Category Archives: food and cooking

Feasting all over.

We are celebrating one of our parish feast days, and I was blessed to be at Vigil tonight. The hymns and readings for the feast are the same every year, but the arrangements and singers and various aspects change, so that every service is both comforting in its familiar traditions and beautifully unique.

At a festal vigil the Five Loaves are blessed and broken for us to eat, to sustain us during what can be a long service; and we receive anointing with holy oil as another way to participate bodily. The Vigil service includes parts of the Vespers and Matins services and is the first part of the feast, which concludes in the morning.

The caterpillars on my milkweed plants are partaking of a different sort of food.  They have been traveling among all the different species of Asclepias, including the new plants just set out. Though there are fewer of them now, it’s good to see their survival instincts operating.

The day that I set off for Pippin’s place last week, I received a quantity of quinces by way of a friend of a friend, which anonymous friend drove several miles from another town to drop them off at church, so that I could pick them up on my way north. They sat in the back of my car for those several days, and this week I processed them. They turned out to be very wormy, but they were so big and numerous that after quite a lot of trimming and slicing, I ended up with a few quarts. I poached them with lemon, sugar and a cinnamon stick. I froze most of them but have been enjoying one quart right away.


In the past I have mostly baked them, and that was much easier. I love quince and am sad that so few people have trees anymore. I have put out queries some years to search out whether anyone knows of unwanted quinces I could take; this batch came to me completely out of the blue, unasked for.

Divine Liturgy for the feast will be in the morning, the celebration of the Eucharist. That will make it feel like Sunday, but it’s Saturday…. and besides feasting, I’ll be gardening — and resting, because I’ve been running around a lot!

I leave you with one of the readings from this evening’s service, which refers to a hearty feast of wisdom:

PROVERBS 9:1-11

Wisdom has built her house,
she has hewn out her seven pillars,
she has slaughtered her meat, she has mixed her wine,
she has also furnished her table.
She has sent out her maidens,
she cries out from the highest places of the city,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,
“Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Forsake foolishness and live,
and go in the way of understanding.
He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself,
and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you;
give instruction to a wise man,
and he will be still wiser;
teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For by me your days will be multiplied,
and years of life will be added to you.”

Plums and logs and good intentions.

Originally I’d wanted to use my own and other local plums to make this cobbler recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and I wanted to take it to a party that mutual friends hosted, for my friend David’s name day a couple of months ago. Time did not permit, so I thought for at least a minute that night about doing it for his birthday instead, which I knew wasn’t too far off. But so many thoughts like that, representing good intentions, get lost forever in the chaotic ocean of my mind. And I didn’t know his exact birthday.

Last week when David agreed to stack my firewood, the idea of baking him something by way of a thank-you gift did not even occur to me. I was not operating in my preferred realm of the kitchen and the hearth united, but was thinking of a dozen householder tasks needing done, the sort I can’t confidently do anymore. So when David arrived, I had a couple more jobs for him before he could even start the real work.

The day before the wood-stacking event, I saw a picture on Elizabeth’s blog that puzzled me; it seemed to be a dessert. I asked her about it in a comment, and she responded right away telling me that it was a plum cake that she has made before. That formed a link in my mind to the remainder of a large package of plums from Costco sitting on my kitchen counter. I saw her reply the next morning and tracked the recipe down to the New York Times. And I realized that I had the exact number of plums I needed to make the cake. Only then did it occur to me that I could give it to David; he wasn’t coming until the late afternoon, so I had time to bake it.

To the recipe as given I added some sliced almonds and a little almond extract, and used 3/4 cup of sugar. Elizabeth told me she uses only 1/2 cup. Mine was a 10-inch springform pan and the recipe called for 9-inch; I think the resulting shallowness made the cake want to fall apart when I was transferring it to a plate.

David came, he worked and worked, and was dripping with sweat by the time the job was done. Because of the way that my utility yard is crowded right now, he had to make two tallish stacks.

He took the cake home, after telling me that it was his birthday!
Many Years, David! And many logs!

The Zephyr brought joys.

Liam’s papercrafting

While my son “Soldier” was away for a few weeks, his wife whom I call Joy brought all four children to California to see the grandparents. They came by train, the California Zephyr line, which gave me an excuse to tell them stories about my yearly summer train trips as a child to see my grandmother. The images that my mind retains through the decades related to those journeys are vivid. Many railway experiences of the current Amtrak era are worlds apart from what I knew, but I’m happy that the children had a new adventure, and even slept overnight on the train, which I never did.

