Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I am not my grandmother

My grandmother never went to the farmer's market and deliberately picked a bunch of leaves she's never tried before, from an African refugee woman selling fresh vegetables that she grew to augment her family's meager income.
Grandma never had the chance to do that. She cooked the familiar vegetables that the people in the neighborhood, mostly Midwest transplants, grew. In fact, my mother was the salad person; I don't remember Grandma ever making salad unless it was wedges of iceberg lettuce.
Anyway, this is a far cry from iceberg. It's purslane, and I recently planted a couple of little plants of it in pots on my deck, liking the cheery yellow flowers. But edible? I only found this out today. Now I've interrupted the laborious task of removing leaf after leaf, in order to write.

Grandma did lots of laborious things, darning Grandpa's socks (I wish I had her well-worn

wooden darning egg!), plucking chickens, sorting berries...tasks that she didn't choose but seemed to accept as just another part of life. I don't have to prepare purslane; I do it because I want to try another taste, to prove that Americans will buy something new, and somehow because it's a part of a more down-to-earth approach to consuming. Taking what's near at hand and figuring out how to make something good out of it.
I kind of thought that purslane was something that grew by the roadside, and Wild Bill something online says that's true. He also eats the stems, avoiding all this work, but I just tried one and it tasted kind of like sourgrass. I thought it was great fun to chew sourgrass when I was a kid, but I think I draw the line at a salad of it!
This leisure to sit and pluck comes to me courtesy of Echo's kidney dialysis, during which we sit like Darby and Joan (or Joan and Joan?) in our recliners by the fireplace while she gets her blood cleaned and I play at many entertaining things. Here's Echo all set up. Usually we don't have the IV pole and bags; the little box under the machine holds the fluid into which the toxins in her blood ooze by osmosis and then flow out and away from her! It's a remarkably ingenious system.

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