Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

Large gardens were always a part of my life. The six children in my family had to be fed, and this was the country life as it really existed — not the faux one that urbanites of the 21st century create when they escape the city to grow a vineyard, buy goats and make cheese, or become summer farmers. During that time, in that place, we grew almost everything we ate.

Dairy cows provided milk and butter. Eggs were fresh every day. Chicken, ducks, beef and pigs were raised on the farm, then slaughtered and butchered. The beef was frozen. The pork was more complex. All the parts were used. Every farm had a smoke house, and hams and bacon were salted and smoked. Every homemaker knew how to make sausage. Leftover bits were somehow converted into a no longer known and now considered to be an unholy substance, lard. Lard was used for frying chicken, making biscuits and, most of all, the best pie crusts that memory can conjure.

Today I was allowed to be reunited with those memories. My baby sister called on Thursday and was describing her wonderful garden, “in spite of constant rain, Patty.”  She had supper almost ready, most of it from her own garden in the county where I grew up. My eyes grew misty, or green with envy, as she described the small new potatoes, tiny green onions, fresh salad greens, small green beans, tiny summer squash and lush tomatoes. Then she said to me, “Honey, I wish I could just send you a basket of real food instead of what you buy in those city stores.”
It wasn’t possible, was the corollary. But then, I had an idea out of a commercial: Eureka! That would be Federal Express, honey, as in Reliability at No Extra Charge. “Are you serious about the basket of veggies?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said.

“How far away is the local FedEx stop?”

“Right in town! I’ll pack up your food, and FedEx can pick it up at the bank. That will be easy to do.” My sister is part of a team that helps keep farmers and local developers from becoming over-leveraged. So I sent her my FedEx number. She packed up the fresh vegetables in a Styrofoam box and Fed-Exed them on Thursday late.

My package arrived in New York on Friday afternoon. On Friday night, I unwrapped my package with Christmas Day excitement.

A red-and-white checked tablecloth was protecting the precious cargo. These were just like the cloths that were used for picnics for families and children when I was a child. It was all so long ago.
I removed the cloth to find potatoes covered in the soil in which they had grown individually wrapped tomatoes, fresh taut green beans and tiny summer squash.

It is hard to describe what this package meant to me. In a simple way, I suppose it was a connection to home, and the land, to self-sufficiency and to long ago, when all food was fresh and families took care of their own. I send a thank you to Federal Express and love to my sister for this gift of memory and garden delights.

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  • Barbara Olsen July 7, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    I could smell the loamy earth and almost taste the “real” tomatoes in Dr. Pat’s precious package. Wishing that we all had such grand sisters with hands in the soil and kin in their hearts. Well done!

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