Imperative basil

If I ever form a rock band – which is less preposterous now than it once was – I think I will name it Imperative Basil.

Imperative. Basil.

My farm share pick up is on Fridays. In theory, this is a great idea. I’ll have all weekend – luxurious laid-out hours – to process mother nature’s bounty. A few weeks ago a note came through from our CSA saying that extra bundles of basil were for sale! $14 for 10 bundles. I thought about my great success canning pepperonata last year, and my favorite pesto/mozzarella/pepperonata sandwiches, and thought… pesto! I’ll make pesto! And I signed up for ten bunches.

A week passed.

Then I went to pick up my ten bunches. They were not ten REGULAR sized bunches. Oh no. There were ten VAST bunches. And the temperature was over 90 in my kitchen. The delicate basil had a life-span measured in hours, not days.

I managed to clear out enough room in the ‘fridge for the yards of basil. But I didn’t have lemon juice, nor did I have enough parmesan. Saturday morning, I slept in. When I got up, I had just enough time to get to the grocery store before Adam had to leave for aikido… if I didn’t stop for coffee or breakfast.

You have never in your life seen such a grumpy grocerier than I was that morning.

The next four hours of my life were spent in pesto making. There were three double batches. Twelve cups of pressed basil needed to be washed and stemmed. Pecans roasted. Jars readied. I stewed in the 90 degree heat. Adding insult to injury, I misread the pesto recipe for the first batch and added the amount of salt that was supposed to go into the WATER for the PASTA to the pesto. Doubled. Still, I labored on.

At about 2:30, the final jar of pesto was put into the freezer. Twenty one jars comprised 84 ounces. I had saved the basil. Alleluia.

Now, to save the afternoon. My plan had been to go to the beach after aikido, which I reckoned to last until 3. But at 1, my husband limped home. And by limped, I mean, limped. With only two weeks left to his aikido career, my husband managed to do something to his hamstring that involved horrible popping sounds. So there we had the oppressive heat, the imperative basil, the injured husband and the beach plans.

I corralled my children. I packed the fun bag. My husband limped around packing the food bag. I cajoled and threatened until people were covered in sunscreen – hard to rub in through the sheen of sweat. I put my children in the car. As I closed the door, I heard the rumble of thunder.

“By JOVE!” I exclaimed in fury!

My husband, bless him, pointed out it might be fun to watch the thunderstorms roll into the Atlantic from Gloucester, so we went North anyway. We drove through a deluge, with waves parting in front of the wheels of the car and lightening strikes to the East and West – the sun dimmed to twilight under the heavy burden of the falling rain. When we pulled into Good Harbor beach, they waved us through without payment. We’d driven past the bulk of the storm – assuming it to be hard on our heels – but the beachgoers were flocking out as the first drops fell.

We sprinted to the beach and tossed the children in the water, the cold and hot air like layers on a cake, the winds picking up. And we danced in the water, jumped through the waves, dove in, sluiced off, and laughed – knowing at any moment the storm would come.

Then we made the most awesome set of sand castles across a rill trickling through the saturated sand. Grey worked on the Fortress of Europe. Adam – across the channel – constructed the Fortress of Asia. I played Venetian and provided buildings to both sides, counting my profit. Thane dug holes and chased seagulls.

Then we had some lunch. I sat on a beach chair, cool winds to my back and warm sands underfoot, eating a salami sandwich on homemade bread when I was viciously, viciously attached by a seagull with bad aim. I retained my sandwich, but incurred an injury on my pointer finger. So far, I am happy to report, I have not died of mysterious seagull diseases, but in case my life is actually a Chekhov novel, beware.

The rain? It never came. The band of storms passed to the south. We stayed until we were played out, and headed home sandy and tired. When we got home, the breezes were cool and bracing.

We made it.

And in the winter I will remember – as I taste the oh-so-salty tang of farm-share, home made pesto – the heat and the joy and the luck of my summer.

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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