Saturday, June 22, 2013

Getting Back to the Garden

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
   and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth.
                                     Psalm 104:14

I didn’t plant this year.  During the cold days of February as I was busy preparing for Ash Wednesday and making plans for the Lenten season, I wasn’t in the mood to get seed starter under my fingernails.  I lacked the patience to water dirt for weeks until something green finally chose to appear.  On my mind was also my terribly neglected plants of 2012, my weedy plot at our community garden, and the pots on my deck, abandoned way too soon.

So this year I didn’t try.  I have nothing growing. 

This decision was on my mind during our beach vacation, among my dear family, as we discussed that special annual event, The Singing.  I have long believed that the vast majority of the food there came from local farms and gardens, with occasional gatecrashing by some Kentucky Fried Chicken or grocery store potato salad.  I thought that the field peas and the greens and the pecans that filled sugary pies had all grown up nearby.  Turns out, I wasn’t quite right.

Certainly in years past, this had been the case.  When my grandmother and aunt Florence worked together to make our family’s contribution to the feast – having shut everyone else out of the kitchen – nearly all of their ingredients had come from either their own garden or other nearby resources.  Today, this is still probably true of a certain percent of the dishes that appear on the church’s cement tables.  And yet, I had failed to notice that this is not the standard it used to be.  While the tables still contain their share of fried okra and green beans (even the universal and wonderful deviled eggs), many people now make the choice that I did: to bring dessert.

For years, I chose cookies because they were easy to keep and transport.  Desserts are always popular and I knew what I brought was likely to be eaten. This seemed logical at the time, but now, I’m not so sure.  Lots of people have been choosing this option to the detriment of our waistlines and our gardening abilities.  There just aren’t as many farmers and gardeners as there used to be.  Lots of people still come, but they bring items that are easier to prepare with ingredients available in their local Food World.

It is hard to grow food.  There are a thousand things that can go wrong and many steps required in making them go right.  Plants are needy.  They require a lot of attention in the form of water, fertilizer, weeding and plucking off little green worms.   Few of us remember the length of time and the enormous work involved in preparing food before this age of convenience.  Previous to microwave dinners and brownie mixes, cooking for a family might be a full time job.  It isn’t surprising that folks aren’t keen on doing it the hard way.

Like many things in life, however, the hard way can be the good way.  A few modern conveniences are great, but laboring for our sustenance probably comes with plenty of character-building qualities.  And “eating off the ground” is generally considered to be the healthiest way to go.  What is grown in the soil comes directly from the hand of God.  While this doesn’t mean that everything in nature is edible, most of the things that we human beings have devised – from Mars bars to frozen pizza – are a sad choice compared to a peach or tomato.

So . . . as soon as I publish this blog post, my next act will be to place in some potting soil my first and maybe only plant of the season: a nice basil plant that I bought at our local farmer’s market.  And next year, when the time comes for The Singing, I will decide what vegetable to cook.  Maybe something from the garden.

Blessed eating!


Below is the recipe for what I hope will be my last dessert to take to Shady Hill Baptist Church.  Though it may not be out of the garden, it was really good!

Coconut, Cream Cheese and Caramel Dessert
Put pie crust in a 9x13 inch dish and brown.  Brown about ½ bag of coconut with a 1/2 c. of pecans and a little margarine in the oven.  Mix together:  1 can sweetened condensed milk, 8 oz. cream cheese.  Add 16 oz. Cool Whip and blend with a spoon.  Put one layer of creamed mixture over baked crust then a layer of coconut mixture.  Repeat.  Drizzle the top with caramel topping.  Refrigerate overnight. – Mrs. Bruley

Note: The coconut and pecans do not absolutely have to be browned.  For me they worked just fine plain after my attempts to brown them nearly alerted the fire department!


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