Every year we take one day at the beach by Granny's & do a little clamming. It always surprises me, what with the kids' "distinguishing palates," as they say in GastroKids, that they are willing to eat these funny animals with long-necks that squirt out sea water. There was a beautiful couple on the rocks, mid-life & in love, who saw us racing against the digging shell-fish in the sand. It's always disappointing to accidentally crack the shells with our spoons, so they shared with us the correct way to do it:
*Dig in the water. Watch for bubbles, then just shuffle your spoon back & forth above that spot. The water will pull away the hard sand fast, & then you can just reach down & grab the clam.
*Put them into a bag with holes. We already like to use mesh produce nets that come with potatoes & limes for finding sea shells. Those are perfect, & they're free. Hang them in the sea for three days & the clams will clean themselves out.
*I happen to think that is all just so clever.
Is it Number #30? I don't know. Seems right. Regardless, we've been eating this 5 different ways, so that should make up for the difference. Strawberries, sliced. Pears, shredded. Apples, chopped. Plums, peaches. I'm hoping Percy, our persimmon-stealing squirrel has left us some fruit at home. Today it was nectarines & blueberries. I call it clafouti, but the boys keep reminding me that it's so not. I just keep offering it up, announcing, "Clafouti!" So I can see them clamber to the picnic tables to remind me with much concern that it is "not a clafouti, a clafouti is slippy & soft. It's a Fruit Bake." "Yeah a fruit bake." "It's a fute bake, mom!" I love seeing them correct me in birth order.
Often times they just take over the making of this dish, which has resulted in an occasional sweet & chewy granola bottom & a one-time hard-as-rocks biscuit-style topping. But I like to let them do their thing. It's a great kid recipe.
So our Clafouti/Fruit Bake is simply a buttered dish with 2 cups of fruit on the bottom, drizzled with maple syrup & cinnamon. It's topped with 1 cup of pancake batter (Pamela's makes really amazing gf pancake mix) & a generous toss of organic brown sugar crystals & baked at 350' for 15 minutes. I'm inclined to forgo the sugar, but they are right. It's way better that way.
I think it all started with the latest issue of Jamie, where I realized for the umpteenth time that while his super-fast recipes, creamy matte card stock pages, electric fonts & sick track jackets make my heart all aflutter, his English recipes don't directly translate into my own world. And for the first time that, well, maybe they could. So I put on one of D's track jackets in my favorite color. This one, actually:
Then I realized if I go the Euro-food route I'd need to throw in a little drink, so I began to rummage through D's choice GF ciders. A life-long beer lover, he's on constant lookout for distinct, crisp & authentic drinks that happen to be gluten-free. I drink sparkling water. Anywhoo.
That little blue casserole had also been distracting me though our last 5 meals, so I finally gave in asked myself what I thought it was wanting from me. (What? What is it wanting from me?) Something cute, rustic. Something from A Trail of Crumbs, the lovely & glamourous I'm-not-ready-for-such-goodness-not-to-mention I'm-head-of-a-fashion-household-and-frequent-the-markets-of-Provence, but-we-all-know-I-don't-belong-here memoir that I am so loving right now. So I played with her version of Jansson's Frestelse (Swedish Potato Temptation) to become a light & brothy bit of scalloped anchovies & potatoes.
We had a memorably moving visit to a recreation of Patuxet, the Native village that Plymouth was built on & home of the first Thanksgiving meal. There was an outdoor kitchen area where this stew of cod, hominy, maize & beans was looking simple but smelling nourishing & fulfilling in a way that had us bolt for our dinners, but not before taking some notes on how to make it at home.
So we ended up with a cheesy veggie-rich cod tian/ fish pie/ seafood casserole/sumthin' sumthin,' plus a salty, al dente pillow of potatoes with extra cream for making the tian a bit of a chow-dah. (Sorry I couldn't resist. Out here you don't say chowder. You say Chow-dah!) Supper that sticks to your teeth while you laugh & your neighbor slurps her spoon as your kids place a pile of corn cob bits on your napkin while the sun sets. My kind of dinner.
These days, but also in general, I don't measure. I don't record. But this is what I did. When we had eaten half of each, we loaded the rest into the little blue pot for a one-dish repeat the next day, baked at 350' for 30 minutes, with the cover on for the first 20.
Swedish-ish Potato Gratin - Concept
(Adapted from A Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee)
Slice 5 small thin-skinned potatoes & one yellow onion. Butter a small covered casserole & layer the potatoes over the bottom & sides, reserving half. Follow with all of the onions, the remaining potatoes & 6 jarred anchovies, plus 1 tablespoon of their oil. Cover with half & half + 1inch. Cover & bake at 350' for 35 minutes, check for potatoes to be fork-tender.
