Friday, October 8, 2010

Kraut and apples

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. #alttext#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


Curtis Faville said...

In some ways, you're lucky to live close to where you grew up. My people came from Wisconsin, and couldn't escape fast enough. They hated the drudgery of farming and kitchen tasks. They welcomed the age of "convenience" food which overwhelmed society in the post-war years. The idea of owning land one could manage by putting fruit and vegetables in would have seemed idiotic to them. They'd been "freed" from this "drudgery" by modern science and the network of distribution. Yet we had a kitchen garden, and a plum and fig tree in our yard. But these were just little hobbies--we didn't have conceits about them.

Now we know all that's bad. Back to the land! Bend that back! Develop some calluses! We've romanticized agriculture! The virtue of small!

Would I trade my cameras and computers and books and nick-nacks for a hoe? Not on your life!

Charles Shere said...

Ah, but we can have cameras and computers and books and hoes, and shovels and secateurs too!

It's too far afield to reproduce on this blog, but for a look at a somewhat idealized view of How We Live I refer you to
a little suite of verse I made a dozen years ago for our grandchildren.