Archive for March, 2017

  • Blog
  • March 22nd, 2017

WONDERLAND

By Joel M. Vance

Maybe it’s paranoia but I keep having this feeling that I’m being watched. I don’t know how to explain it but even walking around the house I have a feeling that I’m under observation. Various appliances have begun whispering behind my back.
For example the other day I walked by our microwave. And a voice said, “no more American apple pie, enemy of the people! We have our eye on you. “
“What am I to do?” I exclaimed querulously. “I have to eat!”
“Not American food for you! Borscht only.”
It’s everywhere. I tried to open the car door with the remote key and a little voice spoke in a heavy European accent, “you go when we want you to. We know that you been writing to Congressman complaining about influential politicians and their oil deals with our friends. No more of that!” With that the car door clicked open and I popped in a CD of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. The CD player promptly spit it on the floor. I figured there was no reason to try Merle Haggard’s Okie from Muskogee.
According to Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s spokesperson for alternative fact, our appliances are spying on us. This may sound like science fiction or possibly mental illness, but Trump and Conway wouldn’t lie to us would they? She maintains that our microwave ovens actually are cameras, sending information probably directly to Democratic national headquarters. I do well to get my microwave to heat up leftover spaghetti, much less creating a photo album.
On the other hand, Just when I thought alternative truth could not get stranger than fiction, comes the news that a certain brand of vibrator has been transmitting user information back to the parent company. And here I thought that Kellyanne Conway was totally psychotic when it turns out that she’s just mostly psychotic. After all what is an ICBM except a gigantic vibrator with nuclear capabilities. Just look at the phallic shape of the thing? Is that accidental design, or purpose.
Even as we speak today, in a secret room in Pyongyang, North Korea, computer experts are huddled about a monitor reading the transmissions from the crotch of Donald Trump’s latest amorous acquisition. And all this time you thought it was Russia who was reading our most intimate secrets. The term “laptop computer” has taken on new significance for every computer geek in the world.
According to Donald Trump, well-known expert in the interception of delicate information, the culprit likely is a 400 pound man sitting on a bed somewhere. If that isn’t enough to creep out anyone, I don’t know what is. Even Kellyanne, as creepy as she is, likely would be bumfuzzled by that thought.
But then, who thought a serial bridegroom, a person who brags about his ability to grope women because he’s famous and can get away with anything, who lies as casually as most people get out of bed in the morning, could be elected the president of the United States?
Not to get even more literary, but a while back I compared today’s political situation to the land of Oz. But I’ve come to think of it more as the land down the rabbit hole into which little Alice fell. I visualized a tea party at the White House with Steve Bannon as the Mad Hatter, Betsy DeVos as the Dormouse, snoozing through cabinet meetings because, awake ,she has absolutely no idea what’s going on. The white rabbit could be any other cabinet member, continually dithering, running into each other in confusion, absolutely baffled by what their job entails. Conway of course would be the red Queen bellowing, “off with their heads!”
As for Trump himself I visualized him as the Cheshire cat, slyly vanishing into Trump Tower for yet another round of insane tweets. Or perhaps he is the slithy tove who gyred and gimbled in the wabe. Somehow the word ‘slithy” seems to sum up this slippery con man who holds the future of the country in his sweaty little fingers.
My candidate for Alice in this Trumpian Wonderland would be German Chancellor Angela Merkel who paid a courtesy visit to Trump Tower, a.k.a. the White House, and was treated like a losing contestant on Celebrity Apprentice. The sulky Trump glowered and was so rude that I expected him to serve her a state dinner consisting of a pickle and cheese sandwich on white bread accompanied by a diet Seven Up.
Ms. Merkel must’ve thought she was trapped in some sort of Teutonic nightmare, a grotesque scene out of the 1930s, Trump Tower as the Reischstag. She was surrounded by figures alarmingly reminiscent of figures from history books: Steve Bannon as the modern Hermann Goering, Sean Spicer as Joseph Goebbels reincarnated. I can imagine her murmuring sadly, “I thought we got over all that.” And over all a pudgy would be dictator who imagines himself ruler of the universe.
The clown president maintains that Germany and our other allies owe us ”vast sums” of money for all the good things we’ve done for them over the years. He treats the world as if it were another of his companies–and in fact, fumbled the word“ country” by calling it “company”, as if it were another of his failing ventures that he could do with what he does with all his failing ventures, refuse to pay his workers and then declare bankruptcy.
Speaking of owing money, when will the country wake up to the cost of maintaining the president and his family in the style to which they seem to feel they are entitled? The president has been on a golfing weekend 10 times in the first eight weeks of his presidency and, as I write, his entire family is on a skiing vacation in Aspen, Colorado, apparently at taxpayer expense. One estimate is that each of Trump’s golf outings costs an estimated half million dollars, and the ski junket for his outlandish family allegedly involves up to 100 Secret Service agents, none of whom is working for free.
Last night I ate at a local restaurant and in the middle of the crowded room at a table by himself was an old man, grumpy of face, grizzled of cheek wearing a ball cap with the word Trump prominent across the crown. I told my wife and son, “there sits what’s wrong with America today.” The old man glowered at his food as if he suspected it had been prepared by Democrats. Perhaps he was, in actuality, someone’s beloved grandfather, actually a kindly old gentleman suffused by love.
But I know the type. They are endemic to conservative middle America— narrow minded, bigoted, against government in any form, opposed to social progress, suspicious of and basically opposed to education, mean-spirited and gut level nasty. They voted for Donald Trump because he represents what they would like to be—powerful enough to stomp into the mud anyone who disagrees with them. They resent anyone who is not true blue American ,i.e .anyone who is not white, alt-right, and devoted to every word spoken by Rush Limbaugh.
I’ll bet the old son of a bitch didn’t even leave a tip.

