“Sole Survivor”

49D45807-C020-4401-B45B-222EBF294629.jpeg

I had been envying the lovely photos of sunflowers, fields of sunflowers, arrays of sunflowers, and displays of sunflowers posted by my blogging friends. I had tried to vicariously delight in their sunflowers, all the time missing the sturdy row of my own I had planted and expected to enjoy. I thought malevolently of that happy fat woodchuck who had had the audacity to cut the flowers off mid-stem before they had bloomed. I resigned myself to continue to feed the goldfinches who flock to my yard remembering previous September’s sunflower seed feasts.

And then! What did I see this morning when I left the house for an appointment? This solitary sunflower, small but blooming, defying all the odds. Waving insistently at me, it seemed to say “you give up so easily. Did you really think the woodchuck could prevent every single plant from growing?” Well yes, I did. But I was wrong- a sentence I seem to say as rarely as possible. That one little sunflower seed waited until the coast was clear, ignored all instruction that its time to grow had passed, and pushed its way into stem and flower.

I think of John Milton’s verse, “they also serve who only stand and wait.” Here it seemed to be wait and stand, but it prevailed in the end.

“Flight of Fancy”

616D8FE2-F2F3-4136-9550-F13A213360DC.jpeg

When I had my first apartment I had no furniture, so I went to Cohn Brothers to buy a couch. This store gave credit to anyone who could make monthly payments, and I needed to establish a credit history. I picked out a lovely blue/green Swedish looking long couch, put down my first $25 and promised to return each month with any additional $25 until the $250 was paid in full. Once I had the habit of paying $25 a month for home furnishings, I continued this approach for many years. In those days, interest on installments was either nonexistent(as at Cohn Brothers) or very low.

Somewhere in the mid-1980’s I suddenly wanted to own real china. I chose the pattern above, Nanking by Noritke, and began buying it one piece at a time until I had acquired several settings. However, since I had a young child and the young child had many young friends, this was not a particularly wise move. I did love the pattern, and a few pieces of it still remain. My favorite platter, rarely used when I was younger, now comes out every Thanksgiving.

Looking at the plate now, I remember how much I longed for the kind of stability that owning china represented to me. I was a single mother, no longer waiting for another bridal registry to provide me with what I wanted. I decided to buy my own dishes, this time acknowledging a love for the traditional which had eluded me years before. One lovely piece at a time.

 

“Pick a Pattern”

Lately the weddings I have been aware of seem to have become extravaganzas, lasting at least two days, often in a vacation destination, with expensive bridal gowns, lavish food and long bridal registries of desired gifts. In 1973 when I married the trend was the opposite. We had the simplest possible ceremonies, frequently outdoors, with flowery dresses, potluck food and much dancing and merriment on site after the vows. One thing was still in operation–the bridal registry.

Traditionally (and apparently still judging from the website The Knot) a woman (now both parties) went to a department store and chose a china, crystal and silver pattern she desired as gifts. In 1973, china, crystal and silver were considered bourgeois, but I still needed to pick a pattern to satisfy the older generation. I chose, still by Lenox of the fancy china lists, a stoneware pictured above. This was very unconventional, a real statement that we were not following in the materialistic footsteps of our parents, but were practical and thrifty. The nature theme of the pattern also reflected the “back to nature” spirit of the time.

Very few pieces from that time remain, a couple of cups just the right size for a scoop of ice cream are in my cupboard. I smile when I see them, remembering who I was then and what I thought I would treasure in the future. But tastes change, as did mine, and more choices will be featured in the next posts.

“Why Dutch?”

0967A40F-7D01-4004-A4B0-AF65E5D2C774

A couple of Thanksgivings ago I had cooked a Tofurkey in this pot for the vegetarians among us. (Yes. That is a real thing, despite the strange looks I get when trying to find one in the supermarket.) I found a relative studying the vessel and then cornering me to find out, not about the Tofurkey(he was deep fat frying a turkey at the time), but about the Dutch oven.

He had a restaurant and loved seeing old kitchen items, but he said he had never seen a Dutch oven like mine. It was another inherited piece from my grandmother and I used it all the time without thinking much about it. Manufactured by Griswold, this Erie, Pennsylvania cast iron pan turns out to be of monetary value in the world of cast iron collecting. (Who knew that there was even a world of cast iron collecting?) While I have no intention of selling mine since it is in constant use, I was intrigued that he was right to inquire about it.

