He walked in early this morning bearing a gift, a potted plant held close to his chest. Short little fella, perhaps seventy, wore a fedora.
Without preamble, "You'a help'a my'a grandson, Sir.." Accent is thick. My Italian is none existent. It takes me a moment to understand what in the heck he means. Then, oh yeah, the kid with the rusty pistol, an old Brazilian Panther. A copy of a Smith, made for their fighter pilots chambered in .38. Nothing special. It took three days of soaking to open the cylinder
I refocus on the old man as he continues, "For this'a help I gives you this'a peach tree and 'da basil I plant'a in the soil, 'cause you'a good man."
He explained the peach tree alone wasn't worthy so he'd seeded basil at its base. His son, he explained, had told him I loved to cook using fresh vegetables (true, cans are for emergencies) and herbs.
We talked, with a bit of difficulty due to his thick accent, for about an hour. We spoke of capers, what makes an excellent tomato for sauces, the best of olive oils, pasta and the use of pasta water as a thickening agent for pan dishes. He explained how his wife used a blender to mix fresh basil and olive oil and froze the mixture in ice trays to later thaw for a fresh infusion in her preparations.
We spoke of spring gardens, slugs and bugs. He gave instructions on the planting of the peach tree; not before spring. My peach tree, I understand, will produce small but plentiful extremely sweet peaches in three years.
In the above blurry picture I'm pointing out the basil...he told me to transplant it when it sprouted three 'leaf'as.'
I have a new friend.