Edible From The Oven Plus August Doldrums

Dear Gentle Readers,

Summer is in reality sliding toward Autumn but right now, in the last days of July and the first of August, we are in the Dog Days; those long hot and humid days that make you sweat profusely while you stick to anything you touch. There is a strange nebulous unknown in the NW tip of Arkansas: Are we the Mid-West or part of the South. The humidity and non stop days of no rain are Southern but we are so close to Oklahoma and Missouri that we really should be Midwestern. Little Rock has no identity problem because they are Southern but three hours to the West and the people and the weather can’t make up their minds. The tropical storm/depression that came through Texas has dropped some of the temperature to the High 80s and this morning without warning the sky let out and rain blocked our vision across the street for about 15 minutes or more; that and at night there is this alluring and tempting breeze that has been blowing through the thick air of a humid Southern night; these are the only clues to the tempest that just moved up from the warm gulf coast.

To be fair to myself I can cook, over the years I have gotten better and picked up a few hints from the restaurants I have worked at but more than that I love to read cook books. I have a curated, inexpertly as it may be, collection and at times I set aside a few days to read the recipes and the history or travel log that goes with it. A dear rock hound friend of mine NS, who could cook mud and we would ask for seconds, was bragging to me about using a recipe from Ina Garten and it was all I could do not to squeal out “The Barefoot Contessa!!!” and yes, Gentle Readers, NS’s mac and cheese was delectable, gone in about 10 minutes on the pot luck table line. (Sigh, this is what I miss about the old days of rock hounding: having the group meals and sharing of food and some wonderful feelings of having an extended family.) I have read my books on Roman cooking, chocolate cakes, colonial American cooking, and recipes according to Seasons: And yet I really do not cook much. Migraines and apathy hold me back the most. My nearly perfect sister has each day/dinner blocked out and shopped for. Frugality enthusiasts can look at her budget and say “Dang! Live a little why don’t you!” Even when she splurges it is accounted for! I have tried that, I really have, but for some reason my husband and I fail at even the most basic of domestic tenets. Then when we were in NC we started ordering vegetable/fruit boxes from local farms.  We had hoped it would help us eat healthier and we started getting this build up of strange foods in our refrigerator so in a bid not to throw out a goodly portion of our food budget I looked up how exactly to cook eggplant. After the eggplant came neeps and then before we even knew it, we were actually cooking meals at home. One of the few drawbacks to Chicago was no from-the-farm delivery boxes unless you wanted gourmet overpriced produce and or driving for an hour to get it. We recently found this company called Misfits that delivers odd shaped or unsold produce by the box: And suddenly like magic we are cooking again. My mind starts to go through the cooking of grits and pulses when we stand in the Fresh Market, recipes drift around the old grey matter when I realize there is fresh fennel and ginger to use up. Between migraine fugues I am now trying to root a fennel bulb and have planted seeds on our new NE exposure porch. There is this small, happy sigh of accomplishment when I realize that every night has not been takeout. Bellow are three pictures worth bragging on.

One reason to move into the new apartment was the swimming pool, hot jacuzzi tub for the win with fibromyalgia plus a fountain to stick my head under in the pool. I had visions of being a tempestuous mermaid and having the fountain pour streams of sparkling water over my hair, then Covid reared its ugly head and the pool got closed. After months of waiting the pool has reopened and I am laughing in my socks! The rule is the pool is open for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon with no more than 30 people: I have yet to see more than two people down there at one time. I know the property owners have to come up with a plan for all the properties and possibilities but, come on people!!!: close a therapeutic pool for three months so the crowd made of two people can finally swim! On the not so crazy side a friend of a friend of mine makes costumes and does burlesque. As she is a geek goddess, she has geek fabrique scraps and is making masks from them! We are no longer dirt poor so I was able to order masks from my friend and support a well deserving artist. This is another warm fuzzy feeling I enjoy; too much of my youngness was spent poor as dirt and I was unable to monetarily support causes and people I admired. Walmarts around the country are now demanding masks now and I don’t blame them: Covid is not going away anytime soon. When a mediocre proliferation company like Walmart wants masks you know it is bad. I also know people who have gotten this so it does exist and researchers are discovering more strange things that this virus does to the body besides kill you and so far it does not awaken the X-gene so I do not want to catch it.

