Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Two Ps

Two Ps dominated my life today--proofing and potato salad (must be an indication of versatility). I am slowly proofing the copy for a digital version of my 1995 novel about Jessie Benton Fremont, wife of the flamboyant (and sometimes foolish) explorer, John Charles Fremont. She was ahead of her time as a woman but chafed at the restrictions placed on her. While Fremont went off to explore California and fulfill "manifest destiny," she was at home running her father's household and then writing up her husband's reports. I'm struck by the difference in language between this and my contemporary mysteries, but I was writing in first person from the viewpoint of a woman in the mid--to-late nineteenth century, and of course she spoke more formally, with more restraint.
The novel is based on thorough research but one incident I read today almost made me teary. Jessie's mother was a chronic invalid but fairly early in the book (200 pages out of 475) she begins to have a series of small strokes or TIAs (trans-ischemic accidents--the term was unknown in that day). Clearly, those episodes were based on memories of going through that with my mom--the arm that grew suddenly heavy, the convulsive shudders, the confusion. It all came rushing back to me. Jessie was the primary caretaker and that, too, was familiar, as was her hidden desire to shake her mother and say, "Mom, just be yourself!" Oh, how I wanted that.
The potato salad consumed most of my morning, I love potato salad of almost any kind--don't much like what they serve in BBQ joints. Then again, one of my favorites is County Line Potato Salad from the Austin/San Antonio BBQ places. You can find the recipe online--it takes an amazing quantity of dill pickle relish but even if you don't like the relish, you'll like this. It takes four large Idaho potatoes; you boil, chill and then peel. So much easier.
The recipe I used today calls for peeling and dressing still-warm potatoes, which is a bit of a pain and often hard on the fingertips. But I persevered, although I may have let the potatoes get a bit cool. The dressing is mainly vegetable oil and lemon juice. My potatoes were larger than usual, so I may have to add more dressing tomorrow before serving. I also made a salad of corn, black beans, radishes (Christian loves them), with a mayo dressing slightly touched with vinegar and flavored with chopped basil from my front porch herb garden. Enough standing. I'll set the table for eight tomorrow.
Here's the recipe for the potato salad, given to me by friend Sue Winter. I hope she won't mind my sharing it.

Lemon Potato Salad
6 medium red potatoes
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. grated lemon peel, fresh
3-4 Tbsp. lemon juice, fresh
3-4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. salt (don't skimp)
1/4 tsp. pepper
Boil potatoes until tender. Drain. Peel and dice while warm. Add onions. Pour sauce over warm potatoes and onions and coat well. Add celery and parsley. Chill. Serves eight.
The original recipe calls for a small jar of pimiento, which I don't particularly care for (though I love pimiento cheese). Add if you want, when you add celery and parsley.


Kait said...

Judy, I read your book. As I was reading your post, it all came back to me. Oh, I can't wait to read it again. Hurry with those proofs! It is hard when we are able to identify life events in our writing. Hugs.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Kait. I found something else from my own life late last night--maybe because it was late I can't remember it.