Saturday, April 19, 2008

Democratic Party


Fried Chicken

Mashed Potatoes & Chicken Gravy

Green beans

Corn on the cob


Yeast rolls

Iced tea




Sam (my brother)

Abby (first person)

Ginny (little sister)


Aunt Kat


“Come on! It’s ready” That’s what Mother always said when she finally got supper on the table. Despite earlier warnings, Daddy was just now washing up out back in the utility room. “Pshaw!” My Grandpa said to my brother Sam. “That dog won’t never learn to hunt.” Sam gave up the stick lesson and slammed the wooden screen door behind him as he headed for the table. My Grandma was taking the last pan of yeast biscuits out of the oven and Aunt Kat was helping my little sister Ginny onto the phone books that raised her up to reach the table. I noticed we didn’t have any butter on the table yet and went to the refrigerator to get some. While I was there, I grabbed a glass of strawberry jam. I peeled the paraffin off of it and put it on the table. “Abby is that the last of the jam?” Mother asked.

“No, Mother. There’s still two more jars in the pantry.”

“We’ll need to make more this year. That stuff goes like water around here.”

After a few seconds of scraping chairs, shuffling feet and false starts, a mutual quiet settled over us. A big platter of crispy brown fried chicken sat in the middle of the old oak table. Next to it was a steaming pile of mashed potatoes with a puddle of bright yellow butter in the middle. It was starting to run down the side like lava down a volcano. A big bowl of green beans with chunks of ham peeking out sat there in Grandma’s old china serving dish, the one with the pink roses around the edge. Down at the end of the table was an oval platter of roastin’ ears. The steam rose off of them and seemed to curl around Grandma and Grandpa faces. Mother set down a wicker basket of fresh rolls. They smelled yeasty and were still hot to the touch. Their brown tops rose like little domes and their white insides were fluffy and delicate looking. A chilly bowl of applesauce, all lumpy and freckled with cinnamon was there next to the pitcher of yellow chicken gravy.

All heads bowed as Daddy began. “Our heavenly Father, we thank you for this food and for all that you have given us. Bless it to it’s intended use. Guide us and protect us, we pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” We didn’t rush to fill our plates. There was no need for that. The reverence of the moment of grace was still upon us as we took what was nearest us and passed it to the one beside us. As our plates began to brim over with food, we began to catch up on each other’s day.

“Where’d you work today?” Mother asked Daddy.

“Out at the back forty.” He answered. He broke an ear of corn for Ginny.

“See any more of Raymond?” Grandpa grinned. “Pass the gravy, please.”

“I reckon he’s seen enough of me for one day.” Daddy answered as he slathered butter on his corn and Ginny’s.

“I should think you’d be ashamed of yourself. Teasing poor old Raymond like that.” Grandma laughed. She nearly spilled applesauce onto her mashed potatoes.

“Well, he had it coming to him.” Daddy chuckled. “Thing is, he brought it all on himself.” My brother Sam couldn’t hold back the urge to shoot a glance at Aunt Kat. She was heaping green beans on top of her mashed potatoes, a practice that Sam and I were roundly reprimanded for when we did it.

“What did Raymond do?” Aunt Kat asked. She wasn’t here last night to hear the first part of the story. We knew that Daddy was about to tell the story again and we were delighted to hear it one more time. It was pretty funny.

“Would anybody like more iced tea?” Mother asked. She knew this was the last time she would get a chance to ask for a while. She filled up a few glasses and added a little ice.

Daddy poured the gravy over his potatoes and grabbed a chicken wing before he began telling the story.

“Well, you know, yesterday was election day.” He began.

“Mother, Ginny is picking the crumbs off her chicken!” Sam whined.

“Hush, Sam. Mind your own plate.” Mother tore some bites off Ginny’s chicken leg for her.

“You know the little house is empty now that Mom and Dad have moved into the big house with us. So Coz Hackett and I put together a little party over there night before last. We invited Doughbelly Grounds, Jim Abraham, Skeeter Davis and some of the other guys like that over there for a little get-together.”

“Now tell her how you arrived at your guest list.” Grandma prompted. She reached across for another roll and slathered it with the bright red strawberry jam. It dripped on her dress front.

“These guys aren’t Republicans or Democrats, either one.” Daddy explained. “Pass me some more green beans, Mother. They’re what you call floaters.” He dished out some more beans and handed them to Aunt Kat who was paying more attention to the story than her plate. “We didn’t know how they would vote and we knew they could sway the election either way. We didn’t want to do anything illegal or buy their votes or anything. We just wanted to keep them out of the polls.”

