This week’s vegetable is parsnip. At least that’s the felted vegetable I’m making for my piece in progress called ‘Fall Stew’. I grew up with parsnips as a big part of our diet. It’s a key ingredient in svíčková omáčka. Every family makes it a little differently. My father always prepared it with a meat roast surrounded by carrots, onions, parsnips and celeriac. The key spices are peppercorns, bay leaves and juniper berries. We used to collect the juniper berries, illegally I’m sure, at the Pinery Provincial Park during summertime visits. That kept us in dried berries through the year. After baking, the ingredients were combined with sour cream and milk and pureed. This was an event where he always wore an apron because he managed to splatter the omáčka everywhere. The sauce was then poured back over the meat and big knedlicky (big dumplings). There was lots of sour cream to make it good and a little vinegar for flavor. The carrots and parsnips were important to add a sweetness. Many families have different versions, but that’s the basic recipe.
As I was making the parsnips, which I always tried to sneak into my fall stew, I realized that most people aren’t familiar with the shape. People around me who watch as I needle felt ask if I’m making albino carrots. They’re probably the same people who can’t tell a loon from a duck. It doesn’t matter, though—I know what they are. Next I’ll add to the composition a little garlic as my next ‘vegetable.' You can’t really have a stew without garlic, can you?
I have a lot of art fairs on my summer schedule that I’m excited about doing. That means I need to hide away in my studio and weave. I always forget how much I enjoy weaving! My frame maker, Tom Bertolacini, has been busy as well. He is a woodworker and photographer who lives out in Greene County and makes my frames from locally sourced oak. He has been busy making seventeen new frames for me that he delivered on Friday. I know I’m getting off track a little, but that was an incredibly busy day. I have been going into South to work on the costumes for Pippin on Mondays and Fridays. This particular Friday, the 29th, is exactly one month since my birthday. I had lost track of that, but as it turns out, my husband and the SOS director (Gwen Witten) hadn’t. As I was coming out of the costume studio into the big choir room to measure one of the girls for a skirt waistband, the spotlight fell on me and Gwen announced that it was my birthday! Four big boxes of cookies came into the room from Baked in Bloomington, still warm and full of wafty smells to share with the room. It’s pretty amazing to have sixty-five vocally gifted kids singing happy birthday to you in perfect tune, all staring at you and smiling. It was a little overwhelming. My son Tommie was among the 65, but my husband and younger son Jacob walked in to be part of the experience. I even got a present—a Kuerig coffee machine that will stay in the costume studio. What a perfect gift and a wonderful surprise! It’s almost as good as the Bahamas! Almost.
Saturday turned out to be pretty intense too. Both boys participated in the ISSMA (Indiana State School Music Association) voice competition. Jacob was in Division 2 and Tommie in Division 1, and both received gold medals. Tommie will be competing in the state competition on February 20th. I’m so incredibly proud of them! They are both gifted in many many ways. They sang with confidence and poise and passion. When I sat in the audience and they opened their mouths and this beautiful sound came out of their mouths I had a moment of ‘who is this kid?’ We went from there to a 60th birthday party for a friend of mine who lives on a beautiful property in Brown County. I saw an impressive field of turnips planted for ground cover, which got me thinking about Fall Stew again. Sunday was my actual birthday party, with conch fritters, baked salmon and boca negra, a delightful flourless cake from Julia Childs.
Oh, and so much happened that I almost forgot to mention that it was a pie week! Blueberry, yum! I still have blueberry pie and chocolate cake in the fridge. My life is complete. At least for the moment. I’ll probably want another pie by Wednesday.
Until next week,