Cooking in Transition

Go-to Summer Meal – Sliced tomato, toasted whole grain bread, basil pesto , salt and pepper.

Our family cuisine is in transition. I’m hopeful for positive new menu items as summer turns to fall.

My spring diagnosis of high blood sugar brought changes. Through behavior modification I’ve been able to reduce key indicators and hope to continue to do so until the physician takes back his diagnosis of diabetes. At the interim check on Aug. 19, I was well on my way — solely by cutting the quantity of carbohydrates and exercising more.

Most nights it’s easy to get a meal ready for dinner. Our repertory includes easy and complex dishes which satisfy if done right. I prepare dinner for both of us four or five nights a week and we are on our own for breakfast, lunch and snacks. It works.

The cuisine we developed in Big Grove focused on techniques to use readily available ingredients to make repeatable dishes. We regularly eat pasta, pizza, macaroni and cheese, bread, chili, soup, casseroles, toppings with rice, and manufactured non-meat burger patties. Fresh and frozen vegetables are basic. Fruit is seasonal and desserts infrequently made or purchased. To meet a carbohydrate budget, I’ve had to regulate and mostly reduce portion size of these staple dishes. When I make a batch, I use a scale. Dishes last longer with leftovers for the next day or two.

When the garden comes in vegetables dominate the plate. Tomatoes are a favorite and we have fresh with most meals while they last. When lettuce comes in we make big salads for dinner. For the time being, I don’t bake bread very often, eschew meat and meat products, and use only a few manufactured products for their ease and serviceability within the context of our cuisine.

I’ve been cooking since I left home, although some of the dishes I prepared in the 1970s were hardly edible. My main cooking lessons began during a long assignment in South Georgia where I worked long days and crashed in the motel where Food Network was daily relaxation fare. The televised repetition of technique by multiple chefs helped me determine how they would fit in dishes I made. Every cook needs basic lessons in technique.

With the challenge of high blood sugar a new cuisine is in the works. Even if I beat the disease, permanent changes are required to prevent recurrence. Part of our aging in place will include development of a simple process to meet dietary needs in a tasty, efficient matter — focused increasingly on ingredients we produce or source locally.

My go-to recipes are memorized or written in a red spiral-bound notebook I bought on vacation in Stratford, Ontario. My go-to cook books are Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Joy of Cooking by Marion Rombauer Becker, and a couple of others

Part of this means downsizing my collection of a couple hundred cook books. There is a lot of good stuff there, although a lot of repetition as well. Over the years I’ve been enthusiastic about certain chefs — Child and Rombauer Becker, Rick Bayless, Mario Batali, Giada De Laurentiis, Tamar Adler and, of course, my mother and grandmother. I’m hoping to find new inspiration in Anthony Bourdain, José Andrés, Sally Schneider and Nigella Lawson. In any case, the result I envision is a new repertory of about 25 main course recipes that have predictable nutritional value and can be made with mostly local ingredients. I also hope to learn new ways to prepare vegetables.

During the first seven months of 2019 we spent $124 on restaurant meals. I have a gift certificate to a highly acclaimed restaurant I won at a raffle last fall stuck to the refrigerator with no plans to use. Eating at home has been and will continue to be our focus.

Change is frequently unwelcome. In this case change is driven by health concerns about which I feel compelled to act. I expect it to be a good fall and winter sorting this out.

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Glorious Summer of 2019

Cherry Tomatoes

If August was a tough month, this summer has been one of the best in recent years.

Moderate local temperatures with reasonable relative humidity, rain enough to help the garden grow, and friends meeting the challenge of growing flowers and vegetables in a changing climate, all helped us feel comfortable.

July was notable for being the hottest month for the planet since record-keeping began, according to the U.S. government. Regional variation made Iowa tolerable, perhaps a harbinger of the impact of humans living on the planet continues its steady deterioration of our biome.

Despite favorable weather it was hard to get off the starting blocks in August on scores of projects needing attention.

It will soon be time to turn the page.

For the time being I’m eating cherry tomatoes and enjoying the last weeks of this glorious summer.

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Juke Box – Wide Open Spaces

I’m going on hiatus from this blog until after Sept. 9. In the meanwhile, here’s one of the songs we chose for Mom’s funeral. Hope to see you mid-September.

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Trying on T-shirts

Trying on t-shirts

It’s been hard to figure if I should campaign for a Democrat for president before the February caucuses or whether I should remain neutral until the last minute to help our Big Grove precinct caucus go more smoothly.

Based on previous caucuses when there was a presidential preference, the precinct will not be close in 2020. Obama was a clear win in 2008, and in 2016 we had enough extra Hillary Clinton supporters to send a delegation over to Martin O’Malley’s group to make them viable and deprive Bernie Sanders of an extra delegate. At the convention, the O’Malley delegate came over to Clinton after the candidate dropped out of the race.

