Saturday, July 18, 2009

Welcome to Pickledilly Circus

For years, I was a total dickweed when it came to dill weed. I’ve always loved pickles (speaking of which ... are you gonna eat yours? otherwise, please pass it over); but I didn’t properly appreciate that the dill in “dill pickle” meant, well, DILL. What a picklehead!

I believe my first introduction to dill as a spotlighted ingredient was in a dish prepared, as my mother so aptly described it, “with dill and capers.” This moment also represented my formal introduction to capers. Thus, for many years, the pair were linked as inextricably in my mind as Simon and Garfunkel.

The thing is, I don’t really care for capers. Or caper flicks, for that matter. Except After the Fox. Oh, and Hot Millions—that’s a good one. I love the part [*SPOILER*] where Peter Ustinov accidentally sets off the alarm, then slyly pretends his break-in was part of a security test that he’d alerted Karl Malden and Bob Newhart to in advance, via a memo that has “mysteriously disappeared.” I was thinking about that scene the other day, when I heard news of Malden’s death. And this, of course, brings me back to dill—by virtue of the fact that it’s the topic I’m actually supposed to be writing about.

As I recall, it was the dill hummus that finally elicited my appreciation for the complex, unusual flavor of this fine herb. I enjoy hummuses (hummi?) with a variety of seasonings, and I noted that despite the piquancy of the cayenne-pepper variety and the potency of the garlic variety—two of my favorites—the dill variety was, in a way, the most distinctively flavored hummus of them all. Dill is, like, its own thing, dude. And the dill hummus was really dill hummus rather than merely hummus with dill. (Dude.)

Since this awakening, I’ve tried to remain attuned to the inimitable herbish charisma of dill—in breads, rolls, soups, sauces, and salad dressings. Around here, Helia’s repertoire includes a little something that I like to call haricots verts au fenouil (lest my degree in French go to waste). Here’s her recipe—I tell you, it’s a dilly!

1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed* (frozen works too)
1 tbsp. butter, olive oil, or a mixture (best!)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped, or 1 tsp. dried dill [aka dill weed —J.)
salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste [see Haven and Craig, respectively —J.]

optional but nice: lemon juice, toasted slivered almonds [Jacuzzi, Moët et Chandon, vacation on the Riviera ... —J.]

* And a manicure, please. —J.

Steam the green beans until just tender. Meanwhile, put the butter/olive oil, garlic, and dill in a pan or heat-proof serving dish and cook on low heat until the butter melts and the garlic becomes slightly translucent. Add the beans and toss. Season with the salt and pepper and optional lemon juice and toss again. Sprinkle almonds on top if desired.

Thanks, Helia! You can oil my almonds anytime. ; )

♪ ♪ ♪

Wikipedia describes dill as a “short-lived perennial herb.” So I guess it’s a good thing I’m writing about it now, before it’s too late. And yet, in the same pickled breath, Wiki notes that “the earliest archeological evidence for its cultivation comes from late Neolithic lake shore settlements in Switzerland.” (Am I the only one picturing Chicago- or Toronto-style condominiums?) So you see, there is an historical link between pickles and yodeling, Virginia!

Charlemagne, we are told by Wiki, “used it [dill] at banquets to relieve hiccups.” If that failed, Madame Charlemagne would jump out of a tureen. Moving from Frankish sexual mores to sexual frankness, it is alleged that dill and fennel like to fuck (though Wiki opts for the term hybridise). Who knew! Apparently, if you plant them near enough to each other, they’re likely to end up in the same bed. Mind you, this (nudge nudge) “hybridisation” gossip has been flagged by Wiki with a “citation needed” tag ... but, come on, you think they’re not sleeping together after all this time? (What the hell do you think they were doing out at the lake in Neolithic Switzerland, dude?)

One final tidbit before I stop pestering Wikipedia: After dill seeds have been harvested, “the seed heads are placed upside down in a paper bag.” Now that sounds like a hiccup cure.

