In my mind at least I have been toying with goats! One of the advantages may be shorter grass in my meadow - it used to be a paddock but this year I let it grow to encourage the wild flowers and was rewarded with an abundance of butterflies visiting the buddleia in the garden - but back to the goats there would be milk, cheese and wool and eventually some years off maybe a curry. Frances is less certain, or rather she is very certain that she does not wish the company of goats. We have though been richly blessed with the fruits of the earth this year. Samphire picked straight from the marshes, blackberries and little plums from the hedgerows, elderflowers for making a sorbet, cobnuts from Kent, rhubarb from the garden, all the herbs that flourish in outdoor pots and best of recent days, figs from a neighbour’s tree enjoyed with Bulgarian cheese.
There is something special about eating from the wild that is exciting- the special treat of something freely given which is available when it is ready, not forced or imported from afra but right there within reach and to hand. These things need to be wild in my case for I am a poor cultivator. I walk my dogs jealously past the allotments admiring the raspberries, marrows and tomatoes knowing that I could never make those work for me.
There has been a resurgence of eating “in season.” My present cookbook of choice is Nigel Slater’s third set of kitchen diaries with his particular recipes for each month of the year and recently I found Tamasin Day Little’s book subtitles “The art of seasonal cooking.”
Abandoning the supermarket mentality of having everything whenever you want it restores our connection with seasonality and the rhythm of life but also sharpens our anticipation. Waiting for blackberries, gooseberries, mushrooms brings with it a mouthwatering expectation. Deuteronomy tells us
“When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you ……you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground ….. And you shall put it in a basket.”
The basket is to be taken to the priests to be placed on the altar where you are to celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given you.”
My father would say of his garden at at certain times that “it had gone over” meaning that the roses, the fruit or the flowers were past their best and were looking a little dowdy. There is no question of that with our offerings to God: We are to give the first fruits, those which appear when the all the conditions were perfectly right, when the fig, the apple or the strawberry judges that it is time to put forth. Notice too that our anticipation is then at its peak. We wonder at the things we have been freely given, we pause to give thanks for the abundance and the beauty and bounty that we have been gifted we do not eat the first but give it in thanksgiving to almighty God.
Tamsin's book - the art of seasonal cooking has a better and fuller main title: It is called “Simply the best”
And that is what we offer, what God gives us and what we give thanks for.