Cod Tian - Concept
Using a large oven-proof pan, brown two large cod fillets in a bit of olive oil. Keep cooking until it all flakes off into little non-descript brown flakes. Remove to a bowl & season with salt & pepper. Leave the brown bits stuck to the pan for the next step. Cut 3 corn cobs into 1" coins. I take a heavy knife & press into them, then lift the knife along with the cob & give another good bang. Make sure you are alone & be careful, for goodness sakes. Then I take each coin & slice it in half. Okay. Finely crush & chop four cloves of garlic. Add both to the pan with 2 Rapunzel Organic Bouillon cubes with herbs (no salt), turn the heat to medium-high & add a good cup of Woodchuck Granny Smith Hard Cider to deglaze the sides. Use an fresh wooden spoon to fend off the band of men who come rushing into the cabin kitchen because dinner's still a half-hour off. Okay.
Add a cup of water & 10 finely chopped kale leaves. Kale is no trouble, really. Just grab the green with the fingers of one hand, & pull the stem hard with your other. ("You should saute those stems, Mom. Just do it with some lemon juice & olive oil so they don't got to waste." Okay, um, good idea.) Stir it all & cover. When they are half-wilted (a few minutes) add a cup of frozen sweet peas. Season with salt pepper & a good bit of dried thyme. If you are me, you add a splash of fish sauce here. Now. Add the cod. Fold in a handful of shredded organic white cheddar. Add some water if it looks dry- it should be soupy. Chop up some white bread (we used Gillian's wheat, gluten & dairy free French Rolls) & evenly cover the top. Cover with white & yellow cheddar. Broil. Serve them together, outside, with a bit of drink.
Recently we headed to our local farm for a little Calypso music & Jamaican Grill Night. There's a single library book that we check out for 6 months at a time, often incurring a bunch of fees that make me feel both guilty & proud to be supporting the cause: Little Farm By the Sea. Oh, how I love, love that sweet book. It carries you through each season in the gentlest way, & I always know the kids are drifting to sleep with lucid pictures of a vibrant farmstand, hoop houses & hills of produce beyond the livestock. Unlike the farms we know, this dream place quiets down for snow, & there are hills all around. The first hour here I just kept exclaiming, "This is it! This is the Little Farm By the Sea!" It is. Only better, because they open their doors for hot meals.
I wish I had pictures of the beautiful Jamaican smiles behind the grill & gorgeous vegetarian spread that went with the Jerk Chicken, pulled pork & calypso music, but I was nursing, oohing over the braised greens & organizing the boy's plates while it got dark. It's not really our farm, obviously, but if you belong to one community food space, then you kinda belong to them all. And this is a community farm - although privately owned, they've built a huge & beautiful pavilion for feeding folks, hosting weddings & events. It's a project I would so get behind if I lived here. So I had to share the vision.
Coonamessett's a special place on the Cape, with 20 acres housing a Montesorri Middle School, the Little Sprout's Kid's Summer Garden Program & quite a few other programs. Not to mention a blueberry field that blew D's mind. I'm gonna have to get that man an orchard one of these days. He can then live out his days blissed-out amongst all the fruit he so covets. We were surprised to see how diverse the clientele was here, until we realized we were outside of Boston, after all. There's nothing like a good mix of intellectual, economic & cultural diversity to make me feel safe in the world. But more than that it was inspiring, to see the farm store with cafe, the ice cream booth, school & wind turbine. Happiness for visiting families, & such a great example of right livelihood.
let's go. row. 2 miles. for huckleberries. like blueberries. but sweeter. crunchy. wild. bear food. let's go. row. to a secret cove with a sugar-sand bottom. everyone, now. 2 years-old - to ? 3 families with boys. 1 family of girls. 2 families with 3 kids. 2 families with 2 kids. one swimmer. find paddles, pedals. find boats, kayaks, sails, large metal tubs. share, borrow, steal for a time. let's go. row.
The littles found these eggs hiding on the wood pile, each perfectly clear, & each the size of two sesame seeds. Just laid, it appears, by the way they are gathered like sleepy siblings. I can only imagine the chickens who laid these. These are the treasures you don't look up, the ones filled with way too much magic.
