The pot of basil

I take the pot from the windowsill and carefully cut the last green stems, right at the earth, with the kitchen scissors. There aren’t many – this same small pot has lasted for months but now it is time for it to give up its last harvest.

I put the sprigs into the small blender bowl. Add pine nuts from the stash in an old jam jar at the back of the cupboard – too many for the quantity of basil but I want there to be enough pesto for my helping of pasta. Two small cloves of garlic, and then a third because the first two were so small. I have no parmesan. “Value” cheddar will have to do. Grind in lots of pepper. Drizzle olive oil. Blend, add more oil, blend again.

This morning I fried sausages, eggs, bacon, tomatoes and potatoes at the behest of the birthday boy for his breakfast. Later, in the park, we met with his friends and mine to share cake. “Eight years”, said one, in astonishment. “Eight years ago today”. This afternoon they went for the other half of the birthday, for the “big” presents, the trip to the cinema, the sweet things.

I boil water for the spaghetti and have a protracted inner struggle on the subject of wine. There is one bottle left in the house. Should I open it? If I do will I drink all of it? The pasta is nearly cooked before I lose the struggle and pull the cork, pouring out a single glass but into a receptacle so huge there’s not much more than two thirds left in the bottle.

I mix the pesto into the spaghetti in the bowl rather than letting it heat through in the saucepan on the drained pasta. I don’t want to lose even the small amount that would stick to the side of the pan. I take the bowl and the glass to the sitting room.

This is where, eight years and half a day ago, secondborn greeted the world. Right where my feet are, although there was of course a builders’ plastic dust-sheet protecting my great-aunt’s Persian rug during the process.

Every time I prepare pesto I think of Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil and the poor maiden who died of “heart-emptiness“. I pour another bucket of wine.

Maybe next year I will have tackled the garden, currently overrun with brambles. Maybe I shall plant basil and parsley and mint and coriander, chives and thyme, next to the rampant and untended rosemary bush. Maybe.

6 Replies to “The pot of basil”

  1. I’ve been a hesitant and unwilling gardener for the past thirteen years. This summer I finally lost patience with the mess outside the back door, pulled half of it out of the ground and took it to the tip. What remains is hardly the epitome of horticultural beauty, but it’s much simpler and has the beginnings of something I could learn to enjoy. When I look out of the window, I now no longer despair. The fear is conquered. I’m almost looking forward to next Spring. Except we might move to a flat, but you know what I mean.

  2. Oh go at it. Fock. It’s easier than you think, hell, even I can do it.

    I’m so into the saving even the bits of pesto that would stick to the saucepan…

  3. What a beautiful post. And of course it reminds me of the basil harvest we did just last week at the farm where we belong…

    Eight years; what a wonder.

    The wonder of looking ahead to “next year” is that there is always room for maybe.

  4. My edible garden has shrunk to one pot of basil on the terrace, not even enough left for a small bowl of pesto. I miss it a lot, but it was entirely out of hand and way too large. The current pots of coleus and ferns are the treatment plan, and after a few years of this maybe I’ll sign up for a community plot. Or maybe I’ll have figured out what the garden meant to me, and find it elsewhere. Right now I’m beyond the tears and not even close to some Greater Understanding.

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