For many years, when life was slower paced, the front porch was where family and friends gathered to sit and watch spring arrive…it was a place to enjoy morning coffee or afternoon iced tea…it was a place to simply relax and cool off in a summer evening breeze…it was a place to enjoy the antics of hummingbirds amongst the flowers…and a place to enjoy the beauty of trees changing to their autumn colors. Often, the front porch gave a panoramic view of the garden and countryside beyond. On the porch there was shade and cooler air created by the slow whirring of an old blade fan hanging from the blue porch ceiling…this was our refuge from summer heat. During a rain shower it was the perfect place to sit on the old wooden porch swing while reading a book and listening to the pouring rain beat down on the tin roof…and later see the rainbow appear over the fields beyond the yard.
In late afternoon, after picking peas and beans from the garden, Grandmother and I would sit in the old white painted rocking chairs, blue and white enamel pans in our laps, shelling and snapping the vegetables. We watched the hummingbirds flitting about, the chickens scratching the dirt for bugs, and butterflies floating from bloom to bloom.
All summer long the porch was the gathering space after supper. Dishes washed, dried and put away, we played checkers or card games while watching the cows find their way from the pasture back to the barn. Grandfather would sit in his little mule-ear chair, sharpening his pocketknife on a whetstone. Later, as we told ghost stories the sultry, unforgettable fragrance of Oriental lilies floated on the breeze as the evening sun began to set. That sudden whiff of a plant loved in childhood will transport me back in an instant…
Today with urban living many homes no longer have a front porch…gathering areas have moved to the backyard. A patio or deck offers a quiet retreat and often forms a transitional space between house and garden. A paved or stone area next to the house provides the perfect spot for alfresco dining and entertaining…and a small patio or gravel spot tucked away in a corner offers a quiet retreat in which to read , observe or just daydream. On a patio that catches the early morning sun is wonderful place to eat breakfast absorbing the freshness of a new day as you linger over coffee. If you prefer, a wooden deck makes a nice alternative where the ground is uneven or poorly drained…although I would correct the drainage problem first before construction.
Serve a taste of summer on the porch or patio…As shadows lengthen over the garden and a slight breeze cools the air, it is a lovely time of day to enjoy a chilled and refreshing drink………….“Le cocktail de fruits au Champagne” is perfect on a late summer evening. Mix strawberries and blueberries or blackberries and raspberries, add some chopped mint or lemon thyme…put a spoonful of fruit in the bottom of a flute or coupe. Pour well-chilled Champagne over the fruit and serve right away while still bubbly.
Do the White Thing…or channeling VITA…Created by the magnificently creative Vita Sackville-West, one of the most famous gardens in the world is the White Garden at her home, Sissinghurst Castle, in Kent England. Vita had many great ideas for creating gardens and one of my favorites is her White Garden. It is an area planted entirely with white-flowering and silver-leaved plants…she actually called it…”my gray, green and white garden”. She created a remarkable legacy and was an inspiration for a whole new generation of English gardeners. Her romantic garden set the standard for what I refer to often as a “Moon Garden” as the light of a full moon highlights and reflects the white and silver plants such as Iceberg roses and Annabelle hydrangeas…La dolce Vita!
If you’re interested in reading more about Vita and seeing photos of her gardens, there is a great deal of info on the internet. Of course I prefer to thumb through her books and have several that I’ve studied for years.
Southern Pate or Pimento Cheese…the delicious versatility of this truly Southern treat is diverse. Whether it’s spread on crackers as an hors d’oeuvres, stuffed into stalks of celery, used as a condiment on a hamburger or simply my favorite…a pimento cheese sandwich, this mixture is easy to make and a necessity for any Southern kitchen. I actually researched the history of Pimento Cheese and was surprised to find a version originated in the North over a 100 years ago…but the Yankees used cream cheese as a base. Southerners embraced the concept but used sharp cheddar cheese instead…
To make: start with 16 oz of grated sharp cheddar cheese, one 4oz jar of diced pimentos and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of Duke’s mayonnaise. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and add S&P as needed. The texture should be rough. Chill to let flavors blend. NOTE: If you do not like Duke’s, use a good quality mayo such as Hellman’s…it makes a huge difference in the taste. Pimento Cheese sandwiches are a true Southern culinary treasure!
“As rosemary is to the spirit, so lavender is to the soul…”
Sending love and good wishes from Patricia and Holly…