Yeah, yeah, I like beauty. I like flowers. But as my vacation in Maine last week reminded me, what I REALLY like to do given a bit of leisure and kids occupied by the water is cook. And that, my friends, is why I garden.
The nicest thing about cooking at my friends Martha and Tom's house on Mt. Desert is eating what I cook with six happy kids and the delightful Martha and Tom. But the second nicest thing is that the meals are generally made with the pooled harvest of two ambitious vegetable gardens.
This year, the star of the show was a huge basket of Tom's potatoes. Tom's garden in the city of Cambridge, MA has miraculously escaped late blight. Mine, in the countryside of Salem, NY and at least a mile from the nearest vegetable garden, has sadly not. Some people will tell you potatoes taste better after they've been stored for a while. In my experience, this is only true for STORAGE varieties. Otherwise, nothing in life is really better than a fresh-dug and boiled Yukon Gold, particularly if Martha has been irresponsible with the butter, salt and dill.
Because of late blight and hardly any sunshine in the rainiest summer in memory in upstate New York, we had only a handful of my tomatoes. (Fellow Ranter Amy Stewart astonished me once when she told me she couldn't grow tomatoes in her fogged-in coastal town of Eureka, CA. How could any Californian fail with a tomato? Amy, I get it now.)
I roasted my tomatoes to make osso buco, and it was good. Then, at the end of our stay, I made a Bolognese sauce and was forced to use ordinary supermarket canned tomatoes. They tasted like…absolutely nothing.
Because I have a garden, I avoid such lousy food for months and months and months at a time, buying milk and meat from farmers and otherwise making meals out of whatever the garden happens to be offering.
Even more important, I largely avoid the source of all such bad ingredients: the supermarket.
Failures in terms of flavor don't begin to explain my intense dislike of the supermarket. I resent the fact that though I live downtown, I have to drive to a supermarket. The one walkable supermarket in Saratoga Springs, NY, pictured in the blurry camera photo above, goes beyond selling flavorless food into the realm of dusty and expired.
The intense air conditioning also bothers me and it reminds me of the degree to which I'm eating wasted energy in eating supermarket food. The windowless space depresses me.
Finally, the supermarket is not convenient, though sold to our culture as an invention of convenience. It is much easier to maintain a vegetable garden in summer than it is to drive to the supermarket twice a week and trudge its aisles to buy and unloads bags of groceries. A more pleasant shopping experience, too.