Monday, July 19, 2010

Is the Red Delicious or Eye Candy?

I’m on a broom. I work in a high school and there are a lot of vending machines. The machines make money for the student body for dances and assemblies and I have a problem with them best left to another rant. When I was a teenager the only vending machine we had was one which vended cold, crisp, juicy Red Delicious apples. It was nice at the end of the day to stop at the vending machine and get an apple for a dime to munch on the way home. I always liked Red Delicious apples and the fact that they were grown in Washington was handy.

Twenty years or more ago I noticed that Red Delicious weren’t so delicious anymore. They looked pretty, but they had no taste. Our household has long since switched its loyalty to Fuji and the occasional Gala apples. This morning I read a letter to the editor of Grit Magazine that explains why. According to former orchard owner Carol Coddington of Alexandria, Pennsylvania, the reason Red Delicious apples don’t taste as good as they used to is American public demand? Did we ask growers to great tasteless apples? No, but we did demand redder, more picture perfect apples. Apparently with apples you can’t entirely judge a book by its cover so those beauties that make for great pictures are more eye candy than taste treat. Now, says Coddington, growers are beginning to mess with Gala Apples. If they start messing with Fujis I’m going to be really mad! This is one more reason to eat locally. If you can find someone with an apple tree in their yard, bang on the door and ask if they will share or go to a local farmer’s market and buy direct from a small farmer. That’s the view from my broom.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oregon Lavender Festival 2010 Day Two

We did not get as early a start today as we usually do during the festival. It being Sunday, Gail had some obligations at church that could not be escaped. Had it merely required attending a church service I would have gladly gone along with her since I was raised in the Episcopalian Church and can discern little difference in her Evangelical Lutheran, which despite its name, is pretty mainstream. No, she had to go and rehearse music with the organist and singing is not one of my talents—I would have been sent out the door to the curb promptly I opened my mouth—and it involved a meeting following the service which would have become boring for someone not enmeshed in the doctrine and goings on there so I stay at her house and amused myself by reading an article by Harper Lee’s biographer, it being the 50th anniversary of the publication of that wonderful novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Uninterrupted time can be as much of a blessing as any church service.

So following a hastily eaten lunch at Gail’s home in Mt. Angel, we set out, but unfortunately had to back track to Yamhill to exchange some lavender festival t-shirts she’d purchased. The expense of time was soothed by more lavender snickerdoodles and some may even make it home to my grandson. Hopefully at least one. We visited Lavender Thyme, but they seemed depleted on items and vendors and it was hot. As has happened before our best farm of the day was the last one which we barely made it to before closing. Parrot Creek Herb Farm in Oregon City has a beautiful setting and because all the other festival followers had headed home the owners had time to chat. This happened two years ago at a farm no longer even on the tour. The end of a hot day, when it begins to cool a bit can be magical and we enjoyed our chat before turning the Civic towards Mt. Angel. The best part of the day may have been the rum cake we had at a German restaurant there.

Another Oregon Lavender Festival has been appreciated and will be thought of and talked about next year when we go again. It was not as hot as two years ago, but not as comfortable as last. We did not go to any farms that were unpleasant and this is the year I got to see my friend Marlys. Undoubtedly the cold lavender milkshakes at the end of a hot day will be mentally appreciated for years to come, too!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oregon Lavender Festival 2010

My yearly trips to Oregon for the Lavender Festival are about more than lavender. They are a chance for me to go to a pretty part of the world, relax and recharge with a friend I’ve known and loved since I was six. That is more years than I care to own. I love my big household and doing homey things, but it is divine to come to a place where you can set a thing down with a reasonable expectation of it being in that spot minutes or hours later. A household of six and a small dog cannot be as peaceful as a household of one and a cat. It is nice to occasionally visit a different world.

