Make sauce, not war

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - PERMACULTUREINPRACTICE - NATE DOWNEY

I felt a tinge of panic pul­sate through the gan­glia in my back when it sud­denly seemed as if we were go­ing to be hor­ri­bly late. For­tu­nately, my fear mor­phed into an amused and mel­low joy when I dug up the nec­es­sary email. Our fam­ily had been ran­domly se­lected to bring “let­tuce, toma­toes, onions, and other burger top­pings” to the back-to-school pic­nic. This meant we could pick toma­toes, fill a bowl, and head straight to Desert Academy with­out that dreaded de­tour to the gro­cery store. Bet­ter yet, we could share our toma­toes since this year’s crop had done darn well.

Night­shades? I thought, You betcha! As one hand grabbed vines and the other plucked fruit, I found my­self en­joy­ing the idea that my seem­ingly gen­er­ous la­bor was go­ing to dou­ble as an act of un­abashed lazi­ness. With so much of the week’s har­vest go­ing to school-com­mu­nity stom­achs, I would no longer have to squeeze tomato-sauce-mak­ing into an al­ready busy week­end. Yay!

Sadly, those ever-pre­dictable glitches as­so­ci­ated with large, fun potlucks sent us to our car­with half our toma­toes — not the empty bowl I ex­pected. Back home, I thought briefly about the or­ange, red, and yel­low horde still wait­ing to be picked in the gar­den, and I won­dered how many fruit flies the bowl would at­tract overnight. After half-se­ri­ously cov­er­ing the re­main­ing har­vest with a dish towel and head­ing to bed, I woke up at five in the morn­ing with a pre­mon­i­tory star­tle and a mission: make sauce.

Ele­men­tal to per­ma­cul­ture phi­los­o­phy is a prin­ci­ple that praises sim­plic­ity. When de­sign­ing a land­scape, a com­mu­nity, or a recipe, make the least change for the greatest pos­si­ble ef­fect. A recipe for tomato sauce from www.thek­itchn.com that in­cluded only two in­gre­di­ents, toma­toes and lemon juice, was soon call­ing my name. I par­tic­u­larly liked the part in Emma Chris­tensen’s recipe about spic­ing your sauce to taste at ev­ery sub­se­quent meal, de­pend­ing on what­ever’s for din­ner.

The blanch­ing and the peel­ing would take time, but at least I was not mea­sur­ing this, grat­ing that, or pinch­ing what­not. We didn’t have any lemons, but thanks to the mar­garita-drink­ing habits of some friends, we had lime juice. Ev­ery­thing was go­ing smoothly as the sauce started its 60th minute of sim­mer­ing, so be­fore adding the juice (pri­mar­ily used for preser­va­tive pur­poses) the sauce had to be tasted in its purest form.

The sur­face of the molten mix­ture glis­tened like a box of jew­els as a wooden spoon cut the equinoc­tial sun­light pour­ing over the San­gres. Then, the sauce’s fragrance roared through my nos­trils, lungs, and heart like a pride of rowdy li­ons. At the mo­ment of truth, it was a Ma­tisse for the mouth, full of bright, unique col­ors — dis­tinct but part of a co­he­sive­w­hole. When the hot liq­uid slowly spi­raled down my throat, it se­creted all the vigor of tequila. Lit­tle did I know that per­ma­cul­ture’s power would ex­plode from a sim­ple sauce recipe. I know it may sound like an omi­nous propo­si­tion, but re­mem­ber this: you don’t need a dozen in­gre­di­ents or any skill to en­joy the rel­ishes of life. Ev­i­dently, all you need is a gar­den.

Nate Downey, the au­thor of Har­vest the Rain and Roof-Reliant Land­scap­ing, has been writ­ing this col­umn since 1999. He started his lo­cal land­scape-con­tract­ing business, Santa Fe Per­ma­cul­ture, in 1993 and Per­maDe­sign, a land­scape-ar­chi­tec­ture firm, in 2010. Please join him at Col­lect­edWorks Book­store on Oct. 8 at 11 a.m. for a Jour­ney Santa Fe event.

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