Tag Archives: autumn

Johnny Appleseed

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Despite everything I suspected to be true about American Folk Heroes, it turns out that Johnny Appleseed was an actual person.  And not only that, but he was roughly from Around My ‘Hood.  Now, i’m not going to claim that Alice Hoffman has the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but she does spin a damned good tale and there’s usually some fact at the core. Her stories are Real, in the same way that the Skin Horse knows about “real”.

So what we have, as a result of all this, is a phenomenal plethora of Apple Orchards.   We have Apple Orchards of Vermont Life magazine, and we have Apple Orchards from Yankee Magazine.  Now, if you ask my Texan friend Nancy what Fall In New England is all about I think the answer there is going to be Pumpkins.  Pumpkins, and Winter Squash. Maybe Corn. But that’s because there are only so many things that a Person Over 25 can stuff into four days, and something’s got to give, and in her case, it was the visit to the Apple Orchard.

Apple Orchards, in New England, are a little slice of heaven.  Especially the part where you drift in to the farm stand, in the hopes of unthawing the tips of your fingers, and are greeted with the aroma of Fresh Apple Dumplings In The Oven.

I don’t have a lot of personal experience with the Direct Route to heaven, but the small experience I do  have suggests that anyone on that path has their footsteps directly supported by the smell of apple dumplings baking in the oven right now.  In fact, I’ll go as far as I can on that. Just as much as I don’t want to be frequenting no stinkin’ heavenly paradise that doesn’t accept ALL of my animals, including my 1200 pound Princess Bully, the Wonder Horse, and let me tell you, I wouldn’t be having’ any heaven that doesn’t take my critters…I expect them to be there waiting for me… I am pretty sure that what those Pearly Gates smell like is apple dumplings, baking in the oven right now.

Really, once you have experienced this, you know.  There is no better smell anywhere than apple dumplings, baking right now in the oven.  Unless, of course, it is the smell of Huey’s mane and neck.  I do not include the smell of Huey’s hindquarters on this list, because he gets lazy and doesn’t hike his tail properly to Go when he’s wearing a blanket.  Yuk.

Back to the apples.  You really cannot swing a cat here without encountering an apple orchard.  It might be the incredibly derelict orchard at Tyringham Cobble, that drops rock-hard apples of some indeterminate antique variety, upon the hiking paths.  It might be the pick-your-own orchards of the Berkshires, or the horse-draw-hayride-through-the-orchard of Outlook Farms in Westhampton.  Or the pick-a-bushel and eat-fresh-dumplings of the orchards up by the Quabbin.  Or maybe it’s the Cider Days of Franklin County, and the superb vintages of West County Cider in Colrain, who used to supply Manhattan’s Tavern on the Green before it shuttered.  You can’t go ten feet here without encountering fresh apples.

Personally, I pity those whose choices are limited to Galas, and Honeycrisps, and McIntoshes.  Nothing is wrong with those…even I, from time to time, want to watch a prime-time soap opera like Grey’s Anatomy.  But just as Grey’s Anatomy subsides into insignificance in comparison to Downton Abbey, or Breaking Bad, so does the Honeycrisp subside into insignificance in comparison to the Macoun.  Or the Jonathan, or Pippin, or the Cortland,  or the Paula Red,  or the Rome.   The Honeycrisp is fine, but sometimes the Discriminating Palate wants…more.

And more there is, and in abundance here.  And that’s the one thing I regret not being able to show my friend Nancy.  Because in Texas, mostly, an apple is an apple is an apple.

Here, the apple is the starting point.  Tonight, it was the starting point for a superb meatloaf (ground beef, ground veal, breadcrumbs, eggs, ketchup, Vermont Maple Mustard, and an egg, and for the last half-hour, a coating of fresh Macoun applesauce, mustard, brown sugar, and pepper.  And, if things go really well, a freshly baked apple dumpling for dessert.  Because who doesn’t want to ascend directly to heaven, tonight.