2008 got a bit ugly. I was the John Edwards precinct captain and was asked to be caucus secretary as I was in 2004. Throughout the difficult body counts and recounts people got impatient and things got a little heated and personal. It is a case for the temporary chair not to identify for a candidate until the last possible moment.

There is the issue of the work. In 2016 Team Clinton door-knocked and phone-called before the caucus like there was no tomorrow, hitting every part of our area, in cities and rural areas equally. I no longer do much of this work outside my own precinct but want to help. If I wait to declare, I’ll help a campaign in other ways.

In the run-up to the 2020 caucus most of the 20 or so candidates don’t have the management structure to canvass the way we did for Hillary. If we pick someone to support without adequate campaign infrastructure we’ll be on our own. That was the case in 2008 when hardly anyone caucused for Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd or Joe Biden. Between them there were about eight people in a caucus of 268 Democratic voters.

Local politics aside, I have been trying on t-shirts… it seems pretty clear Elizabeth Warren will be my pick if I do declare before the night of the caucus. Here’s my run-down of the field. Nota Bene: I will work hard and unconditionally to elect the eventual Democratic nominee regardless of who it is.

Based on Iowa polling, and according to 538.com, there are currently only five possible candidates who could win first place in the delegate count: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. If they had a breakthrough, which is possible this early in the cycle, Corey Booker, Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke or Tom Steyer might be contenders for viability. My hunch is the first five could be viable and the top delegate getter will be one of them.

Narrowing it down, here’s where I land on the five most likely to be viable candidates in February 2020:

One knows there is trouble when Joe Biden’s campaign is weighing whether to scale back his public schedule so he won’t make so many gaffes. He is past his prime and every minute he stays in the race, he blocks others from advancing. I look around my precinct and don’t know who, except the 3-4 people who caucused for him in 2008, might do so now. One of the 2008 group died.

I like Pete Buttigieg but don’t feel he has the right kind of experience to be president. I heard him speak twice in person and each time I marveled at his oratory, but felt empty when he finished. He is clearly an up and comer in Democratic politics and his generational message is important. Sorry Pete, not this time unless you win the nomination.

Kamala Harris is the only one I haven’t heard speak in person. When she came to Iowa her campaign exhibited tremendous energy, of the kind one expects from a presidential campaign. She hasn’t been to Iowa that much. Friends of mine are ardent supporters and that matters in the caucuses. I have a few things to investigate, particularly her idea of privatizing Medicare, but specific policies don’t matter as much as the whole package. She gets positive marks for having won the U.S. Senate in the most populous state in the nation. I have no doubt she could scale her campaign to win the primary.

I haven’t liked Sanders since I met him in 2014. He’s more liberal than most and his policy positions haven’t changed much since he entered politics. I like some of his policy positions. We just didn’t click when we shook hands as he stumped for Bruce Braley. I also don’t see enough support as people who caucused for him in 2016 are finding their way to other campaigns this cycle.

That leaves Elizabeth Warren. I’ve been following her since she was elected from Massachusetts to the U.S. Senate. If she had run for president in 2016 I would have supported her. While concerned about a 70 year-old white woman president, her performance in Tipton allayed my concerns. She has a lot of policy statements and that matters little or not at all. I’ve watched her in the Senate and she supports legislation with which I mostly agree. Is the United States ready to elect its first female president? I have my doubts, but may be willing to throw in with Warren and try it again.

I’m trying on t-shirts, but the only one I bought has Warren’s name on it. If I declare, I’ll do it shortly after Labor Day. What I’ve found this cycle is there aren’t as many choices for president as it appears.

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Starting Again

Canning Plum Tomatoes

Out of the ashes of lives past we are reborn.

With last Thursday’s death of Mother, as well as that of our friend Lillian Davis, life continues. As we linger around funeral arrangements and schedules, phone calls and meet ups, emails and social media posts, something positive is on the horizon if we can only see it.

Like the single concertina note that begins the David Merrick musical Carnival! it’s familiar and quickly to be accompanied by other instruments. We are uncertain where it will go, but only for a few moments, and then we’ll get swept up in, “Direct from Vienna…”

Warehouse work occupied my last shift at the home, farm and auto supply store on Wednesday. We prepare for the holiday retail season and new merchandise arrives daily. There were trucks to unload, inbound shipments to process, and on line orders to fill. Our store is doing reasonably well compared to our daily goals, although a large-scale competitor is building a new store nearby. Fleet Farm expects to extract $2 million per week in revenue from the area. Our sales and those of others may take a hit. At the end of the year I’ll assess whether to continue there in 2020.

