Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nostalgia On A Plate

Many of our most vivid memories in life, be it of our home life or travels abroad, usually revolve around things we smelled and ate. Conversations are remembered in tandem with what we were eating. Parties, meetings, and events are remembered the same way.

This unique function of memory we have is particularly acute when coming upon something from our past that struck us as singularly stimulating when we first encountered it . Maybe it was the way it looked (the first time I ever saw a whole roast pig...Meeks family reunion), or the way it smelled (first time I smelled and subsequently devoured balut...Manila, Philippines...right outside a mall), or the way it tasted.

Today is about taste and my grandpa's garden.

My Grandpa Meeks loved his garden. I wrote about the garden back in 2006 after visiting and taking this picture:



Here is what I had to say about it then:

My grandpa Meeks has a garden. Its not the prettiest thing in the world. There are no cute walk ways and hanging planters, it's a mans garden, a real garden, one you get food from, not sweet smelling plants that just make you think of food. My grandpa's garden is one where tomatoes, green beans and corn are grown, not a bunch of sissy herbs planted inside a carriage wheel. He has no special watering equipment, tin cans dug in ingeniously to small irrigation ditches, a system that can only be perfected after many years of use.


And my grandpa has had those years.


Ever since I was a little boy I have loved being in that garden. There was something about it when I was small that might have well made it an enchanted forest. It seemed endless in size, I could get lost in it for what seemed like days.
One day my grandpa asked me if I'd like to cut down the old corn stalks, smirk on his face and a hint of mischief in his eyes. I took up the task in a second. I couldn't have been more than 10.

Grandpa gave me pruning shears, the kind with long wooden handles used to cut off branches, not the ones you use to cut fresh flowers...or some wuss herbs. I remember what Herculean effort it took for me to even lift the things. I tried to look tough of course, I was the big kid, the oldest, but I seriously doubted if I could do my solemn task.

Grandpa led me to the rows of stalks and let me have at it.
It must have been quite a sight watching me try and figure out how to get those two stinking curved blades that were only a few millimeters long, seemed to be 4 miles from my tiny hands, and weighed upwards of a ton and a half around the first corn stalk.

I don't remember how long Grandpa stayed, I was a boy on a mission, my sole focus in life was to chop down the mighty forest before me.
When I was finished I drug myself to the back door of the house. I might as well have cut off the head of a dragon for all I thought I had accomplished.

Grandpa asked if I was finished and I triumphantly declared that indeed I was.
We both walked back out to the area formerly inhabited by the corn stalks and grandpa just smiled and said "well I'll be."

This picture was taken at my grandpa's house. These tools have seen use in his garden for many years and I'm sure there are many more to come.

My grandpa is older now, and doesn't move quite as fast and somehow the garden has shrunk considerably as most things curiously do when we grow up.
We talked about the garden and the time I cut down those corn stalks and both laughed.

Thanks Grandpa, it was one of my finest moments.


It was at my Grandpa's house that I first encountered the simple joy in life that is a tomato topped with a bit of mayo, salt and some pepper.



This was a Brandywine tomato from our garden. The basil is the only addition. Quite a good one, but it was the original ingredients that took me back. They take me back every time.

Thanks Grandpa, it was a great memory.

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