Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Glorious food

I went to the Northampton farmers' market on Saturday and I got seriously the best peaches I think I have ever eaten. And the tomatoes were great too. I always either underbuy or overbuy at farmers' markets - I can never seem to accurately gauge how much vegetables I'm going to want to eat in the next few days. I guess I didn't completely underbuy this time; I still have most of a head of lettuce in the fridge, and half a cucumber, and there's another farmers' market today. But I definitely didn't buy enough tomatoes.

These weren't heirloom or anything but they were the kind of tomatoes where you cut into them and you are just startled by the rich, gorgeous color of them. And they taste... dang. I ate them in salad with a little vinaigrette, mixed some, chopped, into guacamole (perhaps a waste... I'm not sure), made salsa (so good).

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a bunch of kale that someone from work had gotten in a farmshare or something and did not want. I am not a huge fan of kale. First, I made the mistake of trying to just eat it sauteed. This is not a good way to eat kale for me, especially summer kale (winter kale can be a bit sweeter). Then I mixed some of the leftover sauteed kale into pasta with pesto and tomatoes (not the glorious tomatoes, just some pretty good tomatoes). That wasn't bad.

Then last night, I thought, you need to either use that kale or throw it away, and it might have too much oil on it to compost even. So I made a bread pudding with some bread ends I'd stuck in the freezer. It was so good, I ate the whole pie plate full (which wasn't quite as bad as it sounds... though it was still a lot of food).

Here's my recipe for bread pudding with kale:

1-2 cups of cut up bread (supermarket baguettes in my case, but any bread will work)
2/3 cup of milk (would have used more but I was running low and wanted to save some for coffee)
2 eggs
2 oz or so of cheese, grated or cut into 1/4 inch dice (I used gruyere)
1 cup precooked kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Put the bread in a 8-inch baking dish or 9-inch pie plate.

Warm the milk (should be hot, but not boiling or burnt) and pour it over the bread. Let it soak in for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.

Add the eggs, cheese, and kale to the pie plate and stir until everything is pretty evenly distributed.

Pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes (or go work on adjusting your TV wall mount and forget all about it until it starts smelling delicious). When it's done it should be golden on top, and if you put a sharp-bladed knife into it it should come out fairly clean.

Chow down.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Western Mass(achusetts)

So, I've been living and working in the Pioneer Valley for over a month now, and I'm actually liking it very much. I'm not entirely comfortable with how much I'm driving (from a financial and an environmental standpoint) and I have no friends (if you're in the Five Colleges area and want to be my friend, let me know!), but I am kind of a loner anyhow so that doesn't actually bother me much (it bothers me a bit how little my friendlessness bothers me, but that's getting silly).

Anyhow, this weekend my mom and my sister came to visit me on Saturday and we went for a nice bike ride and did some shopping in Northampton and had a slightly excessive lunch. After a very good tired sleep I woke up on Sunday with no particular plan besides possibly building a window seat in my bedroom, but I really need to price out foam and cushions before I can make that a reality. So instead I gave myself twenty minutes to tidy up the apartment, then I got in my car and drove to MASS MoCA.

MASS MoCA is a modern art museum in almost the very northwesternmost corner of the state, in North Adams, about an hour and a half away from me. The museum is housed in old mill buildings, and there is a lot of exposed brick and industrial-looking business, and honestly it would be a pretty cool place if they just let you wander around the old buildings! But instead they've filled it up with modern art, which is also cool.

This was one of my favorite pieces I saw - it's called Re-projections: Hoosac, and it's by Tobias Putrih. It's made of hundreds (thousands?) of pieces of monofilament fishing line strung across this very long gallery and lit by a spotlight maybe two-thirds of the way down. It's tunnel-shaped, and it slopes, so you can get right inside it like these people are doing here. It's incredibly disorienting! Turns out I love large, disorienting pieces of modern sculpture. Although it's completely different in execution, walking inside the tunnel reminded me of some of the Richard Serra pieces I saw at the retrospective at MoMA a few years ago.

I also really enjoyed the huge Sol Lewitt retrospective. I'd never heard of Lewitt before (in this respect he is like most artists of the last 100 years, I'm afraid) but he was a conceptual/minimalist artist, and most of the things on display at MASS MoCA are huge wall drawings/paintings. Lewitt would conceive the drawings, and then draftspeople would execute them. Some of the drawings I saw were never executed in his lifetime, which is kind of interesting.

