How Many Troys?

No Second Troy

BY William Butler Yeats

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

I’ve always liked Yeats, but never felt like I really understood most of what he said.  

After reading the Iliad and the Odyssey this year I get the “another Troy” reference. And the tightened bow.

But I wonder about how many Troys are left to burn.

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An Indiana Winter

The Snow Man 

BY Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

We haven’t had winter for years now. A few cold days here and there. A snow storm now and then. Highs in the 40’s predicted here all week, the first full week of February.

I look at my firewood and I have well over half of what I cut for this year left, and we probably only have a handful of days left this year when we’ll want a fire to ward off the “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is .”

Man-made global warming? Normal variations over a geological timescale?

Seems insane to me to believe we could burn fossil fuels accumulated over millions of years in a century and have no consequences.

But whatever the reason, it seems we no longer need, at least here in northern Indiana, a mind of winter.

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Tomatoes and Eggplant

The garden is producing like crazy. Cucumbers, watermelon, sweet corn, cantaloupe, fennel, collards, peppers, tomatillos, eggplant, and tomatoes.

Too many eggplants and tomatoes may say eggplant parmesan, but today I made an eggplant curry to try something different. It was so good!

Eggplant Curry

The eggplant started to break down and made the curry sauce thick and rich. Easy, delicious, and light. Eggplant parmesan is not the only option!

The Recipe

Ingredients
1 big eggplant or 2 medium sized ones
A 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, or if you have fresh tomatoes about 4 nice sized tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
Half a big yellow onion
A red bell pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala or curry powder
2 teaspoons paprika (or 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon sweet paprika)
3 cloves garlic minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 can coconut milk

How to Cook
Peel the eggplant and dice into cubes about 1″ square. Toss the cubes with salt and let sit in a colander.
Turn the oven on to 400 degrees.
Dice the onion and pepper.
If I’m using fresh tomatoes I like to peel then by blanching them for 30 seconds or so, then dropping them in cold water and slipping the skins off.
Heat some oil in a skillet and cook the onions and peppers until they’re just starting to brown
Toss in the garlic and ginger
Toss in the spices. Cook until it smells fragrant, just 30 seconds or so.
Pour in the tomatoes and chickpeas. Give it a good stir, cover, and turn the heat to low.
Pat the eggplant cubes dry with a paper towel, toss with a couple tablespoons of oil, and roast on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven for 30 minutes, turning halfway though.
After 30 minutes, put the eggplant in the tomato sauce and add as much coconut milk as you like, anywhere from half to the entire can.
Stir and simmer for a few minutes, then taste. Add salt, cayenne pepper, or sriracha to your taste.
Enjoy with rice, raita, and naan.

I’m thinking I’ll freeze our excess eggplants this year and use them to thicken stews and sauces this winter. They made this curry silky and rich.

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A Pearl of Great Value

Out of the blue I received a letter in the mail. In it was a photo.

Pearl Zumbrun

The person who sent it to me said he’d found it in an antique store and wanted us to have it. He evidently found our family on ancestry.com and somehow got my mailing address. On the back of the photo it was inscribed “Pearl Zumbrun.”

I’d never heard of Pearl so I sent it to Josh who has researched our family deep and wide. Turns out Pearl and I are distant cousins, our common ancestor being my great-great-great grandfather Henry Sylvester Zumbrun.

Also turns out Pearl died at age 17, in 1917. Nothing we can find says why. What was a fun and sassy picture all of a sudden became sad and poignant. She must’ve died very shortly after that photo was taken.

She’s buried in Blue River Cemetery, just down the road from my house. I go by that cemetery at least once a week, but I’ve never stopped to look at it.

Pearl’s Grave

I stopped this week and snapped this picture and wondered about a cousin I never knew.

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Milestones

I started my marathon training program today. It’s a 30 week program, so when I complete it I’ll be 65 years old [1]. I’d like to do a marathon on a milestone birthday. The last marathon I did was the year I turned 40.

The program started with a rest day. I think this might work!

1. Actually it’ll be 35 weeks. Close enough.

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Dreams Deferred

Way back when, in the Good Old Days, I had a good score on the English portion of my SAT’s. As a result I got recruitment letters from hundreds of liberal arts colleges.

The most intriguing of those, to 17 year old me, were colleges that had Great Books programs. Their curriculums were based around reading and discussing the great works of literature.

That was incredibly exotic to an Indiana farm boy whose exposure to great literature consisted of comparing Romeo and Juliet to West Side Story.

But then, as now, I was a practical fellow, and I chose my course of studies based on what could result in a well-paying career. I don’t regret that. I’ve had an interesting and well-paying career doing interesting work.

But now, staring retirement in the face, I thought, “What do I want to do?” or “What do I regret not doing?”