Perhaps I’m justified in thinking that dill, though an herb (and a short-lived one at that!), is more comfortable hanging out in the brazen and sexy world of spices. I say this not only because of its front-and-center flavor, but also because I like how it looks, in its fresh form, as if it would make a nice, soft feather substitute for a bit o’ tickling. (I realize, in actuality, it would probably feel scratchy; still, no harm dreaming feathery dreams of a dilly dalliance.)

But enough dillydallying, for the nonce. Now it’s time for some shilly-shallying. (Curiously, Merriam-Webster asks me to hyphenate the latter, but not the former. I think someone at M-W is pulling my pickle.)

Discussion Topic: What’s your favorite phase of the writing process, if you have one? I think I like writing the beginning of a story the best. Sure, the follow-through leads to richer artistic rewards, and there’s nothing like that sense of accomplishment as a piece comes together in its final stages of revisions ... but I find such magic, such joie-de-vivre (lest my degree go to waste), such a giddy sense of potential in the first few hundred words I get down (which usually, though not without exception, comprise the beginning of the story, in my case). When I’ve completed a piece to my satisfaction, I can hopefully feel that I’ve lived up to the potential ... but at that point I’ve become, with respect to that particular piece, a grizzled, wrinkled, old soul (I’ll thank you to keep your snickers to yourselves) who has labored over every sentence—and that’s different from being the starry-eyed first-draft puppy.

Before I turn the mic over to all of you, let me just say how glad I am to have you here. [Sings] It’s dill-licious, it’s dill-lightful, it’s dill-lovely ... [Nuts, I can’t find an image of a vaudeville performer getting the hook!]

♪ ♪ ♪

The Spicy Summer Sunday blog tour continues!

7/26 Isabel Kerr—ginger

8/2 Marina St. Clare—basil

8/9 BadAssKona—rosemary

8/16 Emerald—poppy seeds

8/23 P.S. Haven—salt

8/30 Gala Goodbye


Danielle said...

ha..what a great post to wake up to (its 8.00 am here)..:-)
and its so totally jeremy-esk...easy breeze and funny as fuck:-)

i m totally dill-lighted!

Craig Sorensen said...

Ooh! I love the recipe and all the dill lore. Not Dill lorian, which was a guy who was responsible for the Pontiac GTO, built cars in the 80's and had troubles with...


I suppose you know I love to write. When I started writing, the one thing I disliked was editing, but now I've even gotten to where I love it too.

What may be interesting (well, to me it is) is that there is a moment in nearly everything I write, where I think "at what point did I believe this story was going to be worth a shit?"

I almost always hate a story or scene for at least a few hours, usually after the first draft is finished and I'm going over it. Usually there is something amiss with the story, I haven't figured it out, and it's nagging me. Often the issue is a minor point but seems gargantuan.

I almost always come out of this phase quite quickly, and usually this is when the story really comes together.

Craig Sorensen said...

Oh, and I find the yodeling pickle to be mildly disturbing.

Janine Ashbless said...

Ah ... I cooked with dill for the first time last month: sprinkling it on top of borscht. (It was my first time making borscht, and the hardest part of that was finding a recipe that didn't say "Simmer for three hours". Soup was fantastic (even my beetroot-hating friend liked it) but oh boy is dill a bit of a shock to the newbie tastebuds. Also, coincidentally, I cooked with capers for the first time that week too. So now I feel all cosmopolitan!

PS: has nobody made a dildo pun yet? I'm disappointed!

Jeremy Edwards said...

Quick links to Puntopia! [comments]

: )

Back soon!

Janine Ashbless said...

Hah - just popped back to say I'd found Neve's!

Craig Sorensen said...

With the exception of one comment on Jeremy's announcement yesterday and the pathetic "Dill lorian", I've tried to stayed away from the dill puns.

There are so many much more qualified punsters than I...

Unknown said...

Great post, J! Very nice.
I guess I'd say my favorite part of the process is the very early, lightbulb-over-the-head part, when you first get the idea and you're all stoked to hurry up and lay it out, busting out notes and stuff. To be honest, none of it comes easy to me. More often than not, it's like pulling teeth trying to get what's in my head onto paper. But sometimes that early phase is pretty joyous.
Thanks for the post, J!

Alison Tyler said...

