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I just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, with assists from her husband Steven Hoppe and daughter Camille Kingsolver. It’s the sort of book that makes me feel smug and superior compared to people who eat at McDonald’s and slovenly and inferior contrasted to the farm folks–depending on the sentence. She’s a beautiful writer and I wish I could do half of what she is somehow able to do in a year. Or perhaps I wish she would just do it for me. It’s possible I just have the wrong friends–few of whom would be all that helpful processing turkeys. It pissed me off to read that for her 50th birthday everyone brought her plants that she put in their front yard. That is a damned good idea. For my 50th birthday everyone bought me a dozen cupcakes. That was a pretty good idea, too, since I wasn’t hosting legions of friends–just a few–so I didn’t have to share so much.

I shop at farmers’ markets and have joined a food co-op to get more local produce and pastured eggs and meat and chicken. I do this and I don’t do that. I buy local and almost never darken a chain restaurant’s door. I like pulling basil out of my small kitchen garden to make pesto a few times a summer. I’m a big believer in weeding by hand, rather than by chemical and I have shrunk our lawn considerably over the years. I’ve made mozzarella twice and liked the results once. I’ve even eaten twice in one weekend at the farm-to-table restaurant Kingsolver and her husband started in Meadowview, VA, The Harvest Table. All good. I’m sure you’re tired now so I won’t tell you all the bad I’ve done–the plants I’ve killed with neglect, the plastic containers of organic spinach I’ve bought–that sort of thing.

Back to the nature

This tomato plant came from the Meadowview Farmers’ Guild General Store, adjacent to the Harvest Table. I am a neglectful gardener and as I sow so shall I reap. And perhaps weep. I want the plants to be independent. I think they should tie themselves to posts as they grow. Figure it out. Water themselves. That sort of thing. Forgive me, Mother Nature, for I have sinned. But I also bought a Twin Oaks hammock at the General Store, so somehow that works out so that I can feel smug and superior and supportive of the local little guys while I nap in the shade. I haven’t made my hammock, but I can still lie in it. Living la vida loca…

The other night at a friend’s house for dinner, the sight of  yellow rubber gloves at each otherwise autumnal place setting was slightly unsettling. She had promised a fun evening with food. Hmmmmm.  Since our host is a health professional, I was relieved the gloves weren’t of the surgical variety. Not too appetizing.

Turns out everything else was, especially the mozzarella we made with help from a kit Margee had bought online. ( or will work)  It’s crazy how magical it seemed to pour milk into a pot, mix in a little citric acid, water, and rennet, and wind up with mooshy curds  between my fingers (glove-covered, of course).  Funny to be in a Mother Goose rhyme with actual curds and whey on a Friday night. Within thirty minutes we were slicing beautiful, fresh mozzarella on homemade pizzas.  Quite yum.  Everyone else at dinner had read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I am ignorant, but that just makes learning things I should already know more fascinating.

Yesterday as I was raking leaves, I was thinking in the way that I think, with very few actual facts bouncing around inside my head, how the hell anyone ever figured out that rennet turned milk into cheese?    Rather than actual thinking or fact-finding, it’s much more fun to imagine the poor little mother’s milk-drinking calf who ingested a lime and fell into a fire that didn’t exceed 135 degrees, was pulled from it, had its stomach cut open after exactly 4 minutes by someone both hungry and adventurous and then had the contents of its stomach sliced and diced into curds. Doesn’t sound nearly as tasty as what we ate. Had food-finding been up to me back in the day, we’d still be eating berries and nuts and nothing else. Thank goodness for more adventurous types because the perfectly rich and dense chocolate cake with raspberry sauce Margee made doesn’t grow on trees.

I’m back!