Miss my bunnies

With my elder daughter’s growing allergies to rabbits’ prolific fur, which flies everywhere, Salty and Pepper had to move on. The Lagomorph duo did provide companionship through two deep winters, as well as constant amusement. In late summer, they received a new home with a then 13-year-old and her 11-year-old brother. From what I seen from a distance since, they couldn’t have been luckier. Those are two happy kids.

Still, it’s surprising how many times I start to do something that might involve them – say bend over to pick dandelion greens while out on a walk or gather carrot ends or parsley stems to feed them while I prepping dinner or move an electrical cord or papers out of their reach – only to realize, emptily, their lusty absence.

Here are a few shots as reminders.

 

The world’s most glorious sauerkraut

For most of my life, I never would have thought sauerkraut could rise any higher than maybe a gag-inducing edible in an obligatory sort of way. You know, like liver. Something in some households you might be required to eat on New Year’s Eve to assure a good 12 months ahead. Think of lutefisk (lye fish) in Nordic cultures as a parallel.

Well, my best friend’s parents, of good German Lutheran stock, made their own, but they also composted for their garden, and back in the ‘50s, that seemed pretty weird.

I am convinced that there are certain dishes that will never become acquired tastes to some or even many tongues. (Feel free to make nominations here.)

That said, imagine my surprise in recent decades in discovering the joys of fine Chinese cuisine, along with the shock of learning that the filling on those snappy eggrolls and spring rolls was essentially sauerkraut, just by another name.

Maybe that set up the moment of revelation.

Morse’s in Waldoboro.

First came some nibbles after an old Mainer made his annual pilgrimage, returning with 20 or 30 pounds or so.

The taste was sweet and tangy, even refreshing. I do like pickles, but these are in a class all their own. I mean, they’re glorious. OK, I had come to prefer coleslaw with a vinegar dressing more than the conventional creamy one, so maybe that had prepared me. (Not that I turn down either.)

That’s set up our own trips in the family, including one with me in the depths of a very snowy February. The road out of the village to the store seemed to take forever, I was sure we had taken a wrong turn somewhere, but then the small store appeared, and it offered more crocks of pickled traditions than just kraut. It also had a small but very tasty German restaurant, which appears to have fallen victim to Covid restrictions. All in all, a delight.

Upshot is, it’s a dish I’ve come to anticipate each winter from our own ten-pound or so purchase.

Morse’s is, in itself, a fascinating story of a family business that’s undergone some transformations but maintains a small niche in an increasingly monolithic food industry. I have no idea if you can find it anywhere near where you live, but then maybe that might inspire another entrepreneur to rise to the challenge. Bigger is not always better.

A half gallon of fresh scallops

Or about 4½ pounds, purchased from a dragger docked at the Breakwater pier, where the crew of three was busy shucking the morsels from their shells. After dining on these two days straight last Christmas, we agreed we have a new holiday tradition. Unlike ones you would purchase at a market, these have no water added, and that means you can get a lovely sear when sauteing them in a bit of olive oil and butter. Do I need to add they taste heavenly?

Cold reality

In an effort to keep the fuel oil bill down, the family decided to set the furnace thermostat no higher than 57 degrees.

But I’m freezing.

I’m threatening to turn the air conditioner on, hoping for 65.

~*~

Am I turning into a gnome these days? You don’t even see the finger-free gloves I’m also wearing when I’m inside the house.

When and what do you eat?

A cheese, green pepper, and mushroom omelet using eggs from our next-door neighbor’s hens is served with home fries made of potatoes I purchased in Aroostook County. Notice there’s no need for ham or bacon. I do love grapefruit juice, by the way. Brunch like this remains a favorite Saturday tradition for me.

My eating habits were one of the places my residency at the ashram changed my life (see my novel Yoga Bootcamp for a taste of the experience).

The lacto-vegetarian cuisine was one, leading to three extended periods “on the outside” when I continued it. Even when I haven’t, the amount of meat in my menus has remained much less than many Americans’. I rarely use bacon, for instance, and when I do, it’s likely to be as a garnish, say on a spinach salad. Hamburger is more likely to be in a meatball or meatloaf rather than in a bun.

