Letter from the Editor
My weekend house vegetable garden is a tormenting two-hour and 15-minute drive from my home outside of Boston. On most Friday nights in the summer, inky nightfall is closing in by the time my kids, husband and I find ourselves amidst the Cherokee Purple and Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, the Bibb and Boston lettuces, snow and sugar snap peas, beans, cukes and other edible creations creeping, climbing or otherwise increasing in my garden in southern Vermont.
Gripping a glass of wine in one hand, a basket in the other, my halogen headlamp attached helter skelter, I gingerly make my way between the raised beds, scanning for fat tomatoes and slender beans, only dimly discerning the dinner possibilities. My son yanks purple carrots from the soil, wipes off the dirt on his shorts and chomps down on the crunchy roots, while my daughters tear off basil leaves and search for little yellow squashes shaped like flying saucers. My husband — who last summer dispatched an unlucky groundhog that maddeningly grazed on everything but actually consumed nothing — scans the garden for signs of another invasion.
This is heaven on earth.
My vegetable love took root in my teenage years, when I discovered our sprawling backyard plot in western Massachusetts. As a kid, I never thought about how our garden was sustainable. My guess is that even the simplest definition of sustainability — renewing consumable resources — never crossed anyone’s mind in my family.
But emotional sustenance — that’s a different matter. Little did I know that my mother, who patiently coaxed a symphony of vegetables and fruits from that patch year after year, was planting in me a lifelong love of gardening, cooking, sharing meals and generally celebrating everyday creations of the earth and of the table.
She didn’t do it by assigning endless chores in the garden, and I was indifferent to getting the nitrogen levels right for the bell peppers, keeping the cabbage moths at bay or spreading compost in the fall. Weeding was about all I could manage — and then only when it was convenient, paid work. But I did enjoy plucking and plopping crimson raspberries right into my cereal bowl before breakfast and
picking corn when the water was boiling.
By the time I built my own vegetable garden almost a decade ago in a gently sloping field facing the Putney Mountain range in Vermont, I was obsessed: No casual hobbyist (at least no sane one) would actually try to maintain a 2,000-square foot garden on her own — almost entirely on weekends — in the green mountain state’s mercurial climate.
Obsession, of course, is just another way to describe passion — something foodies of all persuasions — chefs, cookbook writers, restaurateurs, farmers and gardeners — know something about. And as the many Brandeisians in this issue demonstrate, foodie passion can take many forms, from teaching Vietnamese street kids how to cook fabulous dishes for a living to resurrecting a historic Vermont cheese and factory; from envisioning a more sustainable New England to starting a kosher baking revolution.
With great verve and inventiveness, the Brandeisians in these pages display true thoughtfulness about food.
Laura Gardner, P'12
Editor in Chief