Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ramps Lady

We had hoped to get to the higher mountains this month to find ramps, that highly flavored wild member of the onion family. But time got away from us, and neither of us felt like our knees were in good enough shape to hike the hills.

So today I stopped in town when I saw this sign:

That chance stop led to an interesting conversation with the ramp's seller, Shonna.

I mentioned that we still had plenty of dried ramps from last year.

"I guess I'm a traditionalist," Shonna said. "I think it best to eat foods in season. Ramps and dandelions and milkweed in the spring, that's when we should eat them, and not put them up for other seasons. Because then they lose their specialness, and we don't have it to look forward to."

She has a point. In our world where almost all foods are available year-round, even the specialness of strawberries has waned. We can get them anytime of the year now, where once they were a May-June treat. But, like most people, I am glad to have them whenever I want them, and I do love the ability to add the unique flavor of ramps to foods when I think it will add a new dimension to the taste.

"How do you cook your ramps?" she asked, and then went on to say, "Here's something you need to try: put some oil or grease in a pan, add a little sugar and a little vinegar, then "melt" the ramps in that. You won't believe the flavor." It sounded a lot like wilted lettuce to me, and that's a delicious dish. So I will give her recipe a try.

I asked her about milkweed. "People mess up because they don't parboil and throw the water out. You got to do that or they taste bad." Very similar to cooking pokeweed, I asked? Exactly, she said.

And then she asked, "Do you ever eat dandelions?"

"Do you mean dandelion greens?"

"No, the flower. Here's what I do. I pop the flowerheads off, and remove ALL of the stem, but leave that green part under the flower. Then wash and shake to make sure all the ants and stuff are out of them. Then roll in a batter and fry them. They taste a lot like mushrooms (meaning morels)."

"When I make my mushrooms, I soak 'em in beer, not salt water like most people do. Then I dip them in batter and fry them. Talk about good!"

I tucked my bag of ramps in the van and waved goodbye. I sure hope I run into this lady again. She's full of nature lore and wildcrafting information, not from books but from family passing it down and personal experience--a rare person these days.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Overheard: Two Stories

The man looked to be in his early 70's. He sat comfortably in the waiting room, leaning on his cane with both hands and smiling a greeting to everyone who entered. It was clear he was happy to have company and was hoping to talk.

He got his chance. A few comments from someone about the weather and he started.

"I sure miss my wife. Lost her a year and a half ago to cancer. She was a tough one, never gave up. She'd lay there and crook her finger at me to come nearer, and I did, not knowing whether she was going to kiss me or slap my nose. She aggravated the heck out of me, and she'd just laugh. I sure miss her.

"I only met her three times before I asked her to marry me. I only kissed her once before I asked her! She was in a Sunday school class at my church, and when I got out of basic and sent to AIT the girls in the class wrote to me. There were three of them; I knew the other two but I didn't know her so she was the one I wrote back to.

"When I finally got leave to come home, I went straight to see her. She wasn't home! I was real disappointed. I came back next evening and she was there. So were her parents. She and I sat on the couch and talked, but her father was right across the room. That put a damper on things. I got sent overseas after that but we kept on writing.

"Next time I planned to come home on her birthday. I got there all right but the buddy who picked me up asked if I wanted to go bowling. I loved to bowl so I said sure. Clean forgot about her birthday! When I remembered it was late and neither of us had a phone so I couldn't call to explain. Went over there early the next morning and just told the truth. She forgave me right away. I asked her to marry me then. We kept writing and when I got out of the service we got married. We had 48 years together. I miss her every day, every minute. I knew first time I laid eyes on her that she was the one for me."

His story was told with humor, the light of memory bright in his eyes. We were all smiling when he'd finished.

Second story:

In another waiting room, a woman and her elderly father sat with their backs to the room, talking so loudly it was impossible not to hear. Stories of ugly divorces, grandchildren they could never see, a truck-driving daughter who never sees her children, and then this:

"I gave him $50 last time." This was the daughter speaking. She looked to be about fifty-sixty years old.

"Well, he called me and said it was a life or death situation and he had to get to Lexington. I gave him $300."

"$300! It doesn't take $300 to get to Lexington from here!"

"Well, maybe he needed a motel room or something. Anyway, next time he calls, I want you to talk to him and tell him a little white lie. Tell him I am about to lose my truck, that I'm three payments behind. Tell him I just can't help him. It doesn't do any good to give him money. Remember when he sold all my cars? And her too--I can't give her any more money. I paid off over $23,000 on her house, and what gratitude did it get me?"

This last was the old father speaking. I supposed he was talking about his grandchildren. He went on to remind his daughter of the $8000 he'd paid off on someone's car, and other sums of money he'd given to people, apparently family members.

When we left, the daughter was discussing a court case coming up for her. Bitterness accented every word she spoke. I glanced at the father as we passed by. So bent over, so worn down, his Korean vet hat crooked on his head.

The first story above made my heart glad; this second one just about broke it.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Such Beauty As My Eyes Have Seen

It was a weekend to remember.

Sometimes I think there can be no place on earth as beautiful as these mountains I call home. This past weekend only confirmed that belief.

I spent the days in the company of other poets, in a secluded mountain camp. Words flowed like the water in the nearby river--talk about inspiration and renewal. Ir was a needed break, and I enjoyed every minute.

I took time for a walk too. The sun was not yet up when I started out.

Pink in the sunrise was deceptive; the day was clear and warmer than normal for the time of year. Perhaps it was predicting the rain coming the next day.

Mountain laurel lined the path in some areas. This trail is an old railbed, built in the early days of logging the virgin timber in the region.

You can see the sun beginning to creep over the hills...

and suddenly it was fully day.

I found some trillium getting ready to bloom,

and bloodroot already opening.

The next photos were taken along the road home.

This is Crupperneck bend, a horseshoe bend in the wild Gauley River.

Rain started soon after I stopped here, and my mind bent towards home and my man who stayed there to mind the homefires. He greeted me at the door, and had dinner on the table. I am blessed indeed.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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