Grandma Annie and Drying Parsley
When I was a child I spend a large chunk of every summer at my grandmother's house across the river in Frenchtown. It was usually toward the end of summer, the dog days of August, when this visit took place.
Frenchtown and my grandmother's house seemed quaint to me, as opposed to the noisy kid-filled neighborhood on Main Street. In Frenchtown, everyone had a garden and shed, and produce was readily shared with neighbors. Only the Bergs had a garden in my home neighborhood.
One evening after supper, Grandma Annie took down a large basket from a hook in her "back kitchen," a room where her sewing machine kept company with a monstrous cabinet her father had built, in which seldom-used kitchenwares and canned good were stored.
"Come with me," she said, and we took a three-block walk to the home of another family with a French Canadian name.
There the basket was soon filled with tomatoes, carrots and green beans, the latter Grandma's favorite. A 20-minute chat ensued, and many thanks and I began to fidget. But I knew, despite my youthful restlessness, that this was a magical moment, a sort of quaint ritual I might never see again. It was charming to me.
Another time, perhaps even that same summer, another neighbor brought Annie a bunch of fresh-picked parsley. I watched, enchanted, as Grandma washed it and gathered it together with a string, hanging it on another hook in her back kitchen.
Mystified, I asked about it, as I'd never seen it done before; my mother used seasonings stored in white glass jars on her spice rack. Grandma explained that drying fresh herbs this way was a method of preserving them for winter use in stews and soups.
Later in my youth, there was a long time when food seemed to come in boxes, not baskets, and our eating habits shifted, before changing again for the better.
Now I gather parsley and other herbs from my garden and dry them in my own backyard room, which houses a computer, a storage bench and pantry shelves as well as a corner hutch. I use a huge woven basket to buy produced from farm stands and the farm market.
Always with my Grandma Annie in mind.