I've never been particularly frugal. I learned to cook not to economize but because I love the excitement of choosing ingredients, and the satisfaction that comes from a perfect marrying of them together. I've trained myself to be good with money more because of circumstance than desire (an accidental Wall Street career and a husband who is determined to live abundantly despite a dribbling faucet). Frugal I am not. I can hear my mother laughing already. Countless times I scampered away from some wasteful mess I had made of something, or a request for new Keds, her rising voice imploring "money doesn't grow on trees, Audra!" trailing behind me. But I fiercely wanted to believe that it did.
It’s been stunningly beautiful for as long as my short memory permits. Bright cerulean blue skies every morning, a rustling fall breeze working its way through the evergreens and shaking the leaves off the deciduous trees. I have finally plateaued in my tomato harvest and I’m about to harvest my first jalapenos- and it’s October 5th. Granted they’re all happily snug in a makeshift greenhouse but there are still tomatoes and peppers -- in fact so many I am quietly wishing the bunnies would find them. I’ve made pints on end of sauce, crushed tomatoes, ketchup, passata, dried tomatoes, and frozen cherry tomatoes. I wait for these beauties all year long -- rarely do I enjoy one out of season because they are so uniformly terrible. When they come we enjoy them lustily and gorge for weeks -- and then, suddenly, I’ve had enough. No more tomatoes. We go on hiatus for months, until sometime in the early dark of winter, a can of garden crushed tomatoes is pureed into a creamy tomato soup, into which we’ll plunge sourdough and Irish cheddar grilled sandwiches. It is then that I’ll start the long climb to spring, and long for next year’s far away harvest.
We've had an incredible Spring rise from the dirt here on Minnow Creek Lane -- the wisteria is in full bloom, arching over our stone patio. The jewel pink roses I inherited have begun to blossom, and the blushing peonies have opened their pom pom eyes. We've been eating gorgeous greens for over a month now - Bordeaux Spinach, with its red-wine stems, sautéed over toast and topped with a poached egg; Roquette Arugula pureed with walnuts, garlic, and parmesan for a refreshing pesto; French Sorrel gratineed with potatoes, cream and gruyere; baby Valmaine Romaine tossed in a mustard vinaigrette and topped with blackened Coho Salmon; Lacinato Kale stewed with shallots and finished with apple cider butter; baby Rainbow Chards with sesame soy glaze over soba noodles; and countless mixed green salads with garden radishes and a simple vinaigrette. I'm thankful this season for the distraction of an armful of greens and thinnings. Greens are good for the body, but lately, they've been feeding my soul.
Thank God I married an Irishman with an affinity for Kerrygold buttered toast slathered with preserves. If you know much about me, you know I fantasize about trips to the candy store. Just thinking about a visit to Dylan's Candy Bar in NYC could easily bring me to a state of delirium. I love sugar. But enough is enough. I've had fruit coming out my ears all summer. I inherited two frost peach trees, a yellow plum tree, a purple Italian plum tree, five pear trees, oodles of strawberry plants, and several blueberry bushes. I just planted three apple varietals, a mulberry, and a fig tree. I am a glutton for sugar induced punishment. Learning to 'can', has not made this situation better. Don't get me wrong: there is pleasure in biting into a juicy peach just a moment after picking it from the tree. But come on, let's be honest, a few sticky fingers later, and that gets old. Why eat the fruit raw when you can cook it down with sugar and lemon zest - and spoon it over butter cookies... in January? Canning has made me a very happy girl...for sweet better, or for sticky worse.
Not my mother in law. Though it's possible I haven't heard that story yet. My mother in law (actually, 'mum'), Hazel, is visiting from Ireland so I've taken the opportunity to slow down and walk the paths around our house with her, instead of rush through my standard run. I should be honest; what I did was rush through my standard run and THEN walk it with her, but I'm thankful to her that I did. The double loop allowed me to first, notice the plethora of Salmonberries, in all shades of jealousy, ripe for the picking, and second, to spend the afternoon picking them with Hazel and to enjoy her tales of being a youngster let loose to berry pick in the wilds of Ireland. We came home with nearly eight cups, juices oozing, our legs sore, and scratch laden arms to evidence of our inability to resist even a lone jewel berry dangling over the ravine. Salmonberry, she is a temptress.