Dora Mushka – Carrots, Pickle Relish

Carrots

She stands in the carrot patch mulling over this year’s harvest. A deformed rainbow blend of reds, purples, yellows and oranges. She hoped their roots would grow strong and straight; penetrate deep into the rich dark soil. She sorts through the sad harvest; biggest to smallest. The small pile grows fastest. She remembers putting the seed in the ground. She imagines them on her plate. Perfectly shaped and shaved legs, the warm butter melting and sliding down their smooth round thighs, colors glistening, inviting her to take a bite. Not these carrots. Planted too thick again! She didn’t have the heart to thin; to pull things out that wanted to grow. She could have mixed carrot seeds with radish seeds, planted a seed tape, but she never did. But it wasn’t all her fault though, every rock or lump of dirt seemed to divert their growth, stop them up into stubby toes, or shred them into octopus legs. None looked like the marketing marvel of mechanically formed baby carrots in the grocery store. Easy to eat, easy to clean; perfect fast food snacks. She picks up a carrot, wipes it on her pants and munches it down as she walks back to the house. Maybe next year she will plant a seed tape.

Pickle Relish

Tart and Tangy Pickle Relish; the recipe appeals to her. She has a lot of cucumbers. She watered them well a week before, and they exploded onto production, climbing the corn stalks, growing fat and juicy. The best crop she’d ever grown. She remembers reading that cucumbers hated corn. It seemed a harsh emotion for cucumbers, but she made a mental note at the time, and then quickly forgot. It’s a small garden after all and things that hate one another have to get along. She picked a good two dozen large ones and set them to crisp up in cold water.

The recipe suggested using the food processor to chop the vegetables. Easy. Her mother used a food grinder with a hand crank. The same one dad used for sausage. It was mounted onto a wooden board that clamped to a table top. A bushel basket of cucumbers sat to the side – another equally large tub sat under the grinder to be filled with ground relish. She remembers helping push the cucumbers into the feeder while her mother turned the crank; watching as the blades cut through the flesh. They would make dozens of jars, and eat them all the next year.

Today, however, she cuts the recipe in half and makes only four or five small jars. She pulls out the food processor, roughly chops the cucumbers, red peppers, a couple tomatoes and onions then places them into the container. They are minced in seconds. She measures out turmeric, mustard seed, cloves and allspice, places them in vinegar, water and sugar to boil. She works from generations of practiced competence, sterilizing jars, filling them with hot relish, and processing in hot water. She loves the satisfying “thunk” of the lids as they seal. Feels pride as she writes on the labels: Tart and Tangy Pickle Relish 2013.

Bio: Dora Mushka is an aspiring writer, searching; after a career of writing for governmental publications, to find her natural voice as a writer, with the help of writer in residence Bernadette Wagner at Last Mountain Cultural Centre (LMLCC), Saskatchewan, Canada.

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