"What are you doing with this?" my husband asked, as he held up a plastic bag of fresh dill. I smiled sweetly and replied, "Thank you for finding that, dear." I am kidding. Trust me: My response was not sweet at all. I was upset with myself because I forgot to put the dill in the "pickled dilled beans." I had just placed the jars in our boiling water-bath canner. I figured I could save my efforts if I acted quickly. My husband seemed kind of amused watching me move so fast.
Some things touch our lives in more ways than we might imagine. Soy-based products are all around us. If you read a newspaper this morning, it may have been printed with soy ink. You may have had cereal with added soy protein or topped your cereal with soy milk. If you had eggs, chances are the chickens responsible for your eggs ate soy-based feed. You may be driving a vehicle fueled with soy-based fuel. For lunch, a stop at a Chinese restaurant could include soy sauce, miso (fermented soy) or hot and sour soup with tofu (high-protein soy curd).
When I was growing up, a few food items always were in our refrigerator: milk, cheese, sandwich meat and a jar of some kind of homemade pickles. Whenever guests dropped in, something pickled appeared in a fancy glass serving dish. A piping hot casserole (hot dish) magically appeared in short order, too, along with sandwiches and a fresh dessert.
"Be sure to lift the bean plants," I instructed as I picked string beans. "There are lots more beans under here." "I was going to let them plump up," my husband said. "I think most are ready to pick," I said as I flipped the plant and began plucking the ample numbers of beans hiding in the foliage. "I'll go and water plants," he said. Note to self: Do not offer too much advice to a husband or anyone else who is helping you harvest beans or other produce. You might lose your help.
"Do you know what that is?" I asked. My intern Larissa and I were strolling through a grocery store gathering her ingredients. "That's a pitaya," she replied without hesitation. I kind of expected she would know because the fruit is common in South America and Central America. My summer intern is from Brazil.
"What smells so good?" one of my kids asked. "It's a surprise," I said. Everyone gathered in the kitchen at the sound of a mysterious meal with a delicious aroma. My kids were quite a bit younger at the time. They've lost some of their youthful enthusiasm. I was enjoying the attention. I didn't think that chopping some fresh rosemary and sprinkling it over a pork loin would garner this much interest. "This is a gourmet meal, Mom," my older daughter said when we ate. "This is the best pork ever!" my younger daughter exclaimed.
"I smell cilantro!" someone said. I had been clipping the flowering tops from the cilantro plants at a community garden. I should have worn gloves. The scent on my hands was letting people know what I had been doing. "I love cilantro, but my roommate can't stand it," another person commented. I sniffed my hands, then washed them twice with soap. My hands still smelled like a bowl of freshly made salsa. Next time, I will wear plastic gloves.
I remember making my own "picnic" from time to time when I was young. I'd grab an old blanket, a cookie or two and a beverage. My dog trotted behind me, probably because I was carrying one of her blankets. I'd spread the blanket under a shady tree. Then my dog would gaze at me with her big brown eyes and beg me for most of my cookie. I was a pushover.
When I want to relax a bit, I meander outside to tend my backyard plants, which include a variety of flowers, vegetables and herbs. I don't even mind weeding (too much) because my vegetable and herb gardens are in elevated 4-foot-wide by 8-foot-long garden boxes. My garden beds are about 3 feet off the ground, so I don't get dirty knees or a tired back when I am tending my plants. My husband built the elevated gardens for me for Mother's Day a couple of years ago. I admit the garden boxes were much better than the shirt I gave him that Father's Day.
I remember the "you-pick" strawberry patches we would visit in the early summer when I was a kid. You could see the plump, red berries peeking out from under the green foliage. I thought walking down the rows in a large field of strawberries was fun. I also remember a lady in a broad-brimmed floppy hat who sat in a high lifeguard-style chair peering out at all of us. We were crawling on our knees along the rows and putting berries into crates and buckets. "Do not eat berries while you pick!" she'd yell gruffly on occasion. She was the "berry guard," I guess.