A few weeks ago I captured and froze the last days of summer. Now they’re in the freezer ready for use in the long winter months ahead.
I was standing in my mother’s backyard amongst an explosion of late summer basil when I experienced an epiphanic food moment. In front of me and in my mother’s kitchen were all the ingredients for pesto! In the blender: newly harvested basil leaves, walnuts from the bowl on my mother’s kitchen counter, olive oil. She keeps litres of it stashed under the stove. Not only would I be creating a more sustainable lifestyle by eating fresh and local but I would be getting it for free. And with rents as they are in the Eastern Suburbs one must harvest where one can. I didn’t of course clock the food miles that it would take to get my pesto home by car all the way from Fairfield to the shores of the harbour but instead focused on sorting the leaves from the snails. After all one must maintain one’s connection with family, and nature.
The actual making of the pesto didn’t take long but was quite physically arduous, involving a lot of pushing and shoving. After all this was my mother’s heritage that we were exploring and her kitchen that I was invading. She had to make sure that it was done right. No room for experiment here.
And so basil was transformed into pesto. A gooey dark green paste was poured into a plastic tub. It would be enough I guessed for four pasta meals. I suggested dividing it into four separate portions but my mother assured me that it would not freeze and would remain soft. Grateful for her wisdom and loaded with the pesto, and as much other food as we could fit in the car, I drove home.
The urban environment is a rich source for food foraging – particularly in other people’s kitchens.
A few days later I entertained a friend for dinner. With the pasta pot on the boil and a glass of Semillon in my hand, I sautéed some mushrooms in garlic and chicken(cube) stock. Then for the wild addition to the meal: I proudly removed the pesto from the freezer and dipped in my spoon. Of course it was frozen solid. But dinner must go on! So after separating the pesto, the plastic container and my hand (almost) with the carving knife, we enjoyed the magic of a wonderful home harvested pesto on our supermarket pasta.
Apparently basil is also marvellous for calming the nervous system. Perhaps next summer I will simply make myself a cup of basil tea and watch my mother harvest the basil and make the pesto. And perhaps she can also show me how best to cook the pasta. And although her home made wine isn’t quite a Hunter Semillon, it’s free! And there’s plenty of it!