Cooking On A Budget: Gardens and Pantries

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gardens and Pantries


I am in a very sentimental mood this evening. For some reason I am thinking about gardens and old fashion pantries and missing my parents so much. Maybe what brought this on was that it is getting close to the time when my husband will start his garden as soon as Mother Nature lets up on the cold, cold days and nights.

Whatever the case, my mind is wandering back in time to the days of my youth; to summers with a bountiful garden thanks to the efforts and hard work that my dad put into it. It was before gas operated rototillers, when the soil had to be dug out with a shovel and turned over. He had a long garden rake to rake out stones and till the soil by hand tools. It took him long hours of preparation and sweat and a few Piels during rest periods to complete the task. Then came the added ingredients – some cow or horse manure and liming it.  Seeds were planted and then the daily maintenance: weeding and watering.

As far back as I can remember – I was probably around four years old, we had a summer garden. Dad always planted a variety of vegetables and of course the best red fruit of the summer – tomatoes. My mother on the other hand liked to plant flowers.  There were a few occasions where my Dad tried to plant some watermelons to show us that the seeds from the melons we ate would grow into something.

Both of our parents enjoyed the out doors and they loved to see the fruits of their labor come to pass and my sister and I became the beneficiaries of the garden edibles.  Dad also planted some rows of corn and each year he planted corn, he had to somehow figure out how to keep raccoons from ransacking it. This one year when we lived on Horse Hill Road in Westbrook I think he relied on our small German Shepard “Honey” to be the watcher of the corn.

They had let Honey out this one particular night and she stayed outside for quite some time. Honey had a “nose” for intruders and always wanted to go out if she smelled another animal or rabbit in the yard. But one morning my father awoke to his garden once again having been ransacked by raccoons and corn stalks strewn on the ground. My father was quick to turn around to our dog and say, “What the hell kind of watch dog are you?” I think that led him to fencing in the garden from that point forward.

I have vague remembrances of my mother canning goods – the thing she enjoyed most was making homemade jams and jellies and storing them in the pantry for us to enjoy throughout the year. From four years old and up I was privileged to live in homes with old fashion pantries. I remember the two from my youth and the one in the very first home I purchased. The images in my mind are strong and I yearn to have an old fashion kitchen pantry once again. A pantry of my own; where I can proudly display the fruits of my husbands’ labor along with some of my own homemade jams.

It would tie the past to the present and re-connect me with two very special people I miss so much.

Do you have special memories of pantries or gardens?  I would love to hear yours.

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