Peaches & blueberries & lima beans: Nana Burrows.
Corn on the cob & shell peas: Nana Lila.
Tomatoes: My mother, my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers, myself.
I find us in the garden. At harvest time.
And how is it that this matrilineality surprises me there?
Have I forgotten Eve? Gaia?
I resent the garden like I do all realms relegated to my mother because of course, they meant she had no energy, no time, no spirit left for anything else (if in fact she was admitted anywhere else.)
Even so, I marvel at the capacity of two days of vague autumn sun to ripen so much on the vine.
One must be hopeful to plant a garden and persistent and resilient. Gardening is foolhardy and often stunningly rewarding–body, mind & soul, but especially soul. To be intimate with the soil and the sun, the worms and the birds, the elements and disease is… Everything.
It is a holy act, gardening, in the dirt, on one’s knees.
A man in the garden is a beautiful thing. A child too.
But it is my mother and my grandmother and my great grandmother who I meet there, in the intertwining of the vines while I gather the green beans, reminding me of our lives, our paths, our futures–joined.
I harvest for them. I plant for them. I speak for them.
I hope–for all of us.
That a recipe could be attributed to my father, and circulated for decades among relatives and friends, is something that astounds me. I found it this summer in a cookbook belonging to my Aunt Ann.
To be fair, I do remember my father making it–once–for the neighborhood block party, celebrating the end of summer, 1975.
We had just moved into the duplex on Connor Road where most of the Captains and new Majors were housed at West Point on the Hudson. It was the summer my mother left to live with family at the shore. For a couple months, my physician father was forced to be both provider and parent–the latter a role he had never fully filled.
I remember him filling the bowl full with lettuce. I remember him grounding the garlic into it first. I remember the croutons and the Parmesan. (I don’t remember the anchovies.)
I still have that big brown wooden bowl which is usually filled with popcorn in my home, as it often was when I was a child.
The bowl belonged to my Nana Lila–who was a well known cook–and perhaps it was from her that my father inherited this renown family recipe for Caesar Salad.
Dr. Salasin’s Caesar Salad
1 clove garlic
juice of one lemon
mix in dash Worcestershire
dash dry mustard
2T olive oil
15 leaves lettuce romaine
salt and pepper