Their lively group stayed with me five nights, and visited Joy’s family nearby as well. We were so busy all those days, I barely remembered to take any pictures, much less write about our fun.

braiding seagrass

Liam’s side of our Bananagrams game, using all his tiles.

We went to church, to the beach, to the cemetery — bringing along yarrow, zinnias, snapdragons and sunflowers for the children to lay on their grandpa’s grave. They are too young to remember him, so when we got home I showed them a photo slide show on the computer.

We took walks along the creek and to the neighborhood school’s playground. I read from Eleanor Farjeon’s The Little Bookroom  as I had read to their cousins last month, and laughed hilariously over “The King’s Daughter Who Cried for the Moon.”

The children combed my garden to find everything I would confirm as edible. They gathered hundreds of manzanita berries from under that little tree and chewed on them, spitting out the several rock-hard seeds in each. The strawberry tree fruits are ripening now, but the tree has grown so tall that they needed a ladder and a broom to knock them down.

These children are, as we say, “good eaters.” No matter what strange concoction Grandma has made, they want to try it — even my ultra-spicy pudding that I make with the pulp left over from making ginger broth. When oatmeal or buckwheat porridge was on the breakfast menu, they loved having a smorgasbord of toppings, everything from peanut butter and milk to chopped dried apricots and this seed mix.

I was given a dozen homegrown peaches recently and I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen to make a cobbler, half of which we ate for dessert one night, and the remainder next morning for the third course of our breakfast, after grapefruit and scrambled eggs.

It was delectable. Where the recipe called for vanilla or almond extract I used almond. I think if I make it again I will increase the amount of fruit, and use a little less cream or butter in the scone topping, with confidence of still being able to call it Plenty Rich. And I would like to try it with plums — or any fruit!

My dear people are headed back home to Colorado now, and the cobbler is gone…. The taste of scones and peaches is already fading, but Joy and her young joys made a big deposit of sweetness in my heart, to flavor many days to come.

Shopping, cooking, and singing.

This week I’ve been blessed to have several days when I was able to stay home all day. I have a big sorting-and-organizing project upstairs, figuring out how to use my new closets and cabinets, and deciding what things to throw out because I begrudge them the space. But I didn’t end up spending much time on that.

One day I was on the prosphora baking team at church…

… and since that got me out of the house in the morning, I just kept going and did a lot of grocery shopping in the afternoon, five stores. First I went to the Thai market, where it’s fun to see what exotic snacks and goodies they have in stock. Often it’s a mochi type of treat that I try out, and this time I found these, chewy with a black sesame paste filling.

I enjoyed them very much, but the ingredients label made me resolve to make my own mochi again, at home. I already have mochi flour (mochiko) that I also buy at the Thai market. My friend Elsie brought me a mochi cookbook from Hawaii one time and I have been wanting to try out some more recipes from it again.

I bought Asian yams, green onions, and several pounds of ginger root at that market. It was time to make a big batch of ginger broth.

As I drove around to the other less interesting stores I listened to music in the car. Gordon Bok was singing one of his sailor songs, and though I am not a sailor I love to hear him sing about anything, his voice is so rich; it is a feast for my ears. Here he is in a sample I found: Sailor’s Prayer by Gordon Bok

It was 90 degrees that afternoon when I brought home my bags of groceries, and it would be hotter still the next day, when I had to wait at least until the evening to cook, so that the heat could go out the windows when we open them at sundown. It was supposed to be cooler the following day. I did start my ginger broth and roast a couple of pans of onions that evening — oh, and two pans of Brussels sprouts.

The next day, which was this morning, I thought I would just bottle up the broth and put it in the freezer, and get on with my sorting project. But one thing led to another…. I needed to wash the big pots and my breakfast dishes, of course. The cooked ginger went into the food processor, because I can’t bear to throw it out, but always use it to make puddings or breads. I decided to make bread with my ginger paste right then, so I found a recipe for zucchini bread to work from, and substituted ginger for zucchini.

The roofers were working in the morning, and they finished by early afternoon. It is such a weight off my mind to have a new roof, my whole body felt lighter and ready for more work. The bread went into the oven and I washed more dishes, and Aaron came to work on my garage project. I was happy to send him home with a loaf of bread, because I’m realizing that I like cooking too much for one person. When I start cooking I just do not want to stop.

The weather really cooled off today, so I am hopeful that my sweet peas will grow longer stems again for a week or two before they expire from heat. I had to hunt down shorter vases and bottles to put them in the last few days. This one color is my favorite this year, and I was able to make a whole little bouquet of them, which will be my closing image here, as I’ve cleaned up the kitchen for the last time and am going up to bed. Good night!