Back in the early 1990s, I worked in a Northern California bookstore and spent all of my meager wages on, well, books. I hadn’t yet rediscovered the wonders of libraries (free books! free music! free movies!?!?!) and thought I needed to own everything I read.
One book that made a big impression on me at that time, although if I pulled it off the shelf now I’m not sure I’d still love it, was “Mating” by Norman Rush. I read it just before it won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1991 and garnered rave reviews (but then suffered a bit of a backlash from some readers who considered it over-long and pompously written.)
The novel contains a passage that has really stuck with me in the years since I read it. I’ll never find it to quote it accurately, as the book is 496 pages long, but the essence is this – one of the characters states that he needs to eat something fresh every single day. Even if it’s the smallest herb or tiny addition to an otherwise-dried/canned/reheated dish (a true challenge considering the character is living in the Kalahari desert at the time of his statement!), he just needs to have that one thing, every day.
For some reason this really resonated with me. I will freely admit to using canned beans, frozen blueberries, and a host of other pre-packaged foodstuffs in the interest of quick preparation and out-of-season variety, and I will never be one for the Raw Food bandwagon. But having something fresh, no matter how small, always makes me feel better, healthier, more lively. It’s one of the reasons that, despite being a big lazybones and not having a huge amount of free time, I have at least a small veggie/herb/edible flower patch every year.
I had thought, with our recent spate of awful weather, that there would be absolutely nothing left in the garden that could be eaten fresh as of mid-January. But to my great surprise and delight, the curly parsley in the parking strip patch had managed to keep a few stems around, and I was able to pick a good-sized one tonight to chop up for a quick red pasta sauce.
Something fresh, every day. It’s a lot easier to make that a reality when you can just walk out to the garden and snip something you grew! I’m just glad I’m not gardening in the Kalahari, I don’t think I would be up to the challenge.