Sunday, July 25, 2010

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

I took a long walk from the convention center in Philadelphia to my friend Andrew's place near Fishtown. My impression of Philly was a lot of vacant lots, depressed, hot, and big weird weeds that I could not identify. Philly is huge so this walk wasn't enough to judge the whole place, but this is what we do...see a little and generalize. Philly looks to me like Detroit + LA, 3 cities I don't know well.

Bartram's garden was a little run down too, even though the web claimed it was a hidden gem of philly. It was in a dumpy neighborhood. I ate Cornus mas for the first time. Sour, except for the ones over-ripening and attracting ants on the ground. Those were hot -- temperature -- and sweetish. I never see that plant in Boston, although I've heard of it, probably at the arboretum (philly's arboretum I passed on. They charge $15 to get in).

I didn't realize until I had arrived at bartram's garden that this was the very same bartram of botanical illustrations that I had looked into before when I was considering using public domain old botanical images for my book, which never happened because it was really hard to find old drawings of the plants I wanted to include, which was frustrating because I figure people must have have drawn them all many times over the years.

The other great find for me at bartram's garden was patience dock, according to Sam Thayer the best of all the docks. I found it in the weed/compost pile and it was fantastic. This plus a massive amount of purslane that they let me take made for a nice dinner at Andrew's parent's house.

After the few days in philly, I returned to cambridge for a few hours, enough time to finish off Crime and Punishment (one sentence summary: 23-year old melancholic intellectual stews over the idea of offing some old pawn-broker lady, finally does it, then stews over confessing, finally confesses, then goes to Siberia for 8 years of hard labor) and forage some blackberries for my 4 day trip to Colorado.

Here in colorado, the berries of choice for foraging right now are raspberries and mountain gooseberries. While the rest of the fellas went after trout yesterday, I went after lamb's quarters and nasturiums etc. for a salad. I dug a burdock root, mainly to try to stop everyone from asking "can you really get enough from just greens?" but it is mid-summer and the thing was hard as a stick, so I tossed it. There is lots of salsify around here, but it's not the season for those roots either, so my trusty lamb's quarters has kept me going. There is also tons of cow parsnip so even though it is not spring, I grabbed some of that for a soup. A long walk last night before our drinking fest led me up a mountain rd, several deer sightings (including a baby that hopped away just like Bambi...the Disney animators nailed that one) and a coyote (or some other hungry skinny ragged looking animal) sighting.

Since finishing off Crime and Punishment, I haven't selected another read yet, so I've been pounding through this month's Harper's. Here's a funny snippet from an article about this guy who made a really terrible movie a few years back, called The Room, which has become a minor cult hit. The director and writer and star, Tommy Wiseau, states that his goal, which he is fairly certain he will reach, is for 90% of Americans to see the movie. The reporter points out that not every American has even seen Snow White. At that point...

T. Wiseau: I'm not concerned with other movies. I'm concerned only about The Room at this time. If that's your analogy, that's fine with me. But yes, absolutely, we will eventually beat Snow White.

The reporter: You realize how ridiculous that sounds.

Wiseau: No, it's not at all.

That section made me laugh out loud. It was preceeded by a quote from critic Robert Hughes which I also enjoyed: "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize." I don't agree with that. In fact, I bet a lot of lesser artists (i.e. most of us) who experience doubt would turn to such a quote as a pat on the back (oh, you have doubts about your work, this means you have great artistry inside), and I bet that's why the quote is well-known.

Addendum: on the way to the airport, actually heard the old John Denver song Rocky Mountain High, whcih goes on for a while, but is still great. One never hears that song on the east coast nowadays.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The black nightshade post

I was just out for a stroll to keep the blood flowing nicely through me veins - I had some varicose veins removed the other day so I'm all bandaged up and it is good to walk a lot. Anyhow, while exploring some parts of the MGH campus that I hadn't gone to yet, I walked by a black nightshade plant with black berries fully ripe and ready to go. Complete trust in the authoritative Sam Thayer on the plant and I popped them right in, and he is correct, they are great, and they taste just like ground cherries. I've been excited to write this post for a long time as I've been eyeing the plants come to maturity this whole summer. A google search on something like "black nightshade poisoning" is a fun way to waste some time on the web. It's amazing what people will say on a topic they have no knowledge of.

Weekend on the cape, mom and I enjoyed a great fully foraged salad.

I am considering doing a post on the vein surgery, but that might gross out my 20 readers, so, we'll see.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In the thick of milkweed pods

It's hot out there. Inside the gallery a photo shoot is happening right now, we are snapping some portraits [a little 4th grade school style..a slight body turn, a slight head tilt]. Annie just added paint brushes into the mix, I am over here trying to keep things consistent, but I'm blogging so my voice for that is not predominant and things are getting more and more out of control. I will soon give up and go over there with my ball jar full of sumac-ade and use that as my prop. Since everything is early this year, the sumac is already ready and delicious. The ball jar method: put a staghorn of sumac into a large ball far, fill with cold water, let sit for a day or so in the refrigerator. I sweetened mine with a touch of agave syrup.

Had a brief NYC trip last friday for Alex's b-day party. Walking around that day, the 4th floor of the Leica gallery building was vacant which made for some fun snooping and photography (I'd buy a Leica if I had any inkling whatsoever what makes a good camera good). Here's a nice shot of the space.

Larry David sighting that day. He was filming, probably Curb by the look of it. He was hailing a cab and then yelling at some woman who nabbed it from him. "..This is anarchy!" It was great.

As for the party itself, Ingo Lou got things crazy from the moment we decided we needed some extra wine. After all, who drops the "cash only" at the same time they drop the 1400 dollar bill? Things proceeded downward from there, ending with a dumpstered baguette fight, everyone including myself versus me. Forehead bread scar.

Speaking of dumpstered, here's the fruit salad that got me through last week. Since the last few days have been HOT, I've kept clear of the dumpsters. But not the milkweed patches. E. Gibbons and S. Thayer disagree wildly on milkweed preparation and while I truly dig all of Thayer's writings, I'm siding with Gibbons on this one: boil the heck out of them. It could just be a personal thing, like daylilies, and me and Gibbons taste the bitter principle in there. Last night was a good prep: after two five minute boils, into an Asian stirfry with plenty of field garlic (thanks arboretum) and ginger (thanks somewhere far away).

Cherries from Putnam street. Made jam with them, used old over-jellied crab apple jam from last year to sweeten it. Hopefully that wasn't a terrible thing to do.