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Spent a few hours today at the allotment/urban garden/city plot [choose most familiar cultural reference and cross out the others] today. It's still suffering from my being unable to tend it from 2010-07-16 on because of the car crash. Many many many dandelions were established in the heavy clay soil, and they have proven difficult to remove.

What with more work coming in, I haven't been able to tend as often, but at least I've been able to weed at the crucial periods, which is to say before the weeds have flowered, but after they have provided cooling shade to the roots of the wanted-plants.

The chard is doing particularly well. The tomatoes are very robust, too. The onions are doing what they do best, which is coping despite the hardships, but the gai larn is a total wash. Whatever wasn't killed by slugs during the rain-fest immediately bolted when we switched to always-dry-always-hot. So after weeding a couple of hours today, I planted some small kale plants in their stead. I hope that this November, I'll have kale enough to give us greens this winter. Last year, the greens only lasted through Christmas.

Seeing as I am leaving Cara Sposa alone while I gallivant through the United States this August, I shall need to set aside several dishes of Chard Gratin (one of her favourite dishes) into the freezer, so I'm happy the chard is happy.

But I am noticing several cases of blossom-end-rot on our paste tomatoes, which is worrying, especially since I made the effort to haul our home compost out there, which is heavily seeded with eggshells. For some reason, the perennial problem of calcium deficiency hasn't been dispelled on the plot as it has at home, so I wonder what's going on.

Otherwise, all is well at Manor King. I go in 1/2 an hour to pick up our main CSA. Tonight will be salad. That much is assured. But somewhere over the weekend will be "shaking beef" (Thit Bo Luc Lac). But not quite. We always buy beef by the 1/4 steer (for environmental and economic reasons), and our supplier doesn't age the beef a great deal before delivering it. So I have beef cubes that are far from being filet mignon, let alone tenderloin. They're rather chewy, gristly bits. So they are being marinaded in lime juice and nước mắm overnight in order to be ready for tomorrow's Viet "hot salad", which is how I see it.

Interesting point: "Shaking beef" as it's known in the U.S. is probably "bœuf sauté", meaning "beef tossed around in the pan", in other words, "shaken". Please forgive my Ethnocentric epithet of "chinese telephone" to explain how this name came about by being translated from colonial French to Viet, to English, to the menu at your local north american vietnamese restaurant.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 22nd, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC)
"chinese telephone" represents an interesting amalgam of the two names I know that game by. I grew up in upstate New York, where we called it simply "telephone." Then I lived for a while in England with Wakanomori, at his parents' place, and kids there called the game "Chinese whispers."

And you call it "Chinese telephone." Fascinating!<==say it with one eyebrow raised, like Mr. Spock.

I grew chard for the first time after marrying Wakanomori. I hadn't been familiar with it as a vegetable. He saw it in the seed catalogue and remarked that there was a town he knew of in England called Chard. That was enough of a reason.

Also, when I had an allotment garden, we once grew lemongrass. It did okay! But now I make do with lemon balm, which grows with a weed's vigor.
Jul. 23rd, 2011 09:45 am (UTC)
I was never a big chard eater until moving to CSAs for our produce. It grows phenomenally well here, and I think I prefer the taste over spinach. Kale, too, is something I've grown to like. Partly because it does have its own antifreeze system, so it grows even into December, and well past first frost. I'm told that outside of many English cities are public allotments traditionally called kale-yards, because it was the final staple food for the poor before winter sets in, and everyone had a right to it.

But lemon-balm for lemongrass is a new one to me. We have a huge stand of it. Actually, it out-competes the grass on our lawn. Cara Sposa dries it and uses it as a tea for most of the winter. We usually let it go to seed, since it's one of the few things in the garden that will draw goldfinches in the late fall.

But I hadn't thought of using it in cooking. So that makes two imports I can stop using: lemongrass and tamarind, since rhubarb makes a really good tamarind replacement, especially in curries.
Jul. 23rd, 2011 09:56 am (UTC)
Hey, the rhubarb-tamarind substitution is something I'll have to try! Thanks for that.

I bought Tamarind drink from the Goya section of the supermarket yesterday. It was great. (Half the novel I'm writing now takes place in a fictional southeast Asian country, and I like to get in character when I write. ..... Method writing? But seriously...I write better summer scenes in summer time and winter scenes in winter times. I think this is probably a weakness...

Hey you just gave me an idea for a blog post!)

And kale! Are you guys vegetarians? Because if you're not, a great way to eat kale is with chopped up bits of pepperoni mixed in--the whole thing stir fried. Or if you are vegetarians, then a way I like to cook it is stir fried with garlic and soy sauce and sometimes a dash of sugar. (What *isn't* good, cooked like that.) I really like the texture of it. And yeah, I love that you can pick it well into the winter!
Jul. 23rd, 2011 10:14 am (UTC)
When it gets this hot and humid, I miss some of those southeast asian treats. I long for coconut, guyabano (soursop), and lychee drinks, and ube, ginger, or green-tea ice-cream. And green (unripe) mangoes sliced thin, dusted with sea-salt and used to dip into bagoong/belakan/balachao (or whatever you call prawn paste in your real or imaginary SE Asian country, but whatever the name, you have to eat it out of a plastic bag—just like fish and chips is only real if you eat it out of a rolled-up newspaper), and balls of tamarind paste rolled in damarra sugar (with a tamarind seed in the center, waiting like a toothache ready to happen). I also get a craving for those sun-dried anchovies dipped in sweet sauce and rolled in sesame seeds and fried, or siling, we used to call them.

[But I could never get into balot or durian. You know how Roquefort cheese was accidentally made by leaving a cheese in a cave where the conditions were ideal for moulding? Well, for me durian tastes like a mango left in a cave until similarly moulded, then dipped in gasoline and served up like custard. Then, having eaten it, you can't sleep all night because your skin feels dry and on fire and you keep. burping. up. that. damn. durian. flavour!]

Definitely not vegetarian (see above), and we do something similar, based on a local dutch "comfort food", where you cook fall turnips and kale together with slices of sausage. Kind of a Rotterdam bubble-and-squeak. The turnips add a lot of flavour.

Edited at 2011-07-23 02:14 pm (UTC)
Jul. 23rd, 2011 10:27 am (UTC)
Oh, my yearning to have actual *experience* to put into my book... could I please crawl inside your brain and live with your memories for a while? All those yummy foods...

... about durian--they apparently cracked open a durian at Readercon, and various people tried it. (I wasn't around for this momentous event.) sovay said she liked it. Loved your description of its flavor.
Jul. 23rd, 2011 10:39 am (UTC)
Huh! We have three asian markets in town, and you can buy nearly all these things in each of them. One of them even has the sardines, although they're made in Thailand instead of the Phils.

So go out, seek! You will find! (going off himself to the market)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )