Gifts of Summer: peaches, green beans, and a ghost

Around here, we’ve been mellow.  Haven’t gone back yet to my usual schedule–the girls and my brain needed a rest.  I’ve been haunting the farmer’s markets, gardening, going to Nia, and working with the bounty from summer gardens.  Don’t you love summer food? 

One day this week, I ambled around the markets, picking up plums and peaches for jam, a melon I’ve never tried, ears of fresh corn, and fresh green beans.  I’m largely indifferent to green beans–I don’t dislike them, but there are so many other vegetables I love that I’ve never bothered to cook them.

But there they were, gigantic bins full of them, looking so robust and full of vitality that they simply insisted they had to come home with me.  I was sure I had recipes somewhere at home, and at worst, I could steam them.  I left the Farmer’s Market and stopped in the regular grocery store on the way home for sugar and lemons.  There were green beans here, too, and standing over them, tossing back as many as she chose, was a woman in her late seventies.  She had a scooter grocery cart next to her, and oyxgen running to her nose, but she looked hearty, softly plump. Her hair was a luxurious silver, combed and shiny to her shoulders.  Something about her called me.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Can I ask you how you cook green beans?”

She looked up, surprised that someone was talking to her, I think.  Pretty eyes. A great beauty in her time, I suspect, still tidy in her pink boating shirt and white slacks.  “Oh, honey, I’m from the South. My way isn’t the way they do it around here.”

“That’s fine. I just don’t know how to cook them. Tell me your way.”

“String them first, of course,” she said (and I thought, I don’t know how to do that, either, but I bet the Internet will tell me), “and then put them in a pot with water just covering them.  I put in two slices of bacon and then chop an onion over the top, and cook ‘em for an hour.” 

My mouth watered. I know about green beans like that. “Sounds wonderful!”

She nodded, then held a hand close to her mouth and confided with some disgust, “Around here, they cook ‘em in olive oil and only for about ten minutes. They’re crunchy!”

I had already bought some beans, but I filled a bag with more to show her I meant it when I said, “I’m going to try it your way. Thank you.”

“Oh, thank you!” she said. 

And there was my grandmother, standing with her, smiling. 

I put my bag of green beans in my cart, rounded the corner and suddenly discovered I had tears streaming down my face, pierced as one sometimes is, by a reminded of a beloved other who has moved on. They’re fine, on the other side, but on this plane, I missed her sharply.  It was all I could do to get out of the grocery store without looking like a complete idiot.  (Lucky for me, I have very large, very dark sunglasses.)

So last night, I cooked a pile of green beans in bacon, and made some cornbread, and that was my entire dinner.  And it was good.

I’ve also made some plum jam and plan to try peach next week.  We’ve been eating corn nearly every day, and I’ve had so many cherries I’m going to turn bright red. 

What have you been feasting on? How’s your summer going?

August 7, 2009

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