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.


Jasmine said...

What a lovely post. Great pictures too.

I remember everyone on my street had a veggie garden (victory garden if it were 30-40 years earlier)--today, most of my friends only stick to flowers and I don't think anyone grows their own veg or fruit...quite sad.


sher said...

Ahh!! What a wonderul post Nerissa! And it's so true. Planting something and watching it grow is something so special. Each day I look forward to walking in my tiny garden, looking at each plant, trying to get the best out of each one. It's very enriching emotionally.

christine said...

Lovely post. My mother instilled in me a passion for cooking and gardening and now I write about both in my blogs for my children. Have a wonderful time in France. My husband and I spent 6 weeks there last fall and loved every minute.

neil said...

What a really lovely post.

I got my cooking skills from my mum, but in a more roundabout way. Mum was a meat and potatoes kinda gal, with a propensity to burn things, only she didn't always think things were burnt or overcooked, eventually I reasoned that I didn't want to cook like that, so my adventures began.

Nerissa said...

Thanks to everyone for their kind comments!

Jasmine: Yes. Such gardens ARE becoming rarer. Could be that the yards are SO much smaller than before but I'm sure there are a lot of private and societal changes that certainly aided the dwindling family garden plot.

Sher: I had a stressful year this year and tending to my garden was a sure-fire way to calm my jangled nerves. There is something very soothing about checking on and coaxing great things out of the earth.

Christine: It's nice as you're growing up to really see how much positive influence you got from family in regards to your personal life, isn't it? Who knows, for some it might have even become careers because of it.
We (Frogboy and I) won't be in France quite as long but nearly. We're looking forward to spending a goodly amount of time with his family.

tankedup taco: It's true that good cooking skills don't always come directly from your parents. Sometimes we create them because of what we lived with. I can attest to that as I have family members who are great cooks but their parents are NOT! I totally agree with you.

wheresmymind said...

When I was in France I couldn't believe how yum the Tomatoes were...coming home I tried a tomato and realized how bad supermarket produce is

Nerissa said...

Yes, some of the food, including the tomatoes, are really so yummy! The French take their food seriously... well... except corn. It SUCKS! I truly pity the French (and other Europeans)that corn is some type of animal food. The cobs I got in the supermarkets there were horrendous. They tasted like starch. I guess they were old.

Dawn said...

Hi Nerissa, it sounds like it was really wonderful growing up with your mom's cooking and gardening. My mom never gardened, but there is an equal amount of reminiscence about her cooking, since it was Korean food and I rarely get to eat any of it as an adult (I need to learn to cook more of it at home). That is too bad about their corn...that's one of my son's favorite veggies!

Nerissa said...

I've never really had Korean style food before although I've had a nibble of kimchee before. There are a few Korean restaurant around (mostly BBQ style) that maybe I should try out. What do you recommend?

Well, the French can't be great at ALL food LOL ;-)

michelle said...

What a beautifully written post! I love all the imagery you created, and you brought me back home to my own family's garden that was such a huge part of growing up for me. I love the picture of the fruit too - just gorgeous!

Dawn said...

I would recommend that you try the Korean barbecued beef (called bul-go-ki) or short ribs (called Kal-bi). They are very palatable and I'm not sure if I've ever met someone who didn't like it. Also very good is chap chae (sounds like chop chay) which is clear noodles and veggies seasoned with sesame oil. I also really like yuk gae jang (sounds like yook gay jong), which is a slightly spicy beef soup. They will serve ponchon along side the dishes, which is a variety of small side dishes to eat with your meat, soup and rice. Let me know if you try it, I think it's wonderful!

Nerissa said...

Awwwww, michelle, you made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I can see why you're good at the "Dark Arts". You have a way of winning people over with your pretty words. ;-)

Dawn: Thanks so much for the recommendations! I'll let you know if I get to try them :D