Friday, July 24, 2015

The Mysteries of ... Radicchio.

OK, I've just got a whole THANG going on here about radicchio, this week.  Bear with me.

Almost the first thing I learned, reading  Jennifer McLagan's Bitter -- I'd seen Tweets, I'd heard her interviewed on the radio -- was that radicchio is like roses; it comes in a huge range of colours and forms and variegations.  But if your food-distribution server is like ours, the kind you see probably looks like the little guys in the picture up top, there -- not as big as a red cabbage, tighter and tougher than a red lettuce.  Maybe you know it well and like it, maybe not; whatever.  In our corner of the cosmos, you can expect to pay about five (deflated, Canadian) dollars for a head of it.

But I have to step back a bit. In recent weeks I have been taking up space (= "filling the position") in an Honorary way (no filthy lucre changes hands, that is) at a parish I shall call Our Lady of the Lost and Found (with apologies to Diane Schoemperlen; whom, if you have not read, you should.  But I digress).  Up at OLLF, there, we are one of the weekly drop-off points for grocery hampers from the city food bank.  Normally we see somewhere between ten and twenty recipients.  The food comes in standard big cardboard boxes; the recipients re-pack it in their own shopping bags, or bags we provide.  We then break down the boxes, with great flourishing of utility knives, and stack them for "next week's truck."

Now if you've ever worked at or been served by a foodbank, you probably know that the array of comestibles provided is often... eclectic?  So people are quite liable to receive food that they may not even recognize, let alone like, and their children after them.  Like for instance those little narrow needle-pointed red Thai hot chili peppers?  I mean, really?  I suppose if a financially-struggling homesick person of Thai origin showed up at the depot, he or she would be enraptured.  But most of the rest of us, well, no.

But last week, the Strange Thing du jour was -- drum roll -- RADICCHIO.  Great big beautiful fresh unblemished heads of it.  Now at OLLF in the hall where the food is sorted and packed, we also have a "give'n'take" table.  You don't like Thai hot chilis, you put your package on the GT table.  And you can take anything OFF that table that you DO like.  There's a pretty good rate of flow-through; although we did have a challenging surplus of Thai hot chilis there for a while.

And last week, we had radicchio TO SPARE.  So here's where it gets kind of sticky.  I happened to be looking just as the first client strode up to the GT table and whacked down his head of radicchio.  And I gasped.  "But ... that's GOOD" -- I don't know whether I said it out loud or not. I wasn't assigning blame.  I was just so sad to see somebody who needs food rejecting or relinquishing or refusing or abandoning good food ("I like it" = "it's good" right?) -- nutritious, EXPENSIVE good food mind you...

So then I had to do the analysis.  People are allergic, sometimes.  People have dietary restrictions, sometimes.  People may not have proper food storage.  People may not have the wherewithal to store OR cook food -- they're in shelters or they're in friends' homes or they're in single rooms or they're in cheap motels.  People may not know what the heck it is that just showed up in the food hamper.

So i don't know what the answer is.  Part of me wants to set up a hot plate and a stock pot at one end of the church hall, and hurl the rejected groceries into one almighty no-two-weeks-alike slumgullion, meantime crying out in the wilderness -- "Look, look, you can eat this, this is so good, just do this and this and you've got supper tonight and lunch tomorrow...."

Then I go and pick up McLagan's book on hold at the Library, and she is rubbing my nose in it, for one delirious radicchio recipe after another comes tumbling from the pages.  I've just taken the Radicchio Pie out of the oven.  I'm working on repressing my gasps of distress on food bank days.

There's got to be a solution...

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Particularly, grandmothering the Infanta in the second picture.  And what joy it is. She is getting so leggy and "grown-up" -- full of little linguistic and imaginative ploys of one kind and another, Grandma struggles to keep up.  Such a blessing to be surrounded by her and her two cousins -- all these very different and utterly perfect young ladies!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

"Another Saturday night..."

I am baking, this evening.  Not this bread, exactly (it's clip art bread off the Web)...but my "white" bread that also includes wheat germ and instant oatmeal and sometimes a little cracked wheat for TEXTURAL INTEREST.  Didn't have any cracked wheat tonight, so it got bulgur instead (fingers crossed).  It's now in the second rise -- I find the oven with the light on is just the ideal temperature to make bread rise (or to get yogurt yogu-ing), without heating up the whole house.  Any more.  Than it is.

So now there is a little over an hour to accomplish something--else--before i have to go and attend to the final phase.  Meantime the dishes are washing...sun still quite high in the sky (eight p.m.), children playing in the back yard next door...

I have been moving piles of work material around from one desk to another, upstairs and would think with three desks, two full-sized Old Oaken Office type and one good-sized ladylike corner type, I would not have to resort to the eternal dining-room table in order to get anything REAL done, but that is often the case.

Getting a lot of reading done the last couple of weeks and I have confirmed what I suspected, that I CANNOT READ BOOKS IN BED.  Magazines, all right.  But not books.  Luckily I have two good comfortable well-lit Reading Stations, one upstairs (that is, on the main floor) and one downstairs (for hot days).

And on the reading list, or heap, at present?  Hermione Lee's biography of Penelope Fitzgerald.  Cheryl (Wild) Strayed's collection of the Best American Essays of -- some recent year.  Maeve Binchy's Evening Class.  Rick Perlstein's Nixonland.  Daniel Coleman's In Bed with the Word.  Ted Bishop's The Social Life of Ink. Ethel Wilson's Hetty Dorval and The Innocent Traveller. Lisa Deam's A World Transformed (on the spirituality implicit in mediaeval maps).  Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness. And Ann Patchett, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.  Oh yes -- a 1907 English translation (Everyman edition) of the Essays of Giuseppe Mazzini (yes, the "Risorgimento" Mazzini).

Should keep me out of the pool hall, don't you think???  Books, and bread.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

pressing on...

We've been fairly busy with the Fete Nationale this week -- falling on a Wednesday, which makes it more difficult to "faire le pont" -- of all the days of the week, obviously, Wednesday is the most difficult to inveigle into a WEEKEND of some description.   Although the streets were pretty quiet at rush-time this morning; and school, of course, is out for the summer.  Great hootlings of young children next door with a combination of sprinkler and trampoline (and dog).

I managed to find the Actual Canajun Flag, eh, and its flagpole, and hang it on the front of the house in a truly Rural Illinois manner.  This is about the extent of my proactive patriotism at the moment.

I continue to "shop in the fridge" for the makings of my meals--too often in the past my practise has been to do a Monster Grocery-Shopping expedition, and then, exhausted, take myself out to eat.

But last night was a very special treat -- dinner with good friends -- I took some salad, and brought some (less!) back, which has now all been eaten.  And by way of an early supper, I converted some pollock-pretending-to-be-crab into a seafood salad suitable for sandwich filling.  I have eaten the sandwich...

Planning to tiptoe away and be faintly creative for a bit, later this evening...exercise a bit -- but I did walk today, a few blocks downtown; went down to buy a most excellent book (because just borrowing it from the Library, which I've now done twice, did NOT suffice) -- "The Social Life of Ink" by Ted Bishop (published last year).  And we have one, count it, ONE remaining independent bookstore (for new books) in the city, so rather than engage Amazon, I thought I'd go downtown.  FATAL...just inside the front door, a large table arrayed with soft-cover Canadian fiction, some of it classic.  And HALF PRICE.  Going to spend some time this next week with MiriamToews and Ethel Wilson.  None the worse for that.