A concert with, like, actual food?!?!?

So there’s this festival called the Shindig. The audience is about equal parts hipsters, families, and punk people. And me. And by me I mean the most generic mainstream nobody you could imagine. A guy in a band tee just put his heavy-soled sneaker down where my beer had been three seconds before.

For food, you’re picturing hot dogs and turkey legs on a stick, right? Well so was I. But it is not so. Take for instance these noodles. Wow. I would eat them in real life.


Also, they’re selling cocktails out of an airstream. What.

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Told you I had more ice cream up my sleeve

Last month I traveled to Vermont – a trip, for once, with no work component. And ever since I was a teenager I’ve wanted to tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory. So we took a break from our brewery-filled schedule and did that.

It was so cute and really fun. Here is my sample cup of the salted caramel flavor they had at the end of the tour:


It was very, very tasty. Then we went to the part I was really there for: the Flavor Graveyard. I never remember to take travel pics but of this? Like a dozen. Probably more than the rest of my trip combined. This one gives the best sense of it I think:


It was adorable, and I just wish it had allllll the flavors. I’m still not over them scrapping Bovinity Divinity back in the day. But at least they’ve resurrected Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz! That was my addiction back in the 90s.

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Pickles and ice cream I’ve heard of…but pickle ice cream?

Last weekend I met a long-distance friend for dinner in Washington, D.C. Dinner itself was just standard Thai, but we stopped at Rosa Mexicano for dessert, because they had an ice cream festival!

So here is the spread:


To the left, observe the bf’s selection: sweet cream and chocolate, strawberry rose, and plantain/peanut butter. In the center, churros and dippers courtesy of my no-dairy friend. To the right: my weirdo self, with the sweet cream flavor, plus honey-amaranth, and “Mexican sour gherkin and jalapeño sorbet.”

In my book, the winners were the honey one and the gherkin, actually. It was delicious – like sweet cucumbers with a little kick. Strawberry-rose was also very good, as was sweet cream, but you know I like weird. The churros never got cooked enough to eat, but they looked amazing (and the restaurant did a great job trying to make it right).

I wish I had pictures of the other good ice creams I’ve eaten this summer. Jersey blueberry ice cream here, and a maple “creemee” in Vermont. Might be one more ice cream pic around here somewhere.

Can you believe I just talked up pickle-flavored sorbet?? But seriously, it’s legit. Go ahead and prove me wrong.

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You can barely see the green stuff, but it’s there!

Well, it isn’t very pretty, but here is a picture of a zucchini brownie from the batch I made yesterday. I’ve been meaning to try it for ages, there was an impromptu dessert party, and I already was baking with zucchini all day. (Ended up with about 65 or 70 biscuits. My kitchen was toasty.) Yes, I do make and serve untested recipes to friends and family. To be fair, I at least taste them first. This one I think was a success.

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I guess I’m ready to come back now.

This blog, for me, has always just been a fun thing, a way to write something with no pressure and an incentive to try more foods. It started out as a project among friends…friends of whom I now see very little or none at all…and sort of grew into my thing. Last summer I was chugging along, enjoying life, and I’d still consider it one of the happiest of my life, up to a point. Writing here was part of that. But I’ve always picked up and put down here whenever I felt like it. Perhaps not good if you want to get a following, but this place was only ever for my own amusement really. It’s not my living, I don’t have an audience. And it shows.

So obviously in fall things were going on, I got busy with family and life. We knew we would lose my grandma and just tried to make everything go the best we could for her. I think we succeeded. While Christmas was completely not normal, for us I don’t think there’s ever been one with more love. But it had to end in grief and of course it did. Sometimes emotions are hard for me to unleash. So we had a lovely service for her, and I went about without unclenching much. The second weekend after the funeral, I was at my boyfriend’s place, drinking tea, feeling like, “okay, I can start to mourn now and think about her and let myself be sad.” A gentle grieving process.

Then I glanced at my phone and saw about four missed calls from my dad.

When I called back, I can remember the conversation very well – but my memory places either one of my parents in it about equally. I guess I just remember the tone. Whichever parent it really was said my name, then, “Your Uncle John called, we’re headed to the Mews now -” where my other grandmother lived. I can still hear my own voice, sharp and too loud, asking, “Oh god, is Mom-Mom dead too?”

She wasn’t – not that day, but about four days later. Her memory had been gone for years, and losing her was really a decade-long process, if I’m being honest. But it didn’t make watching it happen any easier in the moment. She was special too.

So it’s not that I’ve been weeping and wailing all this time, and I’m too much of a delicate flower to Blog While Sad. I don’t want to pretend like I’m a special snowflake here and my grieving is just So Epic and that kind of stuff. I know this is how it works, and grandparents are old and they pass away. But it did a number on us and especially my own parents. So food and so forth seemed awfully trivial and unimportant.

