June 8, 2012

The Quotable Garden

Filed under: Uncategorized — theresaurus @ 8:55 am

Francis Bacon: “God Almighty first planted a garden; and, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man, without which buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks, and a man shall ever see that, when ages grow to civility and elegance, man comes to build stately, sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were the greater perfection.”

This is my balcony garden. Many things grew from seeds that Sam collected and planted, and he often forgets what they are until they grow enough to look like what they are. There’s an apple tree, several other trees, grasses, ferns. Two coffee trees that were free gifts from Seattle’s Best Coffee three years ago. We expected to have a coffee plantation by now but not even one bean. And here I was planning to buy a mule for harvesting. There are strawberries and blueberries, an avocado. Rosemary and oregano. This year I’m trying some vegetables. You go to the garden center and get swept up in the garden lust.

I have an old gardening book with a chapter including quotes to use for a Shakespeare garden, to be inscribed on slate and arranged in front of each herb or flower. Here are some of them:

Carnation:  (The Winter’s Tale)  “Carnations and streaked gillyflowers, the fairest flowers of the season.”
Flax:  (The Winter’s Tale)  “My wife deserves a name as rank as any Flax-wench.”
Marigold:  (The Winter’s Tale)  “The Marigold which goes to bed with the sun and with him rises, weeping.”
Myrtle:  (Passionate Pilgrim)  “Venus with young Adonis sitting by her under a Myrtle shade began to woo him.”
Wormwood:  (Romeo and Juliet)  “For I had then laid Wormwood to my dug. When it did taste the Wormwood on the nipple of my dug, and felt it bitter, pretty food.”
Savory:  (The Winter’s Tale)  “Here’s flowers for you, hot Lavender, sweet Mint, Savory, Marjoram.”
Rue:  (Richard II)  “How did she fall a tear, here in this place I’ll set a bank of Rue, sour herb of Grace but, even for ruth, here shortly shall be seen, in the remembrance of a weeping queen.”
Rosemary:  (Hamlet)  “There’s Rosemary, for Remembrance; pray you love, remember.”
Parsley:  (The Taming of the Shrew)  “I knew a wench married in the afternoon as she went to the garden for Parsley to stuff a rabbit.”
Mint:  (Love’s Labor Lost)  “I am that flower, that Mint, that Colombine.”
Marjoram:  (All’s Well That Ends Well)  “Indeed sir, she was the sweet Marjoram of the Salad, or rather the Herb-of-grace.”
Lettuce:  (Othello)  “If we will plant nettles or sow lettuce.”
Ivy:  (A Midsummer’s Night Sleep)  “Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my dreams, the female ivy enrings the barking fingers of the elm.”
Bay:  (Richard II)  “‘Tis thought the king is dead. He will not stay. The Bay leaves in our country are all withered.”
Broom:  (A Midsummer’s Night Dream)  “I’m sent with Broom before to sweep the dust behind the door.”
Camomile:  (Henry IV)  “Though the Camomile is more it is trodden on the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted the sooner it wears.”
Hyssop:  (Othello)  “‘Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are gardens; to which our will are gardeners; so that if we will plant nettle or sow Lettuce, set Hyssop or wee up Thyme; supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many, either to have it sterile with idleness or manured with industry; why the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills.”
Thyme:  (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)  “I know a bank where the wild thyme grows.”
Violets:  (Pericles)  “The yellows, blues, the purple violets and marigolds shall as a carpet hand upon the grave while summer days do last.”
Strawberry:  (Henry V)   “The strawberry grows beneath the Nettle, and the wholesome berries thrive and ripen best neighbored by fruit of lesser quality; and on the prince obscured his contemplation under the veil of wilderness.”
Rose:  (Sonnet 54)  “The rose looks fair, but fairer it we deem for that sweet odor which doth in it live. … But for their virtue only is their show, they live unwoo’d and unrespected fade; die unto themselves, sweet roses do not so; of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made.”

This is a nice idea. I’d like to try it with quotes I like, for the coffee, avocado and vegetables, but then the garden would be mostly black and white, not green.

Corn:  (Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home)   “Sweet corn was our family’s weakness. We were prepared to resist atheistic Communism, immoral Hollywood, hard liquor, gambling and dancing, smoking, fornication, but if Satan had come around with sweet corn, we at least would have listened to what he had to sell. … Sunday after church, when the pot roast was done and the potatoes were boiled and mashed and a pot of water was boiling — only then would Dad run out with a bushel basket and pick thirty ears of corn. We shucked it clean in five seconds per ear and popped it in the pot for a few minutes. A quick prayer, a little butter and salt, and that is as good as it gets. People have wanted sex to be as good as sweet corn … and afterward they lay together in the dark and said, ‘Det var dejligt.’ (‘That was so wonderful.’) ‘Ja, det var. Men det var ikke saa godt som frisk mais.’ (‘But it wasn’t as good as fresh sweet corn.’) ‘Ney.'”

