Compromise means I get what I want and you get what I want.

I am long past being surprised by anything the Minnesota Orchestra Board does. But this article, while not surprising, was pretty frustrating. “Let’s do mediation! Crap, mediation seems to mean that we don’t just get our way! Let’s go outside the mediation! To ask for the same things as we did in mediation!”

There was a perception in the Mpls classical music community that the deadline for getting this fixed was Labor Day weekend, because Osmo–our conductor, a kickass Finn who is pals with other kickass Finns of classical music interest–has said he will resign if the Orchestra is not going to be ready for the Carnegie Hall concerts in the fall. We’ve since heard that 9/15, not 9/2, is the date at which he thinks that’s reasonable. I can’t really argue with that. The man knows his stuff, which is why we still want him around.

Which is why. We still want him around.

One of the life skills I only acquired as an adult, and with some difficulty, was the ability to say, “Hey, this person’s behavior makes no sense. I should stop twisting myself into knots to try to see a way in which it does make sense! Because sometimes people just don’t.” I try not to overuse this. But it’s a lot better to acknowledge when someone is making no sense than to warp reality around them. And that’s kind of where I am with the Orchestra Board here. I have turned it over and over, trying to look for a hidden agenda or a secret way in which all this would make sense. It doesn’t. They’re trashing a local cultural treasure out of stubborn conviction that they are Righty Right Right, without regard to whether being right is the only relevant thing here.

I recently read Lawful Interception, the new Cory Doctorow novella, and I’m not sure I really thought the music analogy in it was quite right. But I thought of it again when I read the MN Orchestra article. I thought of how the MN Orchestra has already built this system with great communication among skilled artists, and…well. Cory’s story seemed relevant after all.

It’s worth finding out

So this essay, entitled “School is no Place for a Reader,” has been making the rounds in various of my social media lately. And one of the things that really strikes me about it is that the people who are insisting that the reading child is decoding things but not understanding them do not seem to be actually checking whether this is the case or not.

I have seen, with my godson, that it is useful for him to read things he does not yet understand, or does not yet understand completely. There are times when we will be having a conversation in which I explain something (because my godson is a little nerd, and information sharing is love), and he will ponder it and ask whether it’s like x or y in a thing he’s read. And often it is. The fact that he can’t apply it in the moment he’s reading it doesn’t mean that it won’t sink in later. One of my personal examples was the Shel Silverstein poem about the kid who knows how to belch, and how the adults are saying that he will go to “hell or jail or Canada.” And as a small child somewhat post-Vietnam War, this went right past me. But I had it in my mind. There was an epiphany in my twenties, when I went, “OH UNCLE SHEL” because it hit me where that trio came from–not upon a rereading, just a random day when a poem popped into my head and suddenly held more meaning than it had.

But you can check. You can say to the kid, “When it says hell or jail or Canada, why do you think Canada is included in that list?” And then listen to the response. Because there’s more than one reason. Word feel and scansion are important. Perceived distance is important. And so on. But you can check. You don’t have to just loftily say, “She’s 7, she doesn’t understand it really.” The other day my agent said to me in another context, “I think kids are smart,” and I called Alec over to the computer screen and pointed at it and said, “This is why this is the person I want to work with.” Because kids are smart. And it’s worth checking.

Also sometimes kids understand things that their assigned grown-ups don’t. It’s not linear like that. It’s really useful.

I have gotten rid of a lot of my recurring nightmares. My subconscious is a strange and forested place these days, but with fewer nightmares. But one of the ones I don’t seem to be able to shake is that I, at my current age, have been stuck by some trick of paperwork back in school. I am in third grade, or sixth, or whenever. It doesn’t really matter. And they hand me stacks of worksheets to do. In these dreams, I take the adult way out. I try to explain to the people who are responsible that I already know this stuff, that I shouldn’t have to do it again. And there is always the horrible moment in the middle of the dream when I realize that I tried that the first time, and it didn’t work then either.