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  • Blog
  • March 14th, 2017

BEST DATE EVER

By Joel M. Vance
She was slim and elegant, in a rust-colored knit dress. I mumbled and fumbled and imitated the vintage Mortimer Snerd. Her name was Marty Leist and she was a blind date, arranged by a friend.
She has been my wife for half a century and counting, but in the spring of 1956 she was a mystery package wrapped in a knit dress.
Her father was not around when I stopped to pick her up so I didn’t have to endure a paternal inquisition, feeling like a field mouse penned up with a red-tailed hawk. But her mother and I endured an awful minute or two making small talk, something that, in 1956, I was no better at than I would have been at explaining a massive military screwup to Gen. George Patton..
I’m sure Vangie, who would become a dubious mother-in-law, thought her daughter had, through a dreadful twist of fate, been linked for the evening with someone on work release from a school for the mentally challenged.
Marty drifted into their front room and I gulped because she shimmered. You’ve seen old black-and-white movies where they filmed the ingénue through a lens coated with Vaseline, giving the lady a hazy, shimmering glow? That’s the way Marty appeared to me. She seemed to float through the room, much as the vintage Glinda, the Good Witch of Oz.
Billie Burke, who played Glinda, had a distinctive voice and so did Marty. Marty’s voice was throaty, unlike that of so many girls of then and now who talk through their noses. I didn’t know right off if this was THE Girl of My Dreams, but she certainly was a waking moment of consequence.
I hadn’t seen or met her before the date. I went to Keytesville High School and she graduated from Macon High School. The only time the two schools had interacted was during a basketball game. Keytesville won. Marty was a cheerleader, but I hadn’t noticed her, concentrating instead on mind control over my coach so he would put me in the game.
He didn’t and the two teams went their separate ways.
Now it was four years later and Marty was a junior at the University of Missouri, majoring in education, and I was a senior, majoring in journalism. My parents had moved from Dalton, near Keytesville, to a log lodge just outside Macon after I graduated from high school.
I knew no one when I came home on weekends or during summer vacation. And I was entirely too shy to haunt Louie’s, which was the local soda fountain/hangout for my contemporaries. Louie’s featured a sliced pork sandwich called a Pig Hip which Marty fixes today, five decades later. Invariably it upsets my stomach–either an innocent physical reaction or a Freudian enteric.
Our house was across the road from the Macon Lake, a large reservoir holding both the town’s water supply and a bounty of bass and bluegills. So on weekends home I fished and fantasized about meeting the girl of my dreams. I didn’t know what that girl would look like or be like, but she had to be someone who could put up with my incredible gaucherie. I had a wealth of college knowledge, but my practical experience with life and love was at the day school level.
John Zollman was a college acquaintance who hailed from Macon. I complained that, being a recent émigré to Macon I didn’t know anyone and spent my weekends at home much as I spent them when I didn’t go home—alone and lonesome.
John got tired of my whining and said he knew a girl who maybe would go out with me since she’d recently broken up with her boyfriend or so he had heard. I slobbered on him like an eager puppy, begging him to set up a blind date for me. We could double date and I’d even provide the car (praying that my father would agree).
John returned from a weekend in Macon and said it was a done deal. I quizzed him about this girl he knew. “She’s really nice,” he said. That, of course, could mean anything from “She darns her own socks,” which was a chauvinistic euphemism of the times for a girl who was not attractive, to “She’s neat,” which did not mean she darned her own socks but that she was, in today’s lingo, a stone fox.
“She’s really nice” sounded encouraging, but not entirely reassuring. I wondered what John had told Marty about me: “I don’t think he darns his own socks.”
The timing was serendipity—Marty had been going with the same fellow for years. In that sense, I guess I was a rebound date. But then I was bouncing a bit myself from an infatuation with a girl from Oklahoma, whom I had met while at R.O.T.C. summer camp at Ft. Sill. She had recently sent me a letter announcing that while I was a really nice guy she didn’t love me and never would.
