Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Costumes, or Green to Match My Spleen

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately. Spring means school is insane. I'm panicking about finishing term papers. My students are panicking because they should have cared about their grades earlier in the semester. The literacy program for which I'm a co-director has a big final event in Helena. This year, however, I'm trying to finish a comprehensive film catalog of the anthro department's holdings and, last, but certainly not freaking least, I'm trying to finish my master's thesis. I generally "work well under pressure," but the words just aren't happening lately. I've never had a problem writing before. I can always just sit down and make it happen. Not so this time. I blame a lack of fiction in my life. I've always been an obsessive reader. Obsessive, literally. I've had boyfriends who were jealous of how much time I spent reading. I love books. I love the smell and the texture and the look of them - ordered neatly, piled up haphazardly, but mostly shelves upon shelves of them in used book stores! My favorite birthday present in recent memory is CB I Hate Perfume's "In the Library," from Christian this past year. 

It smells quite a lot like books, but sweeter and spicier. If you have ever wondered what I smell like, this is usually it. I smell good.

In any case, now I rarely read for fun. I read for a living, and my reading mostly consists of theory and ethnography. I love these - it's not as if I don't enjoy it. It's just that I rarely lose myself in narrative anymore, and this has profoundly affected the way that I think. I've lost something very important, and it's become detrimental to how I write. I need to figure out a balance.It's terribly ironic, because what I study concerns how narrative shapes identity. Should my grad school experience count as fieldwork, then?
Instead of reading in my spare time, I'd rather be trail running with my dog or gardening or anything where I can be outside moving.  In fact, it's the gardening that's become my obsession lately. For the past three weekends, we've been working on a garden that we're sharing with our neighbor, Jenny (who is one of my favorite people). Growing up in a fairly small south Arkansas town, I was lucky to be surrounded by home gardens. I grew up helping family members and neighbors care for them. I can't begin to count how many hours I've spent shelling peas and shucking corn. I've never started a garden from scratch, though. So, as it turns out, it's pretty damn labor intensive. Disclaimer here and a promise: I will not turn blog posts about my garden into soapbox posts about one of my subjects of study, food politics, social hierarchies, and moralizing. Yeah, yeah - the name of this very blog comes from Mary Douglas's famous work on just that, but this blog is for fun and not for things I do for a living. I have to think about social structures in relation to food politics for a living, and maybe I could do myself a favor, maybe make some contacts or something by writing about it here, but, like I said above - I need to figure out a balance. I need to read things that don't have to do with my work, and I need to write things that don't have to do with my work (or be in the format of my work! Look at all this stream of consciousness and "innovative" punctuation! Take that, Chicago Manual!!). I love my work, and I'm thankful that I even have the opportunity to do it - but, you know, balance and all.
SO, ok, here's the patch of lawn we started with, between our house and Jenny's house. 


And here are some of the seedlings I started. Some of these are plants that are to be sown directly into the garden, but I thought I'd hedge my bets, since it's my first time 'n all. 

Li'l buddieeess!

Tineh purple basil!

Turns out that the transition from "piece of lawn" to "lush, hospitable garden plot" is a real pain in the ass. It took us two full (FULL) days of labor to just turn the soil about 6 - 8 inches deep, even with Dolly helping on the second day. 

No, no, of course that's not my gardening outfit. We took this after we got back from the movie we treated ourselves to at the end of the weekend. Unfortunately, it was the new Clash of the Titans. It gets me all angry to think about it very much, so all I'll say is teal & orange and Harryhausen monsters > CGI monsters.

Dress: Gift from Hannah Withers, owner of Little Bread Co. I should do a whole blog post about LBC sometime, because they are AWESOME. 
Scarf: Target
Blue Velvet Boots Dr. Martens that have been through hell and high water (and a few obvious run-ins with some creative bleaching in college) with me since my sixteenth birthday
Carved bone earrings SanFranBlissCo

All righty, so turning the soil was a one weekend, then composting and tilling was another. But first, lunch!
I recently did a spring lunch for some friends. The menu was salmon, asparagus, purple potatoes, and salad, with banana bread and blueberry sorbet for dessert.
I always aspire to some lovely mise en place photos a la Tony Tahhan or even Luxirare. Realistically, though, I'm more interested in getting the food done than taking pics, and besides, our kitchen is tineh, tineh. My mise en place usually looks like this: 

Not so aesthetically pleasing. But you know what? Even so, I'm good about getting things organized to come out at the same time, and that's the important part. 

Blueberries, gruyere, and sparkling shiraz for an appetizer.

Smashed purple & red potatoes with green onions, lemon zest, olive oil, salt & pepper. No recipe really, just season to taste.

Spinach, rainbow chard, shallots, sunflower sprouts, dandelion greens, nasturtiums, roses, snapdragons. Lemon and olive oil to taste.

I didn't actually snap a pic of either the salmon or the asparagus before they got nommed, but here is a picture of salmon anyway. This is exactly what mine looked like, so you can pretend that I cooked it. 

Mix half a cup of Greek yogurt with 2 tbs finely chopped fresh dill, 2 tbs finely chopped fresh parsley, 2 tbs Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Spread over salmon fillets (we had four, but they were ginormous) and bake at 450 for anywhere from 8 - 20 minutes (depending on whether you're using fillets or a side of salmon). Garnish with dill sprigs & lemon. 

Combine 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter & 3/4 cup brown sugar. Stir in 2 eggs and 2 1/3 cups of overripe, mashed bananas. Stir in to dry mix til just moistened. I also added sliced almonds, and cinnamon & cardamom. Pour into greased 9x5 loaf pan and bake at 350 for about an hour. Have to admit that the blueberry sorbet is store-bought. 

And here is my hostess costume.


Navy velvet blazer: J. Crew
Green silk dress: Idea2Lifestyle
Socks Sock Dreams
Boots: Y-Not?
Belt: From Josh Meadows when we were in high school - I harassed him 'til he gave it to me. He also happens to be the same kind soul who lent us his time and his truck to get a rented tiller to our house. What a guy!

After lunch  (and a nice break), we put about 560 lbs of compost on the garden and tilled it in. Again with the backbreaking labor. 

We decided, upon my landlady Ana's advice, to go with beds instead of rows, and we finally got to the planting!!

My li'l buddies goin' in the ground! I hope they make it!

Kind of looks like we've been hiding bodies. But there are not really people in there. The real inventory is: 

Brussels sprouts
Straightneck squash
Green beans
Purple carrots
French breakfast radishes
Purple potatoes
Purple onions
Kentucky Colonel mint
Lemon balm
Bell peppers
Banana peppers
Purple basil

Aaaand back to struggling with thesis writing. But what a lovely place to do it. It's nice to have a dog who's so supportive. It's nice to have a pyromaniac boyfriend (who also does things like help me cook, clean, and plant a garden from scratch). It's nice, too, to have a roommate who'll make me pink drinks and mow the lawn, even when the bees attack her in the face.

Oh! The "green to match my spleen" thing is something that Zorak said on old episode of Space Ghost. I think of that quote every time I wear that green dress. " I want green to match my spleen."


  1. Don't knock procrastination! It's what kept all those baby seedlings from getting destroyed by a secret surprise frost-snarfing.

  2. The next time we get together, and I have had enough drinks, remind me to sing you girls the vegetable farming song from the musical "Plain and Fancy," which is about the Amish in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, and in which I starred as Helga (The Wayward Amish Girl) when this play was chosen as our Middle School Musical in spring, 1990.

  3. There are so many awesome things about that scenario that I can't even quite wrap my head around it.