i am not sure where one buys an owl in the middle of Montreal, but i am sure the cats can manage to deliver a small package between the three of them... although there might be some disagreement over who gets to play with the empty box. and, i have plenty of pointy sticks that could double for a wand... once i stop injuring myself with them, that is.
it is a lovely, crisp, cool September afternoon, and i am sitting here, enjoying an extra-large cup of steaming hot coffee. this is following the two slightly-less-large cups of tea i had earlier in the day. Autumn is definitely here... for real this time.
it would appear that i was a bit premature last time around in declaring the Summer done, because we got hit this past week with a wave of what the weather people described as "soupy" conditions.
hopefully, that is all behind us, as we seem to have finally arrived at the type of weather i love. i was actually shivering a bit this morning, but i was far too lazy to get out of bed to find a warmer cover. so, i just shivered, and smiled, and went back to sleep.
i was sipping my second cup of tea earlier today, and staring out across the treetops, searching for the slightest blush of gold, orange and red leaves. there was none to be found, so i had to settle for a handful of marigolds from the balcony garden. that looks Autumnal, no?
the plant has these long, skinny leaves that look like elongated arrowheads...
and flower-like structures that gives it the appearance of some type of pitcher plant.
i may have also broken the stem on one of them while taking those photographs, so now that bit gets to hang out with the marigolds too. happy accidents, as Bob Ross would say.
the highlight of this past week, however, has to be the epic pickling of things. this is just a small sample.
there i was, in the midst of "feels like" temperatures near 40°C (think, 105ish°F), boiling, peeling, chopping, and stuffing a whopping fifteen pounds of beets into jar after jar. then i turned around the next day and did the same with ten pounds of green peppers and pickling cucumbers... minus the boiling, because that would make for really gross pickles.
let me just discuss these pickles for a minute.
as i have noted in times past, i spent most of my growing-up years in New York City. my idea of a "sandwich" is freshly-cooked pastrami or corned beef, sliced thin and piled high on rye bread, with a schmear of mustard... and NOTHING ELSE in between. the only thing that is allowed on the same plate—on the same table, even—is a dill pickle spear, which you can nibble on as a "palate cleanser" of sorts in between bites of your sandwich. how does one cleanse their palate with a pickle? shh... do not disturb me with silly questions when i am taking a stroll down the happy side of memory lane.
back in high school, i used to meet mom most Fridays for a late-lunch at the deli across the street from the World Trade Center, where she worked. we always only ever had the same thing. that sandwich. the meat would be stacked so high, we would order one with two extra slices of bread, and split it between us to make two still-overloaded sandwiches.
and i always got the pickle. it was salty, garlicky, and tasting of dill. it was everything a pickle was supposed to be. i never understood the appeal of those thin-sliced, far-too-sweet pickles people put inside of sandwiches. if you are eating a sandwich that requires candied pickles on the inside to make it taste good... that is the Universe's way of letting you know that you should be eating something else.
so, there i was on day two of my pickling extravaganza, contemplating what to do with the cucumbers that were cluttering up the fridge, when i was struck by the desire to try something a bit different. i do not make dill pickles at home. but, on the rare occasion that i make pickles (which happens ever few-or-so years), i usually prefer recipes that stick to the sour and salty side of things, with little-to-no sugar involved.
this time around, i decided to make my first ever batch of bread-and-butter pickles. however, i did end up using only about half the recommended sugar, as anything sweeter would cross the line into being called a jam to my way of thinking. i had also purchased a giant bag of green peppers for pickling, so i ended up with a mixture that was roughly half pepper, half cucumber, to which i added some sliced onions and about half a head of garlic thinly-sliced.
not gonna lie... this is my favorite batch of pickles to date. [that yellow color is from a dash of turmeric in the liquid.]
i filled five quart jars, and one jar was empty again by the middle of the week. i (still) have zero desire to use them in sandwiches, but we have been treating it (along with the pickled beets) like a side dish with our meals.
which brings us to the pickled beets that started all the insanity.
the supermarket has bags of what they call "ugly beets" in a fifteen pound bag selling for about four or five bucks (the exact amount escapes me). i was fully prepared to have to throw away large sections of grossly deformed beets. what i got, instead, was a fifteen pound bag of beets that looked perfectly-normal to me.
having grown beets on multiple occasions, i can say with complete certainty that i have never discarded a single one because it was not perfectly round, so the idea of vegetables being tossed aside because they lack perfect symmetry (or because they were a little bit ovoid when they should be round) is complete nonsense to me.
i remember Jacques Pépin once talking about buying mushrooms in the supermarket. he said that he walks past all of the pristine white button mushrooms, and goes straight for the slightly-discolored ones with their caps already opened... the ones the markets usually hide away on the discount shelf in the corner, lest a passerby be traumatized by their non-perfectness. his reasoning? they taste better!!!
i am fairly certain Jacques Pépin would approve of my pickled ugly beets.
i have nine quart-sized jars of beets in total, three of which are earmarked for his parents, who will (in turn) give us more tomatoes and beans from their garden... with which i will fill up the remaining eleven quart-sized mason jars. it is the circle of life... with pickles. makes perfect sense to me.
we have been eating all the pickled things just as is, alongside our regular meals. these beets are also especially good with a drizzle of olive oil, some fresh herbs (here i used oregano and basil from the balcony), and a pinch of salt and pepper. it is the perfect accompaniment to (almost) any meal.
i can feel Jacques smiling approvingly.
i am adding a postscript to note that shortly after i finished typing most of this text, i decided to spend some time checking out the newest patterns over on Ravelry, when i came across this beauty. message received, Universe. i am packing my bags as we speak. just waiting for the post to arrive with my letter, and i will be on my way.
him: ooh... you should knit one for the balcony. maybe that will keep the squirrels away.
it is nice to be reminded that i am not the only crazy one around here.