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Hippie Heaven, New England-Style

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The weather this weekend has been less than ideal, but more than typical for New England in the fall. If you go by the photographs, the sky is bright blue and the air is clear and the trees are brilliant.

The trees are realistic, that’s true.

But at this time of the year, the bright blue skies are, well, not quite the Holy Grail.  But a rarity, to be prized and seized and taken when found.  I can’t improve on the words of the amazing Massachusetts poet Marge Piercy, who gives us these lines in her “Nishmat”:

“We must wonder at the sky now thin as a speckled eggshell
That now piles up its boulders of storm to crash down,
That now hangs a furry grey belly into the street.”

Really, it’s impossible to improve on this material when it comes to discussing what the autumn skies in New England are really like.  For that matter, it’s impossible to improve on that entire poem. Here’s a link to some ancient typewritten, photocopied handout from a religious service that contains the entire text of the poem.  Do yourself a favor and click through there, and read that poem, and take it with you in your heart.  It never grows old for me.

Better yet, go buy some of her poetry books on Amazon.  This one looks good.  Looks so good I just bought it myself.  I don’t own a lot of poetry books.  I write the stuff myself, from time to time, but I don’t usually read it.  I make an exception for Marge Piercy.  Reading her poems has the same effect on me as a long cool sparkling drink on a hot summer day.  Or a thick mug of hot apple cider on a cold one.  These words remind me of who I am when I’m not too busy doing stuff to just be.  They make me feel like I’ve just taken a bath.

I wasn’t planning to go off on a Marge Piercy tangent right now, but I just can’t help wondering what she’d have to say about this day.  The clouds lightened a bit, the rain stopped, and we set out for a destination we’ve had in mind for years, but never accomplished:  The North Quabbin Garlic And Arts Festival.

AKA, as it turns out, Hippie Heaven.  New England Style.

Hippie Heaven, Texas Style, involves a lot less in the way of clothing, and a lot more in the way of vendors of exotic weapons and incense vendors.

Hippie Heaven, New England Style, involves quite a bit of clothing – some highly functional, some less so – and large number of woolen vendors.  Raw wool.  Fleeces.  Felt. Spun wool.  Dyed wool in hanks.  Dyed wool that has been spun.  Wool that has been knitted into mittens, sweaters, jackets.  Wool that has been felted into children’s toys.  Wool from sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, and possibly other things.  I didn’t actually see anyone with live wool-yielding animals, but since this Festival takes place on someone’s farm, they can’t have been too far away.  I’d reckon that Wool-Related Vendors were represented in a 1:3 ratio with All Other Vendors.

Excluding the Food Booths, that is.  And these were spectacular.  Texas Festivals tend to be long on the Fried (fried corn, fried fish, fried jalapenos, fried ice cream, fried twinkies, fried oreos, and my favorite – fried dough).  They’re also long on the Meat (barbeque, chili, burgers, weenies, and a huge array of TexMex meat things wrapped up in tortillas).

New England Festivals are shorter on the Fried, although Cider Donuts are going to be a major player at any of the various festivaly things that go on in this season (and they are not to be missed when they appear).  They’re long on the Apple dimension (cider donuts, cider cider [hot and cold], apples, pies, dumplings, everything but Fried Apples).  And, it being New England, and New England being a surprising entry for Ice Cream Capital Zone of the Nation (and yes, I’m including my former home in Wisconsin as an Also-Ran in that contest), there is always ice cream.

Now, this being a Garlic Festival, we got to see garlic in action in all sorts of interesting places.  Garlic tapenade, garlic cream, garlic in olive oil on slices of bread, garlic paste for the pad thai, garlic drizzle for the lamb kebab from the Afghani restaurant booth.

And, it being New England and this being the Garlic Festival?

Garlic Ice Cream.

No shit, there I was.  And there it was.  And, really, how could I resist?

I didn’t bother.  I hoovered down a Garlic Ice Cream in a cone.

