Saturday, December 19, 2020

Allie (on right) and friends wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

President's Compost

The seven Founding Fathers

It's high time for another guest blog and this one, by my sister Lucia Monfried, spotlights four of our revered founding fathers and is entitled      PRESIDENT'S COMPOST

With presidential politics front of mind these days, I'm thinking of a certain president who was hot headed, prickly, and off-putting, one who distrusted the press, and felt himself constantly undercut by comparisons to his predecessor. No– it's not the current resident in the White House, but John Adams, our second president. Comparisons to current leader (ahem!) end there. Adams, who said "facts are stubborn things," was a courageous patriot and brilliant writer and thinker who got the revolutionary war going.

Defeated in the election of 1800 by Thomas Jefferson, his vice president, in a hotly contested and shockingly mean spirited fight, he did not attend the inauguration of his rival, instead slipping away to his farm before the festivities. Sound like someone we know?

I gleaned these facts from a wonderful book called Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, about the estates, farms and gardens of our first four presidents.

As election tensions rose in the leadup to the recent election, I found a kindred spirit in Adams, who was reputed to go out "digging and scything" when he felt anxious as Washington's vice president.

Madison couldn't wait to don old patched trousers for gardening, while I wear sweatpants and old shoes today

I indulged in some digging and raking (not scything) myself, in my garden in Connecticut, to ease my anxiety as events unfolded in November.

Adams was the only New Englander among the founders Washington, Jefferson and Madison, all rich Virginia estate owners. Adams had a farm in Quincy, Massachusetts, which he named Peace Field (now a part of the National Park Service and open to visitors in normal times) to which he retreated and lived out his very long life.

Peace Field in Quincy, MA

 Below, in contrast to John Adams's modest farm, are depictions of the grand Virginia estates of George   Washington and Thomas Jefferson. 

Extensive gardens and grounds of Mt. Vernon, George Washington's estate in Northern Virginia

Monticello, Jefferson's luxurious estate in central Virginia- note extensive experimental 'vegetable terrace' to the right

Adams eventually reconciled with his former friend Jefferson with whom he had spent time in England after the Revolutionary War carrying out governmental duties. They both toured gardens there, read treatises, and immersed themselves in the art and science of horticulture.

Both men believed deeply in an agrarian future for the young republic, and followed advances in agricultural research.  Endearingly to me, Adams studied and revered compost. One scene in the HBO miniseries John Adams starring Paul Giamatti as Adams and Laura Linney as his wife Abagail, shows him in the muck extolling the merits of manure.

Promotional photo for HBO's John Adams

A screen grab of young John Quincy Adams 

                "Deeper! Deeper!"commands John Adams while he and his son dig in the compost                                                                           in the HBO miniseries John Adams

                  Son John warily sniffs a handful of dung offered by his enthusiastic father in John Adams.

Adams may have been truculent and thin skinned but he reminds us that people are complex, a mix of attractive and unappealing characteristics. Another reminder: activities that were sustaining two centuries ago– digging and composting and improving the earth– continue to be so today. Working on his farm was so important to Adams that he compared it to a medicine.

So with this wish, take a cue from John (and James and George): May the conservation of the land so hallowed by our founding fathers sustain us all in this fractious time of transition.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Buddha's Hands at the farmers' Market

It's citrus season again and Buddha's hands are starting to show up in our local farmers' markets. To demystify this exotic fruit, read THIS.

Here's a favorite photo from a previous blog. This Buddha sits on the mantle at sister-in-law Ricki's. As my friend Andrew, who is fluent in Japanese commented, the stand is actually upside down.

Original 2012 Buddha Hand blog with Green Bin header

Friday, October 30, 2020

Happy Halloween Goodies


                                  Deep dark chocolate and ghostly meringue cupcakes

Here's a recipe for some sweet halloween fun from Anita Chu's Dessert First blog. Even if you don't make these ghostly goodies you can smile at their goofy faces. And remember, as I said three years ago, ghosts are compostable too. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Transamerica Pyramid from Wayfare Tavern

Pyramid at 5:40 PM Oct. 17th 

    It's hard to take a bad picture of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco's financial district. But on Saturday evening, from our table outside the Wayfare Tavern, the upturned camera angle and the late afternoon light aligned to create some stunning shots. Even taken by an iphone.

                           And the cocktails, fried chicken and popovers weren't bad either

photo taken at 6:10 PM


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Danish Oat Cakes

Completed oat cakes, slipped out of their muffin pan and ready to eat

Like so many others, I've been baking my way though these stressful times. Here's an old favorite that's perfect for late summer heatwaves because it doesn't require baking at all. I'm talking about Danish Oat Cakes

                               They're super-comforting if you're freaked out about nearby wildfires,
                               the Pandemic, smoky air---or all three!

The recipe comes from The Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton, Jr.  I've been making them since I bought the book in 1973, when it was published. The oatcakes are called Havregrynskage in Danish, "They're fun to make, good to eat and a conversation food." Here's the recipe as it appears on page 489 of my first edition.

In a large skillet, over moderate heat, melt 1/2 cup butter and stir in 1/4 cup sugar with a wooden spoon. Let them cook together for about 30 seconds. Add  2 cups instant oatmeal and, stirring occasionally, cook for 10 minutes or until the oatmeal is a golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup corn syrup. It will be quite thick and sticky

Then rinse a muffin tin with cold water, shake out any excess  moisture and pack the cups firmly with the hot oat mixture.
Place the filled muffin pan in the refrigerator for at least three 
hours. When the oat cakes are cold, loosen them by running a knife around the edges and slip the cakes out of the pan. Now they're ready to eat. The Danes sometimes serve them with a chilled buttermilk soup which they pour over the cakes. I guarantee that the buttermilk is not necessary. They're perfect eaten alone with only a plate underneath to catch the crumbs, accompanied by a cup of strong coffee or a glass of wine.