Ellen Gray traversed her town in search of fruit for many recipes. Read more from Ellen on her blog.
Propped up against a sign boldly proclaiming “Fall Mums Are Here!” there it was; the first inflatable pumpkin of the season. Would that I had a large hatpin handy. Pumpkin sightings mean the bathing suit I wore but once this summer must retreat to attic storage. While under the eaves, I will swap summer running gear (shorts) for September running gear (leggings), while mentally making a note to self. Wear those white sneakers a few more times before the Labor Day fashion police pull the plug.My inbox has been flooded this week with emails from various food sites offering sage counsel on Back-To-School-Lunches. Whoever these foodies are, they must have seen the stack of unused brown paper bags in the third drawer of my kitchen counter. If I close my eyes, I can conjure the sounds and steam-table fragrance of the middle school cafeteria. It’s enough to make you lose your appetite.
In all honesty, preparing school lunches was never a creative, culinary activity. It was more of a mad, slap-dash 7 am exercise, executed by a sleepy-eyed parent. My knife skills were on point, but my patience less so. Curious selections made their way into those brown paper bags and lunch boxes. When questioned what was on the menu, I generally replied, “It’ll be great. There are (choose one) fresh chocolate chip/oatmeal raisin/peanut butter cookies for dessert.” I was also known for penning an occasional note and tucking it in between sandwich and sweet. When lunch is consumed in the company of awkward 5th, 6th and 7th graders, sometimes providing the correct sentiment is as important as providing the proper sustenance.
Master/Master and Blondilocks reminisced recently about that very lunchroom. In an effort for students to make new friends, in middle school you were required to sit at very specific lunch tables, not necessarily with your pals. The reality was the ‘Kewl’ kids stuck together like macaroni and cheese, no matter where they were seated. It was also brought to my attention that very few children were denied the Philadelphia brown bag tradition of indulging in Tastykakes for dessert. I can think of two.
Work has been fraught with a few challenges this week. Namely, we have been on Cappuccino Lockdown because the milk is not steaming properly. According to Cappuccino Savvy Barista, this stems from insufficient protein in the dairy cows’ diet. Who knew? Poor moo cows are probably dabbling with a Gluten Free Diet as well. Not because they need to, but because they think it makes them feel better. And all the cool cows are doing it. The entire scenario sounds like an episode fresh out of Portlandia, to me.
On Tuesday morning at the Farmers Market, even though plums and pears are hipster chic, the general produce buying public is still smitten with the end of summer peaches. Personally, the freestone yellows continue to beckon, banking on the fact that their days, (like white linen in August) are numbered. Purchasing a quart container of peaches, I’m about to retreat to my car. It’s so ghastly hot, my sneakers stick to the black asphalt.
My phone does that subtle beeping thing indicating there’s a new message. Can you pick up strawberries for a birthday cake going out today? Without even looking, I’m fairly certain strawberries will have to be purchased elsewhere. But I circle the fruit table once more, and that’s when I succumb to the adorable factor of Baby Apricots and Petite Plums. Seated side by side, a riot of orange and purple, I am convinced they will play nicely together under a blanket of cornmeal crumble. The crumble waits in my refrigerator for just this opportunity. My colorful impulse purchase is made.
The strawberry quest leads me to an overly air-conditioned Trader Joe’s. The check-out line snakes alongside a display of miniature pumpkins. I find myself staring at the shopper in front of me who has filled the front of her cart with a stack of perfectly folded, previously used Trader Joe’s bags. In a quasi-conscious state, I see myself in another lifetime, removing the handles from those very bags and using a pair of orange-handled scissors to cut the bags down the sides. Newly fashioned, I place the brown paper on the kitchen counter, retrieve the industrial strength tape dispenser and select the first of many textbooks that must be covered.
The cashier tucks the berries into a signature brown paper bag. “Sorry,” I shrug accepting my purchase. “I left my book covers at home.”