Archive for May, 2012

The start of the summer

May 28, 2012

My summer has begun. Classes are over, meetings are done, graduation is past. I am on vacation. E., I’m sad to say, has a few weeks still to go. This means I’m spending a lot of time at home alone.

I’m trying to get some things done in my solitary days. I have a translation project that I’m working on for publication (Horace’s Satire 1.5, about a journey from Rome to Brindisium, for a volume on travelers’ tales as historical sources) and I’m starting to plan my courses for the fall.

There are also things to do around the house. We got our septic tank pumped for the first time last week. That went smoothly and everything looks good. Earlier we marked some small trees at the edge of our back yard to cut down and I’ve been working on taking them down and chopping them for firewood.

Since Rock Pond got too cold to swim in at the end of last fall I’ve been swimming at the YMCA in Ipswich. Now that the weather is warming up, I’ve started swimming in the pond again. The normal routine that I do in the pool is just about the same distance as swimming down to the far end of the pond and back, so it’s been a pretty easy transition. Although I miss the clarity of the pool water, the convenient shower facilities, and the ability to pause pretty much any time I need to, there’s still nothing to beat swimming in a lake under the open sky.

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A rangers’ dinner in the wild

May 14, 2012

“’There is food in the wild,’ said Strider; ‘berry, root, and herb; and I have some skill as a hunter at need.’”

Because of general busy-ness, last month’s Lord of the Rings dinner got delayed to this month, but here it is: a dinner in the wild.

Cooking over a wood fire

I decided to be a little more authentic with this one and did all the cooking over an actual fire (in the fireplace; the day was too wet for cooking outside). It made the process a bit messier and more complicated than stove cooking, but the wood smoke added to the flavor of the food and was well worth it.

Roasted Cornish hen on greens

Our current grocery store has a good selection of meats, but alas they had no true game birds, so I settled for Cornish hens as a small and somewhat uncommon fowl. I cooked the birds with a mix of finely chopped root vegetables– onion, potato, carrot, and turnip. The hens were stuffed with scallion, sage, and rosemary and basted with white wine and honey. I did the cooking in a cast-iron pan (a “spider” to those who know that term) with the vegetables on the bottom and the fowl on top, so that the juices and flavors all mixed. I served the birds on a bed of greens and herbs with the root vegetables and pan drippings spread over them as a sauce.

Roasted fowl on greens and herbs with root vegetables

For dessert we had a mix of berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries) with mint leaves. Altogether it was a bit of a fancier meal than a party of rangers travelling rough in the wild would be likely to assemble, but it was all made up of the components mentioned by Strider– berry, root, herb, and game– and prepared on an open fire. The result was delicious and made me feel very proud of my efforts.

Berries and mint

Previous LotR dinners:

January, A long-expected party

February, Farewell to Hobbiton / March, Supper at the Prancing Pony

May showers

May 10, 2012

After a warm, dry winter we are now getting a cool, wet spring. We keep getting rain and drizzle day after day, with an occasional peek of sun maybe once a week. The weather is depressing, but at least the trees have come out into full green leaf, which makes us smile when we look out the window.

I have been busy with grading for the past few days. I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m past halfway now. On the whole, the work has been pretty good this semester. I think I may be figuring out some ways of getting better work out of my students. In Northern Europe this semester, I assigned four papers, of which the last was a combination of the previous three, so when my students came to writing their last paper they had all their earlier work and my comments on it to work from. It makes for much more enjoyable grading when I can expect good papers than when I have to brace myself for bad ones.