Right when my first kid was born I was riding around in my car and the eclectic radio station played an enchanting little tune, “Little Potato,” that just about summed up my feelings for my wrinkly red little newborn, even if he had a tendency to howl in a way potatoes (and other root vegetables) never seemed to do.
A couple of days ago that song came flooding back to my brain as I started cooking dinner with that same kid, now well into his fifteenth year and towering over me in the kitchen. We were planning to roast potatoes, and I was about the prep my store-bought spuds when I realized that our homegrown crop was ready.
I had taken the initiative of planting a bunch of potatoes that had sprouted in the far reaches of the vegetable drawer, and they had done great in the garden. Nate, Andy and I were reaching back generations with the yanking of plants and the uprooting of… yes, potatoes. We’d of course grown tomatoes, pumpkins even, but potatoes seemed a bit like “real” farming. I imagine that my shtetl ancestors might have been farmers back in Russia when they weren’t running from Cossacks, but I know that my grandma in Austria-Hungary grew up on a farm so it’s in my blood. Andy’s mom grew up on a farm in Oregon with her grandfather after her dad died when she was four, so Nate had some good “Green Acres” stock to be working with.
They say the simple things in life are what tend to bring happiness, and after appreciating the tympani of rain on the roof that afternoon, the rainbow spotted in the market parking lot, the harvest of simple potatoes and the cooking together, smells of garlic, rosemary, olive oil and the golden potatoes, we sat down to our feast, appreciating the sun still shinning at our back door as the days grew longer and we talked of travels to Ireland where the sun set in mid summer at ten thirty… and to northern Finland where the sun never set at all, dipping almost to the horizon and rising again.
Is it just me, or do things we grow get suffused with spirit and taste better than things we merely buy?
Sometimes we go seeking peak experiences, and they can be fun, but sometimes we just appreciate our little potatoes and, at least for a brief moment, all is right with the world.