Thursday, May 24, 2007

Some random garden photos

I have nothing to say. So I will just share some garden photos.

Snow in Summer, Hydrangea, Iris, Hosta and Bleeding Heart. So far it is promising to be a good year in the garden.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


While I love my pal Mike, I have to say I am a little disgusted with him at the moment.

He's blogging about how big his peony is. I mean, come on. Okay, I admit, just look on his blog and he has pictures of his peony and you can see for yourself how nice his peony is, but does he have to rub it in?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Jello food

I went up to my brothers house on Sunday. I had received the call at the beginning of the week. "Have you spoken with your niece?" It was my older brother. Easter dinner had been called off at the last minute when his 98 year old father-in-law had been rushed to the hospital. The prognosis was not good. The doctors were pretty sure Edgar wouldn't survive the surgery. He walked out of the hospital a couple of days later.

With this crisis behind them, my brother and his wife decided to have Easter dinner last Sunday. My niece and I couldn't come up with any good excuses so it was off to a family event.

I have lived in a fairly large east coast city for over 30 years, so I tend to lose sight of the fact that there is a huge culture gap between urban dwellers and the rest of the country. Every time I go up to Vermont, it is like stepping through some portal into an alien world.

The party ran largely to my sister-in-laws family, which is fine with me. I don't know them all that well, so it is easy to be polite and keep them at arms length. There isn't the history there that could escalate into some sort of unpleasant confrontation over some forgotten piece of history from the 1960's. Still a certain amount of decorum has to be maintained.

As we came in the door, my sister-in-law was setting out the spread. 4 kinds of potato chips! Garlic mashed potatoes. Plain boiled potatoes for the less adventurous. Ham and chicken. Green bean casserole, which I hate to admit I still have a childhood fondness for. 3 bean salad and Jello salads.

If you have never had or are too young to know about Jello food, it is a phenomena that struck I believe in the 1950's. Someone at the Jello company decided that to market more of the stuff, they should start making Jello recipes. It usually involves mini marshmallows and cottage cheese. Later Cool Whip would become a key component.

One would think that one of these creations would be enough, however there were 4. 2 green, one orange and one in a pink that I have never seen occur in nature. As luck would have it I was filling my plate at the same time as one of my nieces uncles wife put down her offering. It was nominally green, with mini marshmallows in it. I am not sure what else was involved, but the consistency was... runny is the kindest description that comes to mind. Anything else runs to the graphic. With her husband standing there I had no real choice. I glopped some onto my plate and was then urged to try the pink. This at least seemed to have some sort of integrity and didn't ooze when I plunked some onto the plate.

I remember when I was a kid that my mother bought canned peas. I hated them and we ate a lot of canned peas. The only way to conquer peas, was to shovel them in and try and swallow them with as little chewing as possible to avoid tasting them. It was a good technique and in this instance turned out to be very helpful. The Jello food was dispatched down the pink highway with as little contact with my taste buds as I could manage.

It's easy to make fun. But it also misses the point. In all of this Jello and potato chip variety was a generosity that I miss about the country people I grew up with. There was a lot of food and of its kind a wide variety. A hospitality that spoke of a true desire to insure that there would be something to please all of the guests. People had taken the time to bring something, to share in the gathering. It was an impulse of good will to commune, to gather as a family. And it was a family gathering of the country style. The old people, my parents and my sister-in-laws father sat together in one group, the middle aged people talked among themselves. We are all in late middle age now, and my niece was the only representative of her generation, all of the others too busy with their lives and children to come. I am a bit of an odd man out myself. I am single. I am gay. I live in the city. Always the same question, "So how do you like Boston?" Over 30 years later, and it is still asked. An incomprehension that anyone could give up life in the country, even while they see their own children moving away because it is increasingly difficult for people to make a living in rural America.

It is a world that has really already faded away. The people who remain behind do what they have to stay there. The farms don't pay, most of my cousins who still farm also work at outside jobs to support the farm. In another generation the idea that people can lead the type of life I grew up around will be a distant memory. Will people still get together as extended families, bring food, eat hot dishes and jello salads and for an afternoon maintain some kind of connection as a group. If so, then I don't think even jello salad is too high a price to pay.

Rain station

The Salem commuter rail station on Sunday evening.