If you are like me, it is the time of the year when I could easily become a vegetarian, even if I have trouble spelling it. Why, I almost feel giddy of not having red meat in my daily diet, especially with today's prices. Did you ever notice they tell us there is shortage of red meat because of the drought in the west? Looking at the meat counter, it looks to me what we are experiencing is a shortage of inexpensive meats, not a lack of them.
Many of us have a garden at this time of year to grow our favorite vegetables. It is somewhat of an accomplishment that we can plant a small tomato plant, nurture it and watch it flower. Then as the bloom fades we see a small tomato the size of a pea beginning to take shape. Over the next few weeks we watch as it grows into a lush red vine ripened tomato. That ripening process in the summer sun is just like store sold tomatoes we see in the advertisement section of the paper. The exception, the one you grew meets the advertised hype of being good tasting and juicy.
I enjoy each summer going into the garden to pick a tomato that Mary and I grew. I feel its warmth in my hand from the rays of the sun. It does not matter that those warming rays traveled millions of miles to touch this single tomato and bring it to full ripeness. For some reason I enjoy a warm tomato right from the plant. I make a point each summer of repeating this personal ceremony between the rows of green beans and summer squash. It's kind of my right of passage into the passing of the summer days.
As I drive around our community, I see neat rows of tomato stakes along with beans and small rows of corn in backyards. Most of the gardens grow only enough for a few meals during the warm months. But, we have the satisfaction of knowing we grew the fresh food we place on the family dinner table.
My wife is partial to summer squash. You know the kind, bright yellow and have a crooked neck. She picks them before they get to large and makes a casserole with eggs, onions and topped with cheese. Add a little Frank's hot sauce and you have a meal fit for a king, and no meat to clog the arteries.
If things go well with the garden at this time of year, plants produce so much that it's hard to keep up with garden bounty. If the squash and zucchini get ahead of you and grow too large they lose their taste and become tough to eat. Fifty years ago the summer's harvest would not have gone to waste. Canning and freezing were common events. Many people kept vegetable cellar houses or basements to extend the summer's bounty into the fall of the year.
Today, those ambitious folks, who grow extra, can take their vegetables to the weekly farmer's market on the south side Bruce Park. During the mid to late summer on Thursday afternoon the locals sit up their tables with corn, beans, tomatoes and a variety of garden vegetables. I enjoy visiting to see what may be new this season.
Most of the year our vegetables come from the shelves of our local stores. Fresh and plentiful, they are gathered from fields far from the Ohio Valley. We are fortunate that with modern shipping and product control we can always get fresh fruits and vegetables for our families whenever we choose. But, for just a few weeks in the summer the vegetables come from the good ground of our community.
Cleaning beans can be a tedious task, but I will let you in on a secret of mine when cleaning beans. Place a Don Williams CD in the player and turn it on. Sit on the porch in your favorite old chair and spread pages of newspaper on your lap. Take a handful of fresh picked green beans and begin to clean them as you hear Don start to sing, "Lord I hope this day is good." Between the rocking and the good music, the job of cleaning the beans will pass without notice. One other hint, a little ZZ Top ain't bad listening either.
After you have cleaned them place a couple of pieces of bacon in the bottom of a cast iron Dutch oven. Let them brown and then add the beans, cook slowly for hours until they get dark in color. Now, here is the tricky part. Let them cool and place in refrigerate over night. The next day warm them up as the corn bread browns in the oven. Fry a few green tomatoes and slice a red tomato and cucumber as the oven timer signals the corn bread is done. You now have as fine a supper as ever served for a real summer time vegetarian.
We spend much of lives rushing from place to place and deciding what to eat as we go. But, at this time of year we can reward ourselves with something special, dinner completely from the garden. And for those of you who cringe at the thoughts of fried green tomatoes and clogging your arteries, remember that our parents and grandparents grew much of their food in the gardens and grazing in the fields. It was not coated in pesticides and filled with growth hormones, and lard and bacon grease were the cooking oils of choice.
I am no doctor, but it seems to me that maybe their way of life was not so bad when it came to eating healthy foods.
Well, Mary is calling and the corn bread and beans are ready as we look Through the Lens.