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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Green Tomato Pie

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I made my first Green Tomato Pie a very long time ago, back in Connecticut, in the 70's. We lived in the middle of an agricultural area in what would become primarily a commuter town. Today those fields,  needless to say, are filled with tarmac circles and rows of McMansions. Then, though, in a dilapidated 1790's farmhouse, we were surrounded by cornfields and some nearby shade tobacco and potatoes. Those last two required tons of pesticide, and I spent a lot of time gathering in my toddlers, pets, and laundry and closing windows whenever a new application began. There have been long-term health issues from exposure to these aggie cocktails, but that's another story.

We had a super garden there, plowed up the first spring by a local farmer, full of good black Connecticut bottom soil. I was, and still am, a haphazard gardener. Still, we got lots of food out of our plot:  lettuce, chard, spinach, beets, beans, melons (which were often stolen by the even poorer neighbor's kids), winter and summer squash, pumpkins, and of course, tomatoes, and peppers. I inter-planted herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, sage, and flowers, marigolds and nasturtiums, as "protectors."

I was darn proud of this pretty and productive garden and spent time in it daily. Eventually, my husband dug a trench around it and half buried fence to discourage the groundhogs and bunnies who'd zeroed in on all this tasty stuff. I often encountered snakes there, hunting for field mice, bugs and frogs. Once, arms full of produce, and not really looking where I was going, I bare-foot stepped on a lovely long red and white corn snake. He was basking in the path, I think, all hot from the sun. He felt dry and smooth, like warm leather. I screamed, leapt into the air, and dropped the vegetables. He, apparently uninjured, slithered for it, disappearing as fast as he could go into the weeds. Hard to tell who was more scared.

One year, a hard frost hit the valley and my still growing plants hard and left me with buckets of green tomatoes. I set them out along the porch in rows, some wrapped in newspaper to see if they'd ripen. In those days, friends of friends, traveling across country, would sometimes drop in and crash on mattresses on the floor of our mostly empty 13 room house overnight, on their way from the West Coast or the Midwest to colleges/first jobs in NYC or Boston. I was the good housewife who could produce a hot supper with fresh from the garden sides at the drop of a hat. One evening, when we'd had some warning, I decided to produce a pie, but I was nearly out of apples--an unusual occurrence for me, as I'm an apple aficionado. Most autumns there was usually a basket stashed in an unheated room somewhere. Not this time.

I'd heard of green tomato pie, but there was nothing about it in my trusty Joy of Cooking. Determined to go ahead, it was time to punt. I had a single apple, a big sweet Cortland, and lots of tomatoes, so I just went ahead and used an apple pie recipe, only substituting chopped tomatoes. As usual, I put in lemon juice, cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, some brown sugar and some white, as well as mixture of flour and cornstarch. It smelled good and looked fine.

Somewhere in the middle of the first slice, after supper alongside fresh cups of coffee--the things we didn't worry about doing in those days!--one of the guests said, studying a bite poised on his fork, "Uh, this isn't an apple..."

So, I explained. By that time, however, the weirdness had been overcome by the comforts of sugar, fruitiness, and fresh baked. Everyone finished their portion--even my children, who were initially as alarmed by Mom's revelation as anyone. I was entirely pleased, though, when this same guy asked for seconds.

Now, of course, no one is going to freak out over green tomato pie. You can Google it. It has been blessed by Paula Dean and other cooking show stars, as a real ol' time Southern treat. It has even acquired a certain cache. IMHO, I think it's probably just one of those ideas born of the plain old make-do spirit of a gardener's home cookin'.

~~Juliet Waldron

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Elfie attends the much longed for Ice Cream Social. She's been wondering if anyone in this valley "ever has any fun?" She hopes to spend time with the handsome preacher who is courting her, but instead...

Final edits now on this sequel to Hand-me-Down Bride,
a traditional historical romance.


"...The young men carried the oars and the girls carried baskets, and they trooped down a gravel path toward the little lake, whose surface could be seen placidly shining in the distance. They arrived at a crowded dock with many rowboats, but laid claim to three of them straight away, someone having already given a tip to the old man who was in charge.

The oars were placed and there was some giggling and jesting while the ladies were helped in. Elfie was unsure about the rowboats. All of them had water in the bottom and each was supplied with a little gourd dipper.

“I don’t want to get my feet wet!” Addy protested, flipping her fine skirts away. Her sister agreed. “These boats are dreadful old wrecks.”

“They’re what we’ve got, so let’s make the best of it,” said Dina. She appeared devil-may-care and game for anything.