Grandpa, rolled his eyes and tossed another roll to my Mother, who shook it at him and grinned.

“We had some beverages over there at the little house and we had some snacks. Maurice Canatsey got up a pretty good card game and Lloyd Maxwell was carrying on and telling some pretty good tall tales. Up about midnight, though, the fellars began to get hungry. Doughbelly remembered there was a flock of leghorns running wild out in the barnlot of the old house and got the idée we should go out there and see if we could rustle some of ‘em up. Soooo they went out there and reckoned the chickens was roostin in that big old oak tree and they got a flashlight and shined it up there and sure enough, they were up there.”

“Daddy, I didn’t know chickens could fly high enough to get into trees.” I grabbed another ear of corn.

“Oh, yeah, Abby girl.” Grandpa said “They roost up there at night if they can get in a tree. They’re safer up there.”

“Well they was up there, alright.” Daddy went on. “ Old Maurice, he shined a flashlight on ‘em, so they wouldn’t move and Brandy Guy . . . “

“Brandy Guy was there, too!” Mother asked. Her eyebrows shot up. Where Brandy was there was usually trouble.

“Yeah, he was there.” Daddy broke apart another yeast roll. He smashed a pat of butter on half of it and took a bite. “Brandy Guy he climbed out on a limb and grabbed an old rooster. He twisted his head off and dropped it down to the fellars below. Then he’s go out on another limb and grab another one. The guys on the ground commenced to plucking and cleaning those old chickens right there under the tree. Went by there this morning and there’s feathers and chicken heads all over the ground!” Everybody laughed at that. It never bothered us that we were eating fried chicken while this story was unfolding.

“So while some of the fellars was getting’ chickens down out of the tree, some of the others was getting’ up a bonfire out there. They gathered up some pitchforks and took to roastin’ them chickens as fast as they could pluck ‘em.”

“It’s a wonder they weren’t all sick the next day.” Mother exclaimed. “Here Grandma, have some more applesauce. It’s good for what ails you.”

“So how late did the party go on?” Sam asked.

“Oh, all night and into the next day. That was the point.” Daddy laughed as his eyes sparkled over the brim of his tea glass.

“What was the point?” Ginny piped up. We didn’t realize she had even been listening.

“Well, they had pretty bad headaches the next day which was election day. They pretty much just stayed around the little house sleeping and telling tall stories.”

“Oh.” Ginny turned her attention to picking the beans out of her green beans. She dropped a piece of chicken on the floor for the dog but she didn’t think anybody saw it.

“What do you think the Republicans would think of your little party?” Asked Aunt Kat. It was suspected that Aunt Kat had pretty strong Republican leanings, though no one had ever proved it.

“Oh, I’m just getting’ to that!” Daddy put down his fork and lifted his tea glass so Mother could fill it one more time. “’Long about 4 o’clock Raymond and some of the other Republicans pulled up. Seems they’d gotten wind of our party and . . I don’t know, maybe they were sorry they didn’t get invited. Anyway, they started to walk up in the yard. That’s when Brandy Guy walked out. They knew better than to keep comin’ and Brandy was ready for them.

Raymond said ‘Brandy, you seen Skeeter or Doughbelly?’

Brandy says ‘Why you lookin’ for them?’

‘Why I come to give them a ride to the polls.’ Raymond said.

‘Well, they don’t want to go, anyhow.’ That’s what Brandy told them.

‘Why don’t you let them tell me that?’ said Raymond.

‘Cause I don’t want you on this property. And if you come in here, you’re not gonna leave until the polls close.’

‘Why I reckon I will, too.’ Raymond was getting’ mad.

And Brandy says ‘I reckon you won’t, cause if you come in here, I’m gonna tie you up with duct tape and you ain’t gonna get loose until the polls close. Now you sure you still wanna come get Doughbelly and Skeeter?’

Now what Raymond and them other Republicans didn’t see while they was arguing with Brandy was that out from the bushes Doughbelly and Skeeter was sneakin’ up on the trunk of their car. They opened the trunk and took out two big jugs that had corks in the tops of them. Then real quiet, they shut the trunk and run back behind the bushes and into the house.”

Now we got the whole picture. We all began to laugh. Even Aunt Kat. “Why Glen Grounds, you scallywag! You swayed the election! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

Daddy didn’t have to answer that. We all knew why we wouldn’t be seeing much of Raymond for while. When somebody gets the goods on you that fair and square, you just better lay low for a while until folks have something else to laugh about. But around these parts, it won’t take long for something else to happen to make us laugh. Just give it time.

