Day of the Dead

The old corn stalks are waving in my garden. The beans are pretty much kaput. The chickens are barely laying any eggs. Must be the end of the season.
Frannie and I got out the sugar skull molds and made this altar together. As the nights grow so dang dark–and long! it is the perfect time to think about death and decay. My students at USF last week celebrated this time of year by making some amazing salsa–they roasted peppers and tomatoes on the comal, then blended in some garlic and onion, cilantro and salt and lime. I cooked the last of my corn and some black beans; we also had quesadillas with epazote and oaxacan cheese. A faculty-member in the English department–Tracy Seeley–died this year, and a few months before, a group spread some of her ashes in the garden. They spread them near the kale plants, and I remember being a bit jolted by seeing them. “There’s Tracy,” I said to my students. That’s all there is left, I thought, and felt a wave of sadness, even though I didn’t know her. I guess she was a total bad-ass, funny lady, who loved to garden in the USF garden before she got sick. We are going to plant a weeping Santa Rosa plum tree in her honor this January.
For the rest of class, we made a big compost pile out of the food scraps left over from our meal, from fallen leaves, from the green corn stalks, from the weeds, from the straw. That pile should heat up–to provide warmth and life for millions of bacteria who will break it all down. We named our compost pile Sebastian. My students are all so young, college kids, so death might feel so far away. I used to feel like that–immortal. But now, and every year, it edges closer to me. I think I would want at least some of my ashes spread in the USF garden, in my own garden, in my mom’s garden, in my sister’s garden, too. People will see the gray and the white bits and might wonder, like I did, is that a new kinda fertilizer? The answer is yes. And then that’s all there is. But for now, while we are here, let’s laugh. And garden.
Tell me what you are doing with all your tomatoes! I have a big bucket of them. What should I make during these dark nights?

7 responses to “Day of the Dead

  1. Kathryn Lyddan

    Thank you!

  2. Oh, if only I had a tomato or two left! The frost took them weeks ago. I would make tomato gratin, a recipe I ran across post-tomato season. It uses roma tomatoes (which were the only tomatoes capable of fighting off the blight this summer. Alas.) You layer them in a pan, sprinkle parmesan, panko, and spices, maybe fresh basil, whatever you like and bake them briefly until cheese melts. Very simple, but wow it sounded scrumptious to me. Now I’m craving it all over again. Lucky you. Fresh tomatoes. Please savor your good fortune.

  3. I bought a dehydrator this year and dehydrated the small tomatoes I grew. I’m loving eating them in salads and other things. They should last throughout the winter!

  4. With my end of season tomatoes, I roasted the cherry tomatoes and made a cream of tomato soup. Cube some stale bread and toast in oven . Toast with olive oil and put a few atop soup when serve with sprinkle of parsley

  5. Just finished “Farm City” and realized it is same location as Oakland warehouse fire, !! Such a tragic waste.

  6. canadiangranola

    I spread my 102 yr old grandmas ashes in my garden also. It felt right, returning her to the earth, and having her provide energy for the food that my babies eat.

  7. Wilma Faerber

    I just finished reading Farm City and loved it. I like your writing style. I did make tomato sauce this past season and I made homemade tomato soup with it. It rocked. Grilled cheese to accompany. I also make fresh salsa and eat that up. I brought in about 40 tomatoes last fall that hadn’t ripened. I had my last fresh tomato in November. Let them ripen in the shade.

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