I'm continuing my series on the "Spirit of Food" with the second essay: Late October Tomatoes, written by Brian Volck. He writes about the process tomatoes go through from seed to an edible fruit and the many people it takes to grow them. Volck learned how to garden from his father (who grew up during the Great Depression).
My father made clear from the way he lived that growing food or bringing it home was a serious joy.
I think that his essay makes three different points: the gift of growing food, the joy of taking the time to slowly cook and prepare food, and lastly the relationships that are formed and cultivated around the table when enjoying home-cooked meals. Volck, a medical doctor, writes:
Nature is never mastered. I know this from doctoring, but it's my patients, not professors, who tutor me. In the garden, plants are my teachers. I till, enrich, and water the soil; plant, fertilize, and protect my seedlings; trellis, prune, and harvest my crop, but all my work really amounts to is this: I cooperate with the usual miracles and witness the outward signs of a mysterious, inward grace....I relearn what ought not be taken for granted.
He shared how his family gathers and the recipes they remember the most are the ones his mother made the slow, old-fashioned way.
When I take the time to cook attentively, observing the rituals my mother taught me, there's a way in which my parents and benefactors, living and dead, are present. The meals we share as a family are different...at home, the links are tighter, the connections more visible. At table, my family is reconstituted.
Volck includes a family recipe for Spicy Tomato Soup. I made the recipe earlier this week. I simmered the soup slowly and found excuses to stir it frequently and sample the aromas closely, just like Volck suggested. The result: my husband and friend both exclaimed how delicious the house smelled when they walked inside.
I really enjoyed this essay, as I recalled the recipes my family makes that are part of "our table." There are more aspects to cooking than just food preparation. Relationships are my favorite part of the process.