Forget meetups, eat-ups taste better

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My friend Carrington Fox of the Nashville Scene’s food blog, Bites, decided she needed to meet some of the folks who actively comment on that blog so she did what any good foodie blogger should do, she invited lots of them to lunch — pot luck style. While I’d be the last person in the world who you’d label a “foodie” — unless eating gourmet potato chips counts — she asked me to join them for lunch today (Wednesday) as she knows I like to pretend to be a locavore — a proponent (well, a wannabe, in my case) of the local food movement (more on that in a minute).

Carrington and I also share a quest to master the art of urban gardening which, in my case, means 48-square-feet of tomato plants (more on that in a moment).

Anyway, for someone who typically forgets to eat lunch until around 2:30 when the building’s cafe is closing so my only option is a chicken salad sandwich, going to a pot-luck lunch during the middle of the week with a house full of food writers, editors, bloggers and assorted cooking and gardening types was a wonderful experience. I guess I should have taken note of what I was eating so that I could describe how good it was, but like I said, a foodie, I’m not.

I was also too busy eating and talking to take more than that one shot (if you’re reading this on my blog) of one of the three tables of food around the Fox’s kitchen and den (sorry, I couldn’t pass that up).

Now back to the locavore and tomato topics. Over the past few years, I’ve experimented with what is called square foot gardening, an approach created by a colorful character named Mel Bartholomew. It’s a great method for me: I like things I can plan on graph paper and I also like that it’s an “organic” method — however, I’m sure that if push ever came to shove and the produce looked puny, I’d pour on the Miracle Grow.

I’ve discovered that the greatest challenge of growing a small vegetable garden in my particular yard is the Ramboesque squirrels who look forward to raiding my tomato plants each year. Over the years, I’ve tried every folk-cure, trap and expensive gimmick conceived in my war with those bushy-tailed enemy insurgents. For a wide array of reasons — these squirrels mock me, no lie– nothing has worked.

So this year, I’ve let loose my inner Carl Spackler (hint: Bill Murray in Caddyshack). Using some inexpensive lumber strips, chicken wire and some time here-and-there spread across a few weekends, I’ve created the Ft. Knox of tomatoes (although one of my online friends has already dubbed it a the Guantanamo Bay of tomato gardens). My set of photos of this year’s effort has generated lots of comments and email — and some bemused looks. I’ve decided that me posting these photos is equivalent to a college student posting party photos on Facebook: something that seems amusing to the poster, but has others wondering what the heck was going through his or her (or my) mind at the time. Well, when it comes to my tomatoes, we’re talking war. And war makes you do crazy things.

So this year, no squirrel, and I mean no squirrel, is going to come into my tomato square-foot-garden and push me around.

But if they do, well, then next year, I swear I’m getting one of these.

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Sidenote: Joking aside, my square foot garden is a part of a Hammock Inc. “TeamHammock” project that is focusing this summer on lots of different ways anyone can take part in the local foot movement. You can read about it on the TeamHammock blog and check out the “photo food diaries” in this collection on Flickr.