Years ago I read a joke, probably in the “Life In These United States” feature of Reader’s Digest, about life in a small town. As the story went, it was a friendly, safe place to live, but this time of year, everyone knew better than to leave their cars unlocked and the windows open. If they did, someone would put zucchinis in it.
This year, I can relate to those gardeners’ desperation.
As I mentioned in a guest post last week on fellow-writer Linda Yezak’s blog, sometimes I think I spend too much time thinking about/working with food.
Take today, for example. I won’t include breakfast in the list, because all it involved was a bowl of cereal and a glass of grapefruit juice while checking and answering emails. But from 8:45 am until 1:30 pm, my day revolved around food.
First, a trip to the grocery store for my weekly shopping. At home afterward, I put things away; and since I’d bought grapes on sale, I washed and plucked them all from their stems. I dried them and put some in a small bowl on the kitchen table and the rest in the refrigerator. (I learned long ago that if I keep them in the ‘fridge, we forget about them and they turn into raisins.)
Next, I went into the garden, where I picked beans, zucchinis, peppers (bell, hot Hungarian, and jalapeno), tomatoes, and cucumbers. I’d planned to make some fresh salsa, but after picking the tomatoes, I decided they could ripen another day or two. I washed all the produce then chose a pound and a half of the largest jalapenos and set them aside for making poppers. While I cleaned the beans, my husband halved and seeded the jalapenos. Then I mixed up the filling, stuffed the peppers, and baked a batch for lunch.
While the peppers cooked, I remembered I had half a loaf of bread sitting in the breadbox not getting any younger. Deciding a BLT was in order, I cooked some bacon. While that sizzled in the skillet, I cleaned and sliced some cucumbers, salted them, and left them draining them in a colander so I could make a bowlful of cucumbers and onions in cider vinegar.
But red onions are best for that, and I didn’t have any red ones in the house. So I went back to the garden and pulled and cleaned several red onions. While I was at it, I grabbed a few white ones as well, as I’ll want them when we make the salsa.
At some point (I’m not sure of the order of things), I sliced a tomato for a BLT and ate lunch. And a wonderful lunch it was, too — food is always at its best this time of year, as much of it comes fresh from our own garden. I don’t eat jalapeno poppers, fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, or cucumbers unless they’re homegrown, so the kind of lunch we enjoyed today is very much a seasonal thing.
I also had a cantaloupe, so I washed and cut it up, putting all the chunks into a big bowl in the refrigerator. This was after lunch, though, and I was too full to eat more than a few bites.
Next, I tackled my least-favorite part: the kitchen clean-up. By the time I’d washed, dried, and put away all the dishes, it was 1:30. I don’t have a dishwasher–never have. And I don’t like to leave the clean dishes sitting out on the counter because the clutter makes me edgy. I have enough clutter on my counter as it is (a bunch of zucchinis I haven’t figured out what to do with and a tray of tomatoes ripening); a rack of dishes sitting there too would just be too much.
I love food; I’m thankful — very! — to have plenty of it. And I enjoy working with it. But when I consider how many hours there are in a day, it sometimes seems like I spend an uneven percentage of them on food-related activities.
On the other hand, food isn’t just pleasure; it’s necessary to life. How much time do people spend watching TV, playing games, or pursuing other activities that are merely entertainment, accomplishing nothing worthwhile?
Maybe the hours I spend working with food are a better investment of my time than I think.