Sunday, June 26, 2011
Last week, my father and I sat on the farmhouse porch swing and polished off a quart of three-day-old strawberries that were long past their prime. They'd started to soften and turn. We ate them anyway. Dad popped one in his mouth and told me that when he was a kid, he and his siblings (there are seven of them) would wait with bubbling anticipation for their father's strawberries and asparagus. The winter's canned food and potatoes would have grown so dull that by May and June the fresh, early summer berries and veggies were thrilling. Then he told me that all they ate for two months was asparagus and strawberries. By late June they would have eaten so much of the two that they'd be ready for another ten months without either. There was never any asparagus to be had in October, and that was just fine.
Friday, June 17, 2011
This post can also be read on bonappetit.com
One year I made the mistake of planting mint in the garden. It took over; the lettuce didn't stand a chance. The mint grew so fast it towered over the rest of the herbs, blocking out the sun. The more I cut it back, the faster it spread, sending its roots out in all directions. I ripped it out and tilled it under and cursed a lot. Still, some came back the next summer, so I ripped it up again and transplanted it in the field, near a slow-running stream. Not surprisingly, it took well to its new home.
This year the mint came back with a vengeance. It would be a big problem if it were still in the garden, but in the field it can run amok without choking out other herbs and veggies. Still, it's a sprawling tenant and needs to be kept in check, if for no other reason than because I'm still a little mad at it. So I harvest armfuls and make fresh mint tea. I shovel it into tabbouleh salads. Of course, Mint Juleps are on constant rotation this summer, too.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
The vegetable garden has been planted for almost three weeks now. There's been plenty of watering and weeding, from the arugula to the zucchini, and things look promising for a summer full of amazing food. It's just that most of the vegetables won't be ready to eat until at least July. And as I've said before in this blog, I'm not the most patient person in the world. So, as Tom Petty sings, "the waiting is the hardest part." Luckily for me, there's a teaser. The radishes that I planted from seed just a few weeks ago are ready to be pulled from the ground.
I didn't always love radishes. I thought of them as a pretty but vacuous addition to salads. Sure, they've got crunch and, if you're lucky, some bite, but they always seemed a little lackluster--as if something were missing. A few years ago, I found out what that missing ingredient was. Not surprisingly, it was pork fat.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Growing up, I spent a lot of time mowing lawns. At this time of year the grass on the farm needs to be cut about once a week, depending on the weather, and the chore almost always falls to the youth in the family. It takes about four hours to mow the whole thing, and in the summer heat it's a real drag.
Most of the time I've spent behind the drone of a push mower has been forgettable. I don't get a lot of thinking done while cutting grass, and there's no real glory in it. I hate the chore so much I've mostly blocked out any memories of doing it over the past decades.
But there are a few lawn-mowing moments that remain forever in my mind. Most of them have to do with how hungry or thirsty the job made me, and how good certain foods tasted after I'd been working for hours. One memory centers on a bologna sandwich. Another, on a bowl of peaches. And still another has to do with a strawberry. My grandfather grew his own, and on one particularly hot, sticky afternoon he picked a perfect berry and handed it to me as I finished mowing. His hands were stained red from the ripe fruits.