Gardenita. I like the ring that has. Even if it is Spanglish and might win me some scorn from our anti-immigrant compatriots.

I’ve spoken Spanish daily for the last, oh, 12 years or so, and I still find it exciting to communicar in another language. Especially for small-town-old-me. And somehow I’m still as American as I was before I spoke Spanish. Or at least I think I am. I think I’ll go check, just in case. Yep….still freckled, still blancita, still blue-eyed. Our compatriots can all heave a sigh of relief on their way to their jobs at the meat-packing plant. Oh wait. Our compatriots don’t like to work at meat-packing plants. Never mind.

One downfall of being bi-lingual, however, is that my command of the English language has faltered. I used to have an impressive arsenal of complicated palabras ever at the tip of my tongue. My college friends would sometimes comment on my impressive vocabulary and use of proper grammar, and I’d feel all smart and educated. (That is until I’d get to my next class, where the professors were more than happy to bring me back to reality.)

The grammar I’ll attribute to my Grandma Alice….she’s a stickler for proper usage of the English language. She always knows whether one should use ‘lie’ or ‘lay’, ‘who’ or ‘whom’, and ‘its’ or ‘it’s’. I find myself double-thinking through my sentences when speaking with her, lest she raise her cejas at me and say, exasperatedly, “Jackie!” (Hi Gramma!)

My nice vocabulary, however, was due to the fact that I was quite the bookworm as I grew up. I read lots and lots of books. Of all types and kinds. At all hours of the day, night, and early morning. In junior high, I was a huge fanatica of the Anne of Green Gables series, and I imagined myself to be just as heady, analytical and charming as Anne. Why, I was Jackie of Irish Grove, mind you. Except I wasn’t really all that heady, analytical or charming. Ah, the beauty of an over-active imagination and plenty of tiempo to read!

My vocabulary now, however? Post-Spanish? Now I stumble on even the silliest of sentences. I often can’t think of the names of simple things like ‘strainer’ or ‘chain’ in English, because colador and cadena are just easier to remember. That leads me to say really inteligente things like, “Mom, where do you keep your, um…your, eh…you know, your colador? What’s that thing called that let’s you squeeze the liquid out of a food?”

Knowing a second language has freed up my mind and improved my creativity, but boy, has it put a padlock on my tongue!

The worst part is that while I can still call to mind some pretty nice words, I can’t remember their proper pronunciation, and they tend to come out with a Spanish accent. This gets really bad at work, where I teach biologia and nature-related topics. Oh, and even though I’m interacting with kids of all different ethnicities, I pronounce their Asian, African, and sometimes even American names with a Spanish ring. Sometimes even rolling an ‘r’ here or there. Then they raise their cejas at me.

Anyways, I was wanting to talk about how much comida I’ve gotten from my teensy-weensy gardenita, and I got side-tracked.

Gardening is fun, and it is absolutely amazing to see the cantidades of food one can get from even the smallest of gardens. When Marcel and I first moved into this house, we planted a huge, lovely garden that was about 1/3 acre. Wowsa. That was alot of work, especially since Ana was a bebe. We kept it up for two short years. With each additional child, my garden got exponentially smaller. Until we ended up with our cinco, quaint, small raised beds.

But I still get a lot of food from my gardenita, especially considering the cold, wet primavera we had. When you add in my many failed tomato plants (they had a fungus or something), an extremely late planting date (mid-June), the fact that my espinaca bolted as soon as it had about 2 leaves (too much heat), and a pretty lackadaisical attitude about watering and weeding, you’d have thought I wasn’t going to get much of anything. But I’ve gotten loads of medium-sized onions, enough tomatoes for fresh salsa, green and wax beans (yummmmm-y!), and zucchini.

Oh, zucchini. Lovely, lovely zucchini. Bountious, copious, plentiful, fertile zucchini. It’s the conejo of the vegetable world, if you know what I mean. Thankfully I love it, so no complainin’ here. I’ve shredded and frozen bag after bag of zucchini to use for muffins and queques this winter. I’ve chopped and sauteed zucchini every night for weeks now.

Today I made zucchini bread, zucchini cake, and zucchini hashbrowns, even, topping them with homemade salsa. De-lish. Tomorrow I might try a zucchini pie recipe I found in one of my cookbooks.

And if my zucchini plants don’t slow down soon, I just might have to start pranking the vecinos with my zucchini. You know the one, where you ring the doorbell and run, leaving a pile of…, zucchini…..yeah, that’s it……on their front doorstep?

Between the home-grown garden veggies, eggs, chicken and beef, we’ve been eatin’ like reyes y reinas here for weeks now and we don’t even have any large grocery bills to show for it. Now if that’s not un-Amercian, I can’t think of what is.