Monday, August 13, 2012

Kim Chi and a Really Long Story

Last night we watched Crazy Stupid Love, a romantic comedy starring Steve Carell among others. Annalee loves romantic comedies, and I wasn't in the mood to watch anything too heavy or thought provoking anyway. It was cute. The main couple met at 15 and always considered themselves soul mates. At least until the wife cheats and the husband (Steve Carell) moves out and tries to move on. Ultimately, he realizes he should have fought for her and she realizes her mistake. Happy ending. Rick and I met back in high school, too, when we were 15 and 16. High school sweethearts. I consider him my soul mate, best friend, hero, I love him dearly, and I sure hope neither of us ever cheats or gets tired of the other, but the movie got me to reminiscing. Remember when? 

The thing is, here we are in our mid-50s and we're too young to really be retired, but we need to reinvent ourselves because how we made money just doesn't exist anymore. Who knew technology would make our jobs become obsolete. Rick thought, after so much work establishing his business, he would have been ready to sell it for a profit about now, or hire someone to run it. Not find himself dismantling all his equipment and selling it for scrap metal and having nothing left to show for 21 years of hard work. Remember when everything seemed so hopeful, we asked each other? 

Yesterday was the farmers market and, like we do every Sunday since Mother's Day, we went with high hopes of selling some of the handmade items we're making now. Me carting my decorative pyrographed gourd bowls and shawl pins, and Rick with his kumihimo jewelry, copper earrings, and copper bowls. The market goes from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. We sold $30 combined. After we got home we sat on the couch and just stared at each other. Remember when what we did mattered?

And the other thing is, two weeks ago we left to do a [band] show at the Putnam County Fair and lost our brakes. I was driving.  It was a 110 mile drive. Luckily we were still close enough to get Erica's car, repack, and make our set time. The brake line had snapped. We had the car repaired, but then this past Thursday I was 8 miles away from home when I realized I had no brakes again. The pedal went all the way to the floor with no resistance. Great. I put my blinkers on and drove 4 mph on the shoulder of the road back to town to the mechanic. Which is where the car still is. The mechanic said he fixed both back brake lines but not the front. I mean, why not, though? He knows we travel. What if the brakes had failed while I was driving 65 mph on a highway? Presumably all the brake lines will now be replaced, but the total cost of this repair is almost $1,000. Remember when we could afford a new car?

We had no minivan to haul everything to the farmers market yesterday, but between Erica's car and Annalee's car we managed to get it all there. I babbled to everyone, too antsy to sit still for long. Well, I tend to babble anyway, so maybe it had nothing to do with being too worried to sit still, but I made less sense than usual. I wanted to take back half of what I said. Worry can do that to you. It was nice to be with everyone on such a beautiful day, though, especially after we'd had so much rain. All the vendors are super friendly, and it was good to get out of the house and not be home worrying. I keep finding myself clenching my jaw or grinding my teeth. Stress. So a highlight for me was when little Anthony from Natural Earth Farms made some friends and they were all running in circles giggling. I couldn't help but laugh and really mean it. It did my heart good to watch their antics. Now if I want my kids to run around giggling, though, I have to make sure Erica is sleep deprived. Then she gets so overtired that she gets incredibly goofy. It's actually really funny. She's even funnier if she's overtired and you give her some Skittles candy. Annalee is easier since all you have to do is give her a thimble of wine and she won't stop giggling. But mostly they're adults with their own set of worries. Remember when we could protect our children?

So there I was, sitting at my booth smiling and watching the little kids dashing about with such happiness and joy on their faces remembering when I sat on my parent's front stoop in my jammies, holding a stuffed animal and watching the neighborhood street softball game. I was probably two myself. I had a case of hero worship for the boy across the street. His name was Teddy Bear. I kid you not. I accidentally got hit in the head by a softball that summer evening and he held me until my mom ran outside. I don't remember crying, but I must have. Would I really wish to be two again, though, tagging after Teddy or dashing about the farmers market, or be the teenager who spots the boy in the red Ked sneakers across the hallway, or be the young mother holding the hands of a daughter who loved wearing fake nails and lipstick and cut her own hair? Probably not. Teddy broke my heart and went off to college, I married the boy in the red sneakers, Erica still has her own weird sense of style, and now she just cuts Annalee's hair (but it looks nice). Remember when has made us who we are now, and that's probably the way it should be.

Back to that couch. Rick and I were generally moping until we came to the realization that we always pull through. Together we are strong. Remember when Rick was hit by a bus, remember when I had a tumor, remember when Erica got burned on my very first Mother's Day and we spent the day in the hospital, remember when Annalee had a tumor, remember when we took a huge loan to start the store and made no money, remember when we closed the store and made even less, remember when the  house got hit by lightning. So stop with the feeling sorry already. We are so lucky. Remember when we opened a show for Carlene Carter and she sang "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger"? 

I pushed myself off that couch to cut some vegetables to put in the dehydrator, figuring it was time to start stocking up for winter. Rick followed me into the kitchen and made a jar of kim chi. Remember when we worked well together? Yup, because after 40 years we still do!

Kim Chi

Remember improvise, improvise, improvise. Rick wings this, making it differently each time with whatever we have on hand. This is basically what he did today:

1 large Napa cabbage (or a regular cabbage, if that's all you can find)
1–2 carrots, sliced or grated or both
1 onion, chopped
4 big radishes, or 6–8 smaller globe radishes, sliced

1 tablespoon kosher salt per cup of water
For the spice paste:
3 tablespoons grated ginger
4 minced garlic cloves
2 scallions, chopped
4 dried Thai or cayenne peppers, seeds removed
Thai fish sauce, approx. 3 tablespoons

1. Chop cabbage coarsely.

2. Cut up carrot, onion, scallions, and radish.

3. Toss the cabbage, carrots, onions, and radishes in a large bowl. Add brine to cover (Rick needed about 5 cups). Set weighted plate on top so vegetables are totally submerged, and let sit for 4 hours.

4. Meanwhile, mix together garlic, ginger, scallions, crushed hot pepper, and fish sauce in a large non-reactive bowl.

5. After 4 hours, drain the brine from the vegetables, reserving some in case you need it.

6. Stir paste in with cabbage and vegetables.
Photo of airlock.

7. As you pack tightly into glass jars the brine will rise. If it doesn't rise enough to completely submerge the mixture add some of the reserved brine. Cover tightly, and let stand at room temperature for 3 days, then chill for 4 days before serving.

Note: Rick uses an airlock on our jars and let's the kim chi sit for a week before moving into the refrigerator.

Start of our winter stores.