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Melons in the Midwest

18 Jul


Dear Emma,

Honeydew melons remind me of you and of childhood. They flash me back to Stringtown Grocery with its gas-lamps and Amish ladies selling peaches, apricots, Muscatine melons and honeydews in bulk. Then rattling home in the “way-back” over country gravel roads, pretending that we were driving the car backwards while dust filtered in through the cracks in the van.

Our friendship, which spans the whole of both of our lives, is so engrained in my own history that I can’t help but be reminded of it all the time. Especially while standing at the grocery mulling over melons.

xoxo, Zoe

I worked briefly at a French restaurant in Milwaukee. During my two-month tenure of 10 shifts a week, I would wake up every morning, fling myself out of bed and immediately fall over. My feet were tingling stumps, an odd combination of numb, swollen and on pins and needles.

The evening kitchen was manned by a chef, a true Frenchman with a growling accent, a cloudy disposition, and an allergy to any politesse. The female servers were salopes and his male kitchen help had an equally endearing nickname (dumbfu*k). Though I made less money, I preferred working lunch shifts because the Frenchman was at home in bed.

Continue reading


Fish Heads, Fish Heads!

18 May

Dear Zoe, 

While you’re off in the seat of government perfecting strawberry cake, I’ve been at an only sort-of-grown-up version of summer camp, but with beer–finishing my big epic poem about drag queens, oceans and paradise, and being only occasionally helpful to Beck in planning this wedding. Wish you were here bigtime, and soon you will be. When you gals arrive there’s going to be some kind of explosion of birdsong and endorphins raining from the sky. Looking forward to it.


So the poets and wedding planners alike have been quitting work around eight pm and making dinner together, and being that we’re in cape cod, that the pond right outside is stocked with bass and trout, and that both Chris and I have this sort of weird kill and eat drive that makes me look askance at the little grey squirrels, fish is on the menu as often as possible. Chris, who is a poet/fiction writer/ computer whisperer/ google-obsessed info-gatherer, has memorized the best spots in the pond for depth and therefore larger fish, has perfected his night-crawler gathering and identified the ideal size of worm, has been manfully heaving the boat into the pond every evening and rowing out, and has therefore caught several fish, four of them edibly sized and all of them delicious, golden scaled bass (and a few little pumpkin seed). I, being flakey and sometimes lucky, caught a monster two-foot trout from the shore on day one and haven’t caught anything since, because I can’t be bothered to change my lure or my line length (sometimes this is a problem in poetry too — how many tens of pages of four-foot rhyming stanzas of flashy compound adjectives can the average reader really take?).

So! This is a post about self-caught fish. Continue reading

Wild Fruits, Tame Table: Jellies and Jams

27 Jan

Howdy Gals — So, before we came to London I had these deluded hopes of finding the place covered with blackberries like Seattle – don’t ask me why, maybe because of the great lakes? When we got here there weren’t any blackberries, but milkweed, mint, chicory, and black walnuts grow everywhere in London. Best of all there’s wild grapes – tiny sweet clusters on their sprawling vines that choke out the trees like bittersweet. It turns out that those same wild grapes were good news for the medieval Norsemen that came and settled along the North East Coast of Canada a thousand years ago. According to one of the Old Icelandic Sagas I’m reading in class, they found so many grapes here that they named the country Vinland. I’m pretty psyched about that, as you might imagine.

Wild Cherries from Prospect Park

People v Picket Fence is all about taking the restaurant out of brunch, poaching your eggs at home and sitting as long as you please with your friends in your living room, with the bill already paid. When it comes to one essential component of the breakfast table, I find you can cut out the grocery store too, with more pleasure than trouble.

I’m talking about jams, jellies, marmalades and spreads. I love jam. Toast to my mind is a jam vehicle, and I tend to notice whether the diner’s little jam dispensers with the specially-sized pockets that fit exactly so many of those square jam packets with the peel-off-tops contain raspberry, grape, or if I’m really unlucky – nothing but apple jelly. Spreads tend to be  expensive items Continue reading

Apple Cider Day is the Best Day

23 Sep
Wow Becky.  I love the creative ways you are using your apples.  Usually I just get stuck in one of three routes:  apple pie, apple sauce and apple pie.  Whoops.  I forgot a fourth – apple cider.

This press is so old, the pallet is in two pieces and has to be held together as the crank descends.

Apple cider is flat-out my favorite holiday of the year.  What’s this?  You’ve never heard of apple cider day?  Okay, maybe it’s just a Bailey family tradition, but it’s one I think we all should celebrate.  I do honestly believe that if we could set aside our differences and band together in a pursuit of still-warm-from-the-sun, fresh-squeezed, direct from the apple, unpasteurized cider, this country would be a better place.  Come to an apple cider day celebration and you will agree with me, I promise.  Continue reading

Breakfast for A Couch

13 Sep

Dear Becky,

Funny that you should point a finger at upholstered furniture in your criticism of the fantasy home sold by our friends Ina Garten and Sheila Lukins.   As it happens, when I read the post I was just starting to catch my breath from heaving a beautifully upholstered couch up to our top story (walk-up) apartment.   Continue reading

I just ate a worm, and it was delicious

30 Aug

First off, let me apologize for not providing you with photography to go with this image.  I am on vacation still, and my inherited 1997 point and shoot digital camera is MIA, and in any case refuses to do close ups.  So let’s dig deep into our imaginations and stand together in my parent’s orchard.

The air was chilly for the past couple of days, allowing the fall pears and apples to ripen and causing a few to drop off the loaded branches.  They are rotting on the ground currently, mixed in with parading daddy long legs, feasting ants, and deer poop.  Not a pretty sight, really, but I am picking up ones that are still all or half good for this afternoon’s cider pressing.  Continue reading