There are all sorts of things broken about the way kids are schooled. There are also some things broken about the way kids are educated, and the fact that a great many people would conflate the two is pretty high on my list. But one of the things I hang onto, for my godkids and my nieces and my friends’ kids, but also for the kids I don’t know, is that I don’t want them to have that kind of nightmares. I don’t want “education” to mean “stuck and ignored,” and I think in too many cases it does. And this is bad for poor children from families that never notice that their 13-year-old can’t read or add, but it’s also bad for kids from luckier backgrounds, like I was. Like I still am in my dreams. One of the things that makes it worse for everyone is when nobody bothers to find out.

Oooh, shiny bargains

(Or Ooh shiny! bargains!)

Elise is having a birthday sale on her shinies. Do you want some shinies? I bet you do. Go look.

Me, I made a list of shinies I like in case anybody in my family is feeling like buying me shinies. I like lists. And these often have stories in them–I’m still wrestling with “King of Flowers, King of the Sea” for the latest, but I’ve gotten over a dozen pieces of fiction out of Elisian inspiration over the years, including several novels. Even if you don’t write, the titles are charming and evocative, and the work itself even more so.

So go on, shoo, go look.

Forget telling the people what she wore. Tell them what she was doing.

I read this Slate article whose title is, “Should a Woman in a Bikini Expect to Be ‘Taken Seriously’? (Yes.)” And I read the things linked to it, and they sensibly talked about cultural notions of purity, and that’s all well and good, but nobody brought up the thing I thought was important.

What is the number one reason for wearing a swimsuit?

No, I’m sorry, you there in the back, “Because they love us and want us to be happy,” is not the correct answer. The correct answer is–wait for it–swimming.

Nobody seems to be talking about the swimming. Like, at all. Do we have an epidemic of young women showing up for job interviews, orchestra concerts, and addresses to the UN wearing bikinis? Well, not here in Minnesota we don’t, because we don’t have orchestra concerts. (Sorry, SPCO, the bitter joke had to be made.) But seriously. I have not seen girls and young women wandering into the grocery store in bikinis. When Mark and I went to the bank last week, nobody was applying for a loan in a bikini. Yes, bikini-clad women are used to sell things. But couldn’t you just as easily look at a young man in a pair of ordinary swim trunks and say, “Boy-o, no one is going to take you seriously wandering around with your shirt off like that”? This is not a problem for ordinary life. If you want your favorite products to use fewer bikini models in their advertising, that is a different issue you are having and should not be conflated with what I personally–or my nieces or goddaughters or young friends or, hell, old friends–can or should wear to–let me say this again–go swimming.

The least modest garment I have ever owned was a one-piece swimsuit. The world was not exposed to the brazen horrors of my navel–for which I think we could all say thank God were it not for the fact that I have owned–and wornout in public–something like half a dozen bikinis since–but since I am a woman of a non-average build, much of my attention was given to making sure that the term “breaststroke” did not get an updated new meaning while I was wearing this one-piece suit. Getting a two-piece TYR suit not only made my Norse myth-geek self giggle*, it made swimming immensely faster, more possible, and incidentally quite a bit more modest.

Swimming. You know, the thing I had a swimsuit for?

I know, I keep harping on that. But it seems somehow relevant. To the topic. Of swimsuits. It’s not that I don’t agree with some of the people who have come in and said, for the love of pete, seeing someone’s navel doesn’t make them less of a person, or kids of all sexes/genders need to deal with their sexual attractions appropriately and not put their own self-control issues on others’ shoulders, or it is just a navel gahhhhh what year is this what are you thinking. It’s just that I feel like returning this kind of discussion to some semblance of functionality is useful too. And seems to go missing a lot.

*One-handed swimsuit! Swimsuit of the LAW! Swimsuit with more mothers than you can shake a stick at! Okay, I will stop now.**

**And by stop now, I mean stop writing it down, not stop doing it, obv.

Not actually my very best.