Hey J,

I am a dill fan... It's one of the spices I feel comfortable around. (Don't let me near your cayenne. I go way too far.)

Clever query, too—but I was just thinking about this the other day. When my characters wouldn't behave. And that's actually my favorite part. When whatever the fuck I had planned for two, three, or four people goes out the window. When the people on the page take control and tell me to sit back. Relax. Let them do the work.

I guess you'd have to call this the middle.


Donna said...

Wow, Jeremy, my mind is spinning dill-iriously (what the fuck, it's fun to do those stupid puns, even if they're repeats) seriously with the drama and desire of dill. I am not surprised that fennel and dill get it on whenever they have the opportunity. They'd make a good couple and I should try it. The dill hummus has really got my mouth watering. I love hummus with roasted red pepper. Can't even really eat the plain stuff anymore cause I'm missing the extra fire. But dill hummus? That might be worth straying from the roasted red pepper relationship ;-). Anyone have a recipe or a brand to recommend?

And Helia's recipe is a must-try and right now! The green beans are piled high at the farmer's market right now. Will definitely add the almonds and the champagne--your house beverage, of course!

So, on to the writing topic, whilst I lick dill hummus from my fingers.... Like Craig there's always a time (or several) when I just hate my story and doubt it will ever take off. This is always in the evening, and when there's a problem with the piece. Usually I work it out in my dreams and do a fix in the morning, but not always. It's a great feeling when the fix idea pops up in my dawn-fresh brain, but that's still not my favorite part. I also related to Jeremy's excitement at the beginning of the process, but it's definitely not while I write the first pages. Those are hell for me and it's taken years to force myself to just start writing with a promise I can throw it all away when the "real story" shows up. Although usually I don't throw it away, lol.

So, finally, my answer: my favorite part is when I identify the seed of the story. Something a little weird, intriguing, an image, a question, a true life story that must have another story behind it. My stories always have a trigger and I can "feel" that this image will become something more. It's that moment of almost pure potential that is truly exciting to me, that "yes, this is going to go somewhere."

Will think on this more and really look forward to hearing what other guests have to say. Got to get to work on my newest story, tentatively titled "The Yodeling Pickle." Do you think dill goes with coffee or oatmeal?

Jeremy Edwards said...

Good morning, Danielle! (Yeah, I know it's now mid-afternoon there ...) Thank you for switching the lights on and getting the coffee brewing while I was still asleep! And thanks so much for the praise! Great way to start the day. : )

Jeremy Edwards said...

Hi, Craig! I know what you mean about a minor problem looming large. Like a piece of dill stuck between one's teeth.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Janine, that's so neat that you recently staged a dill-and-caper caper!

Jeremy Edwards said...

Morning, Haven! Ah yes, lightbulbs. That charged-up feeling of the story-to-be burning a hole in one's pocket.

("Is that the beginning of a short story, or are you just glad to see me?")

Jeremy Edwards said...

Hi, Alison! I love your answer. It's so awesome that what some writers would view as a hitch in the writing process is, for you, a breakthrough. Very cool!

Jeremy Edwards said...

Morning, Donna!

I am not surprised that fennel and dill get it on whenever they have the opportunity.

And clearly the sexually sophisticated French have long been onto this, given that their word fenouil suggests a (nudge nudge) hybridisation of the two.

I love the dill hummus in the Tribe of Two Sheiks line. (Though I loved it even more before they evidently changed the recipe slightly, about a decade ago. Fussy? Moi?)

Interesting that your temporary-impasse moments occur at a particular time of day. I think I have some time-of-day correlations with my writing, too.

my favorite part is when I identify the seed of the story

Upside-down in a paper bag?

Sommer Marsden said...

a yodeling pickle! I must have one!

i have to try your green beans (, that sounded dirty) because I have fresh green beans growing in my garden this year. And for the second year, dill (go see my pic for proof and for my mad paint skillz). That sounds great. Yum, yum.

As for the writing process, I have to say lust. When the idea first comes into my mind and I start stroking it and turning it over in my head and touching it to see how flexible it is and which way I can go with it. And then I get all worked up and have it all perfectly...yeah, laid out in my head and I have to throw my hands up to everyone around me and say I'm sorry and...whew...write!

