Saturday, April 22, 2006

Migrating Visions of Spring

Oh, my friends, you have your asparagus, and strawberries, and bloom of short-sleeved blouses. I live vicariously through your stories and tales of feasts, and thank you for sharing the season's treats with me. And I certainly want to emphasize the Spring jubilance of the Walla Walla Sweets. No doubt, my hometown is awash with its burst of daffodils, the memory of which still evokes a joy that continues to flavour my adult celebrations to welcome the arrival of Spring. And I smile contentedly with the accounts from friends about the D.C. cherry blossoms, the Manhattan updates on the Union Square picnique tables, the fava beans in Firenze and the Seattle markets.

Such signs of Spring are, you may suspect, not so common up here. Up here, we have this:

The first sighting of birds.

Oh, friends. Different visions of the season and yet still the same result: a glee, my friends. It is a glee to be welcoming the arrival of Spring.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


One of my favorite things about living here is that the word "Feast" is a fairly common word, but it hasn't lost any of the sense of celebration and special gathering that the rarely employed word "Feast" denotes. I've quite happily embraced the privilege of using common vernacular to describe momentous moments. And even after mere months here, I find myself hesitating to resort to my prior descriptions - such as "holidays," "celebrations," "gatherings," "dinners".... they all pale in comparison to the word Feast.

So we didn't have Easter dinner. No, we had an Easter Feast.

And though I may just recently have adopted the privilege of using the word "Feast" to describe our holiday meals (see! how blase is that in comparison to the word FEAST???), I've been preparing them since childhood.

You see I come from a family that loves food and the moments of planning and preparing it. Mom likes to prepare spectacles of food. I like "tasks" and "assignments" - maybe spending the whole day trying to perfect one dish that I've never tried before. My little brother has the traditions - the foods that are the foundations to our feast - which he whips up in quadruple proportions to ensure a sufficient amount of leftovers. And both my little brother and I both like taking turns distracting mom so that we can then take turns sneak butter into the mashed potatoes.

My mom and little brother were far from our Easter table, and undoubtedly enjoying their distance from what turned out to be the Easter Blizzard of 2006 (oh, yes, my friends, we are still very much in the throes of winter up here, albeit with over 15 hours of sunlight a day).

But they were central in my thoughts, and most likely my inspiration for crafting this menu of green things from cans and frozen vegetables:

Hot-Cross Buns
Smoked Tillamook Cheddar and Reindeer Salami
Wild Salmon Dip with Dill

Course I
Malfatti in brodo (using broth from my neighbor's chicken)

Course II
Crab salad with lime zest, peas and sparkles of red pepper

Course III
Asparagus Flan (thankyou to Molly of Orangette for the recipe)

Course IV
Smoked Ham with Honey Glaze
Little Brother's Smashed Red Potatoes with Yeoman-Globs of Butter, Sour Cream and Green Onions
Curried Succotash

Course V
Green tea

Course VI
Dark chocolate buttons with cherry ice-cream

Course VII
Homemade Cordial of Willamette Valley Fruits served in wooden goblets carried back from Zimbabwe

p.s. Well, little brother. One of our guests was an old classmate of John McPhee and was out here looking for a sighting of a rare bird that can only be sought here, and in the winter. So I must confess that I felt compelled to open up the bottle of mead that I did so earnestly hide during your visit. But I know you know that a classmate of John McPhee is a rare occasion, and you'll understand. Plus, I want you to know that I made sure to conserve more than enough homemade cordial for when you come up here again. Soon! Come visit soon! This time there will be sunlight - but you'll still get all the snowmachining opportunities you could dream of. Plus, the dogs just got a bunch of new balls and other toys and I just bought myself a banjo and a book of Pete Seeger's handwritten lessons of how to play it. So there will be lots of entertainment. Plus, J. and I finally got our freezer. It's empty, which means that you'd get lots of support for any initiative to assist us in our dream of filling it with a caribou or other staples more appropriate then beef.

And - by the way - I can drive a stick-shift! I just choose not to prove it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Third Place

I mushed my first dog-sledding race and scored a third place ribbon.

For the longest time, it looked like I had locked in the second place. But as we got closer to the finish line, I could hear the "pull, pull" from the musher behind me. And then, looking to my left, I could see her lead dog siding up beside my dogs. I kicked the snow beneath the moving sled. I shouted out "good dogs, good dogs" and "pull, pull." And we pulled ahead. Oh, I don't think I'll ever forget the excitement of the dogs. How they were loving this open, exciting sprint.

But then, suddenly, my dogs veered off to the right, towards a ridge of reeds poking out from the sides of the frozen river.

I forgot whether it was "gee" or "haw" that meant "left." So I shouted out both, trying to direct the dogs back to the finish line trail. Unconsciously, I started pointing to the left, as if I could communicate by sign language.

But there was no deterrence.

So I resolved to trust the dogs and, more importantly, enjoy the last few seconds of a race that is undoubtedly one of the top ten highlights of my life so far.

So I finished third and off-the-path. I like this a lot, especially the off-the-path part. I like that I finished on a trail that I followed blind. I guess, all in all, I consider it to be a far more appropriate seat for me to be finishing third and off-the-path than second and on-the-path.

Many thanks to the friends who provided me with pictures of the day!

Saturday, April 01, 2006


That last post should be dated today.

But it's not an April Fool's joke. I really am a musher in tomorrow's "rookie" dogsledding race. And I am really adapting my whims to a budget that I voluntarily entered into.

I just lack any technological finesse and don't know how to get Blogger to let me correct the date.

And, as for addendum's, I'm quite excited to say that as soon as I log off I'll be diving into the project of seeing if I can use Mona's recipe for Chocolate - Banana Tea Bread** as a recipe for the chocolate banana cake that I intend to offer as a desert for a "soup and bread" potluck dinner party that we've been invited to tonight. My pantry is absolutely void of any wines, and unless I find room in my budget to have some some flown out from Anchorage, it appears that I'll be spending the next couple of months reciprocating generousities and saying my thank-yous with baked goods forged from the goodies that are in my pantry.

I'm already thinking about saying thank you to the local musher that is lending me his dog-team for tomorrow's race with a cast-iron skillet of sticky buns. But we'll see if time allows me to carry-out the intention.

Hope all is well!