Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Carpe Summer

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.

Or not.

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.


Tammy James said...

Beautiful tale! You are such a great storyteller!

Jenn said...

I'm cooking down a pot of sauce from 57# of San Marzanos (I know! I had NO self control at the Mariquita U-pick) - and am finally at a place where I can process the 8# of mission figs - am going to make fig-tomato chutney and fig-persimmon chutney. And hopefully process more tomatoes into sweet onion/tomato/pepper relish and throw some onto the dehydrator. I have 2 quarts of fresh raw tomato juice - come over for a bloody mary! :)

ruchi said...

It's raining?! Dude, what are you doing inside? You should be outside doing a rain dance or sacrificing a goat or something to give thanks to the rain gods for blessing the Golden State with some showers!!! ;)

Beany said...

Agreeing with Ruchi here. What in the world are you doing inside? Thank the rain gods! It is raining!!

I tried out my pressure canner for the first time this past weekend. Canned green beans :). Nothing exploded and I feel so pioneerish.

Steph @ Greening Families said...

Feel free to send some of that rain to Texas! (How I wish it were that easy.)

We just pickled some okra and did so knowing there won't be many more chances this year to do so. That knowledge made it an even more lovely moment. I'm glad you had an opportunity to savor your relish!

Daisy said...

I think that's one of the reasons I've been preserving more of summer's bounty - to feel summer's comfort again when the weather turns cold.

Green Bean said...

Tammy: Thank you. Blush.

Jenn: Girl, no way can I keep up with you but I will take a bloody mary!

Ruchi: It's imagined rain, really, but you are right. I would be doing a rain dance.

Beany: You inspire me! Should I do it. Should I bust the pressure canner out of the garage?

Steph: Pickled okra! Sounds wonderful.

Daisy: Sure. You don't get those memories from pouring some Heinz ketchup on your hot dog but homemade relish? Totally reminds you of when you made it, where you got the produce, etc.

Beany said...

Definitely try pressure canning. You can't just have all the high acidic foods this winter to remind you of fall...you also need the corn and the beans and the carrots and the...well you get the idea.

ruchi said...

You creative literary types with your metaphorical rain! Sheesh. ;) Well let's all hope that it really does rain come February.

Green Bean said...

Beany: Okay, okay, you convince me. Hmmm, which first. Have you done pasta sauce yet? That would definitely save me some freezer space. Off to investigate . . .

Ruchi: When you are as talented and, well, elite, as I, you just get the metaphorical stuff. :P Have a great vacation and get off the computer!

Beany said...

GB: I canned 5 quarts of pasta sauce last weekend. I will be canning more pasta sauce this month.

Ruchi: Uh..can you spend more time with your grandma? And eat some bhel puri for me. As well as some masala dosai.

Green Bean said...

Okay, but Beany, do I need a special recipe for canning or can I just use my regular one (contains tomatoes, carrots, onions, salt, sugar, pepper)? What do ya think, oh pressure canning guru?

Beany said...

My recipe didn't have sugar or carrots. I added some cornstarch to thicken the sauce a little more quickly. And lemon/lime juice at the end for some more acidity and to retain red color.

I'm no guru, I'm a baby in this mighty canning world.

Green Bean said...

Thanks Beany! I'll give my recipe a try. It's not so much the canning/potential exploding that scares me as its the botulism. Of course, I've gotten over it for water bath canning. Upward and onward!


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