04 August, 2009

of kittens, the old-fashioned life, and the ultimate scallops

Let's see, how do we recover from saying goodbye to Rosemary (sadly afflicted with the Medieval Curse of Red Gate Farm: truly virulent poison ivy, poor lady)? Well, the easiest way is for clever Avery to research local animal shelters who would, believe it or not, like to find foster families for homeless kittens? Yes, it's true: you should look in your community for such an opportunity: you agree to take homeless kittens home with you for just a short time, to help socialize them, make them cozy and affectionate and dependent on human interaction, so that they're more appealing for the ultimate adoptive families who will find them at the shelter when you take them back (WHEN, not IF, John points out severely, when he's not worshipping Nemo, the little fellow in this photo with Avery).

So Avery tracked down the Danbury Animal Wefare Society in not Danbury but nearby Bethel, Connecticut, where every weekday from 6-8, weekends 2-4 you can go apply to foster a kitten, or if you're us, three kittens. And about an hour later, we found ourselves hosting Amelia, Little Dorrit and Nemo, the last named, Avery explains, from "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," not the silly animated film "Finding Nemo," since the latter is a fish and the former is a tuxedoed sea captain. As you can see, Nemo is nicely tuxedoed. And friendly, and they are madly running through the house, leaping on computer cords ("No, Nemo!"), spilling people's water glasses ("No, Amelia!") and reaching for the shrimp on the dining table ("No, Little Dorrit!").

Furry, friendly, purring madly most of the time, scattering cat litter all over the guest bathroom where we'd tried to sequester them while they got used to their new environment. That took about twenty minutes. The craziest moment? When Amelia, in her newly arrived anxiety, decided that the best defense was TO TAKE APART the dryer vent in the laundry room and... wiggle herself all the way through it, through several unreachable U-bends, to the near end where the vent ends on the outside wall of the house. Can I just tell you how great was our fear? The only solution was to unscrew the vent from the outside wall, place the kitty carrier up against it, and then... turn on the dryer. Covered with lint, she emerged in very short order, unscathed! Deep breath, we all relaxed again.

So we spend a lot of time tracking them down under beds, chests of drawers, desks, to draw them out and play with them, and then Shelley arrived this morning en route to a lunch date, bringing springy cat toys for us to fling at them which they can then plant into their water dishes. Shelley also brought, for Avery, the most sublime and tempting pile of "Family Circle" magazines from 1952, which has put Avery into a tizzy of longing for the fashions of a half-century ago, as well as the foodstuffs: baby formula for Johnny which translates into baby food for Johnny and finally a fine photo of strapping 12-year-old Johnny, in a bowtie and glasses to match his father's! "Did people really DRESS their children this way?" she crowed. Then there are the ads for canned spaghetti which look like tapeworms, and the baby bottles where we're assured "the nipple makes the niceness!" Dear Shelley, to know Avery well enough to bring these adorable magazines.

Which reminds me, I'm getting very excited about my upcoming publication of my first food writing piece, in a magazine called "Vintage," to come out in September. What bravery does it require for this lovely editor, Ivy Sherman, to start up a print magazine in the current economic climate? Never mind, I'm thrilled to have my piece appear, all about my grandmother's recipe file, adapted from a blog post I published several months ago. I'm trying to gear up for working on a piece I want to submit to a writing competition in London next month, although I must say with the distractions of life at Red Gate Farm it's difficult. Life in London doesn't even seem real these days, when I'm wholly absorbed in enjoying our friends and family, housekeeping and cooking. Which means ridiculous things like savoring a dinner by cleaning out the fridge of all the luscious leftovers from days past: homemade pizza with chicken and ginger sausage, Olimpia's incomparable meatballs on the crunchy crusts!

And today I adored my visit to the local Southbury Farmer's Market which is like an episode from Martha Stewart Living, especially the Suzi's Seafood stall, everyone dressed in impeccable whites and providing me with the incomparable raw materials for QUITE the best way you will EVER eat scallops, I promise you.

Skewered Grilled Scallops with Bacon and Basil
(serves 6 as a main course)

24 large scallops
12 strips bacon, cut in half to make 24
24 large basil leaves
fresh ground black pepper
6 skewers (the kind made from rosemary stems, if you're lucky to have them as a Christmas gift from your mother-in-law, Rosemary)

This couldn't be simpler. Wrap each scallop first in a basil leaf, then in a strip of bacon, and string them on the skewers, four per skewer. Grill on one side at the highest heat (450-ish) for four minutes, then for the second four minutes, turn frequently so the bacon cooks well, then blast it for 30 seconds with the grill lid shut at the very end.

PERFECTION! The bacon is crisp and salty, the scallops tender, soft and creamy, the basil a refreshing zip of green beauty.


We've developed a very good exercise routine the last few days: an hour of tennis in the morning while Avery swims, then we, red-faced and completely sweaty and exhausted, take a quick dip and a few swift laps, then home for lunch. Tomorrow, I swear... the gutters. Really. Then late afternoon, Avery goes riding in the dusty sunshine, we watch in a combination of pride and extreme boredom (the only interesting bits are the jumping bits, and when Avery and the instructor lock horns over the difference between English and American terminology and techniques!), and another tennis game and dip in the pool!

And the piano! I've been slaving through "Clair de Lune," and my rather pathetic but entertaining book, "It's Easy to Play Chopin!", plus the theme song to "Band of Brothers," and the Japanese tune "A River Flows Through You," plus the music from the 2006 movie "Pride and Prejudice." Such fun, no matter how lame I am.

Lastly, I offer you the following slaw with a dressing whose star ingredient was a gift from my friend Renee, which I looked upon with some skepticism, but can I tell you, how delicious maple vinegar is? Get some, do, and make this slaw to go with the Ultimate Scallops, and thank me later.

Savoy and Red Cabbage Slaw with Jicama
(serves at least 6)

1 large head Savoy cabbage (perhaps 4 cups?), shredded
1/2 head red cabbage (perhaps 4 cups?), shredded
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup matchsticked jicama


1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup maple vinegar
juice 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp celery salt
loads fresh ground pepper

Simply toss the vegetables, then dress with the dressing you've shaken up in a jar with a tight lid. Leave for at least an hour to let slaw mellow, but overnight is even nicer. Crunchy, spicy, with a mellowness and depth from the maple vinegar that is the perfect foil for the refreshing lemon. Perfect for anything rich and lovely as a main course, or as lunch after a tennis game.


Right, I must get rid of these lovely kittens before they sever the connection between my camera and my computer, or destroy all the lovely 1950s fashion drawings Avery's produced since her inspirational afternoon with her magazines (thanks, Shelley!)... after all, tomorrow will bring more sweat, kittens and... maybe those gutters, finally.


Foxi Rosie said...

Please reassure Avery that on my next visit to London I shall gift her the knitted swimsuit; high fashion in the 1950's, in part because it was multi-functional. You retreated from the water and the crotch a la derriere, was able to trawl the sand for fossils or any other discarded objects by the day trippers; how inventive.

Your blog has kept me engaged on my dark days and the picture you have shared with us all has been quite charming. Thank you Kristen, and yes please at some point, it would be wonderful to see you soon.

Kristen In London said...

Oh, Rosie, I cannot imagine this swimsuit you describe, we are all completely mystified! Tell more. I don't like your having dark days, but I know they can be inevitable, and if my yarn-spinning helps, I'm so happy. See you soon, we hope!