Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Camp Life

If bike rides and ice cream cones make me feel like a kid again, camping takes me right back to my first years as a young adult.

Not because I spent those years backpacking, or even car camping.

I didn't have to. The first apartment I lived in was carved out of one third of a garage. It always felt closer to outdoor living than to indoor living. That might have been due to the centipedes that showed up inside the doorway, and the occasional snails (who left their silvery tracks on my ugly indoor/outdoor carpet). Once, just once, I got lucky, and a cricket woke me up. He stayed, chirping in the bathroom. After a few days I wasn't so sure it was lucky.

My kitchen was really just the entry way. There were two burners (much like our camping set-up today) and a refrigerator (actually a step up from the camping cooler). I had no oven; a campfire would have given more options. Camping also affords much more counter space than that kitchen, thanks to a large picnic table. In my old apartment the counter barely held one plate.

I always enjoy washing dishes when we're camping. We keep a bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap in the corner of our camp cookware box. The bottle is about 20 years old, its label greasy and illegible. We squirt a little into a pot or a mixing bowl, whatever we have. Boiling water gets poured over, and we splash the dishes around. They're clean when we're done. Or so we tell ourselves.

Dish washing was less fun in that apartment. There was no sink in the 'kitchen'. Instead, the tiny bathroom sink, which I could have  reached by turning around from the stove top if it weren't for the bathroom door, did double duty. It never seemed very hygienic. But apparently I survived.

But the main reason camping reminds me of starting out in that first apartment is that many of the dishes and pans in our camp cookware box were my first dishes and pans.

And especially this knife. I bought it one of the first days I was on my own. Boy did I feel grown up walking into the Co-op Hardware Store to buy a knife for my kitchen. I used that knife for almost everything--and everything, back then, amounted mainly to slicing bread and chopping onions (for risotto or pasta--that's all I remember cooking in that kitchen).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bike Rides and Ice Cream Cones

I think you all know I enjoy ice cream. A lot. So much, in fact, that in the beginning of this summer I spent a sunny Saturday walking 18 miles and tasting ice cream from 10 different shops.

I promise to tell you about that before the leaves start to turn color.

For now, I just want to talk about yesterday. It was hot here--90 degrees. I'd gone for a 20 minute walk (each way) with a friend to our local tiki Bar, Hale Pele. (Because I think excellent daiquiris are right up there with ice cream). I arrived back home just in time for supper on the front porch, pulled together by Grace and Pavel: grilled sausages, corn on the cob, and coleslaw.

Sometimes we eat out back in the summer, but I have to admit I prefer the front porch. Nothing like a lazy evening eating, sipping, having short conversations with neighbors and passersby. I could have sat there all evening but Grace had other plans. "How about we bike over to 50/50 for ice cream?"

Since 50/50 is our favorite Portland ice cream destination, neither Pavel nor I could come with any good reason not to. So we cleaned up our dishes and got on our bikes.

At 50/50 I made the difficult choice. Should I pick sour cherry? Chocolate pistachio toffee? This time I chose blackberry. Blackberries are my favorite berry. It's probably a little childish to have a favorite berry, but there you have it. I have fond memories of eating bowls of sun-warmed blackberries at my grandmother's house. We'd sprinkle them with sugar and pour a little cream poured on top. The sugar always had that nice crystal crunch that contrasted so nicely with the crunch of the seeds. And I still think the mauve color the berry juice makes when it mingles with cream is one of the prettiest.

Sometimes I choose my ice cream flavor by color. Possibly because two flavors look so pretty together (apricot and raspberry are a favorite color combo). More often because I think the color will look nice on the shirt I'm wearing, when the inevitable drips fall.

I almost always take my ice cream in a cone. I like to think it's greener of me, as it leaves no plastic spoon or cup needing disposal. If you have evidence to the contrary, say about the amount of resources used to produce the sugar, or the energy to cook the waffle, please keep it to yourself.

Because the real reason I get ice cream in a cone is that it's just more fun. Licking an ice cream cone is one of those instant time travel activities. Just like that I'm back to being a kid. If the ice cream happens to melt and drip on my shirt, oh well (I did, after all, pick my color carefully). If the ice cream falls off the cone, I may just burst into tears.

Last night neither of those things happened. But I did slowly lick my ice cream cone, the sky pinking up in the background.

And then we rode home. The breeze continued to do the job the ice cream had started: cooling us down. We leaned into turns, calling out to one another as we passed a particularly pretty house or oddly shaped shrub. If I'd had a bell I would have rung it a few times. I kind of wished I had streamers on my handlebars.

The fact is, eating an ice cream cone and riding a bike is about as joyous a summer evening amusement as you can come by.

Turns out getting older isn't so bad. You can still have the childlike fun, but you also get to have those daiquiris.

I was so concentrated on licking my cone last night I forgot to take a picture. So instead, here's the Bourbon Cherry Chocolate ice cream cone I had last week at Mix in Ashland. Another great stop for ice cream (and delicious ham sandwiches on buttered baguette).
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