I didn’t really love her either I realized after a period of pouting. Rejection never is fun, even if it means the end of what was, at best, a casual relationship. And a long-range romance between a girl who didn’t love me and lived 600 miles away was doomed from the start. I could not woo her with my guitar and stock of sappy love ballads which, to that date, no girl had requested anyway.
Long-range romance seemed to be my specialty. I’d had a few dates with a cute girl before the end of my junior year, but she transferred to Southern Methodist University before the start of my senior year and that was the end of yet another short-term relationship. At least I knew my upcoming date with the Macon girl wouldn’t end with her being in some Southwestern state while I stayed in Missouri. Macon was 90 miles away, not 900. Although with no car home might as well have been 900 miles away most of the time.
I’d already written an unpublished novel or two, based on my vast knowledge of the human condition, and I fantasized that Martha Leist and I were like two strangers orphaned by a storm of love, adrift in a sea of uncertainty (and yes, that’s the goofy romanticism that I was prone to). We each were ready for new encounters (or I was—I couldn’t speak for her, at least until I’d met her).
So I buttoned my blue Sears and Roebuck oxford-cloth shirt with the button-down collars, tucked it into a pair of cords, pulled on a genuine imitation cashmere black v-neck sweater and slipped into blue suede shoes. They were shiny on the toes where the nap had worn smooth and I buffed ineffectually at them with a wire brush. I also buffed ineffectually at my crew cut which stuck up at odd angles, like a sheep sheared by a five-year-old. I was Joe College, home for a big date with a home town girl.
Who knew what the night would bring? In my mind was the hope that it would end in a thrash of passion, but the odds were against it. None of my other dates had. Still….
The culmination of most dates, at least in the mind of the boy, was to spend some time on a secluded country road “necking.” I’m not sure where that euphemism came from, since the neck was among the least important body parts involved, but that’s what we called it. “Kissy-face,” “swapping spit,” and “licky-face” were other unsavory descriptions of what usually was much kissing, accompanied by hand wrestling. It was a revelation to many boys, including me, that girls were far stronger than I thought they were. The tiniest slip of a maiden could arm wrestle a fairly hefty date to the mat if he tried to put his hands in unwanted places.
Double dating in the 1950s was a comparatively chaste affair. If you were the couple in the rear seat you had a certain measure of privacy, but in the front one of the couple was the driver which limited passion while the car was moving, and also there was the awareness that just behind you two people could see and hear everything you did.
Blessed was he who had a gearshift on the steering column because the floor shift was as large an impediment to lust as a chastity belt. A stalwart young lad’s aim was to inveigle his date to the back seat where, it was alleged, incredible events were possible. Of course if there already was a couple in the back seat that option was out.
Only once did I entice a girl into the back seat of the family Ford. She was a couple of years younger and I argued briefly with myself, the Good Angel snarling, “Cradle robber!” and the Bad Angel responding, “Shut up, you troublemaker!”
We parked on a gravel road somewhere north of Dalton, not far from her home, and I suggested a little drink. I had a half-pint of some really cheap whiskey, remembering Ogden Nash’s adage that “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” I took a little sip of the awful stuff, gagging slightly, my eyes watering, and offered the bottle to her.
She recoiled as if I were proffering a timber rattler and exclaimed, “No!” I thankfully put the bottle away since I would rather have swigged vinegar, and suggested we move to the back seat. To my utter amazement (and instant trepidation), she said, “Okay.”
Whatever the other advantages of a Ford, none was more apparent that night than its efficient heater. So wrapped up in my approach strategy was I that I didn’t realize the heater was spouting enough British Thermal Units to melt the polar ice cap. She was hot, all right, but not in the sexual sense. I think she just wanted to get away from the roaring furnace under the dashboard.