I love that feeling. It is the best drug I can imagine. Beyond that, the home stretch and the being doneness phase of the writing.

my word is flizzl. seems snoop dog had heard about the good food and wants to see what flizzl's in your hizzle (I think that means flavors in your house. but don't quote me.)

sorry for generous use of wrong punctuation. am running on 1/2 a cuppa

Donna said...

Hey, Jeremy, well, I've got a big old paper bag right here and after I do the headstand, I'll let you know!

So fun to hear about the juicy bits of the creative process. Like Sommer, lust is definitely part of it for me, too. A supposedly forbidden question for erotica writers is "Does your own work turn you on?" And it's like (man, dude, ya know) if it didn't during at least some point in the process, it would be one dull story.

I also love it when my characters rebel against my plan for them, but that's only happened with my novel. The players in my stories are usually to busy having sex to ask questions, lol.

Do you think they have "Tribe of Two Sheiks" in Gettysburg supermarkets?

Erobintica said...

I am now craving dill hummus - I will look for it later when I go out.

My favorite part of writing? Hmm, though I like the lightbulb, and it sure does feel good to finish something, I'd say my favorite is where the story takes over - where it takes on a life of it's own - and I can't stop because I want to know what happens next. When the writing consumes me. It doesn't always happen. But when it does ...

And Donna, I didn't realize that question (does your work turn you on?) was a "forbidden" one - see, I'm so new at this - and I'd have to say DUH!!! - if it doesn't I've obviously failed.

And Sommer - I'm jealous of your garden dill - I've only once had luck growing it - and I love it - I love the smell in the garden.

Okay, now I'm seriously craving dill.

Jeremy Edwards said...

"Does your own work turn you on?"

I recently read a captivating piece on that topic.

Back soon!

Sommer Marsden said...

lol. the thing about that mammoth dill, robin, is it is INDEED mammoth. if let go it can get eye to eye with me (nearly six feet) and it grows these enormous yellow cluster flowers on top. And me, when I planted, figured I have a black thumb so I just dumped down a huge amount of seeds and um...damn. We get overrun if we don't keep on it...

my word is dronk. not yet, but later...heh heh

Donna said...

Jeez, Sommer, that dill sounds worse than zucchini. Those suckers can grow from finger size to baseball bat in one day after a good rain!

Jeremy, the Alicia Night Orchid post was just amazing. So glad I read it! And now I have a few new ideas for my yodeling pickle story....

Spam word: calorehi

But dill and green beans are so very healthy, especially if you use just a touch more olive oil than butter, right?

Erobintica said...

Fresh dill that hasn't flowered yet is very soft - it would make a great tickler - and smell so wonderful!

And thanks for the link to Alicia's essay - good reading.

Sommer Marsden said...

just a pop in to say i fixed your link, j. it wasn't working. actually. it was absent. it's there now! ;)

Jeremy Edwards said...

Sommer, I can just see you all revved up with writing lust. It must be a beautiful—and possibly a little frightening—sight!

Jeremy Edwards said...

got a big old paper bag right here

Excellent! So even if the Moët gives us hiccups, we're all set.

I love what you said about your characters being too busy to ask questions, heheh.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Hi, Robin! Ooh, yeah, I love it when a story propels itself forward under its own momentum and I have to hang on with both hands (ahem).

Fresh dill that hasn't flowered yet is very soft - it would make a great tickler

Good to know! After I first drafted this post the other day, I had an opportunity to cop a feel of some fresh dill at the supermarket. It felt sort of stiff and waxy; but that must be an indication of how "fresh" (as in, NOT) it was.

Emerald said...

Jeremy, I started laughing out loud at literally the first sentence of this post. :) I love your question and feel quite eager to come back and answer it, but alas, I have to run right now (am running exactly four minutes behind at the moment). Be back in a few hours!

Meanwhile, this

"but that must be an indication of how 'fresh' (as in, NOT) it was"

cracked me up.

Thanks, Jeremy! Be back soon!

neve black said...