This year arriving in Mt. Angel, OR was an even larger blessing because of the traffic on freeways between there and my home in Gig Harbor, WA. I have long had anxiety regarding freeways which HBP medication has helped to a certain extent, but does not entirely ameliorate. Although I left Gig Harbor at 11:30 AM, a reasonable time, a trip which I have made in 3.5 hours in the past took five in 90 plus degree heat and with an air conditioner that, like a couple of things on my car, decided to take a little break! So I was grateful when the air conditioning kicked back on and I was able to get off of I-5 and onto the back roads of Oregon. I am seriously considering taking the train next year!

A salmon dinner and a shower soon made me feel better although Oregon’s heat wave prevented me from sleeping as well as I might. Undaunted, Gail and I set out Saturday morning on our quest of all things lavender. Our journey began with a short ride on the Wheatland Ferry across the Willamette River. The ferry is quaint and adds to the ambiance of a beautiful rural area.

It would be impossible to say which our favorite lavender farm is although we have hit some duds in three years of perusing. Our first stop this year was Red Ridge which quite possibly has the most beautiful prospect. As its name implies it sits on a hill top with fields of lavender sloping away from the house and gift shop. From there you can see the surrounding bucolic countryside and our visit there is always pleasant.

Willakenzie is another favorite. It, too, has a beautiful setting, an extensive gift shop that includes hand-knit items from the wool of the alpacas the farm raises along with lavender. We always find treasurers there and this year was no exception. After we’d done some retail therapy we enjoyed lavender sorbet on the porch of the shop and took away lavender lemonade and lavender ice tea for the road to Yam Hill.

After a brief stop at the Carlton General Store where I purchased sunscreen (having left my own bottle in my car in Mt. Angel) we got to Yamhill and the festival in the park there. Booths with crafts and art line the edges of the park under ancient trees while a band played on the bandstand in the center. We particularly enjoyed an extensive display of local paintings of the many lavender fields that surround the countryside of Yamhill. At a picnic table we unpacked our picnic lunch which we might have enjoyed were it not for a couple of people who seemed to think that the area we were in was the smoking area. Although our chicken salad sandwiches were good (if I do say so myself) they might have been better appreciated somewhere else. Before we left the festival grounds we purchased two lavender snickerdoodles to enjoy on the road.

Helvetia Lavender Farm was eagerly anticipated by me. It is always the busiest stop on our lavender journey with lots of booths, music and food, but this year it held the special attraction of another childhood friend, Marlys Violet Spencer, seamstress extraordinaire who lives and creates “wearable art” in Hillsboro, OR. Marlys a year ahead of me at Sammamish High School in Bellevue, WA and unquestionably the most entertaining of my acquaintances. She has done work for large and small theater groups as a costumer around the Pacific Northwest and in Hawaii. She returned to her childhood home of Hillsboro to care for a dying father and create yet a new chapter in a very interesting life. She sews wedding dresses, kitschy shirts that truly are art, and beautiful scarves all made from repurposed fabric she finds at garage sales and Goodwill. When we first stopped at the booth where I quickly spotted her wares, Marlys was nowhere to be seen, but the farm and festival is extensive so we wandered the many booths and before we left found her returned. Big hugs and introductions ensued along with a lengthy chat to catch up. When a customer needed Marlys’ attention we moved toward the car and I was dismayed to realize that I’d not gotten her picture. Before we left she told me to choose a scarf since she reckoned she owed me 40 years worth of birthday presents. I was already determined to buy a scarf for myself and one for my daughter-in-law who loves pretty things so I eagerly chose a purple and gold one for myself and one featuring shades of orange for Ana.

We ended our lavendering at Mountainside Farm where we had a barbecue chicken dinner that featured lavender potato salad. It was quite possibly the best potato salad I ever ate and since I have culinary lavender at home I am determined to add it to the next potato salad I serve. Please note that I did not say “make.” Costco sells a very good potato salad which I doctor up to suit myself saving time and effort. Potato salad is not important enough to me to labor over.

Our day was not done. We stopped at a large berry stand that included an ice cream parlor where we ordered lavender milkshakes which we enjoyed in their outdoor eating area. A cool breeze had come up and it was the perfect end to a lovely day. Gail said that the milkshakes were even better than the lavender sorbet we had at Willakenzie. That’s a tough call and I’m glad we had a day that included both.