Food Friday: Holiday Leftovers

I just had a tentative peek inside the refrigerator, which is packed and groaning with leftovers and good intentions.

I honestly meant to bake the annual Fourth of July cake yesterday, but Mr. Friday was using the oven to bake ribs. All afternoon. Half of a rack of leftover ribs is contained by a large Baggie, and it is taking over a shelf in the fridge. Also two pints of blueberries, and a pint of raspberries for my holiday-themed cake. Not to mention the large container of heavy whipping cream. The stuff is packed in there. Tight.

Teetering on a top shelf, next to the container of whipping cream, is a quarter sheet cake pan, still half full of Ghiradelli dark chocolate cake, slathered with the best buttercream icing I have EVER made. No wonder we are Weeble People! There are two pint containers of blueberries (One which I upended and scattered all over the kitchen floor on the Fourth in the heat of battle. The takeaway – Luke the wonder dog has no interest in blueberries.) and one of raspberries. There is a wedge of watermelon, and half a cantaloupe.

Sitting boldly in the middle of the fridge is a huge mixing bowl full of potato salad. And right next to that is a Tupperware container of cole slaw; a gallon o’cole slaw.

Crammed into a drawer are half a dozen ears of corn, and an elastic-bound bunch of asparagus.

Also on the top shelf are rye bread, a can of raspberry La Croix fancy fizzy water, a stainless steel tub of extra buttercream frosting, three bottles of store-bought salad dressing, and one Pyrex cup of homemade vinaigrette. I am not happy with any salad dressings these days, and am searching far and wide for a good recipe. Keep watching this spot.

Scattered into any nooks are bottles of middling white wine, and in the crannies are the cheap white wine, milk, Diet Coke and mayonnaise.

There is a package of salted butter, and another of unsalted butter. Also eggs; brown and white.

The Fourth of July cake goes in the Might Have Been a Good Idea category of good intentions paving that slick route to hell for me:, thus the raspberries and blueberries. I have read that Ina Garten and Martha Stewart can’t agree who first came up with the now ubiquitous Fourth of July flag cake. I am inclined to believe Ina Garten, but only because she and I grew up in the same town. Martha was late to the Connecticut scene.

Since I could not bake anyone’s Fourth of July cake, we managed to get by with slices of leftover chocolate cake. There are still quite a lot of cake leftover, so stop on by later.

Mr. Friday stepped away from the grill this Fourth of July, and brought his cooking skills inside. It was the heady combination of a new, sure-fire baby back ribs recipe, and the stinking temperatures outside. And it was easier for him to monitor the ribs while they cooked, from the comfort of his sofa, and the World Cup games he had TiVo-ed…

No Fourth of July could be complete without someone’s mother’s potato salad. This year I chose my mother’s. Of course.

Potato Salad

I don’t always have green onions – Vidalias work just fine. No red potatoes? Go for Russets. A little fresh thyme? Why not? It is dependable, tasty and can be adapted and stretched to feed the masses. Just add more potatoes, and more mayonnaise. Particularly fine for large picnic gatherings. Plus you can make it in the morning, and it is just right by suppertime.

• 2 pounds little new, red potatoes
• 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise thinned with milk
• 1 bunch green onions, chopped
• Sea salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender. While warm (but not still steaming hot – I have melted my fingerprints by slicing too early and my life of crime may start any minute now) slice potatoes and begin to layer them in a large bowl – one layer of potatoes, then a handful of green onions and salt and pepper. Pour on some of the mayonnaise mixture. Repeat. Gently stir until all the potatoes are coated. You may need to add more mayonnaise mixture when you are ready to serve, as the potatoes absorb it.

Also necessary for summer holiday feasts is cole slaw. My mother’s won. Again.

My Mother’s Boring (Yet Reliably Deelish) Cole Slaw

• 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise (Duke’s if you live father south)
• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar vinegar
• 1 tablespoon celery seed (not celery salt)
• 1/4 tsp kosher salt
• 1 half teaspoon coarse black pepper
• Some people add carrots for color. I don’t think my mother would approve.
• 1/2 largish head of cabbage, green or purple, your choice, you will have to live with the consequences. You will be dissecting the cabbage to make workable pieces for slicing.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seed, and salt until smooth.
Mix in the shredded cabbage and fold over with spatula until completely coated. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours, or overnight.
It is always better the next day.

