Category Archives: Gardening

That’s The Wrong Fork!

It came as a big surprise to me yesterday to learn that Emily Post wrote a cookbook.  And you too can have a copy of it (original 1951 version, in hardback) for $2.30 from Amazon.  (The shipping is probably twice that.)  The 1951 version may be the only version as far as I know; unlike The Joy of Cooking, which has several versions and has been updated through the years.

In my opinion, if you never have but one cookbook, it should be The Joy of Cooking.  It has every basic recipe you could (and should) know how to cook, and not only that, some fascinating reading about the properties of food (why and how do eggs work in recipes? How exactly do they make flour?) and directions for cleaning a duck from the feathers down, along with many other kinds of game.  It really could be the survivalists’ handbook.

I don’t know why I was so surprised that Emily Post wrote a cookbook, because suddenly I remembered my first Home Economics class.  At my high school, you could get three different types of diplomas:  basic, vocational, or college preparatory.  I was in college prep, and we had certain courses that were required–that was probably true of the other categories as well, but we didn’t fraternize much so I don’t know–but we had room for some electives.  My freshman year, I chose Home Ec.  And then I took it for two more years.

I was interested in cooking.  My father had taught me to cook a little bit (my mother was a disaster in that area) and I’ll never forget making my first apple pie under his supervision, which included a crust made from scratch.  Mostly I’ll never forget the feeling of amazement and accomplishment when I took it out of the oven.  People can actually eat this, and I made it!

Nothing compares to that first apple pie, unless it’s the first time I grew a tomato plant. I planted this! In the dirt!  And I can eat it! I was young once, and many things could surprise and delight me. It takes a little more these days.

But I remembered that my Home Ec I teacher, Mrs. Noland, was not just about learning to cook and sew. It was about etiquette at the table, and proper attire. She was the advisor to an all-girls “social club” I belonged to, and every year, we had an afternoon tea, I think to welcome new members. Hats and gloves required. Proper way to balance a saucer on your lap and hold a teacup. She was the height of sophistication in our little mountain town. That said, I don’t know why I was so surprised that Emily Post wrote a cookbook, since so much of etiquette revolves around eating.

Fast forward to when I was 21 as opposed to 14, and I was going to dinner with my then boyfriend at the home of a woman who was known to be an incredible cook. I mean, she had copies of Gourmet magazine lying around the house. Her husband was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and they were obviously experienced at entertaining. I was dying to go, but terrified. Literally trembling, afraid I would do something wrong at the table and expose myself for the rube I really was. My boyfriend said, don’t be afraid, just watch me. Use the fork I use. And that’s what I did, but I needn’t have worried. The hostess was so gracious, so good at making her guests feel comfortable, that I probably could have made a mistake and I never would have known it.

Mrs. Noland taught me some of the rules, but this hostess taught me the true meaning of etiquette. In the end, the rules are designed to make everyone feel comfortable and relaxed, and if you can’t do that, you’ve failed.

It’s been a long time since that Home Ec class and that dinner, but I still know how to hold a teacup.

Defending Yard Guy

Yard Guy (aka Tom) has been the subject of many of my posts, including various Visits From Yard  Guy, and most notably, Redneck Environmentalism which is a perpetual crowd-pleaser. He is, in short, a good and admirable guy, for many reasons.

Tom also takes care of the yard of my neighbors across the street.  A couple of weeks ago, Tom said he was about ready to tell them to find someone else, because they are so critical.  Which just amazed me.  Trust me on this:  their yard is like the Beginner’s version.  No trees, to start with.  My yard has trees.  A whole section with pink jasmine that tends to get out of control.  A whole side bed with ferns and a completely out of control Thunbergia Grandiflora vine, and a now-giant bamboo competing with the Thunbergia so that the bamboo overhangs the driveway when the Thunbergia weighs it down.  And that’s just the front.

In the back, there are more trees.  In order to mow the grass, he has to pick up limbs and pine cones.  In the back he can’t get his lawn mower through the gate in my fence, so he has to use only his weed-eater.  And it’s not exactly a postage stamp.  It’s 40′ X 60′.  He cuts back the bamboo when it bends so far I have to brush through it.  He cleans the roof when it gets full of pine needles.  He does all this without complaint, without ever asking for more money.  Because he thinks it’s the right way to do it.  Which is true, in a way, but I never ask him to do it. I just wanted him to mow the grass.

My yard, back and front, is wild (except for the grass part).  Just the way I like it.  And these people across the street are complaining?  With their totally obstruction-free, white-bread, boring yard?

So today, Tom was clearly being berated by one of the two of them, because I could hear her from across the street with all the doors and windows closed.  I thought, how can you even find anything to complain about?  Or are you just that kind of person?  Someone who consistently believes you must be getting screwed?  Whether you can see any evidence or not.

So I just wanted to go outside, walk across the street, and slap her.  Shut The Hell Up, you idiot.  But I thought that would be insulting to Tom.  He can take care of himself.  I thought for sure that this would be the moment where he told her to find someone else, because if had been me, I would have walked away that second.  But he finished the job of mowing their front boring lawn. Which would be in keeping with his ethics.

The berater has only recently moved here, early in the summer.  Her sister owns the house, and she moved in with her.  She must have moved from South Florida, because she brought with her all these South Florida plants, which they guy who moved her in a U-Haul truck planted in the yard.  Among other things, canna. Those might make it.  But another is croton.  I hate to tell her this, but the croton is not going to make it.

At first I  just shook my head at the ignorance here.  Yes, it’s still Florida, but north Florida might as well be a different country.  Your beautiful croton is gonna die.  Dig it up and put it in a pot…right now!  I know all this from personal experience, having crashed and burned trying to plant stuff that is outside its comfort zone.

I wanted to warn her, but now…it will please me to no end to have it die.  That will be my revenge.  Not to mention that by that time, surely Tom will have quit.

It’s like micro-justice.