I had almost decided not to write about this, and then it came up in conversation with Janni over on her lj. So here we are.

One of the things adults tell kids a lot is, “As long as you did your best! You just need to always do your best!” And I get why. What they mean is, “My love for you is not tied to the results of any particular task. You can’t get everything perfect the first time you try, and that’s no reason not to try. Hard work is important. You don’t always know when you’re 4 or 5 or 15 or 25 what skills and knowledge will be useful later; don’t dismiss them too quickly.” But what they say is “As long as you did your best! Always do your best!”

I believe that figuring out what to do your best on and what to half-ass is a major adult skill.

I believe that sometimes only giving 50 or even 20 percent is a contributor to sanity in human beings.

Last night I made a perfectly nice dinner. It was Spanish rice, bison andouille, and roasted wax beans. The andouille is from that really good free range bison place, the Spanish rice had a lot of real saffron and fresh garlic and the right kind of Hungarian paprika, and the wax beans were from the farmer’s market, very fresh, very tasty. It was good stuff. But honestly? It was all stuff I’d made before, and it didn’t use up anything immediately perishable completely (there’s still at least one more serving of wax beans in there). Not full points for creativity or for efficiency of produce use.

But it sounded good, and I did not have a lot of energy last night. Still don’t. So: time not to give 110%. Time not to do my very best. We all got fed with nutritious food we had on hand. Hurrah go team; call it a day.

I have been making a lot more excellent breakfasts this summer. I have been making a lot more breakfasts that wow me. But I am also noticing the effort that takes, and even those wow breakfasts are not always new wow breakfasts. Because going the extra mile every day (or, more realistically, every time I’ve used up the previous wow breakfast) is just not possible. I am not writing a breakfast cookbook. I am not running a breakfast restaurant. Sometimes it’s a good idea to strive for just that one step better, for a variety of breakfasts that are better than just okay. But there are other things on the list, and there always will be.

My friends who are parents will not thank me for telling their kids this, but I do tell their kids this: I got an A in Bible-as-literature in college, and I firmly believe that cutting 66.7% of the classes was instrumental in getting me that A. It gave me more time to sleep (important), and to think about my other classes (important) and the writing I was trying to do around my other classes (also important) and the relationships I was forming with the people around me (seriously important). But Bible with the professor I got stuck with that semester (not the professor I signed up for!) was not only not a class that was going to require my very best–it was not a class that would reward my very best. And if I’d shown up for more than one of the three class sessions a week, I would have engaged with the professor, and I am not at all sure that would have gone well. So I did enough to get by, and I did get by. Excelsior.

I believe in hard work on things that reward hard work. I believe in priorities. I also believe that you can never get the priorities just absolutely perfect so that you have it all worked out, because one of the priorities is going to have to be attentiveness to variables. So no, you don’t want to half-ass your novel submissions. You don’t want to phone it in with your relationship with your partners or children or both. But giving your very best? Every day, in every way? Nope. Not going to happen. Shouldn’t happen. Take deep breaths and accept that the arrangement of your sock drawer is probably not at its pinnacle of excellence. That’s as it should be.

Unless you decided to make the sock drawer your thing today, in which case, well, rock on with your bad self, as we used to say in the mists of the ’90s.

Produce trio: rainbow chard

I am a big fan of bitter greens salads, and I love spinach, but the heavier greens, kale and chard…not as much a fan, actually. I thought this post would be a much harder one than it is. Instead it nearly wrote itself. Hurrah go chard. Does this mean I will be buying a lot of chard from here on out? Well, no. I am not the only person eating in this house, and other people…are not as sold on chard as I am.

(Which is a good reminder: you do not have to like things. You are not less of a grown-up, less healthy, less responsible, whatever, if there is a particular type of food you don’t enjoy. You are not morally obligated to eat chard. Pretty much every form of food has nutrients that are also found in other foods. It’s good to be open-minded, but choking down food you hate is not the same thing as open-minded and wins you no good-kid points. End of aside; on to the chard.)

