A friend gave us a bag of surplus from his beautiful gardens. Cucumbers (he had extra before my first were ready), green beans, peppers, jalepenos, garlic. Another friend had a potted lemon basil plant and asked me if I'd ever used it. I hadn't, so she told me to take a sprig and try it out.
These are the simplest of gifts, and yet again, somehow they feel decadent. Operating under the assumption that everyone else gets as much pleasure from their gardens as I do, I know it's not a small thing to share what you've grown. And, when I'm on the receiving end, it's not a small thing for me to accept such lovely offerings.
Like a transaction between associates of a members-only club, knowing looks were exchanged when the produce changed hands. Our friend knew I was going to enjoy the goods, and so did I. I was absurdly excited to present a pile of fresh cucumber rounds (skins peeled in stripes for effect) to the son who balks at most veggies but loves cukes. I could not wait to trim, wash and blanch the green beans, then quickly saute them with olive oil and garlic and serve them to my family as a wholesome, delicious accompaniment dish at dinnertime. And the gorgeous garlic - the bulbs sit in little, multi-colored, ceramic pots in the window above my sink. They are so pleasant to look at while they wait their turn to be used - so aromatic and deeply flavorful - in the next meal. And, I think of our generous friend every time I see them - a nice bonus.
The friend who gave me the lemon basil knows that I enjoy cooking, but she doesn't cook, herself. So, while she might not understand the joy I got out of those few leaves, I'm so grateful that she sent them my way. There's a dish that I make for only myself because none of the menfolk in my household like what's in it (I think they're crazy, and sometimes I'm glad because I don't have to share it). It's a mock-ceviche with shrimp, lemon juice, olive oil, avocado, oninons, kosher salt and basil. I thought I'd substitute the lemon basil in for the regular basil I normally use and it was phen.nom.i.nal. Appropriately named, lemon basil has a delicate yet intense lemon essence (in addition to being basil-ly). This amped up and deepened the flavor of the lemon juice to make the dish incredibly bright and sunny and the close-your-eyes-and-give-thanks-for-your-tastebuds kind of YUM.
I don't know about you, but I never felt this way about grocery-store produce. I know it's mostly my dramatic perspective, just me making mountains from molehills. But, considering that the final products came from little seeds and some dirt, water and sun, I think it's an appropriate outlook! Plus, I know my fellow growers personally (and am very fond of them). This makes it about more than just swapping a few veggies. It's about friends sharing a love of the experience, from humble start to glorious end. Simply wonderful.