Last night I couldn’t sleep because I have a cold—in addition to the regular health complications—so I grabbed two books to read from off my bedside bookshelves. For a moment I reflected on the choices and they made me laugh. (I highly recommend both, but only one is really about gardening while the other is about stuff you might think about while gardening.)
Angelo Pellegrini may already be familiar to some of you because Mario Batali happened to write the Introduction to the Modern Library’s Food Series edition of The Unprejudiced Palate: Classic Thoughts on Food and the Good Life (1948). This book is a modern classic and a foodie favorite. (He is also likely the first author of a pesto recipe published in the United States. See Wikipedia entry: Wikipedia: Angelo Pellegrini.)
In The Food-Lover’s Garden (1970), Pellegrini attacks the topic of small lot gardening—the Italian way of course. Included are the uncommon cardoon—a personal favorite of mine—as well as advice based upon his experiences while gardening in the Seattle area. (Yes, this is another spaghetti westerner, much like the Batali family, and my own.) He describes in great detail his kitchen garden while at the same time throwing in whatever else he finds important. He describes so well the gardens of the old Italians I used to haunt when I was still a small child, and which I only knew briefly, but am haunted by in my memory and in the photographs of my extended family. This year I will be making my own and I think that I have chosen to use his book as my guidepost, and my husband as co-pilot.
This brings me to the other book, a philosophy text written by the Booker prize winning author and philosopher Iris Murdoch. I know that few people read philosophy books, but I do, and I love them even if I don’t always understand them. That’s where my husband comes back into this, and my grandmother, and my roots. I love to talk about plants, the meaning of the universe, and to look at the stars when it isn’t pouring rain with thick clouds overhead. It is probably no accident that my husband is a winemaker. I am a feminist, and I thank all of you who dined before me, wiping the table, doing the dishes, and then putting them all away. Somehow making your legacy the whole time, moving westward always, the path led to me. Thank you and I dedicate my garden to all of you, as most gardeners do, tending soil, the heritage sport of summertime.