I am soooo over it. . .I am done!!!!

There is only one day left, always starting over:
it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.

Jean-Paul Sartre

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(a southern dogface butterfly visits a freshly planted petunia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Don’t panic. . .
It’s Summer, I’m talking about Summer. . .
As in I’m done with it. . .
I’m over it. . .
As in kaput, fini, over and out!!

Actually. . .I’m talking about heat, hot, drying and dying—the tiresome end of all that was once lush, plump and thriving.

In late August, here in this deep South of mine, there is no thriving and there is barely any surviving.
Everything is leggy, yellow and very near death.
And mind you, there is many a day, during this particular time of year, that I feel very much the same.

The little flower bed, just out from our front door, had been full of snapdragons and petunias that were planted back in early Spring when the yard was overhauled.
Had any one asked me, I would not have chosen petunias—I’m just not a fan, but nobody asked me and my husband thought they looked nice. I had to go back in later, as the late frosts of Spring did a number on the petunias, so I threw in some snapdragons in order to fill the gaps. I wasn’t keen on the snapdragons either but I knew they were pretty darn hardy—

Pink snapdragons and crimson petunias.
Not my idea of color choices but again, nobody asked me.

The tiny plants did begin to thrive. . .
Filling out and covering nicely the little flower bed the landscape guys had decided to create for me.
Had I had my druthers, I would have moved the bed, enlarged it and done it a bit differently—
but again, nobody asked me.
The landscape guys had put out some very pretty pine straw all over the yard in the newly formed beds and then for some reason they added bark to the little flower bed.

We had bark once.

It washed like nobody’s business whenever it rained.
I would have a river of bark racing down the front walk requiring scooping and sweeping up after every down pour.
I was done with bark.
However the landscapers were into contrast when they were laying out the yard and again, nobody asked me.

So bark it was and bark it is.

As the Summer has worn on, like a tired old moth-eaten wool overcoat, the petunias and snapdragons have been rapidly approaching their limit. Long, tall, leggy, yellowing, more vine than leaf, shriveled and grossly unsightly. . .I could no longer stand to look at the flower bed without feeling a great sense of anxiety. . .with a touch of disgust added in.

For weeks I’ve been telling myself “not much longer. . .September is almost here. . .then you’ll be able to pull up all that crap and replant it all with some fresh wonderful crisp fall magic.”
Yes, I’ve told myself that for many weeks now.

A tiny cold front passed through the state last night–and please note I use the words cold and front with much rolling of the eyes. . .
I will admit that it did actually drop our temps to the mid 60’s this morning.
Never mind that the high was still 90ish–I’m taking that smidge of crisp and I’m running with it. . .all the way to the local the garden center.

This entire week will see me at dads, doctors, dentists so if I was going to act, it had to be today.
The only problem was that the garden center really doesn’t have in crisp fall magic yet.
They still have in hot summer same ol same ol. . .
No matter–I would make do.

I got home with my assortment of trays.
When I thought I was grabbing some pansies, I was actually grabbing trays of petunias as well as a couple of trays of snapdragons—as in been there done that, it’s too early for violas and pansies so AGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh well, no matter, they’re purple and white and they’ll do until the garden center gets in its fall crisp magic.

I chose white because I like white.
I wear a lot of black, as I like to say it hides a wealth of woe, so I suppose I like it’s opposite as in I think white looks elegant. Never mind when the white elegant blooms die, turning a sickly shade of brown and falling off–I’m sticking with elegant—
And purple because the butterflies like the purple butterfly bushes I recently put out.
I had told the landscapers I wanted some butterfly bushes—
Surprise, I didn’t get any.
Lest we remember that no one was asking and obviously no one was listening. . .