Since it was about 20 degrees outside we opted to clamber over the front seat back, as suave a maneuver as hawking up a loober during a religious moment of silence. She was wearing a prom dress that had about 75 yards of stiff crinoline under the long skirt so it rode up like sea foam on a tsunami.
There we were in the back seat and we looked at each other (I could barely see her over the tidal wave of crinoline), her at me with the apprehensive intensity of a jacklighted deer, me with a leer that was supposed to be reassuring, but probably came across as the rictus of someone with severe gastroenteritis. I slid closer to her, batting down the crinoline like someone fighting his way through a pickup load of cotton candy.
We kissed awkwardly and unsatisfyingly—both our lips were dry and it was like rubbing two sheets of sandpaper together. Enough foreplay I thought. Let’s go for the gold! I clawed at her bosom and she recoiled, batting my hand away. Moonlight lit her face enchantingly as she quavered, “Do you love me?”
She might as well have thrown a bucket of slops on me. Love? I barely knew her. My objectives were not the stuff of Milton, of Shakespeare’s sonnets, of Browning and Keats. More like Henry Miller, Anais Nin or maybe Mickey Spillane (the only one of the three I’d actually read).
“Well…er…ah…gosh!” I said articulately. “I mean I like you, but I have to be honest…I don’t love you…” Thinking about it these many years later I still wonder whether it would have made any difference had I told her I loved her beyond the stars, that we were destined to be one, etc.
But I told the truth and she said, “Take me home” and I did and that was our only date. On the way home I stopped and poured the whiskey out, shivering beside the idling Ford, while the winter stars glittered and the car radio played Patti Paige’s inane “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?”
The bottom line was that I did have to be honest because in that instant when I could have crossed the line between truth and fiction I realized that this was a girl I’d known and liked for a long time and I couldn’t deceive her.
On that first double date, with John Zollman and his girl friend there was no possibility of a back seat encounter, nor did I want one. In fact I was intimidated by this regal girl with a throaty voice. We went to a movie, which neither of us remembers today, then to s roadhouses where the college crowd (and the local rednecks, male and female) gathered, charmingly called the Moonwinx.
It was a quintessential Missouri roadhouses, parking lot crammed with cars, someone vomiting in the bushes at the edge of the lights, Webb Pierce lamenting lost roadhouse love on the jukebox, smoke so thick you could sell it for cotton candy, the roar of conversation.
Marty’s warm hip was nestled next to mine and the knit dress was soaking up stale cigarette smoke like a sponge. Kids I didn’t know came by and talked with Marty, John and Pat while I crouched uncomfortably in my corner of the booth. I knew that everyone there was comparing me with her ex-boyfriend, probably unfavorably. Thus is born paranoia.
I don’t know who suggested we leave, but it was a welcome idea, especially to me—I wanted to get away from those inquiring eyes. We breathed deeply of the fresh air outside. I drove by the lake to the log lodge where my parents had lived until they recently had moved to a tiny house a dozen miles away. I made an inane joke about running out of gas right in my driveway as I drifted to a stop beside the silent, dark house.
“Nobody home,” I said. “Actually my folks don’t live here anymore.” I gestured to a small outbuilding. “That’s where I used to write stories,” I said. I described the inside as if it were a writer’s den, but the actuality it was more like a wolverine’s den. I fiddled nervously with the radio.
There were murmurs from the back seat, rustling sounds as John and his date melded, and I gulped and took a deep breath. Charles Boyer would not be acting like Gomer Pyle. I swallowed again, leaned toward Marty and kissed her without touching anything but her lips. I remember that kiss as if it were yesterday.
Her lips were as soft as a down comforter on Christmas Eve and I inhaled a scent that, like fine wine hinted at summer and mint and love. Had Marty asked me at that moment, “Do you love me?” I would have exclaimed, “Hell, yes!”
But there was more to come before that happened.

