Article and photo from Miriam Garcia
Last week, on vacation in Mexico, I ate fresh salsa, charred corn, sliced melon and shrimp tacos. The flavors made a sun-on-my-skin kind of feeling happen in my mouth. There really is a kind of happy that comes only from the sun and, apparently, you can eat it. Back in Portland, I realize that these sun-filled foods are not unlike migrating geese or humpback whales, chasing the seasons, gradually making their returns to Northern climes. They’re still far away but they’re getting closer. In the chill of March in Portland, I hunger for warmth; for strong sun, hours and hours of it; and for the foods that only long days can coax from the earth. But all I can do is sharpen my various hungers like so many kitchen knives and wait.
Since ancient times, Winter-into-Spring, the Lenten season, has been thought of as a period of solemnity and abstinence after the misrule of Carnival and before the rites of spring. For some, this is a spiritual experience and for others a slog. Either way, it’s about waiting. And whetting. The Old English word ‘Lent,’ refers to the ‘lengthening’ of days and as our days stretch toward the summer, our markets will open wide to receive returning bounty. Wandering the markets we’ll see the growing light manifesting in successive waves of fruits and vegetables. It’s only March however, and there’s a long way to go.
So, we wait. And whet. We listen for geese, drive to the coast to watch for whales, and wander the markets, looking beyond spring’s tender green offerings all the way to the return of the ripe melon, the sweet corn and the glorious tomato. Across these final few weeks of quiet chill and tentative blossoms, we may as well let the hunger intensify. The foods of the sun will find their way home to us and we will eat them. We’ll be wearing sundresses and shorts and we’ll feel the warmth of the sun on our shoulders and in our tomatoes and the happiness of it will fill us up and feed us well. Soon.
Miriam Garcia is a folklorist-foodie, freelance writer and guardian of a super-secret chicken soup recipe. You can contact her at Miriam_G@me.com