big Chef Bill Fuller, June 2019
“Do you remember the last time the cicadas came, Zoe?” I asked my daughter. I have a memory of the sidewalk littered with crushed cicadas and my little girl trying not to step on them as she is learning to walk. I am not entirely convinced the memory isn’t a mashup of a couple of separate occurrences that my mind feels would be more poetically satisfying if they happened in conjunction with one another. But I’m willing to pursue it because I am equally unsure that the memory is artificial. “They were all over the sidewalk in front of our old house. You were afraid to step on them. They were everywhere.”
“No, (pause) Dad. It was seventeen years ago. I wasn’t even one. How would I remember that?”
“Are you sure? I think you were walking then. You don’t remember?”
She gives me that “Can you really be that stupid?” look with which parents of teens are quite familiar. But of course she wasn’t aware of the cicadas. She is graduating high school this week. She’d have been 11 months at the beginning of June seventeen years ago. Even if my memory is real, it would be surprising if it made enough of an impression to carry forwards seventeen years to be realized in the prom-frenzied mind of a high school senior.
The cicadas always come in the moment of blossoming honeysuckle and blackberry flowers. I don’t believe I realized the temporal connection of the blossoming of these two flowers until a few years ago. Once I did, the combined aromas are one of my favorite scents. Many other seasonal garden events happen at this time. The garlic plants are setting scapes, which need to be trimmed off and eaten. The black cherries are just starting to ripen on the tree. Perennial herbs are at full throttle. Farmers’ product lists are getting longer and more robust. There is talk of tomatoes and corn soon, with maybe the first field tomatoes by the Fourth. The summer is inevitable and accelerating.
Also, though, it is the end of the spring season. The beauty of the local asparagus is fading rapidly. Ramps are pretty much done. The beautiful delicate spring tarragon is hardening off in the sun and developing a stronger, more pronounced anise flavor. And we are into the brief Western PA strawberry season that often seems to last for exactly three days. That delicious spring produce season is a quick one.
This particular seasonal transition evokes lots emotions in me. We say goodbye to some of our favorite spring flavors only to enthusiastically embrace some of our favorite summer flavors. We love what we are losing and love what we are getting in replacement. I often wish I could have these two food seasons together, to make the spring produce stretch out through the summer to have fresh ramps and sweet corn and perfect zucchini and sweet peas and morels and chanterelles and sour rhubarb and tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes all at one time.
But it doesn’t work like that. And as much as I wish I could have my sweet baby girl learning to walk stepping around sidewalk cicada corpses at the same time as I get to converse with this brilliant young woman about to leap into college life, we can’t have the seasons all together. One comes first, followed by the other. We just get to embrace the moments as they pass along.
So like the cicada, I will make the most of this moment in the sun. It is a beautiful one filled with great memories and promise for the future. What a time to reap and a time to sow.
Congratulations to all the Graduates! Good luck!