Wednesday, July 05, 2006
A Legacy To Continue
For just a moment, the only sound disturbing the silent, golden afternoon is a far away droning plane. The rest of the world seems to have caught its breath as it tans in the warm sun. The shady grass under the cherry tree is cool against my skin. A whiff of honeysuckle drifts across the lawn. A bowlful of warm fruit lies at my side, the lingering juices still sharp-sweet on my tongue. It's a perfect moment. It's a time to reflect on the bountiful backyard in which I lie.
I always look forward to summer for one reason more than any other: My mother's plentiful garden. Now I know she'd squirm right now and say that it isn't at its best this year, the weather has been horrible, and so on. However, I've come to realize that food traditions don't always have to be of the cooked variety, or even prepped at all. I spent nearly all my years growing up with the opportunity to raid baby carrots, fresh green bush beans, fat green pea pods, crisp lettuce leaves, luscious red raspberries, voluptuous red cherries and blueberries by the handful. It was only the crisp, thin-skinned yellow apples that would need patience before they were finally ready.
Don't get me wrong, though. The cooked stuff was wonderful, too! Summer barbecues were accompanied by freshly steamed baby veggies or fried breaded zucchini which hours before could have been lingering happily in the shade under a leaf. A Sunday morning could be punctuated by the scent of fresh muffins made with berries picked the evening before. The kitchen could be filled with the eye-wateringly sharp scent of pickled beets being bottled, the mellow scents of blanched beans for freezing or the sweet scent of bubbling rhubarb jam.
I always knew I was lucky. I didn't remember other kids having moms who gardened as avidly as my mother, who cooked from scratch as frequently or didn't mind a gaggle of kids helping her with either. I just didn't realized how much this lifestyle had crept into my soul until I was far away from it. Now I find myself fussing and worrying over the quality of my food as my mother did (like she should ever have worried!) and desperately turning what little soil I can actually collect on my rocky island home into some semblance of an herb and flower garden. But it just isn't the same. There is NOTHING as wonderful as knowing you have carefully tended a plant from seedling to maturity and then savoured the fruits of your (and their) endeavours in various ways, both raw and cooked.
You don't need silver, jewels and pictures to pass down as a tradition. Sometimes all you need is a garden, a kitchen and a loving mother who created miracles in both. It's the beautiful legacy passed down to me and it's the most cherished thing of which I can think to pass down to my future progeny.