Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pickle Cactus Flower

Someone told me this was a pickle cactus, but when I looked that up online a totally different kind of plant showed up. I think this came from Erik's Grandma June's house. Cactus flowers shore is purdy!

Breakfast of Ancestors

Rolled oats, golden raisins (aren't those called sultanas in the mother country?), vanilla enriched rice milk, unbleached sugar, cinnamon (probably cassia), filtered water, and love. My Scottish ancestors would be proud... oats make a boy strong!

What is your preferred sweetener? Lately I'm really leaning toward agave nectar, mostly because agave is a native plant and my husband has taught me so much about being aware of what plants evolved to live in the area where we live. Agaves have a huge starchy center to them which is what is used to make tequila. Yum! The Tohono O'odham harvested the tubers and roasted them. Gardening of agave is usually limited to the ornamental varieties because of how much land would be required to grow a sustainable crop of agave. There are only half as many species of agaves as there are skinks. Yes, it can always come back to skinks!

Erik is drinking rice milk these days because his liver enzymes continue to be elevated! He goes and gets blood tests periodically just to see how high they are. The enzymes are SGOT and SGPT and they can be an indicator of liver damage. He read that dairy and wheat can exaserbate the weakened liver. He might be sensitive to gluten because of his Hungarian ancestry. Whenever he drinks beer he gets the Asian Flush, which 50% of the Asian population has! It means that when he drinks beer he gets hot red blotches like a map on his face. I think Erik was born in the wrong time period. His days should be spent like this:

Except what did the Magyars do when their backs went out? They probably had stronger backs back then. No junk food and lots of exercise. I wonder what the Magyars ate for breakfast? Maybe some horse milk and dried meat? And some plundered sweets, sultanas possibly!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bong Mom's CookBook: Chingri Macher Malaikari

Bong Mom's CookBook: Chingri Macher Malaikari

One of my favorite little games to keep kitchen duties interesting is to pick a random ingredient in the cupboard and then to make a meal using it. So far I have made chocolate cherry mace cookies for mace and mini muffins for mini muffin papers (technically not really an ingredient, but equally taking up shelf space). The next ingredient is whole cloves. I found that cloves are native to India, so naturally I want to make an Indian dish. It also just so happens that I am deeply embedded in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. Her tale of the Bengali Gangulis is so sumptuously written that I feel like I am embarassed to know so much about the inner dreams and fears of Bengali immigrants. Since I am feeling so connected to Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, I am delighted to attempt to make Chingri Macher Malaikari before I finish the book. And to eat it while reading and feel that I, too, understand their cravings.

When I read Diane Mott Davidson's first novel, Catering to Nobody, I felt especially connected with Goldy Bear by cooking the recipes that were used in the plot. In ninth grade when we read Homer's Odyssey my friend and I made our project, Cooking the Food of Ancient Greeks, and spent the day making dolmas and lemon chicken soup. Cooking makes me feel connected with cultures and history in a way that is so satisfying for my soul.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cactus Rose

Now I know why they call it the cactus rose. And the image of a dusty rose seems so beautiful now too. I never really got the whole "rose thang." My Nana liked porcelain roses. My old boss liked roses because he had traveled to Afghanistan and had seen the old Arabian style rose gardens. To me they always seemed too stuffy, too royal, too decadent. I like earthy flowers, like lavender and wild roses.

The tissue thin petals of the cactus rose soften my heart when I see them. The rest of the year when I see cactus, I tend to think of how brutal they are with their spines. But this time of year they are so tender and vulnerable. I could easily rip off every flower and not get punished by their spines. Even when they fruit, I still have to battle the spines to get to the sweet pulp. But right now they just have these delicate blooms that no one can cut off and put into a vase.

Body of Art

My body is a ca-age...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nothing Left To Do But Walk

As I was leaving the house with my camera to go to the park I dashed outside to grab Noah's shoes. I saw this little guy strutting around on the patio with his head cocked to one side. I wondered what happened to him that he found himself walking on the ground in the middle of the day. I thought he had immense spirit to be so disabled that he could no longer fly, his head was tilted, his tongue lolling out, but still walking as if that was how he was supposed to get around.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cabbage Aphids (Brevicoryne brassicae)

It started so innocently. One day I noticed a few aphids on the tip of a flowering stalk on one of my collard plants. I cut that tip off, but noticed another tip with aphids on them. I thought to myself, "Here's an opportunity to observe nature in action. Predator versus prey. Can the plant protect itself? Will parasitic wasps and ladybugs and lacewings move in and lay waste to this enemy?"

The parasitic wasps and ladybugs did move in and make a valiant effort, but not before the population of aphids exploded on my patch of collards. Aphids are literally born pregnant, but that is not the end of the chain. The fetus inside is also pregnant! So each aphid bumbling and slurping up the precious phloem in the plant is pregnant with her own granddaughter!

Aphids that prey on Brassica oleracea (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and kin) can convert the plant's own defense chemical, glucosinolate, into a kind of mustard oil that can deter some predators, such as larval two-spotted ladybugs.

Aphids in the garden patch in spring are a sign of a cool spring, because some of the predators, like lacewing larvae, will not hatch out until the temperatures are consistently warmer. As the weather warms up going into summer, the aphids die back anyway because the symbiotic bacteria that help them digest their sappy meals cannot tolerate higher temperatures.

Yesterday I pulled out any remaining straggly collard plants. I had already harvested seeds about a month ago from the plants that bolted before the aphid attack. Since we started focusing on buying a house with my parents a few months ago, I ceased to plant new garden beds. I still have my Indian onions growing and some cucumber young plants that got planted before we really decided to make the move. The onions will get moved and I will ask our rentors if they want to keep the cucumbers. The collard bed is a sunken bed, just like the others--I realized that it is one of the best ways to garden in the desert. The earth in the collard bed is dark and soft, so beautiful; I am sad to leave it. Erik wants me to top off the depression, which means covering it with the sandy gravely compacted dirt that I had so laboriously removed when pregnant with Micah. Once covered up, that lovely loamy earth underneath will be like prime real estate for all the weeds that roam this area-- Bermuda grass, wild mustard, cheeseweed, spiderling.

And yet, there are always more seeds, more opportunities, waiting to be planted and nurtured, tended to and cared for. Why lament the end of a garden plot? Because then it really meant something. It had a purpose; it fed us and taught us and showed us stuff about life and the universe. And then it got attacked. And then I finished its life. Yes, I, killed my garden. The aphids and I; I and the aphids.