So I spent the remainder of my day cutting all the leggy spent petunias and snapdragons–leaving 3 clumps that still seemed to be “ok”
I then raked off the tired dry grey bark from the bed.
Next I spread a big ol heavy sack of soil—all over the red Georgia clay that makes up the bed.
I had wanted the landscapers to add topsoil to all the excavated ground but remember, no one was listening.
I put in two dwarf fountain grass—
why you ask—
because they caught my eye on the way to the checkout register–
I think we call that an impulse buy. . .however not to fear, I liked them.
I added my trays of the new petunias and snapdragons—experiencing a bit of deja vu as I did so.
I watered, re-spread the tired grey bark- – – but no matter as it now matches the once pretty red supple pine straw the landscapers had put out, which is now dull, crunchy and grey.

One good last watering and I was happy—well, happier than I was.
I’ll really be happy when it’s finally fall crisp and magical. . .

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(work)

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(more work)

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(leggy and spent)

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(better)

August = Heat. . .add butterflies

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.
Yogi Berra

“Walking the streets of Charleston anywhere in the south in the late afternoons of August was like walking through gauze or inhaling damaged silk.”
― Pat Conroy (amended by lil ol me)

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(buckeye butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(silvery checkerspot butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yesterday the calendar turned from July to August—I don’t think anyone or anything paid much attention to the changing of the months as the surrounding world remained mostly consistent. . .
as in the temperature was in the mid 90’s yesterday and remains mid 90’s today.
Nothing like consistency. . .

Did I mention it’s hot and it’s humid?
I know I can hear you now. . . it is August you know. . .and you do live in the South, sooooo, isn’t it suppose to be hot and humid?
Well I suppose that’s true, but nothing says I have to like it.

Did I mention it’s dry. . .as in no rain plus no rain in sight. . .
not even a passing thunderstorm!
It’s the kind of hot that makes breathing a chore.
Moving is a chore.
Wearing clothes is a chore because it takes effort peeling them off sticky bodies. . .
Sweat is the new look.
It’s always been said that woman in the South don’t sweat. . .we glisten.
Well I’m here to tell you that we certainly do sweat—
we sweat like pigs and certainly by the bucket load. . .a most genteel imagery I know.

Everything in the yard is swiveling up, drying up and dying off.
I noticed some of the stores this week were actually getting Christmas items in. . .
Are you freaking kidding me???
School is just about to start. . .never mind it’s nowhere near Fall, Labor day or September—you know, when school is actually suppose to start. . . but I digress. . . and Hobby Lobby is thinking Christmas.
Maybe it’s psychological—if I see Christmas decorations perhaps my core body temperature is suppose to drop. . .hummmmm. . . .

The only living things that were out and about today, besides me working in the yard like an idiot, with any sort of enthusiasm or vigor, were the butterflies.
They may look fragile, airy and light, but anything that can zip about in this heat and actually seem to be enjoying themselves is certainly made of tougher stuff than I am. . .

Now I hope you will enjoy these couple of shots of those who relish the heat. . .
please disregard any sort of sweat drops as I go find a nice frozen popsicle to put on my head. . .

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(silvery checkerspot butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(silvery checkerspot butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(pearl crescent butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(pearl crescent butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(A male and female Spicebrush swallowtail play tag (let’s not go into details) / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Spicebrush swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2015)

I have the perfect solution. . . does anyone know where I can get an anteater or two??

“As regards intellectual work it remains a fact, indeed, that great decisions in the realm of thought and momentous discoveries and solutions of problems are only possible to an individual, working in solitude.”
Sigmund Freud

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(Sleeping anteater at the Vienna Zoo–isn’t he a cutie? Julie Cook / 2012)

How delightfully appropriate that the subject of today’s posted image, as well as the author of today’s quote, both hail from Vienna. Not originally mind you as Freud was born in Moravia which is currently considered a part of the Czech Republic and our little cute sleeping beauty is originally from the wilds of South America, yet both made their permeant homes in Vienna. I am thinking however that our sweet little sleeping friend did not come to Vienna by choice, but I digress.

I have decided that I desperately need to procure an anteater, maybe even two.
They look easy to keep. I can certainly provide a place for them to sleep. I can water them, brush them as that coat of theirs looks like it could do with a nice brushing. They seem docile enough. Surely that little mouth of theirs isn’t filled with fierce teeth and I bet they wouldn’t scratch the furniture like the two knot heads, aka our cats of which my husband so lovingly refers, who happen to call our house home and who scratch with a relentless zeal—hence why I sit on tattered rags. . .digressing.
I bet I can even provide said anteater with a smorgasbord of delectable foods.
An endless and amble supply!!