And damn, it was good.  It was like a really good crystallized ginger ice cream – all nice big juicy lumps of stuff cut up and suspended in the ice cream, only instead of ginger, it was garlic.  And it was good.  Not, probably, something I’d want every day.  But once a year?  Sign me up.

So there we are, with a surprisingly good Jam Band on the stage, eating our lamb kebabs with ground pomegranate seeds dusted atop, and our garlic ice cream, and our pad thai, surveying the crowd.  Which was a fascinating mix of aging hipsters with bald heads and soul patches wearing a Snuggli with a baby tucked inside…and lesbian moms on a family outing with the three kids…and assorted farmers…and sweet young things in tie-died gauze skirts and henna tattoos…and stocky women brandishing spinning bobbins and covered with lint…and free-range kids sporting face paint and artistic t-shirts swarming around…half a dozen horses pulling covered wagons…dreadlocked hippies of all ages flaunting hooping prowess…bee keepers en veil on their way to demonstrations involving hives…and an assortment of crusty ancients who look like they’d wandered off before putting in their upper plates and had gotten lost on their way to the dynamite fishing grounds.  And in a sweeping canopy over the assemblage, lowering dark clouds and bright red leaves.

We didn’t get a proper fall last year because of the hurricane – it blew a bunch of stuff down early, and then made big floods that gave fungal infections to a lot of the trees, so all we had last year was what we got in Texas.  The leaves just sort of crisped up and died and came down.

This year, I’m remembering what it’s really like in New England around the beginning of October.  People who don’t know think that the whole tree, sort of, goes colors all at once.  One day it’s green, next day it’s sort of greeny yellow, then it’s just yellow.

That is how it happens for some trees, but for the sugar maples, you get something entirely different.  Whole branches of the trees turn, suddenly, all at once into a flaming red mass.  While the rest of the tree stays bright green.  They look like they’ve been…polka dots.  Some of the other yellow trees do this too.  It’s utterly fascinating to look at as you drive, and thanks to Huey’s high maintenance Owie Remediation Schedule, I’ve been getting to spend a lot of time out driving around.  Only thing better would, say, be riding my horse around but I don’t want to go there right now.  He’s getting better, and we all just have to be patient.  Grrr.

On the way home, we stopped by one of the local apple orchards to Score Some Stuff for the horse.  There are loads of apple orchards in this region – Johnny Appleseed was from a town about 40 minutes away and definitely left his mark on the area.  Most of the orchards have pick-your-own concessions, and nearly all of them will also sell direct to the public (i.e., they pick and sack, you fly and buy).  This one we stopped at had a small retail operation as well.

I told Roy to park the car and we’d go in.  Unfortunately, the only open parking spot was occupied by a small terrier.  This is more of the New Englanders And Their Dogs thing.  The dog wasn’t about to move.  He looked like someone had put him there and told him to save the spot.  Maybe they did.  This means that Roy just dropped me off at the entrance to the shop, and I went in to locate apples for the horse.

I got them, yes, I did.

But.

But.

But it was a close thing.  I almost just died and went to heaven instead.

See, when you have these retail shops in the apple orchards, you’re usually going to be able to buy pies.  Pies made right there, that morning, if heaven is smiling upon your head.

I’d forgotten that this wasn’t one of those orchard shops.

It’s not a You’re Lucky If You Get A Pie Made This Morning shop.

It’s a Making Pies All Day Long shop.

And they had a wood burning oven, too.

Now, it’s my firm opinion that if Heaven has a smell, it smells just like my horse Huey.

But if it didn’t smell like my horse Huey, I would have a hard time deciding whether it smelled more like baking apple pies, or wood fires.

What’s not to love about the smell of a baking apple pie?  You get all of that rich browning doughy goodness that you get with baking bread.  And you get melting apples vaporizing into an aroma that ignites your nerve endings and makes them tingle like champagne bubbles.  And some buttery action, and then the cinnamon, just to make sure you keep paying attention.

