I picked the spinach in that bowl on February 10, which is the dead of winter on the Blue Ridge, but the leaves I pulled from the ground were not dead. The big leaves with the red streaks on their stems had probably been alive for three or four weeks, during which time the temperature had dropped as low as 12 degrees now and then, and the little crinkly ones were basically newborns — that is, they had emerged from rootstock during a few hours on Monday and Tuesday when temperatures crept into the forties.
To express my wonder at the resilience of those leaves, I was going to write the harvest date on them in dark balsamic vinegar and then photograph them — their life deserved commemoration — but by the time I had poured the first two digits, I realized that the full date would hide the subtle spinach flavor under too much vinegar, so I stopped pouring and covered the numbers with sunflower seeds and a couple of Craisins.
“These leaves,” I told my dog, “shouldn’t be able to grow in an open field at this time of year.”
He quivered in excitement at the natural phenomenon the spinach represented.
“I’m not saying it’s a miracle that they’re alive,” I granted, “only that they shouldn’t be, and yet they are.”
He inched closer to my chair, closer and closer, in flagrant violation of established dinner table etiquette, believing I suppose that the meal we shouldn’t be able to eat would nullify such trivia as behavioral covenants.
And why not? How often does a meal of food that shouldn’t exist show up on your table?
He snatched it from my hand and ran into the kitchen, where he skidded to a halt, shook his head vigorously, and spit the leaf out on the floor.
It had a lot of vinegar on it. I hope he doesn’t associate that flavor with miracles.
Temperatures this weekend are supposed to drop to three degrees. If the spinach survives that kind of cold, I’m going to pick as much as I can and offer it to the sick, the forsaken, the broken-hearted, and the bored.
Maybe I’ll take some to Martin’s and sprinkle it into the bins on the salad bar.
Because either everyone deserves a miracle or no one does.