Spinach and herb hummus

Spinach and herb hummus

Spinach and herb hummus

The memorial day parade goes right by our house. We live in a small town, so it’s a small parade, but people come early and set up lawn chairs. They line the streets, waiting, with their early morning Italian ices. The band marches by, loud and raggedy and perfect, followed by the city council members, then a small group of girl scouts and boy scouts, and then the ladies auxiliary drives by. The town’s veterans walk by, followed by a car-full of veterans of foreign wars. And then every single fire truck for miles around rattles by our house. Everybody throws candy, and my boys sit on the stoop waiting, and scramble around to pick up the pieces as they fall. This is what memorial day is about for my boys. I think they miss the bigger meaning of the day and think it’s sort of a small-scale halloween–a twin celebration that strangely combines remembering the dead with eating candy, just like halloween does. And it’s a good day for me to try to turn off that part of me that’s resistant to any kind of flag-waving, pom pom shaking show of school spirit or patriotism, that’s always been distrustful of what could easily become unthinking support for any cause, which has gotten us into too many wars in the first place. A good day for me to try to silence my inner cynic, and recognize the value of remembering, as a community, and sharing our gratitude. After all there’s something very moving about our scruffy little parade, something solemn and joyful and beautiful.

I worked a long weekend, too, because aside from everything else, Memorial day is a holiday and people go out to eat. Lots of people. So I was too tired to cook when I came home, and we made one of my favorite quick and tasty dinners. Oven roasted french fries and hummus! I blended some baby spinach into the hummus for flavor and greenness. And I added some herbs. I used dried, but obviously fresh would be far better.

Here’s Dancing at Whitsun by Jean Redpath.

    The fields they stand empty, the hedges grow free
    No young men to tend them nor pastures to seed
    They are gone like the forests of oak trees before
    Have gone, to be wasted in battle.

    Down from the green farmlands and from their loved ones
    Marched husbands and brothers and fathers and sons.
    There’s a fine roll of honour where the Maypole once stood,
    And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun.

    There’s a straight row of houses in these latter days
    All covering the downs where the sheep used to graze.
    There’s a wreath of red poppies a gift from the Queen
    But the ladies remember at Whitsun,

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Chickpea, artichoke, olive and goat cheese dip

artichoke goat cheese dip

artichoke goat cheese dip

Skip James is one of my favorites. His voice is so haunting and plaintive, and his playing so sweet. I love his song Look Down the Road, and it’s been in my head a lot lately. Here’s a sample of the wonderful lyrics…

Look down the road
‘Fer as my eyes could see
Hey-hey, yeah
‘Fer as my eyes could see
And I couldn’t see nothin’
Looked like mine, to me

I don’t want no woman
Got hair like drops a-rain
Got hair like drops a-rain
Boy, you know this a shame
It’s a pity an a cryin’ shame

Beautiful!! In honor of this song, today’s playlist subject is songs about “The Road.” They don’t need to have “the road” in the title, but all of mine do, because I’m lazy and late for work. I’ve made the playlist collaborative, so you should be able to add your own suggestions!!

This dip is a miracle of last-minute deliciousness. If you have a can of chickpeas and a can of artichoke hearts, a tub of olives and a bit of goat cheese, you’re ready to entertain! Or make a nice dinner with good bread and a salad.

Here’s my THE ROAD playlist! Feel free to add your own songs.

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Spinach and white beans on toast & Oatmeal, black pepper and nutmeg bread

Spinach and beans on toast

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on hold, today. We’re switching to a cable internet connection. Apparently, this makes everything work much faster, so you have plenty of extra time to remain on hold with the cable company. But did I waste my time? Oh no, I did not! I watched videos of Elizabeth Cotten playing guitar and banjo. My god, she kills me! Here is her story as briefly paraphrased from the brief paraphrasing that is wikipedia. She was born in 1895 in North Carolina to a musical family. She played her brother’s banjo, and when when she was still very little, she took a job as a maid in order to buy herself a guitar. She and her brother would watch the freight trains run by their house on a single track while they chopped wood and drew up water. And they would sing as they worked. Elizabeth started writing songs, including Freight Train, probably her best known song. At thirteen Elizabeth began working full-time as a maid. At fifteen she was married, and shortly thereafter she had a daughter. She gave up the guitar, and didn’t play for twenty-five years. When her daughter was married, Elizabeth divorced her husband. She worked briefly in a department store. While there, she helped a lost child find her mother. That child was Penny Seeger, of the Seeger Seegers, the famous musical family. They took her home as a maid. She played one of their guitars, learned to play again almost from scratch, was recorded by Mike Seeger, and went on to perform with him, and become quite well-known in the circle of the folk song world. Elizabeth Cotten is left-handed, so she plays guitar and banjo upside down, plucking out the melody with her thumb. This is so remarkable to me! When she plays it sometimes sounds as if two guitars are playing at once. But she’s playing with two fingers! She taught herself to play, she turned everything upside down, and she made something sweeter and more beautiful than anything I’ve heard “correctly” played.

I found this video of her playing and talking. I guess it was made in 1978, and it seems as though it was shot on 16 mm, and roughly edited. I love everything about it. I love the darkness, and the silences around her playing, when she just sits and waits. I love the stories she tells. I like to think about her life, which seems so strange and important, and which I can only get a sideways, glancing picture of in my mind.

I made a loaf of bread the other day, with ground toasted oats, honey, black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. I made the dough very soft and wet, so that the bread had a wide open crumb, kind of like a crumpet. I think it turned out very good. The flavor is subtle, you taste the honey, but the pepper and nutmeg are only hinted at. One night when I came home from work, I wanted a quick and comforting meal, so I sauteed some spinach and white beans and spread them on toast made from my oatmeal bread. I melted some cheese on my toast, too. This is sort of inspired by beans on toast and creamed spinach on toast. That’s a thing, right?

Oatmeal bread

Here’s a link to an Elizabeth Cotten album on spotify, I hope.

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Spicy fava-roasted carrot puree and caraway pepper flatbreads

Spicy fava carrot purée

We’re hunkered and bunkered down, waiting for hurricane Sandy to stop by. At the moment we’ve got driving rain and fairly wild wind. But we still have power, so I can’t complain. We’re all a little stir crazy, but I’m actually having a nice day. We’re all together, the boys didn’t have school, and we were asked to stay off the roads, so David is home, too. I baked a cake. I made a big pot of sweet potato, red bean, kale and pumpkin ale chili that will hopefully keep warm for dinner if the power goes out, and I’m currently drinking the rest of the pumpkin ale. We’ll sit and draw for a while. I can’t complain!

I’m not up to my usual rambling nonsense, so I made a playlist about storms, floods, winds and rain. I’m open to suggestions for songs to add!

caraway flatbread

And I’ll just tell you quickly about this yummy meal. Loosely based on my understanding of tunisian carrot salads and on Ethiopian ful, this is a spicy puree of carrots, olives, and fava beans (the dried and cooked kind, I used a canned variety) Quick to make, and delicious with these caraway seed flatbreads.

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