|Lewis Dodgson would have felt at home in this pile of stones and tiger lilies across from my house|
One of the most astonishing questions I’ve been asked lately is, “Where do you want us to put the porta-potty?”
“I don’t want you to put a porta-potty anywhere,” I answered. And then, “What porta-potty.”
“Well,” Charlie said, rolling his eyes toward the porta-potty truck that I’d just noticed out on the street, “There are five men here, and nature calls, or at least it may. Unless you want them using YOUR bathroom...”
Since my office is between the kitchen and the bathroom, I told them where to put the porta-potty, in no uncertain terms, and they put it there, and all the following questions, from other people, have been “WHAT is going on at your house? You have a...”
“Porta-potty,” I supply.
Especially since the scaffolding is all hidden on the other side of the house now and the porta-potty stands alone. Just like the Cheese, in the Dairy-O.
Speaking of cheese... or perhaps I shouldn’t.
Perhaps I should speak of compost, instead. It’s all part of the same system. I wouldn’t need a porta-potty if these men didn’t eat, and what do they eat? They eat what comes from the earth or they eat what eats what comes from the earth, grows in the soil, and what is soil but a lot of micronutrients that come from the stars and from the compost; and that compost is composed of all the things that are supposedly used up – dead
leaves, grass clippings, vegetable leavings... and manure. Which, with a little microbial action come back as a fertilizer to grow things out of the soil again. Life, used up – death, but not really – then life again. At least that’s the way it always worked before Monsatan came along (it’s all very religious, isn’t it?). Which brings us back to the porta-potty. Or not.
The other day I was listening to the radio and I heard the novelist, Margaret Atwood, talking about age and she said something to the effect that ‘young people worry a lot more than we do because they don’t know their own life’s plot yet.” Yep, it could be anything. And it started me thinking.
All of my life I have known that there is really nothing, basically, when you get right down to it, more important than food. At this realm, at this layer of existence... food is supreme. It’s one thing you can do something about, practically. We need it three times a day or at least once every few days, we cannot live without it, and we have been given such bushels of nonsense and ill-truths about it by government and corporations and even doctors, because none of them knows anything about food and its relationship to the human body, that somebody has to try to keep the puzzle pieces straight, and talk about it and give it – food – the respect it deserves. The most we know is that real food comes from the soil and the better the soil the better the food. It’s important to remember what real food is, to keep the consciousness of it through the dark years. So that’s been my path. Nice to recognize it. Thank you Margaret Atwood.
Food connects everything. I heard Meighan Kelley belt out White Rabbit, that old, great, Grace Slick song, at a RAFFL benefit at Mary Ashcroft’s Standing Stones the other afternoon, and that, of course, put me in mind of Lewis Carroll and Charles Dodgson and Alice, and how logical everything really is but not in the way we think it is. Lest you think that Alice in Wonderland has nothing to do with food remember the pills, and the tea parties, and the little/big drinks. And of course there were, er, ah, those little girl picnics on the river.
Connectivity. RAFFL is all about food and farming and feeding. Meighan? I’ve known her since before she was born with that amazing power of voice. She now works for my old friends who gave us hippy-types a place to gather in Rutland back in the ‘70s, and who are now giving community a place to gather in Hinesburg. That would be Will and Kathleen Patten, the old, original Back Home Café on Center Street in Rutland, and now the Hinesburg Public House. Grace Slick was loud and original and had nothing to do with food that I know of – none of us did back then – and the grin slid off the Cheshire Cat until only it remained. Mary Ashcroft’s husband, Harold Billings, was fascinated with the stones and collected them and stood them on a hillock behind their house and studied practical astronomy for placing them. Mary herself gave Radical Roots a start. And I sit here writing about porta-pottys and standing stones in a food column.
That’s the thing, Food is connection. Food is real. There couldn’t be anything more real than the box of new red potatoes, smaller than tennis balls, at the Rad Roots stand at Saturday’s Market. I scoffed ‘em right up, and it was only later that I decided to tenderly boil them in well salted.... well, let me just make up a recipe here and now. You deserve it for at least trying to follow my train of thought here.
a salad of new potatoes with feta
· New red potatoes – 1 lb+, equal to or smaller than a golf ball
· Salted water to cover
· Olive oil – ¼ cup or more good tasting, best virgin
· Garlic cloves – 2 or 3, chopped
· Snow peas – two handfuls, stemmed and strung, then cut into ½ inch pieces
· Tiger Lily pods – a dozen, sliced in 1/4 inch slants
· Scallions or Egyptian onions – ¼ cup sliced at a slant
· Tarragon leaves
· Mint leaves
· ½ cup feta cheese pinched into pieces
· Coarse sea salt
· Fresh ground pepper
· Vinegar, cider or balsamic – optional
Swish off the potatoes in cold water to clean, put them into a large saucepan and cover with water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, cover at a slant, bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium high to keep them at a low boil.
In the meantime, pour the olive oil into a serving dish, add the garlic, peas, lily pods* and scallions. If you’re using the Egyptian onions, peel a handful of the tiny top bulbs and cut in half and add to the bowl. Then slice some of the tenderer stalks and add them to the bowl. Add the tarragon and mint. Stir this all up so the flavors permeate the oil. Actually, this would be good to do an hour before cooking the potatoes.
When the potatoes are tender to a table fork, drain them and put the pan over a very low flame until they are completely dry. Be careful not to scorch. Then add them to the bowl and toss with this delicious oil. Let them cool to room temperature and toss with the feta cheese. You may want to break some of the potatoes roughly in half with the tines of a fork. You may want to add a few drops of cider or balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.
If you don’t grow the perennial Egyptian “Walking” onions, please see me. Because you should.
Can you eat lily pods? Of course you can. Just remember that one will make you larger, two will make you small. And Remember what the Dormouse said/Feed your head!
All kidding aside, the guys who are working on our house replacing roof slates and painting the high points and trim are professional all the way, acceptable to have around, and are, porta-potty excepted, just super. I know they’ll forgive me for making them the butt of this column. No pun intended, of course. Or perhaps they’ll imitate the Red Queen and say “Off with her head!”