It was not uncommon to find an array of humanity around my Grandmother’s Table – all races, many creeds, a homeless man, a girl with mangled limbs, a Catholic priest, our Muslim neighbor, two Jewish sisters, an elderly mute, the Mayor, a cop and his wife, a former Miss America, two gentlemen who were more than friends, a Canadian trucker, a family from Mexico, an African American mother and her daughter and, with great gratitude, my Grandfather and me. With and without words, my Grandmother said: “All are welcome here. All are loved.” And she extended that belief to everyone she met along the way.


Till. Sow. Water. Mulch. Wait. Reap. My Grandmother’s garden was my classroom away from school. Large by urban standards, it harvested much more than fruits and vegetables. Here are some nuggets that remain with me today.

Make sure that you give way more than you take! Consider the carrots, basil, potatoes and berries. What do they take from us? Very little! Some sun. A bit of water. And just a tiny portion of our patience and care. But look at what they give! They nourish, heal, protect and help us to grow. So take some for yourself but make sure you have even more to share.

Nature creates what Nature needs, even dandelions and weeds. They’re really not bad or ugly or a nuisance like some say. There’s a reason why they grow here, there and everywhere. And quickly, too. Weeds feed gophers and birds and deer and rabbits. Bees, too. So though it might seem otherwise, in this world there are no spare parts. Everything and everybody has a purpose and a place. It’s our not believing and seeing so that gets us into trouble.

Almost everything in the garden comes down to relationships. Consider the Three Sisters. Corn provides support for the bean vines to grow. Beans help the corn and squash by holding nitrogen in the soil. Squash prevents weeds from entangling the corn and beans. Together, they grow in unity and not at the expense of one another. If we want to live in that kind of world, Nature will show you how. And be sure to show gratitude when you bring the garden to the table!


My Grandmother thanked the sun for rising every day, the grass for protecting her four-leaf clovers, the flour, water, salt and yeast, and her oven, too, for the bread they rendered together, the cherry tree for the jam on morning toast, animals for their unlimited love, the sunflowers and dandelions that others so often shunned, and even the stones and pebbles that framed the alley way. She also thanked Creation for the privilege to live another day and for the opportunity to be a mother, grandmother, wife, sister, neighbor and friend. Her loving spirit (and that twinkle in her eye) remained through her very last breath. That was my Grandmother. In her honor, and in her name – Martha Vukovich DeMarino – it simply thrills me to pass on her philosophy, love and recipes to you.