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Trilla Pando:

Stirring up memories


Tomorrow month
January 5, 2005

This first week of the New Year, we should be reviewing our resolutions, pulling together our tax information, and being generally industrious.

            That’s what I always plan to do, but somehow that hardly ever works out.

Just as the holidays wind down, the mail box starts filling up with more than bills and tax information.  It’s crammed with seed catalogs. The checkout stands at the supermarket are loaded with gardening magazines with promise-filled covers.  Makes my brown-lawned, frost-bitten garden beg for attention—or, at least, dreams of attention.   

Particularly if we have a cold snap, most particularly if it’s a cold and rainy snap, I’m not likely to be laboring at my desk.  I’m much more likely to be curled up under my grandmother’s quilt in front of the fire thinking about spring gardens and dirty fingernails.

            I understand I am not the only person so afflicted. My mother always called January the “tomorrow month.”  It’s definitely that for me.

            If there is no cold snap, then I’ll do my springtime dreaming trotting around the yard making plans and tossing out the last few wild flower and poppy seeds.  (And if you have early spring flower seeds you don’t have in the ground, then drop this paper, grab the seeds and head out—cold or not.)

             This year, for the first time, we put up a greenhouse.  It’s tiny and portable—little more than a heavy cleaning bag wrapped around some pipes and shelves.  Doesn’t matter.  I’ve got it loaded, but I left some space on the shelves to start my tomato seeds.  And folks it’s just about time.

            All this thinking about planting makes me remember my Grandmother Beeman who would spend her cold winter afternoons studying the almanac as well as her seed catalogs. She always planted by the zodiac and moon signs.  My mom laughed at it (but not in front of her mother). Still, somehow the vegetables from our garden never flourished like they did at my grandmother’s house.

            I am going to give it a try this year.  I bought an almanac the other day and later did a little research on the Internet.  The zodiac signs—“the moon in Virgo”—are all too complicated for me, but I think I’ve mastered the moon phase approach. 

            There are some fairly simple rules:

First Quarter Moon: Plant plants that mature with the edible part growing above ground and forming seeds on the outside of the plant—lettuce, broccoli and cabbage.

            Second Quarter Moon:  Plant plants that mature with the edible part growing above the ground and forming seeds on the inside of the plant—beans, melons and those tomatoes that I’m dreaming of.  This is best done two days before the full moon.

            The first and second quarters are also great for mowing or pruning for growth.

            Third Quarter Moon: Plant plants with the edible part growing below ground—beets, carrots, onions and potatoes.  It’s also the time for bulbs and perennials.

            Fourth Quarter Moon: Not good for planting. Let it rest.  But this is a good time for transplanting or pruning to retard growth.

            According to my almanac, I’ll be putting in those tomato seeds on the 23rd or 24th—if I can wait that long. (The full moon is January 25.) It also says it’s okay to put in those flower seeds today, but not on the 7th or 8th.

             Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I’m remembering many of our grandmothers who did not have a supermarket or freezer to count on during the cold winter months.  They made a visit to the root cellar and did the best they could with what they had.  This sweet potato soup is very good indeed.

Grandmother’s sweet potato and onion soup

2 cups cooked sweet potatoes

(canned or boiled and peeled)

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cups chicken stock

(homemade or canned)

salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup cream

2 medium onions, sliced thin

 sour cream

            Drain and mash the sweet potatoes. (A food processor will work but so will Grannie’s old-fashioned potato masher.)  Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the chopped onions until they are limp.  Combine the sweet potatoes, onions, chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

            Add the salt, pepper and cream.  Blend well.  Remove from heat and ladle into hot soup plates.  Top with the sliced onion and dollops of sour cream.

            This is good served with pork or ham.  If you have turkey stock left over from the Christmas bird, substitute it for the chicken stock.

            If you are a moon-gardener, please get in touch. 

Post-script:  Earl Clemons of Rome, Georgia e-mailed some memories from the Zachary Taylor Homes.  His uncle, Algie Vickery, served as a flight instructor and lived in the homes with his family.  Young Earl traveled over from Moultrie to visit his cousin Gary. They swam, played and ate hamburgers at Brahms.

            Earl visits Bainbridge often.  I hope he’ll drop by and stir up some more memories the next time he’s in town.

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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network