Basil

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!

About sagesomethymes

Daniela is a writer, theatre producer and civic educator. She has had poetry and short stories published in 'Prayers of a Secular World', Inkerman & Blunt; 'Blue Crow Magazine', Blue Crow Press; 'Knitting and other stories', Margaret River Press and Radio National’s '360 documentaries'. Her debut play, 'Talc', was produced in 2010. Her short play, 'Sicilian Biscotti', was produced for the launch of “Women Power and Culture” at New Theatre in 2011 and shortlisted for the Lane Cove Literary Award in 2015. Her second full length play, 'Friday', was produced by SITCO at the Old Fitzroy Theatre in 2013. 'The Poor Kitchen' was produced in 2016 as part of the Old 505 Theatre’s Fresh Works Season and was published by the Australian Script Centre in 2017 (https://australianplays.org/script/ASC-1836). It was re-staged by Patina Productions at Limelight on Oxford in 2019. She co-wrote 'Shut Up And Drive' with Paul Gilchrist and it was produced at KXT in 2016. In 2019, her new play, 'Seed Bomb' was produced at Old 505 Theatre as part of the FreshWorks Season. She is the co-founder of indie theatre company subtlenuance (www.subtlenuance.com) Her published short stories can be read via the Short Stories tab on this blog.
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