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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Time

I woke to the sound of rustling leaves. The squirrels were running their daily marathon in and around my eaves troughs. I checked the clock: 6:30 a.m. Too early to get up, even though it would be a crisp October day, my favourite. I was rolling over to catch an extra half hour of zzzs when I remembered: two pumpkin pies were waiting in the refrigerator with my name on them.


I sprang from my bed and as I performed the morning ablutions, yesterday's kitchen orgy ran through my head: the mixing bowl, the freshly pureed pumpkin, the cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg. The pie shells, partially baked in advance so that the liquid of the filling wouldn't make the crust soggy.


All of that I had tackled in a Dionysian frenzy (it was an orgy, after all) until the two pies were in the oven and I was cheerily humming "Over the River and through the Woods." But I wasn't going to grandmother's house this year. I had made the two pies not for the family gathering but for me alone! Me!


And now, dressed in my fall best (jeans, turtleneck, and wool sweater) I raced to the refrigerator and opened it to spy my golden-orange pies, as colorful as the leaves on the maple tree in my front yard. I took one from the fridge and warmed it in a 300 degree oven as I made my coffee and took my vitamins (thus guaranteeing myself a long life). Then it was time. The pie was warm. I cut it into eighths, pretending that I would be eating only one or two pieces.


Five hours later I was bursting and the pie-plate was empty. Luckily, a second pumpkin pie still sat untouched in the refrigerator, in case anyone else was hungry.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I'm a fan of beets. My husband is not. It is a measure of my upbringing in the '50s that for ten years of the marriage I thought that meant I couldn't eat beets except occasionally at a restaurant.


It took my husband himself to say one day, "Just because I don't like beets (or sweet potatoes either, for that matter) doesn't mean you can't have them. I just won't eat any."


Ever since then I've bought beets when I wanted to, especially at the summer farmer's market, where I can buy teeny-tiny beets, then small beets a week or two later, then medium-sized beets, and finally, at the end of the summer, large beets—all with the leaves attached, of course. (My husband won't eat beet greens either, though he likes kale and collards).


When I arrived home at dinner time recently, our box of vegetables from Frontdoor Organics was waiting on my doorstep, with collards and beets to last us for two weeks. Before I left home that morning, I had put together a shepherd's pie. Taking advantage of the oven's being on to bake the shepherd's pie, I decided to roast the beets instead of boiling them. I cut off the beet tails, washed them, wrapped them in foil, and popped them into the oven.


While the oven did its work, I washed the grit from the beet greens and cooked them up to go with the shepherd's pie. I washed and de-ribbed and ribboned the collards and steamed them into docility for the freezer.


We ate shepherd's pie with gusto and (for me) beet greens.


Later, when the beets were done, I opened the foil package and let them cool while I finished a novel. Then I aproned myself and began to peel the beets at the sink.


I've peeled beets for years, you know. I love the way you push aside the remaining little crown of stems and then with your bare hands shove the skin down from the top to the tail. The skin slips off and your hands turn fresh-blood red so that you rinse them frequently to reassure yourself that you haven't inadvertently nicked a finger.


But this beet-peeling was different. I pushed off the crown of stems and began to peel. The skin was like velvet or fine suede, or maybe a much-washed linen: soft, pliable, with a velvety fuzziness about it. I was stunned. I stopped my usual "let's get this job over with" motions and felt the skin as I pulled it off the beet. Each peeling strip was a sensual experience. When I finished the first beet I picked up the next and nudged its crown off. Very slowly I pushed the first piece of peel toward the tail, feeling both sides of the skin and the smoothness of the peeled roasted beet. My hands, red with the mock-blood, slowly removed the peel. I resented the fact that I had bought only three beets (large ones, more than enough for me to eat) because now there was only one left to peel.


All good things come to an end. I collected the handful of velvety peelings and dropped them into the compost bucket. I sliced the three slippery beets, sprinkled them with walnut oil and balsamic vinegar, and put them in the refrigerator to accompany the next day's lunch.


Were these a new variety of velvet-skinned beet, or have I finally learned to give beets their full due?


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Booty. Pirates are making me walk the plank because I was after their booty.


"Go get your own booty!" they tell me. "You can't have ours. We stole this fair and square, using the sweat of our brow, using every muscle of our brains. This is hard-won, this booty is, and you can't have it."


This is the essence of pirating: every man for himself. No sharing of booty.


Having instructed me on the rules of piracy, they prick me with the points of their swords and force me off the end of the plank into the briny deep. Arms tied behind me, of course. Shark-infested waters, of course.


And as soon as I am in the water, the pirates hoist sail and take off, the ship skimming over the waves toward their next load of booty, Jolly Roger streaming from its flagpole at the bow.


And me? What happens to me? Well, you know the old stories: swallowed by a whale, perhaps. And then later a fleet of dolphins surrounds me and floats me to one of those New-Yorker-cartoon desert islands, a circle of land that is 25 feet in diameter and has one coconut palm for shelter.


I climb the palm tree. Spy a ship in the distance. Hail it by taking off and waving my white shirt. I'm saved!


I write a book about my adventures with the pirates and the deep blue sea. It's optioned by a famous movie director and I become richer than any of those original pirates.


And aren't THEY sorry when they see the movie of my adventures!!



Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Unicorn Dream

I ride the unicorn. Riding high. Don't know how I got there.


Was it a dream? (Who knows what a dream is? Is it what happens when you're wide awake? Or is it what happens when you are asleep?) Well, dream or not, it's as clear in my memory as the eggs I had for breakfast today.


People are gathered all along the path: a wide swath of a natural path through the never-cut growth of deep forest. The path is wide enough for me, my steed, and people flanking the path, a crowd at least four or five deep on each side.


What a sound they make. I've never been cheered before, at least not in this life, or not that I remember outside of a dream. I feel like a combination of Joan of Arc and Lady Godiva. Oh, yes. Did I forget to tell you that part? I am naked as a jaybird, in my altogether, and I have to admit that my hair isn't nearly long enough to cover my shame, as they say.


So it is hard for me to discern exactly why that multitude is cheering. Is it because I've done something to deserve applause, or is it simply because I am showing them my ta-tas?


Or maybe I am incidental and they are cheering my unicorn! She is a beautiful mare (okay, they're usually male, but this is my dream and she is a she. And this is one case where the female gets the long, stiff, pointy decoration). She is pure white, with a mother-of-pearl sheen to that beautiful central horn. The horn is like a third eye that just keeps extending and extending, allowing her to pull in more and more information from the world around her.


Sometimes a unicorn is depicted rearing up, standing on hind legs only, tail aloft and flowing. But as I ride her in my dream she is more decorous, now walking, now showing off a little dance step for the crowd.


I don't really have a memory of how we have come together in the dream. Well, that isn't quite true. I was walking through a meadow. Off in the far corner of the meadow was a little fenced-in part. And there she was, lying peacefully in the middle of that fenced area. I entered through a gate, she recognized me, and the next thing I know, we are parading through the forest being cheered by a crowd.


I won't try to decipher this dream. I'll just remember the joy of being carried through the forest on the back of a beautiful unicorn.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor