Picking something local

Published 11:26 pm Thursday, March 18, 2010

During my summers as a boy, my mother used to take my brothers and I around the area to go picking. I guess she figured three growing boys needed something to do with their idle hands besides take apart her household appliances (forgetting how to put them back together) or stabbing themselves in the hand with a fork while trying to impale a watermelon rind (that one was me).

Strawberries, collards, sweet potatoes, you name it; my mother had us go pick it. Most of all, though — because my mother just loved them so much and not accounting the fact that we lived in North Carolina at the time — we probably picked enough peanuts in and around Suffolk to make the producers of Skippy green with envy.

Of course, I only recall those humid and dusty days from my boyhood because my mother was a woman who was absolutely in love with the local fare. She’d lived in a number of different places and up to her dying day she’d still say this area has the best peanuts she’d ever tasted.

My mother really got into what this area had to offer — in its soil, in its pastures, on its vines, and growing ripe and full from its branches.

That love she had for local foods certainly came shining through every night at our dinner table. (Believe me, I have the stretch marks to prove it.) Even though I hated the long summer days spent pulling bulbs from the dirt and shaking clusters of those wholesome legumes free of dust, the reward in the form of a plate full of locally grown vittles was more than worth it.

At her best, there was no finer cook than my mother when it came to cooking those things she loved. Of course I could be a bit biased, with her being my mother and all.

And I think it’s the zest for locally grown produce my mom had throughout her life that fuels events like Restaurant Week coming to town next week.

It’s very exciting to see local restaurants strutting their respective stuff for a week. And hopefully, all the fine restaurateurs participating in the event will not only dazzle their patrons’ taste buds with culinary masterpieces but also — through their selection of ingredients — acknowledge what this area does well.

So I think it’s somehow cosmically fitting that celebrating my mother’s life — her having passed away one year ago next week — and the celebration of Suffolk’s Restaurant Week should happen at the same time. I couldn’t think of anyone who would enjoy all the fine foods more than she.

Enjoy Restaurant Week, people of Suffolk.

And ma, just so you can rest in peace, I’m sorry about hitting you in the back with a potato that one summer; I swear it was an accident. But if it makes you feel better, I did eat it later, because you always taught me never to waste food.