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Super Special Skills
I’m writing this newsletter wearing noise cancelling headphones. I’m away with friends for a few days to cook, walk and work on whatever we’re working on. We call it the creative retreat. Right now one is braising chickpeas,another is knitting, and I am sitting nearby with Dottie, my laptop, headphones and a strangely tasty drink. A small echo of their conversation is seeping through the headphones - what is your super-special skill? I hear one ask the other.
I can eyeball a volume of leftover soup on the stove and find the perfect container to put it in.
I can parallel park, really well.
I can pogo stick, indefinitely.
I can also pogo stick indefinitely.
I wish there was a pogo stick category in the Olympics. Synchronized pogo!
I’m renaming this the geek retreat. If I wasn’t pretending to write, I would offer that my super special skill is finding frog spawn in puddles at this time, every year. Just this morning I was walking in the woods with the dogs when I spotted my first cluster of eggs. It was the kind of walk that began with the cool April air nipping at my ears, and ended with my jacket tied around my waist. I passed deer prints in the mud, coyote scat and pheasants taking flight from the water surrounding the beaver dam. Perfect weather for a frog to lay her eggs.
I found them in a puddle at the side of the path, swaying like a cluster of clear grapes dotted with black eyes, clinging to grass in the muddy water. I leaned over to inspect: wood frog eggs. Wood frogs lay their eggs in clusters, close to one another in shallow water where they can cling to branches, debris, grasses and rocks. These little clusters are vulnerable. They don’t have shells for protection; insects and fish love them. Water and their jelly protection will keep them cushioned and safe.
As I leaned over to take a picture, the dogs charged through the shallow water, kicking up the mud. I thought that was it for those little clusters, but as the mud settled, the eggs swayed in the disturbance, eventually settling just as they were before.
I’ve been learning about strength in numbers this week. Next week’s podcast episode is all about mussels. Mussels have shells, but unlike fish, they can’t swim away from their predators. So they live in colonies, attached to a fixed object, finding strength in numbers. They are tethered by soft byssal threads, their beards, which allow mussels to flow gently together with the tides while simultaneously holding fast.
It’s like friends together for a few days, talking, listening, laughing, walking and cooking for each other. Soon I’ll take these headphones off, we’ll cluster around the table and eat.
We ate Ottolenghi’s Braised Chickpeas with Carrots, Dates and Feta. It was, as my mom would say, a TEN. I found an interpretation of the recipe here.
To make this strangely tasty, non-alcoholic drink, add ice cubes and sparkling water to a glass. We used raspberry Bubly, an unsweetened carbonated drink. Any sparkling water will work. To the glass add a little grated fresh ginger and a splash of apple cider vinegar. That’s it! A DIY kombucha of sorts.