Saturday, July 3, 2010

grape vines, grape leaves

I bought eight pounds of cucumbers from a Hadley farmer this morning to make two gallons of half sour pickles.  That was the easy part.  Cucumbers are everywhere nowadays, and they're cheap.  Grape leaves, on the other hand, can be somewhat harder to track down.  Today, my hunt for grape leaves led me to the backyard of a burnt down house.  

My day did not start off well.  I hunted around for cucumbers (not that hard to do) and grapes leaves to rebuild myself.  Like I said, cucumbers are easy to find nowadays, but so are grape leaves.  I lied when I said they were somewhat harder to find.  All you need to do is knock on a few doors.  That's what I told myself this afternoon when my car's electricity failed and I stalled on Damon Road with eight pounds of Hadley cucumbers in my passenger seat.  I was headed for a known source for grape leaves, but when my car died and I rolled to a stop in front of the doll house store, I decided to go directly home.  

First I tried my neighbor, Ed, but he doesn't have grapes (I found out), and he'd seen an arbor recently, but he couldn't place it.  Then I headed down the street to talk to the woman who gave me half a dozen fresh eggs and a bunch of composted chicken shit in exchange for a wheel barrow load of black dirt.  I banged on her door and she answered, somewhat sweaty, hairy pits gleaming, but very friendly and very useful.  I cannot remember her name!  But she told me that I could find an arbor on Union Street behind the burned down house.  I asked her for the address and she said, "It's the burned down house, you can't miss it."  She said that the neighbors watch the lot and that, if they saw me poking around, I should tell them a friend of a friend told me I could find grape leaves here.  Nobody saw me, but I saw the boarded up windows and the charred porch.  I also found a treasure trove of grape leaves.

So there is something to be said about grape vines and neighbors and gossip.  If you have ever seen a grape vine growing, you already know something.  There is a reason why they say "I heard it through the grape vine."  Grape vines grow along fences, and once they are established they grow vigorously, so that the stock of the vine might be located in the backyard of, say, 15 Vine Street, while the tips of the farthest reaching vines may be located along the fence in the backyards of 13 and 17 Vine.  You get the picture: the vines travel.  They travel and they also give a chain-link fence the illusion of privacy by covering it in a welter of dark green leaves.  What once you could see through as clearly as a piece of Waterford crystal is now totally opaque!  You couldn't see a school bus if one was parked on the other side of a healthy arbor.  You couldn't see it, but you could certainly hear its engine; and if anybody were to say something about you or another person, well, you wouldn't be able to see them either, but chances are, on a still day, you could probably hear every gossipy word.  

P.S. the top photo shows all the fresh ingredients one needs to make great half sour pickles.  It shows dill, fresh coriander, shallots, garlic, hot peppers, cukes and grape leaves (grape leaves act as a firming agent).  The only missing ingredients are bay leaves, black peppercorns, water and, of course, salt.  



Dara said...

Thanks for the story. I'm almost on the case of pints and quarts. I broke a piece of Waterford crystal Thursday night. Live vines in yards with burnt out houses seem to be remarkably apparent.

tussin78 said...

I live off Vine street in Los Ang. One of my weird "uppity" friends would always talk shit about the street, and neighborhood, but then he fucked this chick without a rubber, got her pregnant eventually, decided to marry her, went on the honey moom, had the kid, and lived with her for a few months and then got divorced and moved into my building. He's on the fourth floor. I liked the old type of people during old scenes in the city better. The things we did were more fun; now I go visit some people on a sunday and there's baby shit laying around. I love the yuppies that aren't really so, and write about it in stories. I like how they are "on top of the world" when they have more cash than I do, but then they "slip down the slope," it's funny. Funny thing about money, it seems to get spent every single day; there's no way around it, unless you have a garden maybe. Or can make your own baby strollers: with an apparatus in a garage, or your friend's garage. It's hard to be a yuppie, and most people just aren't, especially now.