Eastside Road, October 7, 2010—BACK IN THE LATE 1940s I lived on a broken-down country property, a short chubby sixth-grader with three younger brothers and parents who had their problems. It was a little like Ma and Pa Kettle, who were among Dad's enthusiasms, or The Egg and I, which was more to Mom's taste. I see her now, my put-upon mother, boiling sliced carrots in an pot on the wood stove until the water had all boiled away leaving the carrots to burn, but also baking cream-puffs now and then, and canning cherries and peaches, and making sauerkraut.
The sliced cabbage was layered with salt in one-gallon crocks, covered with cheesecloth, and set in the second story of the tankhouse to ferment. The smell was delicious: salt, cabbage, sauerkraut, redwood, dust. I thought of all this today in a flash as I pinched strands of Lou Preston's sauerkraut out of a plastic container we keep in the refrigerator. We were having hot dogs for dinner; it's the first day of the National League playoffs, and while we don't have a dog in the fight, as the saying goes, baseball is still baseball. We've come up in the world. We didn't watch ball games when I was a kid; we didn't have television. In fact, we didn't have electricity in those days. Now, nearly seventy years later, I live seventeen miles farther north. We still have apple trees, though, and it's been another good crop, our seven or eight trees setting and ultimately dropping more apples than we can really keep up with. We attacked another colander-full tonight, me peeling, L. slicing; they're simmering away into applesauce. This is one of those jobs done better, I think, by a wood-burning kitchen stove, but we don't have one: we're cooking with gas.
Oh: after the hot dogs, and the green salad, dessert was a Crane melon. My mother was a Crane, and the guy responsible for finding and promoting that melon is a cousin of some kind. The old Crane house isn't far from here; I drove past it twice yesterday. The melon is delicious; only the Charentais matches it for aroma and flavor, I think. Like the Charentais it's site-specific: we've tasted Crane melons from other properties, but those from the old Crane ranch are definitely best. Of course they have to be vine-ripened, and this has been a difficult year.
Vin rouge de pays de l'Herault, Mas de Daumas Gassac, 2008