Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Heart of It All

Also known as: Things I learned (or relearned) while spending the entire month of July, plus a few days in August, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Mistake on the Lake. Home Sweet Home.

It's seriously hot back there in the summer. Hot and humid. But not all the time. A corollary of this might be: there's a big difference between 82 degrees and 92 degrees.

It's also green. Alarmingly, freakishly, splendidly green! I've lived in San Francisco for the past 30 years, and by July the Bay Area is already starting to become dangerously dry and brown and way too much like a tinderbox. (This year, once again, it is literally just that, unfortunately.) During my month+ stay in Ohio I was constantly, delightedly amazed at the cacophony of flora—all the towering trees and fat bushes and mowed lawns and myriad other plants and flowers—most of it, but not all, green green green!

Speaking of flowers: people go to TOWN on their front yard landscaping, both with annuals and perennials, and the blooming riot of color is eye-popping.

Enough of plants for the time being. Back to the weather.

I (still) love the ominous feel that somehow precedes a big storm blowing in from the west or north or wherever. It's almost indescribable, the sense of it, but in the air nonetheless. Brought me back to my childhood days on Macauley Avenue, feeling this again.

Which leads to...I (still) love a rousing, violent, hair-raising thunderstorm! Experienced a couple while I was in town and once again was transported back to our childhood house; to the front porch where we'd huddle together and watch the lightening, thunder and rain from a (yup, that's right) rusty old metal glider. Fricassee of children, anyone?

Okay, what else?

For several years now, during my summer visits back home to Cleveland, I've lamented (have been alarmed by) the lack of fireflies, but this trip there seemed to be a much healthier population all around.

That said...There is perhaps no sight as lonely as the sight of one single plaintive firefly, calmly blinking its way about an otherwise flash-less yard, briefly lighting up the dark night.

That said...Fireflies are (still) absolutely enchanting.

After wearing them for 34 days straight (not the same pair, of course) I realize that I could probably live the rest of my life in Gramicci original G-shorts and be one happy man.

Food and drink, et al.

Cleveland has got some hip scene happening! With bagels and other foodstuffs, with beer, with farming, with restaurants, music, art and more.

Heinen's Grocery Stores. Cannot say enough good things about Heinen's Grocery Stores! The family owned company embraces local—produce, meat, fish, what have you—and/or organic, but not exclusively; they offer very good prepared foods in all departments, pretty much; the stores are clean; their customer service is spot the hell on; the wine department and vinous selection is a-okay; and every 3rd week of August they celebrate the New Mexico Hatch chili harvest by fire roasting up bushels and bushels of 'em in the parking lot in those big traditional metal drums. I love Heinen's.

I call this Imeldabob because I always forget/can't pronounce the name.
What I do know is that it's a traditional Turkish preparation of eggplant,
onion, pepper and tomato, and that I love it!.

I'm a sucker for anything Great Lakes Brewing Company produces (have been for 25 years), but a cold-ass can of Palesner from Platform Beer Co. (founded 2014) is my new favorite summertime suds.

GLBC rocks!

Ohio corn! When it's in season, there is no tastier. (Many equal, perhaps, but none finer.)

Ohio peaches, bitches!

Ohio mosquitos! I'd forgotten, but learned anew, what it's like to have one's ankles covered in pesky bites.

Okay. Not sure I learned anything from the following, but here you go.

I drank more beer (see above) during one month in Ohio than I have in the past six in California. And I used more paper towels during one month in Ohio than I have in, oh, I don't know...five, ten years in California?

I love kayaking. (And I still want to kayak the Cuyahoga River down in The Flats.)

Lorain lighthouse, see from a kayak on Lake Erie.

Speaking of the Cuyahoga River: the damn thing caught fire in 1969, almost 50 years ago, when, let's face it, a whole lot of polluted America might have easily done the same. So let's give it a rest, people.

Back to what I learned, what I already knew, and what I learn again every time I see my family.

How to make real and really delicious, intensely citric lemon curd. (I adore lemon curd.) How to make buttery, velvety caramel sauce. (First try, it was so easy!) How to fuck up caramel sauce. (Second try, not so much.) How to make a classic British custard tart. How to make Greek pastisio (the dish, as children, we called moussaka).

Lemon curd, served with oatmeal shortbread cookies.
So so good.

First attempt at traditional custard tarts.

Sunsets overlooking Lake Erie are consistently some of THE most spectacular in the world. Again and again and again. Period.

Both these pics, situation normal from my sister Anne's house in Lorain.

That's right: I drank iced tea, beer, and rosé.
Lots of all three. 

Thea, Molly, Anne and Susan: My sisters are in-fucking-credible! As mothers, daughters, wives, teachers, cooks, bakers, artists, professionals, human beings, women. (Did I miss anything?)

George and Georgene, aka mom and dad,
who started it all in Ohio, the heart of it all.

I'm sure there's more, but I'm also sure y'all have things to do.

Until next time, Ohio!
Peter J. Palmer