Here is a video of the installation being, um, installed:

SO COOL. Would it be blasphemous for me to decorate my new coffee table ($6 at Goodwill! Ugly!) in the style of a Sol Lewitt drawing? I'm not sure I care. That video makes me want to get out the masking tape, big time.

When I saw the paintings and read the label copy and understood what they were, I thought, "He's like John Cage, but for visual art!" But I guess it is still even a little stranger to do this for visual art; most composers intend for other artists to interpret their work, but most visual artists do most of the execution of their work themselves. Though I can think of exceptions on both sides of that equation.

On the way home a bald eagle flew right over my car as I crossed a bridge. The Mohawk Trail (Route 2) is a stunning drive, and I can't wait to do it in the Fall. I stopped in Shelburne Falls, which is an adorable little town with a garden on an old trolley bridge and interesting geological features. Then I drove the rest of the way home along the Connecticut River, but I skipped the interstate so I was on nice little secondary roads most of the time. I drove past tobacco farms! I didn't even know there were tobacco farms in Massachusetts (though I knew there were in Connecticut, so I guess why not). First I noticed the strange barns where they dry the leaves, which seemed vaguely familiar (either from seeing them in Virginia or from photos, I don't know) and eventually I put two and two together.

Anyway, an excellent (non-lazy) Sunday.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One blog

So, I've decided that instead of having a travel blog and a crafting blog, I'm going to just have one blog and it's going to be about more than just crafting and travel (though it will occasionally be about crafting and/or travel), and I'm going to update it at least a couple of times a week, hopefully more often.

And of course, now that I've said that, I feel like I have nothing to say.

But I do, kind of! I will talk about a recent Sunday I spent in Maine.

I went to an annual church service at a historic church, which shall remain nameless. They only open this church up once a year, and a guest pastor comes to preach at one shortish service, and then they lock the church back up until the next year (unless someone wants to get married there in the meantime). There's an organ with foot-pump bellows, box pews, the works; it's not in great condition (think peeling wallpaper, stained ceiling) but it's old, at any rate, and has a certain charm.

As you might guess, this service attracts a fairly... mature crowd. There were a few people there in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and two adorable children had been brought in to ring the church bell, but for the most part the congregation ranged from Old to Really Very Old Indeed.

Anyway, the minister was giving a sermon about how he had gone to Tanzania to train bush pastors who could not even afford bibles. Which, to me, raised the question, "Why didn't you give them bibles, then?" He did say that the conference he was at distributed 50 bibles, but seriously, I don't understand why there should be a limit to the number of bibles they're distributing. For the cost of this guy's and his wife's plane tickets to Tanzania, surely they could have photocopied at least a few hundred Kiswahili New Testaments. But perhaps I am missing the point. And I digress.

About halfway through the sermon, one of the members of the congregation collapsed. It was pretty scary. At first the minister kept going and we all tried not to pay attention, because it wasn't entirely clear what was going on, but it quickly became clear that it was serious, and my cousin (who was an EMT 15 years ago) and another woman (a nurse) ended up performing CPR before the ambulance came.

The minister had most of us leave the church and wait out in front while all this was going on. I'm not sure this was actually such a good idea; it took so long for people to get out of the church I was genuinely afraid that when the ambulance got here the EMTs wouldn't be able to reach the patient because the aisles would be clogged with very slow people using walkers and canes, and I considered trying to get everyone to sit back down. (It wasn't an issue - the aisles were clear by the time the ambulance came. And who knows, maybe someone else would have collapsed if we'd all stayed in the stuffy little church.)

The man who'd collapsed was conscious when they got him into the ambulance, and I hope he is OK. My cousin (the one who resuscitated him) hadn't been planning on going to the service, but decided to go because her dad usually goes but was out of town and disappointed about not being able to make it. Anyway, here's to my cousin and to that nurse, for saving that guy's life! Without them, it would have been a tragic service.

So, after the ambulance left, we all filed back into the little church (slowly) and after a prayer of thanksgiving, the pastor picked his sermon right back up where he left off! And didn't appear to change a single thing about it, even though he had mentioned earlier in his sermon how much we take for granted having access to medical treatment! I am not minister, but I tell you I could think of twelve ways to incorporate the actual events of the day into that sermon, none of which this minister took advantage of. I suppose he was rattled just like the rest of us, but really, missed opportunity.

Then we went back to my family's cottage, where there were more family members, and we had a nice cookout which I had to leave Way Too Early because of my long, trafficky Sunday-afternoon drive home. It was an odd day; a strange combination of sleepy and intense.