1. Charred chard (chard chips). Cut your chard off the central stalk of each leaf. You do not want that stalk really. Cut it into manageable pieces. Toss these pieces with either a tiny bit of olive oil and sea salt or a tiny bit of peanut oil and sugar, depending on which direction you want the taste to go. Bake on a foil-covered cookie sheet, 350 F for 30 minutes. The foil is important. You really want to be able to just dispose of any recalcitrant charred chard, rather than losing three nails and a finger scrubbing it off. This will be crispy and crunchy. Just eat it, it’s good.

2. Chard frittata. Again, cut the chard off the central stalk of each leaf. The word of the week is “chiffonade”: take those leaves and pile them up and roll them up, then cut into thin little strips. In an oven-safe skillet (or transfer to a different dish later, I guess), take a small amount of whatever fat you like for this sort of thing (anything from olive oil to butter to bacon fat will do) and cook up some garlic. Add the chard and saute until wilted. Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Pour a mixture of beaten eggs, a dollop of milk, and shredded manchego. Bake in a moderate oven until firm. (How many eggs will depend on what size your pan is and how much other stuff you have in it. I’ve done this sort of thing with up to a dozen eggs, which took about 40 minutes with the particular mix of vegetables I had in that frittata. That was a lot of egg. Probably you want fewer eggs than that.) (Oh, and “a moderate oven” is 350 F, usually.)

3. Brown butter solves everything. Do the same chiffonade stuff as above. Start a lump of butter melting in your skillet. Cook until it is fragrant and brown, stirring to keep the little browned butter bits circulating. (Five to seven minutes, maybe? But it’s totally worth the time.) Only once you have brown butter should you add the chard, and also some fresh sage if you have it. Wilt the chard. Add cooked whole wheat pasta (I used rotini, which worked great), dried sour cherries, toasted hazelnuts, and maybe some grated Asiago if you feel like it. Stir to coat. Eat. Feel smug.

Note for all of these: Chard cooks down. Like, a lot. So if you are not experienced with cooking greens, use more than you think you’ll want.

Books read, early August

L. Frank Baum, The Sea Fairies. Kindle. Boy, concepts of rudeness have changed a lot since this book was written. It stars Trot and Cap’n Bill, whom I liked in Oz, but I haven’t reread any Oz books as an adult, and this…was less fantastical and funny than I remember the Oz books being. And it was more generally acceptable to be flat-out rude to people for no apparent reason. Ah well. Maybe stick with Oz, is what I’m saying here.

Elizabeth Bear, Garrett Investigates. Kindle. I’d read some of these before, but it turns out I liked them then, too. And the ones that were new to me were worthy additions to the Abby Irene timeline. I think you could probably start here and be just fine for an introduction to this series of magical detective stories.

H. R. Ellis Davidson, Pagan Scandinavia. This was a book they had at the bed-and-breakfast Mark and I stayed in for our anniversary, and the innkeeper commented that he didn’t think he’d seen anybody else open it, much less read it all through. Mostly archaeological and therefore largely descriptions of what we don’t know about, for example, Bronze Age Scandinavia. Still quite interesting, some good insights for future work, hurrah.

Gillian Gill, Nightingales: The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale. Usually I am asking for books to be less “popular history” category and to go deeper. In this case rather more the opposite, I fear. The author’s thesis was about how the Nightingale family and affines strongly affected their most famous member, and she took a quite circuitous route to lay it all out in detail. And…a lot of that detail looked to me to be unnecessary corroboration rather than fascinating elaboration. So this one took me awhile. I would probably only recommend it if you have specific interest in the Nightingales’ place among mid-19th century Dissenters, intellectuals, and other troublemakers in England; while I have an interest in that general category, even I found it a bit slow.

John Haines. The Stars, the Snow, the Fire: Twenty-Five Years in the Alaska Wilderness. Very episodic essays. Lovely but brief.

