Today I picked grape vine leaves that I’ll use to make dolmades (Greek stuffed grape leaves). While I was picking them, one of the caretakers at the daycare center next door to me peered through the fence to ask if I was going to stuff them and how I was going to cook them.
As I was clipping those grape leaves off the fence (not my vine, by the way: I’ve traced it as far as three yards over and can’t track it farther, but I’m grateful for it), she said,
“Are you picking those grape leaves to stuff them? I do that.”
“Yes, my grandmother is Greek so the stuffed grape leaf recipe is something I grew up with.”
“My family is Mexican, and I grew up with that recipe, too. Do you use rice, meat, and spices?”
When I first moved here, I thought I’d plant the hops vine I’d transplanted from my previous garden to grow along the other fence opposite the day care center. Hops entwines on its own like crazy so I was baffled to see it failing until the day I met Machete Woman. She had a foot and a half long, shiny machete in one hand. She was carefully cutting my hops vine off our mutual fence, all the while muttering “don’t like nothin’ on the fence, don’t like nothin’ on the fence.”
Her own garden is interesting. She uses whatever she’s got for stakes for her tomatoes, mostly mop handles. Something she does is working: every year she has extra fruits and vegetables that she shares with me. I wish I could share a photo, but she’s camera shy. Actually, she wouldn’t talk to me at all until we established that I wasn’t just some white woman growing flowers. Once she knew I was growing vegetables and herbs, her whole manner toward me changed. A few days ago she asked, “Are you planting food this year?” And I said yes, I am.
Her name is Cameron. I count her as a friend and neighbor now.
I share my garden with the tenants of the next door apartment. One of their friends, a 20-something guy with blonde dreadlocks, was in the garden today when I came home.
“Last time I saw you, you gave us that elder flower sparkling wine. Man, that was over the top.”
This is in the middle of New York City, folks. Enough said.