We were in California last month and had the great pleasure of eating at the Bouchon Bistro. I bought the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook which is a beautiful, yet weighty, tome with intimidatingly precise recipes. I thought I would be whipping out professional-looking macarons and pain au chocolat immediately upon our return home. Instead, I grabbed a box of Ghiradelli dark chocolate cake mix, and turned to my friends at Food52 for icing guidance. I don’t know why I entertained the notion that I would find time, or oven space, to bake a Fourth of July cake. The chocolate cake is something we know and love, and was perfect for watching Macy’s jubilant fireworks, before we returned to our Independence Day film fest.

Basic Buttercream Icing

Tonight we will not be tossing our usual Friday night pizza. Instead I am rooting around in the freezer for some hot dogs. We will top them with leftover slaw, and have a side of potato salad, and yet another slice of chocolate cake. Oh, and some of that cheap white wine. We need to clear out some space. Happy July!

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”
― Calvin Trillin

A Lineman for the Country: Delmarva’s Bradley Hughes on Working on Puerto Rico’s Power Lines

While Bradley Hughes calls Easton home, and his job is with Delmarva Power’s regional office in Centreville, it’s entirely accurate, with a few apologies to Glenn Campbell, to call him a power linesman for the country rather than a county.

With almost no notice, Bradley and his fellow linesmen can be assigned to any part of the United States for weeks at a time after a significant storm to help repair power lines. And for Hughes, that has meant long-term projects in Florida, New York, Tennessee, Alabama, and most recently, Puerto Rico.

Hughes calls this just part of his job, but very few make a career of working at very high heights, under hostile weather conditions, and for very long hours. It takes a unique calling and skill set to not only tolerate the work but enjoy it.

In fact, when talking to the Spy after he arrived back for three weeks in Puerto Rico about the horrific power shortages that island is facing, he referred to that challenge as the equivalent of being the Super Bowl of sorts for professional linesmen. It’s on these occasions for someone like Bradley to use all his skills, physical strength, and problem-solving skills to extreme levels while also returning power to 12,000 families during that time.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Delmarva Power’s efforts to help Puerto Rico please go here.

Spy Minute: YMCA’s Take the Helm Launches the Voyager

In the case of the YMCA of the Chesapeake’s “Take the Helm” program, nothing says success more than its annual boat launch.

That’s because “Take the Helm” is a boat-building program for local high school students in a hands-on, skill-based enrichment project which not only creates a beautiful boat but also builds self-confidence, community, and team and empowers those young people the skills to achieve their dreams.

“Take the Helm” has now completed its second year with the launching of the “Voyager” at Evergreen Cove last Friday. Program Director Adam Hollis and chief builder Jim Fodrie celebrated with their “Take the Helm” team the boat’s official christening with dozens of family members and program supporters after almost a year of working of the vessel.

The Spy was there to catch a few moment.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about the YMCA’s Take the Helm program please go here.

Handwriting On The Wall by George Merrill

I liked taking photographs of old, dilapidated buildings and rusting farm machinery lying in fallow fields; or drift wood that’s stripped bare by the sea and bleached in the sun.

Graveyards also fascinated me, especially colonial sites on the island where I grew up and here on the Shore. On their weathered and crumbling headstones, I’d read tributes to, or lamentations for, the deceased. Whatever else, the headstone epitaphs affirm one’s existence –wanting passersbys to know they had once been – along with a synopsis of how the deceased or someone who knew him or her felt about their life and their death.

