Bubbles 2010, oil on board, 16 x 12 inches
My sister Mimi lives and gardens on Straw Dog Farm in central Missouri. I spent last week with her as she recovered from a hip replacement. Her home is a simple structure she and her late husband, Ron, built 37 years ago. There is a lot to look at, inside and out. Wide plank floors, framed paintings and drawings, books, dried herbs, garden views from every window.
Mimi lives lightly on the land, growing much of her food and masses of native plants, recycling, and reusing. She makes soap, puts up the vegetables, herbs, and fruits she grows, and the meat her neighbors share with her. She heats and cooks with wood.
For the week I was the cook and general helper with Mimi ready to guide me (or boss me around) from her easy chair. I learned to make cook fires in her wonderful wood-burning stove, adding large logs for heat in the evening when I finished preparing a meal (the weather was mostly cool and rainy).
I practiced tai chi in her gardens, under a redbud tree and near lovely spring flowering native plants. And of course, we had many long conversations about life and aging and our family. We remember events from our shared childhood differently, one of us often saying, ‘no, that never happened, not that way’.
Every day I picked lettuce from the cold frames, parsley, tarragon, chives and sorrel in the culinary garden and asparagus growing in a long bed heavily mulched with straw.
We ate well, as Mimi has excellent stocks of home canned goods, a freezer full of baked goods and those gardens. We had steel cut oats with raisins and her home made Greek yogurt, stuffed sweet potatoes, and slow-cooked pork tacos with just picked cilantro and Mimi’s flour tortillas. She rolls these very thin and then, over a good hot fire, cooks them for just a moment right on the stove top.
One day, she suggested I prepare an asparagus and tarragon soup, a new combination for me. And so good. This week I made another pot with the asparagus I had brought home in my suitcase.
First I sauteed 1/2 an onion, diced, and a chopped carrot, in a tablespoon butter and one of olive oil. I added a diced small potato, a pound and a half of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces, the tips set aside for the garnish, and the stalks from a couple sprigs of tarragon, saving the leaves to top the soup.
I added a quart of chicken stock and let the soup simmer until the veggies were soft. Pureed it in the blender and reheated with the asparagus tips. Sprinkled on chopped tarragon to serve.
What a pleasure to help my sister and experience a beautiful spring on the farm.