This Particular Spring
This is not the spring we imagined. Not the one reverse engineered in our memory—an orderly succession of blooms: wondrous witch hazel and helleborus cross-fading into crocus and star magnolia, then forsythia and daffodils, then weeping cherry and saucer magnolia and tulips and orchard fruits and crab apples and redbuds and straight on through dogwoods.
This particular spring jags and twists, delivering as it pleases. Crocuses bloomed before hellebores. Plum blossoms opened alongside forsythia.
All springs proceed fitfully, really. This spring more so, with its long stretches of days and nights that feel too warm and look too grey. We can't tell if it's still early spring—it's March in Kentucky, so maybe—or if we had early spring in January and summer will race in ahead of Derby Day.
And yet, this spring is wonderful. It's the only spring we get this year. The only daffodils and parrot tulips, the only tender green spring onions, pointing the way out of winter foods toward Kentucky's lush growing season.
Lots of good work and ideas sprout all around us this spring. As in the natural world, some, like visionary Chef Ouita Michel's forthcoming Honeywood restaurant, root deeply in the people, culture and natural assets of Kentucky and its land. Ouita explains beautifully here.
Good Foods Coop hosted a day dedicated to seeds, soil and gardening, where I relearned something forgotten since childhood: some vegetable bits can grow more of themselves, helping us boost fresh food in winter via "scrap gardening."
Chef Tanya White, who heads up the fine teaching kitchen at UK Food Connection, found local winter vegetables to use in teaching student Chef Ambassadors how to teach others to cook.
As part of the University of Kentucky's Year of South Asia, the Food Connection kitchen accommodated dozens of cooks and eaters for a Parsi meal, guided by guest chef Zavera Kanga. Volunteer helpers eagerly stirred from both sides of the stove, set up additional cooking stations on side counters, and made a feast together. Then, of course, we ate it.
Oh, and a basketball game or two occupied a lot of people. The players on the University of Kentucky's men's basketball team this year endeared themselves to us through their good natures, smarts, and of course their skill with the lob. It ended sooner than we wanted, on a brilliant Sunday afternoon. The Gardener and I watched, as is our habit, at West Sixth Brewery, which turns five this weekend and feels like it has been in place for a lifetime. The romance continues between West Sixth beer (and Kentucky Kombucha) and the remarkable dishes Smithtown Seafood produces just through the open passageway, to the happiness of all of us patrons.
Out of doors, this spring's surprises continue. Viburnum (V. x judii) flowered early, making for an unusual combination in a recent tiny bouquet: delicate Kentucky native blood root (white, in the center, Sanguinaria) along with grape hyacinths (Muscari) and the deeply fragrant white-pink viburnum. At the very least, this particular spring smells heavenly.
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FCC disclosure: this post mentions Chef Ouita Michel, of The Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants, three of which sponsor Savoring Kentucky. Other sponsors included in this post: Debra Hensley's Social Stimulus; Good Foods Coop, Smithtown Seafood. Thank you. Our sponsors keep Savoring Kentucky going.