First appeared in Grainews on
23 August 2022
Gardeners, cooks, and farmers all know, respect, and sometimes love the cycles that circulate throughout our lives. Those cycles – the annual return of summer, for instance – mean that each year we experience a whole boatload of firsts all over again, and if we’re hip to the general wonderfulness of life, we’re open to celebrating all over again with each first. Celebrating matters more as we age – I think it’s the law of diminishing returns that shows us so clearly that as our years diminish, we are moved to make the most of every celebration-worthy event, which naturally includes the season’s firsts. To that end, in our cellar, Dave and I have a bottomless supply of bubbles to mark firsts and other momentous occasions.
Red Pot
Photograph by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
Last night’s supper is a case in point. On the surface, it was the essence of simplicity – my plate held a marble-loving alley’s worth of little balls, new potatoes drenched in butter, basil, chives, and dill. Period. The first new potatoes, the first basil. The potatoes came by way of a trade with the gardener across from my mom’s home in smalltown Saskatchewan: a bag of just-picked saskatoon berries from Mom’s loaded tree for a bag of new potatoes just dug from her neighbour’s garden. That was some kind of yum – new potatoes have thin parchment skin, high moisture, creamy texture, sweetness, and low starch content. All they need is not very much, as in last night’s supper – cooked whole, then rolled in minced herbs, melted butter, and a sprinkle of salt.
Then there’s the joy of greeting the season’s first apricots, first cherries, first peaches – by this time of the year we are so over asparagus and rhubarb! Move over spring, summer cooking has begun!
Come to think of it, those cycles of recurring firsts are true of parents too, especially parents who are recently become grandparents, or parents whose adult children have acquired their first home. Or any other milestone. My long-time friend Phyllis is a new grandmama, and her tales shared during a recent phone chat of helping her daughter with her twin babies triggered Phyllis’s – and my – own memories of being young mothers learning how to take care of our babies. What a scary project that is!
jam jars
Stacked Jars
Photograph by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
Likewise, when my sons and their partners bought their first houses, all those firsts came flooding back. Learning how to edge a ceiling when painting. How to use a roller to avoid streaks when painting a wall. How to get heavy couches through doorways with staircases. How to get rid of unwanted shrubberies to make way for plants of your own choosing. How to dig a garden. How to – well, you can fill in the blanks yourself with all of your new and renewed firsts.

All that said, go to the Recipes archive for a sweet and simple recipe for the first apricots’ metamorphosis into jam. Just imagine all the memories that will emerge while eating it this winter in a chocolate cake or on toasted sourdough. So first we eat, then we jam. Cue music.

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Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist
Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist



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