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An ode to August

August 13, 2014

The tomatoes are late this year, but we just tasted the first sungolds from our garden, a golden cherry variety that bursts with flavor. They make a delicious no-cook pasta sauce, marinated briefly with home grown shallots in lemon juice and olive oil and tossed with cubes of local mozzarella, penne and thinly sliced basil leaves picked just minutes before serving.

Yes, I know I’m not supposed to be writing a food column. ButI feel like I’ve just come up for air, finally pausing from work to savor these last beautiful weeks of summer. The clear dome of the sky, the hypnotichum of bees in an unruly stand of monarda and coneflowers, and the cool nights that hint at the approach of autumn, all insist that I slow down and pay closer attention to the pleasures at hand, and tomatoes are high on the list.

It’s not that work has been particularly arduous. But I’ve been so caught up lately in the politics of energy policy and the logistics of moving projects forward in barely perceptible increments, it’s easy to become solemn and myopic. So I thank August for drawing me into its gravitational pull, for reminding me that sustainability is about more than policy and regulation. It’s about sustenance and quality of life. It’s about recognizing the abundance around us, drawing strength from what we have and building the ever-broadening circle of our community. And sometimes, it’s about flavor.

Supplementing the delicious first tomatoes in the garden are our amazing local shops and farmers’ markets, where the range of products has grown tremendously over the past decade. When we first moved to the Upper Delaware River Valley in 1998, we had to travel 30 miles to get really good bread or cheese. Now we can find local cheese, wine, cider, baked goods, meat and chicken, eggs, spectacular fruits and vegetables, prepared foods made with the best quality local ingredients, even handmade soaps and lotions and beautiful local wool for knitting. And our farmers have become expert educators, introducing us to unfamiliar items and teaching us how to prepare them, even sharing tips on growing at home. As new farmers’ markets proliferate, and new shops spring up along our Main Streets, we are building a sustainable local food economy and supporting the entrepreneurial skills of our neighbors.