In fact my yard is full of their food!

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(one of hundreds of ant mounds hiding just on the surface of the South / Julie Cook / 2014)

There have been three recent incidents which have lead me to the desire of the procurement of said anteater–all of which have been of the Alfred Hitchcock variety. . .or more of the Rod Serling Twilight Zone variety. . .or perhaps more like a B grade horror flick. . .or maybe just all three rolled into one.

The latest “episode” transpired earlier this week.
It was late and I was ready to call it a day.
I was just getting into the shower when I looked back noticing Percy (aka one of the knot heads that I dearly love) staring intently at my shirt, the one I had dropped on the closet floor as I was preparing for my shower, intending to take it to the laundry room once I finished washing up.

Now mind you I was currently naked as a jaybird, as that is how I prefer to shower–plus I had removed my glasses as I also prefer to shower with naked eyes. As Percy wouldn’t stop staring at my shirt, I hesitated shutting the shower door, preferring to lean outward just a tad to get a better look at my discarded shirt.
Why was it appearing to twinkle or vibrate or move in place?
Hummmmm.
With the water running, I step out of the shower to inspect this odd phenomenon. Even without my glasses I can immediately figure out as to why my shirt is “moving”
AAAGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
I run screaming from the closet and bathroom, yes, still naked as a jaybird, shower door wide open as the water is still running. And please, don’t let your mind go there as it is not a pretty sight.
My poor husband, who had fallen asleep in his favorite chair watching the late night news, jumps from his chair as if he had just been catapulted heavenward.

“ANTS ARE IN THE CLOSET!! GET THE POISON!!”
This as I make a mad dash in search of poison.
“Why aren’t you wearing any clothes?
My confused, tired and bleary eyed husband asks in great annoyance.
He seems to think company is always about to ring the bell any time day or night whenever I decide, out of grand necessity mind you, that I must make some scantily clad dash here, there and yon.

“ANTS!!! FIRE ANTS ARE IN THE HOUSE!!! GET THE POISON!!!”
Finding a spray bottle of bug killer I make a mad dash past my husband who is finally making his way to see for himself, firsthand, the cause of my commotion.

Sure enough, my shirt is teaming with ants as a nice orderly line is coming and going to the baseboard along the outside wall of the house.

“KILL THEM” I scream as I precariously pick up my shirt and run to the back to door to fling it outside. Yes I’m still naked as a jaybird but its late and its dark out, I could run around naked all night in the yard and no one would see me so it’s okay.

I dash back in and begin wildly spraying the remaining mass and the now confused little trail leading to the baseboard.

“TAKE THAT. . .AND THAT” I shout in triumph of extermination.

By now my husband has made his way to the basement in search of his high powered poison and proceeds to make his way outside in the dark to spray the base of the house outside the closet as there is obviously a mound hiding in the pine straw a bit too close to the house for my liking.

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(I’m not trying to push this brand, but it’s all we had)

I finally throw on some clothes ( you realize that I can hear you sighing in heavy relief) as I proceed to spray and wipe up, then mop the closest.
“DAMN ANTS” I can be heard to wail and lament for the remainder of the night.

The two times prior to this invasion were each similar.
It always starts the same.
Percy begins staring.
One time it was at his food bowl–which was oddly, once again, moving—as there was also a nice little line of soldiers coming in from a kitchen baseboard, once again from an outside wall. My husband, most likely to avoid my high pitched screams of hysteria, immediately dashed outside, finding the mound in the pine straw, at the base of the wall to the kitchen and began spraying the spray of eradication.

The other time was in the laundry room. All with a similar scene of pandaemonium, chaos and poison.

Now you must know that I pride myself in the keeping a very clean, immaculate home. I scrub, mop, dust, vacuum like nobody’s business. I keep a neat and tidy yard doing my best to eradicate the damn mounds which liter the yard like weeds gone mad.

