23 July, 2008

deer oh deer

So! I know to many of you (namely all my neighbors), a deer is not a notable occurrence in your backyard. But we are still excited! Especially on a thanklessly rainy, yet not even emergency-quality rainy day. We woke up and felt pointless, even to the point of doing an unnecessary load of laundry (you know what I'm saying: "at least I have LAUNDRY going!"), when we spotted this lovely lady in our yard. "DEER DEER DEER" was all I could say, so Avery came running and we followed her out, across the road to Anne's garden. Needless to say, when Avery saw this photograph she said firmly, "Do not even THINK of cropping out any of that gorgeous foliage!" Thus spake the city child, to whom any leaves are good. Fair enough. It was magical to see her. I mentioned her to the UPS guy and he nodded sagely. "Have you seen her babies? Full of them white spots they keep for a while."

So it was one of those days. We're actually savoring today and tomorrow being somewhat... bored, because life is about to heat up, and I don't mean temperature. The rain today kept us from our pool life, and I managed a good portion of "General Hospital," plus we were desperate enough to go to a mall in Waterbury and buy jeans and tank tops for Avery's school year, plus new white t-shirts for me (the staple of my wardrobe, rain or shine, cold or hot). I was happy to call it a day at 6 p.m. or so and start cooking.

I have alighted upon the perfect salmon. I would like to say I grilled it on our grill, but I ran out of propane and forgot to get another canister, so frankly I heated up a skillet really really hot and did it there. A mixture of Penzeys Fox Point Seasoning (I promise you I'm buying a dozen bottles the next time I'm at the shop, I hope on Sunday), olive oil, lemon juice and garlic salt. Smear it over the flesh side of the salmon fillets and let sit for a half hour or so. Then get your skillet really REALLY hot and cook it on first the skin side for about 8 minutes then turn it to the flesh side just for a bit, to cook the surface. GORGEOUS.

And I have narrowed down the perfect bean salad, from my last three or so attempts. All four beans: little white, little red, kidney and edamame (soy). Then sugar snap peas, sliced little, red onion diced, red pepper sliced thin, and LOTS of corn, NOT cooked first. Seriously, raw. A nice lemony horseradishy dressing, DONE. You'll love it.

And say you planned to make mashed potatoes to go with your salmon but you both felt too full as you cooked? Set them aside for the next day and make:

Perfect Breakfast Home Fries
(serves 4)

4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and boiled
1 tbsp butter
dash each: paprika, garlic salt, dried parsley, oregano, whatever you like!

Cut the cold potatoes into wedges. Heat the butter till smoking and throw in the potatoes. Sprinkle with all the herbs and toss till crispy and browned. Perfect with a fried egg, or Avery would tell you, with a blueberry pancake.


Yesterday we cleaned ourselves up and went to lunch at our neighbors' house: Farmer Rollie and his wife Judy and their sons Rollie, Jr., Chris and Todd, plus their helper farmer Eric, although Todd was missing, haying in the field beyond. First off, the purpose of our visit: to help Judy plan the "English tea" wedding shower she's giving for Rollie, Jr.'s fiance Trish in August. Avery was brought on board as the official consultant: what sort of sandwiches, what sorts of bread, what cakes, what tea, what dishes. We solemnly reported what we knew, but I must report that the finished plans have a decidedly Judyish feel: iced tea! Fruit punch and NO Pimms! With a champagne punch she felt we needed a fruit one without alcohol, fair enough. A Victoria sponge was floated, but met with less enthusiasm than the Eton Mess I have promised to bring. Please, Lord, let there be ready-made meringues in Southbury, Connecticut. I could never make them, I'm sure. Plus having American rather than English strawberries will lessen the quality, but what can we do?

After our consultations, Judy produced a chicken salad with dried cranberries (sorry, anti-fruit and meat John, it was lovely), and a quiche topped with slivered almonds and chopped chives. So light and delicious, with a puff-pastry crust. But I must say: the piece de resistance was... Rollie's home-smoked, home-caught smoked bluefish. The day he came to fix (bless his adorable heart) my driveway, and stopped to have a bite of breakfast, he told me the story of his Fourth of July fishing expedition. "The fellows wanted me to spend the night at the cabin, but I like to sleep in my own bed. I told 'em, no, I'll be along earlier than you'll be ready, and sure enough, I was up at 5, read the paper, drank my coffee, and went along to the cabin before they were even up!" They all went out together in a couple of little boats (I wish I could remember where, but because I didn't know the name it didn't stick with me) and what with all the rain, the fish were jumpin'. "We went out along that reef, you know the one [never mind that of course I didn't], and boy, were those fish alive. We went deep a couple times and then they were bigger. But half the time we fished with just the flies, no worms or anything. You never saw anything like it. A bucket full of bluefish, all we're allowed, before you knew it."

