Memo from me to anyone hanging out in my kitchen: If you happen to notice the spider web on the window sill over the sink, please note, it's not sloth. It's science.
Every year at the beginning of spider season, my husband adopts one or two of the fledgling arachnids and monitors their progress, sometimes for weeks at a time. He praises them on their elegant web construction, ponders their various modes of spider behavior, and if they've been foolish enough to set up camp in a corner of the house or garden where the prospects for edible prey are slim, he actually captures bugs and moths for them.
I have to admit, because it's an interesting process when viewed from afar — even for the one of us who's fairly phobic when it comes to spiders — I support his hobby. And I must say, this year's earliest candidate is actually earning her keep up there on the window ledge over the sink.
You see, we were having a bit of trouble with fruit flies. This was weeks ago, and I couldn't figure out why we were dealing with them so early in the year. They're more of a summer phenomenon, as any of you who enjoy the local harvest knows. Whereas, these guys had appeared before strawberry season was even underway.
Could they have emerged from something in the house? A thorough search of the pantry produced not a single likely source for our infestation, so I extended the hunt to the next-most-likely region: my office. There, in a neglected corner of the room, stood a suspicious-looking plastic bag. Upon prodding the outer surface a cloud of the offending flies fluttered up through its opening.
It was the long-lost collection of tulip bulbs that should have been mailed to my brother last February, now rotten, slimy, and hosting a gang of giddy fruit flies.
Which is where Goldie comes in. Oh, didn't I tell you? Steve likes to name his pet spiders. This one's called Goldie ("Because she's gold, of course!"). And as tiny as she is — no bigger than the little insects she ensnares in her woven, silky threads of doom — she's put a significant dent in that pesky fruit fly population.
Steve helps, of course. He placed a saucer of red wine below her web, which drives the fruit flies crazy. So survival really isn't an option. They either land in the wine and simply die a happy death, or they are so intoxicated after imbibing that their wobbly flight sends them straight into Goldie's sticky snare.
The day will come when she outgrows her indoor welcome, and I will have to gently capture and relocate her to an outside haven where she can gobble bugs and live out her spider days in contented bliss.
Meanwhile, with the fruits of summer arriving, I am entering into the season with confidence. Indeed, when the next round of little flies attempts a kitchen coup, I've got the secret weapon. Her name is Goldie.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist, and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit," and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.