At dinner tonight — homemade pizza with various toppings (including pesto from my garden basil, arugula — ditto — kale — ditto –cream, prosciutto, Sicilian sausage with fennel, buffalo mozzarella from Fairburn Farm water buffalo on Vancouver Island, grana padano) — and lots of beer and light white wine (because it’s so hot!), I thought, looking around the table, that the people I love best of all those I’ve ever known on earth were there (though it made me lonesome too for my brothers and parents). A moment worth waiting for. A moment I’ve waited for all my life.
Everyone else has gone down to Ruby Lake for a swim and I’m here listening for sounds from my grandbaby Kelly who is sleeping in the room which was originally two rooms — tiny ones where her father, his brother, and sister slept — and which was knocked into one larger room. And who dreamed, all those years ago, when teenagers filled the back of the house, that they would return with babies (one born, one due in October), and one with a gentle intelligent Persian boyfriend? Manon said that her baby kicked away the whole time she swam in the lake this afternoon and I thought, Of course he did. His father loved this lake from the same point in his own development! They’ll return soon for a blackberry crisp and ice cream and maybe a sundowner of Connemara single malt out on the deck while the bats fly low and bears walk the lower trail with their own offspring close behind them.
The mushroom has a traveller’s face. We know there
are men and women in Old People’s Homes whose souls
prepare now for a trip, which will also be a marriage.
— from “The Mushroom” by Robert Bly
This has been a rich season for mushrooms. Chanterelles, shaggy manes, a gift of dried porcini from my friend Anik who spent the summer in Dawson City, and the coveted matsutake, or pine mushroom. The week before last, we found about 20 of them on our walk, in a place where we usually find a handful. Another walk yielded more. And today, unexpected treaure on the Sakinaw loop walk. Tonight we’re having pizza — dough for the crust is rising by the woodstove and in a few minutes I’ll pick some kale. Delicious fresh mozzarella from Fairburn Farm water buffalos. Garlic from the summer’s bounty. And some proscuitto from, well, who knows. And a matsutake thinly sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil. A marriage of autumn flavours, gifts from garden and forest, before winter appears over the mountain.
This is the time of year when I realize how swiftly summer passed and that we are now on the long fall into winter. I was in the kitchen and suddenly realized there was a beam of sunlight on the tile floor. 9:33, and the sun has just come up over Mount Hallowell’s shoulder. In full summer, it rises closer to 8 and by this time in the morning, the tomatoes on the upper deck have enjoyed its warmth for more than an hour. Their bounty has been amazing. Most days I pick a big bowl of tomatoes and I’ve pickled five pints of the colourful cherry tomatoes (yellow, orange, red, pink, almost black), made seven pints of salsa, frozen more, eaten bushels out of hand or in salad (caprese is my favourite, esp. when I can find the Natural Pastures Mozzarella di Bufala from the Fairburn Farm water buffalo herd in the Cowichan Valley). Our basil has been glorious. The other day I processed a huge amount of it with olive oil and some of the Georgian garlic I grew this summer and then froze the puree in tart tins (saved year after year for just this purpose). Some people freeze these “basil bombs” in ice-cube trays but I’ve found the little tart tins are more user-friendly. After filling them, I set them on a cookie sheet and freeze them until they’re solid, then tumble them into large zip-lock bags where they’re easy to find in winter when I want to flavour soup or add cheese and pine nuts for pesto. I did twenty the other day and will do as many again today. I’ve also made cartons of pesto to freeze and leaves went into the pickled tomatoes.
So this is the paradox — summer ends but we find ways to extend its pleasures in the dark corners of our freezers or pantry shelves. In winter, to open a jar of pickled cherry tomatoes and say, Oh, remember picking them in early September, remember the heat, remember the tree-frog settled at the roots.