What do we need to survive? The first things that come to mind are food, clothing, shelter, and land. I would include love, respect, warm light, a cold pint of beer, novels, music, and time to pause and ponder. Maybe we seek affinity, to be part of a cause. In order to grow we need to show up and do the work. We need to shine the light. We need faith in something greater than ourselves.
The closest I get to faith is my acceptance of the randomness of it all. I see beauty and injustice in this randomness. We control what we can and the rest unfolds within the complexity of the world around us. We are here, alive, and then we are gone. I may not see god in the shimmers of light, but there is something there to be present for. I have faith in the process, the tending, the care, and finding connection with others.
I see how the garden nourishes more than our bellies. We labor for more than just the accrued calories. Don’t we hunger for more? We need to witness the complex relationships, breathe in the heady scents, mingle dirt and sweat, and observe the ever-changing interplay of texture and color. This process is full of both hope and risk.
I don't know why I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the precariousness of it all. Being a parent makes me even more aware of this, of the tenuous ground that supports us. It makes me look for moments of wonder. To see and share the world with my daughter. To work harder.
Many years ago someone told me that there are people who can sit and enjoy a sandwich and those who can’t. It is a little simplistic, but I know it to be true. I once worked in an upscale deli making sandwiches. I wanted each sandwich to be the perfect ratio of flavors, but to be made as efficiently as possible. That was my daily pursuit. This job brought me pleasure in the process, but also brought me face to face with human bitterness. Some people can’t sit and be thankful for what they have; to just enjoy the f'in sandwich. I never want to become that person. Give me two slices of bread, a little cheese, and garden bits. For these things I remain thankful.
As I pass through this life I try to avoid the bitter pills, the status-driven, the complainers, the overly neurotic. I see my own tics, quirks, neuroses, and complaints. When I hear myself complain, I feel the well rumble below. How do we best express our fears, sadness, and frustration when we are surrounded by so many layers of injustice, greed, and self-absorption?
All we can do is show up, be present, witness, document, draw, sing, write. Do the work. Connect. Find beauty in unlikely places. Face what needs to be faced. Own your crap. Walk a mile. Run 5 miles. Bake bread.
These are my thoughts while I cut up beets and pick handfuls of mint on the hottest day of the year. The beets smell of the earth, of blood. They remind me of Tom Robbins and of old friends who also share a love of them. Mangelwurzel. The heat stirs the wells of frustration and injustice, and just makes me plain grumpy. I long for cold, foggy San Francisco summers during heatwaves like this.
We are surviving on movies, music, lots of water, popsicles, and ice. The garden is also in survival mode. I harvested some enormous beets yesterday, but it was too hot to roast or boil them. The only option was to juice them. I am the only person in this house who likes beets, so I thought if I juiced them with bunches of mint and a few apples, then the rest of my family wouldn’t taste the earthiness. I was wrong. So I found myself with 3 cups of fresh juice. I made a gorgeous cocktail with it by combining it with Martin Miller's gin, lime, and Dram Apothecary Citrus Medica bitters. I also made popsicles with plain yogurt and swirls of the bright fuschia juice. I made smoothies with beet juice, yogurt, and banana.
Mr. Graham also brought home some tiny plums from one of our neighbors. They are the kind of plum that is large in pit, with little flesh, not so good for eating out of hand, but are perfect for plum brandy or muddling into a cocktail. So I muddled a few with red shiso leaves from the garden, added lime juice, simple syrup, a drizzle of shiso schnapps that I made last fall, and some Dram Citrus Medica bitters. This is a variation of one of our favorite cocktails.
BEET APPLE MINT JUICE
This is delicious on its own, but I like to have protein with juice or a fruit smoothie so I add a few tablespoons of yogurt to each glass of juice and shake it with ice. I also make a smoothie with with a 1/2 cup of the juice, 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, and a 1/2 of a frozen banana.
Makes about 3 cups of juice
2 medium beets
2 -3 apples, I used pink lady apples
1 - 2 big handfuls of fresh mint
Run everything through the juicer.
BEET MINT COOLER
Minty beet juice pairs nicely with gin. This drink is earthy and well-balanced. It is a wonderful summer refresher. It would also make a fine drink with water or sparkling water instead of gin.
Makes one cocktail
2 ounces beet/apple/mint juice
1.5 ounces gin, I like Martin Miller's for garden cocktails
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup
Shake everything in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into an ice filled Collins glass. Garnish with mint or a nasturtium flower.
PLUM SHISO GIN SMASH
I added a drizzle of shiso schnapps that I made last fall. We were cleaning out the garden beds to prepare for a coming frost and had handfuls of red shiso that I didn't want to waste. I put the shiso leaves in a clean jar and covered them with vodka and let it infuse for a month or so, strained and bottled it.
Makes one cocktail
2 small plums, or one medium plum
2 leaves of green or red shiso
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce lime juice
1.5 ounces gin, I recommend Martin Miller's
.5 ounce shiso schnapps, optional
In a shaker tin, muddle the whole plum(s) with the shiso. I muddle around the pits, but feel free to cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Add the syrup and lime juice and muddle a little more. Add the gin and some ice. Shake well. Using a hawthorne strainer, carefully strain into an ice filled Collins glass. Garnish with small shiso leaves or flower heads.
YOGURT BEET MINT POPSICLES
We tend to make popsicles from leftover breakfast smoothies, or from fruit that is danger of going bad before we can eat it all. All we do is puree fruit or fruit and yogurt to pour into molds. We sometimes add a little honey or maple syrup. I thought the beet mint juice would make good pops if swirled with plain yogurt. Or use whatever leftover juice you have. Maybe carrot fennel. Or kale pineapple. Just add layers of juice and yogurt to popsicle molds and mix slightly with a butter knife or chopstick. Easy peasy. Just remember to insert the popsicle sticks in time. I often forget, so I have to set a timer, or you can purchase molds that don’t require wooden sticks. Enjoy!