Food Events — the Good and the Dangerous

Neighbor Marla, on her ATV, delivered just-picked cucumbers to us. Daughter Kate’s eyes lit up, and John almost drooled. Mere hours later we served them at the table. Kate, commensurate with her size, savored the ones on her plate.

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I wondered if John’s eyes were bigger than his stomach. He pigged out on the green, crunchy things. The rest of us were more restrained, though our appreciation was right there. Many thanks, Marla.

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I have a photo to show what was left of two cardamom/almond coffeecakes. Friend Karen shared a container of cardamom with us when we were in New York recently, and that was what flavored our breakfast bread. I first tasted cardamom at John’s family gatherings. His mother was of Norwegian heritage and always baked Christmas cookies with cardamom. It was love at first taste for me. We love it so much, that we have it occasionally throughout the year. Everyone loved the coffeecake. Thank you very much, Karen.

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We all knew the watermelon was in trouble. I was waiting for the melon lovers to ask for it and cut it, because I avoid all but the smallest pieces. Nathaniel found a small puddle under it. We cleaned it up and put it on a plate. That did nothing to turn back the clock.   The melon sat there slowly spewing at us. Nathaniel agreed to cut it to humor me, because he was sure it was inedible. He began making a cut in the middle and suddenly THWUNCK! With a rather low tone the melon split itself in half. Startled, Nathaniel jumped back, out of firing range. Kate’s mother-instinct kicked in. She rushed to make sure her 6’5” baby was safe. We stared at the melon and began to laugh. Nathaniel, with a newly-minted food handler’s certificate, wanted no part of it. I cut a little chunk to taste and said it was watermelon wine. Kate agreed to a bite, and we both backed away from it.

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How would we dispose of three-dimensional watermelon wine? If neighbor Shawn and Bob had been home, I might have asked if they wanted the melon for their chickens. I thought of their coming home to find the girls drunkenly staggering about the enclosure and knew I wouldn’t even offer. It was too heavy for plastic garbage bags. I suggested Nathaniel toss the halves over the fence into the empty pasture, now full of waist-high weeds. The horses have been gone for weeks. Hours later I had other dire thoughts. What if the pasture owner mows the field and hits the time bomb melon? What if melon vines spring up there next year to proclaim what I authorized? Golly Pete! I am dreading the consequences, both now and later. Who knew you could get in such trouble with a rotten watermelon?

Apple Pound Cake by Chef Nathaniel

Both grandsons, David and Nathaniel, had a special day off while their mother was here. David chose to swim at waterfalls with her. What would be special for the younger son? We made several suggestions without making him jump up and down with glee. Would he want to visit some town to wander down Main Street? How about visiting a few antique stores? He didn’t reject any idea and was willing to go along with whatever was decided. I finally realized that he stated his first choice a few days before. He wanted to bake something special on his day off. He baked the apple pound cake in the morning and brought it out to the porch to put it on the cake plate. He might have needed more space than the kitchen afforded. I thought it was great, because if there were crumbs, we’d brush them to the floor where they’d fall through the cracks.

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He is used to the demands of my camera and willingly posed with his mother and Grandpa. He asked if we had dessert plates, already aware of presentation of a special dish. He knew where the good china was, and I brought out the sterling silver forks. He even lit candles for the occasion. The table was beautifully prepared, though we were not. Next time he might ask us to dress for dinner. Easy for him to say, since he owns a white tux.

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For the final flourish, Nathaniel drizzled crème fraiche over the slices of cake. He pronounced the French words as a chef would, and David used the American pronunciation. The rest of us just provided simple hums and grunts of praise.

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Later that afternoon we wandered through an antique store that we pass on the way to town. I was surprised that the inside was not junky like the outside. After a leisurely walk through the whole place (felt like 10 acres), Nathaniel poured over the vinyl records and bought a small stack of them. I think he was satisfied with the time spent with his mother.

Years from now, when Nathaniel is a well-known pastry chef, a reporter will ask what special person inspired him to cook. Was it his mother? No, but she can boil water without burning it. Was it a grandmother? No again, and here is the picture to prove it. She baked a cake that came out of the oven laughing at her.

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No Contest

There was no contest about styling ice cream, but both grandsons wanted to create their own cone-topper. We ate at Dickie’s, liking both their barbecue sandwiches and the free ice cream that followed. Nathaniel finished his lunch first. He came back to the table with a side-to-side creation with lots of soft ice cream on top.

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Short but squat ice cream

We waited for David, knowing he has “professional” experience from working at Burger King. He filled all our cones before concentrating on his own. David goes with the circular theory, that you can build a high top by laying a round base on the cone. When we reached the mid-point of the ice cream, we found a hollow in it.

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Tall and thin ice cream

I gasped as David sat down. The ice cream began to tilt, and he caught it with one hand. We had no scales to weigh the boys’ cones, so there could be no official winner. David kept the cone’s balance at the table and finished it before the cream could fall again or melt.

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Oops!

Swimming with Waterfalls

Grandson David longed to swim at the base of Bald River Falls when we went there in May. Either he or John thought of going with daughter Kate in June, and the weather was perfect for it. John stayed home to drive Nathaniel to work, enabling David, Kate, and me to drive to Tennessee. When the younger two waded into the water, they were sharing the venue with at least eight others. I stood on the bridge above, waiting for some good shots.

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Kate is in blue to the left of center.

Gradually, everyone left the water, leaving Kate and David to themselves. They lurched over slippery rocks, heading to one big rock where they could warm up in the sun.

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An older man on the bridge saw me use the camera and called out, “Are you with them?”

