Autumn Blessings

I have a confession to make. Autumn has always been my least favorite season. I know that all seasons have their own beauty, but I have always had some trouble appreciating Autumn. I have never been all that fond of Winter either, but in Autumn, the days get colder and darker and the coming season is Winter. Even through the cold of Winter, the days are at least getting longer and brighter, and Spring is on its way. I often start to feel a little sad as Summer winds down and by November, I am often battling deepening depression.

Yet, this year, for the first time, I experienced one of the main blessings of the Autumn season…the Harvest.

I hope that the reader will indulge me a little in boasting about my grandmother. My grandmother has always been an amazing gardener. She is going to be ninety this fall, and she loves to garden. Even when she lived in the North Side of Chicago, she managed a substantial vegetable garden in a tiny backyard.

To be honest, I never had all that much interest in gardening. I have never even been able to keep houseplants alive. It may be because now we live in the same building as my grandmother, so I see the garden every day. It may be that reading the Little House on the Prairie series in Japanese inspired me. By the way, I have just finished 大草原の小さな家, “Daisougen no chiisana ie,” “Little House on the Prairie,” and I have just started プラム川の土手で, “Puramu kawa no dote de,” “On the Banks of Plum Creek.”  I also recently read Farmer Boy in English. In any case, whatever the reason, this year I participated in the Harvest for the first time.

I learned how to make tomato sauce, barbeque sauce, apple sauce, and apple butter. I learned how to blanch and freeze fruits and vegetables for the winter. I baked several rhubarb, raspberry, and apple deserts. It was quite a busy time.

The abundance of food turned out to be quite the blessing. This October, we celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday, and relatives from Sweden came to stay with us to celebrate. My mother also came in from California and stayed with us for about a month. The abundance of food was really useful in feeding all of the extra people.

Today, I started feeling my usual Autumn depression. I felt sad as I raked the leaves and watched the sun go down before it was even 5 o’clock. Yet, then I went back inside, and I cooked taco salad using the last of the green peppers and tomatoes that my grandmother had dried over the summer. Now I am making apple sauce using the remaining apples that were stored in the refrigerator.

The garden is now gone. Our full freezer has emptied out. We still have green beans, green pepper, sliced apples and rhubarb in the freezer though, as well as a couple of containers of apple butter. We also have dried herbs and tomatoes that were carefully preserved by my grandmother.

I still feel a little sad, but I am also feeling intense gratitude to Our Mother, who provides for us every year. It was a good Autumn, I think.

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Recipe: Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Cure Ocha here with a recipe!

So the wonderful co-op had its one year anniversary party with potluck, and I brought a special recipe: sweet and sour meatballs. This recipe has been in my family for half a century and comes out of a 1950s magazine – I love clever 1950s recipes like this.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs for a Party

The meatballs can be whatever meatball recipe you like best, or even storebought, but this is what I used. They’re a little tender and have to be handled gently when made this way, but pretty much anyone who eats meat can eat them safely.

1 cup dry short or medium grain rice
2 cups water
4 lbs ground beef
Italian seasoning (or thyme, oregano, basil and parsley) to taste
Garlic salt (or garlic and salt) to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cook the rice with the water in your usual way. The reason you don’t want long grain rice is because you want the rice to be sticky so that it will bind your meat together. Cool the rice down (I spread it out on a cookie sheet and fanned it with my bamboo spatula) until it’s only warm, then mix it thoroughly with the ground beef and seasonings. Take a small bit and cook it in a pan in order to taste it and make sure the seasonings are right. When it’s yummy, roll the meat mixture into 1 inch balls and place them touching but not smooshed onto a cookie sheet – you should get a little more than sixty from this amount of meat. Bake them in the oven, checking frequently after the first ten minutes, until one from the middle is cooked through when you break it open.

Now that you have meatballs, it’s time for the sauce. Are you ready? This is absurdly easy.

30 oz of cocktail sauce
30 oz of grape jelly

Mix them in a large pot (or crockpot) over low heat. Add the meatballs and stir to coat. Simmer at least 10 minutes and then keep them warm until it’s time to eat.

These travel well in a crockpot and stay safe during potlucks if you just plug the crockpot in and keep it on warm when you get there. If you have a little more or a little less of the sauce it doesn’t matter…it’s a flexible recipe.

Please enjoy!

Baby Steps – The Dinner Table

I have a confession to make.  I am only beginning on my journey of reclaiming my home as a true Hestia and of reclaiming a civilized femininity.   It is a slow process, and there is a wide gap from where I have come from to where I am trying to go.  Change is hard, and I believe that it takes time to make lasting changes.  I have a spouse, who takes time to adjust to change.  Furthermore, I will freely admit that I am much, much better at talking about the philosophy of the Hestia than I am on the practical application of this philosophy.

SAMSUNGOne of the changes that I am trying to make is to cook dinner and to eat dinner with my spouse at the dinner table on a regular, if not a daily, basis.  There was a time in my life when I ate two to three meals in the car in between work, school, and home.  There were other times in my life where I ate out, mostly fast food, several times a week.  The nights I did not eat, I ordered pizza.  Even when my spouse or I cooked a meal, we often ate it in front of the television.  Eating dinner at the table was a rare occasion and a special treat.  We do not have children.  If we did have children, I would like to think that we would have done a better job in this respect, but I am not so sure about that. Nowadays, children are as busy as their parents, with extracurricular activities and such, so I do not know whether we really would do any better.

SAMSUNGIt is amazing what a difference it makes to eat at the dinner table.  Yesterday, my spouse came home from work stressed and tense.  Usually, when this happens, she really wants to eat at the television, but I had already had dinner prepared and the table set.  As dinner went on, she started to calm down and relax.  It was rather amazing.

After dinner, we had dessert, a jello pie that my spouse made the day before.  I served the pie with tea, served with our nice teacups, which were passed down from my grandmother.  When my spouse saw the pie and the tea in the nice cups, she smiled more broadly than she had all evening.

Yesterday, my spouse said that she wanted pizza today.  Generally that means ordering pizza, usually from Domino’s and eating in front of the television.  Today, I decided to try something different.  I decided to make a pizza and not a frozen one.  I had already intended on grocery shopping.  I bought a fresh multi-grain flatbread crust, pizza sauce, a four cheese Italian shredded cheese mix, and some pepperoni.  I also found some tasty looking little French bread rolls to make garlic bread and salad in a bag.  Just to make things seem a little nicer, I also bought some sparkling grape juice.

SAMSUNGI also have the good fortune of a grandmother living upstairs, who is an amazing gardener.  She has a little herb garden, where she grows basil, oregano, and parsley (among other herbs).  I picked some of these fresh herbs to doctor up the pizza sauce and to add to the garlic bread.  I also set the table, and we ate at the dinner table.  It is amazing how much more civilized this felt than ordering Domino’s and eating it at the television.

Previously, I had made some other changes in my kitchen and dining room.  My grandmother gave me a lovely china set passed down from my SAMSUNGgreat grandmother.  My grandmother wanted me to use them every day.  I did use them for regular dinners for a while, but I found that they became a little less special that way.

Our everyday dishes were an old scatched-up set that was passed down to us from my mother-in-law, so we had a little extra money one month, and we decided to get some new dishes.  I found a very nice set at Walmart of all places.  The set does have mugs rather than cups with saucers; however, this is still a step up from the mugs with silly writing and pictures that we previously had.

Oh yes, one last thing.  During the month that we had a little extra money, we purchased a new coffee maker.  Our old coffee maker was on its last legs.  Look at the lovely coffee maker we found.  My spouse grumbled a little about the pink coffee maker, but I think she really likes it.