Letter from Rach: Welcome to the Jungle

Summer is the time for us to step outside-and come together.
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rach and john in vegetable garden

John and me, getting our green on. He does love him some fresh veggies!

Actually, we’re in our greenhouse. For years we dreamed about having one. Wouldn’t it be nice, we thought, to put up a little place near the house to start plants and grow things in the winter? Then the house burned down, so now we have a greenhouse up there, but no house! But we can get fresh herbs and tomatoes out of season; kale grows like a weed, eggplants too. Lush tomatoes in late winter? That’s luxury. 

My grandpa used to grow food for his family—he had to, with 10 kids, on working-class wages! And in time he had enough to feed the whole neighborhood. When I met John, he had a little tiny rooftop space where he grew tomatoes and herbs in pots and planters and I was enchanted. He was so resourceful, just like my grandpa. And now, so many people are doing it. They started pandemic gardens with their families as a project together. There’s a garden project for everyone, truly.

It’s exciting to watch anything grow and to know you’re eating something you nurtured. John will say, “Are those our peppers? Is that our tomato?” You feel a sense of life and growth, a sense of accomplishment. The alchemy of growing a small amount of your food reminds you that change can bring about good things. It’s a panacea in that way. 

And your food will taste different. So much stuff in our grocery stores, even fancy ones, is meant to live in warehouses and have a long shelf life. Your own veggies will taste bolder and stronger, and as a result you may want to eat more of it raw! 

And you can share it. My favorite gift for summer birthdays is giving a big basket of our veggies and telling the recipient they can bring it back anytime and I’ll refill it for as long as we have a harvest. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! Or you can drop some off with the neighbors. Keep what you need for yourself and give the rest away—nothing feels better. 

Last summer was hard, and we were all so far apart. Not only physically, but also in spirit. With all my heart, I believe we’re coming back together again this summer. As families. As communities. As a country. Now that it’s warm and we’ll be spending more time with each other, safely, let’s truly celebrate each other. Celebrate everything. Celebrate it being Thursday! When you can share time with others, in person, it enriches your life beyond anything you can buy, any “experience” you will have, anything a Zoom call can possibly provide. Let’s all celebrate that. 

In this issue we have a lot of great things to eat as you celebrate the everyday: my silly-good carnitas tacos with all the sides; 10 new 30 Minute Meals packed with all this amazing late-spring and summer produce (I’ve got fava fever something fierce!); a bunch of recipes that make the best of the berry glut—grow some if you can, or buy them at your farmers’ market and cook ’em up in new and genius ways. Then put your butt down. Pick your fork up. And make your world a better place, one bite at time.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2021 issue. Get the magazine here.