Flash Fiction #163

Preserves

PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

Lord, it’d been five years, and she still missed her Grandma.  She had loved Grandma, and Grandma had loved her, and all the other grandkids. 

Grandma’s love had seemed to be wrapped in food – homemade candy and cookies, turkey and stuffing and gravy – all the good stuff.  These were the last of her carefully rationed jars of Grandma’s dill pickles.  If only she’d thought to get Grandma to teach her how to make them.

She could buy pickles at the store, but none tasted as good, and certainly none of them held the care and love that Grandma put in.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

That’s Funny

First, just a little piece of advice I picked up for KayJai, SparkleBumps, and maybe a few more of you Betty Ford AWOLs.

 

NOTICE TO ALL EMPLOYEES

Nobody minds a man having a morning eye-opener, and it’s okay to have a bracer around 10 A.M., and maybe a couple of drinks with lunch.  Also, a few beers on a hot afternoon will keep a person healthy, or at least happy.  Of course, everyone drinks at cocktail hour, and a person can’t be criticized for having some wine with dinner, a liquor afterwards, and a highball or two during the evening – but this damned business of  SIP, SIP, Sip, all day long HAS GOT TO STOP!

 

Before they decide how much lumber they will need to build a house, the carpenters usually get together and have a board meeting.

A seamstress is a real material girl!

Sign at the Acme Shoelace Company ~ We are truly fit to be tied.

Jockey: My racehorse is named FleaBag.

Bettor: Has he won a lot of races?

Jockey: Nah!  He keeps getting scratched.

 

Buying quality is like buying hay.  If you want nice, clean, fresh hay, you must pay a fair price.  However, if you can be satisfied with hay that has already been through the cow – THAT COMES A LITTLE CHEAPER!

 

Up in Heaven, the Pearly Gates had been replaced by two arched, golden doors, with signs above them.  The one to the left read, “The Wrong Religion,” and there was no-one at it.  The one to the right read, “The Right Religion,” and there was a long line of people, waiting to get through.  God said to St. Peter, “The stupid thing is, none of them get the joke!”

NEWS RELEASE

Recently, an airliner crashed in the Pacific, close to an uninhabited island.  The survivors consisted of…

Two American businessmen and their secretary

Two French businessmen and their secretary

Two Italian businessmen and their secretary

Two British businessmen and their secretary

Two Canadian businessmen and their secretary

Knowing they would be stranded for some time, the two Americans made a schedule to have their secretary as follows: the first American would have her Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  The other would have her Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and she would have Sundays to herself.

The two Frenchmen had no problems, and immediately established a “ménage a trois.”

The two Italians had no problem either, as one of them shot the other so he could have the secretary all to himself.

The two British also had no problems, as they shot the secretary, so as to have each other.

And….the two Canadians are still waiting for instructions from head-office.

READ BETWEEN THE LINES

The “Executive Vocabulary” can be a little confusing.  Here’s a list of definitions which should help you get through your day.

Orientation; Move around till we can find something you can do.

Consolidating our position in the marketplace; We didn’t make any money on it.

Unparalleled demand; Six orders in the mail.

Note and initial; Let’s spread the responsibility for this around.

For your consideration; You hold the bag for a while.

We’re making a survey; We need more time to think up an answer.

For your approval; Passing the buck.

For your comment; I don’t have the faintest idea myself.

Through the ranks; The boss’s son worked one summer in the shipping department.

Promising young executive; Son of a fraternity brother.

Co-ordinator; An executive with a desk between two expeditors.

Implement a program; Hire more people, and expand the office.

Middle management; An executive with his own pen and pencil set, but no water pitcher.

I never worked at an office which had a gym or a fitness program.  I always got my exercise by jumping to conclusions, flying off the handle, running the boss down, passing on rumors, stabbing co-workers in the back, dodging responsibility, and pushing my luck.  How’s your workday going??!

 

After The Fun

I went to have my fangs resharpened again yesterday.  I might go an entire lifetime without hearing the name “Ariel”, unless I rented Disney’s Little Mermaid.  In the half-hour I spent beneath Damocles’ TV, I heard about two, Ariel Sharon, ex-prime minister of Israel, and Ariel Castro, the Ohio kidnapper who hanged himself.  (Although, I wonder if he had just a bit of assistance?)

We went back to the Farmers’ Market this morning.  With a bit of pickling mixture left over, the wife wondered if we could put down a few baby dills.  Scrubbed and soaked tonight.  Tomorrow comes the boiling.

There was a broadcast van from CTV, Canada’s second network, as well as from CHCH-TV, out of Hamilton Ontario, an independent which bills itself as Canada’s Superstation, like Atlanta, in the same way Tonka Trucks are big-rigs like Peterbilts.

Two camera crews wandering around, I saw a woman, probably a real shopper, but practising her lines before being dragged into camera range for a “spontaneous”, man-on-the-street….or woman-at-the-market interview.

