I've been in Rawlins for the last week staying with Mother and Daddy. This may well be the longest time I've been "at home" since my college days. This has been a relaxing time for me with ample opportunities to practice some of the techniques and recipes I learned on the European "taste and see tour." Many of the recipes had tomatoes and onions as key ingredients and with the current emphasis on eating foods locally grown, it is great that Daddy is a great tomato and onion grower. I have had plenty of both for my cooking, as well as carrots and cabbage for other more American meals. Fortunately the folks have been eager to experience the new recipes and to invite friends and family in for some fun dinner parties. It has been fun for me to come up with menus that are representative of the different countries. I think that overall the food has been good; or as my dear brother used to tell me, "We'll know it's good if it stays down." That was a high compliment from him. (I think)
Being in Rawlins for this extended time has given me the chance to see some old friends. Last Sunday I was so aware that I naturally gravitated to the pew where our family always sat. Just a couple of rows behind me was my 2nd grade Sunday school teacher; there were other folks present that I have known all my life. Even a trip to the grocery or hardware store is an occasion to see former classmates and long time family friends and even family members. Throughout the week my nephews and their families have stopped by to visit or to share a meal. Our roots in this town go really deep and no doubt have formed us all in various ways.
As I put that together with some of the reading I've done during the last several months about terroir which has been defined as the flavor or odor of certain locales that are given to its products, particularly with wine, I am so aware how we grew up eating locally, even before it was the latest fad. My grandparents and parents always had gardens. My family hunted elk, deer, birds. We bought lamb and beef from local ranchers. Daddy's garden provided lots of produce to many of their friends through the years.
Mark Davis is quoted in Amy Trubek's book, The Taste of Place, saying,"Terroir is character. it is the triumph of diversity over homogeneity." While there is no formula for determining this taste of place, there is a sense that the relationship that exists between the land and the folks who farm it, live on it, make their home on it, is somehow incarnated in their values, hopes and dreams. I know that somehow my need for independence, bucking up when the going gets tough and using humor to diffuse a crises is tied into the self-sustaining gardening, hunting and family meals of my family. I realize that the deep roots of lifetime friends which my parents continue to enjoy, even as the obits in the daily paper are more frequently of their friends, is something which amazes me. Perhaps going away and coming home again make me even more appreciative of the foundation which has supported me in what I have become and done. Perhaps that is why in the next couple of weeks I will spend some time in the kitchen with Mother, learning some of the family recipes which up until now have not been part of my repertoire.