Milton Bass: Watching the garden grow



My wife’s family, having arrived in this country in the first Mayflower flotilla, has stuck fairly closely to the dictums laid down to the holy event. One of the main ones has to do with rituals of dining which tell you what to eat on which day.

Planning for one of the rituals begins in the spring. You plant the peas by Patriots Day, April 19, and they’re supposed to be ready on the Fourth of July. There are two "must haves" at this meal: the first sweet peas and fresh salmon.

To make this happen, the gardener must not only be skilled but also lucky as the devil himself the first week of July. As we well know in the Berkshires, weather can take over your garden and wreak havoc on both seeds and plants. You always need a little luck to go with your skills if you want to get what you want.

In addition to several other duties, my wife personally assumed responsibility for the vegetable garden about four years ago when my aged body could not respond adequately to the irresponsible demands of the bigger seeds and thicker-stemmed plants.

I said it was time to shut down the garden and utilize the bounteous efforts of the various farmers’ markets. There was the audible negative sniff to mark the rejection of that idea.


"One of your most pleasurable pastimes has been watching your garden grow," she said, "and that will continue."

She was wrong on that one. For the past four years I have been unable to tell my legs where they should be rather than taking two introductory steps up the hill and stopping cold when "strength" faltered. One of my friends beat the rap by purchasing a used electric golf cart, but he is younger, richer and better looking than I am. So I just stand at the bottom of the hill and look wistful. I can do wist pretty well now, but it doesn’t get me one step higher on that tiny hillock.

On the first couple of days of July, my wife started bringing down individual pea pods for me to taste, and by the Fourth I said we were ready.

So there we were on the sacred day, the two of us at the patio table that had been ceremonially decorated. She lifted the cover of the grill and there they were, a thick lamb chop for me and an immense filet of salmon for her.

"This is the day that the peas are supposed to be ready," she said, "and the salmon are running upstream. A perfect merge of nature."

So we merged the three delicacies into a perfect holiday meal and had happy bellies right through to bedtime.

Old customs die hard and they should.

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle


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