I'm here at last to also pull your pickle, J!

Splendid post as always! Wonderful recipe from the lovely Helia as well. *waves to Helia*

First a word about pickle punning: I always add a disclaimer when I try and wordsmith with Jeremy - It say's simply that I am no Jeremy. Period.

Think of my joy. Damn, I was dill-ated when Jeremy liked my pickle pun yesterday. Hooray for pickles!

I'm putting dill hummus on my list of must try items learned from this fantastic sexy, Sunday, summer spice blogtour - Now that was a mouthful and I don't have room for a...pickle. Buh, duh, dum (drums).

My favorite part of the writing process is when I find what I like to call the rub. That piece of the puzzle that ties everything together: sometimes this happens in the beginning, sometimes the middle and then, sometimes after my 567 edit, it's the very orgasmic ending. It's seriously like a bolt of lighting that comes out from nowhere and I'm snoopy dancing around and singing, "Ohhhhhh, baby, oh, baby, oh, baby, thatsa ita!!"

I'll stop back later for more it's dill-icious, it's dill-lightful, it was written by Cole Porter later, baby.

p.s. you can have my pickle anytime.

Isabel Kerr said...

SO SORRY to be dillinquent! I mean late.

I miss dill!!! They just don't do it here and when they don't do it, they don't do it. I had to have someone bring a tarragon plant down from Switzerland, for example. They do so many things so well here, but they're missing out on some wonderful stuff.

Thanks Jeremy for reminding me of such a dillectable treat. Enough already!

I love the part of the writing process when I am walking and I come up with some killer sex scene. But then which, when I get back, accounts for maybe 100 words and I hate the part where I have to find another 1900 or so to round out the story. I'm such a s-l-o-w writer it takes me weeks to put the rest together.

Does your own work turn you on? I'snt that the point. Ha. It is for me.

Thank you so much Jeremy for making me dream about all things dill. Mmmmm.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Thanks for the laughter, Emerald!

And only four minutes behind? Around here, we call that running early. ; )

Jeremy Edwards said...

Neve, thanks for Snoopy-dancing over to assist with the pickle pulling! And thanks for the praise, and for sharing your own wordsmith (and jones) wittiness! And your pickle.

I have to tell you that I dreamt about you last night. (Ha! That got their attention.) Sort of. It was the weekend of the Gettyburg Getty-together, and we were all traveling by plane (all on one flight) ... but we were diverted by weather, to Cleveland! So I thought, cool, now Neve can be included, too.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Hi, Isabel! Funny, right before I read your comment I'd been eating some tarragon mustard ... garnished with a little bit of Swiss cheese. Next time you run out, maybe I can hook you up with some Neolithic condo-dwellers.

I know just what you mean about those story-inspiring sex scenes that pan out to 100 words. But, hey, whatever gets us writing, right?

neve black said...

The Neve diversion by way of Cleveland, huh? Well Neve is snow in Italian (EllaR and Jeremy have pointed out in the past). So, suffice to say, that flight had to headed to Italy.

I must say when I man tells me, "so, I had a dream about you last night..." A flight diversion through Cleveland is one I've yet to hear until now.

Thank you for that, pickle. :-0

p.s. my spam word is: undrucke. Yes, as a matter of fact I am undrunk today. Yo!

Isabel Kerr said...

That's right J. Whatever gets us writing, or whatever. ; )

Isabel Kerr said...

And that's right too Neve, come on over!!!!! You know I'd love to have you all here. A writers conference anyone?


EllaRegina said...

Parsley, sage, rosemary and dill...

What a dilly of a post, Jeremy! Now you're an official Spice Boy.

I especially love the annotations. (Did you ever get that manicure, btw?).

I wouldn't know where to begin with your question. Hmmn.

The lightbulb moment, is, of course, the beginning.

Then when the ideas abscess in my head and I must migrate them to paper or screen else witness my head explode (though how could I see my own head explode if my vision portals are part of the explosion?).

From there I just am along for the ride.

I want that yodeling pickle. I'm sure it will come in handy somewhere.

Dangerous Lilly said...

