ESTHER’S BERRY PIE, SHANNON’S BRIDAL SHOWER, AND A VERY BUSY JULY

PiePhew! The heat came with July, but life hasn’t slowed down to keep pace with the hot weather. Instead, it’s speeded up, with all sorts of folderol to keep me busy: Fourth of July, a magazine article to work on, my daughter Shannon’s bridal shower, and the usual household and gardening chores, which always seem take more time than they should.

Today I’m going to be making cinnamon pie knots for the shower, and tomorrow it will be lemon-frosted shortbread. In between, I’ll be brewing gallons and gallons of iced tea. As I’ve written in previous posts, I am lucky to have so many women who are willing to help with this shower. They will be baking, making sandwiches, and helping me setup at the Grange in East Vassalboro, where the shower is to be held. After the shower on Saturday, there will, of course, be pictures and more details. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is a recipe from my mother’s best friend, Esther Bernhardt, who will also be helping me with the shower. (Mom passed away two years ago, and how she would have loved being a part of the festivities.) It’s a berry pie recipe, in Esther’s own words, and as berry season is upon us, there is no better time to make this pie. Frozen berries make a perfectly good pie, but fresh berries make an even better one.

Berrys and pie plate

ESTHER’S “ABOUT” BERRY PIE

I call it an about pie.

Mixed Berry Pie.  9 inch
About 3 1/2 cups of berries. I used strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Raspberries sweeten the pot. A generous 1/2 cup of sugar (but not too generous perhaps an extra generous tbls. I go by looks and feel so much), 3 tbls of flour. Mix these together then mix into the berries—this way there are no lumpies. Pour into pie shell and cover with top crust, crimp and vent in any design one desires.  Bake about 3/4 hr.  I immediately take a pastry brush and gently brush the hot top with butter. The hardest part of this pie is facing the brambles, mosquitoes and keeping one’s brow dry.  I happen to enjoy this sort of exercise but today one can purchase mixed berries in your freezer section at most groceries stores. Mix and Match I guess.

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TUBBY’S UPDATE

Tubby’s has been open for nearly two weeks, and I’m not going to reveal how many times my husband, Clif, and I have stopped there for ice cream. Let’s just say that it’s been quite a few and leave it at that. 

Our summer routine goes something like this: Clif comes home from work. There is still quite a bit of daylight left, which means there is plenty of time for a bike ride. Our favorite route is along Memorial Drive, which runs by Maranacook Lake, a lovely ride that is relatively flat. At least for Winthrop. We go about eight miles and are working up to ten. On the way back, as we head toward town, Tubby’s is only a half-mile or so away from where we have to turn off to head home. How can we resist swinging by? All too often, we don’t. With our bikes propped nearby, we eat ice cream and sit on the low stonewalls that have been built around Tubby’s little gardens. The night is warm. People are waiting for ice cream. Summer, lovely summer. 

Recently in the Advertiser, a small area paper, there was another article about Tubby’s and the delights awaiting Winthrop residents. According to the article, the restaurant will open sometime around Labor Day, and it will have a seating capacity of about eighty. (With the current small parking area, Clif and I are wondering where everyone is going to park. After all, not everyone rides a bike to Tubby’s, and, alas, summer in Maine ends all too soon.) The promised menu includes lobster rolls, steak bombs, burgers, and, of particular interest to me, French fries. Oh, how I love fries. Will Tubby’s be frozen or hand cut? The suspense is nearly unbearable, and while I certainly don’t want to rush summer, my mind can’t help casting ahead to fall, when the question will be answered. 

Then there is the promised “good old-fashioned candy shoppe” with its selection of “sweet treats, penny candy, chocolate, nuts, home ground peanut butter, fudge…” Candy lovers will need no further descriptions. I certainly don’t.

So far, my favorite ice cream at Tubby’s is coconut, and I have a hard time branching out. But summer is still relatively young, and when I have had my fill of coconut, I’ll try some of the other flavors. Chocolate with chocolate chips is on my mind. As is chocolate with white chips. And, for some reason, grapenut is always appealing. I know. It is the type of ice cream a grandmother might eat. In fact, it was my own grandmother’s favorite flavor. 

Sometimes, grandmothers are on to something.

A WEEKEND OF STACKING WOOD, BIKING, AND A TRIP TO THE FARMERS’ MARKET

A rainy Monday in the neighborhood, but after a busy weekend, it’s something of a relief. My husband, Clif, and I rode our bikes and stacked wood, and I’m just plain tired today. We ordered six cords of wood for our wood furnace, and four were delivered last Thursday. We stacked a chord and a half over the weekend, and, weather permitting, we’ll stack another half chord during the week so that we’ll have room for the next two cords that will come this Wednesday. Nature’s gym! But, it’s nice to have this restful day. No biking, no stacking. Just a walk with my dog, Liam. And housework, of course, but somehow that doesn’t seem to end.

