Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

  The clock has moved forward an hour and I expect to catch up next month.  The moon has reached its lowest point on the meridian. St. Patrick's day when all is painted green has been celebrated with enthusiasm and passed away.
   The season after a very mild winter with little snow in our part of the world surprised us with a cold snap burning many early blooming trees making us wonder how much damage the summer fruit crop sustained. Today it's bright and sunny with spots of bright yellow dotting the landscape from hardy daffodils and yellow forsythia that bear tinges of scald in their blooms.
   The first day of spring officially arrived in the Central Time Zone  on March 20th at 5:36 am when night and day were of equal length. Both scientists and soothsayers proclaim to be knowledgeable as to what the future portends. I find looking out the window works most of the time.
   We live in an ever changing cycle of seasons that have more relation to the sun, jet stream, and prevailing winds than they do to artificial calendars devised by human beings. Year after year it's a hit and miss, but though we complain we choose not to live where there are few seasons.
   Our ancestors didn't need a billboard reminding them to eat their vegetables especially the green leafy kind. One of the first signs of spring was when the woman of the family  began to haunt fields, ditches, and hollows bearing a sharp paring knife to harvest the emerging spring greens.
   I'm not sure what food value, if any, remained after being simmered with a piece of side meat all day on the back of the range. What emerged was a shinny dark soggy glob that was carefully parceled out so each family member would have a small taste of spring. The best part was the pot liqueur that was served in a small pitcher to be poured over a slab of hot buttered cornbread like syrup.
   This was not my mother's style of cooking, but my father's mother who was born in 1883. I learned to cook from both of them. There are many foods they created with ease that I've tried to duplicate my entire adult life and have yet to managed a reasonable facsimile. With Nash it's the same thing - his father made mush that was sliced and fried crisp. I can't count the times he has tried to recreate the procedure and failed.
   Once my sister tried to prepare Gran's green. She went out in the yard and pulled handfuls of what she could find. Plopped her bounty in a skillet to char and fill the house with smoke. Mother rescued her egg skillet and banished her from the kitchen until she could see above the burners without standing on a chair.
   My own search in our early spring woods, at the farm, was for fiddle head ferns. I'd take a small basket lined with a damp towel and the trusty paring knife. Very carefully, I'd harvest a few shoots no bigger than the my little finger from each clump so as not to destroy the plant.
   I'd leave the basket outside until time to prepare this early spring delicacy. They don't last in the refrigerator and one picking per year was all I could manage before they became too well developed.
   A fast dunking in cool water to dislodge any insects that had found a home in the furry stems. Gently pat them dry. Coat a skillet with butter and give them a fast saute. Just get them hot and serve immediately. The taste is light, fresh, and similar to very young asparagus.
   For several years I've transplanted clumps of ferns to shady spots around our yard. Hoping someday to harvest a crop of the spring treat I first learned about when reading a mystery novel set in New England.
   I make no claim to being a woods woman and do my infrequent hunting for fresh greens in the grocery sticking to kale and spinach which have a decent shelf life. We most certainly do not cook vegetables as our grand-mothers or mothers did. At times their methods could be described as 'cooking them to death', but certain foods like spring greens bring memories of a past that wasn't that long ago.

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