Sunday, July 11, 2010
Cucumber Car Salad with Queen Bee Dressing
I walked down the farmers market aisle, clutching my list and rehearsing my cucumber factoids.
'before the invention of thermoses, cucumbers were used as a water source for people crossing the desert' 'cucumbers originated in India over 3000 years ago' 'cucumbers are technically a fruit, and are members of the melon family' 'the inside of a cucumber is about 20 degrees cooler than the air temperature due to the vegetable's thick green skin'
I imagined, not just the words, but the inflection in which I would say them. I kept bumping into people, then apologizing. It's funny how, with minimal stress, I can talk on the radio every week, appear on television, speak in front of hundreds of adults in an auditorium, lecture college students in a classroom, but schedule me to do a vegetable demonstration in front of a bunch of 5-10 year olds and I completely panic.
"What is the matter with you? You look totally preoccupied right now." Christina said, as a sat at my desk chair staring into space. She was being nice, I looked catatonic.
"I have no idea what I am going to do tomorrow for my little locavores demo at the farmer's market."
All afternoon ideas had been sailing in, then floating away. Now it was evening, and I still felt totally lost. Sometimes I wish I had a magnifying glass which would magically focus my energy to a single point where it would ignite something useful. In a moment of panic, I sent out a call for suggestions on facebook. On a Saturday night, you can always count on grad students to be at their computers.
'Make cucumber cars with tomato wheels' someone wrote.
I started looking up cucumber facts late last night, then rehearsed them at the farmers market in the morning. I was so busy rehearsing that I almost completely missed the cage of bees sitting in front of the honey stand. Out of the corner of my eye they looked frightening, but then again I am afraid of anything in large numbers. For example, I find one bunny to be adorable, but a thousand bunnies in mass movement, grooming themselves and thumping their paws: terrifying. I stopped to look at the bees more closely. They were climbing in and out of perfect little wax hexagons grooming their legs and twitching their antennas. I realized that I have never bothered to wonder how it is that they can create honeycomb built of such perfect geometric shapes.
"The queen is on the other side" Michael, the honey vendor said. I walked over and looked at the other side. Identical bees were scattered everywhere, but one bee was surrounded by a cluster of about 10. She had a yellow dot on her back.
"That's the queen." He said.
"What are they doing to her?" I asked.
"Mostly grooming her and getting rid of her waste. It's not as great of a gig as it seems for the queen. Sure, she gets waited on, but her entire job is to produce eggs. As soon as she starts to fail at that, the rest of the bees kill her."
"How do they kill her?"
"Cuddle death, they smother her and she dies from the heat."
"wow, now that's a lot of pressure"
Suddenly my demo didn't seem so scary. It's not as though a swarm of children were going to kill me if I fail to entertain them..or, would they?
Chopped Cucumber Car Salad
10 small pickling cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups diced pea pods
1 cup chopped mixed greens
radishes (or tomatoes)
Queen Bee Dressing
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp raw honey
1/2 Tbsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
Christina's vote: "I needed a shovel for this salad"