Saturday, November 18, 2006

Warm November rain

A recent conversation with Kitch Minimus presaged the forthcoming Rapture with the intelligence that, as foretold in the book of Revelations, the Lewes Arms is to stop serving Harvey’s bitter. This went lightly with my disposition as the tail of a tropical storm whipped its way along Main Street, Baby Fluffy, Conky Kitten and myself observing the rain drive in sideways from the vantage of the porch, our spirits buoyed by the tempest and the unseasonal warmth, seventy degrees by night. Then the earthquake: like a bowling ball dropped beside us: thunk. No warnings or aftershock, just an urgent shift in the plates beneath, a little 2.8er with the epicenter less than a mile away, below Laurelhurst Park.

Weather worth appreciating, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I’ve recently been developing a new company intranet, which among its many riches includes a little widget that appears on the side of the homepage and provides you with the local weather forecast for whichever corner of the corporate empire you happen to be situated. I mention this because when something similar was suggested at my old job, the Registrar remarked, “Why do they want the weather on the web when they can look out of the [expletive deleted] window?” As it turns out, however, there was a presupposition in this observation, the irony of which I now get to appreciate on a daily basis as I meander the eighty feet or so from the belly of the cube farm to the window of conference room 3C in order to estimate just how many layers of waterproofs I’d best don before cycling home.

So with Summer now a rapidly fading and vaguely unconvincing recollection, I bring you the last of my holiday photos from September.

I've noticed my American chums tend to regard the diner as the British might the Bernie Steakhouse; a not altogether pleasant reminder of an era in the nation's cuisine best left forgotten. This particular example, "Billy Heartbeats" would probably be considered particularly objectionable on the basis of its faux retro styling and its physical location in the Lloyd Center's Food Court. I however delight in the diner and all its myriad pleasures, from the cheeseburgers and thick malt shakes through to the French silk pies and smoking waitresses (called "servers" here by the way, which is allegedly less demeaning). You'll noticed baby fluffy plumped for milk again though. He's a creature of habit.

I had the oddest thought the other day whilst absorbed in the unparalleled beauty of my darling child. I thought - that baby is made of 100% milk. He has consumed nothing but milk for his entire life. As I recall, milk is but one of the food groups, and in the new-fangled pyramid arrangement it is somewhat closer to the apex than the base. This is the miracle of biochemistry in all its glory. Looking at him, you have to wonder what you couldn't make out of milk; suspension bridges, space elevators? Whatever the case, it seems we can only have skimmed the surface of this technology with cheese and yoghurt.

Here's a nice snap of Silverton falls, in its denuded late Summer mode. Compare to February.

Welcome to Mount Angel. Don't mention the war. Lederhosen on sale for the discerning Bavarian ex-pat.

Here's a snap of another popular waterfall, Multnomah Falls in the Columbia gorge.

And looking the other way, across the river valley to Washington state.

An old turbine thingy from the Bonneville Dam. One of those New Deal projects. And Woody Guthrie wrote a song about it. That probably means at least as much to you as it does to me.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Apples and Pumpkins

A giant bin of Macintosh Apples at Portland Nursery

"As American as the Fourth of July and Mom’s Apple Pie." Whoa there, cowboy! The Fourth of July, I grant you, is American (that’s exactly when it all went south). But apple pie? They can’t appropriate that, can they? It’s not as if Apple Pie is a Latin American banana republic, ripe for a little impromptu annexation. How about Mom’s Pumpkin Pie? That would be fine. Or how about, "As American as the military-industrial complex and Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Lattés?"

As far as I remember, when we used to hollow out pumpkins in primary school to make spooky lanterns, we summarily disposed of the filling. This was, in retrospect, a bit of a waste. It’s a little like – I don’t know – using the wrappers from after-eights to make a Christmas decoration and throwing away the chocolate coated mint. Without getting all Nigel Slater about it, there is something deliciously and distinctly autumnal about pumpkin pie. It’s both the colour and the texture; the rich, comfortingly dense, burnt-orange transport for the spicy "Christmas-is-coming" cinnamon and ginger scrumminess of it all. Come on America, take the pumpkin pie as your symbol – it’s great and it’s uncontroversially yours. Like baseball and cars that don’t go around corners. Apple Pie, on the other hand, is more like Iraq – we can all see why you might want it, but someone else got there first, and, frankly, it’s a bit of a stretch.

Ethan and I ventured out to Portland Nursery’s apple festival two weekends in a row, our mission (actually, my mission, he just has to go along with it – we’re like Batman and Robin in that respect), to find the perfect combination of American apples necessary to reconstruct an English apple pie without the noble Bramley. I tried about fifty varieties and eventually came up with a combination of Macintosh and Newtown Pippin, with the odd Braeburn thrown in for good luck if you feel like it. Macintosh dissolve like Bramleys but are not nearly so tart, which is where the Newtowns come in, also offering a certain chunkiness; Braeburns are the most appley-apple, so add extra flavour if desired. Core, peel and slice, heat on the stove with an ounce or two of butter, wait about fifteen minutes, add a little sugar if necessary, a little vanilla essence if desired, allow to cool, slap between two layers of pastry, bake and voila.

A selection of photos from Laurelhurst Park in late September

Autumn has always been my favourite season, and this year is no exception; the colours, the chill returned to the air and the comfort of comfort food, every fine day cherished in the knowledge it may be the last for some several months. Our own little pumpkin is four months old, has reduced his demands to one feed per night, holds his head up without support, is taking a lively interest in his environment, loves to be outside and is cooing – actually cooing; something which I had previously thought was only an expression. We love him so much it is ridiculous.

Rachel and the pumpkin. At this point my mother will remark that orange is not his colour.