Sometimes in all that trash, there really is treasure.
I am not a fan of yard sales. In fact, I dislike yard sales almost as much as I dislike going food shopping on Sundays.
It’s not so much the visiting of yard sales that I loathe, but rather the hosting of such an event that will call upon the mother of all migraines to set up camp behind my eye sockets.
I had my first yard sale many moons ago in the patchy front yard of my first home. It was an experience I vowed never to repeat. The exhausting preparation necessary to execute such a public affair provided fair warning of the nightmare that would follow, which
I so foolishly ignored.
My second-hand-sale-abration lasted forty-eight hours and mysteriously ended with more goods on my front lawn than I had dragged out of my own home. Some of the items were ones I had never owned or borrowed, and to this day, I have no idea how they found their way onto my card-table-turned-household-bric-a-brac-display. That yard sale cost me two hundred seventy-five dollars, the exact fee for the dumpster it required to haul away fifteen years worth of I-can’t-throw-it-out-I-might-use-it-someday items. It was then I decided that a yard sale is really nothing more than
a pre-trash day, open-air, gallery-showing of a lifetime of items we are too embarrassed to use or display inside our homes —
yet for one weekend only folks, the freak show is ON.
Why, pray tell, do we volunteer for such humiliation?
But the experiences of labor, delivery, and yard sales have a funny way of morphing over time into events we might
actually consider repeating.
And so, years later, while living in a different community; one still blind to the bacchanalia of useless items in my basement, I agreed to have a yard sale with my friend and neighbor whose home is directly across the street from mine.
To my surprise, she turned out to be a master at yard sale preparation and execution. Customers actually showed up
and spent money.
Although that yard sale cost me a toenail—and that’s already more information than you need, so I’ll spare you the late August details of nine hours spent sock-less in too-tight, sweaty sneakers—
I actually made a few bucks.
I was most impressed however, at her ability to remain cool and calm throughout the whole process. I watched in awe as she batted nary an eyelash during the most intense price negotiations. Her casual demeanor and I-don’t-care-whether-you-buy-it-or-not attitude is ultimately what sold most of her unwanted merchandise. She was my yard sale hero. Not surprisingly, she is also the neighbor who is always ready for a party and always willing to offer her home as the site for impromptu festivities.
She is clearly not me.
Fully aware of the limitations my own neuroses afford me, I finally and officially declared my yard sale tubes tied, and graciously declined her offer to participate in her most recent,
late November sale.
I did however, offer to provide warm, spicy libation to ward off a bone-chilling November day that would be spent haggling with hoarders who might possibly need her wooden, block-a-day
wall-calendar less than she did.
The recipe for this spicy apple concoction came from my days as a ski shop employee. I was introduced to this drink, known as a “Broken Leg” by a seasoned skier turned lodge-rat.
Its name was likely the result of an unfortunate day on the slopes and the need to soothe chilly and bruised bones (and ego).
I had originally intended for this drink to be my Halloween tradition of sorts, but New York Octobers being unexpectedly warm, and my children being unexpectedly old, I had to find a new excuse to mix this elixir.
I awoke Sunday morning with the intent to do a weeks worth of grocery shopping, during which time I would purchase cinnamon sticks-- a must-have item for said libation (and which were mysteriously missing from my pantry).
Did I mention how much I hate going food shopping on Sundays?
I practiced all of the avoidance techniques in my Sunday arsenal, whipped up a batch of jumbo oatmeal muffins (which would likely be disguised as our Sunday dinner since the cupboards were bare—save for two cans of black beans) and decided that my shopping trip could wait one more day.
My only dilemma was the necessary acquisition of cinnamon sticks to get that broken leg moving.
I headed over to the neatly organized, driveway gallery of
make-me-an-offer items and intently focused on my basket of donation muffins, hoping to return with a bag of borrowed cinnamon sticks.
I forced myself to look away from the temptations of nick-nackery, when one sister of the yard sale hostess arrived by truck to deposit a furniture item so ridiculously interesting that I immediately felt vulnerable to the evils of better-buy-it-before-it-gets-away brainwashing. It was an oddly triangular, marbled-mica coffee table in swirly shades of tan. And it had a drawer—which immediately classifies it as functional furniture in my opinion. I’m told it belongs to the Modern/Contemporary (1970's) family
of furniture but I quickly recognized it as George-Jetson-Utilitarian.
As the husband-of-yard-sale-hostess efficiently installed the drawer which had been removed for transport, the voices in my head convinced me that I could somehow incorporate
this alien lifeless form into my traditional
Clearly, I needed this coffee table.
I hurried home with borrowed cinnamon sticks in hand and was immediately greeted by my understandably worried husband.
I forced him to peer through our plantation shutters to observe the coffee table that would transform our predictable home into a showplace of contemporary amusement.
A coffee table worthy of parties thrown in its honor.
I announced to him, in my most self-assured tone, that purchasing this coffee table would change our lives for the better.
Needless to say, he wasn’t buying my story any more than we were buying that table. My fifteen minute love triangle was reduced to nothing more than a what-could-have-been memory.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for a cup of self-soothing spiked cider.
I gathered the necessary spices, cut cheesecloth squares for my bouquet garni (or in this case, bouquet spicy), and wandered aimlessly about the house in search of one opened bottle of
Laird’s Blended Apple Jack. As I did so, I came across a bottle of Cream Sherry and immediately recalled my mothers delightfully intoxicating version of Black Bean Soup. My dinner crisis was solved, thanks to those two lonely cans in my pantry.
