Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Wonderful Co-Gardeners

Tonight my co-gardeners came over at 6pm for dinner. Walter, Aubrey and Gabriela. I found a Catalonian recipe in my mammoth The Mediterranean Feast that called for beets. I have some Chioggio beets, an Italian variety with red and white concentric bands and a sweet taste and I‘d like to use them. I cooker the greens last week for a pizza topping, along with carmelized onions, nuts and raisins. Now it is the beets turn.

I’m cooking onions and celery in olive oil. I add two, chopped large tomatoes along with chickpeas and finally the beets. I let it simmer and turn it off.

Polenta with milk and water, some cheese and jalapeƱos. Debby’s bean dish: long-cooked pole beans with onions and tomatoes will go over congealed slices of polenta. Walter is cooking mustard greens, just a tad, retaining their bright green color. We taste some of the muscadine and scuppernong grape juice--wonderfully sweet with a pink hue. Gabriela likes the hot pepper jam on pita bread. For dessert I thaw and reheat a fruit pizza of spiced pears and figs, feta cheese and arugula. Not bad at all!

Our conversation drives the evening though. Walter is seductively self-deprecating, Aubrey’s happiness pokes out from behind his shyness, and Gabriela ladles out one heaping serving of good news and good will to us all. She asks, why do you love gardening? Why do you need to garden? We all look up: that’s a serious question. I return, why do you?
I think it’s because food is good for you and I like being healthy and I want others to know about this.
But why garden?
Well, I love to garden.
Walter: I like being outside, out in the air, the sunshine. And I like weeding!
We all kid Walter a little. He speaks from his body, how it moves, what it does.
I tell them about my being born into a garden in Costa Rica and returning to it. But mainly for me, gardening saved me, saved me from the stupefactions of university teaching and isolation.
Aubrey isn’t sure. He says I don’t know, but he told me this weekend that gardening opened his heart to a passion to be close to the earth.

This all warms my heart.

From there we settle into practicalities of the gardening program. Alice Waters is visiting on Thursday. Are we ready? Everyone at their places? Gabriela will be teaching Primary. Walter will come over with UE and pick grapes. Aubrey will rush over from art history class and pick up with his weeding and trimming. I will lead the entourage with several GMS students. Possible projects loom: better composting, a clay pizza oven, more fruit trees. The pizza oven is tantalizing. Who wouldn’t want a wood-fired oven and hot pizza? But who wants to fire it up and tend it but twice a year. Walter is convinced we need to protect it with a shelter since the clay is unglazed. Aubrey suggests brick. How much? $400 in materials? We drop it, I think for the final time. Of course when Alice Waters sees our garden she’ll say, what you guys need is a brick oven.

We fall into a little gossip. We eat the fruit and feta pizza and clean up. By 8 everything is cleaned up.

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