By Edward Schneider
I’ve said before that it gives me a thrill to pick and immediately cook produce from my father-in-law’s garden in the UK. I’m a city boy and the son of city folk: my father was born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and, although my mother’s parents kept a few chickens in their yard outside Czestochowa, Poland, their emigration to Brooklyn when my mother was twelve marked the end of animal husbandry for them. So, I am innately ignorant of tilling the soil. My limbs, like those of Mrs. Sullen in George Farquhar’s 1707 comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem, were not made for leaping of ditches and clambering over stiles. Much less for hoeing and weeding.
But I’ve long harbored the illusion that, apart from die-hard Londoners (who are just as bad as us New Yorkers), Britons are universally garden-mad and raised to be familiar with small-scale agriculture centered on a quarter-acre behind the house or in a public plot (an allotment). Some of you who have read more than a few of my posts will know that Jackie’s father has always been an enthusiastic horticulturalist whose big garden yields everything from fennel to rhubarb to elderflowers. Granted, when he bought the house, back in the 1950s in a then-new suburban development, he picked the one with the largest garden, but all the houses in his neighborhood sit on pretty substantial parcels of arable land.