"BLUEFISH?" I nearly screamed. "I travelled all the way up from Tribeca to 72nd Street at least twice a year, just to go to Zabar's and get smoked bluefish, and half the time they'd be OUT," and Rollie just looked at me with smug satisfaction. "We had more than we could smoke," he gloated. "Stop, stop," I said finally.

But at Judy's lunch table, alongside the chicken salad and quiche, was a lovely plate of smoked bluefish! Rollie smiled roguishly. "Thought you'd enjoy that. Did you hear," he said to Judy, "she likes smoked bluefish." I am hoping SINCERELY that the next time he goes fishing he either invites me or gives me some. "Now, I know you're no morning gal," he teased me, so I jumped in. "But I'd get up at sunrise OR BEFORE to catch some bluefish if you'd let me smoke it with you."

He truly thinks I'd like to convert an old refrigerator into a smoker. This presumes that I have an old refrigerator at my disposal (a common occurrence at Rollie's premises), which as it happens I don't, but if I did, I'd be more than happy to convert it to a fish-smoker. Luscious, simply luscious, even with Ritz crackers, when what it cries out for is a crusty baguette and some d'Affinois cheese to go with it, if you want to go all big-city and frou-frou. I LOVE smoked bluefish.

Is there anything nicer than a nap? I feel decadent if I nap on my own bed, but the guest bed, with its quilted barn-red bedspread and fluffy feather pillows, is definitely a possibility. It was very cozy to hear Avery bouncing on the trampoline as I drifted off... waking up in time for our tennis lesson! I am loving our tennis lessons and only wish we had them more often. But we can't afford any more indulgence of our lack of skill than once a week! Val watched ball after ball sail over the chain-link fence. "One, two, three strikes we start push-ups!" The luxury of the greenery, men golfing nearby, the ambience of the elderly-people's hotel tennis court setting, the blue sky slowly settling into cloudy suggestion of a rainstorm... so evocative of American summer.

So we've been living not Thoreau's "lives of quiet desperation," but rather lives of... just plain quiet! Lovely to wake up when we wish and have blueberry pancakes and raspberries for breakfast (actually, I make this but I myself have become devoted to V8 and yogurt, and mostly look at the berries to see if it's time to give them to the groundhog). We visit the library almost every day, and spend lots of time looking up from our reading to see if any livestock is around. Did I tell you about the day I heard honking and looked up to see a wild turkey pursued by a red fox? Crazy.

It's indescribably cozy to know that Anne and Baby Katie are across the road, and we spend a lot of time walking across with dishes of a new bean salad to share, or a chicken dish I know is good, and hearing about Katie's activities. So much nice than so many summers when only Fridays brought the lights across the road. Dave has had to go into the city to teach, but I make sure to light the candles in the windows so he knows we're here, when he pulls up in the driveway across the road.

Tonight John is on his way back to London from Qatar, sleeping, one hopes, that seven-hour journey to bring him back to just a shower at home and another working day. Goodness, he will have stories to tell once he is at Red Gate Farm with us, having done nothing more interesting than rid the laundry room of spider webs on a given Wednesday! Tonight there was a bit of excitement, though, as I was cooking dinner: we heard the roar of a piece of machinery in the back meadow and there was the little family from up the road: Mark on his John Deere whatever machine, his wife Connie who studies bats and trains rescue dogs, and their little 3-year-old girl Taylor. "At last!" I thought. "Someone to take the rest of the experimental bean salad!" so I ran across the lawn and heard all about their trials and tribulations during the blackout (no, they did NOT have a generator, as I assumed they would). Nice neighbors, and looking forward to pasturing the horses out back there when the final fencing bits come through.

Well, you're up to date. The humidity continues, so I have put on the AC cautiously, after turning EVERYTHING else off! Perhaps tomorrow will be a pool day... enjoy this July evening, everyone.


payotbb said...

You know, I feel funny continuously commenting here. But your writing, and the descriptions, are really just so lovely, I can't help it! It draws me in each time. You really should think about a novel, or something...

Shelley said...

I agree Kristen...hearing of all the happenings at Red Gate, your lovely neighbors and the endless wildlife...I see blank pages waiting to be filled.

Kristen In London said...

Well, I agree with you both: I always feel I'm surrounded by stories happening, characters acting out their roles... I love it ALL. Thank you so much for your feedback as it certainly encourages me to keep writing. One thing I am feeling better about is the old "close down your blog" controversy which was so horrible: the person who started it all actually felt I was harming Avery by my writing. I could not see how, as I thought I was really honoring her, and all of us in my little world. Your words, you two, really make me feel so much better, as if I'm really doing what I meant to, and not some evil project whose ills I can only imagine! It's awful how negative comments can get under one's skin, isn't it? thanks to you BOTH.