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Edouard Manet: Plums (circa 1875-1885)
"[We] count ourselves wealthy and fortunate, and plump …"

When The Muse's son was small, he called plums "Plumps," in a typical childhood misunderstanding, a false cognate accomplished using only one language. My daughter referred to discussions as "disgustings" in a similar and similarly accurate misunderstanding. Plums are plump and might have been better named plumps from the outset. Of course, they are called plumps around The Villa and forever will be. Every home breeds its own dialect featuring words and interpretations unique to the people there, a Family Language. In the early Fall, The Muse's thoughts turn toward Plumps. She buys volumes of them fresh, even though most of the dried plumps from last year are still here with us, reposing in the basement larder.

The sole use for plumps in this house has been in dressing with which to stuff the Christmas goose.
A typical goose stuffing will not require more than an odd few dried plumps, but The Muse acquires ten or more pounds of them, dutifully pitting and drying them. She might complete two batches, annually producing enough dried plumps to service a dozen goose stuffings. We only eat the one goose each year, at Christmas, though we remain prepared for Christmas to arrive in July if it wants to, and turn monthly ad infinitum. Our only question will be which year's plumps to use for the stuffing.

Homemade stuff seems often prompted by a season shift. In Early August, we get the urge to head into the National Forest and pick wild black currents. One year, we happened upon a fine clutch of these berries and had a wonderful time wading in an icy stream while picking them. We've sort of celebrated that first experience each year since, or each year that we could. We returned up there a couple of times when we were away on exile, taking granddaughters, picking experiences for preservation as memories as much as we were picking berries. We hold a similar tradition during Morel mushroom season and others for other produce seasons. When we lived in Colorado, early Fall would find me standing downwind of a green chile roaster, getting the summer stink blowed off me while waiting for my gunny sack full of chiles to finish roasting. Later, we'd convert the whole danged kitchen into a chile processing operation and can the whole huge bucketful. Similar productions came during tomato season.

The result, the burgeoning basement larder, almost results from emotional over-reactions. We cannot seem to stop ourselves, or even slow down our responses. In June, we fled to the small town with the reputation for growing the finest cherries in the region. We invited my son and his two kids, and we partied in the orchard, quickly picking a year's worth. We almost overwhelmed ourselves pitting, bagging, and freezing those, but then we never don't. We eat to excess whatever's in season and then preserve the rest in extremis.

One year, I'd heard that in the Hindu Kush, the people dry their apricot harvest on their roofs. I decided to try that technique and lined the flat front porch roof with clean black plastic tarp upon which I laid bucket after bucket of halved fresh apricots. It was summer, anyway, and the temperatures easily matched or exceeded those found in the Hindu Kush. I figured I'd have it made once I brought those babies into the shade after a few days drying. They didn't so much dry up there as bake. The halves turned thin and jammy, trending toward crispy for some. Further, the fine Loess dust our valley features had covered every last one, rendering them perhaps more suitable for tooth polishing than swallowing. That whole year's harvest went directly to the composter, embarrassed.

The Muse has long aspired to have a couple of Mirabelle plump trees in the yard and she reported this week that she'd successfully ordered two for delivery in the Spring. She ordered one which ripens in August and another in September, which will lengthen our plump harvest season and produce even more produce we'll struggle to use, but that's just how Homemade works. We store prior years' excesses in our basement and count ourselves wealthy and fortunate, and … plump, I guess.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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