Surely it’s fine to be grateful for lunch every day, day after day. Each lunch is an opportunity to give thanks for so much.
I count at least eight obvious things to be grateful for in this simple lunch, each with a backstory encompassing many more: Bread, mayonnaise, bacon, avocado, tomato, lettuce, and 7 the bread’s toasted and 8 it’s on a plate. That there is a plate, and what it’s made of, where it came from, how it came to be here, that it was clean and will be clean again with soap and hot water and rinsed with hot clear water, water from a tap the flick of a wrist brings forth, in a stainless steel sink, in a functioning kitchen inside a house with a roof… and how did the house come to be, what countless beings and elements contributed to its building? And the plate goes on… That there is toast from a toaster plugged into a wall hiding wires connected to a string of devices that bring electricity from the sun; the sun itself that gives life to the planet; this planet… and all the growing living things that go into the sandwich itself, and their long trails of origins and how they all came to be here together, in this one lunch… Nothing is separate from anything else. I am grateful for each lunch, a marvel, day after day.
It’s hard to explain a non-conceptual experience of being in conceptual terms. I’ve heard this from various sources for several years, and I realize I’ve been hearing it all my life in some form, but not quite comprehending it until the past few months.
I mentioned to a friend the other night that my practice recently has been ‘observing my thoughts.’ She asked for clarification, and I found it difficult to explain. Today, I continued my practice of the skill of relaxation, and observed the experience of simply being, unentwined with thought or expectation for most of the day. Time both slowed and quickened. I’m grateful for a flexible perspective.
It’s sheer happenstance that this existence seems to me the way it does. From what I understand, there’s a better chance that there is an infinite number of me’s living different lives in parallel universes than that there is just this one me in this singular life. It’s a comfort to settle into this possibility: anything I can think of to desire or to do I can rest assured is happening somewhere else at the same time as I’m lying reading on the patio chaise, strafed by hummingbirds, still, quiet, present, quite aware of this moment, here.
I’m grateful today for the satisfaction of doing what I had to do, for work, for dogs, for the house and yarden. Grateful for curiosity which has allowed me to slow down and observe without attachment. Grateful for the satisfaction delivered by a BLT with leftover chicken. Grateful to go to bed after a long day, without being too hard on myself or anyone else, and with only some minor regrets. Grateful for mindfulness practice.
I’m always alert for a new way to do something, and read this morning about a better way to peel tomatoes for canning. Still contending with the kitchen sink drain, I was looking for a shortcut, and searched “do I have to peel tomatoes before canning.” Answers were heavily weighted toward “you’ll be happier if you do,” and one of them included this new way: broil them first, then set a towel over them as they cool to steam the skins loose. My broiler doesn’t allow the six inch distance called for, so I simply roasted them for fifteen minutes on a tray lightly greased with olive oil, then covered, and then plucked those skins right off.
A new and easier way to prepare tomatoes for canning! With far less mess to clean up, ergo far less water ‘down the drain,’ or in this case, into the red bucket. I didn’t count, but know that I carried that two-gallon bucket outside more than two dozen times today, dumping water on various shrubs and beds just beyond the front door. Anything to save on that labor! Waiting on a professional solution to the drain clog, and patiently abiding until that manifests, continuing to pour enzymes down the drain each night in hopes of a natural dissolution. We’ll know more later. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for patience, for perseverance, for running water, and for the red bucket. And very grateful for a new way to peel tomatoes.
I’m also grateful for the bountiful tomatillo crop. I soft-boiled, pureed, and then canned six pints, while the tomatoes were roasting and cooling. Ten pints of produce put up this afternoon!
And in between morning work and afternoon canning, another lovely BLT with lettuce-leaf basil. What a great idea! Thanks again, Amy. Served with one of the first lacto-fermented dill pickles this season. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful not only for the first BLT of the season, but for every BLT of the season. Why limit grateful? Savor every mouthful.
Apricots showed up in many festive meals last month, including these appetizers: perfect apricots cut in half, pits replaced with a dollop of softened cream cheese and topped with salted, roasted almonds.
Another place they showed up was this leg-of-goat roast at the Bad Dog Ranch, in the glaze and in a pan-cooked chutney alongside, courtesy of Chef Gabrielle.
After making apricot jam, harvesting the garden and raiding the fridge, time for a gin gimlet and fresh vegetable curry over red rice, inspired by a friend’s recipe.
Sautéed onions and garlic, three kinds of peppers, fresh tomato, and coconut milk simmer on the stove…
…add zucchini and yellow squash and handfuls of fresh purple and green basil, and simmer til soft and yummy, then serve over rice.
“Do you call a sandwich with tomato and cheese a tomato sandwich?” asked Ann. Me: “NO! That is a tomato and cheese sandwich. A tomato sandwich is just tomato. And mayo. Lots of mayo.”