Pass the corn, please. I’m working up an appetite here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Edibles, Real Local Food

So you’re committed to eating healthy? Want local food, organic? But where do you find it?

It’s easy. Drop into “Edibles” a wonderful new food store in Irvington devoted to organic and locally grown food. Located at Snips Shops just west of those cute little brick buildings on Washington Street. Park around back and plan to stay a while. After you shop for the week’s food, you’ll want to have lunch at one of the delightful eateries in the same neighborhood.

But back to Edibles. This wonderful shop has already expanded once and will probably only get bigger. Founded by Kevin Edwards and Anthony Lineberry, the shop reflects a real dedication to support of local agriculture and culinary art. Here’s some of the great Indiana food you’ll find:

Cheese from Swiss Connection in Clay City. They make wonderful cheeses, sharp, creamy, blue, yellow, you name it – from their very friendly, gently nurtured, grass-fed cows. The girls only work part of the year, giving them a nice long vacation in the winter so they can enjoy the green, green grass of Indiana during the nice months to give us delicious cheese, ice cream, butter, cottage cheese and a lot of other good stuff.

Beef from Artesian Farm in Greenfield. All natural, tender and humanely raised cows give the best meat; it’s their mission in life. You can get several different cuts, including ground.

Buffalo, lean and full of omega-3 fatty acids, low in cholesterol and high in protein. Steaks, burgers, ground, anyway you want it and all of it delicious.

Free-range, all natural chickens from Skillington Farms. The spring chickens will be ready in May and you can’t beat them for flavor – not to mention health.

If you’ve never been out to Traders Point Creamery, Edibles brings their world’s most wonderful chocolate milk to you. Also, quarts of strawberry, mango-banana and plain yogurt. And cheese. And cottage cheese and, oh, yes, Organic Milk.

And there’s fresh produce and artisan bread and canned and boxed goods. Everything you need for your table.

But don’t forget, Daina’s Petite Pies are sold there. (Compliments of Yours Truly!) Baked and frozen and ready for dinner with just a short stint in the microwave or conventional oven they’re a real blessing for busy people. My pies are made with locally raised humanely treated meat and lots of other good things. Each one is handcrafted with flaky yummy crust. You can pick up individual-sized pies in several different varieties, no need to reach consensus on what’s for dinner. Check out the menu at

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mushrooms in the spring

Well, we all got together for supper Sunday night.

It was a wintertime meal, even though we really wanted something to remind us of spring. We had roast pork, seasoned with sage and thyme from last summer’s herb garden. We have run out of corn in the freezer, so we had to make do with salad from a bag, mashed potatoes, canned green beans cooked in beef stock, and a quick peach cobbler made with a cake mix.

It was nobody’s birthday; nobody’s coming home or going away. Nobody graduated or got married or got born. It was just a usual Sunday-night, ya’ll-come, sit-and-eat-‘til-you’re-full, be-ready with-a-story-or-laugh-at-ours, supper. When the dishes were chugging away in the dishwasher and the crumbs were swept off the table. When the cat was fed and everybody settled in with their elbows on the table, we began to yearn for the first breath of spring.

We have played in the snow, and driven in it, gone flying down the Martinsville City Park hill, with and without a sled. We have worn big wooly sweaters and fluffy new sweatshirts. We have shoveled the driveway, cancelled plans on secondary roads, and lolled around the house on days that school was cancelled. We have fed the birds, marveled at the contrast of the scarlet Cardinals against the black branches and stark whiteness of the back yard, and laughed at the domestic disturbances of the sparrows at the feeder.

But now we feel that it’s time for spring. It is time to brush the snow off the herb garden, paint the flower boxes and fill them with geraniums. At least it is time to look for blue and yellow crocuses, playing hide and seek under the dogwood tree. It is time to start seedlings in little cups in the house, and leave the doors open to let the fresh air in.

At least that’s what we thought as we sat around the table and watched, again, still, snow blow against the window and pile up on top of the picnic table on the back porch. I told Daddy that it was time in my heart to go mushroom hunting.
I remember what the sponge morels look like as they hide just under the edges of damp leaves that lie on the floor of the woods. I remember the musty smell of the winter-weary woods as it begins to wake up and the first vegetation comes to life.