Gravy, curiously, has become more heavenly than ever as an extension of the rue family.

And lamb, a recent addition, is simply glorious, especially grilled.

Grilling, I should add, is something I’ve come to treasure through my wife and the space we dubbed the Smoking Garden. There’s no substitute, as far as I can tell, and it makes for some great social gatherings.

What I gained through the ashram was a delight in vegetables and fruits, especially in season, as well as dried beans, nuts, and mushrooms.

The other lasting change was in my dining habits.

Our first food of the day came after morning meditation, community scripture reading, and perhaps physical exercise, and then it was light food – coffee and toast, maybe with yogurt or fruit, and that after we’d already been up three hours. The real meals were a late brunch or early lunch, around 11, and an evening meal around 4 or a little later.

I’ve continued a similar schedule, foodwise. Well, my caffeine intake is down, per doctor’s orders, but what I have is top-notch. Quality over quantity, right? When I was working the “vampire shift,” till midnight or so, the hours were adjusted accordingly, often with a melty cheese sandwich before bed or a martini. (Alcohol was strictly forbidden on the yoga diet.)

In retirement, I find myself often down to one major meal of the day, and holding steady.

What are some of your food traditions?

Locally, ours is known as the Baskerville House

The broker listed our house as being built in the 1860s, but even then, we thought it went back further. I’ve since seen maps from the mid-1830s showing a footprint for a house like ours, which seems right, confirmed in an 1855 map of town.

We know it was here before 1886, as the charred rafters affirm, reflecting the great fire that destroyed the downtown. (One historian had primed us to look for that touch.)

The 1855 map even shows this as the Estate of J. Shackford, a member of a prolific local family that originated in Dover before scattering to Portsmouth and Newburyport, Massachusetts, and then resettling up here quite successfully.

But to everyone we’ve met, it’s the Baskerville House.

I love the literary allusion, of course, to Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles (and the fact it takes place largely in Devonshire, which plays into so much of my history of Dover). Hound/house are, of course, nearly homonyms. Beyond that, there’s also the fact that Baskerville was a basic serif typeface back in the letterpress days when I entered journalism. It’s an old style that largely didn’t make the leap to digital, though I see it has recently joined my Windows options. (Not so for my beloved Caslon of the same era.)

Facing the sunrise

What we liked about the place, besides its location and TLC potential, was the fact it felt good inside. Close-your-eyes, even when the room’s chilly. I’ve certainly felt comfortable in extended solitude and all the writing that’s come within it.

Something that struck me after moving to New England was how often people – even highly rational professionals – calmly asked new homeowners if their place had ghosts. I’m not kidding. And Maine seemed especially prone to that.

Nobody’s asked us, though. Instead, they confirmed that ours always felt good to them, too.

The Baskerville at the heart of this story is Anna, a retired Black nurse who came to Eastport in 1999 to live with her son and daughter-in-law, also named Anna.

From what I’m told, she was stout, had red hair, and loved to sing – especially in all of the churches, where she was always welcome. And she, too, found this place hard to heat but stayed in it, after her son remarried and moved to the other end of town.

When I said no ghosts but the place feels good, others piped up that’s likely Anna’s presence or spirit. I’ve known similar imprints elsewhere, especially in old Quaker meetinghouses.

Naturally, we want to know more about her.

One story I heard was about her introduction to the town. She had a longstanding fear of deep water, and because her new residence was only a block from the ocean, the family arranged for her to arrive after dark and get used to the house first. Maybe they figured they could deal with any trauma better in the morning.

So, as I’m told, when Anna awoke and opened the blinds and saw the expanse of water, she inhaled and, as she proclaimed later, “I knew I was home.”

Yes, we know the feeling, too. And we still want to know more.

In the meantime, we’re trying to keep our renovations in line with what we hope she would have approved. There are good reasons to respect the past.

What do you know about the place where you’re living?