“That’s my bold Dina!” A voice sang out behind them. Cutting through others who were trying to negotiate an hour or two on the lake, with wicker basket in hand and his hat at a jaunty angle, came Ripley King.

“Oh, hello Rip! At last! Which one is ours? Is that one yours?” Dina, who rarely waited for an answer, held her hat against the breeze and pointed to a boat, tied at the very end of the dock. It had a fresh coat of paint and shiny brass oarlocks.

“That’s it!” said Ripley. “Got it ready special, just for today.”

“You did not.”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out. Oh, good-day, Miss Neiman.” He grinned, touched the brim of his hat and swept a comic bow. “How pleasant to see you here!”

Elfie caught the scent of spirits as he leaned close.

“Well,” said Dina, taking Ripley’s arm, “she, poor creature, was stuck with Reverend Schwann, his aunt and uncle, and all that stuffy bunch from the Grace Church choir. I have released her to freedom!”

Elfie blushed, as everyone was now staring, but she managed a smile for Dina. “Mrs. Schwann wanted to know if your Aunt and the Judge were here.”

“Well, they are, of course. What does she think of me?”

“Of course she wanted to know, the old busybody,” said Ripley. “If there’s a way for that bunch to keep us from having a bit of fun, they will certainly find it. Come my ladies—you’ve made your escape!” He presented his other elbow to Elfie. “Let’s go take a ride in my boat.”

But when they arrived,  it too could be seen to have a scud of dirty water in the bottom. “Oh drat!” said Ripley, “that old fool said he had it all patched up. At least the oarlocks look like they’ll work.”

“I think rowboats just naturally collect water,” said Dina. “Don’t worry about it.”

At the actual moment of climbing on board Elfie was apprehensive. “It’s—so—will it—ah—umkippen?”

“What’s that when it’s in English?” Ripley chuckled.

“Tip over.” Dina explained, while Elfie nodded and studied the boat anxiously. “No, it won’t. Just don’t stand up all of a sudden or anything dumb like that. Come on, Elfie! Now that you’ve escaped your captors—don’t be a ’fraidy cat...”

~~Juliet Waldron   
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Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Master Passion~~A snippet from the cutting room

I wrote and rewrote A Master Passion for a period of fifteen years, ending with a novel well over a 1000 pages long. Some scenes, especially those in the beginning which dealt with the far less well-known Elizabeth Schuyler, were cut. This scene, telling us more about the future Mrs. Hamilton, was among the ones that (sadly, I think) fell by the wayside.

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           Colonel Tench Tilghman had come north to Albany, an emissary from the Continental Congress, to attend a parley with the Indians.  General Schuyler and the Americans wished to obtain assurances of neutrality before the war with Britain broke out. 
            Today, though, as if there was no great war on the horizon, Tilghman and a group of young Albany gentry had taken a picnic to the falls at Cohoes, which he had been told was "one of the notable sights of the region."  The Colonel, accompanied Betsy in a steep climb to get a close up look at the top of the falls.

             The path Miss Schuyler elected was surprisingly bad. There were rocks to scramble over and briar patches to negotiate, but she appeared to enjoy this sort of rough ramble. At first Tilghman wondered if this was one of these feminine games which would end with her leaning helplessly upon his arm, but he was more than surprised when this dainty-looking miss kept pace with him. The way to the top was almost vertical, frequently necessitating an undignified down-on-all-fours attack. 
            At the breathless summit, they paused, panting and admiring the view. Tilghman experienced an unexpected rush of pleasure. The young woman's easy manner made him almost feel comfortable, even though they were now completely alone together.
            Pray God I do not have to reveal my wretched broken heart to another lady in search of a husband...
            The way she'd brought him to this splendid sight, agile and uncomplaining as a boy, demonstrated that she'd made the climb many times.

            "Come, Colonel Tilghman!" Betsy called over the noise of falling water.  "The best view is from here."

            Stockings flashing, revealing shapely calves, she scaled the last rock.  Tilghman, following her, had the insouciant thought that the best view might possibly be from exactly where he was. 

           When he reached the height, he found himself an arm's length from enormous quantities of green water hurtling over a narrow lip.  Falling, it became a spectacular white veil.  The ground beneath his feet shook alarmingly.

            Beside him on that rocky shelf, Betsy dropped to her knees, then stretched out on her stomach to get as close as possible to the roaring water. 

          "Do come, Colonel."

          Thunder sounded on every side.  The quick climb, vertigo, the sight of a lady young stretched at full length on the ground, left him almost giddy.

           The wind shifted and spray blew into their faces.   Betsy turned and smiled, a dazzling white flash against her nut-brown skin...

~~Juliet Waldron

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