Monday, June 23, 2008

but i thought you loved my dirty roots...

As I looked at my meticulously groomed carrots resting in their sterilized pint Ball jar, anticipating the day they'd become pickles, I paused to consider what I'd been up to all afternoon. If my favorite root vegetables are those freshly pulled from their beds and covered with dirt, why was I spending my entire afternoon scrubbing, peeling, and trimming one bunch of Peter Martinelli's carrots to create a single jar of pickled carrots? Why didn't I just skip the prep work and drizzle the carrots with olive oil and roast them or simply rinse them off and eat them fresh and unadorned?

Instead I found the preparation of this sole jar of pickled carrots profoundly fulfilling. Now this wasn't my first foray into pickling, just my first jar of pickles using produce from the recently-back-in-action Point Reyes Farmers Market. I'd experimented with cucumbers, green beans, and other carrot varieties. I'd searched for and tried using an assortment of sizes and types of jars: Ball, Kerr, and a even a French wire-clamp jar with a rubber ring (these canning vessels are classic examples of the type of nostalgic domestic objects to which I'm forever attracted). Lastly, I read recipes from a diverse array of cultures before writing and then attempting a few of my own.

Once I decided what this particular pickling project would entail, the carrot preparation mentioned earlier began. Next, I selected whole spices from my Morton & Bassett collection, chosen specifically for my pickling experiments, and crushed most of the spices with my thumb to release their flavor, some required the strength of the bottom of a stainless steel measuring cup, and one spice, star anise, was too pretty to crush and was added fully intact. The smell of the apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, and crushed spices simmering on the stove was fantastic (Chris disagreed, but I loved it!). The photograph above is of the full jar as it cooled to room temperature.

My choice of attempting to make yet another labor intensive jar of pickled carrots versus biting into a fresh carrot much closer to its original and well-loved dirty root stage isn't much of a stretch when I consider other aspects of my life. How did a hyper-driven corporate recruiter with her favorite phrase "make dust or eat dust" posted prominently on the front of her computer abandon that world completely and pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree? The same way a proud urbanite committed to the contemporary art world and public transportation moved to a small rural town (pop. 350), bought a car, and became dedicated to growing fruit, vegetables, and caring for two boxes of composting worms.

These are just a few of the disparate experiences that have somehow become stitched together to create the person I am today. There is some part of me, sometimes a very small part, that has a soft spot for just about everything in my past.

Sometimes I miss the clear and quantifiable way I was rewarded in the corporate world. Calculating my value is much more complicated now and often leaves me feeling a bit unsettled. I was spoiled by my city apartment's proximity to delicious Indian, Japanese, and Vietnamese restaurants (just to name a few of my wide array of gastronomic choices). Guilty trips to H&M for $3 earrings or $5 sunglasses and those fabulous evenings having drinks in swanky bars with my girlfriends...sigh. Oh city life...

But now I make homemade lemonade with the lemons and mint that grow right outside my front door. I walk 5 steps out my back door and savor what seems like an endless supply of raspberries and blackberries. And then there is the gratification of digging my hands into the dirt with my neighbor to uncover a family of little potatoes and watching my peas' tiny tendrils hold on tightly as they climb higher and higher up my fence. The peaceful nights, quiet with the only exception being the sound of a lonely owl softly hooting every now and then...glorious. Oh the country life...

I love it all, but for now I focus on the moment and patiently await my first bite into one of my crisp pickled carrots.


  1. what a lovely post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! how long ago did you make the change to the country? I did a similar thing (but not to the same extent as you, it seems) by leaving downtown SF for the more rural area I live now (in the hills near Palo Alto). Though I still have my same job, the pace of life has slowed significantly since moving out here, starting a garden, cooking more etc. Sometimes I miss the city, but then I look out the window and appreciate what's around me...
    and btw, clever blog name!

  2. hi jen-
    we moved to PR just a few months ago, april 1st (april fools day). so, ironically, or maybe not, the fun began on april fools day. we are not quite 100% transplants because we still have a studio apt. in SF, but see it much less often than we used to. the pace of life has slowed significantly for us too. gardening has been so much fun and i cannot believe how much i've learned about food and botany in such a short time. PR is filled with people interested in such things. i haven't been linked to a garden since i was about 10 years old and i'm very happy to be back. happy growing, culinary creating, and writing - love your website!

  3. carrots from my OWN garden currently pickling. stay tuned!