It was a summer of Swiss chard cravings and too many green peppers. Too much wildlife and too many well-meaning weekend gardeners. And yes, too much rain.
The other day I came home from work exhausted; stretch out on the bed, bones above the mattress, everything else sinking to the floor, drained. I was awakened from my deep slumber by the alarmed staccato clicking of my mother’s llama, Belladonna. She was clearly upset. I looked out one window and couldn’t find a culprit. Then I looked out the second window: two white-tailed deer standing in full alert, staring at Bella.
So it wasn’t just the groundhogs and rabbits that consumed my Swiss chard, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, squash, carrots and beans; it was probably the deer too. While there’s an Amish market nearby that fills almost all of our vegetable and fruit needs, when I asked if they’d be selling any Swiss chard, a young woman looked at me strangely and said, “I’ve never heard of it so I know we’re not growing it.”
I did find some at another farmers’ market – it was seriously wilted, but I was seriously craving chard pie, so I snatched it and rushed home to make the dish for that night’s dinner.
Yes, the only thing Fleur-de-Lys Central yielded this summer was bell peppers. For some reason, the critters turned up their noses at my six bell pepper plants. But that’s not to say they weren’t admired. My sister and her weekend guest, my mother and her part-time caregiver, and my brother-in-law, all spotted these shiny, blocky, gorgeous bell peppers and picked them, proudly bringing them to the kitchen. But, they picked them green; my sweet red and yellow peppers were picked at the immature, much-less-sweet stage of green. But who can complain (more than just a little) for helping hands. Laurie Lynch
Update on Mom: For the last several years, my mother fills any quiet moment with jingles or songs. Depending on my mood, it can either be pleasant or downright irritating. When she breaks into her Sound of Music, “I am 16 going on 17” song, I laugh and sing along because my mother still feels more like 16 than 82. But when I’m approaching a green-turning-yellow traffic light and she belts out very Supreme-like: “Stop, in the name of love” the irritation begins … and escalates when she then goes into her police siren sound that is so realistic I glance over my shoulder. But the tune that family members shake our heads over in a state of perplexity is: “Who’s gonna marry Tom Mix?”
A while ago, my sister Larissa looked up info on Tom Mix, and he was a cowboy actor who was married five times. That sort of made sense, like having your dad sing, “Who’s gonna marry Elizabeth Taylor?”
But when my mother added: “Not me. He’s gone.” I decided to look into this Tom Mix fellow a little further.
Tom Mix was born 40 miles north of State College and grew up near DuBois. He was indeed married five times, but his most loyal sidekick was Tony the Wonder Horse. Mix acted in 336 cowboy movies (silent and nine or so talkies) and by doing so, this King of the Cowboys paved the way for folks like John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. What stopped me in my tracks, however, was the fact that Tom Mix died Oct. 12, 1940. (He drove into a gully traveling 80 mph when he came upon construction barriers blocking a bridge that had been washed away in a flood in Arizona.) I did a little quick math, and my mother was 11 going on 12 when he died, so that jingle must have entered her life around that time. And 70 years later, it’s still playing in her mind. What an amazing thing, the brain.
Speaking of Brains: My niece Ansley is majoring in psychology and studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, this fall. Her blog at http://www.flanahagen.com is an absolute delight. The theme is her quest to find happiness in one of the world’s happiest cities, and she has photos and text that has put a smile on her aunt’s face, and maybe yours too. She is taking a Positive Psychology class, and her professor assigned a task that might do all of us good. It’s called Three Good Things. If, each day, you list three good things that you experienced, your self-flourishing tendency may overpower your self-languishing tendency – and put a smile on your face.
Forks Over Knives: I took my mom to see this documentary a few weeks ago and was surprised that it mentions a former classmate/swim team buddy of my youngest sister, Leslie. Rip Esselstyn, whose father features prominently in the film, has written a book called The Engine 2 Diet. Forks Over Knives, which promotes a plant-based diet, inspired me to try this recipe that came in the Lehigh Valley Health Network’s “Healthy You” magazine. It is a delicious and nutritious way to celebrate fall vegetables (including red bell peppers).
1 small butternut squash, cubed
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 red onion, quartered
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
¼ c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 475°.
In large bowl, combine squash, red peppers, and sweet potatoes. Separate red onion into pieces and add to mixture. In small bowl, stir together thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss with vegetables to coat. Spread evenly on large roasting pan. Roast 35-40 minutes in oven, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.