Last week I mentioned deluges in the title of my blog posting, and this week I have more drenching and storming in mind as I write. I always think of August as a rainy month, but this second half of August is outdoing itself, all monsoony, warm and dripping with lushness everywhere. Little frogs were hopping across the wet black pavement as I was driving down a country road today and my car smells damp because I've left the windows open several times recently and been caught out. The rain has come pouring in and getting things dried out hasn't been a very successful affair. I feel extra-foolish because this is a shared car. No fun for my co-owner to sit in a car that smells of damp underwear!!
I was dismayed yesterday morning when I awoke early, to realise that it's already that time of year, when the days aren't bright until after six. Yikes! The overcast sky didn't help of course, but it sure seemed dark and autumnal out at 5.45. I was up early because I had a dish to make for a potluck, and needed to be on the road by seven. The event? The all-day southern Ontario Sacred Harp singing at the Detweiler Meeting House, in Roseville, near Waterloo. Singers came from Michigan and Illinois, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, as well as from many parts of Ontario, so that we had over seventy-five people altogether. The sound was intense and wonderful, and the mood very buoyant.
I raced away early from the singing, dashing northward to a hand-fasting, a druidic wedding you might say, in Grey County. I got there in time, just, to find another group of about seventy people, this one also happy and full of good energy. We were garlanded with flowers and helped ourselves to a little food and drink in a big marquee tent, then we all walked up a grassy track across a green meadowy hill. From there the track led into an austerely beautiful pine forest, all vertical lines, with a cushiony pine-needled floor. We formed a circle in the forest and watched as the couple made vows and received blessings. A small fire was lit, we were smudged in all directions, and there were words about the power and generosity of the earth air, wind, rocks, trees... But as we watched the couple's vows, the trees started swaying high above and then suddenly the heavens opened and cold cold raindrops came pelting down on us. It took only moments to drench us through.
There was no point in rushing away, and there was something intimate, however odd it sounds, abut sharing the rain and cold together. So we didn't hurry. Instead we all walked in a straggling long line back up the track through the forest, chatting, laughing, shivering, across the big open green field, now windswept, wet and chilling, and back to the tent. I had dry clothes in the car; many others lived within twenty minutes' drive, so they headed home to change. The couple we had come to celebrate went into the farmhouse and changed into comfy warm clothing. When we all reassembled in the big dining tent, it was as happy survivors, who knew that none of us would forget our friends' wedding, our shared drenching, or the feeling of community we all shared. Druid magic? Perhaps so.
No-one seemed put out, or upset. No-one there had illusions that they were in charge of the weather. We'd put ourselves in the hands of mother nature and she'd spoken, reminding us to enjoy things as they come. And we did!
On the food front:
For the wedding potluck, Philly made a pair of small round loaves that were purple-red, and each decorated with a large heart on top. The bread, flavored with roasted beets and a little honey, was hauntingly delicious. She's passed on the recipe. I'll post it if anyone is interested... Meantime, here is a link to the recipe that she started with (and adapted): http://www.cookingbread.com/classes/class_roasted_beet_bread.html
At the singing there was an amazing pie-like cake, layers of grated apple separated by tender crust. The man who made it said the recipe came from a newspaper and that the writer had said it was from his?her? Polish grandmother. It's very easy-sounding, and short, so here it is, roughly as he told me. I haven't yet made it myself: 3 pounds of grated apple; one cup each flour, non-instant cream of wheat, and white sugar; one teaspoon baking soda; and butter for the spring-form pan and to be dotted on top. Mix all the dry ingredients together. One third of the dries go in the bottom, then half the apples, and repeat and then the last third of the dries on top, then dotted butter. Bake at 350 for an hour, and cover for the first half-hour of baking, then uncover so it browns a little on top. The moisture in the apples wets the dries (and I guess the covering is to prevent moisture escaping as it all heats up and steam-cooks). It was not very sweet, simple and delicious, very tender, and felt like another take on the SImplest Apple Cake that is in Home Baking. That recipe is from a good friend, whose mother, a survivor from eastern Poland, used to make it with an incomparably light hand.
I gathered more fennel pollen late last week from the gone-wild black fennel plants in the back yard. it was for a friend who had found very fresh scallops at the market. We cut them in half, tossed them with a little olive oil and salt and the fennel pollen, so they had a speckling of green-yellow, and then ate them, just like that.