Published in the Rains County Leader on May 12, 2022:
Back in March I wrote a column called “Back in the Garden” in which I mentioned David Perkins, our friend/neighbor who lives in our motor home. He had started a small garden, first in containers on the dashboard of the RV and then moving on to a couple of small plots near our storage shed.
The three of us along with Connie and Charles across the street have a small family-like community thing going. When they go to the 3rd Friday Food Giveaway at Freedom Church of God, they share when they receive more than they can use, and we sometimes think of each other when we shop. After reading my column about the difficulty of finding affordable vanilla wafers, Perkins – so called to avoid confusion with my David – brought me three boxes he found at Aldi. In return, I made a large banana pudding which was big enough to share. The sharing often extends to group meals, especially on holidays, but sometimes just because. Sunday was one of those more casual times.
The motor home is parked to the side of the driveway. It used to sit behind the house until it began to sink into the gopher runs. After that, David moved it to firmer ground, and we back the Kia in beside it. Perkins’ favorite perch is behind the computer desk which puts him next to one of several windows in the living area of his moveable home. Preferring natural air to artificially cooled, he uses fans and open windows until the temperatures approach triple digits. He says it gives him a feel of camping out, and it leads to a lot of our version of across-the-fence chats.
Such was the case on Sunday when we returned home from church. As we emerged from the car, he slid open the screen and leaned his forearms on the edge of the window. He greeted us and wished me a happy Mother’s Day. We returned his greeting and I told of our unsuccessful search for a lunch of fried fish. Since both places we tried were closed, we gave up and came home to make do with whatever we could find in the fridge.
“I’m making spaghetti later. I’ll bring it over for dinner, and you could make a salad if you want to,” he suggested.
“I’d be glad to, but I don’t have any salad stuff. If you want to bring the ingredients, I’ll throw something together.”
He jerked his thumb over his shoulder toward the garden and grinned. “I can do that.”
After agreeing on a time, we went in the house, changed into comfy clothes, and warmed an odd assortment of leftovers. We had just sat down to eat when there was a knock at the door accompanied by the familiar, “Perkins here!”
I shouted for him to come on in – family doesn’t get up from the table to answer the door. He was grinning from ear to ear and carrying a large bowl full of various greens in one hand and a carefully stacked assortment of salad ingredients in the other.
“Don’t get up,” he said. “I’m just going to drop these and run.” He put his offerings on the island and, after a short explanation of what he had brought, he left.
We finished our meal and cleared the table, and then I turned my attention to the salad kit Perkins had left. He planted a little late in the season for some of the traditional greens, but he’s had great success with Swiss chard and horseradish plant, both of which are very tasty in sandwiches and salads. Along with those main ingredients, there were lots of green onions and a few tomatoes. The tomatoes should have been left on the vine a little while longer, so they went into the window sill, but everything else was definitely usable. But first, they needed a good bath.
It was obvious that Perkins had rinsed the leaves to remove the sand, but even a city girl knows there can be critters hiding along the stems and in the curls of Swiss chard. For the next few minutes I inspected each leaf, washing away spider nests that had been carefully hidden, mites that looked a bit like poppy seeds, and even a couple of pill bugs that had stowed away. After the bath, everything went into the Salad Spinner for a few turns, and then into the fridge until dinner time. Just before time for Perkins to arrive, I put the chilled greens back in his bowl, added some chopped celery and walnuts and a can of drained Mandarin oranges and tossed it with a sweet vinaigrette.
Since we were all still a bit drained from a busy Saturday, we had agreed on a very casual meal. We didn’t add a leaf to the table, and I didn’t even vacuum the Kitty hair off the carpet. Conversation around the table was the usual sharing of our week as well as a little bit of discussion about current events, but maybe a little more low key than usual. After a dessert of ice cream and store-bought cookies followed by a division of the leftovers – including some for Connie and Charles who had been gone for the afternoon – we called it a night.
Perkins always adds his own special touch to anything he cooks, so the spaghetti was delicious, but the centerpiece of the meal was definitely the salad that he grew in our own yard. We look forward to more of the same throughout the summer along with lots of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, okra, and other good things to eat. It’s a feeling of accomplishment to eat something you produced with the help of the Lord and the work of your own hands. It’s also reassuring that, even if food prices continue to rise, we’ll have something to eat.
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” Genesis 1:29