"Please enjoy these fresh pickles. Your food will be out shortly," the server said as she placed a plate of cucumber slices in front of us. They were sprinkled with dill weed and had a nice crunch. I was in a restaurant in another state, and the somewhat sweet yet vinegary flavor and crisp texture made me nostalgic for home. The pickles were very tasty and soon the serving plate was empty.
In the past few weeks, I fielded questions for some of our North Dakota Extension agents while they took well-earned annual leave. I learned a lot about what people do as they harvest their bountiful garden produce. As the questions reached my office, I also began exploring the internet to see what was being shared by blogs, Pinterest, Facebook and websites. Some of the questions and information I found online surprised me. Some frightened me. Some of my callers had found their information on questionable sites.
"Make sure your seat belts are buckled and all carry-ons are properly stowed," the flight attendant said. I pushed my purse under the seat with my foot, cinched my seat belt and settled in by the window. Then I realized that my reading materials also were properly stowed in the overhead bin, which was closed.
"My brother cleaned out his refrigerator after listening to you," my husband told me. "What do you mean?" I responded. My brother-in-law lives in California. I didn't remember being "the bossy sister-in-law" or food police lately. "He was listening to a radio program streamed on the internet this morning," my husband responded. "You were talking to a local station about how long food can be stored in the refrigerator." Sometimes I forget what a technological world we inhabit.
As I examined the maturing produce in our garden, I decided not to harvest any onions. Although the stems were sturdy and green, the onion bulbs were fairly small. Young onions are tasty, but I gave them the opportunity to grow. Whenever I look at onions growing in our garden, I remember "the year of the onions" when I was a kid. My parents must have gotten a good deal on onion sets that year. More likely, the weather conditions were just right for a bumper crop.
"We're going to have cold soup," I said to my older daughter and husband. We were in our kitchen talking about the upcoming evening meal. "Gross," my daughter remarked. She likes soup but expects it to be hot. I gathered tomatoes, red and green peppers, celery, an onion, a lemon and a cucumber, along with two cutting boards and two knives. I began rinsing all the produce under cool water. "I suppose we will be eating this for a week," my husband grumbled as he noted the lineup of colorful produce on the cutting boards.
"Mom, there's a cucumber," my daughter noted. "Here's another one and another one." I was a little surprised at her comment because I hadn't planted any cucumbers. I had planted the prolific cousin of the cucumber. You definitely can see the family resemblance when they are hiding under some foliage. "They're zucchini," I said. "And here's another one."
"Mongoose tracks," read the text from my 14-year-old daughter. "OK," I texted back. I knew exactly what her text message meant. No, we didn't have a furry critter leaving tracks in our backyard. I would have been calling an animal control agency if that were the case. The text meant she wanted me to stop at the grocery store for her favorite ice cream, which she has nicknamed. It's chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks. Do you think she has a favorite flavor?
The other day I was at my desk at work, talking to my computer screen, but I wasn't just being the "absent-minded professor." I actually had an audience sitting in a room across the state. Grilling fruits and vegetables was the topic of my webinar. I mentioned grilling watermelon to the audience because I had read the morning newspaper. Coincidentally, a local writing duo had featured grilled watermelon in their column. My listeners became very interested in grilled watermelon. They wanted details.
I remember the picnics of my youth. I looked forward to visiting a picnic site at a lake or state park. Preparing all the food, loading the food in coolers and packing the lawn chairs in the trunk was part of the adventure. As a little girl, I thought that picnics required blankets, so I usually grabbed one and stuffed it in the trunk. When the ants found me on the blanket at the picnic site, I retreated to one of the lounger lawn chairs with green strapping. If you sat incorrectly, the lawn chair collapsed and swallowed you in its jaws like a large, green alligator.