An Afternoon to Remember

My kids laugh at me and my excitement for my weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share. They’ve each been to the farm with me on a Friday afternoon to pick up my crate of fresh, local, organic, load of nature (can you see why they laugh?).  They think it’s great, but I guess my excitement is a little over-the-top. Since their first visit, they don’t feel compelled to join me on my 5 minute drive down the road every week.

Today, I picked up summer squash, peppers, beets, fava beans, cucumbers, swiss chard, peas, red romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and a bunch of herbs.  I kept the fava beans, parsley, swiss chard, and beets out, loaded everything else into the fridge, and got to work.

I put two large pots of water on the stove, cleaned the beets, beet greens and swiss chard, poured a glass of wine and went out on the patio to shell the beans.  To my great elation, my daughter Emily joined me.  I soaked up the whole experience: shelling beans, a late sunny Friday afternoon, a cool breeze, music from Emily’s iPod, and talking to her.  To me, this was a magical half hour.  She’s so busy at 15.  Time like this doesn’t happen nearly enough to soothe my soul.  And without fava beans to shell, it might not have happened at all.

When we finished and the two pots of water were boiling, we went inside and dumped our pile of beans in one pot, and the de-greened beets in the other.  The beets would take 40 minutes or so (I was pre-preparing them for another day this week), but the beans would be done in 5.  And when they were, I rinsed them in cold water, put another pot of water on the stove, brought the beans to the kitchen table, and Emily and I slipped the beans from their skins.

Now this may seem like an arduous process (and once their skins are removed, I’m still not done), but the process became the point of it all.  Sure we were looking forward to dinner, but the making of our dinner held its own rewards.

And so, countless beans and skins later, the beets boiling, the second pot almost ready, Emily finished the last few beans while I chopped garlic and shallots and fresh parsley, iPod music still playing, us still talking.

In a large skillet, I steamed the chard and beet greens.  I poured two kinds of pasta (I didn’t have enough of just one) in the pot of newly boiling, salted water, heated olive oil in another pan with the shallots and garlic, then beans, white wine, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, shiitake mushrooms, and parsley.  Some salt and pepper on the greens, pasta done and drained and tossed with mushrooms and beans, and it was time for dinner.

I’d never had fava beans before.  All I knew of them was that Hannibal Lecter ate them with someone’s liver and a nice chianti.  But I couldn’t get enough of the pasta or our time together at the dinner table.  I hated for it to end.

As I cleaned up dishes and finished the beets, peeling and slicing and storing them in the fridge, I considered how lucky I am and how good this day had been.  Food was the reason I had this time with my family.  Fava beans had given me an afternoon that felt right in every way.

As Emily and I were sitting on the patio, the start of our fava bean process, I asked her if, when she’s away at college, she would remember this afternoon and how we shelled fava beans.  She said she didn’t know.

That’s okay.  I will.


4 responses to this post.

  1. What a great post. It sounds like you had one of those perfect moments “living in the present” with your daughter on the porch shelling fava beans. I also love that you remember Hannibal Lecter’s line about the chianti. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Posted by Denise San Antonio Zeman on July 3, 2010 at 7:50 am

    What a lovely story…one that I am SURE you will both remember for many years to come! It always amazes me how foods can trigger a memory. Making homemade gnocchi conjures up our basement kitchen (what Italian family does not have a basement kitchen?!) with all the kids who might be visiting that day gathered around the enamel-topped table just waiting for him to shoot a bullet of dough our way so that we could roll them carefully and then shoot them over to the growing pile awaiting a pot of boiling water! ” Uncle Joe’s Potatoes…a wonderful recipe from my sister-in-law’s father-in-law I have adapted over the years to omit the cheese) bring to mind the day Doug and Bucky were making dinner as I rushed home from work trying to beat the tornado that ultimately hit and downed trees that smashed our front porch and garage. We ate that dinner by candlelight, and nothing can erase that memory or the week that followed as we “camped” in our home without electricity. But the memory that is probably the most fond is the time I carefully planted a row of radishes in my grandfather’s prize rose garden. He was a gardening purist…vegetables did NOT mix with flowers in his yard…but soon a tiny, perfectly straight row of radishes sprouted alongside the rose bushes. When he questioned who had committed such a mortal sin, I suggested that perhaps they were weeds. He smiled with his beautiful grey eyes, and took me by the hand so that together we could thin the “weeds” to allow some to grow into radishes. When we had our first harvest, my mom took them and carefully showed me how to make radish “roses” which I still make to this day. Those memories are from a distant past, but they are as vivid today as Em’s will be in the future.


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