In Which the Author and a Friend Stroll Around

The weather has been a little nippy out now, but three or four weeks ago, a way back in March,  the weather was glorious and warm. We, the Geekette and I, celebrated this by taking the day off and going to the Brookside Gardens. I don’t think words can describe a beauty like that, simply because half the beauty is in the effect it has on the viewer. That a gently sloping hill and a mirrored lake can ease a soul of all its cares is a  magical thing in and of itself.

I took an outrageous number of pictures, so I’m not sure what to show you all. We walked around for about four hours, leaving the gardens at one point to stumble into the adjoining park. We came prepared for the ramble, the Geekette brought a dozen still-warm chocolate chip cookies and I packed bento.

We ate lunch in the back of my car – no picnicking on the lawn, I suppose. Since it was barely spring when we went, being the end of March, I was a little surprised to see so much out. A dozen varieties of daffodils, moslty miniutare; ten or twenty magnolias of varying scent and color, their petals carpeting the ground beneath them; tulips and snowdrops and poppies, filling beds with color and gracing river banks. My favorite were these:

Hellebores - The Lenten Rose


Don’t they look like death roses? But beyond that, their shape and color is really charming. I wonder what’s in their bed now. I’ve been to the Brookside Gardens in the summer before (it was summer, right?) and it was much more colorful. The azaleas were in bloom everywhere you turned, and even the bugs were out in brighter array – we got to watch a whole hive of bumble bees dive bombing each other over the pond, and even saw one eaten by a watchful fish. But the best part was the wisteria, awake and blooming over our heads in the covered walk. It’s one of my favorite features, and it was all shriveled and barren when we went this time. But despite that, and the overcast skies, the day was warm and bright and filled with spring hues. Let’s go again soon Geekette, okay?


This pie, cake really, was great. So delicious and moist . . . . The recipe came from Cooks Illustrated, which has to be the most enjoyable cooking magazine, whether for pleasant perusal or serious study. Bon Appetite has pretty, glossy pictures, but Cooks Illustrated has art, not to mention actual articles to accompany each recipe, sprinkled with good advice and culinary science. The cake itself is harder to find than cook, in the index it’s not called “Boston cream pie” but something like “wickedly delicous boston cream pie,” which can throw off even the best index skimmer. There are three parts to this delight: cake, cream, and glaze, and I cannot wait for an excuse to bake the cake all by itself. It’s that good.

If you click it, it expands.

The cake was for Easter, which was delicious thank you, but even before that blessed day arrived I managed to check off one of my culinary goals: the watermelon rind pickle. I found this recipe in The Woman’s Home Companion Cookbook, which was published in the early forties, and also in The Foxfire Book. If you have never heard of The Foxfire Book (I believe it’s derived from an old magazine series, but I haven’t actually looked it up) than you are missing out. Such useful information lies within their covers. Everything from building a log cabin to slaughtering a hog. There are even pictures.  My copy of Foxfire comes from my misspent childhood, when I went around reading The Black Stallion, My Side of the Mountain, and Stalking the Wild Asparagus*. Now I read Heyer. Oi vey.
      Anyway, the idea of pickling rind, an hither to useless substance, tickled the remainders of my childhood fancy. Especially since the recipes called for cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. And yes, the two sources provided nearly identical recipes. So last Monday the Geekette came over and helped me boil them into existence. The Geekette has been a co-conspiritor of mine since before we really care to remember, and is responsible for such experiments as fried angel food cake. With her help we combined the ingredients and managed to make the sweetest pickles I’ve ever had. We used the rind of one watermelon, which yielded about one quart of thin, unevenly proportioned, white squares. We left out the slacked lime, because for some reason we were out ( I’d also never heard of it before out side of historical fiction, which I make a habit of not learning from. Can you buy this at the grocery store?). The result was a slightly gummy confection with a bite only slightly reminiscent of bread and butter pickles. The squares were deep brown, mostly because we used ground spices instead of their whole counter parts. In fact, the ground spices were such a bother that we had to rinse off the pickles before eating them in order to avoid covering our tongues in cinnamon paste. Blech. Even though these pickles were peculiar I’m definitely going to make them again. Especially since I found a use for the left over juice.
             See, the Geekette and I deemed actually pickling the pickles to be a waste of resources, since it wasn’t like we had a whole truckload of them. So there I was, with a whole bucket of christmas scented syrup in my fridge, wondering what to do with it. Mouse? Ice cream?  Delicate lemon squares? The last was the clear winner. When I was a child it seems my mom made desserts all the time, every other memory is about us beating egg whites for meringues – innocently called kisses throughout my whole childhood – or sniffing at the lemon scented air as mom pulled a pan of yellow goodness out of the oven. I haven’t had lemon squares in ages now, so recreating them with pickle juice was a lot of fun. The best part was my family didn’t touch them. Score for the pickle bar.

In other news, I am now the proud owner of a Honda Fit, and Doctor Who has started up again. Oh, and I discovered how to make my dad’s camera zoom and focus. Like, at the same time.

Wow, it’s been quite a week.

Be blinded by the cake, ignore the absence of pickle pictures! 

*Speaking of Euell Gibbons, someone I trust and admire deeply told me they had made wisteria fritters before. Wisteria. Fritters. Oh my, imagination overload.