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(you can’t see them in this picture but had this been a video, the earth would be violently moving)

I spend hundreds of dollars on poison, sprays, powders—anything and everything in order to kill these most painful and even dangerous pests.

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(don’t inhale, it will kill you)

If you’ve ever flown into the Atlanta airport. . .as the next time you make your way to baggage, look up—there for all the world to see, is what some whacked out “decorator” thought would be cute—a sculptured trail of giant fire ants climbing the walls onto the ceiling. I find this to be a grave embarrassment for our fine state.
I hate the damn things, and here, for all of humanity to see, the airing of our dirty laundry.
Yes, we here in the South have a terrible problem with fire ants, and we can’t seem to do anything to fix it.

I won’t go into the odd dance performed by many a blindsided southerner who mindlessly ventures outside, rather oblivious as to where and where not to step. Any passing neighbor will quickly recognize the fire ant dance. One step, inadvertently on a camouflaged mound hiding in the thick cool summer grass and within a millisecond, ones foot, leg and lower torso is engulfed in searing pain sending the poor unsuspecting victim hopping, swatting and jumping around the yard madly striping out of any and all clothing.
It’s the only way.
Perhaps dousing oneself in gasoline is the only other option but I don’t recommend that.

All humor aside fire ants have been known to kill young calves, deer, dogs and cats not to mention cause grave concern for those who are allergic to bees. Their bites pack a painful punch and imagine timesing that by 1,000,000,000!

So I have decided on what appears to be the most sound and rational solution, not to mention the most environmentally friendly, riding my need of poisons all in the name of the eternal quest of the total eradication of these damned fire ants!

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(no, my yard does not have a drug problem, rather a poison problem)

Now if I could just talk the Vienna Zoo into letting me borrow their sweet little “pets”. . .

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(a sleeping mom anteater with her young draped over mom’s head / Vienna Zoo / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I’m feeling blue. . .or pink or purple or green. . .you get the picture

“When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I’m not so blue”

Phil Collins – Groovy Kind Of Love Lyrics

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.

e. e. cummings

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(a sea of purple at the home improvement store /Julie Cook / 2014)

Maybe it’s the weather.
Maybe it’s the time of year.
Maybe it’s the barometric pressure.
Maybe it’s the boat load of tomatoes staring me in the face, taunting me. . .”cook us, now!”
Maybe it’s my thyroid. . .always the thyroid. . .
Maybe it’s the news. . .most definitely the news . . .
Whatever it is, I found myself feeling a tad bit out of sorts this morning.

More blah maybe than blue really.
We had had quite the storm yesterday afternoon which ran long into the evening.
Which lead to us waking to a thick humid fog.
Grey, be it summer or winter, spring or fall, can cause any spirited individual’s needle to point towards the melancholy.
Churchill had his “black dog”, I have more like a “black puppy”

On those days which find me feeling blah, blue, dispirited, out of sorts, off kilter—even when a good vigorous walk, a soothing cup of tea, a jolting workout or good night’s sleep just can’t seem to work their magic and shake off the relentless hounding of spirit, I have found one solution—Color!
What?
Yep, you heard me— uh, read me, color.
And no it doesn’t have anything to do with my having been an art teacher.

Plus I bet you thought I was going to say cooking, didn’t you?
And whereas I do love a nice trip to a fabulous cooking store, which one might imagine to be a soothing balm to ease any case of the “eh’s and the “ugs” —I find that color is actually more the quick fix—as well as usually the cheapest!
Or so I thought it was. . .

I needed some ant poison–I know, I can hear you, I’m always needing ant poison–but such is life in the South. . .
So I decided I would have to drag myself out of the house, despite a prevailing heaviness which was pressing me to “stay, just stay”. . .
I drove over to our local home improvement center, opting to go to Lowes vs Home Depot as the selection of “color” tends to be typically bigger and better. And as luck would have it the fall colors had arrived.

