From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Dear Home Cook,
One way to know when you are in the country is when neighbors sit in a chair in their garage with the door open just watching traffic go by. Tom just called me from his garage while he was enjoying a warm evening looking across the road at his potato patch. Beats watching TV.
We still have a few bottles of our own maple syrup on hand from this year’s batch. Just go to www.twopigsfarm.com before we run out. Enjoy!
If you spend enough time in the woods, you see just about every type of wildlife. A few weeks ago, I was stalked by a 2-foot-high great horned owl. I heard one hoot—I wasn’t sure if this was a bear or an owl since they sound similar—and then I stopped. I moved on and heard another hoot, this one closer. After a few stops and starts, I finally saw the owl close by, high up in a tree staring at me with its huge black eyes, its head swiveling like a cartoon robot. It flew from tree to tree to keep me in view, curious about this two-legged intruder with no wings.
Half an hour later, I was walking in a part of the woods where I rarely go and caught a glimpse of black off to the left. It turned out to be a black bear with her young cub. The cub was running up and down tree trunks, the mother investigated a rotten tree stump, and then, at last, she caught a whiff of me. She stood up on her back legs, front paws extended and folded, and stared right at me, but I remained curiously invisible. (I was only 40 yards away.) She finally got back down on all fours and sashayed on, the cub in tow. Oh, did I forget to mention that this was one of the only times that I didn’t bring my camera because a storm was coming in? Agh! But I do have a photo album of a recent walking tour through our woods that you can see.
In the world of radio, I spent July 4th at Coney Island, covering Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition. More than 5,000 people showed up to see Joey Chestnut eat 68 hot dogs and buns; Sonya Thomas downed 45 in the same amount of time: 10 minutes. Next month, I will offer you a homemade video of the event, complete with the dancing “Bunettes,” the apple pie dive with Greg Louganis, and more insanity than most folks see in a whole year.
Speaking of radio, we need your help. We are looking for down and dirty eateries in the following cities: San Francisco; Washington, DC; Portland, Maine; New York; Boston; Los Angeles/Santa Monica; and Chicago. These are inexpensive spots that are not trendy, have been around for a while, and represent something unique about their city. I plan to visit some of them this fall and do radio segments while I am there (and enjoy the food, of course). You can email us your favorites at email@example.com. By the way, if you want to be on our radio show, just call us at 855-34-COOKS and leave us your question on our answering machine. If we like it, we will call you back and have you on. (Our show is broadcast on public radio around the country. Check us out, listen to our show, and view our recipes at www.atkradio.com.)
In other wildlife news, one of our chickens was killed during the night, but nobody could figure out how it happened. Detective work solved the mystery. The hens are locked in their henhouse at night, but a raccoon figured out how to open the small back window; he got inside, killed a hen, and dragged it back over the windowsill. Tom put out a Havahart trap, baited it with some canned salmon, and waited. The first night, they caught a raccoon and let him go a few miles away, over in New York State. Then, another hen was killed. They baited the trap again and caught a local cat. Finally, a huge raccoon was caught and this one was the likely culprit, as we’ve had no problems since.
I was driving down the main road in town when I saw a woodchuck cross the road with four baby woodchucks behind her. Three of them made it across but the fourth one was slow, and by the time he reached the middle, his family had disappeared into the grass. Like a confused squirrel, he went forward, then backward, then forward again but couldn’t make up his mind. I drove by slowly and watched in my mirror as he finally made it across.
Our long-time neighbor Jack just died. He was 94 and flew more than 80 missions in North Africa during WWII. On one mission he ended up making an emergency landing in a field, got out, and stood on the wing brandishing his pistol. Fortunately, locals brought him to the British lines and he soon returned to his own unit unscathed. After the war, he became a test pilot. On one flight, he was told to climb to 10,000 feet and then put the plane into a dive. Then, he had to flip a toggle switch that changed the angle of the props, creating thrust reversal to brake the plane. As soon as the switch was thrown, the plane shook violently and he came within 100 feet of crashing. After an emergency landing, he got out and found that bits of the stabilizer and rudder were missing. They asked him to come back and resume testing the next day, but he was smart enough to quit on the spot. We will miss Jack, his hearty appetite, and his cheerful disposition.
Our town’s Old Home Day is coming up soon, which means the best French fries in New England; fried dough; Dunk The Dope; the Win-A-Pie competition; and, of course, the parade with lots of homemade floats, horses, and fire trucks.
See you there!