This is the time of year I love most; watching Mother Nature roust her offspring from its slumber. She has awakened the flowering crabs and blossoming pears, the colorful redbuds and yellow forsythia. As I walked home through our neighborhood, it’s as if they have just showered and are sporting a fresh, clean spritz of perfume. The ever reliable hostas are starting to stir, like my teenager poking her head out from the covers to see if its time to get up, or to lay low for a while longer. Our world is waking up again.
I love the season for its freshness and new beginning. Already a more dry spring than last, which means my growers are able to get in and out of their fields with an earlier harvest. Kevin has been bringing in beautiful spinach, arugula, and spring greens. Dave has shitake mushrooms covering the decaying oak logs behind his barn and tells me the morels will likely be a bumper crop if the weather conditions stay ideal.
I, too, have part of my backyard farm planted with lettuces and summer flowers. Last year was so wet, I didn’t get anything in the ground until June, and then the heat came, and anything tender bolted right away or just didn’t survive.
But another benefit of the season that goes unnoticed is the reduction of choices I have to make in planning a menu. I often refer to how we let the field dictate to us what we should serve, and with this kind of advice, it’s much easier to make decisions. It seems counter intuitive, but more often than not I find having fewer choices allows me to make a better decision, and reduces stress in the process.
More options don’t equate to better choices. Of the 99 cable channels that I can access, I still only watch two or three on a regular basis. Just because I have more from which to choose doesn’t make life better.
The more decisions you have to make, the more time it takes to discern between them. Of the 17 choices of toothbrushes, or the two dozen kinds of shaving cream, and an equal array of toilet paper, shower soap, and deodorant, how long do I want to spend on this? Sometime I feel I need a subscription to Consumer Reports just to help me through my morning routine.
The same is true in the kitchen; all I really want to do is cook something memorable for you. It’s much easier for me to keep my ideas fresh if I have five options from which to choose rather than fifty. Abiding by the season and the local fields limits my choices, but still enables me to reach my goal of giving you great food to enjoy.
Late in the winter, when all I had left to use from a local source was butternut squash, I made a few dishes that still raise questions. “When will you have that Butternut & Bacon Lasagna again?” “Is the Butternut Tortellini going to be on the menu anytime soon?” My response is the same, “We’ll have to wait until the season brings them in again.”
This month’s spinach will soon give way to asparagus, which will strut and steal the show until the queen strawberry makes her appearance. But these two will step aside when summer brings us sweet corn and tomatoes, and fall comes bearing apples and cole crops.
The field helps me make my choices, and with options like these, who can go wrong?