I snapped cinnamon sticks, counted allspice berries and cloves and prepared a mixture of spices that smelled like all of my favorite holidays tied up into one lumpy, cheesecloth pillow.
In a matter of minutes, my magical mixture was brewing and it would soon be time to toast a new holiday season and the exciting possibilities a new year would offer. The enticing aroma of apples and cinnamon permeated every nook and cranny of my home.
Once I added the Apple Jack, the intriguing fragrance
of naughty meets nice was enough to wrench my husband from his Sunday football recliner to investigate the source.
I filled a metal pitcher with the mahogany liquid and together, with cups, whipped cream, cinnamon-sugar and piping hot libation in hand, we headed over to a once bustling, now vacant driveway.
We shared a cup of cheer with good neighbors and raised glasses to health and prosperity.
As our friends cleared their driveway, and as we headed home, I felt a warm, fuzzy feeling inside that was due, in part, to my spicy concoction.
But as we passed the unsold coffee table, I was surprised by my own admission that I really didn’t need it.
We would return home with empty hands, but full hearts.
And I decided that yard sales weren’t so bad after all.
Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food
I am posting the recipes for both
Broken Leg and Drunken Black Bean Soup.
The recipe for Broken Leg is my own variation which omits the traditional use of citrus. If you prefer, you may add orange or lemon slices to cider mixture (I prefer mine to taste like hot apple pie in a glass—without the flavor of uninvited citrus).
The soup recipe is one committed to memory that seems to have more sherry added each time I make it. If you will be serving children, use considerably less sherry. Make it to suit your own taste. Personally, I no longer purchase commercially made black bean soup because I miss the distinct flavor of sherry.
These are best saved for a chilly night when the fire is crackling and the car keys will remain on the key hook until morning.
1 Half-Gallon Natural Apple Cider
(the murky kind, not the clear variety)
Cheesecloth or Food-grade spice sack (alternatively you may place all of the spices into the cider but you will have to strain hot mixture before drinking)
8 Whole Allspice Berries
10 Whole Cloves
6 Cinnamon Sticks broken in half
½ tsp. Ground Ginger
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp. (food grade) Cinnamon Oil
½ tsp. Maple Flavoring
3 TBS Pure Maple Syrup
1 TBS Honey
3 TBS Lyle’s Golden Syrup (if you don’t have this on hand, you can omit and substitute with additional maple syrup)
1 Cup 80 proof Laird’s Blended Apple Jack (available where most wine and spirits are sold).
Whipped Cream and Cinnamon Sugar for Garnish
Take several layers of cheesecloth and cut into approximately 10 inch square. Place spices, berries, cloves and cinnamon sticks into center of squares. Gather opposite ends and tie closed. Repeat with opposing ends. You should have a “hobo sack” of spices (don’t worry if a bit of the cinnamon and ginger fall through the cheesecloth). Set aside.
In a 4 quart saucepan, pour entire contents of natural apple cider. Heat cider over medium heat until warm and almost simmering. Add cinnamon oil and maple flavoring and stir to combine. Add maple syrup, honey and Lyle's Golden Syrup and stir until syrup is totally dissolved. Do not allow mixture to boil rapidly. Adjust heat so it simmers slowly. Add spice sack to cider mixture and allow it to simmer on low for about ten minutes, making sure spice sack is immersed and intact. Stir occasionally.
Remove spice sack after ten minutes and pour in one cup of Laird’s Apple Jack. Stir well and continue to simmer on low for one minute.
(At this point, you should taste mixture. If you prefer it stronger, add more Apple Jack to suit your taste—but I caution you—this is one of those drinks whose effects come late to the party).
Ladle hot cider into cups and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over top.
DRUNKEN BLACK BEAN SOUP
3 Cans Black Beans rinsed and drained
6 Cups Beef Stock
1 Can Vegetable Stock
1 large Onion diced
3 Stalks Celery washed, peeled and chopped
4 Cloves Garlic crushed
3 Large Carrots washed, peeled and chopped
1 pkg. (approx 1 lb.) Sweet Italian Sausage
2 TBS Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Cup Sweet Cream Sherry divided.
In a large soup pot or dutch oven (with heavy bottom), heat olive oil over medium heat. Brown sausages on all sides and transfer sausages to oven safe plate. Cover plate with foil and bake in 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until no longer pink in center. Set aside to cool.
Drain all but 2 TBS. of oil from pot, leaving any bits from sausage in pot.
Add chopped onions to oil and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add celery and carrots and sauté for additional 6 minutes or so, until tender. Add garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes.
Add rinsed black beans to pot and sauté until warmed through, about two minutes. Add one half cup of sherry and using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits from bottom to deglaze pan. Allow to heat through for about 2 minutes. Slowly add beef stock and vegetable stock. Raise heat and bring up to a boil. Immediately lower heat to simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 minutes (check frequently to avoid boiling). Add a pinch of salt and pepper, stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Once soup has simmered for at least 30 minutes, cover pot, turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
Uncover and using an immersion blender, blend soup to desired thickness (I prefer a creamier soup so I blend until only a few whole beans remain. If you prefer more broth, you may blend to suit your preference). Alternatively, soup may be blended using a standard blender. Be careful when blending hot liquids. Always blend in smaller batches and keep a cloth over cover to avoid hot splashes.
Once soup has been blended (return to pot if using blender) add remaining half cup of sherry. Turn heat on again to low and allow soup to warm through while stirring to combine sherry. Slice sausages into rings and then half rings. Add to soup pot.
Serve warm with crusty bread.
**Truth be told, I used more than a cup of sherry in my last pot of this soup. I would recommend starting with one cup total and add more only if you think it lacks enough flavor.