The Forty-Dollar Farm Stand

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‘Yes, we have no bananas’

I miss The Bonacker. Especially when I get a craving for corn.

The Bonacker was this crusty old guy who’d set up a card table on the grassy verge of the road near the power station and pile it with sweet corn that he’d haul over every morning in from, I’m assuming, his farm.

I don’t have a photo of The Bonacker, but he was a dead ringer (no pun intended) for my Grampa Henry. Come to think of it, I never saw them on the same tractor at the same time

I’m assuming he was a farmer because he sold corn. But other Bonackers (AKA “Bubs”) were baymen who, instead of hauling corn, would “haul-seine”) bluefish and sell them right on the beach. Actually, many men of the Bonacker persuasion did both. They also raked clams which their wives would make into clam pies. (I have never tasted a clam pie, and have no plans to do so.)

But I did taste — and savor — my share of Bonaker corn. I’d stop by The Bonacker’s on my bike and fill up my basket. I remember it cost 10 cents an ear. If you bought a dozen, he’d throw in a bonus ear. I also remember that we rarely had any left over. Which was sort of a shame, since Corn Salad is one of my favorite creations. (You can find the recipe, which is actually more of a “method”, at “Friends, Romans, Countrymen: lend me your ears”.)

As rare as Bonacker accents at my house — leftover corn

The Bonacker was so cool that if you forgot your money (which happened to me more than once) he would simply tell you to pay him next time. As for “telling you”, understanding him could be a bit of a challenge. The Bonackers, including “my” Bonacker, spoke a dialect that harkened back to the 17th Century when the first working-class English came over.

Bonackers left out pronouns, called each other “Bub”, and pronounced “ie” like “oy”. (That clam pie would be a clam “poy”, but I still don’t want to taste it.) They also used archaic English words like “wickus” for rascal, and “cattywumpus” for, well, cattywumpus.

Now, my Bonacker may be gone, but you can still find damn good corn out here at many a farm stand. My favorite — and not only because it’s close enough that I can still hop on that same trusty (now pretty creaky) bike to go score me some — is the one I (sort of) affectionately refer to as the Forty-Dollar Farm Stand.

The Forty-Dollar Farm Stand is run by surfers. Or at least farmers who surf — or who surfed at some point

I used to call it the Twenty-Dollar Farm Stand because, no matter what I bought, it cost twenty dollars. Me: “I’ll take that piece of cheese and those cocktail napkins” Farm Stand Guy: “That’ll be twenty dollars, please.” Or: “I’d like a pint of olives and some of that fresh mozzarella.” “That’ll be twenty dollars, please.” I’d hand over the twenty I’d tucked into my sneaker and off I’d go.

This is one reason I ride my bike: Road rage at the Forty-Dollar Farm Stand. The more stuff costs, the more people want to buy it. I guess

But that was the old days. Now I need two twenties — one in each sneaker. (If the prices get any steeper, I’ll need to grow another foot — and I don’t mean in height.)

Fortunately, the items that cost the earth are usually things I don’t buy except once in a blue moon for a hostess gift — things like jams and pickles. And their pies. I haven’t seen a “clam poy” there, but their other pies are so pricey you might as well just pile some dollar bills into a crust with sugar and butter and eat that. Yum.

I’ve got to give the Forty-Dollar Farm Stand credit, though. Expensive though their items may be, they don’t sell anything that isn’t made or grown locally. Once, at a different, not-so-scrupulous farm stand, I was standing behind this Fancy City Lady when she held up a hand of bananas and asked if they were “local”.

Oh, and the F-D FS corn is still pretty reasonable (at least you don’t feel like you’re chomping on an ear made of money) — and absolutely delicious. Besides, what’s not to like about a farm stand with a dog named Blue? (See the photo featuring blue-eyed Blue at the top of this post.)

Shucking corn using a Mom-tested, Bud-fueled method

And, speaking of methods, you can find an absolutely foolproof way to cook corn by checking out “To Hell with Kale”. Honest to the Bonacker Gods, you’ll get perfect corn every time. (Hint: gin and tonic is involved.)

