Tuesday, February 11, 2014

frm "The First Fruits of the Earth A.D. 1870 N.E."

Jesse Halsey | unfinished fragment | c1933

Aunt Mary Ann came in out of the garden, her apron filled with the first fruits of spring. Meagre, most would judge now-a-days, but what a great feast it made in celebration of the end of winter and the time when dried vegetables should give place to fresh, and when something besides potatoes and turnips should be served at a meal.

On the kitchen table she deposited her spoil. First came rhubarb; pie plant, it was called in those days. Tender, succulent, pink. Little stalks, not the giant variety. Carefully, she washed it, cut it in half-inch pieces with unhesitating, meticulous accuracy and, with a modicum of water and a few slices of lemon, it went onto the back of the wood stove to simmer.

The horseradish went into a dishpan of water. Presently it would be washed and scrubbed and then grated painfully by hand, while the old Indian wept and rubbed her eyes with the corner of her apron, its tang pervading the kitchen. Cider vinegar from the barrel in the cellar, golden and aromatic, would be added. Then the delicious condiment would be added to the sauce that, filled with raisins, surrounded the dry cured ham, baking in a slow oven. But this anticipates the supper hour.

There were dandelion greens. Slowly picked over, one by one, washed three times, then quickly boiled and “dreened,” salt and vinegar. Fit for the gods—and “good for what ails ye.”

Such additions came with early spring.

“And the onion sets are sproutin’; the radishes are as big as peas and will be ready next week, and the lettuce’s come up fine—not big enough yet—and yer beets and spinach look promisin.’”

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