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  • Blog
  • March 9th, 2017

LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF GOOSEBERRIES

By Joel M. Vance

Diet experts say sugar is bad for you–rots your teeth and makes you hyperactive–but if you don’t use plenty of sugar in a gooseberry pie, you’ll have a lip pucker that won’t relax for a week.
Gooseberry pie…it is the stuff of daydreams. Gooseberry pie with ice cream is what you don’t get where you go if you’re a sinner. Or maybe it is a sin, but what a sin! I love apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese, and cherry pie is what makes both Darlin’ Billy Boy and me salivate.
But gooseberry pie is in a class by itself. It is the Michael Jordan of berry pies. Gooseberry love runs in the family. My mother, who was from northern Wisconsin, was delighted to find that what she called “goozeberries” existed in the home country of her new husband, a Missouri farm boy.
But gooseberries are not the province of Wisconsin or Missouri alone—think Gooseberry Creek, a tributary of the Big Horn River, which lies mostly in Washakie and Hot Springs counties (one of Wyoming’s four elk herds is the Gooseberry). Chances are Native Americans pounded gooseberries along with dried meat and melted fat to make pemmican, an early version of today’s yuppie quick energy bar.
There are more than 60 species of gooseberry, covering every state. You’ll find gooseberries in almost every county in Wyoming and other Western states.
They make you pay for collecting them. The bushes are armed with spikes as keen as the point of a needle. You come home from a gooseberry gathering expedition with stinging fingers, looking as if you’d been arm wrestling with a bobcat. And they are not entirely good citizens—gooseberry can be a host for an invading Asian disease, pine blister rust, which can kill five-needle pine trees.
Among areas affected by the rust is Yellowstone National Park. Foresters have tried to control the disease by removing gooseberry bushes, but so far that hasn’t worked.
The state of Michigan actually classifies gooseberry as a noxious weed, which shows that the Taxonomy Police never ate gooseberry pie. Conversely, both Washington State and Wisconsin have varieties of gooseberry listed as threatened or endangered by the federal government. One man’s aggravation is another man’s pie….
Gooseberries are easily identified, even without geese around them (I’ve never seen a goose even close to a gooseberry bush). When I was a kid, everyone gathered greens. It was a ritual, partly social, partly necessity because no one had much money. You couldn’t afford to let any food get by. And spring greens were supposed to “clean you out.”
Back in the 1960s, the late Euell Gibbons was considered a genial nut by most, probably because of his Grape Nuts cereal commercials where he’d earnestly proclaim, in his red dirt Oklahoma accent, that “pahn cones ahr edibull y’know.”
But he revived interest in eating wild plants, an interest that, it seems to me, now has declined and needs reviving again. It’s a peculiar American trait to fight the land. We battle weeds and trees and brush and curse it as if it were nature’s plague instead of its bounty. In other cultures, hunter gatherers hunt and gather.
For every poison ivy in the wild, there is something we can feast on, either with our mouths or our eyes. And even poison ivy berries are an important wildlife food.
Realistically, we can’t live off wild things today. They’re merely a supplement to domestic food. But we shouldn’t dismiss or forget something that is free for the taking. If nothing else, gathering gooseberries on a sweltering day puts you back in touch with the land (and vice-versa).
And when you’re stabbed and scratched, bug-bit and overheated, you appreciate those tart berries in the bucket. You most appreciate what you work hardest for. There isn’t much work involved in picking out a few vegetables at the produce counter; it’s tougher to stumble through the woods after something to eat.
I know a man who loves a blackberry cobbler as he loves his family. Yet he cleared out a tangle of blackberry on his farm in the interests of neatness…and then bought tame blackberry bushes from a nursery. I’ve puzzled over that for years.
Virtually no one picks up hickory nuts, yet they are tasty and nutritious. They’re just hard to crack and pick. So what? If a hickory nut takes a little more work than a pecan or walnut, it’s worth it. Squirrels don’t mind and we shouldn’t either.
In the Southeast states persimmons are a wild bounty. Persimmon bread is excellent and a cold persimmon, eaten off the tree on a November hunting trip, is a sweet pause in the long day (everyone knows to wait until after frost to eat persimmons because if they aren’t fully ripe, they put a pucker on your mouth that makes you look as if you’d been kissing the business end of a working industrial vacuum cleaner). The only serious wild competitors for persimmons are opossums and there are more persimmons than possums.
Gooseberries are the earliest of the fruits because you pick them when they’re green. A ripe (purple) gooseberry is as bland and tasteless as a political speech.
