“In the midst of winter, I found within me an invincible summer.”
– Albert Camus
It was so cold Monday night that I kept my gas fireplace in the living room the whole two hours I was there and never got the least bit hot. My heat was turned on, mind you, the thermostat set at its normal 72 degrees, but it wasn’t making much of a dent.
We’re having a particularly winterish winter here in Vermont – bitterly cold and windy with a fairly constant blanket of snow on the ground. “I’m already done with it,” a colleague from Chicago confessed yesterday. I’m with her.
As part of my normal food prep on Sunday afternoon for the week ahead, I opened the first of several containers of tomato sauce that have sat, mostly forgotten, in my freezer since the fall, when the plants’ fruit production was outpacing my ability to slice, dice and layer. I had just enough extras at any one time for a handful of batches in my 3-quart saucepot. Months of berry picking had filled up a good part of the freezer anyway, and I’m not a big fan of canning.
I made a small pan of lasagna Sunday, with store-bought eggplant and mushrooms, fat-free cottage cheese and low-fat mozarella. The dish became a staple for me this summer, when the eggplants were pulling heavily on their stalks and I couldn’t find enough things to do with them. Who can argue with pasta and cheese, even if it is low-fat?
But what I made Sunday was a different dish altogether: Bursting with sun-drenched flavor, as fresh as if I’d just walked in from the garden with a basket of ripe tomatoes on a waning August afternoon. I made the sauce with very little seasoning – a touch of garlic and a bay leaf – and the flavor was revealing: nature at its unadorned best, tomatoes naked and straight off the vine. Light, fresh – it may not have been very Italian, but it was, if you’ll forgive me, orgasmic.
I had a second serving Monday night, and it was better for having sat a day. It was so good, in fact, that I started planting the seeds of this summer’s garden in my head, clearing out the unruly squash, doubling the number of tomato shoots and shifting them to the south bed. Carrots, too, I thought, and lots of greens. And eggplant, of course. I drifted off to sleep as I wondered where I could put a fourth bed.
That Camus guy must have been a gardener.