F O R A G E R
Good old Papalo. Can’t keep a good weed down. He was rangy and root-bound when he arrived here from Don’s, but he’s bursting with some good old-fashioned Bajio goodness, a fresh, not unpleasant but obscure Zapotec treat to chew on. You’ll know Papalo when first you lay eyes on him because many have never seen the herb before. Then the taste will underscore the exotic. Truth is, people claim Papalo cures the common cold, or at least prevent it. Eleanor boasted that it made her smarter but I don’t know how she can tell because she’s already pretty smart.
I could say something melodramatic, like, “This is what a drought looks like”. Or…”Papalo….goes well with some roasted, crushed acorns, a little kelp and some free range sand crabs.” The sand crabs are early and plentiful this year. Wait until they blow up in size though. Right now they are barely big as your baby fingernail, but give them time to scavenge about in the surf break and they’ll reward you with easy-to-catch and easy-to-eat satisfaction. Not that we are desperate. Though we should at least pretend we are desperate, because we are, blindly, even though the automatic sprinklers are still firing away on perfect lawns and Rosie Conklin can hose down her driveway like we just had a winter full of cloud busters and boulder crunching torrents. But does it matter if Rosie squirts her asphalt? Should we Gestapo each citizen-snitch so nobody will water a fern lest the water gendarmes haul us before the tribunal of public scorn and brutally Thumbs Down us in the Ojai Valley News? Should we abandon our holy mission at the Farmer and The Cook to serve everyone on washable plates and start shoving burritos at people on paper? Thumbs down to people with thirst! Thumbs Down to crockery and stainless! Thumbs Down, Thumbs Down, Thumbs Down!
Sorry Gwen, but what with the drought you have to either drink out of this paper cup or put your mouth under this spigot. Hold still and Dusty will turn the handle for you. She’s one of our designated quenchers. Remember to savor, Gwen, don’t gulp. And your dog can’t have any water either. He’s got to drink at home where nobody can see him.
Yes, this is what a drought looks like. I don’t believe we have ever observed such scarcity of produce before. Sure, we got some carrots, some beets, the rest of the potatoes and onions. Even illegal celery. I say illegal because it is against the law to grow it in Ventura County during the summer because we are in a Celery-Free time period. “ Growers* are supposed to lay off the celery for a few months so bacterial disease will not be harbored into the fall. And you know about celery in the fall. Think stuffing. Imagine a big old bronze turkey crammed with celery-infused stuffing. I’ll bet you can smell it even. Yummy stuffff-ing….
If the bacteria kills all the celery in Oxnard then there will be no stuffing, unless you want to use Papalo instead. But that would take half the thanks out of Thanksgiving. What would you do with all your cheese spread too, if there was no celery? But I am not too worried about contaminating the Oxnard Plain just because I have a few hundred celery plants struggling in the heat. It’s a mighty far waft for the alleged celery bacteria to blow all the way down there-against the prevailing sea breeze, I will remind you. But don’t tell the celery police about my contraband celery or they’ll send a SWAT Team up here in camouflage and helmets to yank the crop out of the ground like they do the Mary Jane.
You don’t know how many people have suggested that I should grow the Mary Jane here. Are they crazy? Guarding against the crows is bad enough, but can you imagine the load of trespassers I would engender if I grew that stuff? Celery is illegal enough for me. They also suggested I could grow the hemp, the rope-dope that’s had all that buzzy THC wrung out of it. They say hemp’s drought tolerant. Yeah, in Nebraska and Iowa where it rains in the summer, ya freaking hop-heads!
* I have never been called a “grower” though the news media calls me that because I “grow” things for a living. The term “grower”, when used in common speech, almost always refers to a Marijuana farmer. They even call his farm a “grow”…. as in, “ I heard the Sheriff busted a big grow up in the Dick Smith Wilderness last week.”