From the bean of Green Bean.
It's raining. Hard.
I wiggle my toes, stretching the wool socks, and wonder where I've left my slippers. Wind clambers against the windows, shaking them in a mid-February temper. I pull the quilt and cat off my lap and wander into the kitchen to make lunch.
I've another hour or so before I need to round up the umbrella and rain coat and head out to pick up the kids. I hope I've dressed them warmly enough. Certainly, they'll have spent recess inside but still . . . did I double up their shirts? Were they wearing their warmest socks?
Peering into the fridge, it looks like it will be a sandwich with some orangish kids' cheese. Local but lacking in zing. I pull some bread out of a brown bag on the counter and then pop the fridge open. Pawing through the crisper, I rustle the damp towels wrapped around broccoli or cauliflower. Toward the bottom, only slightly crushed, I find some leaves of farmers' market baby lettuce. Infantile, really, trimmed back and meager but lettuce nonetheless.
I haven't had a chance to run out to our year round farmers' market or even the independent grocer yet this week. Well, I have had a chance, I suppose, but haven't wanted to brave the rain. This is payback from my wimpiness, I decide, slicing up the cheese and resting the last lettuce leaves on top. A dismal lunch for a dismal day.
I'd forgotten about my hot nights in September, bent over a roiling stove, smelling of vinegar and sugar. I open the pantry and smile. Inside, lined up like clothes in a diva's closet are the remnants of summer. Relishes. Chunteys. Jams. Sauces. Beautiful, supple and full of summer. Full of bustling farmers' markets overflowing with jeweled peppers, corn slipping out of its husks, and tightly wrapped cucumbers. Full of a generous neighbor and her too profligate zucchini plants. Full of a buzzing garden, of groping tomato plants, and deep throated squash blossoms.
A favorite cookbook, Lost Recipes, says of relishes: "they add such sparkle to a simple meal." As I slather my tomato relish across the dry bread, I couldn't agree more. I sit down at the table and think of next summer's garden, of camping trips to the redwoods, of warm days by the community pool.
Suddenly, its not quite so cold. The rain, not so hard. The wind eases. But only because, months ago, I seized summer. Captured all its heat and sunshine. Bottled its bounty. And preserved it for a rainy day.
Carpe summer. Seize it. Relish it.