Monday, December 9, 2013

The Last of the Harvest




Thanksgivukkah has come and gone. I think we may have finished off the harvest as well.
            The last tomatoes went into the seasons-ending so-called minestrone soup, my name for any vegetable soup that relies on tomato flavoring of some sort.

            It was Sunday evening, the end of the weekend, the last weekend of the kids' visit. We have planned to attend a big end-of-weekend event, dinner out and a concert by the latest "desert blues" singer I found mention of in the Globe. He has a new album and is performing in a "club" I have never heard of. But it's on Church Street in Harvard Square, a familiar street, so I picture a put-together hall in a church basement. Nope! I am very, very wrong. 
           Sunday afternoon we investigate this venue we have never heard of on a street I think I know. Website indications are this venue is the latest, coolest place, owned by the same company that has opened similar venues in New York City -- in Brooklyn, for god's sake! The website photos show closely packed tables. But one also shows a large crowd standing, people closely packed, below a stage.

            That photo gives us pause. We discuss all the possible permutations. The older participants among the family group hate stand-up clubs. We have walked into other venues and said, "Where are the seats?" The old people clutter against the walls in the back, rubbing elbows with the dust heap of history. Wait a minute [we think], this was our music! We loved this music! What have you done to our music?

            I suppose if you don't go to live popular music shows for 40 years, you have to expect they've changed some. I had been ready to reserve tickets, but I hesitate.

            A little while later I learn that Sonya's cold has slid back on her, a kind of Sisyphean image of what you don't want to happen when you're rolling that stone. "I was out last night," she says. "I need a night in." This surprising piece of self-knowledge me as both a wonderful idea in itself, and a way out of the dilemma of dealing with "standing venues."

            Hence the need to substitute minestrone soup, made from available materials, for a wild night out. It starts off as stone soup.

            We don't actually use stones, but we do have the remains of the tomato harvest that have been ripening, rotting, or merely resting on a couple of kitchen window sills. They came indoors as green tomatoes when the weather got cold enough to threaten all backyard produce with extinction. A few large ones have gone from green to red to old. They go into the pot. Lots of cherry tomatoes are in a so-so state. I inspect them, pass judgment. I cut the winners in half and throw them into the pot. Most of those called but not chosen go into the compost bin.

            The other ingredients are rummaged from the refrigerator while I pretend to consult a recipe. No, we don't have a head of cabbage. But we do have plastic bag with the remains of some homegrown purple kale I picked for another dish I'm not saying when. Kale is hardy stuff; besides the color always draws comment. Any leftover garlic from the few small-sized bulbs we grew this year? Toss it in. Herbs? I devote the last of the rosemary harvest to this project. We dried lots of our oregano; it the annual star of the perennial herb garden. I sprinkle lightly.

            Other ingredients were grown elsewhere, many of them by a farm in Plympton that pays weekly visits to Quincy in the growing season. The sweet red pepper. I like potatoes in vegetable soup; they grow them in Plympton. Oh, and the squash. I like winter squash in -- well -- everything. Not your typical Mediterranean vegetable, but I peel the skin off and chop the flesh into cubes. It will have plenty of time to cook in the soup.

            Meanwhile Anne chops the onion, the garlic, carrots (Plympton again), the potatoes, and anything else I've forgotten.

            The recipe I've largely substituted for on a one-to-one basis calls for a huge infusion of vegetable stock. We have less than half the desired amount on hand, but with the tomatoes and some water I think we'll make it.

            Happily, the soup turns out well. Anne has whipped up a cornbread to go with it. We have a successful, and yes, needed, "night in." Sonya was right. The trendy new music club, with its own restaurant (from which you cannot see or hear the concert), goes on without us. We huddle in front her laptop instead and watch a wicked intense TV spy drama called "The Americans."

            It's somehow satisfying that the last odds and ends of the harvest end up in a family meal some time after Thanksgiving. Well, there still is some pesto from our homegrown basil in the freezer. And some dried herbs.

            And, confess, a few plants -- annuals -- saved from winter's scythe are huddling indoors in quiet corners. Some of these even have flowers.
            (Photo: Top photo is a New Guinea impatiens. The second, a hibiscus annual, was taken outdoors in August. The plant is indoors now, making new buds.)