Community Dear Nana Food Happiness

Good Neighbors in Spades

Nana creating a new garden, circa 1920

Dear Nana,

I’ve been busy “Nanafesting” all week. That’s what we call it when we “manifest Nana,” usually in the kitchen. Seems like I’ve been cooking all week. I baked a cake for Jason’s birthday, made twenty sandwiches for Alisa’s moving-in party and five dozen chocolate chip cookies for Geoff’s birthday.

No, they weren’t as good as your cookies. No cookies ever could be. I’m still kicking myself for not paying better attention when you taught me how to make those extraordinary cookies. I could have at least written down the recipe!

For one thing, I’m not using butter these days. Was it sweet or salted butter that you used? Was the right kind of day rainy or dry? Did you use all brown sugar or half brown and half white? I do remember how important it is to cool the cookie sheet between baking, though. I can picture you putting it outside the back door on a cold day for a few minutes.

At any rate, it’s the thought that counts and my cookies were well received. The target of my affections felt suitably honored, and the cookie plate was soon empty.

You would love it here. Our neighbors and co-workers are pulsing with good energy and generous to a fault. Bob and I do our best to keep everyone fed and happy and all their problems solved. It’s a lot like your neighborhood, the one where friends dropped by with garden produce or cake, where people had time for each other and shared the burden of life’s challenges.

Jason and Haruka left for Dallas yesterday, gifting us twelve pounds of tomatoes which I’ll be turning into sauce. I haven’t forgotten your sauce secrets; red wine, Italian sausage and beef stock, only I use vegan sausage and beef broth. Bob brought in a bucket of peppers, so I’ll be adding five pounds of green bell peppers. I’ve even got some celery to throw in!

I’ll use the sauce in baked ziti which I’ll bring to the Biofarm CSA dinner on Tuesday. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Piedmont Biofarm is one of our tenants at work and we get a share of their vegetables every week. It’s fun to take tomatoes from one farm (and garden peppers), turn them into sauce and share it with another farm. We like to keep it moving, spreading the wealth as it were. Surely we don’t have monetary wealth, but food and comfort are the real currency of life, and that we have that in spades.

Sarah, Joe and the moving crew after unloading the outhouse

Alisa, her husband Chris, their three kids, and their extended family, Sarah and Joe, are a great addition to the ‘hood. They brought all kinds of animals, too – dogs, chickens, rabbits, parrots and pigs! They’ve got a back-to-basics mindset which echoes yours. They even brought an outhouse. I know, I can hear you saying, “That’s taking things a little too far.” And they have big gardening plans for their new nine acre property.

In fact, most of our friends grow some of their vegetables out back. Backyard gardens skipped a generation or two but are now returning. It’s a good trend.

Well, thank you for teaching me how to be a good neighbor. What’s new in your world? I hope you are happy up there in heaven with Jesus, heh heh…

Love, Cookie

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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