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by AJ Lorel (They / Them) 2 months ago in cuisine
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On Weeds and Feasts

Photo by Natalia Luchanko on Unsplash

Every summer, I make a wish. I blow the seeds off a dandelion stem and ask them to germinate in my yard. I know the neighbours hate it, suburban byproducts that they are. But I watch and wait as the seeds take and the stalks grow, leaves flaring around them like so many arms hungry for the sun. As they mature, I prepare myself for the inevitable feast to come.

They never teach you in cooking class what nutrients exist in your yard. Eat your spinach and your kale, but forget about those hearty greens. They’re weeds.

I pluck the plants whole from the ground, making sure to leave a few for future harvests. Methodically, I fill bag after bag. There are always more to pick. Soon enough, I’m standing over my kitchen table, the leader of a disassembly line that will nourish my household in innumerable ways.

One person separates the vibrant yellow blooms from their stems. Another plucks the leaves and runs them through the salad spinner in batches until our fridge is full to the brim. I wash the roots and lay them out to dry.

Over a fresh salad of dandelion greens my roommates and I talk and laugh. We’ve dressed them well with a white wine vinaigrette and hard cheese. We offer the sharp greens company in the form of a salty prosciutto. Alongside any main — fish, burgers, steak — this salad never ceases to impress. Never ceases to shock.

Our guests — our neighbours — ask us what’s in it. We tell them. Suddenly skeptical eyes are cast down upon the plate as though we’ve poisoned them. They sip at the wine we’ve offered - not realizing that the gentle sweetness on their tongue is afforded to them by the so-called weeds they obsessively rip from their yard.

My roommate and I make eye contact across the table. We continue imbibing and feasting. There is no waste in this house.

We pluck the petals carefully, keeping the bitter base hidden beneath the spirited flowers well away from our operation. If the harvest is small, we freeze them. If the harvest is large — then it’s time. We gather citrus and discard the pith, measure the petals and pour boiling water over them.

They rest for three days before becoming intimate with orange zest and lemon rounds. More boiling, then yeast, fermenting, bottling. An eager assembly line savours the process — the golden liquid settles.

Six months pass before we can drink our labour. Our dandelion wine carries summer through the seasons. But the greatest treat comes when we wait a full year, wait for summer to greet us before we crack a bottle open. We dance, we sing, and the golden liquid blesses and energizes us.

The roots are dry, broken into small pieces. On summer mornings I steep my dandelion root alongside its friend chicory. Like coffee, it helps me enter the world.

And then, I gather the rest of the greens, chop them roughly like my mother taught me and whisk them into eggs and milk. Salt. Pepper. Into the pie crust, a quiche self-actualizes in the oven. My roommates wake up, sipping and tasting and laughing at the breakfast table. Again, we slip on our gloves, like fine ladies attending a tea, and step into the yard. Again, there is a bounty to be had.

This time we bring music with us, Orville Peck and Emmet Michael croon while we, on hands and knees, pull beauty from the earth and let it heal our souls and nourish our bodies.

There is no waste here. Everything returns to the earth. We return to the earth, day after day after day. The summer sun shines down and bursts into yellow blooms.

The neighbours frown over their fence at our yard.

We laugh and sip our wine.


About the author

AJ Lorel (They / Them)

AJ has been weeping and wailing their way across the continent for more than a quarter-century. A writer and oddity born in the prairie’s sweet embrace, they are at their best early in the morning and take pleasure in the old and strange.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (1)

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  • Holly Moeller2 months ago

    Loved it! You have such a talent for writing 😊

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