Written by Anton Zuiker since July 2000
Why mistersugar? Why a pig?
School’s out in Carrboro, and Dan and Joanne Shaughnessy are about to celebrate their 50th anniversary, so the kids and I loaded up the car yesterday and headed north to Cleveland.
Our first stop: Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia, where we climbed ladders into the cherry trees to pick sour cherries. (I’d read about this orchard in Andrea Reusing’s cookbook a few weeks ago when I was preparing the Mother’s Day meal to remember, and cherry season nicely corresponded with the family vacation.) It was a humid afternoon, and there was a throng of people in the trees, but we managed to fill a bucket with about four pounds of the small cherries before Oliver was tired and the rest of us were hot and thirsty. Still, not a bad way to spend Father’s Day.
From Ararat, up the mountain to the Blue Ridge Parkway, then north to West Virginia to Camp Creek State Park. We pitched the tents, got a fire going, heated the hot dogs and roasted marshmallows. Just as we assembled the s’mores, the rain started. The rain got heavier, the tents started to leak, and thunder and lightning ended our hopes of sleeping outdoors, so I gathered up the soggy tents and we drove north to Charleston and a cheap motel.
In the morning, still the road north. But we were in Cleveland by 1pm, with grandma and grandpa waiting with lunch when we pulled in. Malia quickly begged grandma to show us how to make a cherry pie, so we were pitting the cherries and then Malia and Anna were learning how to roll pie crust and prepare the pie filling — Malia thought it was funny that Joanne kept adding ingredients “not called for” in the cookbook recipe, but the extra vanilla and nutmeg would make for a tasty pie.
Dinner was on the deck overlooking the Rocky River valley (Cleveland Metroparks), and then the cherry pie was before us. It was blue-ribbon quality, delicious. Just perfect, from ladder stretching to last bite.
Some photos from the process:
In the line at Whole Foods yesterday — getting ingredients so Anna and Malia and I could make chocolate financiers from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook — I picked up issue 01 of Modern Farmer, a new quarterly focused on agriculture. It looked both interesting and beautiful, so I bought the magazine. At home, I sat on the front porch swing with a glass of iced lemonade, enjoying the afternoon warmth (tropical-storm rains had drenched North Carolina the day before) and reading about wild pigs and hardware stores in France and mangoes in Malawi and recommendations from the Drunken Botanist on which herbs to grow for unique cocktails. There’s architecture, travel, reading, fashion, and, yes, even farming in this publication — see the table of contents. It’s a lot like my favorite food magazine Saveur, but without recipes. I paid for a two-year subscription, and am looking forward to more great porch reading in the years to come.
This afternoon, I drove 16 miles up Old NC 86, through Hillsborough and out to Hurdle Mills, to park in a field and join hundreds of other foodies for the annual Farm to Fork Picnic, which I’d last attended this in 2007 (reported in this post). It was bright and hot afternoon, and I was sweating in the Aloha shirt my dad had given me for my birthday back in April, but I made the rounds of the small tents where three dozen restaurants, each paired with a North Carolina farm, presented a delicious morsel of food.
While the Ayr Mountaineers played on the stage in the big tent, I tasted Big Spoon Roasters peanut butter with sorghum molasses, and Escazu iced chocolate following the very first published recipe from Spain, then grabbed a cup of Fullsteam Fearrington summer ale, and later a cup of Mystery Brewing Company Queen Anne’s Revenge Carolinian Dark IPA.
At a tent with the new Raleigh Korean restaurant Kimpap and Lucky 3 Farm, I took a plate of Bo Ssam, the pulled pork in a lettuce wrap that I often make at home. Kimbap’s was fantastic, and I would return there for seconds. And then thirds.
Back under the big tent, remembering the article about seed banks I’d read earlier in the day in Modern Farmer, I took a packet of Hopi Yellow watermelon seeds from the NC Cooperative Extension table. I poured a cup of ice wild bergamot tea from Waterdog Farms, and sat for a while in the camp chair I’d set up in the middle of the field. Now, Michael Holland was singing a cover of Louis Collins, which I thought was the version by Josh Ritter but which Holland said was by Mississippi John Hurt.
Later, a long conversation with Bill Rice of the Walking Fish Cooperative in the tent where chef Amy Tornquist had presented smoked North Carolina bluefish with dill potato salad and pickled onions. My grandfather, Frank the Beachcomber would surely have enjoyed this. He regularly fished the outer banks for the blues.
I walked again tent to tent to tent, marveling at the richness of this region’s farms and talents of our chefs. I’ll be back next year, with my family along for the experience.
I used the new Vesper app to take notes during my tasting.
Another midnight migraine snuck up on me, waking me in the early hours with a crushing headache. I crept downstairs to pop 600mg of ibuprofen, an effort too late, so chills and sweats and then violent vomiting. All Erin could do was leave me sleeping on the cold bathroom floor. Eventually, I crawled into the bedroom for the comfort of the carpet floor.
Oliver was in the room, and he must have seen me. I heard him asking Erin about the shape on the floor.