Elbow-to-elbow crowds, which would be good if they were there to shop, but many just wanted photos or videos.  A food-service area, with no room to swing a cat and I saw a man and a woman smoking cigarettes, and a man my age with a cigar as big as a Great Dane’s turd, and almost as fragrant.  I thought of yelling as if I’d been burned.

Ontario’s lesbian Liberal leader was on hand early, for rah-rah photo-ops.  She stopped at my favorite produce vendor, and talked a good story, but bought nothing.  Another vendor further up said she did the same at his stall.  The local male Liberal candidate finally bought a basket of tomatoes, and gave it to her.

Two big food trailers across the walkway from the fire had been seriously melted.  They were hauled away and replaced with a trailer with washrooms and a temporary Market office.  The canvas top on the French-fry-serving Conestoga wagon looked like it had been through a movie Indian attack.  The nylon top of the gazebo beyond it melted.

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Canning season is upon us.  Our supply of dill pickles has been slowly but surely dwindling, and replacements must be made.  Cucumbers have been available for a month or more, but the dill plants are only now coming into their own.

We had massage/osteopathy appointments on Thursday, so we were unable to go to the Farmers’ Market.  We had to go Saturday.  Neither the wife nor daughter is an early riser, and usually we get there 10:00/10:30 AM.  This was Labor Day Saturday!!!  D-Day would have been easier.  With both of them handicapped, I insisted that we get there 8:00/8:30 AM, to be able to park in the same Postal Code, and we still nearly needed to bring our own parking space.

More and more, we are joining the ranks of the Lazy And Incompetent cooks I wrote about 15 months ago.  A couple of weeks ago, the wife found that the Wholesale Warehouse has gallon cans of diced tomatoes, which we could use for making salsa or chili sauce whenever they are needed.  The cost is less than the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes, bought at the market, and they have already been skinned and chopped.

Dill pickles though, still require the personal touch.  We bought a half a bushel of small cucumbers from a favorite vendor, and some fragrant dill stalks from a Mennonite, and hauled them home.  The car still smells of dill – Mmmh!  Saturday evening, we scrubbed the cucumbers and put them to soak overnight.  Sunday afternoon, we started cutting and slicing.

Then we made up the first batch of canning syrup.  We had obtained a couple of pounds of de-skinned garlic, which needed to be blanched.  We used the water from that, to add garlic flavor to the pickling mixture.  We, (as in, the wife) cut the heads off the dill plants, to add to each jar, and cut up the stems to be boiled with the syrup, to add more dill flavor.

The first batch complete by about 9:30, we sent the son out to pick up a couple of pizzas for supper, and then mixed up another pot of witches’ brew, for a second batch.  By 2 AM we had canned (bottled) 15 quarts, 15 pints, and three half-pints, of slices, chunks, and quarters.  Actually, both the son and the grandson like to eat the garlic chunks which add flavor at the bottom of the jars, so, two of the half-pints were the last of the garlic which didn’t go in with the pickles.

Just as we were bottling the last of the pickles we’d obtained at the market the day before, the main building at the Farmers’ Market was busy burning down.  A passerby reported flames at about 1:30 AM, and by the time firemen arrived, all they could do was prevent damage to other, nearby buildings.  Designed to resemble a Mennonite barn, only the fittings and contents were metal and glass.  All the rest was solid, dry wood.

It will take a few days to establish the cause.  In the meantime, 60 vendors and countless customers are impacted.  Many of the locations on the main floor sold meat, as well as eggs, or Guernsey milk.  There were also a candy vendor, produce, fish, cheese, baked goods, a specialty tea/coffee place tucked under the stairs, and an eating area at one end with picnic-table seating, and several stalls selling donairs, pizza, perogies, cinnamon buns, hot apple fritters, Oktoberfest sausages and fries and burgers.  Outlets on mezzanines on both sides provided Mennonite quilts, footwear, leather clothing, dream-catchers, jewelry, semi-precious gemstones, and other various kitsch.  There may be a small puddle of melted gold in the ashes.

The market is a huge tourist trap attraction, with busloads of blue-haired walker-pushers being bussed in from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.  We met a nice couple from London, Ontario, over coffee, Saturday morning.  Management is not sure whether cleanup will proceed quickly enough to allow the rest of the market to open as soon as this coming Thursday.

The Market is Waterloo Region’s answer to Santa’s Village, Niagara Falls, or the Shakespeare Festival.  I am sure that the structure will be rebuilt, perhaps even larger, grander, more Mennonite-ish, but winter is almost upon us.  It could be up to a year to get it replaced.  Built just before legislation made it mandatory, it had no sprinkler system.  Any replacement must provide an elevator, if a second storey is included.

