Yesterday was one of those stellar days with not one thing to complain about. Our phone, which I sometimes disconnect and hide in the drawer with the kitchen utensils opted to be quiet, and the sun twinkled on the lake below the house. Wish I could bottle and market that feeling of inner peace that sometimes descends on me. Perhaps call it “Happy Days”, for those mornings when you’ve read the paper and watched the news and allowed your brain to absorb the content. A quick spray of Happy Days and the memory of which congressman, governor, or celebrity had dropped his pants, entered rehab, fathered an illegitimate child, or removed items illegally from jeweler’s display case, would immediately disappear being replaced with thoughts of baby kittens and rolling on a bed of hundred-dollar bills. I like it.
I made a light dinner of artichokes steamed in lemon and garlic water, and a salad Nicoise. We sat on the deck and watched the hummingbirds as they mimicked a dogfight competing over the holes in the feeder. Birds fascinate me. They’re just so graceful and come in such a wide variety of shapes and colors. Even the homely buzzard can look beautiful when floating in an updraft over the tree tops. As a little girl my grandmother and I always hung netted bags of suet from the trees in the back yard during the spring and summer months. Birds were her favorite creatures. Most are among mine. There are always exceptions.
My first husband’s brother and his wife had a parrot, who answered to the name Rudy, literally. I’m not certain what the extent of his full vocabulary was, but it was impressive. As birds go, he was large. Rudy spent a good deal of his days perched on an intricate network of branches in his hosts living room, eating seeds and nuts distributing the shells in a wide pattern on the carpet below. They also shared space with their dog Puppy, and Mathilda, the resident feline. Puppy was a lovely, even-tempered animal. Why the dog had such a sweet disposition I could never understand, because Rudy took great pleasure in testing his good nature. One of Rudy’s many words was “Pup” which he spoke clearly in a surprisingly human tone. The minute Pup would lie down for a quick nap, Rudy would wait until he had just dozed off and then announce his name loudly followed by a shrill whistle. Obedient to a fault, the old dog would get up and wander around the room looking confused. This was repeated frequently during the day, and considered great party entertainment. If I had been Pup I would have packed my Milk Bones in my duffel bag and headed south.
In contrast with his brilliant azure and yellow feathers Rudy’s disposition was much less attractive. For starters he hated women, in particular my sister-in-law, Elaine. His person of choice was her husband Bob, and he only had eyes for him. As he was allowed free rein in the house, this could often become problematic. Rudy had a nasty jealous streak and was prone to passive aggressive behaviors. When agitated he might lift Elaine’s makeup from the bathroom counter or pluck strands of wool from her sweaters. Although never actually attacking her, he would show his distress by violently dancing up and down and screeching at a mind numbing pitch. In truth, he scared the pants off of me. If my bird behaved like that way the only thing he’d find himself perched on would be toast points served with savory wild rice.
At that time I was living in Southern California but my job took me to the Bay Area quite often. If I stayed overnight, I would occasionally stay with my brother and sister-in-law rather than a hotel. We’d known each other since we were just out of high school so were great friends and all loved to cook. On one particular visit, I decided to stay on through the weekend. I slept on the couch during those visits with one eye on the bird, who for the most part ignored my presence other than to toss an occasional “Pup” in my direction to see if my light was as dim as the dogs.
Before I went to sleep that Friday Elaine mentioned they had to go out for an hour the following morning. She suggested I crawl in their bed after they leave and sleep in. Worked for me. Their couch had a definite dip in the middle so after a couple of hours your toes were nudging your forehead. True to her word she woke me. I plopped into their overly full water-bed nearly catapulting myself out the bedroom window. Pulling up the covers and dozing off I was awakened by a loud flapping sound emanating from the hallway. A green mass of feathers flew into the room and perched on the end of the bed. Rudy, obviously having lost his mind, began pacing back and forth on the footboard like an agitated bank robber. Then he began to babble, scream and whistle while pecking agitatedly at the swollen plastic mattress by my feet. Warm water dampened my socks. I pulled my feet up and the covers over my head and laid very still. Back and forth he walked on the end of the bed giving me a sizable piece of his mind and an obvious critique of my character. At one point during this tirade he turned his back on me. I was up out of that bed and down the hall before you could say “Pup”. Locking myself in the bathroom, I remained there until Elaine and Bob came home with breakfast some time later and rescued me. After that I opted for the hotel room.
Potato salad is my favorite during the summer months. I have a number of varieties that I throw together but particularly like this one with lamb or steaks.
Grilled Red Potato Salad
2 1/2 lbs. small red potatoes
1 red onion, chopped coarsely
1/2 large green pepper, chopped coarsely
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup minced fresh tarragon
Scrub potatoes and place covered in water in large saucepan with skin on. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 mins. Drain and cool slightly. Cut in half.
In large mixing bowl combine potatoes, onion, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Stir until well coated. Place potatoes cut side down on grilling grid and place on grill rack. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 10 mins. or until nicely browned. Turn occasionally.
In large bowl combine potatoes, onion, green pepper, and parsley. Set aside.
Whisk together remaining oil, lemon juice, mustard, sugar, garlic, and salt and pepper. Combine with potato mixture and toss well. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with tarragon. Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers. Serves 8-10.