August 6, 2009

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dinnerI don’t usually brag about dinner; frankly, there is usually nothing much to brag about. Not that we’re eating Hot Pockets over here, but it’s usually the standard grilled meat, stir-fried veggies and so on – tasty, but not something I need to share with the world.

But tonight, World, I nailed it, with a deceptively simple dinner of a mixed greens salad and a risotto with carrots, sage, white wine and lemon juice. The risotto was so good that I was eating the remnants out of the pan seconds before submerging it in water to soak.

It would be a bold move for me to take all the credit, though, since the carrots, sage, and greens were all from David’s garden. And that got me thinking…well, many things.

First of all, a tip of the hat to Farmer Cancel, a guy who had never lived anywhere other than an apartment until after we were married. (If you ask him the story of his life from birth to college it goes something like this: Born in the Bronx, then moved to Queens, lived in Queens, Catholic school in Queens, Queens College, in Queens.)

When David started baking bread last year I warned him, “You better be careful, Queens might not like this.” Then, this summer, when the garden was planted, I told him that Queens had called to say that, sadly, he was disowned. When you eat a vegetable in Queens it’s supposed to have come from a can, or it might not be safe.

I just turned my head to look out the window at the garden. In the six raised beds (yes, David built them) I’m looking at loads of carrots, huge heirloom tomato plants (all green tomatoes, but a couple of weeks from now I’ll be trying to give them to the UPS man and random people walking by with their dogs), beets, broccoli, lettuce, and a bunch of Nasturtiums. We’ve already been through the peas – delicious, and so far from a supermarket pea, it is almost ridiculous for them to have the same name – as well as the month when we had so much lettuce that we sent a message to the neighborhood email list, pretty much begging people to come take some.

Now we’re two-thirds of the way through The Summer That Wasn’t (even if you don’t live in New England, you probably heard about how it was cold and rainy until recently, and now it’s hot and humid) and we’re gearing up for a two-week vacation that will put us on the fast track to September.

I know we can coast through that month with some carrots and beets but, after that, we’re winding down and looking ahead to another absurdly long, barely tolerable winter. A winter where our CSA winter share will provide us with potatoes and garlic and onions and some other root vegetables. So…that’s good.

But if I’m being honest, what I’m realizing now is that this little garden – along with Barbara Kingsolver and my CSA – has changed the way I think about food and I don’t want to go back. I love knowing my farmers, the CSA guys (one of whom is getting married on the farm next weekend and invited us to the big party) and my own, personal farmer.

I love having the beds outside which, as I’ve said, I take no credit for (in my defense, David went all David with computer-generated, color-coded planting charts and grow lights in the basement and there wasn’t a hell of a lot I could do). I adore going outside to pick my salad in the evening, minutes before I eat it. I don’t want it to end.

If you know me well, you might be smiling, thinking that I didn’t really need another reason to hate winter. That’s how I feel, too. But let’s not think about that just yet. We still have a few good weeks of gathering our dinner outside the door.

Anyway, it’s a nice night, and my farmer just refilled my wine. Everyone’s happy after a good dinner.

  • Lise, I love your writing. This made me laugh several times, esp. when Queens called. You rock. Can't wait to see you and the Farmer. xoxoxoxoxo

  • lcarrigg

    Thanks, The Friend! Happy to know that you are reading my totally random musings. See you SOON!

  • I just love this post Lise! And I agree with you wholeheartedly about the fabulous taste of garden fresh produce. Having a garden in your backyard is such a special thing and Caralena will undoubtedly have very fond memories of your nightly pre-dinner lettuce picking routine. I still think about how wonderful it was when I was little and got to help my grandparent's with their garden — picking peas and digging potatoes — and I can't wait until Chris and I have a yard to grow one of our own. I just wish we lived in a climate that allowed fresh produce for longer than 4 months at a time.

  • lcarrigg

    Erin- Thanks for reading. I know you are someone who gets the importance of food – clearly! Your post brings up two issues: One is that Caralena loves the idea of the garden and has been very hands on with the planting and picking but, sadly, she won't eat anything grown in it! It is so frustrating! Actually, part of the reason we decided to have a garden was that we figured she'd be more likely to try things that she had grown. Nope. If it's not some kind of chicken nugget, pizza, mac-n-cheese or fruit, she's not interested.

    Two, I know we're supposed to be basking in the few gorgeous days of summer we're finally having, but my love of the garden truly does just make me despise winter even more. There, I said it. And I've already noticed the days getting shorter. WAH!

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