As summer is winding down here in the North Carolina mountains I can't help but think of the vast harvest of my Granny's garden. When I was young, as my dad pulled the car down into her drive, I would typically see my Granny bent over, tending to a vine filled with vegetables. That memory brings the nostalgia flooding in. Picking late summer tomatoes, finding the perfect squash, and pulling the dry husk from a cob crowded with golden corn kernels is only a snippet of what I remember from those times spent in the patch of tilled earth lining the long drive in front of her house.

I wish I had appreciated it more then, and had known better than take it for granted, but Granny worked for all of the food she provided for me. When I requested a snack at her house I wasn't offered a shiny, crinkly bag of chips as I would have preferred, but instead I ate crisp leaves of lettuce resting in a bit of vinegar, bumpy cucumbers sliced into spears that she sprinkled with salt, and juicy tomatoes to accompany buttery biscuits. I would give almost anything to be able to sit on the porch right now with a plate of salted cucumbers and look up to see my Granny in her garden.

Granny Ollie
My dad told me a story once about Granny Ollie (Granny's mom) in her garden. He said she had patience that most everyone else lacked and was able to keep moles out of her garden when most neighbors were not able to do so. Catching moles digging in the garden is a feat as if you walk within ten feet of them they will feel the vibrations of the ground and will immediately stop digging and will hide. No mole was going to outsmart Granny Ollie though. She would stand out in the garden and wait until one dug nearby. Once she used this practice in my Granny's garden. She was likely in her seventies, perhaps even early eighties, at the time she came to help with the moles but she still stood as motionless as ever, with the Henderson family's 16 gauge single barrel shotgun poised for action. After standing silently for several hours, BANG! off went the shotgun, shooting a cloud of dust about ten feet high, completely engulfing Granny Ollie. When the dust cleared, there was a foot wide hole in the soil directly between her feet that contained what was left of the mole. She gathered the pieces to show the other moles they had better watch out. Sometimes I don't understand my family, as it seems their main concern is eliminating the pest rather than considering they might hit something important. Like that time my dad saw a mouse jump into the grill of his car and his reaction was to shoot at his car with ratshot. "I got him though!" was his response when I asked him to repeat the part where he shot a gun toward his own car.

If I had to guess, my dad's three favorite things to eat are watermelon, biscuits and gravy, and a ripe tomato minutes from being picked from the vine. When he was growing up he said his favorite time was late summer when the tomatoes were still abundant and the pumpkins were ready for picking. Granny would roast the pumpkin, scoop out the inside, and whip it to the consistency of mashed potatoes. She would serve the pumpkin with freshly baked biscuits and sliced tomatoes. My dad said that was one of his favorite meals. Growing up I don't recall there being a day in summer and early fall when a bowl of sliced tomatoes didn't rest in the center of the round oak dinner table, covered with a scrap of cloth between mealtimes.

It isn't just the memories of delicious food from Granny's garden that I am thankful for. Through that garden I was taught to appreciate the importance of where my food comes from and the hard work that is put behind cultivating it. Granny would hand me a bunch green beans and I would sit on the porch swing snapping the ends from each bean and dropping them into a bowl of cool water to be boiled for Sunday dinner. She taught me to pull the dry husks from golden cobs of corn, taking extra care to remove all the silk from between the kernels. I learned to step carefully over seedlings and that spreading ash from the wood stove over potatoes would keep bugs from eating them. I like to think because I was shown that there is such work behind our food, spending an hour making my own pasta or making pie crust for a lattice pie is invigorating rather than something too time consuming to try. And cutting a tedious design from pieces of pearl will yield far more satisfaction when I am finished than the difficulty it took to cut it.