Before there was a Slow Food movement, before it was in fashion to be a part of it, there was my mother , Bogusia (her American friends call her Millie), feeding my family (and friends!) from the fruits of her labor—tomatoes, cucumbers, dill, green beans, squash, zucchini, onions, basil, parsley, chives, varieties of lettuce. Before my sisters and I became teenagers and got paid to work on other people’s farms [read: before we got an attitude], we used to help my mother with her garden, planted in part with seeds she brought with her from Poland in 1960. (Thereby also ahead of the heirloom curve.) Bugles and potato chips may have been in short supply, but I was never without a fresh sliced tomato (no mozzarella necessary, although awfully good) or a cucumber, peeled and cut in spears—4 or 6 depending on the size of the cuke—with a salt shaker close by. In the summer, mizeria, a cucumber salad made simply with coins of cucumber, salt, and sour cream is still a standard dinner side dish for me. Tonight, it was my main course.
What my mother doesn’t grow these days, she is—still, at 70—willing to pick at farms where such activity is encouraged (and sustains said farms). The two blueberry bushes in her yard are not enough for my parents’ blueberry consumption and her winter stock, so she finds pick-your-own places and goes with her friends. She does the same with strawberries. And raspberries. She bonds with her friends in the fields the way I do mine in the teachers’ lounge and restaurants. (And I guess the pool.) Moreover, she has friends with farms, bigger than her gardens (plural because she tends one at her house and one at my sister Mary's), who bring her samples of their treasures, sometimes by the bushel, so what she doesn’t grow she can barter, and fresh produce is never in short supply. And what is not eaten fresh is never wasted.
In the winter, I continue to savor her tomato soup (I know you miss it, Jill!) made from her summer bumper crop of tomatoes. Year round I complement sandwiches with something from a selection of endless jars of her pickles—delicious dills or butter and sugar. Honestly, nary a day passes when I am without something, some wonderful thing, that came from the earth and from my mother’s hands.
I'd trade my anchovy paste to keep it that way. (That's serious.)