Friday, November 20, 2009

At The Last Minute

This has to be quick (and therefore long), because I want it done in time for Mel's Show and Tell, but I promise I'll get you more wedding stories sooner or later. Tonight I want to show you our bouquets.

A devoted and determined and diligent friend I met at the community garden -- let's call her the Plant Whisperer -- made them. The Plant Whisperer is no amateur in this department. She works as a celebrity stylist, and her portfolio has like every famous person I've ever thought of in it. Her apartment is stuffed with amazing things, from bajillion dollar silk curtains a rich client tired of to a Louis the something-or-otherth vest that Andy Warhol tossed her way. I call her the Plant Whisperer because however impeccable her taste and impressive her client list, her skills in the garden outstrip them. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden just traded 90 year-old peonies to our garden in return for her fairy foxglove seeds, because, frankly, the alpine garden she's established in the corner of our old building lot is better than theirs.

Months ago, she asked me to send her a list of flowers I like, and I did nothing about it, in part because I'm lazy and would find a way to postpone breathing if I could, in part because I was determined at that point that the legal business was no big deal -- the real celebration will come in the spring, when our friends can come to a big party. Three days before the wedding, my mother just happened to forward me an email she'd sent to old friends, telling them we were getting hitched:

I hope they'll carry flowers.

Mama always has been good at finding that B in subtle. She checked in via phone to be sure I hadn't missed it.

Sugar and I had invited our parents and two friends from our respective early childhoods who have ended up living within blocks of us, hundreds of miles from our hometowns. I called my "womb buddy," who'd offered to help with flowers, but it soon became clear this was asking a lot. Womb Buddy is a Soil Engineer and terrified she'd screw this up. I wasn't expecting much -- a grocery store bouquet with a ribbon from home? -- and I thought the Plant Whisperer could at least supply the name of the flower I don't like. She did (alstroemeria), and immediately took charge of the whole project, sending me home with ribbon swatches to hold up to our dresses, enlisting another garden stalwart and all-around prince to drive her to the flower market at 5:30 am, and ultimately coming up with this:

Bigger here.

I still can't believe we had something so beautiful to carry. They were stunning. I couldn't have even imagined something so lovely. The roses came from an established bush in the community garden, so we'd have something "old." The heather made me feel less bad for forgetting the Scottish tradition of a silver coin in my shoe (though Mama says my blood was Scottish enough). The dark red peonies reminded me of Sugar's grandmother, who grows them and who couldn't travel for the ceremony.

The leather box in the photo is from the Plant Whisperer, too. We carried our rings in it. It's a replica of an opera glass case belonging to Napoleon's wife, Josphine, and so it has Sugar's and my shared first initial J embossed on it.

And as if all that wasn't enough, she's insisting on naming the new peony at the garden -- the one she got in return for her seeds -- after us.

It all makes me think about grace. Grace is like all of this: something you get despite the fact that you could never deserve it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Your Wedding Might Be Gay If... realize the next day that you skipped your shift at the food coop.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cupboardful of Faith

It's a busy time in the bionic household, and a time of great changes. Or rather, it's a time of contemplating changes -- both potential and inevitable -- and wondering if we're up for it all.

It's fall, and a good time for canning.

I find canning a source of great comfort in uncertain times. It's a lovely bit of household magic -- the sugar stopping time, water sealing the jars. It seems impossible (like so many things do right now), and the fact this small impossible thing works gives me some faith that bigger things will, too.

The only preserves I make regularly are Green Tomato Preserves, from a recipe by the great Edna Lewis. (If you haven't read The Taste of Country Cooking, her cookbook/memoir of growing up in the Virginia farm town her grandparents founded as freed slaves, well, it's worth your time.) This year, a few friends whose tomatoes (unlike mine) survived the blight, traded me their unripe tomatoes for the promise of jam.

3 lbs green tomatoes + 3 lbs sugar.

The tomatoes have to be really green. If they're starting to ripen, use them for something else. You can let them ripen on the windowsill or make a lamb tagine or fry them if they're still mostly green. We've been doing all three.


The tomatoes, with stem ends and blemishes removed, rest under the sugar overnight. The next day, they will have released enough liquid to dissolve some or all of the sugar: the first miracle. They get cooked for an hour, then left to rest overnight again.


On the third day, the preserves get cooked for another hour or so. Jars are boiled, jar lids and rings sit in a simmering pot. Tomatoes and strained liquid are spooned into jars, which are just barely closed before being submerged in boiling water. The air in the jars expands and squeezes out from under the lids. When the jars are returned to the air, their contents cool and contract. Lids ping shut against the new vacuum.


The jars cool in place overnight, and on the fourth day I fill my cabinet with amber vials of autumn.


P.S. There's something else these days giving me faith in the future, too.

ETA: I've never done Mel's Show and Tell thing before, but it seems nifty-difty. Looking forward to checking out the other participants, though it may take until after Friday....