The lid of the Dutch oven also fits on the cast iron skillet I wrote about a couple of days ago. This comes in handy when I want to braise some meat with less sauce than I might use in the Dutch oven. The larger pan holds chili, stew, soup and a variety of sauces. It was a slow cooker before someone decided to market an electric slow cooker. I do have to remove leftovers to store them, since tomato based food will take on an unpleasant(albeit healthy) metallic taste if left in too long.

As to why it is called Dutch. I have no idea.

 

“An Evening In A Democracy”

2CE5AC0F-0EF1-4078-BB73-81BDE04FD777

Last night we attended a lecture at the Connecticut Historical Society with Eric Foner, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and expert on Reconstruction after the American Civil War. After listening to inane ideas from the so-called leader of my nation, and after being bombarded with equally poorly thought through ideas of his critics, it was restorative to listen to Foner.

He spoke for what he called a therapist’s and professor’s hour, namely 50 minutes. I could have easily listened to him for another two hours, so engaging and enlightening was his presentation. His newest book, which we purchased ahead of its next week’s release, focuses on the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution. Trump recently questioned the rights of anyone born here being granted citizenship and suggested he would change this provision. He apparently remains ignorant of the constitutional guarantee in the 14th Amendment providing birthright citizenship to anyone born here, regardless of the status of the parents. The facts reassured me that it would take much more than bluster to deny a baby citizenship.

Foner also discussed the widely held inaccurate view, first promulgated in the early 20th century and continued until the civil rights movement here in the 1960’s that Reconstruction had been a failure because black politicians were incapable of governing. The racist view also said the all northern efforts in the south were opportunistic. I had been taught such history in the early 1960’s. Only my recent reading has shown me that Reconstruction failed because of a massive backlash, backed by extensive violence and Jim Crow laws, that prevented black citizens from gaining the rights guaranteed them in the 14th Amendment.

As the same old backlash rears its ugly head here again with the idea that rights for one take rights away from another, it was heartening to remember the ideal of my nation. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Any person!

“Late to the Party”

EEE8CC74-FE22-4EF6-AD7D-28DFE3D50004 As you may remember, the first woodchuck ate all my sunflowers. The second–still at large–woodchuck ate his way through my cosmos. I had despaired of getting any of those lovely breezy flowers this summer. But, as you can see in the photo above, a few cosmos took their time and emerged to defy the little rodent’s evil intent. Not the full display that we had planted, but enough to make me smile.

My granddaughter seems to have a constant sense that she is late to the party of my life. Whenever I share a story, she says “how come no one ever told me that?” A recent phrase FOMO(fear of missing out) seems, in her case, to operate retroactively. Still, she operates on the theory that I apply to my cosmos, better late than never. She hauls out photo albums and has me identify every person and event pictured therein.

When I sit explaining who is who to her I remember my similar fascination with identifying all the relatives before me. I memorized the names of my grandfather’s siblings in one panoramic photo, even though most of them had already died. That study turned out to be very useful when I inherited all the family photos after my mother died. I have been able to label them, sometimes even posting them on this blog.

But back to the garden. I am grateful that any cosmos appeared and have a chance this September to flutter in the wind until the first killing frost. And glad that my FOMO didn’t apply to my flowers after all.

“Everything Old is New Again”

Along with the double boiler, I inherited a cast iron skillet from my grandmother. Recently I noticed that someone had vigorously cleaned it, thus exposing it to the beginnings of rust. Before we left on vacation, I slathered it with oil and let it season again. Now it has returned to its nonstick surface acquired after years of use.

The pan is rather pedestrian looking, and one day I wandered into a high end kitchen store and saw some lovely enamel clad cast iron frying pans. I eyed them for a while, then asked the salesperson if there was any advantage, besides looks, for the very expensive items. She assured me that the old pans worked just as well, better in my case since mine had been seasoned for three generations. I suspect she won’t last long in sales with this candid offering of advice!

Cast iron cookware suffers in the marketplace from its inexpensive price and its ability to last forever. This makes it an unlikely candidate for our society’s emphatic stance that newer is always better. Just the same, I will continue to stand by my pan, especially now that I have confirmed that the new ones are no better. It has a nonstick surface(unless heartily scrubbed), retains its heat well, and is said to impart a little iron to the food it cooks. And every time I use it I smile remembering its history.