by Mimi Hedl
The wind howled last night. It dipped to 46°. I needed socks to stay warm on the summer kitchen. I especially savored the night, as soon I’ll retreat to the upstairs bedroom, and will patiently wait until I can continue camping out with the wind, the stars and night critters.
Today I dressed in two sweat shirts and wore gloves. I pulled my hood up and tightly secured it. Moving quickly, I picked the garden, gleaning all the peppers, tomatoes with some red*, tomatillos, and beans that’ll go the way of all flesh, soon, very soon. I also picked two large green tomatoes for the last decadent indulgence, fried green tomatoes.
*(Years ago I learned that unless a tomato has some red, or lycopene, visible, the tomato will never ripen to taste like a tomato. Yes, it will turn red, but will lack flavor. Now I pitch the green ones into my wheel barrow and haul them to the compost. Of course you can make mock apple pie, green tomato pickles, which my mother loved, chutney, relish and all sorts of other delights. I have no time this autumn, I leave in a day for Georgia.)
I bypassed the basil and zinnias. The freezer bulges with pesto. I hate to see any basil abandoned, but it too will grace the compost. If the zinnias survive the 36°, I’ll pick a bouquet tomorrow. My grandson loves flowers. He asks his mother to buy them when they go to the grocery store, so the bouquet goes to Logan.
The pineapple sage should survive a minor frost, as should the lemon verbena. But I covet lemon verbena tea, so I’ll pick that too. Whenever I leave Strawdog, I gaze lovingly around me. You never know what the future holds, and it feels good to honor the moment, to look fondly on what has captured your imagination for months, and years, really. As if by standing quietly, your focus will hold that vision and carry you through difficult moments.
The other warm evening, only a few nights ago, I watched the last two moon flowers open as I hustled in and out of the summer kitchen. I hadn’t taken the time to watch them open, and how like me to wait until the end of their flowering to witness the magic. Earlier that morning I’d taken a photograph, somehow knowing their time had come to an end.
Now for the fried green tomatoes, they must have NO red, pink, orange, yellow or purple. The tomatoes won’t fry up crisp if they have an inkling of ripeness. I like to slice them thinly, 1/16” or so, shake them in a bag with flour, and cook them in hot vegetable oil, just enough to coat the skillet. They don’t need to swim in oil. I make sure the oil sizzles before I add the coated tomatoes. I want to sear them. Then, when they had a golden finish, I turn them over and let them cook very slowly until they look crisp on the outside and soft and delectable inside.
Meanwhile I cook potatoes for mashed potatoes, make milk gravy. Then I arrange the scoop, a large scoop, of mashed potatoes on my plate, with a nice indentation for the gravy, display the tomatoes around the potatoes, put the gravy boat on the table and sit down and celebrate!
I can’t deny I don’t have a lump in my stomach, an ache, an anxiety as I watch another chapter closing. Good-byes don’t come easily. Jeremy will begin working on the humongous tree that came down in the tornado, and I’ll spend happy hours hauling brush, making faggots, noticing the bark of trees and the way the sun hits the hills. Somehow, it all feels good. We move from one season to the next, not sure what it will bring, ready for the challenge. Always hopeful.