Tuesday, May 06, 2008

From Ramp Feeds to Renn Fayre

Just as the snows are receding from the cold mountain slopes of my perpetually-seceding homeland, the very same folk who only last fall bragged about their deer-hunting exploits now brag about their ability to track a tiny wild leek poking its way up through decomposing snowdrifts. Extraordinarily difficult to cultivate, ramps are a shy little member of the onion family, claiming a distinctly delicious spot between onions and garlic and rendering the entire state of West Virginia a little nutso for the two weeks they're in season.

Papa went to the Ramp Feeds pretty regularly. The biting onion scent clung to every fiber of his woolen shirt, every curl in his beard. It lingered in the boots he shed at the front door and clung to the bedding for days. Once he persuaded us all to come along. Young and cautious, I steered clear of the ramp stews and the bacony-potato-ramp fries, and headed straight for the pie table, where I met my first slice of lemon meringue pie and forgave every past, present, and future ramp-infused kiss. In any case, the town where we got groceries (45 minutes from our mountaintop farmhouse) just had its annual international ramp festival, and numerous other towns host rampy events all throughout April (do note the banner that reads "Richwood WVa God County Ramps Ramps Ramps").

So it was a remarkable error when someone out here in Oregon announced with great authority that ramps are monocotyledons that only grow west of the Mississippi. It was a slushy-headed morning for me in the midst of Reed College's annual 3-day post-thesis shindig, so I didn't respond to the challenge with the proper alacrity, or anything remotely resembling alacrity at all. As a last-minute replacement judge for the Iron Chef competition (secret ingredient: ramps), I should have deducted fierce points right then. But there weren't scorecards -- just a lot of skillet shit-talk and hungover hubris -- so I poured some more 2buckchuck and proceeded to placidly rate the almond pate with caramelized ramp leaves over the asian turnip wrapped in pork belly.

Now I've sufficiently collected myself, and I've got just one thing to say: montani semper liberi, hipsters. Oh, and my secret ramp patch is totally west of the Mississippi. Keep looking. You're almost there. Just a little wester, now....

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