Somehow while driving home from coffee with a friend today, I recalled one of my favorite summer memories.
Go back in time with me to a simpler time. We lived in a small suburban development right on the edge of "development" though the city was expanding fast, chewing up farms and land and spitting out cookie cutter houses faster than one could blink. It was the early 60s..
Jim the milk man still made his rounds, bringing milk, cream and other dairy goodies to the door. On hot summer days, we kids would stand by his truck and he'd dole out one ice cube to each of us. His ice had a hole in the center, perfect for sliding over our finger like a ring and licking.
For most of a season in 1962 or so, we also had a trucker farmer would who drive around every Wednesday trying to convert families to the idea of fresh vegetables instead of canned. He packed the food he grew on his own land, plus the freshest and best he could pick up at wholesale markets.
If it was nice (and light) when he arrived, the women would walk out to his truck and check the produce. If there was something they were unfamiliar with, he'd give a family enough of the item free to try. He'd explain the best way to cook it to get the full flavor. But the women in our neighborhood were a cautious, conservative lot when it came to veggies. They stuck to their basics for the most part, not venturing into zucchini or acorn squash. Stick to watermelon, corn and onions. Safe things.
One warm summer day this green grocer man sold my mother a dozen ear of freshly picked corn. It was afternoon, so he suggested that we shuck it quickly and cook it up that night. (There were 6 in our family.. a dozen ear would be about right).
I was given a paper grocery bag to place the husks in and sent out to the patio to clean the corn. As I pulled the green husks and silk from the second ear, I saw a corn worm working on the kernels inside.
It scared me silly.
I screamed loudly and threw the corn as far away from me as I could.
And here's where magic happened. (like having a truck farmer bring fresh veggies to our door wasn't a miracle!):
The farmer walked into the backyard with another ear of corn. He had heard me scream, and figure out what had happened. He then sat there, cleaning the corn with me and telling me about how corn was grown, what he did to keep worms from getting into the corn, how they got there. The importance of insects in the world.
He didn't talk down to me, but didn't make the conversation too technical either. Just a man talking earnestly about growing food for people. It was important to him. It was also important to him that I know that every once in a while, I'll find a worm in the corn and not be too scared.
At the end of that season, he stopped coming. He told the women that it was a great experiment for him but that it wasn't as successful as he had hoped it would be. I think he sold his farm and moved away. I know we returned to fewer fresh veggies from the grocery store and more of the canned stuff that was easy to prepare and always ready in the cupboard.
Today I realized this man was decades ahead of his time. And I pray he eventually found a spot where his dream of providing families with fresh fruits and veggies (and new fruits and veggies) could take hold.
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