In the meantime, we can attend to get our vegetables, and apple fritters and hot chocolate.  We may have to follow that with longer, scenic drives to other Southern-Ontario tiny hamlets, with names like Heidelberg, Dorking and Elora, to get the quality meats we have grown used to. (Do you like Dorking??  I don’t know, I’ve never Dorked.  Yeah, right!)

Like fine wine, it takes a while for pickles to age.  By early next summer these could be ready to open, and let breathe.  Anybody up for a barbecue?  I could show up with the hamburger slices.  All you’d have to provide would be the burgers and beer – and potato salad – and corn….could we do corn??

Harvest Moon

It’s all about food and drink, one way or another.  Well, perhaps not all, but much of what we do involves sustaining ourselves with caloric and fluid intake.  Working is obvious, driving to and from work, shopping, all work toward filling us up.

We could say that things like blogging are just to satisfy our creative and social needs, but even there, KayJai posts about what she does at work, Hotspur blogs about what he sees and does on the way to work, and produces three books about his experiences, which he hopes to sell, to make money to buy food and drink.  I don’t feel guilty that so much of my stuff revolves around food and drink.

It’s that time of year again, harvest time.  Many of the things we like to have to eat are ripe, and plentiful.  The wife and I have been at it again, actually three times in the last two weeks.  We’ve been canning again, and again, and again.

I looked up the concept of canning in the dictionary.  Many people only understand the term *can* to refer to a metal container, but the word goes back to Old Norse, and means any type of vessel, so we “can”, in glass jars.

I remember helping my mother can, lo these many years ago.  Back then, she melted paraffin wax and poured it on the top of foodstuffs she was preserving.  Some people cut lengths of string and hung them on the sides of the jars, so that they could use them to pull the wax off the top.  We just used a knife to pry the wax off, and then a standard lid for refrigerator storage.

First the wife and I went up to the farmers market and bought a half a bushel of Roma tomatoes, to make homemade salsa with.   As we were buying the half bushel bag, there was another woman who was getting a bushel and a half to also make salsa with.  The wife asked her if she ran a restaurant, but the answer was no, it was just for the family and gifts for friends.  I’m glad our family is small and we don’t have many friends.

I do a lot of fetching and toting, but the wife is stuck with the old-school chopping and preparation.  De-seeding a half bushel so that we had just the flesh, took her most of an afternoon.  Then there were the onions and peppers to chop up.  I peeled the onions, but she did the rest.  By the time we were finished, we had 21 pints of glorious homemade salsa to garnish my beloved Tex-Mex dishes for a year.  We will be making quesadillas for supper this Saturday, but I’ve already had some on another platter of nachos on Monday.  Delicious!!  We saved the skins and ran them through a manual apple-saucer, and used the residue to make an exquisite home-style tomato soup.

We also bought a half a bushel of cucumbers carefully chosen for size, to make some dill pickles with.  We preserve dill pickles in a variety of shapes/styles, for different uses, and still have certain ones left from last year.  We bottle a few whole dills, some dill halves, a lot of quartered dills, some dill slices, for hamburgers and sandwiches, and dill chunks.  These are cut off the ends of cucumbers a little too long to fit in pint jars, or ones with bad spots.

A quart of chunks, run through a Magic Bullet food-processor and drained, yields a pint of dill relish, which the wife and son prefer to sweet relish for hot dogs.  You can also mix it 50/50 with mayonnaise, some lemon juice and a few drops of Tabasco sauce to produce a great tartar sauce for fish, or home-made falafel patties.  We put down 18 pints of dill quarters, and four more quarts of chunks.

As a special treat, we have come to love crab-apple jelly, especially on croissants for Sunday brunch.  The taste is exquisite, but it’s fairly expensive, because tiny crab-apples require more labor to harvest.  The daughter lived on a street where there were four apple trees on the boulevard, alongside a church parking lot.  We picked our own for several years.  We went back last year, and the city had widened the road, taking down the trees.

The daughter found a house backing the community trail near her place, which had two trees beside the trail.  The owner told her she could have all the apples she wanted.  We made a big batch of crab-apple jelly last year.  We went back this year and found that the home-owner had removed the trees.  She must eat it a lot faster than the wife and I.  We still have enough left, but the daughter is out.  She paid the bucks and bought a six-quart basket at the farmers’ market and gave them, along with a bag of beet sugar to us, for us to make her a batch.

It took three days of on-and-off labor, but we finally bottled 17 half-pint jars of this ambrosia.  So crystal clear you can read a paper through the bottles, but with a deep golden/claret color.  If you are lucky enough to find it in a store, each of those little jars would cost about $3, but if you ever spot any, it could be worth the money.  Of course, the store-bought stuff isn’t nearly as good as our home-made product.

I think that’s it for produce this year.  Next stop is to start accumulating ingredients for home-made Christmas cake.  Gotta stop typing now.  It’s snack time!  You coming?