Pickle swaps, hedgehogs & applesauce

The swappage haul. Impressive, no?

By Laura Grimes

Book Club was great fun.

After I wrote my last post, a book clubber discovered it and broadcast it to the rest of the group. Then the email trail went eerily quiet. This is not a quiet email group. It’s not overly communicative, but the stillness was … worrisome. Were they ticked that I ratted them out?

Nah. Everyone arrived and, reminding them we were to celebrate all things French in honor of our book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, I immediately trained everyone in the double-cheek airkiss. They caught on fast.


Juliet the Hedgehog. Go ahead and say it: "Awwwwww!"/Photo by Carol KregearBut wait. Let me type quickly to get to the news you really want to know about. How was the book? No! Did the hedgehog come? Yes!

Juliet (which I want to type as Juliette in honor of all things French) was as adorable as we had hoped. She was calm and friendly and allowed us to pet her. The Small Large Smelly Boy, who has been a big fan of hedgehogs ever since he was a tee tad (and he’s now a lot taller than I am), even dared to venture among a bunch of strange women for the chance to visit with her. Juliet, about the size of two hands, mostly burrowed into a pouch, and then popped out occasionally and curiously looked around, her little pointed nose twitching constantly.


The book club pickle swap brought in some major booty. Are you ready for this? In no particular order:

  • Antelope sausage (or as Mr. Scatter said later, “What did you get? Gazelle or something?”)
  • Fresh-pressed grape juice (made that day)
  • Grape jelly (ditto)
  • Pickled beets
  • Dill pickles
  • Triple-berry jam
  • Spicy carrot ginger salad (along with a lesson in probiotics)
  • Artichoke antipasto
  • Eggplant garlic spread
  • Roasted red pepper and artichoke tapenade
  • Spicy cranberry chutney
  • A sack of apples straight from the Yakima Valley
  • Pickled vegetables

The pickled vegetables came from The Hedgehog Lady. She had to take one of her hedgehogs to the vet, and a Middle Eastern deli conveniently happened to be next door so she popped in to buy some pickles to swap for some pickles.

Applesauce a la Mom, which means with Red Hots, not to be confused with the Large Large Smelly Boy and what he thinks of his sex appeal.Mr. Scatter turned that bag full of apples straight from the Yakima Valley into applesauce. We follow my mom’s tradition of sprinkling in a few Red Hot candies for a little cinnamon flavoring. She’s done that since I was a kid.

While Mr. Scatter poked around in a cupboard, he called out in a singsong voice, “Mr. and Mrs. Red Hot, where are you?” The Large Large Smelly Boy, in a singsong voice from another room called out, “I’m right here.”

A few years ago I couldn’t find Red Hots anywhere and was concerned about the welfare of my applesauce. Come Christmas I pulled a big box of them out of my stocking. Next I pulled out a box of Crème Nuts. True story.

And I’m just going to type antelope sausage one more time. I imagine that when you get an animal as big as an antelope, you have to give away as much as possible.

It’s going to go swell with that pickle-swapped elk sausage that’s already in the freezer. The real trick will be tracking down meat eaters.


I mentioned in my last book club post that the last time book club met at my house (following this?) we had a fifth of rum and a really good time. What I didn’t mention is that a memorable story from that night had nothing to do with the book but did have to do with a Dickens ball at Oxford University, a long taxi queue, a drunken botanist and a strapless Laura Ashley dress. That’s all I can say about it, but whatever bizarre vision those facts conjure up, believe me the story is much worse and ten times funnier, especially after a little rum.


Random line overheard at book club, which I could attribute, but my better sense prevails: “I’m blond and I was raised in a barn.”


So I bet you’re wondering at this point: Did we discuss the book? Yes. One comment was even, “I enjoyed the book, but I enjoyed this conversation more.”

I started writing a whole story about the book, but the blog ate my post. Really. That’s never happened before. So I’ve started rewriting it, but this will have to hold you until it’s done.

In the meantime, I have another hedgehog surprise in store. Stay tuned …


PHOTOS, from top:

  • The swappage haul. Impressive, no?
  • Juliet the Hedgehog. Go ahead and say it: “Awwwwww!”/Photo by Carol Kregear
  • Applesauce a la Mom, which means with Red Hots, not to be confused with the Large Large Smelly Boy and what he thinks of his sex appeal.