“Is he deyad?”
“No, he’s not dead.”
“Mom, is he deyad?
“No, he’s not dead.”
I mustered some energy. “Erin, he’s saying ‘dad.’”
This morning at the family breakfast — Erin baked Pillsbury biscuits and filled them with eggs and cheese — we had a laugh about the sleepy exchange.
“I sure felt like I was dying,” I said.
Erin replied, “I should have said, “He’s only mostly dead.”
Lots of news about tornadoes the past couple of weeks, with Oklahoma particularly getting hammered by deadly storms, including an EF5 twister that killed 23 people.
Today we learned that an experienced father-son stormchaser team lost their lives in a tornado they were following, also in Oklahoma.
There’s been some amazing video from stormchasers, like this one of a team in their tornado intercept vehicle, which was hit by the wedge tornado they were following in Kansas:
Watching that gave me eerie memories of the time I was in a vehicle stopped on an Illinois country road as darkness enveloped the car and the sound went wild. I wrote about that in my post, Science of observation
Once we could drive again, we made our way home to DeKalb, listening to the radio as we went. A news bulletin announced two tornado touchdowns – one to the west of where we been stopped, another to the east. It seemed as if a twister had skipped right over us.
In 2004, when Malia was just 8 months old, we thought for a day that she had maple syrup urine disease, but a visit to the doctor instead uncovered a urinary tract infection and vesicoureteral reflux (VUR). With regular antibiotics, she grew out of this over the next couple of years.
Like my observation about being part of scientific research (Bitten by the research bug), this has given our family an exciting connection to science.
My friend and colleague, Karyn Traphagen, took a break from her ScienceOnline duties to take a trip and cruise to Alaska last month. She wrote me a nice note from the ship, posted amazing photos to her Google Plus profile, and brought me back a signed cookbook from the chef at the lodge where she stayed.
In the Winterlake Lodge Cookbook, this recipe sure looks good: sweet potato cinnamon rolls. Perhaps I’ll make these soon and deliver them to Karyn (and her husband, Mark) to thank her for being so thoughtful and generous. She’s a true friend.
Friday night, after Erin and the girls had watched another episode of Family Ties — Anna and her friends have discovered the 80s sitcom, and Erin has nostalgically encouraged their continuous viewing — and were asleep, Erin and I snuggled together to watch Side Effects. That was a enjoyable thriller about psychiatry, pharmaceutical marketing and, ultimately, murder.
My spring-cleaning new healthy lifestyle inspired me to text my father and brothers that night, suggesting we meet up in Honolulu this December to run the Honolulu Marathon. It will be 20 years since dad, Nick and I ran that together (read my Cleveland Plain Dealer essay, A Son Recalls the Run of His Life). The registration fee is $165 per person. I think it was under $20 when I signed up in 1993 as a kama’aina.
Saturday morning, Anna was sleeping in (has strep throat), so Malia and Oliver and I set out to pick strawberries at Waller Family Farm in Durham County, but the patch was closed for lack of berries. No worries, I steered the car to the festive Durham Farmers Market at the aptly named Central Park, where there were berries and cinnamon rolls and food trucks and artists and a guy playing an upright piano on wheels:
Back home, I made a batch of strawberry jam.
My wife may be the primary breadwinner in our family, but I’m the strawberry jam maker. PB&J wouldn’t be the same. #partnership— Anton Zuiker (@mistersugar) June 1, 2013
Then, Malia and I loaded the old lawn mower into the back of the van, and drove it to the hardware store in Durham, where we left it for repair. We walked across the parking lot to the Around the World Market that sells a large variety of Indian and other Asian foods. We got a bag of basmati rice, a carton of Lipton Darjeeling tea (in the green box, loose leaf; I use it to make chai) and a box of Marathon Ataulfo mangos, 18 for $12.99. I just ate one, and it was delicious!
Back home, I crashed on the couch, and slept for a couple of hours. Later, a sitter came to watch the kids, and Erin and I went to dinner at Acme Food & Beverage Co. in Carrboro (our fair town), where we sat on the outdoor patio beneath a delicate magnolia tree and enjoyed a delicious meal of chile relleno filled with shrimp and rice, and North Carolina sea scallops over pureed cauliflower and shiitake mushrooms and a flavorful broth. I drank the pilsner from Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem, passing on the beer from the brand-new Steel String Brewery nearby.
From Acme, we walked to the Carrboro Arts Center for the season finale of The Monti. Our friend, Carter Kersh, told a killer of a story to end the show and the season. Jeff Polish introduced him with a reference to Carter’s performance at Talk Story last July. In a few weeks, when Jeff has posted Carter’s story to his podcast, I’ll be sure to point to it — although you should be listening to the Monti podcast every week anyway.
This morning, Oliver awake at 5:30, back downstairs, joined by Malia. I made another batch of strawberry jam, and peeled a mango for us. We’re planning a road trip to Cleveland soon to celebrate the golden anniversary of Erin’s parents, and along the way we’re going to pick cherries at Levering Orchard in Virginia and camp in Camp Creek State Park in West Virginia. Malia and Oliver wanted to test the tents, so we pitched them in the back yard. While they lolled inside the tents, I sat on the back porch and read Colum McCann’s Radical Empathy, about my favorite author and his new book, Transatlantic, which comes out Tuesday.
