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Country Mouse Monday: threshing & dreaming

Maybe you know this feeling already: the deep satisfaction of harvesting food you've grown with your own hands and land.

That's a sweet, sweet feeling that for me never gets old.

For me yesterday, harvesting the haricots Tarbais, the holy grail of beans, there was that and there was more.

There was the delight of learning a new word. Dry beans require threshing – getting the beans out of the pods. Cool!

There was also, though, mostly, this sense while sitting there on the patio in the late afternoon sun, with a bowl in my lap and the basket of dried pods in front of me, of continuing an interrupted family tradition of cultivation.

I was my grandmother, and my grandmother was me.

clockwise from top: my aunt Pauline, grandfather Pierre, my father Jean-Paul (age 5), my grandmother LaurentineMy father's people worked the land. Well, honestly, not all of them all the time. My grandfather Pierre left the village and spent 1900-1910 in San Francisco, part of another notable family tradition, and settled to the land when he returned and married my grandmother Laurentine, through whom he came to own Maison Assibat, the house where my father was born. 

We were just there, at the ancestral home, and I spent hours considering how there was the first place I ever saw how food grew, how one little old woman, my grandmother, could put in potatoes enough to fill a big bin in the entrance to the barn, a harvest enough to last the winter. This was the first place I ever saw chickens and neat rows of growing green food interspersed with carnations and pansies, the gorgeous mountains rising up on all sides in that beautiful fertile valley.

As a child, I remember sitting often of an afternoon with my grandmother on the covered porch we call the Gallerie in just the same pose I was in yesterday -- cleaning green beans for dinner, staring out and chatting while snapping the ends off and removing the long threads that run their length.

With every motion of my hands yesterday, splitting the dried pods and dropping the gleaming white beans into a bowl, I thought of my grandmother, long gone from this earth. I dreamed of one day cultivating the very same earth into which she planted her seeds. Even growing here in a place she never saw with her own eyes, still I carry her along with me, magic beans in my pocket.

And yesterday too, with the sound of cracking pods, I dreamed of cassoulet, that tasty classic slow-cooked fatty hearty dish from our South of France. With this bowl full of haricots Tarbais raised and threshed myself, there's a lot of delicious in our future, meals of beans and memories, the taste of the soil and sun and so much love.


Maison Assibat, Arrens-Marsous, France




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