I wish I could tell you there has been little excitement afoot and therefore, I have had no reason to bounce about my part-time neighborhood like a cleaning, landscaping, entertaining butterfly. But one thing, in the world of a feverent and slightly neurotic hostess, always leads to another and there is forever another moment when I am in grave jeopardy of going from The Hostess to That Hostess.
It has happened again. Look, I am no pretender to Martha's throne. I set out to tell you the way it really is in gracious homes. And I think you understand now, between my lectures and the kind interludes of The Dashing Host from over by the blender, that it is a lot more ironic, preposterous, boozy, and amusing than Martha has allowed you to believe. I hope you can actually see the enormity of the potential silliness in the domestic operation of a well-appointed home. I hope all that helps you, in some small way, to appreciate what happened Friday afternoon and not to hold it against me. This blog occurs with a purity of soul, and it is that same purity which helps to me be a good, if somewhat focused and inadvertent, neighbor.
For sometime I have been grousing about the condition of lawns. Not to you, but in general, you see. Weedy, over-grown, senselessly marginalized pieces of greenspace are on my list of most aggravating visual circumstances. Indeed, right here in our fine neighborhood, we have one of those crazy houses which looks not unlike a modern adaptation on the haunted houses of old black and white movies: Only sparse patches of grass here and there and always untamed dot a small yard which once held careful plantings inside borders, all of which the earth is reclaiming at an alarming rate. This ratty space is punctuated with the occasional shrub allowed to roam out of control into bushy masses the landscaping equivalent of Rorschach figures. If I were the one to whom this landscape test is being administered, I would guess the full effect of the yard was meant to be an abstract comment on one person's best guess at what the garden in front of Satan's house looks like: Welcome to hell, ya'll.
My landscaper and I have been focused on this den of yard-keeping iniquity for a while now. We stand on my lawn, talk about the health of the grass and eventually our glances stray towards that yard across the way. We speculate on how things go down hill, "Something must be going on, keeping them from it." He says. "I hope she's alright," I say, assuming the young lady of the house must be in significant distress to allow the yard to creep into devilishness that way. I make a mental note to offer to help if I see her about and hop back to the window washing. That pattern continued for a couple of weeks. Until Friday.
It was then that I was getting the baby into the car to buzz over to the beach when, with no warning what-so-ever a woman (tall, comely, not unpleasant to behold) walked with great determination up the drive. Down on the road, a white truck followed her from drive to drive. I assumed, with great annoyance, that she was soliciting for my money or soul, neither of which is welcome here, on Friday or any other day.
She was not; she was a reporter from the evening news she said and showed me her identification. I asked what I could do for her. "Just wondering," she said with some tentative ring to her voice, "if you wanted to comment for the news on your neighbor being arrested?"
"Good Lord!" I exclaimed. Mostly, because I am from Bedford and people go up for white collar tax crimes there left and right but it would be tasteless to get hauled in on a real criminal matter. Unacceptable! I thought to myself. "Who was arrested?"
She gave the name and then pointed at the home. The House of Satan's Fern Garden.
"Oh!" I exclaimed once again and before I was able to stop myself, "I just wish she would mow her lawn!" tumbled past my teeth and out into the air.
My first concern should have been for whomever the devil-gardening thief had victimized now! I should certainly have been a bit less focused on her lack of home-keeping and hostessing abilities and exercised a bit more empathetic and civil mindfulness. Not the case, I am afraid.
Indeed, I leapt into the car and began calling everyone. Relived, on the one hand, that the aesthetic offender was identified and quickly rounded up into lock up where she hopefully will not be the one charged with tending the prison's kitchen garden. And disturbed on the second hand, after all, now what was to become of that unyielding patch of horticultural agony?
Oh, dear. It was not until much later in the day that I discovered what the indictments are for. They have nothing to do with gardening (the Homeowner's Association seemingly having a good deal less pull with the local law-making bodies than I assumed).
It is so much like Bedford here in so many comforting ways. Dealings with the law can still be just as civilized. Why, I can hear Dori's voice ringing now, "Federal agents executing a warrant next door. I'll get the cocktails!"
Here is a heart healthy salad (for the bloggers at Heart of the Matter) to go with crow, if you happen to be dining on the same meal I am:
Fresh Field Pea and Brown Rice Salad with Chile Pasilla Vinaigrette
For the salad:
3 cups fresh field peas
4 cups water 2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 cup cojita cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
In a wide deep skillet over medium heat,, place field peas and water. Season with salt and pepper, and cover. Cook about half an hour or until peas are softened when tasted. Drain the mixture off in a colander with small holes or a large strainer. Place in your serving bowl, toss with cooked brown rice and crumbled cojita cheese.
For the Chile Pasilla Vinaigrette:
1 dried chile pasilla, soaked in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon oregano
6 juniper berries, crushed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Remove the stem and seeds of the chile. Chop the chile roughly and place in the small bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic, oregano, juniper berries and pulse until combined and only a few small pieces remain. Add the vinegar and mustard and process again until the mixture is smooth. Add the honey and quickly pulse to combine. Taste, add more honey to your taste and season with salt and pepper.
To assemble: Pour the vinaigrette over the tossed salad and combine. Serve warm or, even better, chilled. Garnish with a bit more crumbled cojita and fresh oregano.