August 3, 2010

The Old Well

Posted in Children, Family, Food, Garden, Serbia tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 8:24 am by Liliana

The Old Well

The Old Well

In the corner of my grandparents’ garden stood an old well. It had been there for a long time, hundreds of years.

During the early part of my childhood, before there was plumbing installed in the village, all the water for cooking, bathing, drinking and animals was fetched from the bucket in that well.

The children knew not to go near it. The well was very deep and dark, and if anyone fell in, they would not survive.

Although there was electricity in my grandfather’s house, in the early 1960’s my grandparents didn’t own a refrigerator. No one in the village did. No one owned any kind of modern day appliance – no electric ranges, no washing machines and certainly no dishwashers. Those came gradually and later, in the late 60’s and 70’s. Before that, people used wooden stoves for cooking and heating, and all the washing was done by hand. The water was pulled from the well.

Because there was no refrigeration, the food had to be eaten quickly. Chickens were prepared by my grandmother the same day that my grandfather slaughtered them. Fruits and vegetables were picked and consumed the same day. We ate what was ripe and in season.

Sometimes, my mother made ice cream and we children helped. I still remember the steps.

My grandfather would bring a bucket of heavy cream, skimmed of the milk that his dairy cows provided that morning. He would place it in the cool of the veranda while we washed berries or pealed fresh peaches, or other fruit from the garden trees.

Our mother would cook the cream with the fruit, stirring and adding a bit of sugar if needed, until the concoction thickened. Then we poured it into porcelain cups, which she placed in the well bucket, and lowered into the coolness of the water so it would solidify.

But no matter how long we waited, and the time seemed awfully long, our ice cream was never the same as the ice cream we bought in the store. It was cold, but never frozen.

It was smooth, creamy, fruity and delicious. Different generations assembled in the cool shade of the veranda, eating ice cream with tea spoons out of those delicate porcelain cups.

“This is not frozen enough to be ice cream,” one of the children complained.

“Maybe not ice, but it is cream,” my grandfather answered. And no matter how many times he said it, we always laughed.

July 8, 2010

Hot Days in July

Posted in Children, Family, Food, Holidays, Home, Weather tagged , , , , , , at 7:04 am by Liliana

Pleasures of hot weather

Pleasures of hot weather

This week has been hot. Very hot.

The temperatures and the humidity in our part of Michigan have been in the high 90’s.

Our cottage near Lake Michigan does not have air-conditioning.

Somehow, in a small house full of people, we persevered. I cannot deny that there weren’t moments when we discussed breaking into our neighbor’s house (he was away on a camping trip) to enjoy the coolness of his whirling machine, but we didn’t actually do it.

And for the most part, we weren’t miserable either. Except for my husband Jeff who cannot stand heat at all, even though he grew up in St. Louis in the steamy humidity of the Mississippi river. Or maybe because of it.

The rest of us handled the heat just fine. We spent part of each morning sitting on the front porch, in the shade of the tall scotch pine, watching birds come to the feeder. Inside the cottage, while eating, napping, reading or playing games, we used ceiling fans and window fans to move the air around. The windows were open for the air to circulate, but the shades were drawn creating a drowsy darkness even at noon.

Branka, Joe and I took long walks on the beach, the breeze strong and refreshing, the water warm. Peter, Nena and Jeff went on bike rides on the shady wooded paths of the nearby trail. All exertion demanding activity was completed by midday.

To keep cool we lunched on salads, fruits and vegetable soups. Then everyone quieted down and people read, or napped or played computer games. I found a shady spot on the hammock in the backyard and dozed happily. Around three in the afternoon, I could hear Jeff starting to practice his violin and smell the powerful aroma of Turkish coffee.

Everyone slowly assembled on the back deck. Now, the front porch was sunny and hot, the back deck shady and inviting.

For dinner, we mostly barbecued. Chicken, fish, hamburgers. We made potato salad with fresh dill and steamed new corn. We made piles of green salad with apples, raspberries and refreshing vinaigrette.

And when it started getting dark, and we walked towards our favorite ice cream store, no one complained about the heat any longer. It seemed like the perfect background for waffle cones and a variety of flavors. Sam and Nicole wanted chocomania, Nena tried dark cherry with vanilla, Joe got strawberry sorbet and I – French silk.

Cool and delicious.

June 2, 2010

Tips for Eating Well

Posted in Food, Health tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:42 am by Liliana

healthy plate

The ½ plate rule helps with balance and portion control

Like everyone else in this world, I have been trying to watch my weight. I am taking a fitness and nutrition class this spring and learning lots of good and useful information.

None of this is new to me and is mostly common sense for anyone who is mindful. But every once in a while it helps to review it.

Here are a few tips I learned in my class:

  • Eat 3 meals a day – plus 1-3 healthy snacks. Do not go without food for long periods and try to eat every 4-5 hours.
  • Choose a variety of foods to eat, from all the food groups (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein and healthy fats.)
  • Read a nutrition label to help you determine if a food is a healthy choice. Choose low-fat, high-fiber foods.
  • Use portion control. The ½ plate rule helps with balance and portion control. Fill ½ of your plate with fruits and vegetables, ¼ with grains or starchy food and ¼ with lean protein.
  • Keep tempting foods out of the house. Relaying on willpower is risky.
  • Keep healthy foods around and ready-to-go. Always have fresh fruits and vegetables in your kitchen.
  • To avoid impulse purchases, plan meals ahead of time and use your menu to help guide you when grocery shopping.
  • Pay attention to your hunger levels. Start eating when you are hungry (don’t wait to be starving) and stop eating when you are satisfied (but not full.)
  • Keep a food record. Research has proven that people who keep a food record eat a more balanced diet and lose more weight.

And don’t feel guilty to delight in a delicious ice cream cone on occasion. French silk flavor in a waffle cone is my favorite summer treat.