Monday, October 5, 2009
What a sad time. A wave of grief washes over me each I time I look out the window. The same thing happens when I look in my fridge. Even more so when when I walk past the grave site. The annual tragedy has struck again, leaving me to pick up the broken piece of my culinary life and move on.
For a carnivore, life in rural Alaska in a dream. Mammals, birds and fish are always nearby. One or more of the unsuspecting creatures may be slain and feasted upon virtually any day of the year. The hungry resident needs only to follow the advice given to Peter so long ago; "Arise...kill and eat". A bounty awaits. All who are willing to get off their couch and head outdoors may "bring home the bacon" (or beaver, ptarmigan and black fish).
But life for a vegetarian is another matter entirely. Northern grazers are plentiful so we offer an extensive salad bar. The hungry may nibble on willows or munch on moss. Seeds, grass, bark or berries; even tree roots, aquatic plants and spruce needles are all on the menu (seasonal restrictions may apply). You may need to dive under water or burrow through the snow, but the industrious vegetarian can find a wide assortment of produce available.
Boreal vegetarians come in every shape and size, from the plump little vole to the massive bull moose, but whether they are furred, feathered or finned, they all seem to have one common denominator...four legs (OK, not the finned ones, well...not the feathered ones either, but you get the idea).
"What? Are you telling me there are no human vegetarians in Alaska?"
Well, there are now, but if you back up a few years, before the onset of modern technology, arctic vegetarians were all crawling around on four feet. In fact, humans were very, VERY carnivorous. Think about it; How much of your produce do you keep in the freezer? And the northern growing season is very fickle (it can snow up here ANY day of the year). All this to say human vegetarians may exist only within reach of a Safeway store.
So...when my garden gives up it's final breath, my stomach sheds a symbolic tear. Gone are the salads I cherish so much. Gone are the broccoli; fresh and delicious. Gone are the cauliflower that failed to develop. Gone are the tomatoes which only my wife enjoys. Gone are the squash which I don't like, and didn't really grow this year anyway. Gone is the fresh basil which I used to make pesto...twice. Gone are the lemon cucumbers, which enticed me with hope, then broke my heart, failing to exceed an inch in length.
But, saddest of all, Gone is the cilantro; that essential Mexican herb I savor so dearly. Farewell my friend, even though all my many attempts at growing you failed this year; well...except for the 3 or 4 plants that showed real promise...until the visiting summer missionaries pulled you from the earth...unable to see you for what you really are...their eyes were clouded, they thought you were a weed, and cast away the jewel of the season. A gaping whole will remain...in my stomach...and on my tongue, until you return.
Alas, my garden is dead! I'm left to gaze upon my frozen flowers and think of better days.