Today was Pansy Day at my house. Make all the jokes you want.
Pansies are the first flower to arrive at my local garden supply shop (also known as the town grocery store). They like cool weather; it was a little over 50º here today. In Texas people plant pansies in October, but here in the Midwest they’re a spring thing.
I have two concrete planters on my front stoop, and even though it was windy and a bit cold (I’m not like those other pansies, I like it hot), I got them planted. Mine are purple and yellow, clear-faced (not monkey-faced like the ones above) and the blossoms are a good three inches wide, bigger than I’m used to, nice and showy.
The job didn’t take but a few minutes, including a strange little visit from a squirrel. I saw him a few feet away under my spruce tree; he startled me so I growled at him a second, then I laughed. He didn’t run away; in fact he came closer, within inches of my foot, like he was tame and we knew each other. So we talked a few minutes. Squirrels don’t eat pansies, so no problem. He’s probably eaten some of my tulip bulbs over the years, but I don’t have the evidence to accuse him.
Deer like pansies, but I’ve never seen one in town. They’re all over this area from the Iroquois River to Lake Michigan and I used to see a ton of them driving home from the north late at night, but they pretty much like woods and water in the country. I’ve grown pansies before on my back deck and nothing ever bothered them.
Best of all, for my 15 minutes of work, was the great sense of satisfaction and well-being I got from the planting. I can’t articulate quite why that always happens; when I plant herbs and foodstuffs, I can anticipate good eating in the future, but flowers just make me feel good on their own, without any ulterior motive. Of course I love the blooms, but it’s the sitting them out in the dirt, giving them a good start, that connects me with life. It’s fun to participate in the growth of another creature. Some people keep pets; I garden.
Last Sunday I got the rest of the pepper seeds potted; they have to germinate inside, it’s too cold for them yet. I potted the first batch a couple of weeks ago, so I’m trying to string out the maturity dates. Once peppers come they all seem to arrive at once; I’m doing the same thing with the radishes and scallions. The first radishes have sent shoots and leaves out, but the scallions are still lollygagging.
When it starts to warm up more consistently, I’ll have a lot of planting to do; I’ve got lily-of-the-valley bulbs which can go any day now, plus gladiolus for later on. I’ve got carrot seeds and sage waiting on me too, as well as lots of flower seeds Peter sent. If I were really dedicated I’d just bundle up and dig every day, but it doesn’t take much of a chill to drive me inside.
Once the pansies were in it was time to start cooking dinner; gardening and cooking just seem to go together. The plan was pot roast; it takes a long time, but man, was it worth it. It’s an old-fashioned dish but you can’t beat it. I figure I spent about $7 total and will get three meals out of it. Mmm, the gravy!
Pot Roast with Vegetables
2 lb. chuck roast
1/4 C flour
1 T salt + 1/2 t salt
1 t pepper
2 T soybean oil
[2-3 oz. horseradish]
1 C water
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks, or 12 baby carrots
3-4 small onions
1/4 C water
1 T cornstarch
Trim most of the fat from the interior of the roast, separating along the muscles into 2-3 pieces of meat. In a small bowl stir together flour, salt and pepper; rub into meat. Heat oil in Dutch oven, brown meat on all sides; reduce heat to low. [Spread horseradish over half or all of meat, depending on your taste.] Add a cup of water and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Add vegetables and 1/2 t salt, simmer another hour.
Remove meat and vegetables to a platter and keep warm. Turn up heat under broth and get out your glass gravy jar and lid. (You’ve got an old jelly jar, don’t you?) Shake together cornstarch and 1/4 C cold water till starch dissolves; stir into broth and heat to boiling, stirring often. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Enjoy!
Tonight I did something a little extra, given I’m just one guy by myself: I poured my gravy into a gravy boat, just for an added touch of special. I’m convinced gravy tastes better that way. Even on a work night, even single guys: use your gravy boat, it’s why God invented the dishwasher.
I don’t even like cooked carrots, but man, they all disappeared. Cooked onions are sublime in a pot roast, I am always up for potatoes, and the meat has that robust beef flavor you can only get by a cheaper, slow-cooked cut. And the gravy, did I mention the gravy?
Okay, so this won’t be as popular a post as the one about Lust. But it’s all about appetites, enjoying our bodies, keeping life in balance, nurturing other growing things; as good as the food was I didn’t make a pig of myself.
I hope your week is this holy.++