After a relatively lazy start to yesterday, we, by which I mean I, spontaneously decided that we should go apple picking. "We will go back to Larriland," I told everyone, "the lovely place out in Woodbine where I picked the sixteen pounds of blackberries and thirty-two pounds of peaches and on and on during the summer." J: "Can we go later?" Me: "No." Ol: "Can I wear shorts and bring Tool Sheet?" Me: "No and yes." Tom: "Isn't it kinda far?" Me: "What in the sam hill is wrong with y'all? Get dressed and I'll pack sandwiches. We are leaving pronto."
I mean, talk about an inert bunch of blah. Anyway, we made it into the car and headed out. It was a glorious day, and as we approached Larriland, Tom asked, "Haven't we been here before?" "Oh no," I said, "just me. Our last family outing to a farm was to a place that started with an M."
Tom's like, "Well, I'm pretty sure this is the place because there is the Boo Barn, and there is the pond, and there is the apple orchard..." People, that was years ago. I hadn't the slightest bit of recognition even though I have now been twice since that maiden voyage. The boys definitely get their weird, steel-trap memories from T. I guess he was right because why else would he have such intimate knowledge of the Larriland layout?
As we drove into the Larriland lot, it became abundantly clear that scads of families had had the same idea as had we.
Tom prides himself on his picking strategy though - if picking is occurring in rows 3-19, head immediately to row 18 and commence picking in the spot farthest from the main aisle. In tandem with my belief in looking in and under, we are a pretty good, if not also completely nerdy and competitive, picking team.
The boys tasted liberally and picked enthusiastically, and we came away with twenty-six pounds of assorted apples: Fuji, Braeburn, Stayman and a few Suncrisps which weren't great but will provide a good bit of variety in my soon-to-be-made applesauce and pie.
To the vegetables, as Oliver was proclaiming a yen for beets. The kids were wild for the dull knife I traded my keys for, but when I told them that A) they couldn't use it and that B) the spinach was pretty picked over but if you looked closely you could definitely discern lovely leaves from the lookalike cover crop surrounding them, they lost interest and began unearthing "quartz" from the field.
I picked an arseload of spinach by myself while T ventured into the beet patch with the knife. An older woman in spinach with me kept uprooting whole spinach plants, tossing them into a pile and rolling around in the dirt and weeds. She seemed to have a real plan, so I just kinda stayed at a comfortable distance as I picked my greens, leaf by leaf.
The kids had built a small fort by the time we remembered to look for them and suggested they take "all these quartzes home."
"Y'all, those are not quartz, and the spinach obviously like them. You may not take the 'quartz' home!"
"Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease. We worked SO HARD to get these quartz and they are special and magical."
"You may each pick ONE piece of 'quartz' AND, if you ask the man at the check-out counter IF you may keep it forever, only THEN may you take those rocks home. I am not asking or helping you ask."
I could see that they were considering this a deal-breaker because they knew that those mudballs belonged to the farm and they hate asking when they know what they're asking is a bit beyond the pale. However, desire for quartz ultimately outweighed anxiety about asking, and so they followed me to the table of scales and registers and asked me repeatedly under their breaths if I would "please ask for us."
With several families waiting behind us, I stood there like a statue and let them grunt and sweat in getting those few words out: "Can..... we..... maybe.... uh.... please.... maybe.... uh.... you see, we found these..... uh... can we.... take....?"
The guy was such a champ, and he said, "Well, if you're going to make rock salad, then I have to charge you because salad includes vegetables and that's what we grow. But if you're not going to make salad, then...."
I'm still statuing but willing the boys with every fiber of my being to just GET THE WORDS OUT. Finally, Jack did, and he and the guy shook hands, and Jack grinned like a happy jack o'lantern and Oliver definitely went along for the ride. I lugged my spinach, Tom his beets, the boys their quartz back to the car and home we went.
"Mom, that was so much fun!!!"
Tired as balls, I then realized that I had no room for one million pounds of spinach in my fridge so best start washing it so I could use it for dinner.
I recalled my friend, Stephanie's, recipe for Batsaria, a phyllo-less spinach pie that her grandparents made in Greece. I tasted this wonderful dish last December at a Food52 potluck and it later won a Community Pick nod for best one-pot meal. It is SO good, and because it calls for two pounds of spinach, I was set.
Based on things I was missing -primarily enough onions and feta- my dish wasn't completely accurate, but it was still marvelous. I added some confited leeks I had, plus ricotta and pecorino to make up for what I lacked in feta. And because the original recipe makes enough for twelve, I cooked two casseroles and later put on in the deep-freeze for a great meal later.
Delicious. Divine. This is the kind of dish you can eat as if you are a bottomless pit. You just wanna keep shoveling and then you stand up, and it's like, "Oh no, maybe I overdid it, but let me have one more bite."
So, I was glad to go to the gym this morning, not least because I could then have more for lunch. And now I have just one gallon-size Ziploc of spinach left.
Percy is making it clear that if I don't take him for a walk, he's going to pee somewhere in the house. So, the funny story -which involves Stephanie and is in part why I consider her a friend- will have to wait a bit.