Strawberries:  (The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook)  “The work in the vegetables … was a full-time job and more. Later it became a joke, Gertrude Stein asking me what I saw when I closed my eyes, and I answered, Weeds. That, she said, was not the answer, so weeds were changed to strawberries. The small strawberries, called by the French wood strawberries, are not wild but cultivated. It took me an hour to gather a small basket for Gertrude Stein’s breakfast, and later when there was a plantation of them in the upper garden our young guests were told that if they cared to eat them they should do the picking themselves.”

Lettuce:  (Little House on the Prairie)  “The day was ending in perfect satisfaction. They were all there together. All the work, except the supper dishes, was done until tomorrow. They were all enjoying good bread and butter, fried potatoes, cottage cheese, and lettuce leaves sprinkled with vinegar and sugar.”

Tomatoes:  (Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe)  “Fried Green Tomatoes: Slice tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick, season with salt and pepper and then coat both side with cornmeal. In a large skillet, heat enough bacon drippings to coat the bottom of the pan and fry tomatoes until lightly browned on both sides. You’ll think you died and gone to heaven!”

Carrots:  (The Fran Lebowitz Reader)  “Large, naked, raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter.”

Avocado:  (Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar)  “Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad. Avocados are my favorite fruit. Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comics. He taught me how to eat avocados by melting grape jelly and french dressing together in a sauce pan and filling the cup of the pear with the garnet sauce. I felt homesick for that sauce. The crabmeat tasted bland in comparison.”

Peas:  (M.F.K. Fisher, An Alphabet for Gourmets)  “When the scant half-inch of water boiled, I tossed in the peas, a good six quarts or more, and slapped on the heavy lid as if a devil might get out. The minute steam showed I shook the whole like mad. … The peas were done now. After one more shake I whipped off the lid and threw in the big pat of butter, which had a bas-relief of William Tell on it. I shook in salt, ground in pepper, and then swirled the pot over the low flames until Tell disappeared. … Small brown roasted chickens lay on every plate, the best ones I had ever eaten … . There was a salad of mountain lettuces. There was honest bread. … Later there was cheese, an Emmenthaler and a smuggled Roblichon …”

Apples:  (Farmer Boy)  “When the work was done, Father came up the cellar stairs, bringing a big pitcher of sweet cider and a panful of apples. Royal took the corn-popper and a pannikin of popcorn. … He put three handfuls of popcorn into the big wire popper, and shook the popper over the coals. In a little while a kernel popped, then another, then three or four at once, and all at once furiously the hundreds of little pointed kernels exploded. When the big dishpan was heaping full of fluffy white popcorn, Alice poured melted butter over it, and stirred and salted it. It was hot and crackling crisp, and deliciously buttery and salty, and everyone could eat all he wanted to. Almanzo sat on a footstool by the stove, an apple in his hand, a bowl of popcorn by his side, and his mug of cider on the hearth by his feet. He bit the juicy apple, then he ate some popcorn, then he took a drink of cider.”

Beets:  (Laurie Colwin, More Home Cooking)   “Among the prettiest dinners I ever ate was one that included beets, making me realize that a magenta-colored vegetable can be a real plus when it comes to the art of food arrangement. One hot summer evening, my husband and I hopped on the Hampton Jitney and emerged, starving, at some Hampton or other, where we were picked up by a painter friend of ours, who took us home and fed us a painterly meal: a lobster salad, creamy pink; a plate of light green greens; and a heavy white platter containing steamed broccoli and sliced boiled beets — the one a deep pure green, the other a deep clear fuchsia. The vegetables were served with a garlic and cranberry mayonnaise. It takes a painter to show off something as striking and vibrant as a beet.”

Coffee:  (The Diary of Anais Nin)  “One morning when Henry was staying with us, after all his starvation, sloppy meals, cafe-counter slobbery, I tried to give him a beautiful breakfast. Emelia brought, on a green tray, hot coffee, steaming milk, soft-boiled eggs, good bread and biscuits, and the freshest butter. Henry sat by the fire at the lacquered table. All he could say was how he longed for the bistro around the corner, the zinc counter, the dull greenish coffee and milk full of skin. … I might be down in the dumps a hundred times, but each time I would clamber out again to good coffee on a lacquered tray beside the fire.”

Blueberries:  (James Beard)  “Blue huckleberries were the most elusive of the wild berries. … But once you found a patch you were in luck. No matter how they were prepared — in a deep-dish pie, which we had often, or in a strange English version of the clafouti, with a batter poured over the berries and baked, or in little dumplings which were dropped into cooked  huckleberries, or in the famous Hamblet huckleberry cake — they were fantastically good. Huckleberry Cake: Cream 1 cup butter and 1 cup granulated sugar together until the mixture is very light. Add 3 eggs, one by one, beating after each addition. Sift 2 cups flour and save 1/4 cup to mix with 1 cup huckleberries. Add to the rest 2 teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, and fold this into the egg mixture. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and, lastly, fold in the floured huckleberries. Pour the batter into a buttered, floured 8-inch-square baking tin. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is nicely browned, or when a tester inserted comes out clean.”


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