Adventures in Fermentation: Peppers

I started playing with old-school fermentation this weekend. No…not beer. Peppers.

My CSA gives me more produce than I can eat. Some I give away, some gets composted. This weekend, my friend Rebecca came over and we were talking about what to do with all the extra.  My eyes fell on my copy of The Art of Fermentation, and we realized the only thing standing in the way of making pickled sweet peppers was a gallon of spring water. One trip to the store, and we were ready to go.

Here’s what we did:

  • Chopped off the tops of the peppers so the brine would surround the vegetable matter.
  • Put the peppers in a two gallon pickle crock (glazed on the inside)
  • Added fresh garlic, dill, and oregano
  • Added a couple of tablespoons of salt
  • Added a gallon of water
  • Added a small dinner plate to keep the peppers submerged

As of this morning, they smell wonderful: peppery and spicy with just the first hint of vinegar-like acidity.  Over 2-4 weeks, my local single-celled neighbors in the brine will feast on the peppers, fermenting them. After that, they’ll be read to sample. I’ll bring you a full report of success or failure at that time.

Gen $X

One of the first things I do each morning is flip on the radio to catch the news from NPR. Today, they started a new series on Milennials. They are calling it “The New Boom,” since there are more Millenials now (80 million) than there are GenX (40-50million) or Baby Boomers (70 million). It was mostly a puff piece, having one Milennial reporter defending her generation against some of the stereotypes about them. One of the interesting points in the articles was who she compared her generation to: Silents, and Baby Boomers. There was no mention of my generation: Gen X.

Gen X. Might as well just call us Gen $X: as far as the world of the media is concerned, we are an empty value, a spacer between Baby Boomers and the Milennials. We are the Prince Charles of generations: waiting for our parents to die off so we get out shot, only to realize that by the time we get it, the next generation already has the crown.

In the book The End of Absence, Michael Harris explores what it means to be in my generation: to be the last generation that will remember what the world was like before  constant connection and the Internet. When speaking of Milennials, he says;

“No two generations in history have experienced such a highlighted cognitive dissonance, because never has change occurred at so rapid a pace. Look at the rate of penetration—the amount of time it takes for a new technology to be adopted by fifty million people. Radio took thirty-eight  years to reach that mark; the telephone took twenty years; and television took thirteen. More  recently, the World Wide Web took four years, Facebook took 3.6, Twitter took three, and the iPad took only two. Google Plus, which nobody even finds useful, took only eighty-eight days to be adopted by fifty million.”

I’ve got nothing against Milennials; if anything, I’m jealous. They gain much by following Gen X, the Transitional Generation. The world is broken, but they seem to like it that way. They’ll use the tools and the freedom that technology brings to either start to fix it or, at least, document it for the next generation. They seem to feel a freedom and a optimism that my generation doesn’t have: so busy were we trying to throw off the baggage our Boomer parents/leaders thrust upon us while coming to grips with the hopeless world they left in their wake.

I wish them luck. I don’t particularly want to hear about it anymore. I’m looking to get a little from this life before I leave it, carve out a little space where I can make a few things, feel some fulfillment. My parents’ generation’s dreams (get a job, stay there until you retire, build up a retirement account, save for college, buy all the things) didn’t survive their rule, we had to scramble and figure out how to build a life as the Greediest generation raped and pillaged the economy. Let’s face it, my people didn’t do very well either when they got the reins. Maybe early retirement is best, just pass the baton and recede into the background.

I see many in my generation attempting a mid-life course correction, realizing that that getting what they thought they wanted didn’t really make them happy. The midlife crisis is not unique to us, but I’m hoping we can do something positive with it: the Boomer stereotype of the affair and the new sporty car doesn’t really feel like us; I hope we can at least get the latter half of our lives right. It’s not about the things, guys. It’s not about the money. It’s not about the career. It’s about making a positive change in the world. Our parents will never approve of us, and the next generation will wonder what took us so long. Ignore it. Go be happy. Find something fulfilling.

You’ve earned that much.

Contentment, Pride, and Diversion

It’s cold out there this morning. The dog was less than thrilled about stepping into the wet grass to do her business. It’s going to be time to fire up the furnace for first time.

Last night I was struck by the beauty of the forest running through the Cuyahoga Valley. I was heading out to the farm where I have my CSA to pick up this week’s basket of goodies. The six o’clock sun filtered through the leaves just starting to change was stunning. The crispness has crept into the air at last, and that faint smell of dry, dead vegetation rides upon the breeze. It makes me happy.

I’m proud of where I live. The whole region is filled with character, from forests in the valley to the rust belt revival of Cleveland, from the Norman Rockwell-esque square of Medina to the restored neighborhoods of Tremont and Ohio City. I’m 20 minutes from something wonderful at any given time. At this time of year, whether it is coffee at Civilization and a walk around Lincoln Park or beers at the Winking Lizard and a hike along the Towpath, there something to suit just about any mood. A good friend is coming to town in a couple weeks and I will the whole week just to show him half of what I love about this region. It’s a good problem to have.

When I look around me, I realize I have what I wanted as a child and a young man. I have a house with a fireplace. I live walking distance from Medina Square, one of my regular haunts. I have three great kids, a solid job I enjoy, and time to enjoy all of it. It’s so easy to find the negative things, to dwell on the parts that we don’t like. When I take time to reflect, I realize I don’t have very much to complain about.

It’s one of the reasons most online forums/social networks turn me off: the never-ending stream of bitching. I suppose we find misery more interesting than contentment; it does love company, after all. There is so very much of it, and so much is manufactured. I think we like to get lost in other people’s problems as a diversion from our own, and, sadly, to be able to say “at least that’s not me.” Not terribly compassionate, that, but very, very human.

It makes me wonder what we could accomplish if the diversions went away. The promise of technological advance was that it would free up the people’s time for worthy pursuits. Instead, we’ve filled the time saved with more work, stress, and brain-numbing diversion. Perhaps the Millennials will get it right with their focus on travel, minimalism, flexible work hours, and work-life balance. The Boomers have retired and have all the time in the world and Gen X is trying to figure with how to make sense of the things their kids now take for granted.

I hear stirring upstairs. Time to see to other duties. Have a good one today, folks.