Monday, 12 August 2013

Small and Wonderful Things . . .

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"The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But who gets excited by a mere penny?...It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted with pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. what you see is what you get." ~Anne Dillard 

A few of the small and wonderful things which bring untold joy into my life.   It's the small things in life which truly mean the most.  Simple abundance . . . it's the best.

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"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, or clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live along in the bee-loud glade.
~Yeats, Lake Isle of Innisfree

Sounds idyllic doesn't it . . . a cottage on an island surrounded by all the goodness that a garden brings, but . . . it makes me wonder what the significance is of nine rows of beans.  Why not six or three or ten?  I do wonder about these things.   Nine rows would bring a lot of beans if the rows were very long . . .

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One could dry them . . . I think that is a charming sight . . . rows of beans drying on strings.   I do love the shape of a bean.  When very young it curves like a sliver moon, lengthening in time to something obscure, like a long stick.  Whatever the shape they are wonderful to eat.  I love them most when they are young, tender and butter-sweet, freshly picked.   You must grown your own to get these . . . there is no other way.  Thankfully beans grow like weeds.  Picked when still delicate and young, cooked within minutes of picking . . .  food for the Gods . . . there is no other way to describe them.  I like to cook them in just a bit of water, and then add some cream and butter at the last, the cream and butter cooking down into a lush sauce.  Oh boy, heaven on earth . . .

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"And pray what more can a reasonable man desire, in peaceful times, in ordinary noons, than a sufficient number of ears of green sweet corn boiled, with the addition of salt?"

The rows of sweet corn are ripening in the fields now . . . their golden silk beginning to turn brown.   The corn over here is not good.   I have been spoiled by too many years of peaches and cream . . . purchased from the back of wagons, sitting by the roadside, having just been picked, a bakers dozen . . . of course.  Like beans, corn should be cooked and eaten shortly after picking, steamed in a large pot with just a hint of salt and some sugar . . . it brings out the natural sweetness.  As soon as you can smell it, it is done . . . ready to be heaped on a warm platter and served up with plenty of butter and salt.  In summers when I was growing up, come corn season we would have several nights when that is all we would have for supper . . . just fresh picked and boiled corn on the cob.  My mother called it a "feed of corn."  Oh how we loved it.   Slathered in oodles of butter . . .  sprinkled with salt . . . eaten as if those tasty golden cobs were the platen of a dozen typewriters . . . teeth crunching down the length of one row after another, until the cob was bare and we could begin afresh with a new cob.  Your lips smell like butter afterwards, for hours and you can revisit that delicious moment of the very first bite each time you push them up to your nose and inhale.  Tell me I'm not the only one who does this . . .

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Sweet carrots from the garden . . . so sweet and so fresh that you needn't peel them.  All they need is a good scrub, tiny hairs still clinging to that tender surface.   Steamed until crispy tender, a hint of the green still attached to the tops, dressed with butter and fresh chervil . . . perhaps a drizzle of honey.  Nirvana is reached from the very first bite.

Or roasted, unpeeled . . . with some sliced onions and a drizzle of olive oil, good balsamic and a dusting of sea salt and black pepper . . .

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Potatoes freshly dug, dirt still clinging to them.   Brushed and washed and steamed until tender . . . rolled in the pot with some sea-salt, cracked pepper and  butter . . .  and chopped fresh herbs . . . lots of parsley, minced chives . . . marjoram  Leave the peel on, and crush them just a tiny bit . . . so some of that buttery herby flavour gets inside and mingles with that mealy fluffy goodness tucked beneath the skins.   The skin is like paper . . . even silk.  It has no bite.

Does anything on earth taste better than a freshly dug potato, simply cooked . . . all earthy, like a newborn baby's toes . . . fresh from the God who gifts us with them both . . .

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Tomatoes freshly picked with the flavour of the warm sunshine still clinging to their skin, that smell . . . all green and fresh.   Sweet, sliced in big slabs onto cold plates and sprinkle with nothing more than some flakes of sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper . . . a buttered slice of fresh and crusty white bread on the side.  Oh . . . 'tis a lunch you cannot buy in a restaurant.  Satisfying and glorious.  How can you put a price on this??   They cannot, for they cannot hope to serve it to you . . . unless of course they have big pots of tomatoes growing just outside the back doorway of the restaurant, but it wouldn't taste the same, no matter what.

There is something extra added to something you have grown with loving care and with your own hands.  It is unique, and special . . . and quite delicious.

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Garden greens . . . especially spinach and swiss chard.  How I love it.  Washed and chopped and sautéed in a bit of butter until crispy tender . . . simply dressed when done, with some vinegar, salt and pepper.   I did not grow any this year and I miss it.  There is nothing like a garden green . . .  freshly picked, and cooked within minutes of the picking. I know, I say that about everything, but . . . 'tis true.  I think there is a Godly goodness that comes from fresh vegetables you have grown yourself, almost Eden-like . . .  Adamic as it were.

We take for granted all the gifts that come from a garden.  I suppose we have been hardened by years of buying it wrapped in plastic at the shops . . . the very soul having been lost from what they were meant to be.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  Even if you only have an apartment.  If you have a balcony or even a window box you are blessed, and you can grow something simple, if only a few herbs or a few tomatoes.   Garden bliss can be yours . . . albeit on a much smaller scale.   A rich blessing and a small and wonderful thing.

The small things . . . they're not really so small after all . . .

A thought to carry with you through the day . . .


"When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around. 
~Willie Nelson  

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There's a Man-Pleaser cooking up in The English Kitchen today  . . . Oven Barbequed Sausages,  served up with plenty of mash and plenty of love!

Have a great Monday!

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