Rosemary grows in a pot in my kitchen window. Tonight I am making roast eggplant and will add some of this pungent herb. The sharp aroma, the tender prickliness of the leaves will let me remember a long-ago meal – with you, when we lived in Parma.
We had small garden outside our apartment where we grew zucchini and rosemary. Although you had brought us to Parma because of its architecture, was not the best place for you. It is a city famous for parma ham and parmesan cheese, not to mention horsemeat tartar. Yes, raw horsemeat seasoned with black pepper and garlic and herbs. You were vegan and angry with me because the night before I had eaten horsemeat tartar in a restaurant on Strada Republica. You had asked me how I could have even thought of ordering such a mean when I was with you. You had pasta with tomato sauce – no cheese. Parma is not a city for vegans. I refused to be intimidated either by you or the horsemeat tartar. It was wonderful!
Still annoyed with me, the next day you closed yourself in the living room which had become your art studio. You were constructing a photo collage of Parma Cathedral. Your mind was on your work and my presence irritated you. I tried to be quiet and read, but you were fascinating.
I watched while you caught Parma’s quiet dignity in your pictures. You encapsulated tranquility in your mounting of Parma Cathedral and the Baptistery, dating from the 11th century.
You brought us into intimacy with the cathedral, through the ancient wooden doors,
into the peaceful cloister.
We peeked into the courtyard,
then entered, resting at last close to a fountain.
So precise. So particular. You were so observant of light, shade, color. Your talent amazed me. Feeling guilty and shunned, I resolved to follow your example and be attentive in my own work.
I decided to roast the eggplants I had bought that morning to try to pacify you. But no red sauce. Would you like it? I hoped so. I picked two ripe Zucchini from our little garden and snipped tall sprigs of rosemary.
While you were busy attaching, joining, bonding, I assembled the ingredients and started to cook.
I sliced the vegetables into thick rounds. They were very fresh. As I cut they released the moisture that they had received from the damp soil. I minced garlic. Its acrid odor is deep. Like the earth, it clings and nurtures
I heated olive oil over a medium flame until its fruitiness exploded and it shimmered in the pan. I added the garlic, salt and rosemary. This herb makes all the difference. Rosemary is a dweller of the air rather than of the earth from which it springs. Its singular fragrance rises filling the kitchen with a piquancy that reaches upward. Earth smells and air smells in the fiery oil.
I coated the watery vegetables with the other elements – the fire, earth and air of the herbs sautéed in oil and lay then on a flat baking sheet and. I put them in the oven and hoped that they would be done within an hour. I didn’t understand the centigrade thermometer. I estimated three-hundred-fifty degrees Fahrenheit. I would have to keep checking.
An aroma from the kitchen aroused me from my meditation on you. The vegetables called me. The elements had combined to make an enticing dinner.
Some art forms endure over time and even make it stand still– literature, painting, photography. Others are consumed with time, disappearing even as you enjoy them — dance, theatre, music. A dinner carefully prepared must be taken at the peak moment. I called you and you came. Your art could withstand time, mine not. For a brief while we shared our pleasure.
This evening after so many years I am content in my kitchen with my potted herbs. I pick the rosemary for a present dinner. Rosemary always makes me think of you. Rosemary for remembrance.