When I look around in old cemeteries, I wonder what these brief headstone testimonies mean and what the deceased persons once thought. There are few places on earth, other than a cemetery, where our mortality is declared so definitively. The markers identify not who’s there now, but who isn’t any more. The silence and emptiness of a cemetery’s terrain has a paradoxical effect on me, and, as I’ve learned since, on many others. Even while being in the midst of so many absences, I have a strong feeling of a presence while standing above those who’ve long gone. Among the old stones I stand waiting, as if for a revelation. It’s a haunting feeling, not as though I expected ghosts, but in the stillness of the space, some primal feeling in me is being called forth for which I had no name.

This feeling I’ve come to understand as yearning or longing, not for death, but from a desire to have a more complete story to which the brief epitaphs on the headstones allude. I wanted to reach my hand across the divide of time and experience the world as these people had once known it. I longed to hear their stories, see the landscape through their eyes. It was perhaps as I understand it now, my yearning to feel more deeply connected to the others through whose history, I too, had been shaped.

I long for connection.

Years ago, I read an essay by Bruce Mills titled. “An Archeology of Yearning.”

Mill’s story was about exploring the delicate terrain of the mind; the space deep within and surrounding us, and the symbols each of us use to travel in and out of one another’s terrain. Mills had written a moving account of the years he struggled to find ways to communicate with his autistic son, Jacob.

He seemed to be speaking about something I knew about intimately, but how, since I knew little about autism?

Living with Jacob’s autism, Mills tries to interpret his son’s inner space. Since there is little common language that parents, teachers, or playmates can share with Jacob, he lives in a lonely world. So, do his parents. They are woven tightly together by family bonds, but don’t have a common language. It’s painful being close and yet so far away, like standing next to a headstone that has a story, but no one to tell it.

Jacob drew pictures with the skill of a professional’s hand. He sketched perfect replicas of TV characters from the scenes in the children’s shows he watched on TV – like Sesame Street and various Disney movies. He constructed his inner vocabulary from these images. He mastered drawing perspective and depth perceptions of a much older child.

Jacob thought in pictures, not words, while imputing emotional significances to particular characters and certain colors. Through his art, he developed a visual language to give meaning to his inner space, to reach out to others. It was, however, a pictorial language and his father could not be sure that the pictures meant the same to him as they did his son. Often, they didn’t.

In general, when children pose the question to parents, “Where did I came from?”, I believe inherent in the question is a lot more than curiosity about the mechanics of sexuality. I suspect that in the question lies an eternal yearning to know the continuum of life beyond our own. How is who we are today connected to others who had been there long before? Who were they and what’s our connection to them?

While working with his son, Mills begins to describe his situation with a beautiful metaphor. In the relationship to his son, Mills sees the same mystery that archeologists experienced when first entering the ancient Chauvet Cave at Vallon-Pont d’e Arc in southern France. The images of animals on the cave’s wall witness to a story some tribesmen wished to tell. For the discoverers, in the silence of the cave which they found inscrutable and dazzling, they also felt a deep yearning to know more. What did these images mean?

Like Jacob’s, the images that the Paleolithic inhabitants drew on the cave’s wall were exquisitely crafted. There was the wondering about why this particular cave, and what the paintings themselves signified about the mind-set of the artists who painted them, the culture in which the artists lived and the significance of the particular subjects they elected to paint.

Art is a way of knowing. Art expresses what we feel about the world in which we live. Art is not confined to any one medium. It’s born of the primal human urge to create, to weave the strands of experience into the whole cloth of a vision. For years photography had been my artistic expression. How I ultimately became skilled in photography may not have been that different than the way Jacob became proficient in drawing: he wasn’t able to express his interior space in conventional ways, and so he naturally gravitated to another. It was important for him to create.

When I was a boy, my uncle took me to the countryside to paint. He was was a natural. As I watched him paint the rolling hills and farm houses, I felt lost, helpless. I could not sketch a landscape so that anyone might recognize it. I had no feel for rendering perspective. I wanted to be a part of my uncle’s world, to be creative in the way the way he was, but I had no aptitude for it. I had only a vague sense of color. After a while I’d find reasons not to go with him. I gave up.

That is, until I discovered photography.

It was apparent early on that I had “an eye.” I took quickly to the tools of photography that equipped me to render pleasing and imaginative photographs. As the saying goes, I found my voice, or more to the point, my eye.