Unless, of course, you are going through the intense, important, truth-hungry nine-year-change. Then, you do look it up. Because knowing is a sweet relief from a nearly-boiling curiosity. Justice for truths obviously ommitted by inconsiderent or possibly less observant mothers. I love this age, this moment with my boy. And, I haven't totally caught up & am still giving imaginative answers to most of his questions, or responding with, "What do you think?" I suppose I am also trying to preserve the dreaminess of his brothers. But really we have never been more on the same page. I have waited for this time with my children. Together we are filled with a wanting hunger that feeds itself - What? Who? When? How on Earth did Earth do that? If D & I can manage the dance between supportive encouragement & required family expectations, then he'll get to keep this innate state of awe. Reason to live more than any career we could dream up for him.
(Some days we squash it right out of him, but I have to believe that life has it's own lessons & we are ultimately not the ones in control of anything around here. We've just gotten really good at saying Sorry & making new promises we work to keep.)
For years we've read E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan, over & over again. It's so full of goodness, sadness, sweetness, rightness. This is the first year he's stopped mid-chapter, aghast, & exclaimed, "Is this a grown-ups' book?" He's noticing the coming of age parts in a whole new way. Always meaningful has been the main character, Sam Beaver, & his grounded confidence in his relationship to the natural world. Without effort he is respectful to his surroundings, he finds answers & befriends animals without ever being the invasive sort that so disturbs my boy. A model for a young naturalist.
We recently devoured The Indian in the Cupboard as a family. Such a magical story, with plenty of blatant cliches to inspire other conversations. What I loved & saw him take in at a deep level of understanding was the maturity & consciousness required to fully care for another living being, let alone a 3-inch Iriquois man, a crying cowboy & their two horses. As a mom I appreciated the acknowledgement, but both of our bigger boys appreciated their own understanding of the seriousness, importance & privilege of the whole situation.
So now we've moved into a fabulous, fabulous story, 2 Little Savages, with it's outdated English & foreign early 20th-century American values. It's about two young boys who live in a teepee for a month, & teach themselves to build shelters, dams, make fire without wood, identify wildlife, forage for food & a number of other things one would not think possible. For sure this must be autobiographical, because we are learning a ridiculous lot. I keep stopping to explain the story in modern-day language, but even my four year-old thinks this is unnecessary. It is because the reader really understands boys, it seems. Curious, committed, & free, some boys are, desiring nothing more than to know & name the wonders of the wild.
I found 3 do-it yourself field guides for kids by the wonderful Jim Arnosky, who Stefani & the Blue Yonder Boys introduced us to. If you are a Lakes Region local, they are $2.98 each at the Country Bookseller in Wolfeboro, NH. Shore Walker, Bug Hunter & Animal Tracker are each "nature notebooks" with about 20 pages of beautiful illustrations & information on how to track & draw one's observation with plenty of blank pages with various tea-tinted backgrounds that look plenty aged & legitimate. (They were .75 cents -$5 on Amazon)
Brunch for the Hardworking Men & Women of Middle Earth
Hand-formed Dew + Red Clover Pollen Cakes
Blue + Huckleberry Jam (swiped from the bubbling sides of hot, sun-ripened fruits)
Crystalline Eggs, Fried (over the mica slices that top steaming granite)
Dried, Salted Minnows
One look at this labrynth of a fire pot & we all shoved into the car to find something to heat on it. We found ourselves on a 3 1/2 hour, baby-nap-inducing jaunt to all sides of Sandwich, Cape Cod, including about 45 minutes lost in a gorgeous low-end neighborhood surrounded by tidal marshes. The salt-eaten homes with chair-covered lawns were just my idea of charming, but for the boys, not so much. But never mind how they felt. (Not really, of course. I was lost, after all) We were on a mission to celebrate our family & D & I married for 10 years. sigh.
They just wanted to get home & eat the fudge, rub the salmon & burn the wood planks we found at the Gallery Gourmet. If you ever pop in there, ask the owners how to prepare your goods - they really know their stuff. She helped me pick out a selection of ridiculously inexpensive wooden planks to infuse our fish with olive, cherry, maple & walnut. How cheap? 25 single-serving rounds for under $20. And, if used correctly, they could be used again. The local fisherman bring in their daily treasures & pick their woods accordingly. Being a Maine native, her husband suggested I find a bit of slate on the beach to lay on the rocks. I didn't find any, & at one point the fire went all raging on me, but my inner-fire-starter gets all proud of that kind of thing, so it was fine. I'd like to get my hands on some slate, though.
More important than all that, though, was the small bottle of green sushi rice they handed me. Green. Sushi Rice. green sushi rice! If I had to listen to one soundtrack for the rest of my life, I couldn't pick. But if I had to look at at one food item the rest of my life, it would be a sticky-sweet-short-grain the color of the foamy tea that gathers at the edges of rice terraces & water-loving bamboos. I never knew this. But now I do. And the most most magical part, aside from the very adorable darker-green dots that live in the corners of each grain? They actually taste like all that. Green tea, bamboo, fresh herbal fields with a bit of the sea. Perfect for salmon & jumbo prawns rubbed with a powder of black peppers & maple syrup.
