Friday, December 7, 2012


I keep picking up books about local eating. Don't think I've gone all farmer's-market-&-organic or anything. I still love me some food straight out of plastic-y wrappings, and the sweeter the better.

But I also must have a soft spot for dipping into the world of people who get all misty over pastoral scenery, who love to dig in the deep black dirt and make tasty dinners from the carrots and kohlrabi that they grew themselves. Yep, kids who grew up in the suburbs are spending their summers out on the farm, and loving it. As for me, I'm sitting safely in the suburbs, reading about it, via Jonah Raskin's Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking Wine in California.

Raskin's memoir covers a year in Sonoma County, California, where he hunts down the top organic farmers and visits the San Francisco restaurants that buy the farmers' boutique produce.

And you understand, don't you, that we aren't talking about the sunburnt sort of farm folks who are missing fingers from a long-ago accident with the combine? No, Raskin's farmers wear scruffy beards. Or long skirts, as the case may be. They discuss literature and wine. They smoke pot. And they occupy one of the most beautiful valleys on this planet.

Also one of the most expensive. Yeah, Raskin glossed very lightly over that part. I know somebody who considered moving to Santa Rosa, California, not too far from Sonoma. When she mentioned house prices, all of us in the room gasped in sympathy. And these were ladies accustomed to Chicago prices.

Raskin's farm world sounds so utopian. Does it really work as perfectly as Raskin tells it? Are the market days on the community square truly the bliss-fests that he describes? Do these anti-private-property, green-pepper-growers really have all the answers? Is this life within the grasp of the Wal-Mart set?

If these questions tire out your brain, maybe you need to eat something tastier than an organic tomato and far less naughty than Sonoma-grown pot. So let's talk about EASY FUDGE This is for people too lazy to make real fudge. I say, own your laziness and mix in a large bowl:

1 7-oz. Hershey bar, broken up
18 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 14-oz. Jar marshmallow creme
1 TB. vanilla
Set aside.

Mix in a sauce pan:
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
four and a half cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup margarine

Bring to a boil; cook 6-8 minutes. Add to ingredients in bowl. Mix until blended. Pour into buttered 15x10-in. jelly roll pan.

Try not to eat too much of it yourself.(This will be hard.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

King, Commoners and English Majors

It seems like easy pickin's.

You want to write a good book? One with tried and true drama? Steal your story from somebody else, somebody who won't care. Say, Homer, who wrote that Iliad thing a few years back.

This is what David Malouf attempted in Ransom. Myself, I never got the Greeks. If they had a bad day, they felt honor-bound to gouge out an eye or two. So I had a hard time warming up to Ransom's formal and honor-bound Priam and Achilles and the rest. That is, until King Priam's puzzling quest brings a humble cart-driver into the story. Then the story comes alive for me as king and commoner (with an endearing habit of rubbing his nose) come together, sizing each other up. The cart-driver nudges the King into his world, inviting him to partake of pleasures as simple as cooling his toes in a stream.

It's a middling OK story, no cow patties.

Next up, we have Working Stiff's Manifesto by Iain Levison. Levison spent $40,000 getting a degree in English, and now he can't find a job. Resorting to the lowest and dirtiest work in the land, he scrapes together a living by boarding a fishing boat in Alaska and answering ads that herd the unsuspecting into multi-level marketing schemes. Meanwhile, he tells tales on his roommate, who aims to break into film-making. If Levison's book weren't so funny, it would be depressing as all get-out.

Makes me glad to be a housewife, whose hardest job is planning what to feed the crowd that came to my house Thanksgiving week. There was pumpkin pie, of course, but we had to have other pies, too, for novelty's sake. So we added Chocolate Mallow Pie to the menu. Basically, it was several kinds of candy/sweet stuff thrown together, as if the inventor couldn't decide between his/her vices.