This morning while tending my vegetable garden I noticed the first bell pepper fattening on the vine, its waxy green skin glimmering new and unblemished under an umbrella of broad leaves. As I left, thinking of the taste of a fresh roasted golden yellow pepper a month from now, I double-checked my garden's chicken wire fence to make certain there weren't any gaps that would let a rabbit in to steal my prize.
Back inside the house, I brought out my good heavy mixing bowl and started gathering the ingredients to make biscuits for the strawberry shortcake I had planned for tonight's dessert after dinner. We had Bisquick in the pantry, but I skipped it, opting instead to make the biscuits from scratch: flour, salt, sugar, cream, butter, baking powder.
When the dough came together, I rolled it out and cut it into heart shapes with a cookie cutter.
While the biscuits baked, I took out a box of ripe strawberries and selected the nicest ones and rinsed them. The strawberries were too red and juicy for me to resist eating a couple. I sliced the rest, and put them in a bowl with some sugar. Then I put the sugared strawberries and fresh-baked biscuits in the refrigerator to chill.
When the neighbor girl came over around midday to play with my son, I made a point of showing her the first pepper. She had helped me plant some of the herbs in my herb garden, and I thought she'd want to see how quickly the vegetable plants across from the herbs had grown. She was excited about the pepper, but impatiently disappointed to see the tomato plants I planted just a few weeks ago covered in yellow blossoms, but no fruit.
Later this afternoon, while running errands, I stopped at the hardware store and found that the herbs were on sale. I picked up a peppermint plant and a chamomile plant to put in pots on my patio. Between those two and the spearmint I already had growing, I thought, I'd be set for the rest of the summer for fresh herbal tea.
At dinnertime, despite the rain outside, my husband fired up our new grill for the first time, grilling hamburgers and veggie burgers and ears of corn over charcoal and soaked hickory chips under the shelter of the carport. The new grill made a quick, clean fire and the burgers came out tender with crisp edges.
When we'd finished our barbeque, I brought out some heavy whipping cream, mixed in sugar and vanilla, and whipped it into a rich whipped cream. I spread this over the biscuits I'd baked earlier, and added the sugared strawberries.
As I bit into a crumbly, strawberry-juice-soaked, cream-topped biscuit, feeling utterly decadent, I considered that the simple recipe I'd used for my strawberry shortcake was probably not all that different from the recipes used by women fifty or even a hundred years ago. Only, I imagined that the whipped cream would have tasted much better a hundred years ago, if it had been skimmed earlier that same day from milk milked that very dawn from one's own personal cow.
Still and all, I decided, this strawberry shortcake was pretty damned good.
But my son wouldn't eat the strawberries, or the shortcake, or the cream.
He didn't care for the barbeque sauce on his burger, either, come to talk of it, and he didn't even want the grilled corn touching his plate.
The chamomile plant and the mint plant I bought earlier today? They will both make great tea to soothe upset stomachs the next time one of us gets sick. But I know my son won't tolerate even a drop of warm tea on his tongue. Not even with sugar in it. I've offered it to him when he's been sick before, many times.
The fresh peppers and tomatoes and beans I'm growing in my garden? The basil, parsley, oregano, and sage? Chances are, he won't willingly take a single bite of any of these things when they're ready to be eaten.
Because none of these things are on his list: the list of things he is willing to eat. That list that has grown so much over the past year, after so much work, into something that, finally, sort of resembles a sustainable balanced diet. That list that has grown so much, yet sometimes still seems so terribly short to me.
For as long as I can remember, since I was a very little girl, toddling after my mother in the kitchen or my grandmother in the garden, growing and cooking and eating good food has always been such a pleasure for me. Despite the issues all sorts of people, including me seem to have with food these days-- worrying about this or that food making us too fat, or causing cancer, or heart disease; worrying about where our food comes from, and whether making that food harmed the planet or caused other people suffering, etcetera-- despite all that, food has so often been a source of so much wonder and joy for me.
And the fact that my only child doesn't seem to enjoy food much as all is so devastating to me when I think about it in the context of the joy I have experienced in connection with food. It's the same to me as if a person could, somehow, hear, but not hear music; the same as if a person could walk, but could not dance.
And my sadness over the world of happy experience I imagine my son is missing out on now haunts every happy moment I experience watering a tomato plant (and breathing in the sultry tomato scent the plants give off each time they are watered), or kneading bread dough (and feeling the elasticity grow beneath my hands, and imagining the fine texture it will produce in the finished loaf), or biting into a tart new apple or a slice of fresh-baked cake.