In a neighborhood pumpkin patch, a brief conversation on eating flowers...

September 14th, 2014, 5pm

It was 31.7°C with overcast. The wind was calm.

For some mysterious reasons, I have had a slow time writing out this moment, despite its simplicity. That’s because there is a momentous framework adorning this slight conversation, if only to celebrate my first walk after my final knee surgery that I wish to set the stage for this wistful, beguiling silk scarf of The Magician, whosoever She is practicing her arts of Serendipity and random acts of smiling, as She delivers to me her sleight-of-hand presence(s) on an ordinary Saturday afternoon.

In writing it down leading to this version, I kept getting bogged down in my claustrophobic headspace of recovery, rest, rehab, and recriminations against the squawking stupidity of Climate Change denialists, of the NFL protecting the Shield rather than the women who don’t need hitting to prove what being a man means, of lies, of Syria, of all the wars where civilians get bombed from Tulsa, 1921 to Guernica, to Nagasaki to Syria today. On the other hand…..

there are blessings that give us all the joy to face the pain in life, and walking is truly a blessing that’s how I stay connected to making my language buzz like a bumblebee lost in a galaxy of colors, words, and the dancing physical act of being alive. To know that this little walk really is my first step, finally, after nearly losing everything except my passionate intentions to return to my alchemy as a chef and writer…

So I had nearly completed my jaunty gimpy stroll on a Saturday afternoon where the cobbler baking oven of Summer is poised to give way to the scents of Goethe’s pear ripening fragrantly inside the writerly desk of Autumn, an ordinary Oregon in September day marked subtly already by a long-lost friend (a redhead artist friend, haha not my Delilah) who’d shared the new Leonard Cohen songs with me, thus echoes of “Samson in New Orleans” played deep in my bones, urging me to summon the strength to take another step “to shake this Temple down.” We all need our talismans….

In the distance, I see the mirage of a pretty young redhead heading my way down the bucolic PDX avenue. She veers to the side street where I’ll turn to make my last homestretch for this 1st circumnavigation of my hopes & dreams of walking like a poet again, like Robert Walser granted his freedom, or Bruce Chatwin not cut down by The Butcher of The Unspeakable, soon so I can walk perchance to dance, or even do the soft shoe bebop jazz shuffle on my own terms into whatever Old Age will be granted me.

When I turn into my homestretch turn, the woman is gazing into the new pumpkin patch that has grown robust vines, with a few big pumpkins and plenty of blossoms. It seems fairy tale magical, like some iteration of Linus from Charlie Brown’s universe has summoned this; after all, my twin nieces have Halloween birthdays and there has been much discussion of costumes for me, and I have decided to be some sort of masked pumpkin superhero for this first birthday I get to spend with my nieces.

I had not noticed the stirrings of this pumpkin patch before I got my sawdust self repaired, and the fact that she is peering into this buzzing tumult of vines, gourds, flowers, and the sudden arrival of beauties prompts me to recall the tag line of this ee cummings poem, from ”voice to voice, lip to lip.”

The pretty redhead is peering deeply into these vines, slowing down Time like she is deciphering secrets for The Magician, long enough that my slow boat to Neverwhere can round the bend in this River of Time that sparkles like a moment ripening, just me, my cane, and dreamy dreams passing an unexpected pumpkin patch.

With all this, and so much more signifying the the sound and fury of my tatterdemalion universe, I said to her:

“It’s quite a nice pumpkin patch they’ve got going.” She looks up, catches my friendly eyes, replies, “Yes.” I may have interrupted a reverie she had, while inspecting the vines.

I make it a point to keep lurching forward on my cane, destination ahead. “They already have a couple of nice pumpkins full grown early for Halloween, but if it was my pumpkin patch I don’t think that I’d have any this early because I’d keep eating the blossoms.”

As I say this I execute a pas de deux, gimping past her, content not to bother this redhead but unable to pass without re-phrasing the epic last line from that ee cummings poem.

“I’ve always admired,” says I, “this particular ee cummings poem that ends since perhaps the thing is/to eat flowers and not to be afraid so I always love eating squash blossoms especially!”

“You mean you can eat the flowers?!” she replies, “How do you do that; where do you know how to trim them?”

“You’ve never had squash blossoms?” surprised and as always dismayed that a goddess understudy, such as I pretend she is, does not innately know, like I imagine a hummingbird must understand from birth, which flowers one may devour delicately. “Of course, not all flowers on edible plants are edible, but in the case of all squash I’m pretty sure the answer is Yes.”

I beckon her to see this lovely specimen, as harmless bumblebees whirr close by. “Pumpkins give really lovely flowers big enough to stuff. This particular blossom is a great size, and since the plant doesn’t fertilize with every flower, it really is fine to pluck them.” I point to a row of dried flowers elsewhere on the vine that dried out, shriveled, useless, as a cautionary example.

“You see that little squash beneath that connects the flower to the vine? You clip right there, and while the little squash is okay to eat, the flower is what we cherish.” I’m wearing my chef’s pants today on my little circumnavigation, so she smiles as I go on talking. “It takes delicate fingers, or tweezers, to pull out the pistils but leave the flower intact. When you see squash blossoms in a farmer’s market, they’ll be attached to the little squash. I love to stuff them with goat cheese and muhammara, a Syrian red pepper dip w chiles and pomegranate, blended together. I gently sauté mine when stuffed, and you can stuff them with anything you can dream up, salmon (that’s what I said now I’m in the Pacific NW, the seafood default, but in New Orleans it’d be blue crabmeat or crawfish stuffing, or…!!!), or meaty business, eggplant tapenade. Lots of chefs like to seal the stuffed blossoms with a toothpick and deep fry them. You can put shredded blossoms on risotto or soups, too. Don’t be shy, get a lot of them from a gardener and play around. But do it quickly when you get them, because you know flowers aren’t meant to last.”

I swear that I said every word, a true story. It felt good to make someone happy, for Serendipity’s sake, to send this redhead goddess-in-training on her quest to eat flowers in this burning world, on my first walk back into the sawdust circus of my acrobatic life as a chef.

We bid adieu, her with a promise to learn to eat flowers, me thankful that my life stands for paying it backwards to a poet, and forwards to the mighty mischief ahead…

P.S. If you look closely into the background of this photo, you might discern a pumpkin rising like an orange harvest moon blazing amidst the stardust vines of this garden, simmering on a summer daze in Oregon. It’s there, making magic in an ordinary yard if we take the time to begin deciphering secrets together.

Adrian, Ken, David Wade and Sanna said thanks.

Share this moment

Chris DeBarr

Chef who believes in eating the world to save it. Wine & language & sharp knives are the tools of my métier. At heart, I'm a warm & fuzzy Dadaist.

Create a free account

Have an account? Sign in.

Sign up with Facebook