I mindlessly grabbed a buggy, aka, to northerners..a shopping cart. . .and, yes, I know a can of ant poison does not necessitate a shopping buggy / cart but I felt things were now out of my control.
I found myself mysteriously making a bee line to a beautiful flat of lovely “coralesque” snapdragons
“Oooooooo. . .” (think Homer Simpson in front of a box of doughnuts)

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(snapdragons / Julie Cook / 2014)

Before I realize it, two trays are in the shopping buggy.
“Mums, must have mums. . .
Oh, and they must match the snapdragons. . .” a far away voice begins to dictate directions. . .

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(a pot of mums / Julie Cook / 2014)

Somewhere in my head I’m hearing. . .”there needs to be a corresponding color. We (we, really?) did the mauves and magentas last year, time to mix it up. . .” this as I grab two four gallon pots of the yellow things. . .

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(Yellow things — Olivia Hypericum / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Cow manure, must have manure. . .and of course a sack or two of fresh potting soil. . .” again these voices in my head. . .
This is where it is best my husband is nowhere in sight.
A. he doesn’t get the need to buy flowers which may or may not survive the winter or for any season really. . .
and
B. who in their right mind pays for sacks of cow $h!t manure!?

Lastly the small voice reminds me to run inside to get what I came for, the ant poison.

And before I depart with my cartload of flowers, soil, poop, and of course ant poison. . .
I secretly pull out my phone, lest anyone think me a subversive flower terrorist, in order to snap a few images of the beautiful abounding color throughout the garden center—

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As I finally made my way to the check out lane, I triumphantly handed the sales lady my ant poison.
“This is what I came for” I emphatically announce.
As she warily eyes the remaining items in the burgeoning cart, with wide eye bemusement, she offered a flat “I see” as she proceeded to scan the bulk of goods in the shopping cart.

“Medicinal purposes” I am heard to respond, “purely medicinal . . .”
Feeling better already. . .

Feast and fellowship or the memories made around food

“I propose a toast to mirth; be merry! Let us complete our course of law by folly and eating! Indigestion and the digest. let Justinian be the male, and Feasting, the female! Joy the depths! Live, O creation! The world is a great diamond. I am happy. The birds are astonishing. What a festival everywhere! The nightingale is a gratuitous Elleviou.
Summer, I salute thee!”

― Victor Hugo

“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?”
― George Eliot

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(a remaining squash blossom perched upon one of Michael’s cutting boards / Julie Cook / 2014)

Behold the lowly squash blossom.
An unassuming little component to something seemingly so “other than.”
And yet, were it not for this fading blossom, once opened flower, would we not have the fruits of our labour and the prized pieces of the bountiful harvest we call summer?

And as I beheld this spent, shriveling and most beguiling little remnant, I was made most aware of something that was once most delectable, memorable and grand.
And so it is with so much of life.
One thing, even the spent remains, always seem to lead back to something that was and that is so much more.

This fading little blossom, which is now but an after thought of the actual squash or zucchini fruit, which is awaiting transformation in my kitchen, was once the highlight of one of the most memorable meals I ever had the pleasure of partaking. . .

I have a dear friend in Florence. Actually I have two dear friends. Cecilia Papini and her father Paolo. The family has a beautiful leather business there, just mere steps from the “Old Bridge” and the Arno. Their family business has been serving locals and tourists a like since 1896.

Several years ago, my aunt and I had traveled to Italy on a bit of a pilgrimage at it were. We had visited Padua for the feast day of San Antonio, June 13th. Wending our way south, via the train, we stopped in Florence for a few days in order to visit my cousin as well as Cecelia and Paolo.

It was Paolo who recommended that we dine at a small restaurant directly around the corner from their business. The name of this tiny establishment has long since faded from memory but the experience has remained clear as if it were yesterday. The lasting piece of the memory from that evening was based solely on the gastronomic delights we were served, which made this truly a most memorable experience—specifically it was the fried squash blossoms.

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Amazing how one spent little curled up flower can evoke such a powerful memory. One minute I’m picking up and looking at a discarded little blossom, as I was bent over in the garden on a very hot afternoon, cutting the ripe zucchini and squash, when next I’m suddenly transported someplace else–to a different time and place. A powerful potent for the recalling of a memory.