And those high school dreams of studying the great books came to mind. I looked around and found that the University of Chicago offers a 4 year program where you read classical literature and meet once a week online to discuss them.

I thought that would be cool do when I retired, and then in a fit of optimism that I could allocate the time to do it, I signed up for it and started this fall.

Fall Session Readings

Before the class actually started there was a 3 week session on how to read classical texts using Mortimer Adler’s “How to Read a Book.” I’ve found Adler harder to read than Plato!

4 weeks into the program I’m saying, “See 17 year old me, you should’ve done this!” And 17 year old me answers, “Could you afford to do this now if you had?”

17 year olds, such smart asses.

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Trees I’ll Never Climb

Here in Indiana you can get trees to plant for practically nothing from the Department of Natural Resources. I just checked and you can get 100 black walnut trees for 34 dollars 1. Of course, they are 6 inches tall. You’re buying twigs to stick in the ground.

About 40 years ago I did just that. There was a hillside on one of our farms that had scruffy brush on it. I cut the brush down and got black walnut and black locust trees from the DNR and planted them on that hillside.

And pretty much forgot about it. Last week I thought I’d take a walk around that farm. Debbie and I had seen a puffball mushroom while hiking on an Acres property and I wanted to see what sort of fungi 2 were growing in my woods.

I was stumbling through the woods when I looked up and thought, “what a nice walnut tree!” I stumbled a little more and there was another a nice walnut tree. After stumbling over a few more I remembered that I had planted them.

Black Walnut

I don’t remember the details of planting them, but as I walked from west to east along the hillside the black walnuts gave way to black locust trees.

We have 3 acres next to our house that we recently bought. We seeded it last year to clover while we decided what do with it. After seeing those walnut and locust trees I think we may plant it to saplings. I’ll never see them tall, let alone climb them.

But someone will.

1. That’s 34 cents a tree. I think 40 years ago it was more like 5 cents a tree.

2.Lots of fungi.

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Balancing the Accounts

I went to the credit union today and closed the account I’d created for my Mom’s estate. Just a few days past a year from when she died the estate is closed. Bills paid, assets dissolved, proceeds distributed to the heirs.

It was all a bit unnerving, writing the final checks on estate account, spending it down to $0.00. But in the end it all balanced.

I can make all the numbers come out right. I’m still struggling with the emotions though.

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Bagels

I made bagels the other day. Working at home I’m going a little stir-crazy and looking for distractions.

Bagels aren’t any harder to make than any raised bread. Just mix up a bunch of flour, yeast, and liquid, let it rise, and bake. About the only thing that makes a bagel a bagel is that you boil them before baking.

Shaped

To shape the bagels you roll the dough into a ball and then press your thumb to make a hole.

Boiling

They’re surprisingly easy to boil. You drop them in a pot of boiling water, cook them for 2 minutes on one side and then flip them and cook them another minute.

After they’ve boiled you let them dry for a few minutes then brush them with an egg wash and top with seasonings if you want.

Plain
Everything

Then into the oven for a few minutes and you have bagels!

Bagels!
Breakfast!
Homemade Bagels

1 package yeast
1 T sugar
1 3/4 cups warm water
4 cups bread flour
1/2 T salt
1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water for egg wash

Combine the yeast, sugar, and water, set aside.
Mix the flour and salt together, then stir in the yeast mixture.
Mix in a mixer with a dough hook or by hand until smooth

Lightly grease the dough by rolling it around in the bowl with a little oil. Cover and let rise until doubled, around an hour.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

While the dough is rested bring a pot of water to a boil. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Shape the balls into bagels by pressing your thumb through the middle to make a hole. Make it a little bigger than you think you need to, it’ll close in as they cook. Let rest again for about 10 minutes.

Boil for 2 minutes and then flip and boil for one minute longer. You can do as many at once as fit in your pot without crowding.

Let them dry for a moment then move to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. If you’re adding seasoning sprinkle that on a plate and lay the egg-washed bagel on it top side down to cover with the seasoning. I used an everything mix we’d gotten from Trader Joes.

Bake for 20-24 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!

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When Life Gives You Couscous

We made couscous for a side dish the other day and ended up with way too much. Like 3 cups of leftover cooked couscous. I like couscous, but that’s a lot to use up.

I was looking around for what to do with couscous and came across “Couscous for breakfast” ideas. A lot them were what you’d expect, grain bowls with an egg on top, which is nice enough.

But one recipe was a couscous skillet where you stirred cheese and an egg into the couscous and then cooked it in a skillet like a potato rösti.

I grated about a quarter cup of gruyere cheese and stirred it into about 2 cups of couscous with an egg. I pressed that into a small cast iron skillet, it was about an inch thick and cooked it on the stovetop until the bottom was getting brown and crisp.

Then I put it under the broiler to brown the top. It came out crispy on the outside and creamy and cheesy in the middle. So good!

Couscous Skillet

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