In today’s world, the teaching of various forms of art is regarded as “soft” next to serious courses like business or science. Art education, in budget squeezes, is the first to be cut. I think this reflects a spiritual vacuum that exists in our consumerist culture. We have marvelous tools by which to serve our outer needs, while the tools to nurture our inner lives, to feed our souls, languishes.

It does not bode well for society when its young have no visions of possibility nor can its elders dream dreams.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Cookout Season

Summer is here, and with all those hot, languid afternoons come the cookouts. As my Gentle Readers will remember, I live for summer and delegating the cooking responsibilities to Mr. Friday, who actually enjoys standing outside on the back porch, in 90-degree weather, hovering over a hot gas grill, tenderly flipping burgers, adjusting ears of corn, and prodding susurrus steaks. It is a fine seasonal division of labor.

I get to stay inside, enjoying cool air and cooler wine. I do my outdoor bit first thing in the morning. After I walk Luke the wonder dog for half an hour, I spray all exposed wobbly flesh with insect repellent, and then I charge out into the mosquito-infested side yard to water and weed the raised garden bed. And I harvest the crops.

This small garden has been our first proper vegetable garden in years. We had been getting by with container gardens of spindly tomatoes and etiolated bean plants. This year we are jokingly worried that Jack’s beanstalk will be tapping on the kitchen window soon, as the bean plants have grown up and out and soon we will find a magic goose in the back yard, pecking around with the robins. And yet – we have only harvested five measly beans. There must be more to this gardening than just planting seeds and rigging up strings for the beans to climb. We might have to analyze the soil, and consider when we should have planted the beans. In the meantime, though, the tomato plants are going to town.

We have been enjoying a surfeit of tomatoes: heirloom tomatoes, patio tomatoes, Tom’s Big Boy tomatoes. There are a dozen ripening tomatoes lining one of the kitchen windowsills right now. This is the second dozen that I have picked this week. It is probably just as well that we didn’t plant zucchini this year, or we would have been reduced to even more of a suburban stereotype than we already are. I guess this means I am finally going to have to introduce myself to the new neighbors, and hope that they like tomatoes.

Consequently I have had to do research and find more to do with tomatoes. I can’t just quarter them and throw them on top of a bed of crunchy iceberg. Luckily I can reduce our considerable tomato inventory if I make something large enough to share at a Fourth of July cookout. I have been pouring over this handy dandy cookbook,The Southerner’s Cookbook, from Garden & Gun Magazine. I love the folks at Food52, but the clever cooks from G&G indulge in gracious living. At least in the summer. (This is a killer cocktail:

If you, too, have tomato overload, try this recipe. It was divine. Even if I did have to steam an ear of corn, and cook two pieces of bacon. I always need something to complain about…

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing

6 ripe garden tomatoes, sliced inch thick
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
Kernels from 1 cooked ear Silver Queen corn
2 thick bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon sliced fresh chives

Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing

1/3 cup whole buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sliced fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

For the Heirloom Tomato Salad:  Arrange the tomato and cucumber slices artfully on a platter. Drizzle with half of the dressing. Sprinkle with the corn kernels and bacon. Garnish with the chives. Serve with extra dressing on the side. (Any remaining dressing will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.)

For the Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing: Combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, chives, dill, and tarragon in a blender. Blend until smooth.

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
– Lewis Grizzard

The Spy Columnists: David Montgomery

There have been more than a few lucky moments in the Spy’s nine years of existence but none more so than the serendipitous formation of a unique team of volunteer public affairs columnists who grace its pages every week. These highly respected leaders in their lifetime careers, gifted with intellect, imagination and passion, spanning from the political left to right, has been one of the most significant assets of our hyper-local and education-based news portals.

The commentaries of Howard Freedlander, Craig Fuller, George Merrill, David Montgomery, and Al Sikes have considerably enhanced our community’s civil debates on the most pressing issues of our times. And while the written word is their chosen medium, the Spy, a great believer in multimedia with now over 2,000 video productions, has been grateful that they have agreed to be interviewed as our country enters into one of its most important elections in recent memory.

