Diogenes Eats Humble Hummus

 

We needed yeast and a few other things, so I drove to Market Basket to fill a shopping cart with bare necessities, among them a container of hummus, and of course, the yeast. The yeast was the smallest item in the cart, so I had to make sure it didn’t escape.

At check-out, I tapped my credit card on the counter and chatted with the bagger as she loaded my items. I paid no attention to the yeast until I arrived home.

Where was it? I searched the sundry shopping bags I’d used—no yeast.

Maybe it fell out of my cart and was never bagged. Now I had to find the receipt. You can tell, I’m disorganized. But I did find the sales slip and checked each item. I’d paid $1.49 for a three-pack of quick rising yeast. Did I put it in the refrigerator? No!

Well, if I lost the yeast, other items may have gone astray. Careful screening of the receipt revealed I’d paid $3.49 for the hummus, but it too was gone. A psychologist friend once told me I suffered from Diogenes Syndrome. You remember Diogenes, the guy with the lamp searching for an honest man. In my case, I’d spent years of my life looking for misplaced items like yeast and hummus.

Yes, my life is a mess. Imagine a desk piled with papers surrounding a laptop. Look over the pile. That’s me behind it. As a Diogenes sufferer, I’ve developed coping skills. These skills do not include a filing system or shedding clutter. Diogenes taught me that if two things disappear, they likely ran off together and hide in the same place. I’d probably misplaced a shopping bag. Who knows what else the bag might hold, perhaps an honest man?

No luck. I was out $4.98 and a cloth shopping bag. No big deal, right?

Oh, no. My life was ruined.

“What?” you say. “You could hop in the car and Diogenes the check-out counters or simply, buy replacements.”

They cost less than five dollars, but their loss got under my Diogenes skin. I admit they shouldn’t have. The mishap wounded my pride and demonstrated my attachment to trivialities. Buddhism teaches that attachment causes pain. Christianity asks that we seek first the Kingdom of God and all else will be given to us. Rely on God and not on our limited powers and we will be happy in this world and the next. I should have listened.

Anyway, this morning I found the yeast packet stuck between two bags of English Muffins. The hummus hid behind the Pico de Gallo salsa in the back of the refrigerator. All of my concern overnight hurt only me. Next time I lose something—where are my car keys?—I’m not going to worry—I’ll be late if I don’t find them—I’m going to relax and strive for a spiritual perspective and peace.

God Bless.

 

The Joy of Pickling (Second Edition), by Linda Ziedrich

The Joy of Pickling (Second Edition), by Linda Ziedrich

The vegetable gardener’s planning must include not only the what, when and where to plant, but must account for the storage of surplus produce when neighbors run from armfuls of over production. Cookbooks and the instructions on the packages of pickling salts are adequate for more conventional produce, but a paperback like theJoy of Pickling opens a vast array of alternatives, including the preservation of uncommon vegetables and fruits, and unusual methods of putting them up.

Based on extensive research and reader feedback, the author provides an authoritative primer on the art of pickling (the controlled decomposition of vegetables), including critiques of the several preserving processes, the role of each of the essential ingredients, tips on food safety, and 250 flavor-packed recipes.

Ziedrich encourages the adventure of pickling. Although she thoroughly drills the reader in the avoidance of contamination and spoilage, she lays out clear directions and assures the adventurous gardener of the ease and joy of the pickling process and its bounty.

She not only lists and explains the common and unusual pickling ingredients, but she suggests where and how to obtain them in sufficient quantities and at a reasonable prices.

The proof of the value of this book comes in the outcome of its use. To date, I’ve only read it. Ziedrich’s description of canning methods for cucumbers fits well with my own experience. What interests me and what would deserve a follow-up review is her description of fermented pickles. These resemble the delicious offerings found in barrels at the old-fashioned groceries and delis. Rather than using heat, vinegar and salt as anti-microbial preservatives, fermentation recruits live microorganisms in brine to cure cucumbers. Although sterilization and refrigeration may follow fermentation, it is possible to enjoy half-sours, dill pickles, and other crock-pickles for many weeks beyond the completion of fermentation.

The author carefully describes the materials and methods for pickle fermentation, including shortcuts and economic variations. Food-safe plastic buckets may substitute for crocks and stainless steel containers. Unlike the use of canning jars, the fermentation process requires daily attention, mostly the skimming of yeast from the surface of the salty liquid. The fermentation fluid has its fans. Some drink it, bathe with it or use it as a soup stock.

Other recipes of particular interest to me during the 2016 growing season include fermented chili garlic relish, pickled whole hot peppers, pickled roasted peppers and pickled asparagus. How about you? Do you have a favorite pickle, an unusual pickling trick or a pickling recipe to share?

I first noticed The Joy of Pickling, by Linda Ziedrich in the Shumway Seed Catalogue, but purchased the expanded second edition from Amazon.