by Paula Marcoux
The last six months of meteorological hijinks has focused the mind of this locavore on an unmistakable fact: summer in these parts is a darned short season.
As a child I mistook the last day of school for the beginning of a delicious eternity of freedom—the summer ahead stretched to a distant unknowable horizon. Now I’m horrified to find that the tedious time-speeding-up truism adults used to tell us about is actually, well, true. Each year, as the earth thaws and warms, I greedily savor the first lettuce and asparagus, then strawberry, pea, cucumber, zucchini, blueberry, sweet corn, and then, uh-oh, here are the fabulous tomatoes and red peppers, and that means only one thing: it’s already the end of summer. It’s enough to bring on a bit of an existential panic.
I take some comfort in knowing that I am not the first person to feel this way. The sprawling history of food is essentially the story of thousands of generations toiling not just to feed themselves any old thing, but tirelessly innovating and adopting; no less obsessed than we are about capturing the moment, living the fullest life, through food.
Contemplate the very existence of the bazillions of cultivars humans have developed for every niche of garden and field, including our summer favorites corn and tomatoes. Domesticating them to start with was pretty remarkable—but then people spent the next ten thousand years tricking these tropical plants into fruitfulness even up here in the frosty zones.
Consider also history’s travelers—peaceful and conquering alike—who recognized wonderful foods and pocketed the seeds to take home. And, of course, the cooks who saw the potential in each ingredient and situation and became the inventers of the food traditions we inherit.
Innovators, adapters, pirates…all of us are opportunists looking for the not just the next meal, but the most flavorful tomato, the corniest corn, the juiciest peach, and the very best way to share those incredible, intense summer pleasures with family and friends.
In this issue of eSS&SC, we find our writers appreciating how food traditions help us crystallize the fleeting experience of summer. Katherine Rossmoore shares her recipe for a whole-plant healthy salad, and Peter Follansbee brings mindful eating to a new level by carving beautiful spoons out of local greenwood.
Two writers look to Spain, a land also rich in seafood and garden produce, for inspiration. Michelle Roden Conway and her husband teach themselves to cook paella on the beach over a wood fire, crafting their own version from our local foods. Suzette Martinez Standringcomes away from her foray into Spanish kitchens with four cooling soups that distill the very essence of the late-summer garden.
So, don’t panic; take deep breaths, get out there in the garden, on the clamflat, to the farm-stand, and enjoy every elusive moment.
-Paula Marcoux, eSS&SC Food and Recipe Editor
Laurie Hepworth & Michael Hart