Barbara Hambly, Search the Seven Hills. Kindle. I enjoyed this Roman mystery, but it had a certain feel of “I did my research, LOOK, SEE?” in parts. But mostly those were bickering parts, so generally I was amused. Early Christian doctrinal disputes and kidnapping: actually a good combination. (But the hero didn’t ask a question I found obvious, so the ending was not the revelation it was intended to be; ah well.)

Nalo Hopkinson, Sister Mine. Range of characters, urban fantasy with familial and cultural relationships that carry a great deal of weight in the story, highly recommended.

Hugh Howard, Mr. and Mrs. Madison’s War: America’s First Couple and the Second War of Independence. I had the wrong expectations for this book. I expected it to be more or less a joint biography of the Madisons, with a focus on their role in the War of 1812. Instead it was pretty much a general American-perspective history of the War of 1812. Which was fine, but not particularly exciting or enthralling; I could have done with a bit more (or a lot more!) focus.

Shira Lipkin and Michael Damian Thomas, eds., Flying Higher: An Anthology of Superhero Poetry. Kindle. Highly, highly variable, both in form and in quality. I felt that the stand-out poem was Kip Manley’s “If,” although I also enjoyed Benjamin Rosembaum’s “Judah Maccabee,” Wednesday Burns-White’s “knitwear is both harder and softer than suits,” and Catt Kinsgrave’s “The Ballad of Captain America’s Disapproving Face.” The last is an exemplar of how much funnier funny poems can be when the poet is a master of the form they’ve chosen.

Hilary McKay, Caddy Ever After, Forever Rose, and Saffy’s Angel. Rereads. Oh how I love these books. They make me so happy. The entire series makes me happy. I did not reread the Caddy prequel this time around because I had read it so recently, but the others I just couldn’t resist. Start with Saffy’s Angel. But do start, they’re funny and astute and all sorts of other good things.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, The Story of French. Written by people from Quebec, not France, which I think was all to the good. Starting from a somewhat more politically peripheral position in this kind of study seems to only help promote awareness of the actual diversity that exists. I found the coherence (and lack thereof!) of the historical French language to be interestingly handled in this book, and I would recommend it to language geeks, particularly those who have read similar books about English and would like parallax.

Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman, Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us. This was interesting and fast but very light; I find that even within two weeks of reading it, its details have mostly faded. Probably not worth the time, probably not going to offend or upset if you do take the time.

David J. Schwartz, Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib (episodes 7 to end). Kindle. I finally managed to remind myself that I do not like serials and that the serial nature of this was optional, and to have the willpower to put off reading each chunk until I had all the rest of them. It works beautifully this way and is a great deal of fun; I hope Dave gets a chance to tell more stories in this world, because it feels like it’s a very detailed realization in a way that a lot of urban fantasies aren’t really trying to be, but without getting bogged down in exposition. The characters are diverse and well-realized. I’m glad I didn’t keep frustrating myself needlessly by reading it in chunks, but if you’re the sort of person who likes reading things in chunks and Dave does this again, I’m pretty sure that reaction is all on me, not on how he executed it.

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic. Intriguing conceit with aliens who honestly don’t even seem to notice humans are there as they pass and leave their detritus. I felt like Ursula LeGuin’s introduction inadvertently pointed out how much less total characterization (either breadth or depth, not necessarily both) we expected in SF novels from before, oh, about the late ’80s/early ’90s. That doesn’t make “classic” SF bad, just a different set of protocols to read with.

Ellen Emerson White, The President’s Daughter. I am a sucker for political dramas and even political melodramas. I didn’t find this one at all painful in the process of reading it, but I’m not sure it was worth the time. Among other things, it appears to have been “updated,” with references to DVDs and similar tech, from its original publication date, and I don’t think this was useful. At all. Especially since the rest of the assumptions didn’t really fit with the surface updates. It looks from scanning jacket copy as though the rest of the series sinks into melodrama plots, and I can see why, because this plot was pretty…limp, honestly. I wanted to like this, since it was in a category I like and don’t get enough of, but it just didn’t really deliver.

