Tag Archives: New England

Where’s the Sunshine?

At least today is warm… but the last week or two has been chilly, overcast, rainy and depressing. Welcome to New England. Case in point, I have a beautiful flowering tree outside my office window, and the large pink blossoms sometimes stick around for a few weeks once the spring warmth arrives, but this year as soon as the tree burst into color the weather took a turn for the worse and the rain and wind knocked all the flowers down into a brown decaying mushy pile. Boo. So many gray clouds makes it hard to feel motivated to do anything, I guess even post blogs.

I think I’ve mentioned New England/Upstate NY weather before (here, here, etc); how finicky it is, how a popular local expression is “if you don’t like the weather just wait ten minutes,” how since it changes so much the weather is a popular icebreaker topic, and how this icebreaker doesn’t work when I travel to more temperate places where the weather stays the same all the time. It’s actually very telling—as soon as the sun comes out, it’s like the whole city comes alive, everyone is out on the street, in the parks, wearing flip flops and shorts (even if it is sunny but fifty degrees fahrenheit!). We New Englanders don’t take good weather for granted!

Anyway, last summer was really hot (I even wrote a post called, “We’re having a Heat Wave”) but this spring/summer is starting out in a similar way to the summer of 2008 when P’s family last visited, with all the gray skies and wet weather. When P’s family came they assumed that since it was summer they didn’t need to bring warm clothes, and P’s mother wound up spending most of her visit borrowing sweaters and shawls from my closet to keep warm. The last few times I’ve spoken to P’s dad I’ve reminded him to pack a few warmer cloths for their visit, just in case.

I do hope we get some sunshine soon, or like the flowers on the tree outside my office, I might just wilt into a decaying lump on the ground.

Musings on Potholes

There is a bit of a joke in our household about the roads. That occasionally Nepal and New England have something in common.

We are starting to enter that crummy time of year in New England when the weather is unsure whether it is still winter or spring. Somedays it rains, or the weather is warm enough to melt some of the snow and ice, and all of that wetness seeps into cracks in the sidewalks and roads, then on other days its freezing, and the wetness under the roads freezes, and starts to make everything crumble. Giant potholes emerge, and driving can become tricky and treacherous.

In particular there is one road (where we used to live) near the university that notoriously falls apart each and every year (even though the city patches it up in the summer, apparently they just keep putting band-aids on the problem). Whole chunks of the asphalt come loose from the street, and one has to play “dodge the large gapping holes in the road.”

Every now and then while driving on these frost heaved streets, moving along at a walker’s pace to keep the undercarriage of the car from bouncing off chunks of road and scrapping the rough crumbly ground, P or one of our Nepali friends will say, “Gee, this reminds me of driving in Kathmandu!” since there are similar sections of streets in Nepal, where asphalt or dirt are missing and holes have appeared due to lack of infrastructure and budgets for repair.

Potholes in Thamel, in retrospect, this road looks better than some of our streets right now!

Potholes on our American street!

Who knows, our city might not be able to fix some of these worse-for-wear roads this year as well. By the end of January the city had already gone half a million dollars over budget on snow removal (in an already bad budget year) and we still had several more storms before February was over.

Snow in our city at the end of Jan, before the Feb storms hit. It might not look like much in the photo, but many of the two-laned city side streets became impassable by two cars simultaneously.

I’ll try to take a picture of the road near the university sometime in the next few days if I can. It’s not even March, and it’s already a potholed-mess!

Fiddleheads- My Own “Bizarre Food”

While on the subject of “bizarre food” it wouldn’t be fair to highlight only the Nepali side. Springtime in New England means that it is fiddlehead season. I had never heard of a fiddlehead until I visited a friend in Portland Maine where fiddleheads are serious business, and now that I live in New England I can occasionally find fiddleheads in the grocery store when the time is right.

Fiddleheads are the young shoots of ferns that peek out of the ground once the weather starts to warm and are supposedly the first “green vegetable” of the year. The fern heads are tightly coiled and get their name because they look a bit like the coiled head piece of a fiddle. Once the fiddleheads uncoil then they are no longer edible (actually… toxic!), thus the season is very short.

In an age where one can find any vegetable at any time of the year—Mexican tomatoes in January, Chilean peaches in March—the fact that fiddleheads are only around for a few weeks at a specific time in a specific region and are gathered by foragers in the forest makes them sound very mystical and unique.

I loved this description from a website:

When we had our cottage at Sebago Lake, [the fiddleheads] would arrive at local stores in burlap bags carried by some memorable local characters. If someone, always “from away”, were to ask where he found them, the usual response was a silent stare. If the forager responded at all, it would usually be: “in the woods”. Natives know these locations are carefully guarded secrets and never bother to ask the question.

In fact the first fiddleheads I had ever eaten were gathered by my friend’s significant other while he was out in the forest at a secret fiddlehead cache, and he indeed had a burlap bag full of them. We had taken P’s parents to Maine for the weekend, and the whole family sat on the porch outside rubbing the brown papery chaff off the outer layer of the fiddlehead coil.  My friend was very eager to share this very “New England” specialty with P’s foreign parents, but little did she know that the coiled worm looking baby ferns which are proudly New England regional cuisine… was also a Nepali food!

I didn’t realize this coincidence until I bought my now favorite Nepali cookbook and found two recipe entries in the index for fiddleheads. Nepalis call them neuro and make a curry (neuro ko tarkari) and use them in a type of salad (saandheko neuro). By the time I made this discovery last year fiddlehead season had passed, so I was anxious for it to come this year.

I found them two weeks ago and bought a bagful. P wasn’t as excited, but hey, remember, I wanted to be more adventurous with veg food and here was my opprotunity. I offered to try the curry recipe, but he said that curry would probably overpower their original flavor, so I decided to make them “New England” style…

Fiddleheads fresh from the market still with little bits of brown chaff stuck to them. Rinse them well under high pressured water.

Soak well in water to get rid of any soil or anything else from its native forest environment. Make sure to remove the dark bottom edge of the uncoiled fern stem.

They look like little bugs or worms, don't they? Especially that one in the lower left hand corner...

After soaking, dry the ferns. Sauté with 2 tsp butter and 2 cloves minced garlic for 4 mins, stirring occasionally, then simmer for 4 mins covered. Feel free to add a little more butter if necessary.

Finished product!

They taste a little earthy, and a little like asparagus, but I enjoy them. A tasty different seasonal treat that both ties me to my new home (a traditional “New England” dish) and P’s home (a surprise Nepali food).

On a side note– When Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods made a show in Maine, fiddleheads were on the menu!