there were nearly 200,000 of us at first count -- but geez, the monotony of it is stressing me out. As I've been saying, If I wanted to deal with the impending threat of natural disasters,coupled with the ineptitude of an ineffectual bureaucracy, I'd have moved to New Orleans eons ago.

Somehow, I weathered (pun intended) 14 days without power in 2003, when a progressive derecho called Hurricane Elvis took a similar route through town. That time around, I made do by grilling with friends, lingering at the ice machines strategically located across the bridge in West Memphis, Ark., and drinking like a fish.

This time is different.

Five days without power, and, as certain friends can attest, I've been reduced to a sniveling mess. Although the Memphis Light, Gas & Water trucks zip by every few hours now, the power lines are still dangling across my sidewalk, and my refrigerator is still bare, its freezer door hanging forlornly open so that the fresh box of baking soda can do its work. What was once a magical cold cabinet chock full of beer, cheese, and other tasty treats is now a sterile. empty box. Sure, my pantry is heavily laden, but who -- other than Justin -- wants to cook in stifling temps?

I am trying to count my blessings.

In the grand scheme of things, I got off lightly: I have a kitchen that was uncrushed by tree limbs. I was fortunate that I had food to jettison, and food I was able to save, even though Tara's power went out a day after mine. I have friends who have offered shelter, and friends who have shared their food. I had to junk most of last week's CSA, but I was able to save a few beets and green onions, which I'll add to a salad as soon as I can make a meal at home without sweating.

When MLGW powers me back up, I'll simply turn on the washing machine, and take a few grocery expeditions to replenish the fridge shelves. I'm grateful that I don't have to yoke up a team of oxen and traverse a mountain range to do so, or make like the characters in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," and trek through the aftermath of WWIII. To paraphrase Scarlett O'Hara, "As God is my witness, I'll never take electricity for granted again."

And, please note: If you're planning to come to this week's OSOME dinner, it will be held at Lorette and Alex Greene's house, which is in the U of M area. Call me for the address. It's gonna be a great night -- Lorette plans to set up dinner tables in the fields out back, where her team of urbagrarians have been planting tomatoes, lettuces, squashes, and herbs. Next week, we should be back in my backyard.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another Field Trip: Nesbit, Here We Come!

Kerri mentioned this in passing last night -- and today, I saw this article in the Commercial Appeal...

It's finally blueberry season!

The 15,000 or so blueberry plants at Nesbit Blueberry Plantation are ready to be harvested, so who's ready to go down to Mississippi? The farm is open 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. Tues.-Sat. until August 1.

U-pick blueberries are $11 per pound.

Maybe next Saturday?

Who's in?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

OSOME Field Trips

So, earlier this week, I got a call from Sue, who had a brilliant idea:

Field Trips.

Up first, the Magevney House Kitchen Garden Tour, which is this Saturday, June 11.

Sue's words: "Once a year, people! Don't miss this! They are keeping this a big secret for some reason--I couldn't find anything about the hours. Called the number on the Pink Palace website and got the program director's voice mail. Finally, I called garden designer Suzy Askew, who heads up the volunteers, and left her a message. She called back right away and said it was from 9-12 on Saturday, June 11 only. And, she said it was fine to take photos. I emailed Slow Food Memphis to ask them to send this info to their email subscribers. Maybe it will help to get the word out. I've seen it once and I can't recommend it enough if you are interested in growing food in Memphis or in Memphis' early history. These dedicated volunteers have spent years recreating an authentic garden, using the same varieties that would have been grown in the 1830's in this area."

Go here for a fantastic Edible Memphis article about the Magevney House garden, which features 19th century garden varieties of asparagus, kale, peas, potatoes, St. John's Wort, onions, collards, sesame, potatoes, lettuce, eggplant, rosehips, and more, plus 17 varieties of antique fruit trees.

Sue plans to get to the garden at 9 a.m. Saturday and stay for 2 hours, if anyone would like to carpool. I'm also going to aim for 9 a.m., but can't stay there that long. She says there is a shady arbor to sit in and peruse the garden, and she recommends packing your own drink.

Second Field Trip: Gardens Oy Vey in Arlington, TN.

From Sue: "Nursery and three acres of woodland paradise on what was once a kudzu-covered gulley. They carry lots of native plants and the Southern Shield fern, which is one of the best ferns to grow in the South according to Felder Rushing. They are open on Fri., Sat., and Sun. through June or we could make an appointment. Hopefully, Diane would be there to chat with. She is an absolute gardening guru. They are way out in Arlington. Here's a link to Diane and Wolfgang's article about organic lawn care."

Third Field Trip: UT Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden Show in Jackson, TN.
Thursday, July 9, 10:00 a.m. - 7 p.m. $5.00 admission.

Sue: "This is a must-do and an all-day event. We could carpool and leave at 8:30. Lots of unusual stuff for sale from volunteers. Workshops all day long. Plantings all over the place, whimsical and eye-popping displays. Who knew there were such creative people in Jackson! They sell food, but we went into downtown Jackson and ate at an old restaurant there. Also good to take snacks to keep the brain fueled since they are sharing LOTS of info and handouts. I learned tons (especially the benefits of organic Garden-Tone fertilizer). (Also, the nurseries in Jackson are worth a visit sometime. Some of the Jackson people and presenters even write for Fine Gardening!!!)"

Go here to see Sue's photos from last year.

Family And Friends, Close To Home And Far Away

Here's one more glance at last week's meal -- a plateful of early June veggies! Dinner last week was just spectacular. Six days later, and I am still basking in the warmth that comes from hanging out with friends, old, new, tight and loose-knit. I love my family, but don't get to see any of them often enough -- hence my "Memphis family." And aren't we a creative bunch? I think there were two teachers, four writers, five musicians, and four or five artists (with plenty of cross-pollination) at our last OSOME meal.

I also love that the rhubarb in Amy's wonderful tart was grown by her sister in Seattle, and mailed cross-country. And that my friend Lorette -- with plenty of help from Sue, Lori Aime, Tara, Libby, et al -- is growing most of the veggies I'm eating this summer. And that recipes come with stories attached, family lore that is as integral as the teaspoons of herbs and a warm oven.

Since last Thursday, I've had two bands crash land at the Landis Street house -- Saturday night, old friends the Goodnight Loving spent the night along with their dog Jerry (he and Cassius made fast friends).

And Tuesday, the New Zealand group Bachelorette, who played at Minglewood Hall with Bonnie Prince Billy, stayed over. A Portlander, an Australian, and three NZers in this tiny house -- we were connected through a former Memphian who works for Drag City, but, as it so often turns out, we discovered we had about 10 random friends in common, connecting us from halfway around the world. It's always so wonderful to discover friends in faraway places -- and good to know that, should I ever make it to NZ, I'll have plenty of free places to stay! Anyways, the NZers kept cracking me up, because they pronounced "awesome" as "osome." I took 'em to Dejavu for a Creole soul food lunch, and when they all declared the food as "osome," I had to laugh and explain that while former Louisianan Gary Williams is my favorite chef in town, they'd have to stick around 'til Thursday to get a truly OSOME meal.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Last week was magical

It just keeps getting better. We had two kinds of fresh salads, double-dutch mac n' cheese, zucchini-orzo pasta, some wonderful empanadas with ricotta and radish, green beans, peach ice cream, and The Wife's strawberry-rhubarb pie. It is only Monday and I'm already looking forward to Thursday night.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Don't Forget: OSOME Move

We're moving -- days, that is. As of this week -- and for the rest of the summer -- OSOME will be held on Thursday nights at 7PM. See you on the 4th!