Tuesday, August 09, 2016

More rain, more pickles

This posted was written, edited, and eventually abandoned in June. Now that the bar exam is behind me, I am publishing it.
Inside a tunnel of art, looking out a window, at Howard Finster's Paradise Garden. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

I've been meaning to tell you about the trip I took with my husband to Paradise Garden earlier this month.

Rain falling on Paradise Garden. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

I've had a few ideas. A general post about my love of environmental art or folk art, which I discovered after moving to the South (where such art is abundant.) It would have included pictures of other folk art we've seen in our travels, such as the Alabama Museum of Wonder. Or pictures from Storm King in New York (not folk art at all, I think, but maybe environmental art, as it is a sculpture garden. I don't know what I'm talking about. Feel free to correct me, real artists/art historians), which we visited sometime before we moved to Georgia.

More view of rainy Paradise Garden. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
I love the look of nature and manmade objects coexisting or juxtaposed. I love taking pictures of it. I love the way the art is not just the sculpture, but the experience. I love the way it changes every time, yet in a way is dependable. You can go back ten years later, at the same time of year, and despite the changes in the world and yourself, the plants and the weather and even the insects and animals are similar.
Rain-soaked sculpture by Howard Finster, at Paradise Garden. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
I thought about doing some research first, getting books about Howard Finster from the library in order to incorporate some of his own words into a post about seeing his work. Many of these were woven into the introductory video shown at the garden; many seemed relevant, comforting, or otherwise worth pondering and sharing, but I didn't want to use misquotations from my head, mangled by time and memory. So for now, I'll share some pictures, and leave the well-researched post for another day.

If you're within driving distance of Summerville, Georgia (in the northwest of the state, near Rome and about forty minutes south of Cloudland Canyon), I recommend visiting Paradise Garden. It's beautiful and delightful.

Photo of green mango achaar in progress, by me. CC 2.0.

The time for day trips as bar exam stress relief is drawing to a close for me. Instead, the outlet for my anxiety has been domestic projects. Above is a picture of my attempt at lacto-fermented pickled green mango, turmeric root, garlic, and cherry bomb chili pepper. The seeds are cumin. The story behind this is that my neighbor, a cashier at the market where I was buying green mangoes, asked me if I was going to use them to make pickles. I replied that I was planning to make green mango salad.

As a side note, one of the weird side effects of bar stress has been developing wild cravings for fruits and vegetables. This has something to do with a belief that doing healthy things will help me retain information, or at least combat the awful stress stomachaches I was getting at the beginning of bar prep season. On this particular day, I became fixated on green mango salad thickly sliced green mango in a light dressing (like maybe lime juice and a little fish sauce?).

But my neighbor rattled off, from memory, his recipe for pickled green mango. Just pack them in a jar with salt and turmeric and leave them on the counter for three days.

I perked up. I had just read something about the benefits of lacto-fermented stuff for people with angry stomachs, and I had tried a similar green mango pickle about a year ago. That recipe involved oil, and the whole thing was just an unappetizing, oily mess.

My neighbor informed me that I could use oil, but I didn't have to. Just salt and turmeric, and after three days, I could add chili and garlic and cumin if I wanted.

I went home and commenced Googling. Eventually, I skimmed a section in Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation, a gift I'd gotten for my husband. He accused me of getting this as a Rollerskates for Grandma present. I protested that he had, at the time, an interest in making fermented hot sauces.

("Rollerskates for Grandma" is a phrase invented, I think, by one of my grad school friends in Portland. This friend has a brilliant way with words, of clever phrases and comparisons. She uses the phrase "Rollerskates for Grandma" to describe giving someone a gift that is really a gift for yourself. I think this can be either a gift you'd rather have, or a gift you get someone else so that you can use it. Since my husband and I share both a house and certain hobbies, this phrase comes up quite a bit.)

Sandor Katz, or at least what I'd skimmed, assured me that this kind of pickling would be no big deal. If the something went wrong, I'd know. There would be mold or a bad smell. I could then simply skim off the mold or compost the whole mess, then start over.

And so I packed the slices in as much kosher salt as I could find, with some tiny cubes of turmeric root. I used a plastic bag full of salt water (the Internet said so, okay?) to weight everything down.

After three days and some more Googling (which told me that lacto-fermented stuff could stay on the counter for up to six days), I added garlic, cumin, and chili pepper. I had begun to suspect that I'd used too much salt, so I thought adding more vegetables would even things out. I added water to keep everything covered, and left it on the counter for another three days.

Kokusho is suspicious of countertop pickles. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

The resulting pickles taste of nothing but salt. I haven't thrown them out; I'll probably add them to something I'm pureeing instead of salt, in case I can get some kind of lacto-fermented benefits from that. I've since learned that it's okay to use saltwater brine, that one need not cover the produce entirely in salt, to keep out bad germs. If you're wondering why this wasn't obvious to me, keep in mind that my head is currently being filled with the intricacies of the Rule Against Perpetuities and miscellaneous powers of Congress; in order to retain things like when the rights of a third-party beneficiary to a contract actually vest, I have to force out a little common sense.

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