Produce trio: defeated by wax beans

Friends, I have been defeated by the wax bean.

I said, starting out this new blogging series, that I would give you three ways to eat a given fruit or vegetable. Three! Three is a culturally important number, and also it just isn’t that many, so the project isn’t overwhelming. But. Wax beans are delicate. Wax beans are subtle.

Wax beans are kind of wimps.

So I have two failed attempts and two successes, and you will have to pitch in and help me out here. The failed attempts: the first one was a hoisin sauce with rice vinegar, chopped fresh cilantro, and roasted (unsalted) peanuts. It was a really good sauce. Everybody ate it all right up and complimented the sauce. And the beans…disappeared. It was like eating bean-shaped sauce. This is not the goal! So we are going to put that sauce on something more robust, like salmon or broccoli or brussels sprouts. So okay, I thought. A bit more subtle. A bit more delicate. I sauteed the wax beans in sage brown butter. Sage brown butter! Everybody loves sage brown butter! (Especially me.) But again: the flavor ended up being bean-shaped sage brown butter. The beans just…disappeared.

Well, fee, I said, because I collect fake swears like that. So here are your two, count them, two wax bean suggestions, and please feel free to help me out in the comments:
1. Steamed with lemon juice. Yes, really. Simple. Nice. And it’s about all wax beans can take.
2. Roasted with a tiny bit of garlic. No, really, less garlic than that. This is one of the rare times where the phrase “one clove of garlic” makes any sense. For years and years I could not make it make sense, and now I know: it is for wax beans. Throw ’em in the oven at 425 F for 12-15 minutes, and then eat. (This is also good with green beans. Green beans are more sure of themselves. Green beans stand up for themselves against other flavors. But we cannot live by green beans alone.)

Previous produce trio: cucumbers, and if you have more cucumber suggestions, please add them in the comments, because lordy do we have cucumbers. This morning in my weekly letter to Mark’s grandfather I told him I had been trying to remember to give cucumbers to all the people I see whom I like, and I was thinking of lowering the bar to people I see whom I am kind of lukewarm on. Because cucumbers. Uff da.

Length and structure and choices

I’m at a crossroads with a new piece I’m working on. I am peering down the roads rather dubiously.

You see, this is not going to be a very short piece. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do to make it under the official short story limit (7.5K), and the unofficial ones are right out (anything longer than 4-5K is de facto harder to sell). I could basically do that if the story was a summary of events and had no voice and no detail, and it would not really be worth doing, because the voice and the details are what I love about this story idea in the first place. I am 2.5K into this story and can tell you that I am not halfway through, nor even a third of the way through.

And usually when I’m at this point, I shrug and go on as I have started, because stories have a natural length, and it’s far better to hit the natural length and try to sell a good story than to cut it off or draw it out and try to sell a mediocre one.

But this story. This has the potential for subplots.

Subplots change everything.

If I am setting up subplots, the beginning goes differently. There are at least two more important characters, and they have to come in early. The beats in the first scene fall completely differently if Rhia gets to make friends with the offbeat Lady Victorine and get drawn into her schemes. (She has a name. Characters with names are dangerous.) If I am setting up for the long haul, there are other people, and the other people do things, and it ramifies.

Short stories can ramify. They can, they should. But. Fewer details in them are allowed to ramify within the story. The ramifications exist either as a string of things in the reader’s head (which can be good) or as separate stories (also can be good). But in novellas and novels, there can be the kind of ramifications that come all at once, woven in, rather than later, like beads on a string.

I can see this story going either way. I can see it being a good novelette or possibly short novella. I can see it being a good long novella or full-length novel. So the question of what will best serve the story is not helping me here.

The problem is that I can do almost anything that’s a short story. Short story length, no problem. I don’t have to ask myself, “Is this the best use of my time?” Well, okay, I do. But the bar is much lower when I know I can do a different one next week. “Is this the novel I want to be writing now?” is a much harder question. This is the story that’s vivid. This is the story that’s drawing me in. And I like a lot of things about the novel potential. But I’m pretty sure it’s not the wisest novel to be writing now.