And, you know, when you find yourself about to read the eulogy you’ve prepared for your second grandmother in under three weeks, maybe it takes some of the fun out of writing for a while. Months even. Who would ever guess?

But lately I’ve been missing it, and feeling like I have things to say or phrases I want to use. Possibly it’s that we are in prime sauce-making and zucchini-using time and it reminds me how much I like both food and writing about food.

So while I can’t say for sure what anything means for the future, I guess I’m ready to come back out from under the blanket now.

Today commences the annual baking of the biscuits. To be specific, the zucchini-cheddar biscuits. More eating, less getting gored by bulls.

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This is a story about tomatoes. But it’s not really. It’s a story about the person who loved them.

She grew up during the Depression, in a tiny town in Central Pennsylvania. Her daddy farmed, and she would eat tomatoes with him off the vine, warm from the sun. Maybe with salt. Sometimes that’s what she did when I knew her.

It’s hard to say whether her love of tomatoes came from her love of the color red, or the other way around. I asked her. She thought red.

We talked about the little ones, all the different colors I didn’t know existed until I started going to farm markets. She told me once that she’s had a lot of really nice orange tomatoes, but red ones were the best.

Red was the color of everything. Her favorite clothing, her rugs, poinsettias, the million cardinals she used to decorate her home. Christmas. She would leave her Christmas things up as long as she could, some of it all year.

She told me once that if they made tomato ice cream, she would eat it.

And she would. She wasn’t a picky eater – not at all. But if she liked something, you knew it.  Tomato bisque, meatloaf (she never could accept my giving that up). I’m famous for peppermint bark: that’s all because one year I tried it as a gift for her, and she returned the tin to my mother with a note on the back (my name and “Mint bark, 2006. Delicious.”) and a strong hint that I should make it for her next Christmas. I did. That year, and every year after – same tin every year.

That was something else she did. She’s always been resourceful, and I guess the Depression made her a saver. Saving everything from family bibles to fossils to foil to cooking wine from the 1940s to my mom’s old shoes. (Exploring her basement last Christmas, we found a turquoise ice bucket, probably from the 50s, possibly never used. She let me take it home with me and I use it with pride anytime I have a party.) We teased her about it, but gently. She loved to call up the memories of things that she had. I loved to hear them.  So many things had their story written on the back or bottom – and she has a whole book of pictures and stories of her teapots. When you’re a saver, love tea, and live to 86, you amass a lot of teapots.

Her obituary says she “truly treasured her family and friends.” That’s very accurate, but it doesn’t fully convey how her dearest wish was always to have all the family together at holidays, or how she singlehandedly carried a Fourth of July party for 30 to 60 people in her extended family for half a century, or the sleepovers she and her sister used to have in their eighties, or her siblings’ lunches. Or that she and my grandfather were able to meet a couple from Australia in England and form a deep friendship that lasted their entire lives, or how she put a lot of effort into finding the perfect gift for the ladies in her book club.

There are so many things that remain to show who she was. A needlepoint of the entire U.S. and its capitals and state flowers. Playbills, journals. Sheet music for piano and CDs of carols by the handbell choir.  Red cookware and photo albums and walls of books. But there’s so much that can’t be captured.  How she loved the “yellow carpet” of autumn leaves. That she would rather pick a turkey apart than wash dishes. The way she did her hair. Her musical voice; her mannerisms. Her humor – wry, even sharp, but without any cruelty or cynicism. Her sweetness and care for others.

This summer, when she first was sick, I surprised her with a heap of cherry tomatoes fresh from the market, and she loved them. Beat hospital tomatoes with their spongy, pink insides. This winter, when she was at home, not even the best we could find tasted right to her. I know how much she hated that. She loved tomatoes.

She was born into a house with no indoor plumbing, where they kept chickens; she leaves a world with space travel and tablets and texting and blogging – and I think she was probably amused if she saw chicken-keeping making a comeback like it was something new.

When she was that little girl, the fifth of six, eating tomatoes off the vine with her daddy, in that tiny town, in that house with no indoor plumbing, did she ever imagine the things she would do and see? What would that little girl say if she could have seen her future self traveling the world? Going to China, Europe, Australia, New Zealand? Amongst those travels, witnessing first-hand from Moscow the fall of the Soviet Union?

Forging deep bonds everywhere she went along the way? Bonds of people – friends and family, children and grandchildren – who love her and whose hearts are broken at her passing? We can never know, because that’s how it works, but I like to think it would have made that little girl feel like she could fly. For me, I miss her so much. I see her footprints everywhere, and will remember every time I see yellow leaves or cardinals, make peppermint bark, drink tea, or bite into a perfect red tomato.

Love you, Grandma.

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Vegetarian food can be Rated F, too.

On Sunday, I had (a late) lunch at PB’s Tavern in Glassboro. Besides their extensive craft beer selection, they actually have a pretty good menu. I got this veggie sandwich with sweet potato fries and felt like a mega-blimp afterward.


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