We begin this series with economist David Montgomery. During his career, which ranged from being a lead economist at the Office of Management and Budget to the Resources for the Future, David has framed his conservative, faith-based and free-market philosophy into some of the country’s most successful policy initiatives.

A case in point is Montgomery’s leading role in the creation of the highly innovative “cap and trade,” otherwise known as emissions trading, of the late 1970s and 1980s which became California’s most successful tool in controlling air pollution.

While David covered a multitude of issues in our interview with him at Bullitt House last week, his opinions on the timely topic of immigration and border control were so intriguing that we made it the central focus of this edited version.

This video is approximately ten minutes in length.



Senior Nation: Technology and America’s Elders with Leslie Walker

Typically, when modern technology is discussed concerning those over 65 years old, the general narrative is that many senior Americans are suffering from a significant disadvantage or gap, if you will, in their inability to access the internet.

Retired before the frequent use of email, web research, or enterprise-related software had entered the lives of the professional classes, these elders, the story goes, have been marginalized due to their lack of computer skills in a world that continues to find new uses for the world wide web.

In some ways, that impression is correct. Over one-third of Americans over 65 years old do not use the internet at all in their daily lives while 90% of all Americans find themselves online almost every day. But when you look more in-depth in the numbers, as the University of Maryland’s Leslie Walker has done over the last few years, those statistics can be misleading.

Walker, who recently spoke at the 3rd annual Senior Summit at the Talbot County Community Center, counters that this age gap is dramatically narrowing. Indeed, the rate of adoption to the internet is increasing every year with seniors.

That is just one of the many subjects that Professor Walker shares after a remarkable career in the development of online news at the Washington Post (she was the first editor of and now teaches at the Merrill School of Journalism at College Park.

The Spy sat down with Leslie for a quick interview after her formal presentation to talk about the revolutionary use of technology for those in their senior years, ranging from telemedicine to voice recognition, which has the potential to radically improve the quality of life for millions as they grow older.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. 

The Hidden World of Despair by George Merrill

From the outside looking in, I find it almost impossible to spot someone who’s despairing of life sufficiently to want to end it. The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain illustrated this dramatically. To all appearances, they were living the American Dream: successful, creative, wealthy, icons in the public eye, attractive and decent people. Only after the fact, do people try reading signs for motive, but any conclusions are guesses at best. Only years after the suicide of my father did I feel safe enough inside of myself to try piecing things together.

When incidents of suicide increased with the returning combat veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq I began to put together a credible theory. During WWII, the non-physical wounds of war were treated dismissively as either shell-shock or battle fatigue. My father, returning from the war, was clearly troubled. Then, there was also a tacit implication of moral failure associated with the condition. Despair and despondency carried the additional burden of shame, and implications of cowardice. Those suffering from what we now recognize as PTSD, had no place to turn. ‘Be a man’ was about the best counsel veterans got in those days. They were trapped with their nightmares and directed their fear, their sense of failure and despondency onto themselves. There’s always the wound that those surviving the suicide of a loved one, suffer. It’s living with the unanswered question: was there anything I could have done to change things?

Among the relationships we must manage in life, none gets more complicated than the one we have with ourselves. This is the relationship only we know about, if we are aware of it at all. The relationship to self involves nuanced values and proclivities that are uniquely our own, like our fingerprints. They are formed mostly unconsciously through family myths, societal values, personal temperament, circumstances, aversions and attractions. Some people are aware of this inner life because they’ve learned of its existence and found tools to nurture it. Others are not curious about it at all and dismiss it as ‘touchy-feely.’ Even out of our awareness, this inner relationship to ourselves can be as volatile as it is invisible. Self-hate is malignant and undetected it can grow like cancer. If it doesn’t kill someone else, it can kill you.

If we could ever know just what drove Bourdain and Spade to despair enough to take their lives, I’m sure, most of us would not see in their conflicts necessary reasons for despair. We ultimately value ourselves through our own judgements, and as our own critics, we can be merciless.

