Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Passing of Days

I've had a cold these last few days, which might (or might not) account for my relative silence here (it might be plain old NothingToSayitis). I spent all of Saturday lying in bed, feeling utterly miserable. When I was fed up with that, I wandered around the house a couple of times to make sure everyone knew just how miserable I was feeling, although with the weather being so lovely and hot they were all outside. No one present to witness my ability to be a tediously pathetic weeniepants about having a cold stoic and bravely ill, sigh. It was rather pleasant, now that I look back on it, because at least Richard was there, and able to be the Other Adult around so I actually could lie in bed the whole day. For some reason I kept remembering the audio commentary to the film Gosford Park, and thinking about what Julian Fellowes (who wrote the script) had said about an old aunt of his. Apparently she spent each and every Friday lying in a darkened room, eating nothing and drinking only water. She lived to a ripe old age and looked wonderful for most of it, according to him, and he thought her Friday routine had something to do with it. So while I was (mostly) lying there feeling horrible, occasionally I tried to think Pleasant Youthful Thoughts, in a (mostly) vain attempt at using the opportunity as a multi-tasking moment. Hard to feel youthful and healthy when one is sick and feverish.

Why yes, I do listen to audio commentaries of films. Sometimes they're better than the actual film. The ones for Gosford Park and Chocolat are fascinating, but that's probably because Lasse Halstrom and Julian Fellowes are good talkers. The Dr Who episodes are equally riveting. I now know just how they get those Daleks to glide across the floor. And no, it's not highly technical. Or even computerized. Think bare feet...pushing cardboard boxes...

Sunday I woke up, saw glimpses of the early sunrise all pink and yellow and gorgeous outside my bedroom window, thought briefly about attempting another stab at the Sitting In A Darkened Room, then remembered my giant pot of tomatoes, sitting all naked and peeled on the deck. See that big silver pot there? To your left? I had that pot, all 18 quarts of it, filled with tomatoes. Peeled tomatoes, might I emphasize.

If you have no idea what I'm on about, imagine if you will a long wooden counter, in a kitchen, an old fashioned farm kitchen perhaps, and a stove with a giant pot of boiling water on it, into which some kitchen maid (who probably doesn't spend her Fridays in bed thinking Pleasant Youthful Thoughts) has emptied masses upon masses of fresh, ripe tomatoes. She lets them sit there, briefly, in the boiling water, before she scoops them out and sets them gently but firmly in an icy water bath on that giant counter. Then, and only then, does she put the cruel knife of fate to their tender innards, removing their skins and the odd core. The whole process takes our kitchen maid an awfully long time. Because she has an awfully large bucket of tomatoes.

Got that image in your head? Right, well, remove the kitchen maid, the wooden counter, and the icy water bath (I've always thought it a little excessive to use ice cubes for this purpose). Oh, and the giant kitchen too. But the rest? C'est moi: sweating, cramped, and endlessly toiling. All in the service of the charming tomato.

I think I'm still a little feverish. I'm finding it difficult to stay on topic. My mind keeps wandering off on Chaucerian tangents. Kitchen maids? I wish.

Anyhow, Sunday morning I woke up and saw the sun through bleary weary eyes. I watched it send out tentative beams of light onto the deck, flicker across the pot of salmon-coloured geraniums, wander over the table, settle briefly on the luminous dishes of drying garlic and potatoes, and then on the...silver...stockpot. The by now effervescent-with-too-much-sitting-in-the-sun stockpot full of peeled tomatoes...into which I had poured at least 3 hours, picking, washing, peeling and chopping. I think I might even have gaped in horror, right then and there. I'd been so busy lying in bed being pathetic that I'd completely forgotten about that big ole pot of soon-to-be-wasted time sitting out there. And that was how I left my sick bed. I did my Super Jane Austen heroine routine again, even. I forged out onto the deck, lifted my Ton 'O' Silver and hauled it into the kitchen, where I promptly rescued it from Imminent Death By Fermentation.