Looking ahead, I’ve found a bag online for the rack on my bike so that it will be easier to do errands around town. I went to the farmers’ market on Saturday, and I bought two pounds of sausage, a pound of ground beef, and four chicken thighs as well as lettuce, strawberries, and radishes. They all fit in the backpack and didn’t give me any trouble when I biked home, but soon enough the potatoes and squash will be in season. It’s hard to carry those heavy vegetables in a backpack and then bike home. The weight pulls you back. (I know this from first-hand experience.) Of course, I could take the car, but the whole point is to bike as much as possible and to figure out how to carry things on the bike. 

There are several reasons why Clif and I are so keen on biking. The first is that biking can’t be beat when it comes to low-impact exercise that really gives a terrific work out. For someone like me, who has creaky knees, this is quite an advantage. I simply can’t walk fast enough to get good aerobic exercise. The second reason, and one that shouldn’t be dismissed, is that biking is just plain fun, given, of course, that a person is in reasonable shape. What a delight it is to speed along the road when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. Depending on the season, I can smell lilacs or roses or, more enticingly, food being grilled. Dinners being cooked and the smell of garlic mashed potatoes wafting from the houses. When we passed by a marsh this weekend, I saw a great blue heron not far from shore. No matter when we go, there is always something interesting to see, yet we can zip along at a good pace. 

Exercise and pleasure would be reasons enough to bike, but there is a third issue—for those of us who are interested in living a low-carbon life, biking is a low-carbon form of transportation. I’m reading a book called how to live a low-carbon life: the individual’s guide to stopping climate change by Chris Goodall. Currently, the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is about 390 parts per million, and by 2050 it is expected to exceed 500 parts per million. Goodall writes, “To hold carbon dioxide levels to a maximum of 550 parts per million in the atmosphere, the world can probably afford emissions of no more than about 3 tonnes per person. Any more, and temperatures will continue to rise beyond the 3 degree level.” (Goodall is British, hence “tonnes” rather than “tons.”) As I’m sure readers know, even though 3 degrees doesn’t sound like much, it’s enough to cause a lot of trouble—glaciers and the poles melting, rising sea levels, droughts, extreme weather. In short, climate change. And here’s the really, really bad news: On average, Americans use over 20 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year. That’s right. Twenty tons. Per person. A lot of that carbon dioxide comes from driving cars, and, if I’m going to be completely honest, from the food we eat as well. 

I’ll be writing more about this in future posts. Clif and I are in the processing of figuring out how much carbon we use, and in just our preliminary figuring we know it’s going to be much more than three tons each. Because I work at home, and we only have one car, our energy usage isn’t as high as most Americans’ energy usage, but even with just one car we use about 5 tons of carbon per year.

So abiking we will go, whenever we can. Clif and I are working at building up our strength. This weekend, we made it to the end of Memorial Drive. Ten miles round trip, and a long, tiring hill at the end of Memorial Drive. Once that hill is mastered, we have the Holmes Road route, which makes the Memorial Drive hill look like the merest bump. And after that? A birthday bike trip in September to The Liberal Cup in Hallowell, with a hill that could aptly be named “Misery Hill.” Oh, my! 

Kermit had it right. It is certainly not easy being green.

FRESH FOOD FOR SOUTH BRONX

In yesterday’s New York Times there was a piece by Kim Severson called “For a Healthier Bronx, A Farm of Their Own”, which covered so many food issues that it should be required reading for everybody in this country who reads and eats. (And that would be quite a lot of people.)  

Severson’s article is about how “Dennis Derryck, a 70-year-old mathematician and professor at the New School for Management and Urban Policy,” bought a ninety-two acre farm in upstate New York so that people in South Bronx could be part of “a commercial community-supported agriculture plan (C.S.A.) that lets residents determine what they’ll get, with an enticing prize at the end for people who stick with it: a chance to own shares in the farm.” To do this, Derryck took out a $300,000 loan and raised $562,000. He got nonprofit organizations to help sponsor Bronx participants who couldn’t afford the full price of belonging to a C.S.A. 

I found the whole article fascinating and hopeful, but two things really struck me. First was Derryck’s assertion that “If there is a food revolution, it’s not yet including the low income.” The South Bronx is a very poor community, and, as is often the case with such communities, good, fresh food at any price is hard to get. So while those of us with enough money try to buy as much local and organic food as we can, folks who live in poor communities must rely on convenience stores and fast food chains to get their food—most of it highly processed with too much fat, salt, and high fructose corn syrup. As the writer Mark Winne has put it, you can’t be free when your food choices are restricted to food that is not good for you. 

The second thing that caught my attention came from the farmer Richard Ball: “If we simply got New York to be New York’s customer, we’d be in great shape.” 

That really sums the situation up, doesn’t it? So simple but yet not simple at all.

THE FIRST DAY OF SUMMER: LUNCH WITH BARBARA PENROD

Yesterday was the first day of summer, and I biked into Winthrop to have lunch at Sully’s Restaurant with my friend Barbara Penrod. Barbara and her husband, Wally, have a cottage on a lake in a nearby town, and they come from Pennsylvania to spend summers in Maine. I met Barbara when we were both volunteering at the Theater at Monmouth in Monmouth, Maine, and though we aren’t exactly sure how long we’ve been friends, we figure it has been at least fifteen years, and, in fact, it is probably heading on twenty. Time certainly does pass. 

