The signs of spring’s arrival are clear.
Those goofy little flowers are poking up from the ground, newly freed of snow cover. They look somewhat colorful, even from my vantage point inside the house (I’m not going outside to inspect them — a stint on the deck is the full extent of my outdoor experience).
And there, look, on the planter box set on the deck rail: it’s a jay of some sort — a surly but somewhat entertaining rascal — gathering fluff to add to the nest.
I hear songbirds in the morning. The Titmeese, or whatever they are, must be back from their annual migration to Guatemala.
And, should I have missed any of these wonders of nature that herald the return of spring to Siberia With a View, there is another sign we will no doubt experience soon that speaks of spring’s arrival in an emphatic way.
The return of the Sparse-crested Summer Pinhead.
The Sparse-crested Summer Pinhead is easily recognized —less by his plumage than by the disturbance his return causes to the area immediately surrounding him.
In our neighborhood, we know spring is here when we hear this particularly obnoxious seasonal visitor. It is the loud and persistent sound of self-indulgence.
There’s a lot of self-indulgent behavior going around, you know. And spring brings with it an abundance of very public, uncivil, thoughtless activity.
You know its spring, for instance when, walking down a sidewalk, you see in the distance a gaggle of adolescents slouching toward you. They walk four abreast, taking up the entire walkway. And they do not yield ground.
This clump of teen flesh is a sure sign of spring, and the parents of the youthful louts can be justly proud of the fine job they’ve done raising the young ’uns.
They can be equally proud of their jaunty skateboarder who whizzes past the’“No Skate Boards” sign, on his way to knocking an elderly lady to the pavement.
And, you know spring has arrived when all the wrong people begin to display way too much bare flesh around the sagging midriff.
But, for the year-round residents in our neighborhood, spring means the return of the Sparse-crested Summer Pinhead. We are convinced many neighborhoods in Siberia With a View are infested with this species, and our neighborhood’s experience serves as a general description of the pest’s behavior.
He arrives in his gas-guzzling SUV, ready to spend a bit of time at the second home he paid way too much money for a few years back. We know he is here, even if we don’t spot the vehicle.
At an early hour of the morning, The Sparse-crested Summer Pinhead rises, puts on his natty outfit (complete with broad-brimmed hat to protect him from evil UV rays), and heads straight for the grounds surrounding his nest.
To kill every living thing in sight with a 600-horsepower weed eater that puts out about 800 decibels (when it idles). The Pinhead wears ear protection, so he is blissfully unaware of how incredibly loud his machine is — but everyone within a quarter mile or so could tell him.
He prowls his grounds on the lookout for anything green, anything growing from the earth. When he finds it, he kills it.
The Eco-Death Machine runs 10 to 12 hours a day.
The branches of the poor, abused trees and bushes on the property are also doomed.
No doubt, the Pinhead believes he is protecting his nest from wildland fire. The fact his home is constructed of wood — and sits on a wooded slope — doesn’t mean a whole lot to the Pinhead. The thought of a crowning fire never enters his narrow mind.
Neighbors attempting to enjoy time in their yards or a peaceful moment on their decks at mealtime or in the evening are thwarted by the ferocious racket coming from the Pinhead’s property. They must flee behind closed windows and doors to find even a slight respite from the din.
In his near-pathological frenzy to obliterate all life in his area, does the Pinhead think for a moment about the disturbance he causes?
No, apparently not. He is obviously too self-absorbed to bother.
Does it occur to him that his dubious work could be accomplished in a homier, more rustic, perhaps more fulfilling manner, i.e. without the aid of major league power tools? As in … by hand? Or, if his manhood requires that he manipulate advanced technologies, does it occur to him to do so when it is least likely to disturb those living around him?
No, apparently not.
He flits about in his own little world, oblivious to the intrusion, no doubt very confident of his “right” to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to do it, regardless of how it might affect others.
Ah, the rite of spring in the land of the free — a land where this prime example of a disquieting species demands the right to deprive everyone around him of their right to a bit of peace and quiet. The reason they live here.
So, given the Sparse-crested Summer Pinhead’s propensity for destroying the newly emerging environment, what can one produce in the kitchen to complement this signal of the change of seasons? In a kitchen bound to remain hot and stuffy on many spring and summer days, because doors and windows can’t be left open due to the noise.
We know one thing: it will be food that must be eaten indoors, since a visit to the deck is rendered unbearable by the unceasing whine of the Pinhead’s weed eater.
Nothing says spring better than a spring vegetable gratin, tian or a ratatouille.
As a base, try young zucchini and yellow squash. Add an eggplant (hey, it’s perpetual spring in Mexico!) Toss in some tomato (not exactly springish, but) some onion and garlic. Locate some decent shaved or grated hard cheese and we’re off to the races.
I opt for a ratatouille-like mix. I peel and cube an eggplant, lightly salt the cubes and put them in a colander to drain for an hour or so. I dry the cubes on paper towel.
I slice the squash into rounds and dry the rounds on paper towel.
I dice a white onion and smush a couple cloves of garlic.
I chop some basil and parsley.
In a heavy, non-reactive skillet I heat some extra-virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Yeah, I know, you’re not supposed to use the extra virgin this way, but what do I care?
In go the cubes of eggplant. I give them a toss every now and then until the cubes begin to get toasty. Then I throw in the onion and the squash, continuing to cook until everything is soft. In goes a can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, the parsley, basil, some dried oregano, a smidge of red chile powder, garlic and about a cup of chicken broth. I cook the mess until the liquids are reduced and the vegetables have linked their essences. The heat goes down to low, I throw in a half-cup or so of chopped kalamata olives and reseason with basil and oregano and the pan is covered.
Meanwhile, I find some decent cod fillets at the market. I wash them, dry them, season them with salt and pepper and bed them in the vegetable mix. I cover the pan and let the fish cook until flaky.
A shower of cheese and the meal is ready.
Shame I can’t enjoy the meal and a beautiful evening out on the deck.
Now that I think about it, a decent wildland fire would take care of the problem, but innocents could be damaged. So, the real question is: Can the Division of Wildlife establish a Sparse-crested Summer Pinhead season.
In the spring.
Say, with a bag limit of one?
Although the prey looks stringy and dry, a long braise might do the trick.
Pretty tasty with some spring vegetables.