I spent the summer of 1989 in Orleans, a lovely town on the Cape, living in a house that was built in the 1600s and that sported, among many other fine amenities, a real victory garden that dated back to World War II. The garden was planted when the family who owned the house moved to the Cape, away from the gardenless city, so they could support their own feeding by growing their own food. In the middle of their garden was an asparagus bed.
My mother was a cook, a good one. My grandparents were farmers, organic farmers in fact, long before organic farming was trendy. But I never tasted asparagus fresh from a garden until June 1989. If you have never tasted asparagus picked fresh from the earth, then put that experience on your bucket list. It’s a rare and marvelous privilege, one I thought I might not have again. However….
In the spring of 2002 some friends of ours moved into a house that was built in the 1940s and that had in its back yard a garden with an asparagus patch. Our friends had no interest in growing asparagus, or much of anything else. Bernard came home to tell me about the situation, and I responded that he must, without fail, find a home for the asparagus. Asparagus beds take fully seven years to begin to mature; a fully matured bed, ready for transplant, would be priceless. Bernard responded that he hated asparagus more than beets or leeks or any of the other weird vegetables I kept trying to push on him. But the man is green to his very core, unable to let anything go to waste if it can be salvaged.
So Bernard found a home, in the back yard of some other friends, for that asparagus. And he dug it up from one house, carted it to the other, and then helped plant it in its new home. These friends were both gardeners and cooks, and they lovingly tended the asparagus along with the chervil, basil, sorrel and beans planted near it, near the shade of two enormous fig trees.
They outgrew that house and moved to another, and we thought the asparagus bed and fig trees were lost to strangers. But those strangers outgrew the house, too, and last summer some new friends, a young family who had rented a house on our block when they moved to Memphis, purchased the house with the asparagus bed and fig trees and fond, happy memories.
Last Saturday, when we were supposed to have French green beans with our Chicken Marbella, Bernard, the man who hates store-stocked asparagus but cannot resist real, fresh, asparagus now that he knows its secrets, walked the three blocks to the neighbor’s house and brought home 12 beautiful, fresh, tender green asparagus stalks, fresh from the garden. And we wrapped those 12 stalks in real Prosciutto di Parma, soon to be unavailable at our local Fresh Market because of cost, roasted them in the oven and devoured them. As you may recall, that’s just how life happens, as least around here.
Happy week, and a gloriously happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere.
NOTE: I’ve been giving these weekly Saturday posts the catchy title of “Weekly menu DATE.” I thought it would help me keep them organized going by date, but no. I can’t remember what date I wrote about what food or event or other random thought, so I will be giving them all real names from now on in hopes that I can go back and find what I’m looking for when I need it!