Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Labor Done

And so, the calendar clicked off the first day of spring. In some parts of the country grey skies and frozen flakes fell from the heavens toying with our collective desire to have winter behind us. Where I greeted the equinox the breaking horizon on the day was a foretelling to a glorious start. A perfect cerulean sweep of a sky accented with whispers of cirrus clouds that brushed the sky clear.

There was a mission to this picture perfect day as there was to the prior two. Get the garden
prepared and finished. By day three the hard stuff was behind us, well accept for the aches in our backs and the sore muscles of not-often-enough-engaged forearms. A bed, about 30 feet by 25 feet, had been tilled and soiled, raked and graded. What an accomplishment for when I arrived in blushing, cherry blossom hued Georgia from sooty New York the plot was just roughed out. The spot that was chosen had never held a garden before, and was therefore dense and packed in need of a lot of encouragement.

My partner in digging rented a roto-tiller for the weekend. I thought we could just hack at the soil with picks and rakes to loosen up the ground. No, the red earth of this region settles to a hard, resistant covering and it goes deep. The little roto-tiller reminded me of a bicycle with a small engine. Cute, but put not exactly highway worthy.
Chopping up that soil and turning it over took almost two days. Over that time we also, started quite a collection of rocks that at times were more than speed bumps to this process. I was not very good with it – that little tiller kept getting the best of me. I just did not have enough body weight to hold it back and down as it slowly chomped away aerating and softening the future home of future meals. Luckily, my partner is of strong Nordic stock and drove that tiller allowing me the occasional “go” so he could hydrate and I could claim some victory over this chosen land. I
was on mucking duty – shoveling and raking enough manure in order lay about two-feet deep of this nutrient rich source vital for the success of the garden.

Not to forget to bend over every time a tuff of grass, tangled dandelion or stray of clover was spotted to get them out for the were bound to re-establish themselves – and nothing was going to choke my little babies. I mean, we knew that weeds were hiding and eventually were going to be dealt with, but those that was too stupid to conceal themselves were yanked, and tossed.

By nightfall, for three days, we climbed the stairs back into the house and showered off the layer of dirt that coated bodies. The tub's drain sucked down the forensic evidence the day’s work. As we crashed into bed it was agreed upon that the work was exhausting but the satisfaction of creating life fueled our spirit to get up the next morning and start again. It is a simple thing, gardening, but yet it is not. The physical labor is intense, but the soreness fades; the spiritual connectiveness to my food from seed to plate will make me cherish very morsel and the emotional gratification and security I get knowing where my food has been raised makes me wish everything I ate could come this plot.

We are weeks to months away from really harvesting much of thing – herbs will be clipped almost immediately – I like to go down the garden in the morning, coffee cup in hand, to check on their progress, and give them a quenching to help them on their way. I pray no dousing rain washes away the seeds we sowed, and the hothouse pushed planting take to the shock of their new home.

Monday, March 7, 2011


March may come in like a lion, but I say it goes out like a hungry lamb. The next 6 to 8 weeks are the hardest for me food whys, I suffer from a serve case of the culinary blues. The summer stores I put up last year have dwindled to a last meal or two, and the earth is still in a dead sleep. The frustration is as I peel off layers and no longer require the thrice wrapping of my cashmere scarf I start to ache for green. I now the first delicate offerings of the season of renewal will be a verdant saturated plate, and I pine for that chlorophyll intense bite.

On the calendar spring is a mere three weeks away, and because Mother Nature has once again not marked her iCalendar I now a specific date means nothing. So, I will look for signs: white and purple crocus dotting barren parks; slightly swollen green buds popping up in clumps here and there, and stretch of nights where the temperature never dips below a freeze. Reading those signs I can start to plot my first true spring meal and think of grilled ramps or a chervil laced goat cheese turnover – ahh, the thought of it.

I must wait, and I in the interim I will dream.

Whole Wheat Flatbread – yields 8
16-ounces plain yogurt
2-cups chickpea flour
3-1/2 to 4 cups whole-wheat flour
2-teaspoons salt
1-tablespoon canola oil

Combine the yogurt, chickpea flour, whole-wheat flour and salt together to create a dense, but moist dough mass. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, and then rub with a bit of oil. Place in a bowl and cover, or plastic bag and allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces, and form in a ball.

Flatten the ball of dough, and roll them out to about 1/8-inch thick rounds. Make sure to rotate the dough as you are rolling in order to prevent it from sticking to your work-surface. It is ideal not to flour the work-surface when rolling out the flat breads.

Heat a cast iron skillet or flat top over a high heat. Cook the flat breads for about 2-3minutes a side.
Store in the refrigerator or freeze.