The BLT is another kind of sandwich altogether, not a tomato sandwich. Sometimes you feel like bacon, sometimes you don’t. But thick bacon! How do you make a BLT with thick bacon? It is just too chewy to bite into pieces. I tried first with chunks of thick bacon instead of whole strips.
And finally solved the dilemma after cooking chopped thick bacon for a pasta sauce. Chop the bacon small and fry til crispy, then add to the sandwich.
Carrots were ready at last. Not a great harvest, but a lot better than last year. They loved the raised bed with its loamy loose soil, but the grasshoppers got their tops through much of the summer. Mostly good-sized roots, and lots of gorgeous colors.
One of the many things I love the most about living in the North Fork Valley is the food we share. We share it in gourmet or casual potlucks, dinner parties, and by the bag, box and basket. These perfect tomatoes came from Mary’s kitchen in exchange for a box of plums picked off of Ellie’s tree. We are blessed with a climate that in some years gives us outrageous amounts of fresh fruit, and in most years gives us gems like these. Our valley is the Organic capital of Colorado, and our produce shows up around the state in all the best Farmers’ Markets.
We have the opportunity in the next 56 days to influence the policy that will determine the level of industrial extraction in the wild public lands that surround our valley; those hills and mountains that comprise our watersheds, our views, our recreation, and our thriving and growing economy based on producing the highest quality vegetables, meats, wines, and recreational opportunities. Hunters, fisher-folk, tourists, people who buy the North Fork Valley’s food products around the state and country, anyone who has ever visited this valley or would like to, we need your support. You can start here. More to come.
First BLT of the season was not half as satisfying as I’d anticipated.
My first BLT of the season was a mess. I only had two slices of bread, which I over-toasted. The only organic “happy pig” bacon available when I shopped the other day was the thick cut, which is great with eggs and toast, but doesn’t work so well in a sandwich. Especially one with over-toasted bread. A rainstorm came just as I was preparing to go pick a few leaves of lettuce from what’s left of the garden, but I did have some left in the fridge. I wanted that sandwich now.
Saturday there were two perfect yellow tomatoes on the plant Fred gave me. They didn’t release when I tried to pluck them that day, so I decided to wait til today, since I was having dinner out last night. I was out all day at a video job. When I went to pick those two perfect tomatoes, there was only one. At lunchtime, Deborah assured me, when she came to give the cat his pill for me, there were two. She also assured me she didn’t pick one. Where did it go? It was in a narrow fenced bed.
Those two tomatoes were priceless. Or, if not priceless, at least extremely costly. When I think of what I pay for water to grow the garden, and what I pay for help building soil and preparing the beds, and then I think of how I watched all but that and one other tomato plant get eaten down by the old doe just as fast as they could grow, I come to the painful conclusion that I’m financially and energetically better off shopping the farmers’ markets or getting a half share in a CSA.
That old doe. Over the course of three days in mid-June, just after I’d eaten the first few peas, she mowed down both rows. One afternoon I was in the kitchen and looked out the window to see her munching the violas from a pot on the patio. Another time, I was working at my desk, and the worthless dogs were napping on the couch because it was “too hot” for them outside. That’s what they said, anyway. I chanced to look up and see her enjoying the blossoms and first little fruits on the big cherry tomato. A few weeks later, when Chris and Dave were here with three extra catahoulas on the grounds, my friend looked out and saw her chowing down on the parsley.
It’s my fault. Earlier in the summer I walked out and found her at the edge of the yard eating snowberry leaves. That was ok. She’s so old and grey-faced. I felt sorry for her, and I have snowberry to spare. So I didn’t shoo her off, and didn’t call the dogs off their couch, where they were that time because they “thought it might rain.” And so, because I’m a softy and the dogs aren’t doing their job, she thinks she has carte blanche in my garden.
Well, she’s only half the problem. Or less. The grasshoppers this year are voracious. They’ve eaten down all the brussels sprouts, made lace of the acorn squash leaves, and are continually topping the scarlet runner beans. They or the doe are keeping the beet greens and romaine trimmed almost to the ground. For some other reason, the bell peppers are stunted, the melon vines are barely bigger than when I put them in the ground two months ago, and several of the jalapeños haven’t even blossomed yet.
There’s almost nothing coming to fruition in my garden except the zucchinis and those two perfect golden tomatoes. I mean, that one. Oh well. First-World problems. But it hasn’t been a total bust. I got a platter of jalapeño poppers out of it, and five heads of red leaf lettuce. And tonight, at least, I wasn’t out of mayonnaise.
Cream cheese and bacon stuffed jalapeños for last night’s summer feast with neighbors.
Lazy dog can’t keep deer out of the yard but happily buries their bones in the woods.
And the day started and ended with a rainbow. This rare morning rainbow over the mesa where I live was shot by Pamela from her ranch across the valley…
… right about the time I crawled out of bed and shot this sunrise beyond her house.
As I finished the over-toasted, under-tomatoed BLT, the sky gave up another rainbow.