The apartment complex has serious drainage problems and it is perfectly obvious that the people who designed the complex took very little of the areas drainage pattern into concern when it was built. The weather stability around here is also nil: Weather slowly peeling off of the Rockies, weather gusting down from the MidWest, and weather pushing inexorably up from Texarcana. This week we are being visited by Texarcana and the rain is finally falling with every hurricane and tropical storm that stirs. While this is the Ozark Mountains I would swear that Benton County is a wetlands! Perhaps this qualifies as temporal wetlands? There is a pond on the premises, really a glorified puddle, and whether on top of the pavement or sinking through the permeable soil, it fills up in all its muddy, oozy glory. There are box turtles that sploosh at midnight and some kind of fish that eats the mosquitoes and insects: With every ripple they make our dog tries to get her head more fully under the fence. One night I expect we will be climbing down a ravine to get to the pond to rescue our dog. And rescue the sweet and innocent Sorcha from what you ask? Well.. the toads quite frankly. In Edwardsville, IL the spring peepers were everywhere and sounded off constantly and our Sorcha tried to eat them every chance she got. (Do not let dogs eat raw frogs because diarrhea will ensue.) Here in  the complex the crickets and stray insects are the loudest but the toads are huge and we suspect they take lunch money on occasion. When it comes to the pond we fear the carp will strap on shark fins and team up with the toads to mug our dog if she gets stuck on “the wrong side” of the fence. Ooooooo!! And I must not forget to tell you about Arnie the newest resident here: Arnie the Armadillo!!!! Yep, NW Arkansas has armadillos and our Arnie has MiniArnie. These are the only two creatures that Sorcha has given the side eye but a petite version of an armored prehistoric monster is a pretty good animal to give plenty of space so this may speak well of our Sorcha. Below is the fancy fence around the pond, you can see the haze of humidity. And through the bars are two of about seven box turtles.

Aaaaand the computer ate another particularly brilliant paragraph so I will save the commentary on hoarding, dating, love, and memory loss for another time. On to another topic: I realize that Summer is the height of heat and abundance, of the growth that will sustain an agrarian culture through a harsh winter. I realize that Summer is running across neighborhoods, swimming in pools and ponds, flowers, bees and tall green trees. Summer is watching and planning for eventual harvest and for breaking open watermelon in the field. Summer is a form of peace and the fullness of life but Allas I am just not a Dandelion Wine kind of gall. I once told a somewhat mystic woman my opinion of Summer and she looked at me with a ‘you don’t know??’ kind of face and said “You’re Winter Court.” Not everybody has a ‘side’ or ‘court’ they associate with; a darling work friend once said he could never get enough of the ‘hot, sweaty, and humid Southern Sun’ but was not Fey in the least. He just liked, well, as far as I am concerned, all that yucky stuff. We just passed Lammas Day or Lughnasadh, the first of August, and thus the Harvest Season begins until Autumnal Equinox. I am excited to see the days letting in more of the shadows of gloaming and allowing the dawn to sleep a wee bit more before cresting over the horizon.

Feeling like a finely made doll: Hair from spiders webs and newly made silk, bones formed of creek mud high in the mountains and tears donated from a pure seep hidden by holly and hazel. Blood and heart from drops of lava deep in a cauldron heating geysers and waiting one day to break. Laid carefully in the surf of a forgotten beach to come to life in the salt water; sand and stones blessing a smile and each fragile toe as it forms. Moon light fills the eyes and kisses a soul formed of ferns and moss and pure spring water. A finally made doll drying out in a blistering sun wondering where the soft words and joy of life are; cracking and fading into a bleached dry simulacrum. Praying for rain or the pleasure of dew softened petals but the voice is a desiccated soundless plea.

So let us continue with Mariesha and her search for a missing person. Some folks may recognize certain words and phrases that she uses and that these words are “out of place”; yep, did this on purpose! cont..

