Yesterday I woke to sounds in my kitchen and I felt the sudden pang of loss, realizing it was my son, making a last, big smoothie to drink before heading off to his senior year at college. While I smiled at all the adventure and challenge ahead for him, I had a lump in my throat knowing that the inevitable end of a wonderful summer break had arrived.
Jack had hoped for a summer internship that didn’t work out. He came home without a job. He couldn’t do another summer in a restaurant kitchen. We talked about his options. Never minding hard work, he knocked on the door of the farmer down the street and came home with a job. He would later describe this job as the internship he had hoped for because he was learning so much. He came home every day filthy and smiling and almost always with a bushel basket of bounty from the farm, given to us by Eugene Bessette, the owner of Shady Lane Farm.
Every offering became a challenge. We made pickled radishes and pickled red onions. We ate bowls and bowls of vegan cream of broccoli soup made with gorgeous heads of broccoli and new potatoes fresh from the ground. We ate stuffed peppers and pans and pans of vegan lasagna, replacing noodles with thin layers of zucchini. We made lush basil pesto for pasta. In a pinch, anything at all could become part of a stir fry. We steamed countless ears of sweet, fresh corn and enjoyed lots of grilled eggplant. Don’t even get me started on the tomatoes. And cantaloupe. And garlic. And beets.
This experience has changed the way I think about food. While (even before eating a WFPB diet) I have always cooked whole foods, I have always thought about what I wanted to make before going to the market. I went with a list and a plan. I even went to the farm stand looking for specific things.The serendipity of my summer produce forced me to embrace a much more spontaneous, cooking on the fly—like some sort of cooking challenge TV show—attitude. It stretched my culinary creativity, but more importantly, it gave me a daily sense of deep gratitude for the gifts. It gave me a new connection with the process of planting and harvesting that I had lost because I live in a culture where, for the right price, you can get just about anything year round. I have loved it. I smile thinking about how excited I would start to get in the middle of the afternoon, anticipating what Jack would eagerly bring in to show me and our discussion about what to make with it.
I am hoping I go to the market with new eyes, looking for what is fresh and in season instead of first checking my list. I hope I can carry the sweetness of this summer even in the smallest of measures through the produce section. I want to see the colors and feel the textures with the same appreciation I have relearned these last precious months.
At least I know if it all starts to fade with the busyness and distractions of the colder months ahead, I can open a jar of pepper jelly or gooseberry jam and for a few moments return to this sweet time and reflect on it.
After all, what else could you do with 10 cups of gooseberries and 26 jalapeño peppers?