Wineberries. Which you cannot buy at a farm stand, even if you stuff your sneakers with twenties. But you can find them in my yard in August — if you are really nice to me

Amagansett, New York. August 2019

The Dude celebrates another bird-day

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‘Whooping it up, the nerdy birdy way’

You’ve heard how there’s a bumper crop of babies nine months after a power blackout, haven’t you? There was a famous blackout in New York City in July of 1977, complete with a baby boom the next April. I didn’t move to New York till 1979, so I missed out on the action that time. I was around for the blackout of 2003, but the most exciting thing I remember was being so engrossed in a client conference call — planning a Huggies shoot! in Africa! —  that I almost missed being evacuated from the Ogilvy building.

Anyway. I bring up this blackout-then-nine-months-later baby boom thing because The Dude’s family is, well, “organized” somewhat along those lines. Out of six total Whitmore siblings, four have birthdays within a few days of each other at the end of May and the beginning of June. I guess, in their family, Labor Day was kind of like a New York City blackout. If you get my drift.

Three of the five Whitmore kids here have birthdays in late May or early June. Not pictured: Older Sister Wendy. Birthday? May 31

If that weren’t coincidentally wacky enough, Close Cousin Charlie has his birthday two days after The Dude’s. Though I don’t think a blackout — or Wayne’s Dad’s Labor Day vacation — had anything to do with it. This cousin is so close, birthday-wise and just regular chummy-friendly-wise that he and The Dude often celebrate together. And this year was no exception.

Older Bro Bill looks on as Close Cousin Charlie and The Dude make friends with a snake. All three have birthdays within days of each other. Not sure about the snake

So, for this joint birthday bash, I grilled up some steaks, popped open some wine, and whipped out (of the freezer) a big ole Carvel Cake, the Whitmores’ celebration cake of choice. I served one of these babies for the Fourth of July, and we famously had one for our wedding cake. Trust me, Carvel Cakes do not disappoint. Incidentally, Close Cousin Charlie and his wife are both vegan, bless their hearts, so I also grilled some tofu. It’s a good thing I got a large Carvel Cake.

Best (delicious and large) birthday cake ever. We even scared up a couple of candles

In keeping with the spirit of close cousinly cooperation, there was, in addition to a joint birthday cake, a joint blowing-out-of-the birthday candles:

Oh, and what about birthday presents? you may be wondering. Well, The Dude and I have gotten to that stage of our relationship where one of us looks at the other about a week before whatever celebration is coming up (anniversary, Christmas, birthday) and go, “Hey, you know that trip to Borneo? That’ll be our anniversary present this year. OK?”

But this year I thought I’d be different and give his Dudeness an actual present: a book I’m making (courtesy Shutterfly) commemorating our first Big Crazy Birding Trip, the one to Kenya and Tanzania. Well, I didn’t get it done in time, but he doesn’t know about it (and he doesn’t read this blog) so heck. Happy Father’s Day, Dude Man!

One of the pictures that’ll be sure to make the cut in the Dude’s Birthday (er, Father’s Day) Book

Oh. Speaking of birds. The Dude did get a very special gift, and he got it on his Actual Birthday too: he saw a Very Rare Bird on a bike ride that morning. (Thus combining two passions, biking and birds.) He went back later on his other bike to take its picture. (This other bike is the Zero, which is an electric motorcycle; he calls both this and his recumbent “bikes”, thus causing much confusion around the Amagansett manse: “Want to go for a bike ride?” “You know I can’t keep up with you.” “I mean on the motorbike.” “Oh.”)

The Dude birding on his “bike”. It’s electric, thus absolutely silent. The better for sneaking up on his avian quarry

He took his Good Camera, the one that contains zillions of photos that have never been downloaded or shared anywhere, and snapped this picture:

And here it is: The Sandhill Crane. Very rare sighting. Even more rare sighting? A photo from The Dude’s camera

Happy Bird-day, Dude! Here’s wishing you — and that Sandhill Crane — many more years of nerdy, birdy adventure.

Amagansett, New York. June 2019