Another Big Dinner Party in New Bern

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The annual visit from my brother who lives in California, provided the occasion for several nice family gatherings in New Bern. A cavalcade of cover dishes- all delicious, arrive. I clear the whole first floor by hitting a hot frying pan with Tabasco as I cook shrimp and grits. One night we have absolutely perfect hamburgers from the grill. The secret seems to be something called Nature's Seasons. North Carolina is having a lovely mild late summer. There is enough rain to keep things green and in New Bern there is a nice breeze off of the river. My parents' house is wireless now so I can sit in an upstairs bay with windows thrown open and curtains fluttering and work as I listen to Diane Rehm. It was a nice if very brief escape.

Every year at about this time, the glut of produce suddenly drops away. The okra is woody, the tomatoes are all but gone, the zucchini are baseball bats, and the watermelons start to lose their pizazz. The menu looks anemic for a minute. But corn is still good and there are green tomatoes. They just don't want to ripen reliably anymore and there's too much blight,especially after all the rain from Faye. This is the hardest time of year to cook. It's still hot, but it's time to think about Fall. The evenings cool a little so you take away the cold soups only to be met by a week in the nineties.

But we make do, and as long as you avoid shortcuts for their own sake, you can still cook a fine dinner. There is one more wave of figs, and the green tomatoes will of course be fried. The incorrectly named winter squash are starting to show up and it is nearly time for the second season of artichokes. My pecan tree is absolutely drooping with nuts. Paul has suggested that we go through old menus from my early years at Crook's to look for forgotten recipe. Since I can't remember anything this probably the only way they'll ever be seen again. This sounds like fun. On Tuesday the sixteenth I'll be making barbecue sandwiches at The Center for the Study of the American South to celebrate the screening of Moving Midway later that night at the Varsity Theatre. The film is by North Carolinian Godfrey Cheshire and is about the task of moving his family's ancestral home back out in the country where it belongs. Please join us.

posted by Bill Smith at 4:33 PM


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