It seems as though the minute I landed in Philadelphia, it was Spring. The past few days have been unseasonably warm. I ate a Geno’s cheese steak in 70+ degree weather! The outdoor basketball courts and city playgrounds were packed. Fruit lined the narrow city streets of the Italian Market. On a conference break, I had Chocolate Peanut Butter Ripple ice cream in a pretzel cone. Pretzel cone, more on that later. Spring bulbs were in bloom by Independence Hall, Rocky and “The Thinker.” All pleasant Philadelphia Spring surprises.
Last night we had thunder snow during our first substantial snowfall of the season. These snowflakes were not like the fluttery, carefree snowflakes in a snowglobe or Christmas Pageant. They were beautiful, but they were heavy as they fell from the sky, demonstrating the gravity of life on Earth. My heart felt that weight all day long yesterday. Then when the electricity went out, I turned on my battery powered blue star lights and was reminded that you can still be cozy even when you’re blue.
The sun came out this weekend just in time for October fun in Hoosierland. Some of my favorite things at Stonycreek Farm & Nursery: pumpkins growing amidst Christmas trees, beeswax candles, corncob cannons, roaming animals, and hot cheesy crinkle fries. Nothing like riding a hay wagon in the falltime air, either.
Prior to this weekend, my knowledge of John Chapman was merely a caricature image of a barefoot Lincoln-looking man carrying a seed sack and wearing a tin pot for a hat. After traipsing around the festival named for him (eating fried and kettle-cooked things with the name petal attached to them and touching beads and bones and furs), I started to read Howard Means’ recent book about the folk hero. In it, he “explores how our national past gets mythologized and hired out.” From the book: “Johnny Appleseed, of course, does live on, but less as a whole person than as a barometer of the ever-shifting American ideal: by turns a pacifist, the White Noble Savage, a children’s book simpleton, a frontier bootlegger in the fanciful interpretation of Michael Pollan, patron saint of everything from cannabis to evangelical environmentalism and creation care–everything, that is, but the flesh-and-blood man he really was.” This folk hero was a real guy with a seemingly steady moral compass and passion for the literal and figurative sweetness in life. I wonder how he would navigate life on modern day Parnell Avenue as opposed to 19th century wilderness. Would he find it all a bit too cloying?
It’s probably not a surprise that one of my favorite parts of camping is eating food made over the fire. Pinot Basil Pasta and Pecan Pancakes with Fruit Compote were two such meals enjoyed this weekend at Van Buren State Park with a dear old friend of mine. We chopped goodness from her garden and began cooking the thickest and hardest veggies first in a bit of olive oil. Afterwhile we added the softer veggies to the skillet along with some basil and Pinot Grigio. Once the wine reduces, everything is ready to mix in with the pasta and be consumed! The pancake combo was another winner from Backpacker Magazine. These pancakes did not miss usual syrup. The woodsy cinnamon and smoky dark cherry was my favorite flavor combination, but since I cannot resist a toasted marshmallow at any given opportunity, I topped off my pancakes with one goldened from the embers. Corn syrup made it on the pancakes after all.
Biking through cornfields, blueberry farms and forests was a weekend highlight. The air seemed so clean and oftentimes smelled like Welch’s Grape Juice. We did about 15 miles on the bike, which is probably why I thought a pre-ride double coffee cinnamon roll from Julia’s and post-ride kettle chips and raspberry stout from Round Barn were acceptable. Other indulgent sustenance included a packable tasty Chicken Curry lunch recipe courtesy of Backpacker Magazine and fresh apple cider from Paul & Ethel’s Farm. I really should find myself a good used bike.
Before hopping on the Kal-Haven bike trail Saturday morning, I got to enjoy the South Haven Farmers Market. Kind and generous farmers and artisans were as abundant as the produce. There is still plenty of gorgeous fruit for picking up there, though the woolen mittens remind everyone that Southwestern Michigan fully embraces all of the seasons.
When I was in the sixth grade I wrote a poem about my family reunion for Language Arts class. It started out, “The first Sunday in August, before the weather is cool, our destination is a place past old Scott Center School.” The poem goes on to describe what I came to expect at our annual Covell-Beck gathering, including black raspberry jam, corn-on-the-cob, and scalloped potatoes. 20 years later, loved ones have passed and new generations have grown, and I still look forward to the food! This year the reunion included a fitting memorial service for my beloved Great Uncle Bill in the family plot. I got to spend time with family from Texas, New Jersey, California, Michigan and Virginia. I even caught myself saying, “I remember when you were just a little thing,” like people used to say to me. Auction and fire may have claimed the family houses, but we still meet on the farm past old Scott Center School where memories and laughter remain. Now because of the tradition, new memories are born.