Why it is good to grow things

M.F.K. Fisher, in An Alphabet for Gourmets, wrote in the chapter “P is for Peas” about her recollection of the best peas she ever ate in her life, plucked from her garden in Switzerland and whisked out of their shells and into a pot of boiling salted water for a matter of mere seconds before being consumed in the open air with her family. It is a beautiful piece, written in her unique sybaritic way that captures the pleasure of a moment that can only be experienced by someone who grows things to eat.

To be living in a time when almost anything in the world can be available at almost anytime – asparagus and strawberries in December, Szechuan peppercorns and ostrich meat in American groceries, Vietnamese pho shops next to Mexican taquerias- is amazing. The breadth of experiences afforded to me is unparalleled. And no mistake, I love to travel, to try new things, to see what’s being eaten all over the world and to live in a culinary melting pot like the Bay area. But it is also a lovely realization that there are specific eating experiences to be had in one’s own backyard that cannot be duplicated or surpassed. To realize and accept that some foods do not travel well, that peas lose their sweetness and turn starchy within hours of picking, is to relax into the moment in a singular way. In surrendering to that imperative, one says “I will bend and pick and feel the muscles in my back. I will stand in the sun and watch the sky change toward evening and meditatively shell peas into my hand and enjoy that rare sweetness in this moment.”

And if fortune smiles and you have a big enough pea patch, or your neighbor gardener hands you a sackful, you rush them into the kitchen like Ms. Fisher did, shell them and blanch them for a second, add a little salt and butter and eat them up. Don’t wait. The moment doesn’t last long.

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4 thoughts on “Why it is good to grow things

  1. The Lee Brothers’ recipe ‘Toasted Rice and Hoppin’ John’ in Simple Fresh Southern tells us to put a 10 oz. frozen
    block of peas into cooking basmati in the last few minutes. Sounds good but your plain and simple sounds better.
    So your neighbor shared those beauties! How nice!

  2. You are great with instilling a little moment that is special into a few paragraphs that make everyone want to experience the same thing.
    I think that’s where blogs have an edge on print media. People like you and Garance can write a few paragraphs about an experience to which readers can relate/aspire/escape that would come across as less spontaneous/more contrived in a magazine that was edited, re-edited, and then distributed a month later. Which is one reason why I think online and print media can run smoothly alongside one another and complement the other.

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