One of the joys of farming, at least to me, is spending time out on the tractor doing various sorts of field work. Providing everything holds together there are no interruptions...no cell phones, no radio, no anything...and although I'm loathe to admit it in front of Melissa, it's where I get my best thinking done.
As I was working my way through summer spraying and pasture clipping, my mind got happily stuck on food, and in particular on favourite and memorable dishes, foods and meals. Of course I've got many stories about favourite meals that coincide with holiday rituals, but that isn't what this particular post is about. Rather this is more about the sort of serindipitous favourite food memory that can't be planned in advance.
Perhaps the most memorable meal I ever helped prepare was one that I served to city friends who had never eaten really fresh food before. They came with me to our huge family garden and helped me pick vegetables and when we were through we went to the fencerow and picked our dessert....two quarts of fresh blackberries laced with Jersey cream fresh from a neighbours tank. Our meat was filet steak from a freshly butchered steer. Although it wasn't odd to me at all, it completely blew our friends away that except for the condiments (and the cream) I had grown every single thing on our table that night.
Of course, fresh anything is pretty awesome all by itself; even bland old carrots and peas taste pretty awesome when they are picked fresh out of the garden and only semi-cleaned up before being eaten raw.
Speaking of berries, is there anything better than discovering a patch of raspberries, strawberries or blackberries growing in a fencerow or off in the woods ? When I was a kid our fencerows were full of berries of every type and I spent many pleasant hours hunting and picking various sweet wild treats, each in their season. My favourite pie remains strawberry rhubarb, mostly because I associate the taste with the warm, berry picking summer afternoons of my childhood.
Perhaps because I grew up in the north, any sort of spring green was a welcome (and favourite) addition to the diet. I wait for fresh asparagus every year and since we don't yet have our own patch down here in Tennessee I will pay nearly any price to source it. Lightly peppered watercress on toast remains a favourite too, though not one I've tasted since I left Ontario.
I don't know many rural folk from the northeastern US or central Canada who don't have stories associated with making maple syrup. I'll end my post by saying that IMO the best way to eat pancakes is with piping hot fresh syrup, preferably within sight and smell of the sugarhouse door on a warm late winter day. Mmmmm !
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