(Founder's thoughts - Anea's ramblings)
As a girl, I grew up on a sleepy street in Sonoma in an old Victorian that, for most of my childhood, was in some state of remodel. Our street had no sidewalks, and back then the East side of town was a tad hokey and a little old-fashioned. We had a garden in our backyard. Chard that repopulated itself every year and sometimes made random appearance's in Daddy' lawn, brave rebels towering in that inedible expanse of green before succumbing to the mower blade. Green beans with pointy ends that were imagined into the fountain pens used by the founding fathers, the mud that appeared in the garden rows after a watering the ink pots for signing the Declaration of Independence. Sunflowers masquerading as flowers easily fantasied as the shoe closets of fairies and elves. Tomatoes with their rounded shoulders, seeming flirty yet solid as they burnished into their Early Girl sunburns. Zucchini morphing overnight from dainty squash into massive baseball bats that I was convinced were under the spell of some mischievous garden gnome. Our garden was a part of our family landscape for as long as I can remember.
When I started school and made friends and we began comparing our lunches, I soon realized my lunches did NOT contain the forbidden fruit that so many others had - Twinkies and Fritoes and corn nuts and Cheetos and Ho-Hos. Puffy pink marshmallow balls covered in snowy coconut. Oreo cookies that could be twisted apart so your teeth left grooves in the white filling. Tiny donuts with powdered sugar exteriors to leave a dusty mustache on your upper lip. I had apples and oranges and home-dried fruit rolls on wax paper and homemade soup in a thermos. On a good day I got a homemade oatmeal raisin cookie and on a REALLY good day, I got a Waxtex bag with 3 Fig Newtons. When I ate dinner at some of my friends' houses, their macaroni and cheese was bright orange and made from a box. I'd only ever seen my mom boil the pasta and stir in the cheese that I'd grated, adding milk, butter, salt & pepper. Our butter was in a cube and would leave holes in your toast on a cold morning if you didn't butter your bread right out of the toaster. My friends used the creamy stuff that came in a plastic tub. I became resentful. Why were we such weirdos?
It wasn't until much later that my older sister explained to me how little money my parents had when we were growing up. By then I was in college and had already developed an appreciation for good food after a few stints in restaurants. I no longer viewed my family as weirdos but as mavericks. My sister burst my bubble a bit when she explained that they weren't so much mavericks as practical because when we were little, our parents made ends meet by having that garden and making our meals from scratch. Store-bought food was expensive and a luxury. We didn't eat traditional junk foods because our parents just couldn't afford to buy them. By the time they could, we were accustomed to how we ate, and I had also begun to notice that the food I got at home tasted tons better than what I ate at my friends' houses. While I relished the novelty of Pringles and Hostess cupcakes, I found comfort in my dad's pots of rice served with chop suey or mom's baked garden zucchini, halved, seeded and filled with sourdough & Italian sausage stuffing. I was familiar with the life cycles of the vegetables we ate. I knew what herbs were and picked them often. And my friends became fascinated with our refrigerator and cupboards because there was always something to eat and it was either fresh or homemade.
As an adult now with two small children, it's funny how persistently gardens continue to inhabit my landscape. My parents still live on the sleepy street with no sidewalks, their old Victorian a finished product with less space for gardening. Tomatoes and zucchini and green beans still make an appearance in borders alongside rose bushes and rhododendrons, but the chard has been permanently mowed into submission. But my husband has become an avid gardner and our children are learning to eat their food straight from the plants and trees and vines of our garden. What was a necessity of economics for my parents has become a necessity of food security for us. We want to know that our foods are not sprayed and our seeds are not tinkered with. Regardless of the reasons, the idea and the reality of a garden remains intact. Rebels and fountain pens and fairy shoe closets may become imagined a little differently in the minds and hearts of my own children. My kids will, nonetheless, have a world informed by the chard and green beans and sunflowers and tomatoes and monstrous zucchini that they pick, cook and eat. My garden landscape has come full circle.