Goodies from the shop...
And the seafood, which speaks for itself, was from Joe's Lobster & Fish Mart by the canal. We drove all over town, & apparently folks only go to one place for their shells & fish. The line was long, the girls who worked there adorable & the selection was being brought in while we waited.
There's nothing like learning about the local eats, putting a bit of effort into the meal & then falling asleep to a bit of sandy fudge to say I Love You Guys. I do I love you guys.
I can't believe I'm really only seeing this now, after it's been in the laundry room for 3 weeks. It's so very beautiful. With our family's chemical sensitivities, & a four year-old who's every-other-sentence goes something like, "thank you! for letting sneek a piece of..." this thing has been the source of so very much agitation. And I feel like such a jerk now looking at how lovely it is.
I love gingerbread houses. I don't have chemical sensitivities!! I want to jump up & down, "It's not me! It's not me!" I sometimes just want us to be normal, to not be so strict about such things, to let everyone eat whatever they want. But it really is true - I almost died twice because of this stuff + the way these kids react to it. The standard white sugar. The food colorings, particularly. The wheat. The mystery man-made ingredients. All of it they can eat sometimes. All of it they have been de-allergized to, so technically, it's "okay." But all of it has the potential to be a big problem. Mainly we see the subtle changes in them from just a small amount - moodiness, worry, neediness, & just a lower energy all the way around. A big difference from our singing, dancing, cooking crew.
And D & I can't stand saying no to them. Can't stand it. Especially when they act obsessed.
I like to think we're flexible. True's (8) entire homeschooling curriculum revolves around candy-making, candy factories, candy sampling + written reviews, candy science. Okay. Now that I'm writing that, making I'm making them obsessed with it. But it's a real passion of his, & I think he's met his path, maybe. We have lots of candy-making to post, actually.
AND, a 3-week, 3-voice request to sample something made 100% out of ingredients we don't stock at our home brings out the worst in me as a parent. Next time I have to make sure it stays with their grandparents 2 hours away. Then they can sample it in bits when they're there. The laundry room was an out-of-site, out-of-mind attempt.
But now I'm really seeing the work that was done & I'm wanting to get us a beautiful glass display case. I'm loving the placement of every little gum drop, the little flower boxes under the window sills, the scalloped roof. Maybe we'll feed it to the birds tomorrow with our New Year's blessings, & I'll just go ahead & frame these pictures to be enjoyed for forever during the holidays. And next year we'll start from scratch with ingredients we do eat. I love them, I swear I have books on the subject, but just haven't gotten round to the scratch thing...
Look at these historically accurate ones from our friends at Homeschooling in the Kitchen. Now Susan is one patient mom. And hilarious. Love her.
i hope everyone's remembering to eat their breakfasts.:)
if i had one wish for all the world this year, it would be that every person would experience all the joys of breakfast, each & every morning. and that the meals would give them the nourishment, strength, heart & clarity to be fully themselves, for themselves, their loved ones, & their communities.
i'm loving a little plain yogurt to replace the sour cream in the morning. and fuji apples just for crunch. d's the one who taught me to love each & every tortilla with a good browning in butter or earth balance. he's right, i never skip this step now. he's so willing to prepare for his enjoyment, like re-building & washing down a paddleboat each & every year. i just walk outside & feel so happy i'm not into doing another thing. but he's so right about the extra love & attention. everything needs it.
and the great thing about giving care is that it gives energy, while giving gestures & tokens takes energy. there's so much more impact when we put our heart into the little things, i think.
sometimes i see this at work when i'm cooking a sure-thing for the kids, but my head is somewhere else. they just aren't hungry. and then when i'm all excited about a new recipe, when i take the time to put on my favorite apron, or better yet, to put the boys' aprons on them, they'll eat nearly anything. but tomatoes & mushrooms, not so much right now. it's a grownup breakfast, i hear.
Maya has consulted A-list celebrities, Fortune 500 CEO's, supermodels & world-renowned global activists in bringing values-based creativity & purpose-driven clarity to their expressions. Her sexy edible designs (nori slips + wonton origami aprons!) have been featured at Fred Segal, on Oprah's Oxygen Network, & Pajama Party. A life-long unschooler, Maya has helped raise millions for small companies & non-profits, danced both hip-hop & hula professionally, and co-owned businesses in radio, medical records, cosmetic surgery, exotic cars, & film. She lives with her best friend & their three home-birthed, home-schooled boys, True, Free & Real.