Good food, good friends–or perhaps just a good meal shared simply by just one other. . .
Either way, the importance of what I’ve always called “feasting and fellowshiping” is a key component to what forges lasting memories and bonds. As those moments of sharing together, in the company of friends and family coupled by good food and drink, in turn becoming precious memories, are all intricately woven together.

So many of the important moments of my life seem to evolve around food, as well as those who have joined me around said food.
Why that is, I am not certain.
The one thing I do know is that I do like to eat. . . don’t we all?
And I do like eating good food which is lovingly, skillfully, and at times, artfully prepared—be it simple fare or a Michelin Star experience—combine that with the union of others–be it family, friends or both—-that very mixing of the food and company makes for an intimate union of souls, the very impetus of memories.

Sometimes I try to replicate the moment by trying my hand at a particular meal or dish that I may have had on a special trip or outing, in turn hoping to share it with others—maybe it is my attempt at simply replicating the moment. Like the heavenly tomato flan with warm basil infused olive oil I had in Cortona, Italy.

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Last summer I attempted to duplicate this feast for the tastebuds of my husband using our garden’s tomatoes.

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And who ever says it has to be something fancy or decadent? A humble hot dog turned brazen in that windiest of cities, can be just as divine and just as memorable, –behold the Chicago Dog. . .

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Followed then by my own version I prepared for my most grateful husband who is a huge Chicago Dog fan:
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Yet some things are best savored at the initial sitting and the initial sitting alone, as a replication could and would only pale in comparison–as in, some moments are meant to be just that, a moment, a single and only once in a lifetime moment. . . case in point is my usual breakfast meal at The Donut Hole in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla—a delectable breakfast of their version of cheese blintzes. The slightly sweetened orange accented cheese filing, wrapped ever so lovingly in a thin crepe like, lightly fried, shell coupled by local fresh fruit of the season, real sour cream and brown sugar–to be consumed bleary eyed while donning shorts, t-shirt and baseball cap as the throngs of locals and tourist line up vying for one of the limited tables while the heavenly scent of freshly prepared doughnuts gently wafts in the air. . .one cannot replicate that.

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I’ve never tried my hand at blintzes nor many of the other marvelous wonders out there . . .never thinking I could come close to such tasty treats as those Parisain delectables the French Macarons, or Italy’s light and airy fried squash blossoms or even a hearty pot of Swiss fondue—some things are best left to the pros and some things just need to remain as that single special memory.

As I sit here remembering memorable meals and moments which have come and gone, I am poignantly reminded of a humble platter of store bought fried chicken.

I think I’ve shared this story with you before. . .it is worth sharing again.

September will mark 28 years since my mom passed away from a short bout with cancer. That heavy and sad Tuesday, following her funeral, everyone had gathered back at my childhood home for a Wake. Mother would have enjoyed the gathering. As Mom had been sick for a while, without any of us realizing why she had slowed down so much, the house and its upkeep fell woefully behind. I was not living in Atlanta and would drive over on Saturdays usually taking her out to lunch—as I would wonder why she was eating less and less or hardly eating anything at all.

When she went into the hospital, for what turned into her final 6 weeks, the poor house and its upkeep simply went to pot. The washing machine in the basement had been leaking, creating a small river and pond on the basement floor. Do you think Dad had even taken notice?!

When it came time for the Wake, friends and family all brought in a banquet of food. The time honored tradition of “the covered dish.” It’s what we do so well here in the South, a gathering, be it happy or sad is always surrounded by the best casseroles, dishes, cakes and pies—- but I suspect this ritual to be a global affair.

