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I love the feeling of connectedness: to my family, to my heritage, to our past. Life seems richer when placed in the context of being alive as a product of the energy, and intentions, and love of those who have come before us.  Gardening, reading, and cooking enrich my life, but these pastimes also connect me to my past.  You see, my father has gardened since I was a small child.  I remember marveling at the bright colors and patterns of his flowers.  Over the past 30 years or so, our family has worked together to create two large gardens at our lakeside cottage.

Our old hydrangea bush

This summer I have taken many pictures and combined them today with my other passions for vintage books and cooking  As a child, I devoured books, so when we visited my grandparents, they would allow me to read the old, leather bound children’s volumes which had belonged to my mother and her older brothers and sisters.  I loved these books so much, and read so many of them, that my grandparents began giving some to me.  I have since expanded from that small, sentimental collection and now have a wonderful copy (circa 1962) of The Secret Garden (which was written in 1911) with color plates by the charming illustrator Tasha Tudor.  So, may I present today some lovely quotes from The Secret Garden, interspersed with my snaps of our garden, followed by a recipe my mother served while we visited her there.

“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said.  “You remind me of someone else who loved the earth and things that grow.  When you see a bit of earth you want”, with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”

“They always called it Magic and indeed it seemed like it in the months that followed—the wonderful months—the radiant months—the amazing ones.  Oh! The things which happened in that garden! “

“She unchained and unbolted and unlocked and when the door was open she sprang across the step with one bound, and there she was standing on the grass, which seemed to have turned green, and with the sun pouring down on her and warm sweet wafts about her and the fluting and twittering and singing coming from every bush and tree.  She clasped her hands for pure joy and looked up at the sky and it was so blue and pink and pearly and white and flooded with springtime light that she felt she must flute and sing aloud to herself and knew that thrushes and robins and skylarks could not possibly help it.”

“…if all the flowers and leaves and green things and birds and wild creatures danced past at once, what a crowd it would be!  I’m sure they’d dance and sing and flute and that would be the wafts of music.”

“…over walls and earth and trees and swinging sprays and tendrils the fair green veil of tender leaves had crept, and in the grass under the trees and the gray urns in the alcoves

and here and there everywhere were touches or splashes of gold and purple and white…and there were fluttering of wings and faint sweet pipes and humming and scents and sounds. And the sun fell warm upon his face like a hand with a lovely touch.”

“…the buds began to unfurl and show color, every shade of blue, every shade of purple, every tint and hue of crimson.  In its happy days flowers had been tucked away in every inch and hole and corner.”

“Fair fresh leaves, and buds—and buds— tiny at first but swelling and working Magic until they burst and uncurled into cups of scent delicately spilling themselves over their brims and filling the garden air.”

“…surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one.  Two things cannot be in one place. ‘Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.’

“Sometimes since I have been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something were pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast.  Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing.  Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes, and squirrels and people.  So it must be all around us.  In this garden—in all places.”

Lastly, my love of cooking came from my mother, who was trained by her mother-in-law, who brought her recipes to New York from her mother…

A centerpiece from our garden

My mom whips up fabulous feasts whenever we visit the lake. Below is her recipe for the absolutely scrumptious Grilled Wild Salmon with Grilled Pineapple and Sweet Onion Salsa she served us a couple of weeks ago.

Wishing you every blessing,

Christina

Grilled Wild Salmon with Grilled Pineapple and Sweet Onion Salsa

(from Char-broil Everybody Grills)

Ingredients

18 ounces fresh or frozen Alaska in the wild salmon

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup dry white vermouth

3 tablespoons grape seed or canola oil

One medium Vidalia or other sweet onion (peeled and cut into ¼ inch slices)

One medium fresh pineapple (peeled, cored, and cut in half length wise)

(Mom says you can use pre-cut spears from the grocers, then add juice from the container into the salsa)

One bunch of cilantro

Directions

  1. Cut fish into two large or four smaller portions.  Place fish in non-reactive glass container, and season flesh with salt and pepper to taste.  Turn the flesh side down and add white vermouth.  Cover and keep in refrigerator until about 20 minutes before grilling.
  2. Preheat large stockpot to medium high.  Add 3 tablespoons of oil, then stir the onions into the pot, watching closely to prevent burning.  Reduce heat to low, and sweat onion slices, uncovered, for 3 minutes.  Turn heat up again to medium high, and cook onions until they carmelize.  Remove from heat, and set aside.
  3. Preheat grill on high.  20 minutes prior to grilling, remove the salmon filets from refrigerator, and place them on a clean, waxed paper covered platter and bring them to room temperature. (Cold fish will cook on the outside, but remain raw on the inside.)
  4. Reduce grill’s heat to medium high; then place fish pieces on the grill, skin side down, surrounding them with the pineapple sections.  Close grill cover, and allow to cook for about 6 to 7 minutes.
  5. Use tongs to flip pineapple pieces, so the fruit gets brown grill marks but does not burn.  As fish pieces cook, turn them by inserting the metal spatula between the fish flesh and skin.  In one that movement, invert fish flesh back onto skin.  The skin it will continue to cook and get crispy while protecting the flesh from sticking to the grill.
  6. Cover, and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the pineapple after it gets grill marks.  (An instant read thermometer into thickest portion of fish should read 130°F when cooked, but we never do this part…call us risk-takers.)  The fish is done when flesh turns just opaque.
  7. If the onions have cooled, reheat them, but don’t let them burn.  Combine grilled pieces of pineapple with warmed onions.  Using the tip of the spatula, slice up the pineapple, allowing their juices to combine with the onion juices, creating a delicious elixir.
  8. Place fish flesh on a platter, and use the metal spatula to remove the now crispy fish skin from the grill.  Cover the fish filets with grilled the pineapple and caramelized sweet onion salsa.  Garnish your platter with cilantro and crispy pieces of fish skin.
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