I've found my favorite use for dill is to sprinkle some onto a salmon fillet that's broiling and heavily basted with butter and fresh lemon juice.

Jeremy Edwards said...

I especially love the annotations. (Did you ever get that manicure, btw?).

Thanks, ER! Yes, I had my annotations buffed.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Welcome, Lilly!

That sounds very tasty indeed! And speaking of good taste, I loved reading your review of Caught Looking.

Shanna Germain said...

Oh, hell Jeremy. This was too funny!

I'd discuss, but I'm too busy laughing. Now I want a pickle! Ideally, deep fried. OMG those are the best! :P

Shanna Germain said...

-had to leave a second comment, just because she saw that the verification word was 'wiled'-

Jeremy Edwards said...

Thank you, Shanna!

And, I know, I've been craving pickles all day! (Don't get excited, folks: it's not what you're thinking. In fact, I've had a vlasictomy.)

Jeremy Edwards said...

(That's where they seal your seed heads up in a paper bag, so that your brine is sterile. A possible side effect is hiccuping after orgasm.)

Emerald said...

Hi again!

So, in answer to the question you asked, Jeremy (which I found very interesting), I think I would say...actually, it seems to me my answer may sound rather ridiculous, lol. But anyway. I think really my favorite part of writing a story is when I finish it. I'm really not trying to sound like a smart-ass there. I mean by that the particular feeling when it is all done, everything I've put into it has seemed to come together, and now I may look at it as completed. Magical feeling.

A reason for that may be, as I mentioned recently on Alana's blog, that historically I have experienced a tendency toward perfectionism from a part of me, and thus finishing stories has actually felt intimidating sometimes — this part of me says that finishing must equal perfection. So finalizing/polishing a story for me has often not been just about the actual/obvious process of writing and finishing a story, it has also been an integrating/processing/transcending of that distracting bullsh*t command from a part of me.

What a rambling answer. ;)

I'd also like to add, however, that during the process, I have really loved that phenomenon Alison and Robin alluded to when I am writing something I did not expect at all and it really just seems like I am channeling what is coming through me. In fact, just as I wrote that, I decided I might want to change my answer. That might be my favorite. :)

Thanks again Jeremy!

Danielle said...

hmmm...My favorite part of the writing process is when the story takes over..when it all runs out of my fingers and i dont have to think anymore about the plot..the story just happends in front of me..sometimes i m searching for days for the first sentence..but as soon as i have it..when the doors open..i dont have to do much thinking anymore..the story just developes itself..i love it..its magic..:-)its like watching a movie in my head

spamword is emacit which sound like medication against athletes foot...brrr*

Erobintica said...

a vlasictomy

omg Jeremy - that is just tooooo funny

*still laughing*

Helia Brookes said...

Chiming in late--the dillay was not dilleberate (groan!). Hey everybody! My favorite part of the writing process is the writing that gets done in my head, especially when the idea is fresh. Actually putting the words on paper seems to drain out the fun. But I'm working on thinking of writing as rewarding rather than painful. Good luck with that, self.

Hah! Spam word is "mating." :*)

Jeremy Edwards said...

Emerald said:

I think really my favorite part of writing a story is when I finish it.

I love that part, too! And, like you, I mean that in a positive way.

Jeremy Edwards said...

But I'm working on thinking of writing as rewarding rather than painful.

You can do it!!

Hah! Spam word is "mating." :*)

Don't have to ask me twice!

Emerald said...

Hi Helia!

"My favorite part of the writing process is the writing that gets done in my head, especially when the idea is fresh."

That is so funny — it seems to me I have felt almost the complete opposite! When something is in my mind like that I have felt a (sometimes almost frantic) urge to get it down, lest I forget it. :) (Jeez, this question seems to be bringing up a number of the psychological patterns I have historically observed in myself, lol.)

Jeremy Edwards said...

Hi, Gina! Welcome back. I hope you brought a piece of wild & craziness home with you! (What am I saying? We all know you are the wild-and-craziness source!)

Neat that you even get musical scores with your stories! I'm a musical person, but I don't experience that when I create fiction. (I think the fiction-writing and music-composing parts of my brain must belong to different unions.)