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Words From The Woods

Spoiled Rotten

To the Memory of Mr. William J. Garry

Late Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appé tit Magazine

And beloved friend to my husband


I am often asked if we grow our own food. Life in the woods is not a gardener’s life, though I love vegetables. Without an armory to protect it, a produce garden wouldn’t survive long against the ravages of our woodland creatures.

Last winter I left a tweed jacket out on the porch over night. It was just that once, but by the time we awoke the next morning I found that the little midnight marauders had cut a neat piece right out of the silk lining. Where I live competition for Food, Clothes and Shelter can get pretty lively!

I purchase most of our food and all our produce at the local farmers market on my weekly trips to town. I love fresh food as everyone does today, and the market provides all I need in its season.

But much as I enjoy fresh food, I enjoy old food even more. I love the taste of time and meaning. When I first bring home our baskets of produce everything is farm fresh, and we eat it mostly raw in salads. But as the week grows older so does the food, and one starts thinking of it in a different way. Without a refrigerator or even an ice chest, produce in the cupboard begins to wilt in two or three days.

So as the week grows on, a whole new relationship to food arises. What was crisp becomes limp, what was bright becomes dull, and what was delicate becomes pungent. Everything slows down, and instead of tossing a meal together in minutes you let it gently mature over the coals for hours. Salads become soups and stews. You have to wait for the taste of time, but to me it’s worth the waiting.

In much the same way I love the delicate flowers of spring and the thick green grass of summer, but they could never replace for me the sight and scent of moldering moist leaves on a forest floor in the depths of autumn. The pungent scent of such gentle decay has its own beauty, equal to any of the sweet fragrances of youth. In the woods decay is everywhere mixed with growth, and dark with light, and death with life.

There is something delicious in the taste of making do, of not having everything you want just when you want it. It satisfies an appetite deeper than hunger to know that these vegetable bodies shall give you pleasure and sustain you through a week of days, and that in equal measure as their freshness is diminished, their preciousness to you grows.

We lose very little, but once in a while the end of the week will find some vegetable simply beyond using. But even then it is not wholly lost. With every week I watch the growth and decline of life, from farm fresh to spoiled rotten. Is anything ever truly lost if we have learned its lesson?


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