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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Playing Catch-Up or Running in Place?


October seems to be going on and on, delightfully, and at the same time it is hurrying by. This is the last week, and what have I done with the beautiful month?

I have read two ARCs of novels in the past week and am now embarked on a book I must review very soon. Still have not started The Lacuna yet (I’m pretty good at meeting deadlines, but any more I cut them pretty close) but have picked up two or three other books and dipped into them, feeling guilty as I did so and doing it, anyway. What are these guilty pleasures? Oh, there’s Raymond Chandler, for one. Not one to be kept awake by the whodunit question, I find it easy to fall asleep over Raymond Chandler. And now there’s A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters from the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward, the letters beginning in 1906. This edited volume of years of the famous advice column is a microcosm of the immigrant experience. Somehow, also, when reading it I don’t feel that one hundred years ago is such a long time, either.
I get up at four in the morning to huhnt for a job through the newspaper. I have no money for carfare, so I go on foot, but by the time I get to the place there are hundreds before me.

The writer of this letter knows how to run an iron milling machine, how to drive horses and train colts, he served in the cavalry in Russia, but he can find no work in New York.
If I had known it would be so bitter for me here, I wouldn’t have come. I didn’t come here for a fortune, but where is bread? What can I do now?

But life is not all reading. My raspberry-blackberry jam is made, and I got eight little jars out of berries picked and frozen many weeks ago. Now, will I get out to pick elderberries this week or lose that season once again this year? And why is the elderberry season such a will-o’-the-wisp, anyway? Now you see it, now you don’t. Elderberries, vinegar, sugar, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cayenne—voilà! Elderberry catsup!




When I looked up that recipe for a wild game condiment, one I made many years ago in one of my cherished old cookbooks, Going Wild in the Kitchen, I stumbled on the instructions for pickled nasturtium seeds. “Pick the seeds when fully developed but before they become hard,” then brine overnight and process in jars with boiling vinegar. Maybe this is why I haven’t yet pulled out the nasturtiums and incorporated the rotting straw bales into the garden soil for next year! I need to pickle the nasturtium seeds!

Then there’s the project soon to be unveiled on this site that will announce a new partnership between Dog Ears Books and a local cause in which we strongly believe. Soon, but not quiet yet. Details are being worked out, which to say that I and others are working on details. Sigh! No, the details don’t work themselves out, though wouldn’t it be great if they did?

Meetings, meetings—how did I get involved in so many meetings? Here’s another one coming up on Wednesday morning. Sarah’s a bit disgusted by this turn of events and longing for January and my shortened winter work week, when we will both have plenty of time at home to play in the snow.

Is that really what we’ll be doing in January? We’ll see. For now, let the little dog dream. What can it hurt? I’m dreaming, too. It gives me the courage to keep my nose to the grindstone for now.

And meanwhile, what of the wild grapes? Surely something can be made of them, too?
The fruit of the wild grape is of exceptional flavor. It makes a delicious tart jelly and can be made into wine as well.

Some books are for learning, some are for escape, some for guilty pleasure, and some are obviously guilt-inducing. What will you choose to read during the last days of October?

7 comments:

Farshaw@FineOldBooks.com said...

My goodness! How do you find time to do so much! Reading AND making jams? Impossible!

P. J. Grath said...

Helen, I think you're making fun of me--but gently, so it's okay. My stepdaughters cram so many activities into each day that I feel like a total slug by comparison. And I wouldn't accomplish as much as I do if it weren't for Bruce at the bookstore, letting me get away sometimes. Today (Wednesday) will be his last day there for a couple of weeks, and I have a morning meeting, a lunch, and some outdoor dog time planned. No jam today.

Dawn said...

My Mom used to make what she called 'road jam' our of any fruit she found along the road where she and Dad walked every day. She'd pick little bits of plums and grapes along the way, freeze them and when she had enough, she'd make jam.

You're very busy! Keep that January hope in front of you and it will eventually get here. Sometimes I think I'm wishing my life away.

Farshaw@FineOldBooks.com said...

Was certainly NOT making fun of you. I am envious. I do things sooooo slowly and I squander too much time....

P. J. Grath said...

I guess mine could be called "road jam," too, Dawn. The name is cool! Last year I picked and froze raspberries, blackberries and thimbleberries and then threw in some cherries from a friend when I made my jam.

Helen, somehow you have gotten a very false impression of me. I know people who work every night until 2 a.m., but that's now my life. I get plenty of sleep--and usually fall asleep over a book.

Gerry said...

I like thinking about making jam from fruit found wild. It seems like such a luxurious reward for a little industry. I notice that I don't actually do it, but I enjoy thinking about it.

I've been known to work until 2 a.m. but not to particularly good effect. I'm pretty sure that when I do that I'm being diligent in order to avoid something else I don't want to think about. I'd be much better off making jam.

P. J. Grath said...

I read once that if you are lost in the woods for any length of time, you should NOT bother picking wild berries to keep from starving, as the energy expended in the picking exceeds the energy your body derives from the berries. Can you imagine stumbling around in the woods with your stomach growling and NOT eating whatever nutritious, nonpoisonous food Nature offered? You'd have to be a real "logic monster" to hold out, IMO.