Thursday, November 05, 2009


What sustains us

The snow is coming down this morning, in Maine. And in the garden I left the carrots in the ground a day too long, because instead of working yesterday when it was sunny and beautiful outside, I headed down the coast to paint and didn't get home until just after dark. Which is mighty early right now. (I found out I can paint outside when it's only 40 degrees. Good to know.) So today after breakfast I bit the bullet and hurried outside in my pyjamas and gardening boots and coat, hat, and gloves, and dug up the rest of the carrots. It (I, that is) wasn't pretty, but such is life when one works at home. As with potatoes, digging carrots is a satisfying job. They have a great scent and the fresh green tops were good to see as the snow flew around my trowel.

It amazes me to consider a handful of seeds in my palm, and what eventually becomes of them:

Shown here during their bath. I snipped the tops off and put them on the compost pile, gave the carrots a quick rinse and pat dry, and loaded up the crisper drawers in the fridge. I've started making a stew every week, my usual pattern as colder weather approaches. This week's version has chicken, barley, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, stock. Delicious. Even better knowing I grew some of it myself.

One of the books we found at last weekend's library sale is a lovely little reprint of John Evelyn's discourse about gardening and garden vegetables and plants, his Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets, originally published in London in 1699, here reprinted by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1937. (Sallets = salads.) It is, according to its introduction, "... a book of directions for gardening and cooking... written in a discoursive style and with a leisureliness and in a rhythm suited to the slow pace of a horse trotting through the winding lanes of the English countryside." I've never read Evelyn's famous diary, so this will serve as a good introduction to the workings of his mind. Before I attempt the entire diary. Since I don't yet have a copy, I'm not putting any pressure on myself to do so - as with many great books, it is enough to know it waits for me, someday.

Until then, I putter. And take to heart Evelyn's words from his dedication to this book: " much might I say of Gardens and Rural Employments, preferrable to the Pomp and Grandeur of other Secular Business..." He describes an interesting recipe for Pudding of Carrot (p.141) which calls for grated carrots, bread crumbs, cream, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, and nutmeg, beaten together and then baked in a quick oven. Hmm. Here I am with many carrots on my hands and cooking on the brain, after seeing the film Julie & Julia, and reading the book afterwards. But I can't see myself cooking my way through Evelyn's Acetaria. Gardening through it, perhaps...?

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