Friday, May 31, 2013


Here it is the last day of May already. It’s been difficult to remember which month we’re in, for we’ve had everything from balmy heat to thunderstorms to snow and frost, all in the flowering month of May. Today we’re back at balmy, almost tropical, with soft humid air and a weighty heat promised.

It’s also the day, as I sit here waiting for the kettle to boil, that I say farewell to one of the treats I brought back from Georgia (yes I declared them at customs!!). It’s a “moraba” of carnelian cherries, given to me, and made by, Elena’s ninety-year-old grandmother in Kutaisi. Carnelian cherries are tart, elongated slender fruits, a strong red, brighter than most “regular” cherries. And moraba is the Georgian word for a way of preserving fruit in sugar syrup. The point to a moraba is the fruit, yes, but also the syrup, flavoured by the fruit over the months since it was put up, which is delectable. A spoonful is enough, a taste hit, that in this case has tartness from the cherries and sweetness too from the sugar in the syrup they were preserved in.

So as I say, I have come to the bottom of the moraba jar: there’s about a tablespoon, perhaps a little more, of syrup left, and I’ll use it, as I have used the rest of the jar every morning this month, to make my morning hot drink, by putting it in my big mug and filling it with boiling water. The aroma of cherry will come wafting up in the steam. The trick will be to enjoy it without regret for its passing…

Time for me to get hold of enough canning jars so that I can make cherry moraba when they come into season. How to find carnelian cherries? If I get lucky, I will, otherwise some kind of tart cherry will be a good substitute.

The wisteria vine which has been twining along the fence, pulling at it and being pruned back by me, had a generous flowering this year of long draping aromatic white flowers. They’re pretty well over too. Meantime the columbines, of many colours, are dotted around the back garden, self-seeded (though I help them along by scattering seeds from the pods after flowering), the irises are out, and the peonies, two ancient bushes side-by-side, are rounding into fat buds and showing a little pink.

I’d like a little cool weather to slow things down, so that the peonies are fresh and full next weekend. That’s when our wonderful friend Kaya is being feted here by friends and family, and somehow full-bloom peonies seem like the perfect festive early-June touch.

Meantime, after flooding rain earlier in the week, the city is looking green and fertile. Cool bowers of shade on the treed streets in the downtown neighbourhoods make me grateful to those who planted the trees decades ago.

I was out early this morning, before the heat, trying to clean up the small back garden. The flagstone path that winds through it is very overgrown with clover and also with young garlics. I usually go along and grab handfuls of the garlic greens to cook up with dandelion greens as part of breakfast. But now some of them have to go. I’ve pulled them up and plan to grill the tender garlics and their long greens this evening at a friend’s place. And why? It goes back to the party for Kaya.

As parties often do, it is prompting me to take hold of things a little, never a bad plan! And so the garden should look a little more orderly, or perhaps I should say a little less disorderly. And the ground floor too will get itself cleared for dancing. That’s what I have on my to-do list for tomorrow, to try to knock off most of the decision-making and rearranging and stashing of things, so that it’s not all left to the last minute.

It’s an interesting process, this getting ready for a party that someone else is having in my house. My mind keeps wandering to questions about food and other logistics, and then I bring myself up short and remember that none of those things are my responsibility. I’m looking forward to being a guest at the party…

Meantime I’ve been reading widely about Akkadians, Medes, Persians, that whole complicated history and geography of the region I’m now obsessed with. The tarragon in my garden came back green and lush and that’s a good thing, for Georgia re-imprinted me with a yearning for it, fresh, with everything! I wish I had a walnut tree, and a hazelnut, and what about persimmons, figs, cherries, apricots? They all grow happily in much of Georgia, and are the backdrop to a lot of the food in the region, Armenian, Georgian, and Azeri, as well as Persian, Kurdish, etc.

How lucky I feel, that these distinctive patterns of cooking and gardening and farming and preserving should be such a fascinating and informative entryway into other places, other peoples. So much to learn. Life is way too short, don’t you think?

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