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Being in Beijing on a summer internship James has been considering different career paths, embracing some and trashing others.  It can be a difficult time especially if there are several enticing options.  I knew EXACTLY what I was going to be when I grew up.  I was about six or seven years old.  I was going to be an Indian.  An American Indian.  Specifically an Apache.  I was going to be a brave, a warrior, and I would be the only girl.  I completely immersed myself in American Indian lore, swallowing books one after another.  I would have a full quiver of arrows slung across my back and a razor-sharp hatchet hanging from my side.  I fully accepted that I would have to scalp a white person or another Indian in battle.  I only hoped I would be able to slice those scalps quickly and cleanly.  My clothing would be of the softest leather, my moccasins so light I could fly through the forests without making a sound or leaving a trail.  My name would be Red Wing.  And, of course, my hair would turn from honey brown to blue-black.  Mama was so very patient with me.  She was always 100% supportive of any and all of our endeavors.  Time and time again she would say to me, “Cielo, you can be anything you want.  You can be a doctor, a ballerina, a scientist.  But you cannot, YOU CANNOT be an Indian.”  I remember thinking, “You’ll see.”  Dad had been making preparations for his next trip to the Amazon, I remember he’d get so sick after rounds of shots.  The day of his departure I approached Daddy and told him I needed to talk to him about something really important.  He knelt down and I asked him if he was going to see any Indians where he was going.  He answered yes, that the area he would be working had several different tribes.  I asked if he would do me a favor.  I opened my dirty, little fist and in it was my most prized possession.  A small mother-of-pearl pocket knife with the name Birch State Park stamped on the side in cursive.  Cursive is very important when you’re in first and second grade.  I asked Daddy if he would make a trade for me with THE INDIAN CHIEF.  I ended my request by telling him, “It’s what we Indians do.  We trade.”  He slipped the knife in his pocket and off he went to the Amazon to work on the genetics of a certain kind of fish.  We never heard from him while he was gone.  I don’t know how my mother did it, knowing he was in remote areas but not really knowing where.  He went where the fish were.  Up and down the river, catching little prop planes about the size of mosquitos and then he’d poke around some more.

Wattley’s Turquoise Discus

When Dad finally returned he always came back just a mess.  He is naturally thin but after weeks on the banks of the Amazon he’d come back thin as a rail.  And usually with some God-awful intestinal malady and possibly a high fever.  It was never pretty.  After a few days he was more approachable and when I knew he was willing to talk I jumped in.  “Daddy.  Daddy!  DADDY!!  What did you bring back?  Did you see any Indians?  Did you make my trade?”  I couldn’t wait to see.  He smiled and brought out a large but thin wooden box.  He watched my reaction as I took off the wooden cover.  What I saw left me breathless.  It was the most magnificent insect collection imaginable.  There were butterflies with colors seen only in the rainbow four to five inches wide.  Jet black beetles that when moved glistened like black opals.  There were grasshoppers five and six inches long, the palest of iridescent green.  It was spectacular and most splendid!  Dad and I are the only bug lovin’ folk in the family.  They fascinate us and we recognize their beauty.  I don’t mean a common cockroach.  No, these were exquisite.  And he had gotten them from an Indian!  I treasured my collection for years but as I grew older my interests changed.  Mama sat me down one last time for a little “Cielo, you can be ANYTHING you want but not an Indian” talk.  It was okay.  I had moved on.  I was going to be a nun!

We loved shocking company with this photo!

In later years I asked Dad what he ate on these trips.  He said during the early years the Indians would prepare food.  Lots of eggs and some fish.  So here’s my recipe for a really good savory pie.  It calls for fewer eggs than quiche but more than spanakopita.  The greens and cheeses are interchangeable.  I adore the sharp bite of dandelion greens but spinach is just fine. Or chard.  I suppose you could use kale, everybody’s all crazy about kale right now but not me.  I hate kale!!  The only reason I added the Gruyère is because I had a couple of slices I wanted to get rid of and use so in they went.  Boy, did that make it sing!  Parmesan could be used in place of feta or a combination of both as well.  Feel free to make your own pastry but after working all day it ain’t happening.  I only make homemade during the holidays. And if you feel strongly about using only pork bacon, well, by all means.  But try Butterball sometime.  It does need to be prepared stove top but the flavor is superb, it’s crunchy and a thousand times less greasy.

Savory Greens Pie

yield: one deep dish pie

  • 1 store bought pie shell, usually found in the dairy section
  • 4-5 strips of bacon, cooked to crisp and crumbled
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bunches organic greens, washed and chopped into 3/4 inch pieces, eyeball it
  • 1 1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup Gruyère cheese, finely chopped or grated
  • 6 or 7 organic eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup organic milk, I use fat-free
  • salt and pepper to taste, not much salt because of the bacon and cheese, lots of freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Place pie shell in ungreased deep dish pie pan and set aside.
  3. To a medium-sized pan add olive oil and shallot and cook over medium heat until clear.
  4. Add chopped greens and cook, stirring often, until soft.
  5. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. To a large bowl add feta, bacon, eggs, milk and stir to combine.
  7. Add greens, stir well and taste for any salt or pepper needed.  I love black pepper!
  8. Pour into pie shell and scatter Gruyère evenly over the top.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes or until dark golden on top.

One of my most favorite photos of Dad. He looks as though he was whistling and he LOVED to whistle!!

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