Grist for the Mill
Yesterday Cal Fire Butte County declared the Camp Fire, the most destructive in the history of California, 100% contained. This morning at dawn, so high in the sky that eyes could not see what ears beheld, a flock of snow geese fl ew over the house, the first noted of the season.
Before fire containment and snow geese, we heard so many stories about fleeing the fire. Some storytellers narrated the videos they had recorded on their phones. Some used only their voices, long stories or mostly silent ones. Like many who experienced the Camp Fire, the Carr Fire, the Delta Fire, I felt overwhelmed. For many days, I wasn’t sure there would be a winter issue of Edible Shasta-Butte. Too much else was consuming. And I myself was evacuated only overnight, the evacuation order lifted the next day, with a house, a whole neighborhood to go back to. Now, the magazine is almost to our printer, thousands will be delivered to our garage, and you will have it in your hands and read this.
The day after Earl, this magazine’s publisher and my husband, passed in mid-October, I stood in the kitchen at the cutting board, chopping vegetables for turkey soup. The onions, the celery, the carrots, the chopping, what a balm. I couldn’t have guessed at the number of days since I had done real work in the kitchen, work that yields real food. Soup, cold’s comfort. I remembered washing Earl’s body with two of his caretakers, Elvis Presley singing “Wise men say. . .” in the background. Cold’s comfort. The proximate cause of Earl’s death was dehydration. He hadn’t drunk in a week, hadn’t eaten for longer.
Does that paragraph even belong here? I write it because for the fall issue, I wrote in the Grist about the impact of Earl’s Alzheimer’s disease on his eating and drinking. Now it almost seems I mocked him in that writing: irony echoes as I write. I also write the paragraph because the Camp Fire caused us to postpone a gathering to celebrate him. Everyone we knew had either evacuated or invited evacuees into their homes, and the fire raged. Earl’s death and the fire then are like 100% containment and snow geese now. I hardly know which is louder. Paralysis lifts slowly. It lifts. Someone reminded me that fire restores, and the rain this week hints so. The weight of the fire’s destruction will someday be measured in its ashes, ashes to ashes. I have seen radiance behind a woman’s tears. She was describing not only the free meal Sierra Nevada’s restaurant served her and her husband who fled the fire in Concow but the wait staff and the other diners who embodied the gift of a meal.
This issue of Edible Shasta-Butte brings you a story of winter’s gifts and recipes that require much cutting-board peeling and chopping. We have more to tell about the losses to and the gifts from our food community, all engendered by the Camp Fire. We’ll do this in the spring issue. For now, my autocorrect changes widow to window and safe to sage. Really.
ON THE COVER AND ABOVE: For these winter botanicals, Susan Lofthouse Meade used watercolor and colored pencil for the butternut squash and colored pencil for the citrus. Both offered much in the way of texture and color; Susan enjoyed trying to capture the waxy smoothness of the squash as well as the bright bumpiness of the citrus. You can see more of her artwork on her website: splofthouse.wixsite.com/botanical-art
Photo courtesy of Septentrio
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