Somehow, over the years, I have come to associate the beginning of summer with Barbara’s arrival, and to me summer doesn’t really start until I see Barbara. How fitting, then, that we should meet for lunch on what was actually the first day of summer, which was also my mother’s birthday. Mom passed away two years ago, and yesterday would have been her seventy-fourth birthday. In addition, Mom knew and liked Barbara very much. So this longest, loveliest day of the year was a day full of meanings. 

At Sully’s Barbara ordered a BLT and fries—fresh, not frozen—and perfectly cooked, a little soft on the inside—but not mushy—with a satisfying chew. Barbara’s plate was mounded with these long, golden delicacies, and she told me to help myself. Showing remarkable restraint—let’s just say that fries are one of my many weaknesses—I only took a few. I really do try to stick to one “cheat” day a week, where I indulge my love of sweets and fried food, and yesterday wasn’t that day. But, readers, it wasn’t easy to take only a few of those fries. 

I ordered a lobster roll, with a side of coleslaw, and the roll was disappointing. The meat tasted bland, not sweet and punchy, the way fresh Maine lobster is supposed to taste. I didn’t ask, but my guess is that the meat was either previously frozen or, even worse, it came “from away,” and it wasn’t even Maine lobster. Whatever the case, I won’t be ordering the lobster roll again. 

Nevertheless, it was great seeing Barbara and catching up with all that had gone on with her family during the winter. (Pennsylvania got blitzed with snow while Maine had a mild winter.) We’ll be meeting again many times before she and her husband head back to Pennsylvania in September, when the weather takes on that certain little chill that signals much colder times are coming.  

But September is months away. In the meantime, we have summer, my favorite season. Barbara is here. It has begun.

A FATHER’S DAY OUTING TO WOLFE’S NECK WOODS STATE PARK

This year, because of our daughter Shannon’s schedule, we celebrated Father’s Day on Saturday rather than Sunday. Normally, my husband, Clif, and I stay pretty close to home, but on this special occasion, he decided he wanted to go on a little road trip to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport, Maine. Weather permitting, of course.

Fathers day PicknicThe weather did permit, and the day was sunny and very warm. Shannon had put together a picnic lunch—a macaroni salad mixed with Dijon mustard as well as mayonnaise; cold chicken that had been marinated and then cooked with a spice rub; and a multigrain boule from Hannaford, our local grocery store. I brought some peaches to round out the meal, and for dessert, I had made strawberry shortcake. What a feast we had at a picnic table in the shade!

While Freeport is pretty well known for L. L. Bean’s, that bastion of outdoorsy retail Cold Chicken plateshopping, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park is not as well known, and even on the sunniest, warmest day, the park is not crowded. A smallish state park of 246 acres, Wolfe’s Neck is on a peninsula of land, with Casco Bay on one side and the Harraseeket River on the other. The park gets its name from Henry and Rachael Wolfe, who, as the park’s brochure puts it, “settled here in 1733, the first Europeans to do so permanently. They and their descendents cleared most of the shortcakepeninsula for farms, but over time this part returned to forest.”

And a lovely forested peninsula it is. Along the Casco Bay side, there is in island with an osprey nest, which, for as long as we’ve been coming to the park, has had a pair of osprey raising young ones. This time was no different, and after our picnic lunch, Shannon, Clif and I paused on our hike around the park to watch the osprey and listen to their  high-pitched calls. Their island is close enough to the mainland so that viewers can see the nest and occupants without needing binoculars.

osprey nestAfter admiring the osprey, we  followed the trail along the rocky shoreline and then into the woods, with ferns so lush and large that I felt as though I stepped back in time millions of years. We passed a little stream coming down a rocky incline, and the stones on each side were covered with dark green moss. We saw lady slipper leaves and stems, but alas the flowers had gone by. Uphill and downhill we want, chatting and admiring the cool woods.

Two and a half hours later, we came back to the parking lot, and we all agreed that we had walked off our picnic and that it was time to head to Freeport for an ice cream.

Clif has given me permission to write that he had a very nice Father’s Day at one of his favorite places in Maine.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers. Here’s hoping that they can spend it as well as Clif did, at a favorite place with their families.

AN ORGANIC DAIRY FARM IN OXFORD MISSISSIPPI

In today’s New York Times, there is a wonderful piece about Paula and Billy Ray Brown, a couple who have started an organic dairy farm in Oxford, Mississippi. The piece’s title—“A Modern Dairy Tale—is the perfect summation of Billy Ray’s struggle to have a farm and the happy ending as he succeeded in a way he didn’t expect. It really is a heartening story, which gives me hope that those with small farms and green ways can make a go of it. What is particularly moving about this piece is the way Billy Ray’s father—the writer Larry Brown—wrote about his son’s efforts. Excerpts from Brown’s essay, “Billy Ray’s Farm,” are included in the Times piece.

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