28 March 2012

Tasty, tasty virtue

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata*) is an aggressive non-native herbaceous plant that was originally brought to the US as a culinary herb.   Now, sort of like Norwegian grey squirrels and ... well, my ancestors ... it's relatively attractive stuff that elbows out the natives and hogs resources.  

So garlic mustard is fair game for the urban/backyard conservationist.  Or forager.  I spent a day with the Friends of Sligo Creek a year or so ago pulling and bagging the stuff.  You have to bag it up, rather than let it compost in place because as soon as you turn your back on it, it drops seeds or sends out new shoots and is back in residence faster than a graduating senior with no solid job prospects.

The goal of the FOSC RIP ("Remove Invasive Plants") that day was to get as much of the garlic mustard out of the park as possible, so all we did was pull it out of the ground completely, stuff it in the bag, and move on.

It was afterwards that I found recipes using garlic mustard.**  Somehow knowing that I can turn an invasive plant into a yummy sauce to drizzle on pasta makes pulling weeds much more fun.  And yet, still so very virtuous.  I will save my beloved Maryland from this alien herb *and* adding a locally grown ingredient in my dinner!

There is garlic mustard growing on the hillside behind my apartment building.  So after I walk home tonight, I'll go collect enough to give me "3 cups Garlic Mustard leaves, washed, patted dry, and packed in a measuring cup."  I would collect it from Sligo Creek Park, except that I understand that one needs permission to do remove plants from the Park and I'd lose a fair bit of my sense of virtue if I get busted for poaching during the harvest.

And, just to save you that one one more click, here's the recipe I'll be using:

Garlic Mustard Pesto
  • 3 cups Garlic Mustard leaves, washed, patted dry, and packed in a measuring cup
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
  • 1 cup Walnuts
  • 1 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano Cheese (or more Parmesan)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Combine Garlic Mustard leaves, garlic and walnuts in food processor and chop. Or divide recipe in half and use a blender. With motor running, add olive oil slowly. Shut off motor. Add cheeses, salt & pepper. Process briefly to combine.
Serve warm over pasta or spread on crackers as a appetizer. It also makes a great topping for baked fish.


* Okay, that's really for David.  He loves proper scientific names.

** Oh.  You'd like them, too? Is this what you're looking for?  I thought it might be ...

*** Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta, natch!  It's my favorite gluten-free pasta.

18 March 2012

Make a Wish!

Let me start this by saying that I don't think I have ever prayed for a physical object.

I've wished for plenty of them ...*

When I was in college, my friend Erika would notice if the catch on my necklace had worked its way down to the bottom and she would move it back behind my neck and say "Make a wish!"

Over the years, I wished for various things but always only made positive wishes.  Wishing misfortune on another person is just bad karma.  How can I ask the universe to be kind to me if I ask it to be cruel to others? So I won't wish that people who trouble me come to a bad end but I might wish that they'd change their minds about doing what troubles me. 

But over the past several years when it felt as though I was living too hand-to-mouth, my wishes settled on one word:  money.**  Because pretty much everything I didn't like about my life related to two numbers:  my weight and my bank balance.  Because I have a lovely boyfriend, a great and loving family, a good job, wonderful friends, the Finest Kind cat, and a hobby that is truly my happy place.

I lost about 30 pounds a few years ago so that number bothered me less.***  But my bank balance was always scary, so whenever I was prompted for any reason to "Make a wish!" I'd wish for money.  Just that abstract concept:  money. 

After Mom left me a bunch of money, I paid my debts, better funded my retirement, and replaced my old car.  I pick up the check or donate to good causes more often because I can.

Which means that I no longer wish for money.  It would just seem churlish and ungrateful.

But that left me in wish void. Wishing for money was such a habit that I really had no idea what to wish for.  And I guess that I could have just not wished for anything but, I dunno, that just seems like a waste.

I tried wishing for World Peace but I guess I'm too cynical.  I couldn't believe in that wish.  The lyric is not "when you wish upon a star, it don't matter who you are, 'cause when you wish upon a star ... your brain whispers 'yeah, right, that's gonna happen.' "

Hmmmmm.  What to do ....

So I thought.  And thought.

And now I have a new wish.  I wish for "the best."  Literally "the best."  As I pull the clasp back up to the top, or sight the first star of the evening, or what-have-you, I close my eyes and think "The best.  I wish for the best."

Human beings to not always long-sighted enough to see the full-play out of every action but sometimes things that seem bad to begin with turn out better than the original plan.  For example, if an old friend had gotten pregnant rather than going though the heartbreak of not being able to conceive and then deciding to adopt and having to jump through a bunch of foreign adoption hoop medical tests, the usually undetectable until it's too late cancer would not have been found in time to save her life. 

Wishing for "the best" seems like a vote for the positive.  It means hoping that the result of the things my friends and I struggle with will make us happy and keep us safe in the long run; it means understanding that not every dream deferred is a dream denied; it means trying to listen to a voice other than my own.

I wish for the best.

Make a wish!

* Because prayers are for things you are truly asking for.  Prayers are "please."  Wishes are "wouldn't it be nice if ..."

** Although I did stop wishing that I'd find money in the street some time ago when it occurred to me that for me to find it, someone else would have to lose it. 

*** Bothered me less, not "doesn't bother me."  But that's partly because the number that I regard as the magical, perfect weight is -- according to my doctor -- inappropriate for me.  So I will never, ever weigh the magical, perfect number again.****

**** I was too skinny until college and too heavy after.  I weighed the magical, perfect number for about three years.  And it's too low of a number.  Really.

02 March 2012

Not green

I once mentioned that as far as I could tell, red is the only color that doesn't have a pastel partner.  One hears people talk about "pale blue" or "soft yellow" or such, but I've never heard anyone talk about "pastel red" because "pastel red" has it's own identity:  pink.

Sure, in some ways that's more a quirk of language, rather than spectrum, but I dunno.  When you make red darker it looks blacker.  When you make pink look darker, it looks ... bluer.

I was, of course, mocked for this and generally kept down by The Man.  And as I'm neither a lighting designer nor a painter,* I don't have the background to make a better argument, so I let it drop.

But ...

But ...

Thanks to Alice, Facebook, and NPR, this little tidbit has fallen into my lap.

I'm probably still wrong, but somehow I feel --- less wrong.

There is no blue food.  There is no pink light.

*Because colors in light and colors in pigment are two separate things.  The former is additive color and the later is subtractive color.**

**A fact I'll be able to retain until just after I post this, of course.