     The first stop was smoky and dim but respectable enough to have a dented spittoon by the bar.  There were workers eating greasy sandwiches under a tattered awning outside and drinking down something cloudy out of mugs from a rack inside.  It was a local’s sort of bar so Mareisha paid for some grilled sausages wrapped in day old bread and slathered in a mystery relish.

     “Eh, help a poor burk out can ya’?”asked Mariesha as she took a big bite from her food.

     “What’s it ya’ want?” replied the owner as he scraped the fresh grease into a jar.

     Mariesha swallowed appreciably, for food that was inevitably end-bits they were fresh and spicy. “A couple of nights back about five high class cutters came stumbling out of Ms. Moanings.”

     He grunted slightly but nodded, “That dried up ol’ bitch but her girls are good enough whores.”  He looked Mariesha over again. “They ain’t done those girls bad did they?”

     “Nah, one of  ’em’s missing.”

     “Don’t know nothin’  ’bout that. They didn’t come here. They were goin’ toward Blacks.”

     “You’ve been right helpful, mate,” said the tiefling as she slid over extra coppers for the sandwich. “Keep your change.”

     “Good luck on ya’,” replied the man as he slid the coins into a small metal box.

     At this time of day Blacks was living up to its name; a dreary cinder smudge of a bar along an alley corner but the currently unlit lanterns around the door would have been bright as a beacon in the night.  The Inspector didn’t even try the front corner but went around to the alley door and managed to bang on it with loud jarring thumps, “Oy, delivery!”  Her voice even startled a wretchedly thin cat in some old boxes. “Delivery!!  Ain’t got all day!!”  She began to kick at a vaguely loose board at the bottom.

     The side door was opened by a small mountain of muscle gone mostly to fat.  “You ain’t Jemmy,” said the man glaring down at her.

     “Ya’ think?” stated Mariesha crossing her arms and sticking her foot in front of the wooden planks.

He blinked at the grey light of the alley finally noticing both the wiry tiefling and the stern Elsbeth.  “And where’s my order?”

     “Listen up,” started Mariesha pushing her foot and shoulder against the door as he reached for the inner handle.  “I’ve got questions and jink for answers.”  She rattled the scrap in her pocket like coins.

     “What’s she about?” asked the small mountain at the door, eyeing Elsbeth with confusion.

     “You don’t want to know,” answered Mariesha in a dour voice while looking him straight in the eyes.  Elsbeth stood posture perfect with her hands hidden in the leather muff and gazed past him with icy calm.

     “What questions then?” asked the man at the door, quickly looking back to the tiefling.

     “Five rich boys ’bout four nights back,” started the Inspector.

     “Don’t know nothing.” 

          Mariesha could easily tell he was lying but Elsbeth spoke solemnly for her, “He’s lying.”

     “Not looking good for you,” started Mariesha shaking her head slowly and pulling out a picture, “These five. And we already knew they were here.”

     The man at the door looked hesitatingly at Elsbeth across the alley from him then grabbed at the paper.  He glanced briefly then shoved the paper back to Mariesha’s hand.  “I, ummm, recognize them now,” he stated.

     “What did they do?  And where did they go?”

     “They drank ‘n’ pissed,” was the only slightly belligerent answer.

     “You are not being helpful,” growled Mariesha in a low tone, who in fact was feeling sorry for the alley cat at the moment.

      “After two rounds they said ma beer tasted like horse piss so I throwed ’em out,” replied the man mountain while managing to actually be angry at the affront to his stale beer.  “Jeb at tha door saw ’em go that away,” he finished jerking his thumb back toward the street.

     Mariesha gave him a stern stare and glanced at Elsbeth.  Elsbeth simply turned her head toward Mariesha and gave a serenely noble nod.  “Good enough,” said the tiefling.  The man gave one more skittish look at Elsbeth and slammed the door.

     As Marisha looked down the street at faceless and worn storefronts she knew the inevitable part of the bar crawl; she and her Recorder would have to start going door to door.

to be cont…

Dearest Gentle Readers, in these trying times of conflict and despair I dearly hope you have some strength of heart and guidance in your soul. Let the lightness of Shadows see you through the Night and the sibilant song of the Sun protect you through the Day. May God Bless You and yours,

Be Well