I remember that the first edible thing coming from the ground in the spring is actually a product of what went to sleep there last fall. I remember that we had to be careful when skirting the sinkholes down in Owen County but that was where the best mushrooms grew. There and under dead oak logs.

We would carry plastic bags in one hand and a stick in the other. Our eyes would scan the ground in front of our steps and we would keep in touch with each other with our conversation as we walked. Nice thing about mushrooms, you can’t scare them away with your voice like fish or deer. I was always the best at finding mushrooms, probably because I was a kid and closer to the ground.

It sounds morbid, but some of the best mushroom hunting was in old graveyards. I think it was just because no one ever went there and so they didn’t beat us to the mushrooms. It always pays to get there first, when mushroom hunting.

I remember that Daddy always told me to pick the mushrooms, not pull them up. Then you should shake them gently, releasing the spore back to the ground to grow more mushrooms to find the next time. I don’t know if there is truth in all that, but it didn’t hurt to do it anyway, just to be sure. Then we would bring the mushrooms home and cut them in half lengthwise. We soaked them over night in salt water and then laid them out on towels and patted them dry. Then next night for supper, Mother would heat some oil in the skillet and dip each mushroom half in flour and fry them in the hot oil. Then she laid them on a paper-towel-lined plate and we ate them for supper. I always put ketchup on mine, but most people eat them plain. I loved that earthy, nutty taste and crisp texture as I bit into them.

You just don’t get that flavor from mushroom you buy in the store. There’s nothing else like Indiana morel mushrooms anywhere n the world. If you don’t agree with me, call and tell me.

But you’ve gotta prove it to me. Randolph Adams and Sam Adams were brothers that lived and farmed across the road from each other. They each owned half of their family farm that was split up when their Daddy died. The only thing that separated their properties was the road, so their soil was identical, the landscape was pretty much the same and the weather was no different one from the other. But for some reason nobody could fathom, mushrooms only grew on Randolph’s side of the road.

And Randolph wouldn’t let Sam pick them. So every spring, Sam would sneak onto Randolph’s property and hunt mushrooms. Well, one day, Sam waited ‘til he saw Randolph drive off to town and he grabbed his bag and high-tailed it across the road, climbed Randolph’s fence and headed off over the hill.

When he reached the edge of the cow pasture, which was also the edge of the woods, he looked over his shoulder. The coast was clear, so he slipped into the darkness and started keeping his eyes open for mushrooms. When he had about half a bag full, he went back to the edge of the woods, looked to see if Randolph was home yet and started back across the pasture toward the fencerow.

But when he got about halfway across the field, he remembered, too late, Randolph’s new Angus bull. He had helped Randolph bring him home and put him in the field and Sam wondered how he could have been so stupid as to not remember.

But the bull remembered.

He hadn’t cared much for that stick Sam had used to prod him out of the trailer. Furthermore, instinct told him to protect his herd of lady cows from romantic rivals and perhaps, as a compliment to Sam’s good looks or as an insult to the bull’s intelligence, our friend the bull took it upon himself to hurry Sam along a little. He lowered his head and gave a little snort. Then he pawed the ground with one hoof and looked Sam straight in the eye. Sam looked back. Then he started walking backwards with his eyes on the bull. When he had taken about ten steps, suddenly Sam’s foot hit some kind of slick stuff in the grass and his feet flew right out from under him.

It didn’t take Sam long to get to his feet and this time he didn’t waste time running backwards. He took off at full speed across that cow pasture and straight for the fence. But it became very clear to Sam that he wasn’t going to make it. The old Bull was gaining on him fast. So he veered to his left just a little, headed straight for a big old tree that had a low branch and swung himself up in the tree. And that’s exactly where he was when Randolph came home. Sitting in that darn tree in dirty overalls with a sack of mushrooms still gripped tightly in his hand. Well, Randolph wasn’t in any hurry to go help him, so he pretended not to notice a man sitting in his tree in the cow pasture. His wife Lucille had supper just about ready, so andolph washed his hands and sat down to read the paper while she finished it up. Then he ate his supper, had a second piece of rhubarb pie and even helped Lucille wash up the dishes.

Just as he was drying the last plate, the phone rang. It was Sam’s wife, Liddy. She was worried that Sam hadn’t come home for supper and wondered if Randolph had seen him. Randolph told her not to worry. Said he knew right were Sam was and he’d go get him and tell him it was suppertime and he’d better get on home. Then Randolph went out and fed the cows at the trough near the barn. When the barn lot gate was safely closed and latched, he moseyed on out to the tree in the pasture and looked up it. “Well, Howdy, Sam.” Randolph said, “What are you doing up here in my tree?” “You know darn good and well what I’m doin’ up in this tree.