There is a difference between the ego and the soul. The ego governs life when we’re dealing with immediate challenges like making a living, choosing a spouse, raising children, making friends, or being successful in life. Important, of course. The soul, on the other hand, imputes a sense of ultimate meaning to what we do and who we are; souls are often referred to as our spirit, our essence. Some have an inkling of it, some have no idea.

To gain the whole world and lose one’s soul is a timeless cautionary tale. It’s easy to do in a consumerist culture that has little time for matters of the soul. A soul’s needs are not marketable, but advertisers give it a go; I’ve seen the word love invoked by advertisers in promoting toilet tissue and cars.

In Brisbane Australia, Professor David Tacey once addressed a Conference titled “Spirituality and the Prevention of Suicide.” His concern was that strategies for suicide prevention did not include a serious investigation of the role spirituality might play in preventing suicide.

Tacey is convinced that in the western world, there is little attention given to developing an inner life, encouraging the fundamental skills to help people develop meditative and/or prayerful skills that allow us access to our deeper selves while sensitizing us to the wonder of being alive. He believes this leaves us vulnerable to despair since the only values left for us to hold in dark moments are the social skills that the ego practices. Substantive values offer staying power for the soul and spirit and they are timeless. Consumerist values are all about buying and selling. People are commodities, targeted audiences, valued for their capacity to purchase. Making a bundle or being a celebrity has been likened to Chinese carry out; after you’ve had all you can eat, you’re hungry all over again.

Professor Tacey grew up in Central Australia, Aborigine country. He says “This need for spiritual experience and its therapeutic effect on the troubled soul, should become a major priority for all religions interested in their social relevance and their future existence.”

Lives can be deepened. Tacey cites an example.

Aborigines actively cultivate a spiritual life. It’s cultural, a part of their way of life. They know they possess a deeper self, called “churinga.” The word means one’s own hidden body. Youths are introduced to their churinga or “second life” by engaging in rites of passage. Tribal elders initiate the youth into his or her “churinga” with the words, “Here is your body, here is your second life.” The initiate is expected to live life from this spiritual core, and not allow the surface self to dominate because it leads to illusions and falsehood.

It’s worth noting that Buddhists also teach that the ego creates the illusions that mislead us, cause needless suffering, the kind of illusions that encourage the falsehoods that plague our personal, political and social lives. Meditative practices that characterize Buddhism are concrete methods proven to access the hope and calm, and I would add, sanity, that lies within us underneath the layers of the sand castles that our egos constructed.

I lived and worked in Baltimore for many years. I loved the city. It is a dangerous city, once called the ‘murder capital of the world.’ Not to despair. There are flowers blooming in the urban desert.

The Robert W. Colman is a public school in a hardscrabble neighborhood in West Baltimore. I take this quote from the Washington Post that reported on the school:

“A boy who tussled with a classmate one recent morning instead found his way to a quiet room that smelled of lemongrass, where he could breathe and meditate. The focus at Robert W. Coleman Elementary is not on punishment, but on mindfulness — a mantra of daily life at an unusual urban school that has moved away from detention and suspension to something educators hope is more effective. Here, students are referred to the Mindful Moment Room when they misstep or need calming. In a space decorated with bright curtains, lavender cushions and beanbags, program staff members coax students to explain what happened, to talk about their feelings, to breathe deeply. The third-grader who scuffled with a classmate broke into tears. Staff member Oriana Copeland held his hand as they talked. There were no harsh words. He came around slowly.”

Urban decay is one of America’s worst breeding grounds for violence and despair, violence perpetrated against self and on others. I am profoundly grateful to the people of the Robert W. Coleman school for giving as a vision of hope and possibility in an increasingly despondent world.

The long journey toward inward discovery begins with that first step, taken by the people who care.

Food Friday: Out of the Mouths of Babes

An impressive array of fruits and vegetables are ripening this very minute. As you sit reading this on your phone, I hope you have got some reusable shopping backs in the back of your car, and you are ready to hit the farmers’ markets with enthusiasm. You need to go stock up on blueberries and cherries. Right now. No delay. Because you can make the easiest desserts without worrying about anything but the deliciousness that comes with summer fruits.