Each wild edible has its peculiar pattern. A morel mushroom has a corncob pattern that catches the trained eye. But how often have you diligently searched for morels with no success, only to look down and find yourself standing in the middle of a patch? (And, yes, I know the answer is “Not nearly often enough.)
You don’t need to look for blackberries–they find you. If you’re in a patch substantial enough to provide cobbler material, you’ll know it by the scratches you suffer. Gooseberries are different. The bushes often are solitary. The usable berries are green like the rest of the plant, and they hide coyly beneath the leaves.
The bushes have a raggedy appearance that catches the experienced eye. They’re not an open-ground plant; they prefer woods. Not mature woods, either, because they’re an understory plant and mature woods have a sparse understory.
Once I gathered gooseberries in a dank thicket that swarmed with mosquitoes. They stabbed me here, they stabbed me there, they stabbed me everywhere. After the sharp skewer of the gooseberry thorns and the sweet prickle of the insects, I was as lumpy as a flophouse mattress.
Never have I enjoyed gooseberry pie more. Beyond the intrinsic goodness of the pie, there was the knowledge that I’d paid for it–not in cash, which is easily come-by and increasingly worthless each day, but in blood and hide and sweat and pain and itch.
Save for a few chickens and the occasional package of hamburger, our freezer is storehouse for the bounty of the land. I hunt what I eat and I eat what I hunt. Frozen game birds nestle beside packages of deer or berries and nuts. Everything in the freezer has its price, not in cash, but in effort.
It’s a truism that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Gooseberries may be free for the taking, but they have their price. Berry picking is hard work. You run the gauntlet of poison ivy, stinging nettle, briars and heat rash.
We, as a society, are insulated from the hard reality of the land–even some who till the land. Few anymore whack off the heads of their chickens and gut them, still hot from stolen life. They don’t stun a hog with a sledge and slit its throat. Instead, they call someone to haul the animal to market and it returns as neat packages, neatly labeled. No muss, no fuss.
It’s easy to dislike the gore of country life and imagine only the glamour when all you see is the glamour. Vibrant young couples in television commercials rise in the dawn, luxuriously sniffing robust coffee and it looks so romantic you want to sacrifice everything for a few acres where nature will shower you with her bounty.
No commercial husband or wife is shown scratched and sweating, perhaps speckled with blood or itching with bird lice that are fleeing the dead critter she is plucking. That’s disgusting.
The rise of animal rights and anti- hunting sentiment is an understandable outgrowth of our distance from real nature. It’s no wonder that animal rightists get all gooey over the sanctity of animal life. They’ve never known tooth-and-claw life and death and never will. It’s too harsh, too unsettling. Another axiom? No wild animal ever died in bed.
As much as the animal rightists deny it, we all are hunter-gatherers both by genetics and by tradition. We have canine teeth to rip flesh, but like our wild cousins, the bear and raccoon, we can eat almost anything, vegetable or animal.
Many have forgotten our heritage. If it isn’t pre-packaged, we are suspicious. Still, what we once were niggles at us. We grow gardens or stick potted herbs on the windowsill. It isn’t killing a deer for the table, nor even thrashing through a gooseberry patch with a rude bucket, but we still want to know that we can do for ourselves. And gardens are non-threatening. Lettuce doesn’t quiver when it dies.
Remember those greens-gathering outings of my childhood? When was the last time you saw a modern farm wife gathering edible greens? Now, if anything is gathered from the roadside, it is aluminum cans for recycling…so the gatherer can use the money to buy cans of spinach. We’re one long step removed from our roots, so far from them in fact that we can’t feel the lusty sap.
Set aside the gooseberry pie with ice cream (if you dare) and ponder the gooseberry as a symbol. Consider that the gooseberry is a tangible reminder of what we once were. It is of the land and, like nature, it is prickly.
Gooseberries are hard to deal with, but the rewards are worth the effort.
If you make that effort.
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GOOSEBERRY PIE
Wild harvest cookbooks are noticeably short on gooseberry pie recipes…except for one. My late friend Werner Nagel, a conservation pioneer, collected down home recipes 50 years ago and included two gooseberry pie recipes in Cy Littlebee’s Guide to Cooking Fish and Game (Missouri Department of Conservation, Box 180, Jefferson City MO 65102, $3.50)
You also can find 19,000 gooseberry pie citations by Googling, but here is my mother’s version from Cy Littlebee, tried, tested and savored often: Use 1 ½ cups sugar, 1/3 cup flour, ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Mix with 3 cups gooseberries. Pour berries into pastry-lined pie pan, dot with 1 ½ tablespoons butter. Cover with top crust. Bake 425 degrees 35 to 40 minutes.
And while that recipe calls for serving warm with cream, I’d opt for serving warm heaped with vanilla ice cream.
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