11.13.2008

A Possible Major Gas Leek Next Spring

It's been awhile since my last post as I really haven't had much to share. Cappy is presently on his way down the Mississippi, wayyyyy to the bottom of it, to pick up another load of crude oil. We're, like everyone else, glad to see the cost of gasoline going back down. That will help on our 'pit stops', on our drive to western NY in a couple weeks. Actually, the date of our departure, of neccesity has been pushed back five days, so our trip is going to be cut very short. DarnDarnDarn. So, to make up for the lost time, I'm campaigning for a trip in the Spring for the Ham and Leek festival. Leeks, which are nothing at all like the big version found in most every supermarket, and are, in other parts of the country called 'ramps'. I never knew that until I started "Googling" to learn when the festival would be held.
Leeks, (ramps) are amazing. At first glance they might look like green onions, but then they have these dark green 'bunny rabbit ear' leaves. The taste and smell are very pungent and like nothing else. They are found in swampy areas and there's only a small window of time that they are found; most always in May.
Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad loading bushel baskets and his...not sure the name of the tool, but it was kind of like a pitchfork, but not, into the trunk of the car. The handle was half the length of a pitchfork's, and the tines were much thicker. The handle also had a...hmmm...a handle, on the end, that you could grab to get a better hold. He'd also pack a galvanized pail, and my Mom or Grandmother would pack a loaf of bread, a stick of margarine, and a butter-knife, some lawn chairs and off we'd go. My Dad had a favorite spot down by the "Indian reservation", along the Alleghany River. Dad would drive as far into the swampy area, as he dared, not wanting the tires to get bogged down, so's we'd get stuck. The first thing, before we even set foot out of the car, we kids were always warned to stay away from the skunk cabbage, because it's poison. While my Mom or Grandma sat and drank in the quiet of the area and watched Dad, as he scouted for the best batch of leeks, we kids ran around picking up stuff we thought was interesting, like feathers or sticks...'stuff', or just ran around pretending we were playing cowboys and Indians. "Aw-wite Bwackie, Weach fo' da Sky!!" (One of our favorite lines from some tv show.) Sometimes we'd 'help' look for patches of leeks, and Dad reminded us not to be fooled by leaves that had the same shape as the leeks, but they had mottled purple areas all over them, not pure dark green, and they may or may not have been poison as well.
Dad would dig up a patch of the leek onions, and wash them off in the pail of water, he had gotten from the river, then hand them to Grandma, who would then, clean them off even more, 'butter' slices of bread and stuff a layer of the raw leeks onto them, making the most luscious sandwiches. We'd eat them on the spot. It was our lunch. Omigosh they were good! People up there in western NY...my kin, still do that to this day, every year.
One thing, tho. We had to make sure this was done on a Saturday, or even Friday night, because if we kids ate them on a school night, then tried to go to school the next day, we'd be sent home. It was school policy. Leeks are that strong and 'stinky', but they are soooooo good. We never got sent home from school for that, but every once in awhile we'd hear through the 'grapevine' that "so and so's kid got sent home today because he ate leeks". It was almost told in hushed tones, as though it were a major social faux pas, and the parents might, from then on, be looked upon with one raised eyebrow; "How could they let their kid do that??"
Back at the swamp...When Dad had a few bushel baskets loaded to the gill, full of leeks, we'd head back home. Usually that night we'd have boiled ham and leeks with potatoes all cooked in the same pot, with a few raw leeks cleaned and 'trimmed' and standing all purdy in a glass of water in the middle of the supper table, for anyone who'd want another dose of them that way. When leeks are cooked, they take on a more mild flavor, but again, sooooo delicious. And as I remember, if we had cooked leeks, we could still go to school the next day.
Mom and Grandma would can leeks, too, and we had a family member who pickled them. Now that was another way to really enjoy them.
Needless to say, I haven't had them in at least eight years and I surely do miss them. That's why I'm 'campaigning' to go up this Spring to Franklinville, in western NY for their annual festival. Cappy has heard me talking and talking and talking about them, but has never tasted one yet. One thing I neglected to mention; leeks are a 'Spring tonic', and as I recall, a purgative as such. It should be an interesting long ride back home here, to South Louisiana, fraught with a lot of pit stops, but well worth the trip. And there's probably going to be an advantage to having nice fresh Spring air blowing in through the widely opened SUV windows.
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