And now I have 30 quarts of salsa sitting in the cold room, many quarts of antipasto, and a number of quarts of tomatillo salsa spiked with Thai Dragon Peppers. Once I got working on the tomatoes I figured what the heck - might as well clear the deck of Potential Fruit Fly Bait. Besides, the tomatillos were sitting alongside the bubbly tomatoes looking sad and ever-so-slightly shrivelled, as if they knew they'd soon be Permanent Residents of the Compost Heap if I didn't leave off with the Youthful Thoughts crap and get out the food processor right this minute.

So I did.


Heather said...

I'm glad to hear you are on the mend, Shelia. No fun to be under the weather during your busy harvest time. So happy you were able to rescue your tomatoes too, that would have been heartbreaking to have them all go to waste.

Have you seen Julian Fellowes in Monarch of the Glen? I love that series and he is such a fun part of it.

I noticed this bit in your post - "luminous dishes of drying garlic and potatoes". Are you drying slices of potato and garlic? Sort of making your own dried potato mix or ? Would you be willing to explain more in case it is something I want to try? ;-)

Also, I noticed, quite by accident, that your little adopted sidebar guinea pig follows my mouse pointer around in a most charming (and somewhat disconcerting) way. Weird. ;-)

sheila said...

Thanks Heather! Can you imagine losing all those tomatoes? Richard thought I was almost insane, but I couldn't stomach the thought of all that peeling for naught.

I did see that show - he really impresses me, he's so versatile. And the stories he has to tell about writing Gosford Park are amazing.

Nothing quite so exciting with the garlic and potatoes: I'm just letting them sit in the sun to toughen up a bit before storing them. Drying them out. I've heard this is what one must do with potatoes before storage.

The guinea pig is a bit of a tribute to our now deceased guinea pig. We saw it on someone else's blog (only they had a hedgehog named Milligan). If you click on "more" you get access to a brush and some food, which makes him respond, and if you click ON henry he popcorns. The twins are nuts about him and think this is the height of amazingness. Now they want blogs - not to write but to get animated animal sidebars...

Andrea said...

A book, I tell you! A book! So I can laugh my ass off (does anyone know how to actually spell that out any more? I do apparently)whenever I feel the slight need.

I'm off to the 80+ lbs of tomatoes calling me from the kitchen...

Heather said...

Oh my! Dare I admit I just spent a minute taunting your poor sidebar Henry with the last little bite of an apple slice. I did, I tell you, I did. And, furthermore...I enjoyed it immensely.

The things I'll do to avoid getting started on dinner. ;-)

sheila said...

Andrea! You are my hero. No one EVER spells that out anymore!

So what are you doing with those tomatoes? Recipes, girl, recipes!

sheila said...

Heather, it's weirdly addictive, isn't it? I like making him popcorn. And watching those little hearts float up when I brush him.

Oh boy. It IS weird, isn't it? I feel like I have a new pet.

I want you to know that YOU are responsible for me making antipasto!

Anonymous said...

We love your guinea pig!

I froze tomatoes today, but I don't peel them - I just wash them, chop them in the food processor, and freeze them in glass jars - and they are perfect for making tomato sauce. I couldn't be bothered to peel or seed them :)

Vivian said...

I was all bummed out because I couldn't get the hearts from Henry. But it finally worked. Whew!

I hope someone else took over clean-up duty! Feel better!

Andrea said...

I just do the basics. I can them diced, dry a few, slow roast a lot and freeze them (why make tomato sauce? Slow roasted tomatoes, thawed and blended with some water make the BEST tomato sauce ever) and I make salsa. For tomato recipes see Heather.

sheila said...

Ah yes, the Slow Roasted Tomato. When I first made it I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I just need more freezer space - I'm running out of room. But I like the idea of not having to peel every single tomato around this place. It's a bit exhausting.

As for getting henry to purr and show hearts: I think when we click on the brush we have to click once it's on him, then he will respond. I want you all to know that I spent a good 20 minutes playing - err, I mean experimenting with him today. All in the name of Science.