My man, Millage, grows the best garlic in the universe. It is like crack for chefs, and I can only get about four bulbs a year. It is organic, pungent, and perfect. I rented a car on Saturday just to make sure I could procure my yearly allotment – driving the Ducati through thunder storms is not good when trying to collect garlic from a close friend. Millage is retired, he lives about 2 hours north of Toronto and grows vegetables I dream about when food enters my mind [which is most of the time].
Vegetable gardens are part of my dreamscape. I vividly recall every moment of watering my childhood garden in North Winsloe. It would be hot and humid, so watering with the cool hose water would take place every evening around 8pm. Hearing the sound of the drops of water hit the corn or the beans was a meditational chant for my young ears. I began growing corn, then beans and peas; eventually I made it up to pumpkins and zucchini before we moved to the city of Charlottetown. My father was ready to kill me anyway, as the creeper vines that took over the lawn were a pain in his bottom for a few years. Still, so cool.
Years later, I built a garden for my mom in her back yard one summer. I planted a raspberry cane group, a few trees and perrenial plants, and a giant clump of chives that a person threw in a nearby ditch [who throws away clumps of perfect chives?]. The smells of the soil, the chives are palpable 18 years later. The dew that would cover the raspberries was gorgeous and the deeps reds of the fruit so vivid in my imagination. The chives hang on, my father has weeded out the raspberries after years of battling them underground…but they will be back.
In my imaginary world, I would love to buy 20 acres of land on Prince Edward Island. I want to plant a tiny apple orchard, a wild herb garden, rhubarb, wild fruit canes and maybe a few odds and end. I want a lilac tree to remember my grandmother, a rose bush for my mother and a few squash creepers to stress my father out. Such a project would only be with the intent of returning home for a simple harvest and replanting; can, jam and prune what needs it. Why bother? Why in a world where anything can be bought at Loblaw’s or Sobey’s plant a garden that you might enjoy for only 3 weeks a year? I would argue that planting to enrich the landscape is one of the few things a man can do to find harmony with the universe. Perhaps it is a romantic vision of a place that is still safe from industrialization; where I could die happy among old apple plantings and raspberry canes – it is a wishful thought, but it is much preferable to one where one is surround by beeping machines and sanitized smells of latex and rubber.
Millage’s vegetables are lush and real. A box of earthy smells was eagerly packed away after sharing wine and conversation and bbq over charcoal. I spent an hour washing away the dirt, cutting the portions, and pounding basil and garlic into his basil leaves to form a rich pesto. The peppers will either be dried or put into oil, and the other veg will all be used within the week even though it will outlast all of my grocery sanitized produce.
Beets will be roasted and the carrots will be added to a rich soup tonight. I may sound naive to believe that vegetables are a way to happiness, but spending time in Craig’s garden was a highlight of my year’s travels and always brings sunshine back into a life often spent in the dark of his photography studio.
The Paderno work is done. I am gearing up for more work from Base Camp X. I entered a few photographs into RMG Exposed for judging, and now I just need to rest a bit before the last days of summer disappear. Last night…Buttermilk Fried Chicken…but more about that later!