Islander's Blog

Singing the Blues over Greens

Things did not go so well in my garden this summer. The zucchini made it to the table, as did a few cukes, and the basil is waiting to be made into pesto, but there was none of the abundance of past summers.

Maybe there is something wrong with the miniature terroir of my back yard. We changed over to town sewer a couple of years ago, but it would be a disturbing thought if the loss of our septic tank had anything to do with it. Now every time I see a vegetable garden I fight the urge to pull my truck over, pound on the door, and subject the owner to an hour’s worth of questions about how they did it.
I supposed I could get my hands on a book about correcting the chemistry of the soil. Maybe having a garden is not about the harvesting, but the planning. Am I missing something? Is gardening all about books on gardening? Is it about winters spent researching just the right seeds to buy?

My maternal grandfather lived with us when we were kids and always had a vegetable garden, the soil packaged between the concrete and chain-link fences that defined our neighborhood. My memory of it might suffer from the sort of nostalgia that often corrupts our views of the past, but it seems to me it was always bursting with green peppers, and red tomatoes, an purple eggplants. It was a garden that suggested an invitation to a feast.

He did not learn to create this wonderful urban garden in a book. His father taught him. Along with whatever few items Pasquale Tomeo brought to this country, he carried in his head how to grow things and passed that on to his youngest son. It is the same way with cooking, passed down with the advice that, “This is how we make this dish.”

The recipes were scrawled in a notebook. I cannot remember seeing a real cookbook on the shelf when I was a kid, although my own bookcase is filled with them now.

In the end maybe it is not the harvest we are interested in after all. Maybe a few moments standing among the eggplants and tomatoes with some fleeting thoughts of family is enough.

John Stanton

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