by: James Simpkins
I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t miss much. Not about everything, mind you, but specifically around food related issues. Of course, this doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. On the contrary, the more I look for foodishness around Connecticut, the more I find--the more I realize how much I’ve been missing. While this week was no exception to that rule, the folks I came across are birds of a different feather. Usually, when people talk about the players in food world they are recognizable entities like Whole Foods, ideas like fair trade or organic, and brand names like Kashi, Silk or Stonyfield Farms. Others are also well-known but reside outside the realm of mass distribution, like “farmers’ markets”, “sustainable and responsible agriculture”, and “compost.” This week, I added “The Unknown Gardener” to my list of those making a difference in American gastronomy thanks to two households near North Canton. As I’ve mentioned before, this summer I’ve been driving quite a bit and have found myself looking for short-cuts wherever I can find them. Heading north from Canton, Case Street cuts off some distance between route 179 and route 219 on the way towards Granby and the airport. This wasn’t a new discovery as I’ve driven this way many times during my tenure in the Farmington River Valley. What was new to me was a certain table with fresh cut flowers that I saw a few weeks back. At first I thought this was someone who was trying to make some money by selling unsuspecting drivers whatever they could pull out of their backyard. In some ways, I was right. When I stopped being cynical about it, I realized I was looking at the front line of sustainability, the effort of individuals homes----and driving right by. So I stopped.
What I saw were four gorgeous bouquets of cut flowers, protected from the heat by the (now charming) pink umbrella overhead and sitting in fresh water from which they were certainly drinking deep. These were not only generic “flowers”, but a lovely mixture of daisies and black-eyed susans and at least five other types of blooms that I don’t know (I’m not very knowledgeable about flowers). The result is in an almost wild aesthetic that brings to mind idyllic, windless, locust-filled meadows of summer that seem to delight in their efforts in growing under the still, even encouragement of the midday sun. And they are five dollars. I am nearly sick with appreciation.
What kind of
person tends their flock of flowers throughout this strange Connecticut summer
then shares them with the rest of us for pennies on the effort? I don’t know.
Somewhat romantically, I don’t want to. It is enough to stop the car, leave my
money on the saw-horse table and look forward to the next time I drive by.
My wait isn’t
long. A mile later I see another umbrella---and more flowers. I pull over