When I was a little girl, my mom told me a story of when she was a little girl – a story of friends and hot summer days and ... radishes.
We didn't grow much in the garden. A thousand acres of wheat was enough to keep alive. But, every year, my Mom planted radishes. It was an exercise in preserving a memory, really.
We’d wander out to the garden, pluck bright red orbs from the dirt and brush them off. Then, she’d pull out the bread and the butter (and sometimes mayonnaise) and we’d sit around the kitchen table while she made sandwiches and told me about her "very best friend."
On long summer days in Great Falls, my Mom -- her Mom at work at the county hospital and her dad dead several years already -- was left to wander.
So, she would meet up with her "very best friend" and pick radishes. They’d bring them home and fill two pieces of bread with the spicy radishes and lots of butter and salt and pepper.
A wave of nostalgia would wash her over as she would tell me the story.
Then, she’d say “don’t be sadish, have a radish,” and we’d dig in. Smooth and sweet as your teeth sink in and then crunch and then spiciness.
Mom and I thought it was just our thing – this odd combination that made other people squirm when we tried to talk them into one.
But then after we started farming, I went to a fancy food event and lo, there on the table were radishes, butter and salt.
(A short while later, I read The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball, in which she falls in love with her farmer over radishes.)
And then, today, while picking radishes with my daughter, she asked why the variety we grow is called “French Breakfast.” I didn’t know. So, we looked it up and found this from an article in the Washington Post: “In France they are sliced lengthwise, spread with butter and salted, or placed atop a buttered baguette for a ‘tartine.’”
I hadn’t known my mother was a French foodie.
Neither did she. She just knew how delicious a fresh-from-the-garden radish sandwich can be on a long summer day with a friend.
This afternoon, the kids and I raided Blue Truck bread, stole a baguette, pulled out the butter and sliced the radishes. And, I told them the story of their Nana and a hard childhood made a little bit better with good food and very best friends.