Wood fires are the same.  All that thick heady fragrance pouring out as the sap heats up and vaporizes, and the deep layers from the wood itself being consumed…and then there’s always that primitive element, that little part of your brain that has been around since before we came down out of the trees, that tells you that FIRE. GOOD. LIGHT. SAFE.

I wouldn’t have thought there was any way to improve on either of these sensations.

I was wrong.

The way to make them better is to combine them.

Walking into that shop, with the wood fired oven cranking out apple dumplings, hot, juicy, tart apples bursting with flavor, wrapped in buttery soft pastry, all of it rising together like the hand of god to smite you on contact.

Yep.  I’m lucky I made it out of there alive.  Roy was lucky he didn’t get to go in, because I was protected, to some degree, by the fact that my nasal nerve endings have been under continued assault by hay fever for 40 years, and don’t work very well as a consequence.  Roy has a sense of smell like a basset hound.  I think his brain likely would have fried, had he been exposed to it.  No, no, it’s far too perilous.

And later, the meal and the apples behind us, there was a tiny, bijou, storm cell that blew through.  At my house it was dropping lighting bolts like Zeus, and raining hard enough that you couldn’t see a quarter mile.  At the park, 4 miles away, it was bright and sunny.  At the barn, a half-hour before, it had been hailing.

Huey smelled the apples before he could see them.  He had his dinner hay all lined up in the bag, and was going to town.  I stepped into his stall.  He paused and looked at me, and turned back to the hay.  I watched the Possibility of Apples percolate down to his brain stem and interrupt the Hay Circuit.  He looked back at me.  An ear came forward.  He looked at the hay, and made a feint towards it, but stalled out halfway there and came to investigate the Possibility of Apples.  And they were zipped up tight in the pockets of my slicker.  I can only wonder what he’d have done with the aromas pouring through the orchard store.  Probably vanished in a puff of smoke, he would have.

On the way home, the polka-dot red and green trees, the rainstorm moving off across the Holyoke Range, and over it all, the biggest rainbow I’ve ever seen.

I wish I could see what Marge Piercy would say.

Trees

Always the sky is blue here. Yep. Always.

Art Critics In The Corn Field

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The water is back off of the road, I can take my Secret Ninja Route to work, construction crews are busily rebuilding the Vermont infrastructure, and I have word that the MOOver is back on the road between Wilmington and West Dover. All of this lifts and cheers my heart, and allows me to think past the stress and grief of the last week and consider the future.  The moderately immediate future, that is, as I also have word that the local Corn Maze is up, undamaged, and going to be ready for action next week.

While this maze opens on Labor Day, for me, Corn Maze Time is later in the fall, usually in October.  I need to have that chill in the air and the threat of an early nightfall to get my adrenaline pumping.  And why is it important that I should pump adrenaline for a Corn Maze?  Because in addition to being the most Mighty And Awesome Maze of All, this one also offers the Roasted Corn and Cider Donuts of the Gods. One requires an appetite to fully appreciate the experience.  The cider donuts are the stuff of local legends – the farm owns a funky little donut machine that involves a conveyor belt and makes tiny, perfect donuts.  These donuts are almost crispy on the outside, and moist and fluffy on the inside, and they take advantage of the product of the local apple orchards, and well, they’re an experience to be enjoyed, savored, and then looked-forward to for another year.  There’s something about eating corn with the peel still on and used as a handle, roasted right next to the cornfield of its birth, and slathered with fresh lime butter made with milk from the cow down the street.

It is heavenly.

It is also the icing on the cake:  the main event is our Corn Maze.