I would shuttle all the food up and down the precarious basement stairs to the extra refrigerator perched near the leaking washing machine in the dungeon like basement. One of my oldest and most dear life-long friends, who had loved mother dearly, had brought over a platter of fried chicken she had gotten at Kroger (or as we like to say in the South, “The Krogers”

As everyone began gathering for the Wake, my friend accompanied me down to the basement to assist me in transporting all the platters and casseroles back up to the kitchen. As my friend took hold of her platter of chicken, something caused the platter to shift, suddenly sending all the chicken crashing to the floor, landing in the stagnant pond of washing machine water. My friend immediately burst into tears. The surreal moment of our having lost mother who, at the time, was so young at 53, coupled by the sorrow of why were in that basement in the first place with a mountain of food, my friend’s pride in her contribution to mother and this most surreal moment all came crashing into one another as a platter of chicken now sat on a wet basement floor.

Always known as the one who is the rock and who keeps things together, I quickly told my friend “it’s okay, it’s all okay. . . and now we’re going to pick up that chicken and put it all back on the platter.” Of which we did. Drying it off, as well as her drying her face, we artfully rearranged each piece of chicken on the platter. We arrive back up the stairs, placing the platter of chicken on the kitchen table amidst the hams, casseroles, pots of beans, bowls of slaw, hot and cold dishes, rolls, cold cuts, etc.

As everyone was spending the afternoon mixing tears with laughter, I spy my cousin, out of the corner of my eye, making a bee line for the chicken. I nonchalantly but quickly make a quick pass by the table and hiss “don’t eat the chicken, put it back and eat the ham” before moving on to visit with the others.

That platter of store bought chicken, which fell in a pond of washing machine water, lovingly brought to my mother’s wake by a cherished life long friend, and a clueless cousin will always be a meal which makes me smile, as I brush away a tear.

Melanzana, aubergine, mad apple–it’s all eggplant to me

“How can people say they don’t eat eggplant when God loves the color and the French love the name? I don’t understand.”
Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet)

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First the flower, then the emerging fruit and finally the fully grown black beauty.
Eggplants making their way in the garden.

And yes, eggplant, as it is commonly referred to here in the US, is indeed a fruit and not a vegetable–matter of fact, it’s actually considered a berry.
Who knew?
Another little known fact is that eggplants contain nicotine, but the levels are so negligible that those smokers out there don’t need to get all excited.

Because I am Sophia Loren’s love child—oh you didn’t know that?
Don’t worry, Sophia Loren doesn’t know it either, but don’t tell my college roommates that.
They were convinced. Has to do with all that adoption business and a love of all things Italian but I digress as usual.
I thought at an early age I needed to add the eggplant to my palate.

And those giant purple things found in the grocery store can be a bit intimidating to the home cook. I mean really, what does one do with a giant purple globule of a veg. . . eh, fruit?!

Yes there is the standard quasi Italian eggplant parmesan, and the French melange of ratatouille, but I live in the South remember—we fry everything, including eggplant.

I wonder why that is.
I’ve never really stopped long enough to research why we southerners find it important to fry almost anything and everything. Didn’t I once read that Elvis’s favorite food was to fry a bacon, peanut-butter and banana sandwich? And now there’s tell of fried oreo cookies, and fried ice-cream and fried cheesecake—but the standard bearers are of course fried chicken, fired okra and fried green tomatoes. . .well, there’s just not much anything better than any of those nor anything much more Southern—except for maybe fried eggplant.

Here’s a couple of shots from a previous frying episode

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Here’s a quick tutorial to serving fried eggplant.

I always peel my eggplant—the skin can often taste bitter and does not break down well when fired, making for unpleasant eating. I find that store bought eggplant’s skin is more bitter and tough than my garden fresh variety, but it just makes for easier eating to peel it away.

Slice the eggplant into thin rounds.
The pictures here are of the large more global shaped eggplant verses the more sledder Japanese eggplant pictured earlier in the post–either one works splendidly.

There are even white eggplants–which seem to fit the whole name thing much better than the purple specimens.
I grew white ones once.
My husband likened them to looking more like dinosaur eggs than a delectable vegetable / fruit and was a bit put off—hence my now standard bearer purple variety.

First, I soak my eggplant in buttermilk.

Often folks will salt the rounds, layering them in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes, as this helps to remove the bitterness in the seeds (I wonder if that’s where the nicotine is hiding, hence the bitterness. . .)
I find that the soak in buttermilk is sufficient to render excess moisture and any lurking bitterness–soak about 30 minutes.