When I answered yes, he came a few steps closer and said, “How old are they? My friends and I were sure the young girl was going to fall in the water.”

I replied, “That’s my daughter and grandson.”

“Yes, but how old are they?” he asked again.

I answered his question – 46 and 23. (After writing those numbers, I noticed that Kate is now twice as old as David.)

The man’s body language said LOL. “Ha! We would never have guessed! She doesn’t look that old.”

It turned out he and his two friends set out at 7 am from Birmingham, AL on their motorcycles. By mid-afternoon they had already been to several places before coming to the waterfall. He comes there at least once a year, sometimes more often. As the three men rode slowly over the bridge, they all waved goodbye. The spokesman called out, “Hope the young ones have a lovely day.”

As you can imagine, the story made Kate’s day! She always looked younger than her age, and she still does.

Just a mile or so up the road was Baby Falls. That’s the one with a few designated parking spaces, picnic tables, and park-style public restrooms (no running water). A pack of young men and a couple of girls were having a great time diving off the falls and cavorting in the water.

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The young men at right are walking at the top of the falls.

Kate and David stood in the water without being tempted to dive or walk across the falls. Kate rejoined me on the road as David worked his way up the stream to the picnic area.

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They discovered a pile of stacked stones that David couldn’t resist. In adding one more stone, he knocked off several. It took a bit to replace them and add his own, but he did it.

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The drive home was long, but we were thanking each other and celebrating all that we had enjoyed. David did all the driving, including the twisty skyline drive going one way and the narrow gorge going the other. It was a day of golden memories that we will remember all our lives.

Puzzling

Daughter Kate and I opened a new 500-piece puzzle and sneakily began working on it while her sons were at work. It was not as easy as the 480-piece double puzzles (two pictures jumbled together in the same box). John came in to see what we were shrieking about, as we doubled over in laughter. We finished the top edge and began working on the bottom. I should have taken a picture of it. The top, with all corners in their respective places, was three inches wider than the bottom. Several sections of the sides lay about looking confused. Despite our merriment, we found our mistakes and finished the outer rim.

Enter neighbor Logan (8). He was drawn to the puzzle as to a magnet. Kate found three middle pieces that came hooked together. In just a few minutes he added pieces to it that became the nucleus of our next phase. He was called home for dinner before the puzzle became tedious.

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During the day, Kate finished most of the top. She found one piece after another until she was tired. I joined her, putting in two immediately, followed by nothing. Later I walked by, paused, put in one piece, and walked away. Now I know the best way for me to perform. While putting cereal on the table for breakfast, I put in one piece. It was about as instant as oatmeal and just as painless. From now on, I should limit myself to finding one or two pieces and let others really work at it.

Excitement of Daily Living

My phone weather forecast showed a 5% chance of rain, so John and I set out for our walk. We heard rumbling in the distance 15 minutes in, and I thought it was the sound of a truck having a rough start. It must have been thunder. After climbing the steep hill, it began to sprinkle. John opted to shelter under trees, so I stayed with him. I should have walked on. The rain became heavier. Neighbor Ray offered us a ride in his truck, but we declined. Two mistakes did not make things better. Visiting daughter Kate woke up, realized it was raining, and phoned to see if she should come for us. Mistake number three! We reasoned that we were almost home and already wet. When we finally dripped in, I had Kate take our picture. We didn’t look nearly as wet as we really were.

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Why do we always smile when a camera is aimed at us?  This sends the wrong message.

I saw a black and white animal come from a neighbor’s driveway and thought they must have gotten a cat. A few steps later, I realized it was a skunk. John is far-sighted and sees things more clearly than I do. He said there was more white than black on it. As it ambled away from us, I saw the entire back view was white. The camera was lethargic and didn’t make it out of my pocket fast enough to take a shot.

Grandson Nathaniel and John began restorative work on the backyard waterfall. It leaked at the end of the season last year and did not heal itself over the winter. John wanted to dismantle it, thinking a hose was leaking under the pool. Nathaniel recommended a more conservative approach. He thought changing the position of hoses would solve the problem. We kept our fingers crossed, but the water level went down markedly.

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Rain that came while we were walking, gave way to sunshine.

Jukebox Junction

We pass the restaurant, Jukebox Junction, when we go to my favorite waterfall. Grandson David and I ate there recently when John was away, and he wanted his mother and brother to go. The walls were covered with pictures of stars, with shots of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe taking the most space. I took a photo of our fellows to include the dining area.

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John wielded the camera to show daughter Kate and me.

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Nathaniel examined the working jukebox and wanted John to see it.

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The jukebox works if you feed it quarters, and Nathaniel happened to have one quarter. He likes music from all ages and genres. While we were there, others played a few songs, mercifully not too loud.

For the foodies:  The menu is not large. We had chicken nuggets, a chicken sandwich, and fried clam strips. The sides were tasty, too. The boys and Kate started off with milkshakes, taking quite a bit of time deciding which flavor of ice cream they wanted as the base. David’s was the most imaginative – mint chocolate chip and dark chocolate. Kate liked her blueberry cheesecake shake. On my recommendation, John skipped the shake and had dessert. We shared. I had chocolate cheese pie, and John chose peach cobbler. David had half of each. He is as skinny as a rail, so neither milkshake nor dessert would stick to his ribs.

We drove on to Sunburst Falls. David climbed onto the rocks and persuaded his mother to join him. I stayed on the bridge with my camera, as I always do.

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After I took the photo showing how small they looked, I zoomed in. David had just helped Kate climb over a rock to sit down.

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Sunlight was fading as we drove home, happy with our late lunch and time at the falls.