Before I go any further, I should probably supply some relevant information about my community.  That would be community in a broad sense, because the entire state in which I live is roughly the same size, in acreage and population, as the Houston metro statistical area.  Both are 10,000 and change square miles.  Houston has 5,946,800 denizens, Massachusetts has 6,547,629.  Or, as I have said in the past to my spouse, “Dude, my home town is the same size as your whole state.”  So the notion I have of “community” is a little different, too.  Here, I would consider our “community” to include the towns of Northampton, Williamsburg, Haydenville, Easthampton (but not South or Westhampton), Hadley, Hatfield, Whately, Sunderland, and Amherst (central, North, and South).  I might include South Hadley in there, also possibly Conway, Leverett, and Shutesbury.  This encompasses an area and population roughly the size of the district that supplied students to my high school outside of Houston.

So this “community” has a vastly interesting makeup:  there is a small but significant percentage of individuals with substantial inherited wealth (trust funds) who occupy their time with various charitable and artistic pursuits. There is a small but also significant percentage of professionals who are employed in larger cities, but who prefer to commute (or telecommute) from our Rustic Countryside.  There is a large percentage of individuals involved with agrarian pursuits – dairies, farms, and ranching.  While most of these people represent families who have been working the land in this area for three or four hundred years, there is a small but interesting overlap with group 1, above (the trust fund people).  In addition to this, there are five major colleges or universities, four of them with top-tier reputations, which means that the area is also loaded with Ph.D.s, techies, various white-collar support staff, and students – many of whom grow so fond of the area that they do not wish to leave when they graduate, and they move into the ranks of professionals, techies, farmers, or faculty.  On top of this, many of the trust funds, professors, and students were spawned in the rarefied culture pits of New York City.

All of this leads to a fascinating character for the “community” – which comes to its fullest and brightest fruition in the context of the Corn Maze.  This is not your typical Corn Maze, in the shape of a tractor, or an eagle, or the local high school mascot.  This is a Corn Maze for an area that isn’t sure whether it’s an artist colony, a farm community, or a college town.

The farm that gives us this Maze has been owned, according to their website, by the same family since 1720.  Nearly 300 years, yes, this family has been working this earth.  They are hardly a nest of neurotic aesthetes with artistic pretensions who moved into the area from the Upper West Side or Brooklyn and are imposing their notions of culture upon the rustic locals.  These people are are the rustic locals.

And yet…there is the Corn Maze.  It’s always a Maze with a goal.  There’s a scavenger hunt rolled into it – they have positioned various and sundry stations throughout the Maze, and typically, when you emerge successfully from the Maze with evidence of your accomplishment of the goals of the scavenger hunt, you are rewarded with your Very Own Pumpkin as a prize.  The hunts, as well, are not what one would expect.

My first visit to the Maze was a couple of years ago, and the owners had magically – I do not know how they do this, and after briefly investigating, I decided that I do not really want to know how they do this – created a huge maze with the artistic theme of The Odyssey.  Yes, the ancient Greek epic, written by Homer, the Homer, about Odysseus’ return from the Trojan Wars.  The story with Circe the sorceress who turned shipwrecked sailors into animals, the story where he had to be lashed to the mast to guide the ship through the Sirenes, the story with the Cyclops.  The Maze itself was an artistic rendering of the confrontation between Odysseus and the Cyclops.

It was even better in person!

The white dot there, in the middle of the Cyclops’ eye, is a camera obscura, one that you can actually walk into.  What you don’t see on this picture is the Mighty Potato Cannon, the thunking sounds of which punctuate any intrepid traveler’s journey through the Maze.

The scavenger hunt that year, as I recall, involved stopping at a variety of stations to answer a question about Greek Myths and get back in less than ten years.  Yes.  Demonstrate your knowledge of Greek Heroes and Gods of Antiquity, take home a pumpkin!

Even better was the one I went to last year.  This time – they change it every year – it was in the shape of Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s soup can.  And the scavenger hunt was a combination of Make Your Own Four-Color Process Print…and a quiz over art – several questions of which involved the presentation of two different prints and the question of which one of them was “art” (i.e., originally created as art).