I have finally reached an age where my son can share his own advice and recipes. This is one of the wonders of overlapping lives. Had I known this about him back when we were pacing the floor early in the morning, when he was wailing and wouldn’t sleep, when I discovered that the farm report on TV was a real thing, and not just a myth, it might have cheered my sleep-deprived self a little, and lifted my weary soul knowing that one day he would grow and thrive and be much taller than I was. That after the dark despair of those nights, I would one day be given a recipe for blueberry cobbler by a mewling, puking, outraged infant. Imagine that!

Chez Panisse’s Blueberry Cobbler (courtesy of the New York Times)

4 ½ cups fresh blueberries
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
¾ cup heavy cream, plus additional for serving, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To prepare the berries, place in a bowl and toss with the sugar and flour. Set aside.
To make the dough, mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cream and mix lightly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Put the blueberries in a 1 1/2-quart gratin or baking dish. Make patties out of the dough, 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. Arrange them over the top of the berries. Bake until the topping is brown and the juices bubble thickly around it, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Let cool slightly. Serve warm, with cream to pour on top, if desired.

Sadly, there is a hitch to my fairy tale: I prefer cherry crumble. I am not a big fan of baked blueberries, unless they come wrapped in a nice warm muffin. Forgive me, Tall One. Let me suggest that you try baking this cherry crumble this weekend, as one adult to another.

Fresh Cherry Crumble
(Thanks you,

For cherry filling
2 lb / approximately 6 cups sweet cherries, cleaned and pitted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

For the hazelnut streusel
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, cane sugar
1cup ground hazelnuts
2/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For decorating
confectioners’ sugar for decorating
1) Prep work
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Grease the ramekins or pie dish with butter, vegetable, oil or baking spray.

2) Cook the cherries
Add the cherries, granulated sugar, and corn starch into a heavy bottom saucepan and stir until well combined. Let the cherries macerate for 20 minutes to 1 hour, so the fruits soften and draw juice. If the cherries don’t draw a lot of moisture, add 3/4 – 1 cup water or cherry juice.  Then cook the cherries for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cherries soften, and the mixture thickens. Stir constantly, so the fruit doesn’t burn at the bottom of the saucepan.

3) Make the hazelnut streusel
Add the all-purpose flour, brown sugar, hazelnuts, cinnamon, and cold butter cubes into a large mixing bowl. And knead into a crumbly mixture. Use your fingertips to squeeze together the dough to form large clumps.

4) Bake the crumble
Spoon the cherry mixture into the prepared baking dish(es) and top with the streusel. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm or cold with cream, or ice cream.

I’m not trying to have the last word. Really. I’ll make the Blueberry Cobbler for Mr. Friday. And he will be amazed, just like I was, that everyone is growing up and changing.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Mid-Shore History: Frederick Douglass and Wye House with Richard Tilghman

It is impossible to go through the bicentennial year of Frederick Douglass and not talk about Wye House. And that is particularly the case with those who live on the Mid-Shore where one of America’s greatest heroes was born and raised.

While Douglass is only on record of having lived at Wye from approximately age six to nine, it is remarkable how much recollection he had of the place when he began writing his memories some decades later in 1845.

In fact, his memory of Wye was so indelibly fixed that he could recall in precise detail the physical location of almost every part of the estate including its smokehouse, kitchens, stables and slave quarters that archaeologists were returning to Wye more than hundred years later they were shocked to discover how accurate Douglass had been.

Wye is also the place that Douglass returned to at the very end of his life to reconcile those memories and formally forgive the the man who had beaten him while being a slave, the notorious slave driver Edward Covey in St. Michaels in 1891.  On that trip, he also decided to return to Wye House to meet with the descendant of Edward Lloyd, the original owner of the Wye plantation.

The Spy travelled to Wye House a few months ago to talk with the current owner, Richard Tilghman, who is also a direct descendant of the Lloyd family, to talk about the remarkable relationship of his family’s property with Douglass.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial on the Mid-Shore please go here