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Books: Barbara Kingsolver’s FLIGHT BEHAVIOR

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Books:  June 16, 2013

Barbara Kingsolver’s FLIGHT BEHAVIOR

For a while I could not decide if I liked this new Kingsolver novel or not.

 

Kingsolver's Flight Behavior

Then whammo!   All the threads come together in ways that made me walk away with renewed respect for this author who is writing at the top of her game about a subject for which she cares passionately.

I care passionately about his subject, too, and I was afraid early on that Kingsolver was being too didactic, too pat–in ways that would turn off too many readers who really need to understand the basic science of how wrong things have gotten on this planet.

Kingsolver locates her main character in a small southern town where inhabitants just try to get on with living, just try to keep earning money, just try to face and survive really difficult economic issues.  Dellarobia is a high school graduate who had wanted to go on to college; who got pregnant; who married the earnest, sweet father; who struggles daily not only to try to keep her life together, but to find the meaning of it.  She’s at a point where she is going to cut and run when she goes up on the mountain behind her home and sees millions of monarchs who have unaccountably come to winter in southern mountains instead of in Mexico where they have wintered for thousands of years.  There are so many that the sides of the valley seem to be on fire.

The “why” of the monarch move forms the backbone of the book, but Kingsolver never for one  moment forgets to flesh out her characters and show them to be the complicated, struggling beings that they are.  The “flight behavior” is about far more than the monarchs’ flight patterns.

There are no comic book good guys and bad guys in this novel.  There are people who grow and change and acquire new understanding of the world and of each other.  These are, for the most part, people you would want to be among if trouble comes.  And, Kingsolver makes more than clear, trouble has come.  Yet, she leaves us with hope that things can be different, that we can make changes in our lives that will work better for each of us and for all of us.

Monarchs are very present in Maine in the summer.  They arrive, lay eggs on milkweed plants, which we have in abundance, and, I think, die.  Their babies hatch into gorgeously outrageous caterpillars, which eat milkweed, form a chrysalis, and turn into the monarchs which are the generation that make the long flight to Mexico.  (I think I have that right.)

Last summer, young neighbor Margaret Richmond of Golden Brook farm had a pail with about 10 or 12 monarch caterpillars which she offered to share.

Margaret with monarch caterpillars

We declined as the grandchildren were leaving for home shortly.  But Margaret put the caterpillars on milkweed and watched them until they became butterflies.

Here’s a caterpillar in my hand:

Monarch caterpiller, Aug. 2012

We came home and Kels found a chrysalis in our yard and, the next morning, watched it hatch into a butterfly.

Written by louisaenright

June 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Turkey Tracks: Drying Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes

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Turkey Tracks:  August 22, 2011

Drying Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes

Last year for my birthday on March 17th, Margaret Rauenhorst gifted me with a quart Mason jar full of dried cherry tomatoes.

March 17th is just about the time everyone up here in the snowy north (Maine) gets really hungry for green growing things, like dandelion greens sprouting as the snow recedes.  We become filled with anticipation for what summer gardens will bring, especially as the new seed catalogs with all their glorious pictures arrived back in January.

We inhaled Margaret’s dried cherry tomatoes, each the size of a penny and tasting like dense, chewy candy.  We mostly put them on salads, made with greens grown in my neighbor’s new hoop house–Susan McBride Richmond of Golden Brook Farm.

I determined on the spot to plant a lot of cherry tomatoes to dry for next winter.  My favorites are Sun Golds, which are, sadly, hybrid plants.  (I like to plant heritage seeds.)   And, right now, out in the garden they are ripening, each like a tiny gold sunspot hiding in the green tomato leaves.  The best way to eat them, bar none, is to pick them off the vine and eat them as you stand there in the sunshine.  Or, the rain.  Or, the dusk, Or the fog.  Or, whenever and however you pause to savor something delicious!

Here they are, filling up my harvesting/mushroom basket a few days ago.  They’re still a bit green, but will ripen to a deep gold color in the kitchen.  Cherry tomatoes are easy to grow and lend themselves to containers on an apartment balcony in a city.  They can be tucked away in an odd sunny corner of the yard, too.  (We had two days of rain, so we got a BIG zuke.)

Drying them in the dehydrator has been a bit more involved than I had anticipated–in that it takes rather a long time for each one to dry out.  And, because they all ripen at differing times, I’ve been putting them in, one by one, rather than in whole groups.  In about 2 whole days and nights, I’ve only got about 10 dried enough to put in a Mason jar.  They’re somewhat sticky as they dry, and I don’t know if they will mold or not, so likely I’ll store them in the refrigerator so I don’t lose them–especially after all this energy has been expended!  Maybe I should be cutting them in half???

Here you can see my dehydrator working away with one tray inside.  (It came with…4 or 5 stackable trays and costs about $30.)  And, now, you can see the beautiful sunny gold of these tomatoes.

 And, now you can see what they look like drying inside the dyhydrator:

Aha!

I checked Barbara Kingsolver’s ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE, since I remembered a recipe in there for dried cherry tomatoes.  Camille Kingsolver does cut them in half and puts them skin side down on the tray.  And, here’s Camille Kingsolver’s recipe, found on page 295.  (For this or other recipes, you can go online to www.AnimalVegetableMiracle.com.)

 DRIED TOMATO PESTO

 Put the following ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  Add a little water if it seems sticky, but the mixture should be thick enough to spread on a slice of bread:

2 cups dried tomatoes, 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (crispy, please), 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/3 cut grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup dried basil, 4 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons balsamic or other good vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt.

BASIL OIL 

So, ok.  For the basil, I think I’d defrost and use some of my basil oil, taken from A YEAR IN MY KITCHEN, Skye Gyngell–which has been recently updated with American measurements (she’s British).  Basically, you put a LOT of basil in a food processor (3 bunches or more), 3-4 cloves of garlic, some salt, and start the processor.  Drizzle in olive oil until you have a smooth paste/sauce.  Freeze in those very small Mason jars (1/2 cup?) and enjoy all winter.  This oil is especially nice served alongside meat–grilled steak, roasted chicken, etc.