It was unbelievably fun.  At one point, I found myself with my husband and our friend, joining a group of people who were totally unknown to us, and having an extended and fairly informed debate over one of the stations in the quiz.  All of a sudden it hit home that I was, in fact, standing out in the middle of a corn field, debating the Meaning Of Art with a group of strangers.  It was a moment of pure surreality, and one that let me know I had found a weird and unexpected spiritual home.

This year, we are told, the Maze will be in the shape of Noah Webster (of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary fame).  I have my suspicions about what the hunt will involve, and I can hardly wait for it.  Or for the Potato Cannon, and of course, for the Donuts and Corn of the Gods.

Pumpkins

Now I'm all excited thinking about winning a pumpkin in the Corn Maze. They won't be ripe for another couple of weeks, so I'll tide everyone over with this picture I took at one of our fantastic local Farm Stands.

Postcards From Maine

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It is 53 here this morning, and there is a light breeze.  There is no question that Fall is in the air.  Everyone walking the drive this morning is wearing sweatshirts, shorts, and gooseflesh.  The dogs act like they’ve been drinking from the Fountain of Youth.  There is a steady stream of sailboats passing the mouth of the bay, dangling their dinghys behind – a sure sign that they are picking up and migrating south.  The other thing that has been migrating south are the Monarchs.  They fly through here  at this time every year.  Some years are better than others – this one is pretty thin – but it’s always a magnificent vision.  Not because there are huge flocks of Monarchs in the air – they don’t seem to travel in big flocks, but alone – but because there is something terribly inspiring, and a little sad, to see something as ultimately fragile as a butterfly heading out for a journey of thousands of miles.  They don’t even fly straight, they really don’t even fly at all…they’re fluttering out on a journey thousands of miles long.  Every time I see one of those frivolous orange and black creatures head drunkenly out over the ocean, I don’t know whether to smile, laugh, or cry.

Monarch

The water is covered with billions of tiny ripples this morning because of the breeze, but it is still enough to hear, clearly, the sound of working boats plying their craft across the bay.  There is a lobsterman out there right now, pulling up his traps, and probably harvesting my dinner as we speak.  Every time I think about how hard my job can get, I just think of those lobstermen.  And lobsterwomen. While I’m sitting here on my porch, happy in the knowledge that there’s a hot chocolate any time I need to warm up my fingers, those guys are out on the ocean – in all conditions – getting soaked to the skin and dealing with things that will eat each other if they don’t put a rubber-band on the claws.  That’s what those bands are for – not so the cook won’t get pinched, but so the livestock doesn’t consume itself.  Their job is difficult for other reasons, too.  One of my favorite quotes about a boat is that it is a hole in the water, lined with money.  They’re notoriously prickly to keep running.  It’s as if the only transportation I had to work was a vintage Triumph motorcycle – got to get up extra early and make sure the wheels still work.

And then, there is the smell.  I had heard that lobster bait is smelly, and I thought at the time, “Well, yes, all bait is pretty smelly.”  Then, yesterday when I was out on the kayak, I heard what sounded to all purposes an eight-track recording of one of Elvis’s mid-career albums, being played loudly on the water, which meant we could all hear it for miles. I’m sure that the neighbors deeply appreciated that experience.  It took me quite a while to catch up to the boat playing the rusty tunes, but long before I saw him, I knew him for a lobsterman, because I was hit with the Smell.  Lobster bait is not smelly.  It is Smelly.  Possibly SMELLY.  Imagine a five-gallon jar of anchovies and sardines.  Now put the cap on and leave it outside in the full sun…for about three or four days.  Now distill it until you have one pint (Imperial) of Essence of Rotted Sardines and Anchovies.

That is what lobster bait smells like.

Now, in addition to the deep gratitude I already felt to the lobstermen for providing my supper and doing an incredibly hard job, I am also grateful that they’re usually doing it somewhere far enough away that I can’t smell the boat.