The orchard didn’t need me yesterday because of thunderstorms in the forecast. I used the time to work on funeral arrangements, then we went to the visitation for Lillian. Her children, who were in 4-H with our daughter, are grown and handled themselves well in a tough situation. Lillian would have been proud of them.

Summer plans have been scrambled. To get away from the death reminders I canned the ripe plum tomatoes yesterday. There will be more. I see a physician today and hope to develop next steps to control my glucose levels without medication. Jacque and I have plans to start cleaning the house and downsizing, a process that will go on for a few months. There is more to life than these existential errands.

We do what we can, hoping for the best, and try to make positive contributions in a fractured and turbulent society.

Or as the character Yoda said in the Star Wars movies, “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.” We can do better.

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Lorraine Anne Deaton

Lorraine Deaton at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Mother died at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15. I wrote this obituary for the newspaper with input from my sister. Here is a link to the funeral home site with details about the service.

Lorraine Anne (Jabus) Deaton, 90, died Thursday, Aug. 15, at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport.

Born at home on July 28, 1929 near LaSalle, Ill., Lorraine moved with her family to Davenport where her mother joined several sisters at a coat-making plant supporting the World War II effort. She graduated from Davenport High School, and then worked briefly for the telephone company where she established relationships with people who would become life-long friends.

Family relationships remained an important part of her life. Family included her husband, brothers and sisters, in-laws, three children, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins, many of whom lived in the Quad-Cities Area.

She married Jack H. Deaton from Glamorgan, Va. in 1951 at Holy Family Catholic Church, eventually settling in Northwest Davenport where they established a home. She was active in the church where she participated in community organizations and worked in the school lunch program. She was particularly proud of her volunteer work with the Girl Scouts where she mentored many young girls.

After her husband died in an industrial accident on Feb. 1, 1969, she found work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She made a career at the Corps, retiring in 1990 as Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for the Rock Island District. While there she was named Woman of the Year.

In retirement Lorraine remained active in the community. Among other volunteer positions, in recent years she worked at the public library where she helped staff the used book store.

Lorraine Deaton was preceded in death by her husband; her parents, Mae (Nadolski) Jabus and William Dziabas; sisters Winifred Plantan (Hank) and Catherine Nash (Vince); and brothers Richard Robbins (Dorothy) and William Jabus (Marilyn).

Survivors include son Paul Deaton (Jacqueline) of Solon, daughter Patricia Deaton and son Jack Deaton Jr., both of Davenport, and a granddaughter Elizabeth Deaton of Orlando, Fla.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a local Girl Scout troop or Girl Scouts of America at https://www.girlscouts.org/en/adults/donate.html

Funeral service was Monday, Sept. 9, at Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home, with interment at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Davenport.

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Tomatoes on Everything!

Slicers, plum, paste, cherry and grape tomatoes.

The 2019 tomato harvest has begun.

We have fresh tomatoes with every meal, for snacks, and with everything.

We aren’t sick of them yet and work to preserve some of them is imminent. There’s a lot going on in the kitchen garden this August.

Sweet corn is in. Our local farm has had a spotty year, yet we’ve been able to freeze enough two-cup bags to make it until next year. Last night for dinner we had corn on the cob with sliced tomatoes — a classic summer combination.

First up in tomato preservation is to make a dozen pints of diced. This, combined with a backlog from previous years is enough to run the kitchen. I’ll also make as much tomato sauce as I can. Last year I froze it and that worked well. The freezer is filling up already so I may have to can some of it this year. Last year I froze small tomatoes whole and used them during the year to make sauce. I may try canning them whole to supplement the diced.

Yesterday I picked about two bushels of the first apples. A lot more wait on the trees. Our early apple is sweet and makes a great base for apple cider vinegar. I make a couple of gallons each year and the jars to do so are empty and just need cleaning. Our cupboard remains full of apple butter and apple sauce, so maybe a few jars of each is all I’ll make this year. They are good for out of hand eating as well. I’ll need to find a home for some of them or leave them to wildlife.

I froze enough kale for the year early in the season. What I harvest the rest of the year will be to give away or eat fresh. There is enough vegetable broth for the year, frozen jars of pesto, frozen okra, frozen celery, grated and frozen zucchini,  and the hot peppers are beginning to come in. It’s been a good year so far.

The garden didn’t produce green beans. The plants look healthy and there have been flowers. Almost no beans have been produced.

The variety of red beans planted needs to climb and I thought they were bush beans. There are bean pods forming, so there will be some harvest. Next year they need a fence to climb on, if I plant them again. I planted beans mostly to fix nitrogen in the soil.

It seems like there can never be enough beets. I started some in trays and those fared much better than the ones sown in the ground. Will do more of that next year. For now I have one jar of pickled beets to last the year.

The tomato and apple harvest signal the garden’s impending end. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we enjoy the taste of fresh tomatoes as much as anything we grow.

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