Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pesto Festival Includes an Agility Demo

Judy and Michele making Pesto, August 2010
Michele's house.
My neighbor, Judy, and I both have gardens and raise sweet basil.  Every year we have a "Pesto Festival" around the middle of August, before all our basil goes to flower then turns brown.  She gathers all of hers and her daughter Sara's, I gather mine, I clean off my dining room table, get my biggest bowls, we sit down and strip off all the leaves, wash them, peel loads of garlic, then I get out my food processor and we whip up batch after batch after batch of pesto made of basil, pecans, olive oil and garlic.  We freeze it in ice cube trays and divvy it up the next day, for a year's supply.

Ingredients: EVOO, Pecans, Garlic, Basil
Thom uses it in gumbos and jambalyas he makes for church bazaars and such, Judy seasons with it all the time, and I mostly just make pasta and pesto, and give some away. But it's great on or in just about anything.

This year was our best crop ever.  Judy arrived at noon and we weren't finished until 6:30.  After freezing it all and packaging it up the next day, we ended up with 16.5 lbs of pesto, at a cost of $84.24 for all the olive oil, pecans and garlic.  That's $5.10/lb.  No idea what the basil plants cost us to raise.  If you factor in that and electricity, gas for shopping, etc., I'd round it up to, say, $6/lb.

Washing and spinning the leaves.  Very important to spin
excess water out of the leaves.

You can buy a 4 oz tub of pesto from Whole Foods for about $6, so the people making their money selling pesto are qudruppling their initial investment.  Not bad, but it's a whole lot of work.  And their pesto doesn't  taste nearly as good as ours.

We filled 15 ice trays, and 17 snack bags.
The frozen cubes are easy to use all year round.

We filled 15 ice trays, plus 17 ziplock snack bags weighed out at 1/4 lb each.

My friend, Rita, president of the local Herb Society, sometimes takes the flower stalks and makes something medicinal out of them.  I save the stems for John, who uses them for flavoring when he barbeques. Nothing much goes to waste.

Stripped stems and flower stalks get dried
and used as seasoning on a charcoal fire.
Notice Fooh Fooh and Willow under the table.

We boiled up a double batch of #3 spaghetti, mixed it with ample pesto and roasted pecans, some parmessan cheese, Thom came by, and we all gorged ourselves. 

But before that, needing a rest from kitchen work, Judy wanted to see the dogs do some agility tricks. She settled into a shady spot outside and despite the heat, Maxie, Lucky and I did our thing. Judy laughed, clapped and cheered and praised us all, which was most satisfying. Reminded me that while trainers get so frustrated that their agility dogs make mistakes on the field, most people's dogs don't do anything much but sleep, eat, run, bark, dig, chew, lick, and jump up and down. Oh, and of course, look into our eyes with their devoted stares and yearn to be in our company, which earns them buckets of love even if they can't do 12 weave poles!

1 3 lb gallon bag of cubes
12 1 lb quart bags of cubes
18 1/4 lb. bags (the flat ones), for gifts
To finish off the evening, Judy and I then brought two of our neighbors, Laura and Schuyler, some spaghetti for their supper. We enjoyed sharing our bounty, and felt rich!

To top off the evening, Judy and I decided to ignore all the dirty dishes, kick back and watch Julie and Julia, (until 11 p.m. when we both fell asleep in our chairs), which I could stream off of Netflix.  I'm trying to interest Judy in blogging, and this is a movie, among other things, about blogging. The first movie about blogging, I do believe.  Judy is a novelist and short story writer, a musician and a quilter who travels and teaches, with lots to say, but she hasn't been writing much lately.  Blogging is an easy way to keep notes, a diary, and tell your unique story.  It's addictive. Your keyboard calls to you every day, yearning to record your thoughts, impressions, and daily life.  If you are a photographer, then it also serves as your annotated photo album, which makes it even more convenient and more highly addictive.
One of the most interesting things we discussed during the day is how fiction allows you to make observations about people and events that you wouldn't dare put in writing about real people.  Not only would you hurt their feelings terribly, but "telling all" would likely come back at you with a vengance. You'd be kicked out of your family, your church, your job, and every club you belong to.  For this reason, the largest bulk of human malice, meanness, thoughtlessness, unfairness, stupidity, injustice and all the other human disfunctionalities go unrecorded, uncalculated, and lost forever.  This is surely why tyrants and deceivers gain an edge they would not otherwise enjoy.  It's why some people can "get away with murder".

Judy emailed me the draft of her new story, Poor Richard, which she says illustrates how in fiction, you can make "composite characters", combining features of several people into one, and still capture the truth about the human condition without pointing the finger at anyone in particular. I haven't read it yet. . . . . . something else to look forward to.

Addendum:  On Tuesday evening, 8/10, I delivered Judy's 10.5 lb. portion to her, I kept 6 lbs., she fed me dinner, and we discussed the 1st chapter of Poor Richard, which I had read by then and thoroughly enjoyed.  It's nice to have such talented friends.  It's also nice to be able to go back to a blog post from a previous day and add an addendum, correct mistakes, etc.  Very cool. Very, very cool. 

She also mentioned that birds are smarter than dogs.  Is that really so?  I need to check that out.

Later . . . . . . .


thomkat64 said...

hey cool, I dig u girls...ya'll got it go'n and I can't wait to cook with this new batch....


Anonymous said...

Loved it! judy