Morning

Morning on Linekin Bay

We’re off to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens this morning.  These gardens never grow old for me.  They have something different, and unique, and lovely to offer in every season.  I saw them last at the end of July when the exuberance of the blooms was enough to put a sailor to the blush. Now I am anticipating a slightly more subdued experience, but the weather change will also let me cover more ground.  There are, I recall, some short hikes of remarkable beauty along the balsam woods at the edges of the gardens.  Nothing beats the aroma of balsam needles being crunched underfoot.  It is such an intoxicating scent that around here, they bag it up in colorful sacks so that you can take it home with you.  It works, too.  A few years ago I had a draft-dodger for the back door that was a simple tube stuffed with these balsam needles – every time I moved it to open or close that door, I got a wave of this fragrance.  And, like all smells, it has the power to transport me to a particular place and time…what better place and time than the coastal woods of Maine in the summer?

Lily Pond

Lily Pond at the Coastal Gardens

I’m looking forward to my last lobster for a year – because I expect it will be that long, or nearly that long, before I’m back where I can see the traps from my dining table…and a Girl’s Gotta Have Her Standards. I will pretend that this is my birthday dinner, because the meal I had at the place last night was mediocre in the extreme.  The menu described the dish as a NY Strip (yes, I do eat something other than crustaceans and bubble gum ice cream) with onion jam and a grilled corn salad.  Now, I love grilled corn salad when I make it at home, and this description conjured up just the sort of robustly flavorful dish I wanted last night.  After eating no more than half of it, I wanted to send a note to the kitchen:

Dear Cook,

First, when you grill a steak, it is customary to salt and pepper it – at a minimum – before throwing it on the grill.  It is preferable to apply other seasonings as well, something like thyme, or rosemary, or oregano, would have been a nice touch.  But the salt, and especially the salt, is essential.  It is what delivers a nice browned crusty effect on a piece of medium-rare meat.  When you do not do this, the meat is tasteless and pallid, and looks like it might just as easily have come out of the microwave as off of a grill.

Second, “onion jam” implies an actual condiment, usually something prepared in advance.  Typically, a quantity of onions have been caramelized, then seasoned thoroughly with interesting stuff, and then been let to sit while the flavors meld.  A thin slice of onion, sauteed in an oily pan, and drooped over the steak, does not constitute an “onion jam.”

Third, “grilled corn salad” implies both the cooking of corn on a grill, and the notable presence of ingredients other than corn.  Usually these other ingredients would be things like grilled bell peppers cut into chunky bits, grilled shallots, minced up, possibly a grilled pepper with some heat.  For your edification, you cannot fake grilling corn by dumping a load of kernels into a pot on the stove and letting them sit there untouched until they blacken.  There is a marked difference from both flavor and textural perspectives between “grilled” and “‘scorched”.  “Scorched” is what you did, and it tastes nasty.  It tastes so nasty, in fact, that the small palmful of scorched corn that was on my plate would be sufficient to ruin five gallons of meat stew.  I know this because I did it myself, decades ago, when I was learning to cook.

Finally, it is desirable if everything on the plate is hot.  It is not acceptable practice to dump a wad of mashers on a plate and let it sit there while you scorch the corn and turn the meat brown.  Putting a hot piece of steak on a pile of room-temperature potatoes will not cause them to become warm.

Yours,

Dissatisfied Diner

In honesty, my husband loved his dish, so it looks like this cook was not totally incompetent, but that his/her skills are, at best, uneven.  Nevertheless, the only part of my dinner that Satisfied was the super-hefty pour of Malbec and a very tasty wild Maine blueberry pie.  Today, we eat at Bet’s fish fry, and tonight, I am take a Mulligan, and I’m for a dish of Glidden Point oysters (my second favorites in the world, after Wellfleets) and a grilled lobster with butter and fennel seeds. And maybe one of those blueberrry wheat ales from SeaDog.  And maybe my final bubble gum ice cream for dessert.  And tomorrow, it’s Out Oars For Home.

Sign

On Monhegan Island