Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Gardens of Combray

My father-in-law liked to proclaim that he never ate any vegetables that didn't grow in his grandmother's garden. Said garden was in Mark Brandenburg in Prussia, and no doubt contained potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, tomatoes and the like. No zucchini, no broccoli, just a good German garden. I'm sure there was rhubarb and gooseberries and red currants and strawberries. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Swann has a fancy garden with raspberries, and little backwater Combray has access to pineapple(!) along with asparagus, apricots, cherries and all that good stuff.

I am thinking about this because I remember MY grandmother's garden, but also because I read the New York Times Magazine last Sunday with an article on "Nutrionism." The gist of the article is that if you want to eat "right", then eat what your grandparents or great grandparents ate. Think. No processed foods, or very few. Not a lot of meat. Lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Butter, no margarine. Home made bread. Home made desserts. People worked hard and they could pack away more than we can without getting, well, porky. This is an interesting concept that bears thinking about. In the summer, we made ice cream. Without chemicals or preservatives. I can still taste the fresh peach and the strawberry, a lost taste that resides only in memory.

Rather Proustian, yes? He's still talking about Bergotte and Swann's daughter and the scandalous Mrs. Swann. And I'm thinking of Swann's raspberries and the beautiful woman in pink who ate a tangerine. Are there lessons here?



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