Elsewhere in the NYTimes Magazine, the Eat column by Sam Sifton is about the family meal, which in many restaurants is the meal that staff share before service begins. It’s a nice look at the important tradition, and there’s tasty recipe for fish tacos to go along.
And now, we’re just back from the swimming pool, where I swam laps and Erin read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and the children played. I hear the voice of Alex P. Keaton upstairs, and Erin on the phone outside.
It’s been a good weekend.
My daughter, Anna, had a middle school science-class assignment to reflect the vocabulary of a lesson on ecology. She wrote the following poem, and agreed to let me share it here.
There is ecology in my back yard!
There was once a world far, far away
a world that we now live in today
It had all these wonderful things
that made the world that we know
so sit back, relax and let it go
It had things like an Ecosystem that were out our door
and animals in their Habitats galore,
it had Carnivores, Herbivores, Omnivores and more
and animals that soar and soar
Things like Abiotic factors, Biotic factors, and trees
That were outside trying to say pretty please
Coniferous trees were out in my yard
And Detrivores were breaking down a card
When winter finally came,
Deciduous trees had
No more leaves on them
And birds went off away to try
and save the day
When all the Community had come back to stay
The Population wanted to play
And so then the animals were gone
Because of the Extinction song
The animals had come back home
To stay and see the Biomes dome
and watch the Consumers dig deep in the ground
until they didn’t make a sound
Many Organisms had come to produce
The things that now had gotten loose
And see the Photosynthesis grow
Into an area where it can flow
When I went outside to water plants,
I saw some Decomposers, which were ants
that were feeding on food on the ground
and a Producer was going round and round
The radio had been saying
that the Endangered Species were swaying
And the Food web
that was usually named Ted
The Species had been breeding and
Nibbling on many seedlings
to get ready for the long winter and go simmer
When I went back to school the next day,
I first went to the Energy Pyramid to play
and then go see how much the Food Chain
had gained and that is how Ecology got to be,
The story that we now can see and please!
— Anna Zuiker, May 2013
In between gardening and cooking and a dinner party and our first trip of the season to the swimming pool, I read The Great Gatsby.
It was my first time reading the novel (in my high school English classes, I got to design my own reading list, and chose other books, by Hesse, Malamud and others).
Now I can go see the movie.
A few weeks ago, The Story featured a fascinating interview with Charlie Haughey, who had been an Army photographer in the Vietnam War. Dick Gordon talked with him about the 2000 photo negatives that Haughey stored away for 45 years before a friend helped him digitize the images.
“When we got to 1726 photographs, I took them home, put them in my computer and put them on a 2-second delay and watched them all. And I literally didn’t sleep for three days,” said Haughey. Most of the images he was seeing for the first time since he’d taken the photos of his fellow soldiers.
Haughey had shown a couple hundred of his images to a room full of professional photographers in Portland. They were struck by the photos, and his stories of who the soldiers were, what they were doing and what had become of them. They volunteered to help him exhibit his images.
It’s a really good interview, worth the 37 minutes to listen.
As I listened to the interview that night in April (I was doing the dishes, but remembering my college hands in the darkroom fixer, watching an image set on the paper), I thought about my grandfather’s photos, black-and-white images of family and hunting trips and road travel across the United States, which my cousin, Jeff Nolan, scanned for the launch of Zuiker Chronicles Online in July 2000.
But I also thought about my Talk Story narrative variety show. I started that about a year ago, and one of my goals of that was to invite friends on stage to tell stories about their photos: Karyn Traphagen, David Thomas and Mary Driebeek were some who shared images and memories. Listening to the Haughey interview, I wondered what it would be like to ask people in the community to dig into their photo albums and boxes of slides, to find an image 25 or 40 or 50 years old, one that brought back memories and stories, and to share that with the rest of us. Could make for a really good show.
I was starting to plan the next Talk Story shows, for July and September, and figure out how to make that photos-of-your-past program happen. But, all the spring cleaning at home, and new discipline in my lifestyle (more rest, regular exercise and healthier diet), has me looking for ways to be more effective in my work and responsibilities. So, I’m going to scrap Talk Story. It’s a good idea, and it has been a good way for me to explore narrative in my 40s, but I need to focus on other things. Besides, I’ve learned that it takes skill, hard work and lots of practice to tell good stories and help others tell theirs. I can’t give Talk Story all it needs because my family, ScienceOnline, and others need my attention.
That’s not to say I’m giving up on storytelling. At work, I’m beginning to plan out the Voices of Medicine initiative (more about that collaboration, with Jeff Polish, soon), and I continue to attend The Monti and listen to The Story Collider and other story podcasts.
I also may dig into my own and my family’s image archives to see what stories are there. I tried once to start a Sunday evening photoblogging routine. Maybe I’ll start that up again.
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