Can You Taste It?

I feel I gave the sense of taste short shrift when I all I could think to do was feature the hyperbole of food writers.  So see how this one tastes.  Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, Evelio’s Garden.

One of my chores on the verandah has been to cut back the basil. I have seven pots of it out there, all gone leggy and struggling with aphids. Evelio’s organic insecticide is the most potent thing I’ve ever used on these aphids, but they need to be sprayed directly in order to be killed, and when there’s a lot of foliage some get missed. A drastic cutting-back was the only solution. The infected branches I simply tossed over the rail, but the healthy ones were starting to accumulate in my basket in a sufficient quantity to make Rosa pause, in her mopping of the deck, to ask me whether I made pesto with macadamia or pine nuts.

Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me to make pesto. I hadn’t thought at all what to do with all this basil, but pesto sounded like a good idea. I had both macadamia and pine nuts in the house (the macadamias are local, the pine nuts a treasure brought by my friend Shirley from a small town 400 miles north of Toronto), plenty of garlic and extra virgin olive oil, even real, imported-from-Parma Parmesan cheese. I hadn’t made pesto in years, since jars of it often make their way into the Tilarán supermarkets, and washing and pulling off all those leaves from the stems is a chore.

Italian pesto isn’t a staple of the Costa Rican diet, but Rosa worked for many tourist seasons at an Italian restaurant near here. So when I had it all made up, I invited her to sample it.

“Better,” she said. “At the restaurant they don’t use any cheese. And why would theirs be runnier? Too much oil? Why wouldn’t they use cheese – because it’s cheaper?”

I confessed that, yes, no cheese certainly made their pesto cheaper. I pulled out a jar of the commercial stuff and read the list of ingredients; no cheese there either. I dipped my spoon into the lovely pale green paste I had just made, closed my eyes, and . . . ah, so densely green and nutty, with just enough cheesy sharpness to make all the difference.

© Sandra Shaw Homer, 2016

Photo by Marten Jager

Photo by Marten Jager

2 thoughts on “Can You Taste It?

  1. Qenut Amen says:

    Well Sandy, my sister, I actually KNOW what that exact pesto tastes like since Liz and I pruned your basil plants whilst you were on board a ship to South America and we used your recipe. Yes, the cheese in there is the secret. Thank you for the pruning and the superb description of that Pesto del Balcón!

  2. Marten Jager says:

    Delightful read… I wish I had a bowl of pesto right now. Was it better with the local macadamia nuts? Parmesan is a must. I’ve tried many variations, but the best I’ve come up with is just to keep it simple – sometimes I add a little fresh squeezed lemon.

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