Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tastes of Summer: Thursday's Reflection

The other night I fixed one of our favorite tastes of summer: basil pesto on spaghetti. So, so good.

Did you know that in Italy basil has been and still is a sign of love? According to tradition, when a woman puts a pot of basil on the balcony outside her room, it means she is ready to receive her suitor. 

I wonder what it means that Bruce has created a glorious herb garden for me right out the back door. All in pots this year, which he has artfully arranged. Along with the basil, there's the old crowd: oregano, mint, rosemary, lavender, parsley and others. Oh, and scented geraniums and tomatoes, too. I love walking out the back door and seeing the abundance just waiting transformation into something tasty. As I pass, I trace the tops of the plants with my hands, filling the air with a bouquet of fresh smells. 

I think about other herb gardens I have had, beginning with the one  surrounded by a white picket fence in our backyard in our longtime home in St Paul. That garden was inspired by a visit to the Plymouth historical site in Massachusetts where I asked the woman tending an herb garden about her favorite ways to use herbs in food. She was quite surprised by my question, saying herbs are used for medicinal purposes and not cooking. Of course. I had forgotten for the moment that I was speaking with a woman who had made the long voyage to the New World on the Mayflower!

Nonetheless, that started my interest in herbs. My herb garden,  uses of herbs, and my collection of books about herbs expanded each year we lived at Sweetwater Farm. During our years in Madison, however, where we had virtually no yard my herb growing was more limited. I am thrilled to have herbs back in my life. 

Summer's Paradox
One of the paradoxes of summer, it seems to me, is a loosening of our days, a desire to relax and be a bit lazy even, but it is also a time of great productivity. And abundance. Just walk through your neighborhood and notice the colorful and robust growth all around you. There seems to be a surge of energy in all things green and lush. 

This summer I feel that pull towards productivity; an urge to be fruitful, to grow my garden. I sense becoming more of whom I was created to be. I spend several hours each day writing, working on my book and even though I have months and months ahead of me before I will have a completed first draft, I am not discouraged. (Most days!) I am gardening my memories and experiences, the lessons acquired along the way. I am tending to my spiritual growth as I weed my writing. 

I do try to remember that productivity needs to be balanced with leisure and play. 
          Maybe what we all need most is time to process
          what we already know so that we can put it together
          differently, even more effectively than before. Maybe
          we need to think a bit, out on a porch in a summer
          breeze, down by the creek when the trout are
          running, back in the garden when it's time to put 
          the beets  and beans in again.
                                  Between the Dark and the Daylight
                                  Embracing the Contradictions of Life
                                  Joan Chittister, p. 74

My herb garden is a good reminder--to slow down and smell the ---BASIL! 

An Invitation
What is your response to the paradox of summer--the mix of rest and laziness and productivity. I would love to know. 

Nancy's Pesto Recipe

2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried. I like to use a mix of different varieties of basil.
6 garlic cloves
1 cup shelled pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup good olive oil mixed with 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese (I like the shaved better, because I like my pesto a little chunkier.)
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
Kosher salt and pepper

Combine the basil, garlic, and nuts in the bowl of a food processor.  Chop coarsely. With the motor still running, add the combined oils in a slow, steady stream. Shut the motor off and add the cheeses and salt and pepper to taste. Process briefly to combine. Scrape the pesto into a bowl and cover until ready to use.

To freeze, scrape pesto into a large freezer bag, press out the air and seal. Store flat in the freezer.

Makes about 2 cups. Enjoy! 


  1. Or spread into a plastic ice cube tray. When frozen, pop them into that plastic bag. One pesto cube for just the two of you, more when your family is over for dinner.

  2. Yes, that works too. Thanks for the reminder.


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