Last night I had the most tasty little pasta sauce. It wasn't one of those quick-fix, 15-minute Jamie Oliver numbers. This one took about three months to prepare. Which begs the question - why the hell did I bother?
I know it's awfully cool these days to turn your nose up at convenience foods and heat-and-eat this-and-that, and as I mentioned last week I am always up for a bit of band-wagoning.
So I grow my own tomatoes and basil, the odd bit of lettuce and a raft of herbs.
I have a tidy little vege garden of which I'm inordinately proud and each year at about this time I pick and pull most of it out and take it into the kitchen where I peel, chop, boil and add until I have created something from seed to plate that makes for the most glorious five minutes of gastric pleasure. Then it is gone. For less money and far less time, I could have bought virtually the same thing in a glass jar and not got the knees of my best jeans dirty in the process. Some might even say the result would taste better (though never in my earshot).
While economies of scale dictate that my efforts might have been worthwhile had I grown two tonnes of tomatoes instead of half a bucket, I have to admit that when the planting season rolls around at the start of next summer, I'll do it all over again. That's because growing tomatoes - like so many things in life - is more about the journey than the destination.
Life, as we all know, is busy. It is filled with horns at intersections, deadlines, a constant and crushing need to be in more than one place at a time and (for me in summer) a workload that would overwhelm me were it not for the small things in life, like my tomatoes.
The small ritual of coming home in the evenings and tugging at the odd weed and tracking the plumping of the glowing red globes in my garden is food for the soul more than the table. The slow pace with which my garden matures each season is a reminder that some things just won't be rushed.
It is a reminder, too, that in life as with gardens, we get back what we put in. Without attention, patience and an investment of my time, nothing in my garden would grow (except, as always, the weeds, which would thrive even after a nuclear bomb).
Although I am not especially green-fingered and there is little room for apron strings with a camera strap almost fused to my body, I still like to fantasise that one day I will magically transform into a domestic goddess who not only enjoys cooking and gardening, but has the time for it too.
In support of this dream, I have acquired an impressive collection of cookbooks over the years, which seem to generate dust rather than fancy fresh meals but I'm still happy to have them. In the meantime, I will continue my annually prepared pasta sauce, content with the knowledge that although it took me months to make, it probably gives back a few at the other end since time in the garden instead of in front of a computer is almost guaranteed to lengthen my life. Which is a claim the Italian tinned tomatoes can't possibly make, even if they are on sale for $1.39.