We had our first official snowfall of the winter this week, which means that my husband’s garden has gone from being officially “on its last legs” to officially “dead.” It’s been six weeks since our last tomato and although by this time I’m tired of eating kale and brussel sprouts, it still makes me sad. Five or six months (at best) until our next fresh greens, which translates to five or six months of grocery store produce. Not that our grocery store and local food co-op don’t stock the good stuff. It’s just that once you’ve eaten straight from the garden it’s a hard adjustment going back.
Andrew’s been taking the loss particularly hard. We’ll talk while he’s cooking in the evening and without warning he’ll transition from chatting about how our days went to lamenting our lack of fresh apples and heirloom veggies.
I still don’t get his fixation with heirlooms, and it drives him crazy.
“What is there not to understand?” he asked the other night. “You of all people should get this.”
I’m not a Foodie (though I’ve eaten enough meals to know his are better than average!), and I pointed this out.
“It’s not about being a Foodie or not being a Foodie. It’s about having a love and a…respect, I suppose, for something unique.”
And he’s right. I, of all people, should understand.
Heirloom vegetables are unique. Though they can taste amazing; the plants often produce edibles that are more perishable, grow less fruit, or are slow to mature. From a certain business perspective, they make no sense.
And yet, I don’t want to live a life in which everything has been designed to maximize efficiency. I’m not interested in a world that consists of nothing but apples that have been strip-mined in Argentina or tomatoes shipped still-green from California. I want to eat foods with bold, complex flavors. I want to chop up peppers that look different from any variety I’ve seen before. I like hearing him talk about how this-or-that variety of bean was brought from Europe on the Mayflower. My husband and his peers, the heirloom farmers and gardeners of the world, are the last thin, green line that separates us from a lifetime of eating frozen pizzas and TV dinners.
I should understand this because Pear Tree Greetings is no different. We live in an age that has changed communication into something that would have been unrecognizable to people living just a few decades ago. We’ve gone from writing lengthy letters that took days to deliver to emails that take moments to read aloud. I remember when a long distance phone call to a close friend might cost twenty dollars or more. My daughter doesn’t know what a long distance phone call is.
All of this has come at a cost. With communication so easy, we communicate a lot but say next to nothing. I fire off an email to my best friend asking how her daughter is. She shoots one back saying, “Great, how are yours?” I’ll answer with a line or two about how well they’re doing. In an hour, we’ll have forgotten we had written anything at all.
Not so with her daughter’s birth announcement, which is still stuck to my refrigerator. I see a picture of Ireen, just hours old, holding her mother’s finger, then read and re-read the text—a detailed (yet tasteful) account of the most important day of my best friend’s life. Her last two Christmas cards are there too, both held up by the same magnet.
I don’t want to live in a world exclusively made up of two-line emails and tweets about whether or not I enjoyed the salad I had at lunch (I didn’t). I look forward every year to designing and sending my cards. I revel in the hours I spend choosing the photos I’ll use and later writing and editing my message to friends and family. I love knowing that my family will wind up on their refrigerators.