Good bartenders have skills. Not just the mixology of course, that can all be learned. The skills I speak of are not easily taught. You either have them or you don’t. The people skills, the chatting, talking story, seeing bullshit a mile away kind of skills. In a previous life, as a resident of the great city of London, England, I was a good bartender. I left the fancy drink making to other more theatrical types and instead focused on pulling a good pint, playing peacemaker and serving as stand-in therapist for our regulars. I’m certain I should have been billing them for services.
So why do bartenders make good gardeners?
It is perhaps the English in me that loves both a good pint and a lovely garden, but it is the mostly powers of observation, friends. The ability to read body language across a crowded dark pub in order to prevent a tussle from occurring is not so different than observing ever-so-slightly different shade of leaf on the cabbage plants that tell me something else is going on. Leaf miners and rugby fights: I don’t like either one.
So when I returned to my garden after an extended absence (shout out to my mom for keeping it all alive) I observed very easily that everyone needed some breathing room. You can have too much of a good thing, it turns out, when smaller plants are struggling to get light and pests can just hop from one leaf to the next plant because they are all on top of each other. Balance had to be struck- like making sure you don’t let too many Liverpool or Chelsea fans in the pub when the Manchester United game is on. Observe, people. Prevention and balance. Peace and pruning.
A great deal of time was spent today cutting back all the herbs and veggies. I ended up with an under-the-bed-storage box full of fresh cut twist-tied herbs to sell. After scribbling some labels with herb names a simple uses, my mom and the handy-hubby did the rest, nearly selling out my plastic bin of greens right on our our curb.
Honestly, I was shocked. I didn’t figure we would sell two bunches, just sitting out there, kind of random like on the street corner with “FRESH HERBS” on a sign. But people are desperate for fresh food. You see it in them. They pick up a bunch of mint, stick it to their nose, close their eyes, and inhale like it’s the first pleasant thing they have ever smelled. Neighbors stop by just to talk story, give .50 for some basil; talk about road construction. A lost truck needing directions doesn’t buy anything, but shares what veggies he is growing himself.
Neighbors and commuters bought green onions, mint, chives, lavender, arugula and Mexican oregano. Someone’s dinner might taste better because of me and my little garden. Like any good bartender I kept a close eye on what was really going on out there. And what I saw was very interesting: a table with fresh herbs might be like therapy for a neighborhood. The way a barstool was therapy for so many people I knew in my other life. Gaining a sense of humanity, community, bonding; simple sharing of stories; all because herbs needed some breathing room.
Or I could just be talking bollocks and in that case I owe you all a round.
Cheers, here’s to the herbs.