Rachel Mills

Vagabond Kitchen: Sunsets and Sunrises

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Composite image of autumn leaves pattern

Autumn leaves announce the change of season. (photo by vectorfusionart – Fotolia)


Sunsets and sunrises layer color lines across my memory. Summer days beach basking, evening speeds into morning faster than hummingbirds in flight.
Our car and belongings are full of sand, tiny pebbles, lake water layered, collected from too many places to count. Lakes: Superior, Michigan, Manistique, Crooked and countless rivers and streams toe-dabbled along the way.

I saw the first red leaves last week—summer betrayed in waning chlorophyll. Light recedes slowly, summer days drooping toward fall.

Early August brings on a glut of produce unthinkable weeks before. I cook: sautéed sugar snap peas crisp and sweet as candy; steamed green beans bright as a late-July dewed morning; broccoli florets, tiny forests rising in the cast iron pan; leafy kales, Chinese cabbage, and colorful chard melted with garlic and oil; purple carrots simmered in honey and butter, their scarlet juices debauching the sauté pan, spattering the stovetop with color; fresh cucumber crunch, ripe tomato burst, and basil’s fresh tart bite.


Fresh green beans and broccoli florets from the Vagabond Kitchen’s summer garden. (photo courtesy of Rachel Mills)

Summer vagabonding fills the table and fridge with food: the home-tent garden, my father’s garden, dear friend’s contributions from CSAs and generous windfalls like the “Benton’s Smoky Mountain Bacon” out of Tennessee friend and musician Jake Waite shared with us.

We bought local sweet corn from Toski Sands Market to complement Benton’s Bacon BLTs made with the exceptional smoky bacon, Crooked Tree Breadworks cracked pepper parmesan bread, juicy local heirloom tomato, fresh arugula from the home-tent garden, (Ok, the compost pile volunteer arugula patch next to the home-tent) in place of lettuce.
On the side was a wilted slaw made with lightly sautéed arugula, rainbow chard, and sliced beets tossed with Dijon mustard, mayo, and Greek yogurt.
The bacon was smoky and salty—the perfect blend of both.
I could’ve eaten the whole pan.


Corn on the cob, arugula and beets salad, and a blt with smoky bacon make a delicious meal in the Vagabond Kitchen. (photo courtesy of Rachel Mills)

Cars drove by where Orson, Jake, Ashley, and I ate in Jake’s front yard. I pitied the people voyeuristically surveying our meal from their cars. We watched them pass, peering over delicious BLT bites, smiling smugly into our sandwiches.
Mac, Jake’s sweet, big-headed dog panted and crossed his front paws. His half-closed eyes followed each movement of sandwich to mouth.

These meals, so vivid in the moment, become memory too quickly. The tomato, a moment ago whole on the countertop, glowing red, is now chewed and gone. The cucumber we sliced, salted, and ate raw began its existence in a greenhouse over three months ago. Before it was planted, the seed had another life, growing on a plant perhaps hundreds of miles away.

We’ve become too accustomed to having summer/seasonal foods like tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet corn available “fresh” in produce aisles all year round. We forget these plants have a season—a time they taste the best.
Charles Dickens said, “Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own…”

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