Learning curves

Last summer slugs decimated the strawberry harvest from my garden. This year I was prepared. Or so I thought. I had a bag of diatomaceous earth stand by, and an old salt shaker to spread it around the plants. But there were no slugs. Instead, chipmunks discovered the strawberry patch and took a bite out of every single ripe strawberry. Continue reading

Common ground: Sprouting a new American gardener

What I probably miss most living in rural America is the exposure to other cultures. I never regretted having moved for love from bustling New York City with its multitude of ethnicities to a tiny hamlet in a county with a highly homogenous population. I did many things on our mountaintop that I would have never done in an urban setting – first and foremost, I became a gardener. But that does not mean that I ever stopped missing the diversity I was seeking when I emigrated to America: people who, like me, came from another country, and with their background and traditions contribute to the rich cultural fabric of America. Continue reading

Beets and quiche don’t rhyme – or do they?

For the longest time, I disliked beets. It was a bunch of freshly pulled spring beets from a friend’s garden that turned me from a beet hater to a beet lover, and now I grow them every year. Since we don’t have a root cellar, I roast or cook the beets right after harvest and freeze them. The beet leaves, if they are still young and tender, go into the freezer as well.

My favorite beet recipes that I make often are Martha Rose Shulman’s Mushroom and Beet Borscht from The New York Times, Beet Green Risotto – and this Beet Quiche. Continue reading

The art of the barter

In late July, my friend Lise gave me a large bag of wild blueberries that she and her boyfriend had picked. Picking wild blueberries, which taste unlike any of the cultivated varieties, is backbreaking and tedious. In exchange for the wild blueberries, I gave Lise a couple of jars of my homemade elderflower jelly.

Also by bartering, this summer I obtained other fresh local produce, including some horseradish I needed for pickling beets, and a load of peppers when my entire crop failed. I received all these bounties in exchange for my homemade jams, jellies and pickles. Continue reading

Breakfast fare for breakfast skippers

With the exception of breads, there are very few breakfast recipes on this blog. The simple reason is that I don’t eat breakfast. Yes, I know, it’s a bad habit but the fact is that I cannot stomach to eat anything early in the morning. My breakfast consists of a large mug of coffee with lots of hot frothed milk, basically an oversized cappuccino. Other people’s breakfast then becomes my lunch. Continue reading

Taking stock, twenty years after immigration

On January 5, 1998, I landed in New York City with an immigration visa that I won in the Green Card Lottery. The previous summer, I had received a letter in the mail notifying me that I was one of 55,000 lucky people whose number was drawn in the Green Card Lottery from more than eight million participants. Winning, however, was only the first, easy step. What followed was a thorough and costly screening process to make sure that I was who I claimed to be, without a criminal record, in good health and able to support myself for a few months in the United States without working. I have often wondered how Green Card winners less fortunate than me made it through that process. Continue reading

As American as apple pie?

In the past few months I have thought a lot about the expression, “as American as apple pie.” Whether I was tossing and turning in bed during many sleepless nights, driving past homes with the American flag and an occasional Confederate flag, whether I was standing at the stove until late at night canning and preserving the harvest from my garden, or angrily digging up the soil and pulling weeds until I almost dropped in an attempt to vent and get away from too much news intake – it all seemed to be boiling down to one question: What is American? Continue reading