Prepare a plate or shallow pan with a mix of cornmeal, a little flour, salt, pepper, and any other spice addition that may float your boat–making for a nice dredging mixture.

Prepare a skillet with about a 1/2 inch of canola oil and heat over med heat until a pinch of flour dropped in sizzles or for the more exact among us—between 275 and 325 degrees.

Remove a round at a time out of its soaking liquid, allowing it to drip free of excess buttermilk— then dredge the eggplant round in the cornmeal mix, coating throughly on both sides.

Place coated rounds in the pan making certain not to overcrowd or overlap.

Fry on one side till a nice golden brown then flip to finish the other side.

Remove the cooked rounds to a wire rack to drain.

Fry remaining rounds then lightly salt, dust with grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately. You may serve with a dipping sauce of choice—a spicy remoulade, or fresh tomato salsa is nice, but my husband prefers a horseradish sauce for a little kick.

Enjoy!!
Mangia!

IT’S COMING !!!

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

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“Hey ya’ll, it’s coming!
So says the deer to his fellow woodland creatures.
Has he spoken the the weather folks?
Does he know something that we humans do not?

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Despite the squirrels obviously wounded nose, he too heeds the deer’s ominous warning.
Dig, dig, dig to find the stashed nuts before the ground is too covered or too frozen to do so. . .

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“Make room” said the blue jay to the blackbird
“Move over” said the sparrow to the blue jay
“Don’t hog it all” says the blackbird to the robin
“I want some too” said the robin to the crow
“Get out of my way” said the deer to all the birds.
So goes the chatter of the amassed birds. All species and varieties vying for their share of the strewn corn, put out in anticipation of “The Coming”

And no I speak not of “the second coming” but of “THE COMING” —that which the news media (specifically the meteorologists) are all claiming to be a storm of “Epic”–“Historic” and “Catastrophic” proportion.

Oh how I really grow weary of the gloom and doom scenarios.
I am reminded, each time I switch on the television, of Henny Penny running about with her wings covering her head as if bombs were soon to be descending upon her head—“the sky is falling, the sky is falling”
The focus word spewing from the mouthes of the newscasters being “PREPARE”
Not so much for making way or repenting but rather in preparing, as in going out and boosting the economy by clearing off the shelves of the grocery stores.

One friend yesterday, who was out in the midst of the preparing chaos of stockpiling groceries, likened the inside of the grocery store to something out of the movie Apocalypse Now or a scene from Red Dawn. The “get out of my way, those are my eggs, Im taking no prisoners” mentality.

My poor husband. His is the local jewelry store—there’s just nothing like the chanting and drum beats of death and destruction to take the love right out of Valentine’s day. Folks are simply too distracted and too busy seeking those most prized disaster stables–bread, milk and eggs—rather than to think of the more genteel human emotions of love, amour, amore—this is survival we’re talking about, are you crazy man, nobody has time for that sentimental romance business?!

Our phones went off this morning in the wee hours, with that most ominous of sounds—- the one that, no doubt, will be sounded when the Russians decide to send the big one our way. . .“Alert, Your area is currently under a state of Emergency. Tune to local news media for details
Talk about a wake up call!

Schools were canceled today.
The Governor is telling everyone to stay off the roads.
It’s 38 degrees and raining.
Hummmm

Well before I fall too deeply into the well of cynicism, it must be noted that I do have my required storm crisis supplies of the gallon of milk (1/2 gallon in our two person house), my loaf (loaves) of bread, my carton of eggs. .despite the fact that my grocery store had sold out of eggs yesterday at noon, extra charcoal for the grill, filled gas canisters for the generator, candles, flashlights, charged up technologies, etc—all in anticipation of. . . The Coming.

So if you hear from me tomorrow, you will know we survived.
If, however, there is no word, don’t hesitate to send in the search and rescue teams. . .
Oh, and by the way, if I am indeed lost to the storm—a happy Valentine’s day to you all, come Friday!!!