The Gazpacho Miracle

My first year growing garlic, I unearthed forty huge bulbs a few weeks ago. What beauty to behold! Like Barbara Kingsolver says in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, “Even the smallest backyard garden offers emotional rewards in the domain of the little miracle.”
Kingsolver also speaks of braiding her onion and garlic stems in “heavy plaits” and hanging them from her kitchen mantel. Now, that’s a vision a woman could covet if not careful.
          My garlic stems and bulbs hang in our pavilion where hundreds of lavender bundles dried until last summer. Isn’t this simply glorious? We’re free to grow something new, smell contrasting scents. Experiment with pairing flavors. There’s nothing boring about growing and cooking healthy, tasty food.
           My Uncle Tab’s untiring and hilarious culinary personality confirms my point. At age 83, he’s in a breading and frying streak. His tomatoes weren’t ripe when my husband and I visited him and my aunt in Lexington last week, so he directed from his golf cart which green tomatoes I was to pick.
I sliced. He fried—in olive oil and garlic, of course. Delicious.
“Fried cucumbers are good, too,” Uncle Tab said.
           He apologized for seeing us off to his older brother’s house with nary a ripe, juicy tomato. I was disappointed, for the thought of making gazpacho had crossed my mind several times this sweltering summer.
           The deeper we drove into the heart of Appalachia’s Peter Creek, hundreds of lush gardens grew for simple folk who’ve known for generations the rewards of planting seed. Theirs is the domain of little miracles.
          When we reached the McCoy Bottom, Uncle Herm had several large, homegrown tomatoes on his kitchen counter. We strolled by his vegetable gardens, tomato vines blackened and withered, heavy with ripe fruit.
          Uncle Herm shook his head. “Honey, I don’t know what happened to my tomato plants.”
          A widower and misfit in the kitchen, Uncle Herm prefers the food and social life of the local senior center to cooking for himself. So my husband and I dined at Hornet’s, the local restaurant in Phelps, the settlement where Granny lived and grew a garden for four decades.
          Later, Mel and I agreed there’s nothing like Uncle Tab’s cooking, and decided to accept his invitation for lunch on our drive back home.
         Uncle Herm loaded us up with a bag of tomatoes for his brother, and one for us. “Tell Tab I love him,” he said. “It’s just the two of us now.”
         A sad reality, I considered myself blessed to be the tomato bearer, to sit once again with Uncle Tab and Aunt Alma Leigh, commune with them and the produce from his gardens. He jabbed a piece of melon with his fork. “This cantaloupe was the size of Herman’s head!”
        Thanks to Uncle Herm, there’s a jar of gazpacho marinating in my refrigerator, one of many emotional benefits from two men who love me, teach me how to grow and cook good food.
        Dear Reader, mine is the domain of little miracles.