How summer harvest makes me look like a gourmet chef


At certain times of the year something strange comes over me:  The urge to cook.  The summer harvest, beginning in mid-August and stretching to mid-September is one of those times. (Full disclosure: I think it’s because the fresh fruits and vegetables are so vibrant and colorful that they make even an average cook like me look like a professional.)

I don’t hate cooking; I just usually prefer to do other things. I don’t have a green thumb either, but luckily some of our friends and neighbours do and they share their bounty with us. Last week one  gave me a freshly-picked zucchini that could have fed an army.  When I sliced it into rounds, I marveled at how the dark green skin  contrasted with the pale flesh inside.

 

Another neighbour brought a basket of huge, red field tomatoes. Guests were coming for dinner that weekend, so the hunt for a recipe was on. I found one that was a feast for the eyes and the palate.  Better yet, it made me look like a talented chef.

Really, all I did was add some rounds of store-bought yellow
zucchini and alternated them in a casserole dish with the green zucchini and tomatoes. I sprinkled olive oil, herbs, some Parmesan cheese and popped the whole thing in the oven. We ate it with juicy chicken thighs cooked on the bar-b-q.  Heavenly!

And what’s a good meal without dessert? The Lac Saint-Jean region of Quebec is known for its small, sweet blueberries and I just happened to have two pints on hand. It wasn’t  hard to find a recipe for blueberry pudding cake.

It’s more pudding than cake – a sweet, saucy blueberry filling with a hint of lemon on the bottom and globs of golden baked cake batter on top. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and voilà – dessert! Best of all, it’s so simple, even I could do it.

 

A few years ago some friends who are Italian invited us to make homemade tomato sauce with them. Once you taste homemade sauce you can’t go back, so now  it’s an annual ritual we hold each September.  A group of us buys the best Italian tomatoes we can find from the local market. Then we spend an entire day together coring, seeding, cooking and jarring the resulting sauce.  In a few weeks this year’s edition of what we call “Tomato Sauce Day” will take place. By the end of that day, I’ll have a collection of jars of ruby-red sauce that tastes like sunshine and sugar (neither of which is actually in the recipe!) to last me until next year.

And that will end my urge to cook until the cold weather sets in and I crave comfort food. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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Close call

I never thought I’d say this but watching this horse eat on Friday was a beautiful sight. Usually, she will eat constantly if allowed to. So when I went to the barn on Thursday morning and saw that she had no interest in food, I knew something was very wrong.  Her hay was untouched and she took the carrot I offered her listlessly, and then just held it in her mouth between her teeth. Her eyes were half closed and she wouldn’t move without cajoling and coaxing on my part.

Heidi doesn’t have famous lineage. She doesn’t have any red or blue ribbons from horse shows because she’s not a show horse. We just hack around on the beautiful trails in our area. What she does have is my heart, and it felt like it was shattering into fragments.

I called the vet and he arrived within an hour. She was running a low-grade fever which concerned him a little, but wasn’t enough to indicate anything serious. Like me, his first thought was colic, so he put a tube into her stomach to empty it in the hopes of making her more comfortable. Then he left, saying he would return at end of day. Until then, he advised that I walk her 15 minutes on the hour.

I walked her almost the whole afternoon, hoping to see a change but there was none. Her appetite didn’t return and her energy level stayed low. It’s hard to see an animal in pain and not know how to help. When the vet returned, he took her temperature again and it had spiked dangerously. That’s when the whole scenario changed.  He immediately began treating her for Potomac Horse Fever, a potentially fatal gastrointestinal disease. Worse, it can also result in laminitis, an extremely painful condition of the hooves.

Potomac Horse Fever is a bacteria transmitted through aquatic insects like caddisflies, mayflies, damselflies, and dragonflies. The barn is nowhere near water, but they can be carried inland by the wind where horses can eat them in their feed, pasture or hay.  And apparently, that’s just what poor Heidi did.

I put the lead chain on Heidi to keep her still while the vet administered the antibiotic by injection. She was such a good patient – it’s as if she knew we were trying to help her. The treatment had to be repeated every 12 hours for a few days, so the vet said he would be back the next morning.  I stayed in the paddock with Heidi until early evening, then left, hoping for the best.

I had a restless night, worrying about how she was. But when I arrived the next morning, the change in Heidi was amazing! She was alert, moving comfortably and looking for food.  What a difference 12 hours can make!  I’m lucky: the barn owner said that when he fed her at 6 am the previous day, she was her usual hungry self. But by the time I arrived at 10 am, she was very sick. If I hadn’t been on vacation that day, the owner wouldn’t have seen her again until late afternoon, and she could have been much worse by then.

Heidi is back to her old self, nosing around for treats and pushing her way to the feeder at meal time. And that’s just the way I like it.

Bus Ticket to Nowhere

Written for Linda G. Hill’s Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt for August 10th is “where.” Start your post with the word “where” and write whatever comes to you. Bonus points if you end your post with “where” too.

Where did I get the idea? That’s a good question. If I had to pinpoint a time when the seed was planted in my brain, I guess it would be when I lost my job. Well, I didn’t lose it exactly; the powers that be took it away from me. I wasn’t needed anymore, they said. They wish there was another way, but the economy and downsizing were to blame, they said. They couldn’t look me in the eye the entire time of that exit interview. “But you didn’t let everybody go. How did you choose who stayed and who left?” I asked. They didn’t answer, just kept repeating about the need to downsize.

That’s the first time I remember thinking: “I wish I were someone else.”  But it was just a harmless seed, planted deep within my brain. I mean, who hasn’t wished that at one time or another?

Then came the breakup with Joe. You spend two years with a man and he kicks you to the curb like a rabid dog. I’d changed, he said. I wasn’t the same woman I was when we met. I used to be fun, loving and ambitious. But since I lost my job last year, I spend my days moping around the house and haven’t even tried to find a new one. If you ask me, he just wanted someone to pay half the bills.

So there I was,  a grown woman with no job and no home. Who wouldn’t want to be someone or somewhere else? And then I found that wallet. I had every intention of returning it but that little seed began to grow and blossom.  And it was so much easier than I thought!

I took it step-by-step:  New birth certificate and driver’s licence first, then credit cards.  I was anxious, and each day wondered if this was the day police would track me down and question my requests for these documents. But it never happened. And before I knew it, the seed was a flower in full bloom. (It’s ironic that the woman who owned the wallet’s name was Rose. I guess it was a sign.) So I bought a bus ticket to nowhere and now Rose is on the move and Linda can’t be found anywhere.

NOTE:
I don’t usually write fiction, but this is where the prompt took me!