Now are you going to get me down or not?” Randolph looked around and scratched his head. He kicked at a root or two and then squinted up into the tree again. “Did you learn anything up there?

“Yeah, Randolph I figured out a lot.

I figured out just exactly how many fish I’ve got in my farm pond and who gets to go fishing there this summer. I figured out just how many rows of sweet corn I’m going to plant and how many hills of watermelons. I also counted out how much room I’ve got in my garden for tomato plants and how many poles of green beans I think I’ll put out this year.

That’s what I figured out while I was up here. Now get me down out of this tree, Randolph.” Well, Randolph thought about that for a minute and decided to tell Sam that the Bull was safely put away. He stepped aside while Sam got down and they walked back to the house together. Randolph loaned Sam a clean pair of overalls and drove him over home so he wouldn’t have to walk in the dark. As Sam got out of the truck, Randolph picked a plastic bag up off of the seat and handed it to him. “Sam, mind if Lucille and me come over for supper tomorrow night?” “Be glad to have you, Randolph, I’ll tell Liddy.”

“Much obliged.” Randolph said solemnly. “We accept your invitation.” Well, it just goes to show, we don’t really own anything on this green earth. We’re just here to enjoy it for a while. That’s the way I remember it, how do you remember it?

Season all your meals with love and don’t let your pots boil over.

Getting ready for a season of freshness

Long thought to consist of endless miles of corn and soybean fields, Indiana’s agricultural heritage yields some well-kept secrets when it comes to food production. Small family farms are no longer able to support extended families as in the past. Younger generations are going off to college, following other paths, and leaving the farm. Urban sprawl gradually swallows up farmland as retiring farmers find their only alternative is to sell and downsize, no longer able to keep up the farm alone.

But these changes in demographics provide new opportunities for young farmers to spread their wings and try new products, heeding the call from their urban neighbors to produce fresh, nutritious food. Organic gardening is emerging as well as other green-conscious farms for producing food. As Indiana consumers become more concerned with where their food comes from and more committed to keeping the Indiana dollar at home, farmers are developing new crops to fill this market.

The first sign of change is in the diversity of agricultural products. A former beef grower raises buffalo for leaner meat. A small dairy farmer gives up grain and feed his cows grass to make omega-3-rich cheese on his farm. Grain farmers become vegetable growers and expand to provide sweet corn and tomatoes for local harvest. U-pick farms spring up, offering sweet strawberries and anti-oxidant laden greens. Ostrich, duck, free-range chickens, spring water, apples, pears, hickory syrup, goat cheese, elk, all become available at farmers markets, in local culinary stores and farm markets and even in some mainstream grocery stores.

Along with the urban sprawl due to the sale of farmland, a whole new crop of chain restaurants are springing up faster than jimson weed. These restaurants are viable due to their numbers across the country, making it more and more difficult for privately owned restaurants to flourish and compete. Many of these chef-owned restaurants try to use local ingredients whenever possible and hire and promote local people. They offer creativity in their menus that are not found in other restaurants and support the local community through fund-raisers, sponsorship of youth sports leagues and other philanthropy.

In following postings, I will bring you feature stories about these providers of extraordinary food, making them your friends as well as mine. I will share with you the benefits of eating food that is ripened in the Indiana fields and picked for immediate consumption. I will tell you how to find the best wines, the freshest vegetables, the crispest apples, the tastiest cider. I will guide you on one-day road trips that will take you around the hills and plains of our great state to meet the people who are working so hard to grow and prepare food that will keep you healthy and help you celebrate life’s everyday accomplishments.

To begin, here is a listing of several area farmers markets that you should plan to visit starting in May:

The Original Farmers Market
Wednesday mornings
22 E. Market Street at the Indianapolis City Market

Broad Ripple Farmers Market
Saturday mornings
Broad Ripple High School Parking Lot

38th Street Farmers Market
Thursday Afternoons
Methodist Church 38th & Meridian

Mass. Ave. Farmers Market
Massachusetts Avenue Downtown Indianapolis
Saturday afternoons

Greenwood Farmers Market
Saturday Mornings
Greenwood Library between Madison & Meridian Streets

Opening in June:

Watermans Farm Market
7010 E. Raymond Street, Indianapolis
Featuring fresh strawberries and other Indiana-grown produce