fire x sweetness

“The ingredients speak to the best course of action. There’s no longer a need for a recipe. The garden informs every part of the meal.”

– Wild Flavors, Didi Emmons

Today’s lunch reminds me how much I adore fresh sage.

I live in a home that was built by a master gardener. A couple years ago, before I moved in, the former owner and I developed a relationship that’s unusual in most real estate transactions. Why? Because one day she dialed my number and we had a lengthy conversation.

My agent was horrified. Her agent was horrified. But speak we did. Many times. Mostly, it seemed like she was looking for a sympathetic ear. She was pretty stressed about moving from her home of 20 years. And frankly, I was stressed out, too. In the end, our admission of feeling mutually overwhelmed resulted in my renting the house back to her for a few months after the closing date. It was an arrangement that worked out great for us both.

Later, after I’d officially moved in, I asked her to come and visit me and give me a personal tour of the garden surrounding the property. This tour had the air of formality because well, she is a rather formal lady and also a bit pedantic. As we walked from bed to bed she quizzed me on my horticulture knowledge, which was basically just good (or bad?) enough to be dangerous. And while I failed in impressing her with my recitation of genus and species, I do think that I reassured her of my commitment to loving the beautiful garden that she had created.

For me, the strongest memory of our afternoon was when we stopped to admire the herb garden, which over time has become my favorite part of the overall design. The day we met was an unseasonably warm spring day. The herbs were thriving and the air was fragrant. She reached for a sprig of sage from an incredibly healthy and beautiful plant, closed her eyes and held the leaves under her nose. “Oh, the scent of sage makes me so terrifically hungry. Be sure you enjoy this with pork. That’s the best combination in all of this world.”

She was right. I especially love pork sausage and sage with a generous dose of spice (cumin, cinnamon, Alepo pepper, coriander and a crazy number of fresh jalapenos), along with some apples and yellow onions. Today, I added just a touch of maple syrup to balance the fire with a little sweetness. Reminds me a bit of my relationship with the previous owner. She’s a lady with a slightly tough shell, but the minute she starts talking about gardening, she’s one of the warmest and enthusiastic personalities you could ever meet.

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