So the other question is how much we really care about wisdom, I guess. Whether I want the shorter, theoretically more manageable version. But also whether I want to throw caution to the wind and just let the thing unfold more.

I don’t think there’s one right answer here. I think a lot of writing advice I see online is of the form “go for the gusto.” But there’s gusto in more than one place. Sometimes being able to do a completely different form and type of story next week is more…gustavian. (Wait, that’s not the right adjective.) And sometimes flinging yourself in really deep is. And right now my choices are all good.

This is beyond First World Problems. This is Awesome World Problems.

Produce trio: cucumbers

For ages now I’ve toyed with doing a particular food blog project, and then I always end up thinking that it would be a lot of work. But every time I mention it, it seems like I have another friend who indicates it is relevant to their interests, and now I’m thinking it’s only as much work as I let it be depending on how often I do the posts, so here we go.

The idea is: pick a kind of produce, and I will tell you at least three good ways to eat it. They might include actual recipes, or else just things people do. There will be a lot of “to taste” and “as you like.” They might be things I made up from scratch myself, or they might be things I found elsewhere and will link. But there will be at least three tasty things to do with [insert produce here] every time I do one of these entries. Please feel free to suggest produce items in the comments! But keep in mind that I won’t always get to the suggestions right away.

A few weeks ago I went to the farmer’s market and bought a flat of cucumbers. I came home with them, tra la yay cucumbers, and then Mark went out to harvest his garden and brought in three large cucumbers. The next day he went out again and brought in four large cucumbers. Happily for the south suburbs and their gourd-related fate, this trend did not continue. But still it was plenty of cucumbers. We put them in ordinary salads, and sometimes I even peel and seed them and put them in spaghetti sauce. We like cucumbers. But still, there needs to be an end to it.

(Please note that the major down side to cucumbers in spaghetti sauce is that leftovers will not keep as long or as well.)

1. Not Really Pickles Salad. Peel cucumber if you don’t like cucumber peel in your salads. Slice. Chop fresh dill or shake dried dill over cucumbers. Dribble rice vinegar on enough that some of the dill washes off the top layer and onto the bottom layer. If you have a sweet tooth, you can add a little sugar here, but we don’t.

2. Tzadziki. Peel cucumber and cut seeds from the center. If you have a food processor, stick large chunks of cucumber in it with mint leaves and/or dill (we like both at once, mileage varies), a couple grinds of fresh pepper, a squeeze of lemon, a garlic clove or two, and as much Greek yogurt as you like. (The question is whether you want it to be a thin sauce or a combination salad/condiment. Your call.) Whirr in food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, dice the cucumber, chop the herbs, and accept that you should really go with the salad/condiment style or it’ll take you forever to chop the cucumber fine enough. Mix together. Use on lamb meatballs, gyros, salmon, whatever you like. Or eat straight.

3. Strawberry mango cucumber salad. Chop strawberries, mangoes, and cucumber into bite-sized pieces (peel cucumber first if you like it that way). Chiffonade some basil and toss that with the other elements. Dress with walnut oil and lemon juice, or possibly avocado oil and lime juice, or…yeah. Possibilities here. You can also do this with mint leaves instead of basil. You can also skip the chiffonade step and put the fruit and cucumber on top of whole leaves of basil or spinach. The world is your oyster.

Okay, so cucumber feels a bit like cheating, because we eat a lot of it and none of these are real recipes. But I’m planning to do more of these, including ones that will take research. Produce! We like produce! Oh, one more thing: while I said I would take suggestions, don’t bother suggesting celery or celeriac. I can’t tell you any good ways to make them because they are inherently ungood, even though celeriac looks like the baobab planet and makes me want to love it and also makes me wander around the house muttering under my breath about dessinez-moi un mouton. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried.