Friday, October 23, 2015

October 23, 2105--Midcoast: Food Chain

It all began with Jill's garlic.

The seasonal people depart late September through October. The when depends on obligations "back home" and who has enough insulation to stay on into early November.

In our case we have little insulation. But if there is afternoon sun, the solarization heats the house so much that I've taken to wearing sleeveless shirts on sunny afternoons. And with our propane and electric heaters, our bed and bathrooms are always cozy, even if, as it does on some nights, the temperature dips into the 20s.

Leaving in stages eases the emotional transition that we feel as friend by friend people depart. Making it worse is knowing we are unlikely to see any of our Maine friends again until early May or June when the seasonal people regather.

As noted, the departure ritual starts with Jill's garlic.

Her family has been in seasonal residence in this part of Maine for decades, and through the years Jill, who is a master gardener, has had by far the best vegetable garden in all of Pemaguid. It is so varied and bountiful that she keeps her nearby neighbor (fortunately, we qualify) supplied with the freshest, tastiest, healthiest vegetables, from lettuces by the end of the spring, tomatoes mid summer, and carrots and beets a bit later.

Later still comes her memorable garlic. These are ready for harvesting in late summer and span the days just before she reluctantly leaves right throughout the time when we are forced out by the threat of freezing pipes. As so, we are well supplied with garlic during our final weeks. And thus we think a lot about recipes that feature garlic even though simply roasting it is a treat.

Memories of Jill and others linger with us as we take in the hoses, store the outdoor furniture, and need to pack up since added to Jill's garlic are hand-me-down foodstuffs from others who departed during the past three or four weeks.

All of us during our remaining time attempt to prepare meals that take into consideration the perishables that still stock our fridges and freezers. No one of us is so organized that by the time we leave there is nothing left that can't remain over winter.

And so, those who leave right after Labor Day pass along to those who plan to stay through September all sorts of good things. And then those late September/early November folks pass along what accumulated with them as well as that which remains from their own larders. There is this form of multiplier effect as the very last to leave inevitably have to figure out what to do with what ultimately will reside with them. It is good to have some year-round friends who are inventive cooks.

We inherited a freezer bag full of ham hocks from one friend who left two weeks ago as well as from her a half dozen frozen turkey cutlets (which Rona used to make turkey chili) as well as a frozen ham steak (still waiting for inspiration), a pound or so of frozen red cabbage (for which we quickly bought as an accompaniment a half dozen weisswurst), three dozen frozen soft-shell clams which promptly became spaghetti with white clam sauce, and lots of frozen egg whites and chicken stock. The stock is currently defrosting and will by tomorrow be an essential ingredient in butternut squash soup which we plan to prepare from the two squash bequeathed to us from a friend in Walpole.

As we didn't have a good idea about what to do with the ham hocks, in anticipation of our looming need to depart, we passed these along already to a nearby friend who plans to be here through Thanksgiving. She promptly used them to make two gallons of split pea soup, some of which flowed back to us. If only our dear friend who passed the hocks along to us was still in residence, some of Karin's soup would be back in her refrigerator awaiting a chilly evening for which it would be perfect.

That chilly evening I can guarantee.

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